finally home.

It’s been a while since I’ve picked up the courage to share some of the things I’ve been walking through, and today I woke up determined to do so.
It’s been a very hard year for me. Earlier this year, (late February) I lost my great grandmother. Her passing has been one of the hardest losses I’ve experienced. There are so many memories behind the relationship we had, and, although she had lived 121 years of life, selfishly I wanted to keep her with me forever. I can’t help but be inspired to leave a legacy like hers. She was selfless, she gave life all she could, and served The Lord wholeheartedly. There are still many days I wake up with knots in my stomach, as the reality sits in that she’s resting with my heavenly Father; but, I am very grateful that this past year we were able to spend the holidays in Dominican Republic and share some sweet moments with her.
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The tragedy of a loss is so painful, yet it’s so sweet when you know for sure that the person is now resting in the arms of Jesus. If there’s anything that makes the mourning and hurting bearable is that I know she’s finally at home.

Finally Home.

So as I think about my journey, my legacy, my life I see that there’s much work to be done. I see that depression continues to be a struggle. I see that my marriage could be better if I put more effort and expect less. I recognize that alone I cannot do it, and only Jesus can help me. I also recognize that walking out is not part of God’s will but overcoming and walking through hardships is part of the process.

Andy Mineo says:
Seeing death can make life seem so clear.

And it’s so true. Death brings you back to reality while also challenging you to live with purpose.
James 4:14 says,
Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.

As we continue taking on this journey called life, remember; We all struggle differently but we don’t have to suffer in silence. Seek wisdom through Jesus and His word while also reaching out to others and having a safe community to run to for encouragement. Take risks, smile often, and start living your legacy today.

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starting again.

“You may not be able to start over but, you can start again.”
-Louie Giglio

There have been so many times in my life in which I’ve desired to start things over. For example, The 5k training on the Nike running app, I had started about four months ago, and still haven’t made it past day five, or the First5 (app) morning devotional study that I did so good on the month of October, until about the last two weeks; and if we got a bit more personal sometimes even my marriage, in which I feel like I could’ve been less selfish and more gentle with my sweet husband. So many flaws and imperfections, but what would be the point of starting over when I would probably continue doing the same thing?

This past Saturday Jay and I celebrated a year of marriage. One full year of changes, transitions, adjustments, and love. We went on a road trip (pictures below) and and a whole lot of reflecting took place. I thought about the hard days we had, the times I was more concerned about how I felt than understanding him, the days I questioned if the role of a wife was really for me without considering his new role, and it led me to want to just “fix it, start things over”
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As I shared earlier I have a hard time following through on some things. And what I didn’t share was that with the Training app and First 5 app, I had started over many times and still failed to complete the tasks and devotions. Jay and I were listening to a message by Louie Giglio (link on bottom) and when I heard him share about his struggle with depression, and some dark moment’s in his life all I could do was nod in agreement.

You may not be able to start over but, you can start again.

We cannot allow the mistakes, failures, downfalls keep us down. We must keep pushing even if everything else says stop. I cannot rewind the hands back of time but while we are still alive, we can seek help, we can appologize, we can receive the fruits of the spirit and hand them out even to those who have treated us lower than low. We can start again.

So as I start this new day I commit to start again. When I want to nag at my husband for not doing things the way I wanted Him to,  I pray that I choose the fruit of gentleness to better communicate. When I feel bitterness and anger towards hurt from the past I pray The Lord humbles me and reminds me to put that bitterness away and put on kindness. When I lose motivation to run, and get fit, I pray that I have an accountability partner (other than my app) to remind me to be consistent. And finally, when I grow weary and find myself down in the pits of life I remember to rest in the loving arms of Jesus Christ who will renew my strength, give me grace and courage to start again.

Louie Giglio Sermon- When Darkness Falls

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
Galatians 5:22-23

Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.
Ephesians 4:31-32

Iron sharpens iron,
So one man sharpens another. 
Proverbs 27:17

Yet those who wait for the Lord Will gain new strength; They will mount up with wings like eagles, They will run and not get tired, They will walk and not become weary.
Isaiah 40:31

Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.
Galatians 6:9

dominican cake

trust the process.

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“there are many people who don’t try, at least you are trying.”

Though very vague, those simple words from my husband, brought so much tranquility to my anxious heart. These past couple months have been so refining for me. I’ve been working through many personal issues in my life while also experiencing life in a way I never have before.
I’ve faced the growing pains that come with transition, while also encountering some of my buried skeletons along the way. I’ve wrestled with bitterness and am daily challenged to extend the grace I have been freely given. I’ve have seen how big of a pride issue I have, and how rough it is to truly live a life worthy of His calling when we choose self over Jesus.

Four months ago, Jay and I transitioned over from a ministry we loved dearly to serve at the local church. The decision-making process was hard, but through months of prayer, discussions between us and some of our sweet friends (full of wisdom)  we made the choice to serve The Lord while working at Centerpoint Church. Though we’ve been serving for a little while, we have fallen in love with this new adventure and the family we have in our new home. There’s never been a day that we have questioned if we made the right decision because, God has given us both great peace in our calling at Centerpoint. However regardless of the choices we make whether good or bad there are growing pains and challenges in each step of the way.

When we first moved to Brandon, Florida I was determined that I would take a month of rest and then seek to find a job. The Lord granted me a job literally within a month of living in our new home. The first couple of weeks were good, but, weeks later I found myself struggling with depression, anxiety, bitterness and some straight up pride. So I did what anyone (or maybe just me) would do during a time of trouble, I ran away from it…and… it ran back to me. As I tried to ignore my issues and try to keep myself busy, the harder it was to keep distracted.

See, I thought I was struggling with the fact my job wasn’t really what I thought it would be,(which is understandable) but for me, it was deeper than that. I was in an uncomfortable place physically, spiritually, and emotional and the more I worked hard at trying to keep it together I was breaking apart.
and that’s when sweet grace comes in.

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2 Corinthians 12:9

All this to say that His Grace is enough. God’s grace covers every imperfection, every worry, every weakness that is within us. Sometimes it’s our very own pride that pressures us to be strong, But it is okay, not to be okay. It doesn’t matter who’s watching. It’s okay to try things and if they don’t work out, try something else.

About a week ago I ended my job. Not because it was something I didn’t enjoy but because it was clearly something that wasn’t made for me. I wasn’t happy but even beyond that I didn’t feel like I was being used to my fullest potential. I’m thankful for the opportunity of growth during that time and I do not say that lightly. God has once again proven to me that I need to trust the process and find rest in Him.
I have started a new job at a recovery clinic and I am enjoying it thus far. Being able to encourage these broken people has been such a sweet encouragement to me. These broken people have ministered to me more than they know. This journey has challenged me to take risks and reminded me once again to TRUST that the plans God has for me. Though I cannot see the entire picture, and it’s blurry, God sees the entire thing and it is a beautiful masterpiece.

seven months in.

Tomorrow (June 7) Jay and I will be married for seven months. It’s crazy to believe that just a couple months ago we were in the Dominican Republic standing before our friends and family, sharing our vows and becoming one.11182339_10204629218598563_203209298875158977_n10421588_10204629221158627_1167825479293036586_n

It’s been a very stretching journey thus far. We have accomplished many firsts in this short span of time. We’ve learned what triggers us to annoyance and we’ve  also learned what makes us feel the most loved. Though some of the lessons come from failures, I am thankful that we get to spend the rest of our lives learning together.

As I reflect on these past seven months of married life, I’d like to share some life principles that have challenged me to become not just a better wife but, a better person with a purpose.

1. Jesus is better.
I love Jay, and I am so grateful that God handpicked him for me. I cannot imagine doing life with anyone but him. I’ve learned to trust Jay with my deepest darkest secrets and have watched him extend forgiveness, gracefully. I am thankful that he chooses to love me beyond my imperfections. He’s a godly man.
(There’s some valuable truth I’ve learned on that simple statement.)
He is Godly, but, he is not God.
Though Jay is a tool of sanctification in my life, I need to constantly remind myself that I need God more. I need God to help me love unconditionally. I need Him to teach me how to forgive quickly. I need God to be a godly wife. Truth is that marriage shows me my love for Christ must be supreme.
Our God is greater; and it is not enough to see Jesus as simply being “better” than what came before Jay. He is more than better; He is the best. 

2. It’s not about me anymore.
Marriage is wonderful. There are many sweet benefits that come with this package; then, there are also some sour patches that bring us back to reality.
It’s all butterflies and rainbows until we let our selfishness slip in.
The enemy of harmony and unity is selfish ambition. It quickly divides us.

I can remember one of the first “discussions” Jay and I had to have. I’m sure he wouldn’t mind me sharing, especially because he says we aren’t the only ones who have struggled with this.
Before we got married I’d sleep facing the wall and covered from head to toe with my little teddy right beside me. I like to sleep comfortably. I like to be warm and I absolutely love to cuddle.The first time I put my cold feet on Jay’s warm legs he screamed. “Fina put some socks on!” Then I tried cuddling with him, and while being half awake he said,  “Fina I’m hot.” I laugh about it now but took it so personal then.  We had to learn to consider each other’s needs. To compromise. (Philippians 2:3-4) (Which is still a work in progress.)

It’s not just about my preferences but what would best work for us. Considering one another in love and not seeking selfish ambition. Some days we cuddle, some days we sleep facing opposite sides. But that doesn’t change the fact that we love each other.

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3. Pick and Choose Your Battle.

When infatuation fades away, real love begins.
– Claire Huxtable

The first couple weeks of marriage were a bliss. Everything was so surreal. We had finally arrived to the moment we were anticipating for a long time. We were married. No longer had to say goodnight and go opposite directions. We went to sleep together, woke up together, went to work and got out together.
Everything we did, we did it together.
The more settled we got, the more comfortable we became with each other. The way that we pursued each other while dating had soon faded.
I was starting to become that dripping faucet wife (Proverbs 27:15) that I promised I wouldn’t be. The smallest things would upset me. There was one time Jay said to me, ” I don’t want to fight anymore. ” He said those words in the most weary voice I’ve ever heard. It crushed me.
I didn’t confront Jay in love when he would mess up on these little things. I would fuss, fight, and nag him. That was my way of “communicating and confronting.” Not healthy for either of us. But, just as we make the decision to pick and choose our spouse, we have the choice to pick and choose our battles. And as we do that we communicate in a healthy manner.
Healthy Communication:
1. Inquire and Listen
2. Don’t get angry, ASK

4. Love Vulnerably.
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Love is such a powerful word. We tend to throw it around like nothing completely neglecting it’s true meaning.
C.S. Lewis said it best: “To love at all is to be vulnerable”
I’m gaining a better picture of God’s love through marriage. The Gospel has been so clear and evident through this entire journey. I am learning what true love really looks like. It’s not just saying I love you during the infatuation phase but, saying I’m sorry when all you want to do is run out of the bedroom and sleep on the couch. It’s learning to be completely honest with your spouse even if that means he needs some time alone. It’s learning to stay silent and trust your husband’s leading. It’s being encouraging when you yourself need it.
“To love at all is to be vulnerable,” and to be vulnerable is not a sign of weakness but a sign of God’s strength.

5. Savor the Adventure.
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One of the biggest things that attracted me to Jay was his personality. He is very outgoing, enthusiastic, wise, and spontaneous. I knew that with him, life itself would be an adventure.
A couple months before Jay and I got married Jay and I began to pray individually for our future. As we prayed The Lord really begin to stir our hearts. We shared with one another what The Lord revealed in our hearts and I knew that we were entering a time of transition. At the time we were working with Word of Life Bible Institute in Florida, and I told him, “This is our last year here.”
I felt it deep in my heart that change was coming, and not just in marriage but also in ministry.
I am writing this blog from our new home in Brandon. Tomorrow is our first day as family pastors in Centerpoint Church of Florida in Valrico. If someone would’ve told me that I would be married and a pastor’s wife at age 23, I would’ve laughed at them. But truly God has been so good. Life has been a sweet adventure and I am learning to savor each and every moment. I am ending with a sweet promising verse that has encouraged me in this season of life. I hope it is a blessing to you as much as it has been to me.
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Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life,
And I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.
Psalm 23:6

– Fina

Psalm 84:11

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As I seek to find victory in my own struggles this truth seems to get more real and fitting as days go by.

The Lord is a sun”
He’s my sun: bright, warm, and comforting Giver of life.
and shield:”
Not only does He comfort me but, surrounds me with His protection.  He provides safety during times of comfort and times of crisis.
“The Lord gives grace and glory “
I hardly paid attention to this part of the verse because I would always skip to the next phrase. This morning I looked at a variety of devotionals that shared on this passage and as I continued reading I realized that many writers put much emphasis on this specific part: “The Lord gives grace and glory” Suddenly I realized why I would always skim through it; I’ve been struggling to believe it. Although I say it, I haven’t been applying this truth to my life. I struggle to trust that The Lord gives grace and glory to me. And when I’m doubting Him, the more I lean towards disbelief and it becomes harder to believe the truth. The truth is that The Lord gives grace and glory not just when we are doing well but, when we are walking ahead of him on our own agenda. He will give grace in whatever way or form to everyone.
He will give grace to believers because they seek it, to sinners because they need it.  And as he’s given us grace, glory is alongside. Some say honor and respect, others view it as the sweet promise of eternal life. Regardless, Hope is alive! And we can cling to the truth that God gives grace and glory, while comforting us and providing safety in this life of ours.
Now for the part that really caught my attention:
“No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly”
God is a good God. I think a lot of times when I’m not walking uprightly, I’m not thinking straight. So walking uprightly, what does it really look like? That doesn’t necessarily mean ripping the runway every time. But it means, “walking in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God” Colossians 1:10

In this stage of life, walking uprightly means surrendering my hurt, pride, and bitterness to Jesus. It means denying myself, and following Him. It means admitting that I need Jesus. It means loving the unlovely and extending grace to those who have wronged me.
As I continue to chew on this truth and take time to reflect, I pray that this truth continues tearing down the walls in my heart that lead me to continual surrender.
I also hope this brings encouragement your way.

new reasons.

Expect to have hope rekindled.
Expect your prayers to be answered in wondrous ways.
The dry seasons in life do not last. The spring rains will come again.
Sarah Ban Breathnach

Life is a series of seasons.
Though some are easier to cope with than others, we can’t escape from them. Ecclesiastes 3:1 says,
” To everything there is a season and a time for every event under heaven”
The cold, dry, gloomy days have just as much purpose as the warm, refreshing, spring rains; and the hot, summer days are just as meaningful as the crisp, autumn evenings. There’s been several times in which I’ve gotten frustrated at the unforeseen wind-chill, rainstorms, and dry seasons that life “randomly” throws at us. I’ve been learning that though sometimes it may feel uncomfortable, each season has a purpose and those  “surprising days” usually are the ones who truly expose me to who I really am.

Over the past couple of months Jay and I have been walking through a cycle of life change. We’ve been married for about five months and as we continue to learn the meaning of marriage, we have also made decisions that will greatly impact our future endeavors. (I’ll go into further detail on the next blog post) Through this process, Jay and I have encountered dry and gloomy days that seasons of change bring. I can admit that there have been many days in which I’ve failed to see the beauty and meaning of this dry period in my life. I’ve let stress, words, the responses of others, and my own insecurity dominate the way I view the season I’m walking through. Now I’m not saying this because I’m expecting everyone including myself to walk through trying times with a smile every day. (That’s impossible) Dry moments weren’t created for our own comfort, but for the sole purpose of refining our character and growing us in faith.  During this phase in life, I’m reminded of Proverbs 27:19 which says, “As in water face reflects face, So the heart of man reflects man.” These challenges in life reflect the many issues in my heart. If I can be completely transparent, my heart has been drowning in fear, doubt, and discontentment. I’ve been so focused on the “what ifs” and “whys” that my perspective has been merely devoted to worry. Though this isn’t necessarily the “highest pinnacle” in my life I’m thankful because, for once I’ve been compelled, to shift my way of thinking in order to take full advantage of the opportunities of growth and maturity that’s are in front of me.
Jay

A couple weeks ago Jay and I had the privilege of leading a group of people on a missions trip to Guatemala. During our time there we were mutually challenged, encouraged, and refreshed. Let’s just say if I can go back for a couple more weeks.. I would in a heartbeat! The country is beautiful (as you can see in the pictures) and the people are quite charming. We fell in love with their kindness, selflessness, and sweet joy. Some of the people that we had the chance to interact with were just so admirable, they had nothing, but at the same time had it all because they trusted God with absolutely everything.

Guatejay and I
sweetness

I had an amazing conversation with one of the missionaries in Guatemala named Silvia.  Silvia shared with Jay and I that she and her husband had been working for the organization for about sixteen years. The first fourteen years they were working part time but, for the past two years they had taken a leap of faith and started working as full time missionaries. I was deeply moved by her testimony; I watched her eyes sparkle as she shared how her passion for the youth was birthed through the trauma of losing her child. Silvia wept, and confessed that  she and her husband had been planning the trip we were on for weeks, with no funds to pay for it. She shared how she believed God would provide, but she also doubted His faithfulness. The day before our group arrived to Guatemala, her church had taken up a love offering and paid for her entire trip AND provided a full-tank vehicle for our road trip. Now if that doesn’t make you want to jump out of your skin, you may have to read that again. Silvia and her husband had doubts but she believed that God would provide. They are currently dreaming on becoming missionaries in a different region in Guatemala but it will take prayers and about four hundred dollars of monthly support to make the move. Silvia encourages me because though she has BIG dreams to serve The Lord and doesn’t necessarily have the means she rests on the fact that God is Sovereign and regardless of the current challenges, He was and is still good.

Silvia and her husband Carlos
Silvia and her husband Carlos

It is so easy for me to make up my own endings before things even happen. Forming battles in my mind comes second nature to me and it’s just as easy to overreact and give in to my emotions. But, tis so sweet to trust in Jesus.  To know that He will keep me in perfect peace when my mind is steadfast on Him , is such a breath of fresh air. (Isaiah 26:3) I’ve titled this blog new reasons, because these sweet reminders and the dear story of Silvia have encouraged me to face these storms knowing that God has a purpose behind it and because He is good I can trust that what seems good to Him is the very best for me.
cheers to new seasons & the new reasons!

Until next time,
Josefina

stripping silence.

Silence is so powerful.
It transcends hundreds of messages with the absence of sound.
Silence can stir up many emotions causing people to think and act.
A lot of times it can be discouraging,because we attach our personal emotions to it.
In a world full of much chaos, we tend to confuse silence as our rival.
We feel the need to strip the silence; 

( by filling the void with redundant chatter, social media, music etc.)
Only adding more volume to the noise we already have.
Finding silence requires time set aside and a special kind of self-discipline; especially when silence is unsettling and at times unusual.
To be able to fully experience it, I (personally) need stillness and solitude.
This is such a hard thing to do; especially when matters of life have consumed your feelings and attention. The easier route would be running away.
Running away may look like the actual physical activity for you; as for me, it requires food, Netflix, and my couch. My world has been pretty noisy lately and as much as I’ve tried to quiet the noise on my own, I can’t help, but face the fact that things are getting louder and I’m growing weary by the second. I’ve been running away trying to seek “silence” isolating myself, seeking my own desires; (Proverbs 18:1) and The Lord has brought me to a complete standstill; where I see my desperate need to be silent before Him.
What a beautiful struggle it has been.
Beautiful because I’m learning to follow Jesus
and a struggle because it requires me denying myself. (Luke 9:23)
I’ve realized that instead of seeking solitude to experience The Lord’s presence, I’ve been isolating myself for a quick fix; and that’s not the way life works folks.
Though quick fixes satisfy for a moment, the side effects cause greater pain.
And when you serve a God that cares for you and loves you, He will heal, correct, and redirect you even when you are suffering the consequences of prescribing your own medicine. (Psalm 147:3Proverbs 12:11; Hebrews 12:6)
God has been challenging me to
seek Him, not for his presents, but to experience His presence.
See when I’m seeking His presence, there’s fullness and joy. (Psalm 16:11)
I no longer see the need for a quick fix to strip the silence, because I see my need for Him. I’ve become desperate to know Him and, you can’t really get to know someone if you don’t spend time with them. Sometimes we don’t really want to click the pause button in our lives because of busyness, restlessness, anxiousness etc. (fill in the blank) but the only one who can strip the noise within our hearts, is the one who quiets and restores our soul. I challenge you to take some time off, (even if it’s 10 minutes) to seek His presence in silence. ( however it may look to you) Though it is a challenge, it comes with great reward.

Let us be silent, that we may hear the whisper of God.

-Ralph Waldo Emerson

Until next time,
Josefina