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You’ve been accepted!

Christian-quotes

I’ve often heard religious leaders repeat the mantra “rejection is simply protection” or “rejection is redirection.”

Every time I hear these expressions, I am immediately reminded of a particular experience when such wise words took on a real meaning for me. Like the time I could not find the funds to cover my tuition at a prestigious private fine arts college in Miami where I aspired to study film. As a result, I ended up enrolling at a community college, transferring to a university (after four years) and graduating with a degree in journalism.

Perhaps that is not the best example since the school did not really reject me. It was my parents who rejected the school and the idea of paying $20,000 plus per year (that did not include books or equipment).

Still, it hurt me until I finally accepted that it was for the best. I saved a lot of money attending a public institution and I learned that I wasn’t as passionate about writing and producing film like I thought I was. I was really attracted to the idea of becoming a successful film writer in Hollywood.

I didn’t deal with much rejection after that. In my former years, things came easy. Whenever I applied to a school, I was accepted. Whenever I applied to a job, I was hired. Whenever I applied for a credit card, I was approved. Easy, peasy.

But these days, things are different. Jobs are competitive, schools are selective, credit cards are manipulative (you have to be very careful and discerning with those) and life is a tougher teacher when you become an adult.

Recently, I applied to several jobs. I was called for interviews for three of them and moved on to the next steps. I prayed, mustered up as much confidence as I could and sold myself to the best of my ability. The hiring managers seemed impressed and assured me that they would be in contact in a week.

After several weeks went by, I had a gut feeling that I would not be hired by neither employers. I was right. I received one disappointing e-mail after another (all in one week): “Thank you for your interest with [insert company name here]. After careful consideration, you have not been selected.” I even received a letter from a school that I attended three years ago but took a break from. I had decided to re-enroll last month so that I could go back and finish the Master of Art program. However, when I tore open the letter, it read: “We regret to inform you that you have not been selected.” Ouch! That hurts! And those aforementioned mantras could offer no sense of relief or hope to me. I felt like I was down for the count.

After all, it was just a few years ago when my husband and I learned that the deal fell through on a house we were trying to purchase. Prior to that, we lost our unborn baby. Surely, rejection letters from a potential employer or school are mild in comparison, but nonetheless, they are some damaging triggers.

Hearing you have not been selected, chosen, picked, favored, etc. every day can remind you of experiences in the past when you felt like a failure, and ultimately take a toll on your confidence.

Thank God, He says otherwise: “But I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit — fruit that will last” (John 15:16).

Did you catch that? God does not want to lead us to a high-paying job where we are likely to become reckless in our spending, arrogant, compromising, and miserable. At the end of our lives, none of that will contribute to our legacies and that’s what God wants to protect us from. Quite simply, He wants to give us a blessing that “brings wealth, without painful toil for it” (Proverbs 10:22).

In the grand scheme of rejection, God truly wants to redirect us to our purpose — that unique assignment that will bring glory to His name, allow us to make our mark on this world and outlive us for many generations to come.

We may not have been selected for that job position or degree program that would have enabled us to build our careers. But rest assured, we were created by a loving God who has written to us 66 letters of acceptance and promises to lead us to our purpose and fulfillment if we will just trust His route. The way of the world will get us lost anyway.

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More to life

I thought I was important when I got my college degree. I thought I was special when I got married. I thought I was unstoppable when I began my career as a journalist. I thought I was sitting on top of the world when I closed on almost got the house I loved (or so I thought). Somehow, the experience — the deal fell through — negated all of my previous milestones including my failure to become a mother.

Sidenote: I lost my baby a few months after I got married and it hurt…literally. I was in pain, found out the embryo was growing in my left fallopian tube (picture a cranberry inside of a straw), had surgery and healed sans painkillers because I cannot swallow a pill to save my life. I suffered emotional pain as well, but I got through it because in retrospect my pregnancy came at the wrong time. And the loss was no fault of my own as I initially felt. It’s just that God has other plans.

Not signing on the dotted line of that contract was another reminder that God was in control of everything, from my highest to least ambitions. It was as if I was one step away from the top rung of the success ladder, lost my footing and crashed on the ground.

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Before I continue, let me just say my husband and I are not renting. My husband bought a condo a couple of years before we tied the knot. I moved in after our nuptials and added a much needed feminine touch to the place. We remodeled and got some new furniture. It looks great if you ask me. Sure my name is on the deed, but it doesn’t feel like my accomplishment. It doesn’t even feel like ours. It’s his accomplishment. I guess that’s why not getting the house had such an affect on me. I wanted us to do something successful together…again. Why? Because it would lengthen my list of blessings. But the real reason is because I was a competitor trying to get ahead of those in front of me (and their lists). What a vain pursuit!

But thank God for failures. Sure, the disappointment of not becoming a homeowner messed with my confidence, but it also humbled me a lot.

I learned that a life in Christ is not about what I can get; it’s about what I can give. Unfortunately, society teaches us that fulfillment is tied to how much we own. That’s why we spend the majority of our lives pursuing success  at the expense of our souls. On the contrary, the Bible teaches us that only God can make us whole. We were not created to acquire and worship things. We were designed to worship God – to give Him all the praise, the glory and honor due to Him. And it’s not because of what He’s done, is doing or will do. We should  magnify Him simply because of who He is.

The things He blesses us with (He gives us power to get wealth) on our journeys are just the icing on the cake. And let me just say, too much icing, nevertheless, icing alone, is not good for our health. It makes the cake taste good, but the cake is still edible and appetizing without it. The cake (or bread) being Jesus, in case you missed it.

When I began living my life on purpose, all of my achievements did not matter anymore. Neither did my failures. There is more to life than academic, financial and familial achievement or letdown. The significance of our existence is tied to the evidence of God’s presence in our lives. Earth and everything in it shall pass away, but God is eternal. And if we have Him, we have everything we need.

 

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Get Up and Do Something

“Rise up, this matter is in your hands.” Ezra 10:4

dosomethingIt’s easy to sit and watch life pass us by.

We can get so caught up in trying to acquire material wealth, in an effort to keep up with Hollywood, that we miss out on opportunities to discover our God-given purpose in life.

Our idea of dreaming big is limited when all we can think of is winning the lottery or purchasing a big home. The reality is that we will never be fulfilled unless our vision surpasses ourselves.

About a month ago, CNN shared a story about a 13-year-old in Georgia who set her sights on impacting her world in spite of her daily battles. McClain Hermes is legally blind and her doctors say she will not be able to see at all in the next two to five years.

But Hermes has not let the prognosis stop her from living her life by serving others.

In 2009, after her father showed her an article about a shoe recycling program, she decided to start collecting shoes. Instead of recycling them, she donated the shoes to people that needed them. Through that, Shoes for the Souls was born.

For the past five years, Hermes and her father, Matt Hermes, have collected and delivered 10,000 shoes for a homeless shelter. Hermes said, “If you have a dream and you think it’s unrealistic, just keep on doing it because you’ll get there.”

The premise of Jesus’ ministry in the Bible was servitude. During one of his teaching moments, Jesus told his disciples, “And whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:44-45).

Paul adopted this attitude in his ministry. He was determined to be a servant for Christ by picking up where Jesus had left off. He traveled around the world preaching the Good News and healing the sick.

But Paul did not just go anywhere. He allowed the Holy Spirit to guide him to places where there was a strong need.

In one instance, Paul had a vision in the night. He saw a man in Macedonia urging him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us” (Matthew 16:10). He knew the vision was from God, leading him to a place where the people lacked hope. He and his disciples set sail from where they were and went to Macedonia to pray for the people.

He realized praying for people and preaching the gospel to them was as important as feeding and clothing them. That is why Jesus, when being tempted by the devil after his 40-day fast, said, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God’“ (Matthew 4:4).

It’s not always easy to get up and travel with a missions group to an impoverished, third-world country, but you do not have to serve on a grand scale to please God. You can serve in your neighborhood, community or church.

You can even serve in your own family. When my cousin’s husband was given a few days to live, everyone in my family rallied to help her and him in whatever way we could. Whether it was praying for them, preparing a meal, cleaning the house or just lending an ear, we served as often as possible.

What we did lifted her spirits, even after he passed. Our serving demonstrated our love for them, and it allowed us to forget and lose ourselves.

I doubt any of us were fantasizing about becoming rich or worrying about our bills. We were just grateful for life. And in seeing how short it really is, we knew we could not afford wasting another minute of being consumed by things that don’t matter.

There is always a need somewhere – as Hermes has realized at such a young age – and you don’t have to be a genius to figure out what and where it is. It’s all a matter of having the compassion and readiness to act when the opportunity presents itself.

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Life began with the Word

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”  John 1:1

word-of-godOne of my favorite past times is reading. Growing up, I enjoyed going to the library and checking out five-seven books a week. I always chose the thick paperbacks because I wanted my reading experience to last me a couple of weeks. I also hated to see a good story come to an end.

My favorite books to check out were from The Babysitters Club collections, including anything else by Ann M. Martin. I always got lost in the lives of the characters and pictured myself right alongside them. Reading made me feel so alive, so inspired and so creative.

Every time I finished a book, I would write a poem, a song or a short story in my journal. As I got older, I became even more fascinated with reading and writing. It was my way to escape my reality, express my true self and engage my colorful imagination. Interestingly enough, I never thought that writing would be a part of my career nor my purpose.

I started reading the Bible when I became serious about my relationship with God. I had been attending church since I was a baby. I knew about God, but nothing about Him and His love toward me. I knew He loved the world — so much so that He gave His Only Son to die for it — but I did not know that He knew me before I was in my mother’s womb and that He had great plans for my future.

Discovering this truth made all the difference. I had been wandering aimlessly, thinking the wrong thoughts, hanging out with the wrong people and doing the wrong things for a long time.

Sure, I had goals. Sure, I fantasized (indulged in daydreaming about something desired) about what I wanted my future to look like. Sure, I wanted a better life. But that’s where it stopped for me. I didn’t have the ambition to go after my dreams nor the faith that they could ever come to pass.

I accepted Christ as my personal Savior after high school. When I began to delight in the Word of God, I began to see my heart’s desires manifest. One of my dreams was to get married. My mother used to study me and my sister’s hands when we were kids. She told us the creases in our palms formed an “N.” She said that it meant “no marriage” and revealed to us that some girls had “M’s” in their palms. These girls were the ones that would someday become wives. She told us that we had inherited her curse. My father never married her even after she had us. They entered a cohabitation agreement when they began dating and never pursued a deeper level since. My mother longed for that sort of commitment. But truth be told, my father was abusive and he was a cheater. Even worse, he was not a believer like she was. They were completely, unequally yoked.

She planted a seed in me. It was a seed of failure and death, as far as relationships and finances were concerned. I watered that seed with confidence that what she said would be. I had no idea that I had subconsciously agreed to the terms of generational curses. Thank God for Jesus. When I gave my life to Him, I saw the light. I saw a way out of despair. I saw life after years of inhabiting a dead place.

I realized I had a purpose just as long as God was not dead in my life. Slowly, but surely He showed me…sometimes in dreams, sometimes through sermons, but most of the time, through the Word.

I rediscovered my passion for writing my senior year in high school. Initially, I had my mind set on becoming a doctor (pediatrician to be exact) at my parents’ request. But I knew, there was more to God’s plan for me than some worldly status quo.

Since I love movies–they are the manifestation of a written story– I decided to pursue a career in film. Things did not go as I planned. My parents could not afford to pay for my tuition, nevertheless take out a loan for me so that I could attend school at the International Fine Arts Academy in Miami. I ended up going to my local community college.

Soon after, I transfered  to another community college eight hours away from home. I was relieved at the opportunity to leave my parents’ home because their semi-marital issues began to take a toll on me. All I saw or heard was negativity. Seeing that convinced me more each day that their plight would soon become my own. Going away saved me from the noise and got me alone into a quiet place with God.

I prayed and read the Bible more when I went away. I focused better on my courses and passed them effortlessly without the added stress. I discovered what I wanted to do — become a journalist. I figured it would be the only way I could do something that I love which is writing. Also, I had developed an admiration for the evening news. Thanks to my dad, the majority of my childhood was spent catching up on local and world affairs instead of tuning in to my favorite cartoons.

When I finally graduated from college, I transferred to a university back home to pursue a Bachelor in Arts degree. I chose to live on campus to maintain some sanity. I eventually graduated in 2007 and let me say, I was excited and confident about my future. I could not wait to share news with people through writing or broadcasting (I figured a career in television would be equivalent to one in film). I did not get the job I wanted at my local television news stations, but I did land one with my local newspaper.

I started off as an editorial assistant which gave me the opportunity to publish stories about the school board. One day, my supervisor proposed an idea–for me to write about something I was more passionate about. That was easy. I love Jesus! We weren’t sure how the Editor-in-Chief would feel about a weekly religion (I like to call it my personal faith) column, but by the grace of God she obliged.

Let me just say, my column took a life on its own. Every week, I shared an experience combined with a biblical story and lesson in the paper. This generated a lot of buzz in the community. Everyone was writing me to tell me how much they enjoyed reading my articles. My supervisor and her boss said I was the only one among all the writers in the office that got so much feedback. Soon I was being invited to give lectures at retirement homes and women Bible studies.

It’s funny how God can take the foolishness of man to confuse the wisdom of man. I wanted to share news through writing and He had me doing just that. Only, it was the Good News instead of the horrid stories of debt, theft, murder and injustice!

I was grateful for the experience. The ability to encourage people and impact their lives with the Word brought so much joy to mines. It also confirmed that I was not destined for failure. God did not only prove this to me by connecting me with the man of my dreams and allowing us to get married, but He revealed it to me through all those years I spent in college and in my career.

I didn’t graduate from college in four years. It took me seven years to pass the courses (math classes) that I failed over and over, overcome health issues and a financial challenges to finally walk across that stage.

It took me a year and a half (after being jobless for two years) for me to get hired by my current employer. Every set back was literally a set up. I could not see it then, but I see God’s glory now. I am grateful to know that my mom was wrong about me and that God had me in the palm of His hands all along.

And you know what, I am not mad at my mother. She was a victim of her cultural upbringing and the dangerous environment she found herself in after she met my father. In spite of her religion, she was without hope. She didn’t have peace because she was surrounded by darkness and she lacked faith because all she saw was a dead end.

I am happy to say that she is in a prosperous place these days. My mother left my father after 27 years of being with him. She declared 2007 as the year of deliverance because my siblings and I were adults that time. She said she stayed with my father because she did not want us to be raised without structure.

As strict as my father was, I am actually thankful for the way he raised us. It was traumatizing sometimes, but God allowed it to work out for our good. We respect people as well as ourselves, we value hard work and most importantly, a good education. We didn’t have a choice growing up.

It was a great thing that my mother kept us near the cross, literally, in the midst of such turmoil. We were at church six days a week. Sometimes, we went to three different churches in one day because she kept us involved in children Bible programs that our home church could not offer. We increased in our knowledge of Christ, which set the foundation for our faith today.

All because of the Word, my life was given a chance to catch up with my destiny. All because God lives, I can finally face all of my tomorrows!