Trust without borders

“Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders. Let me walk upon the waters whoever you would call me. Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander and my faith will be made stronger in the presence of my Savior.” Oceans-Hillsong United

For those of you that don’t know this song, it’s a pretty popular Christian song by Hillsong United. I remember the first time I heard it and was completely touched by the lyrics. I wanted a relationship with God so strong that I would desire to be taken to the ends of the earth if it pleased Him. 

The more I listened to it the more I thought about it’s message. How so far, I’ve literally moved to a country I barely heard of in blind faith. But since I’ve arrived, I’ve been at a stand still. 

So I prayed. And I prayed. And I prayed. For God to use me, to revive me, to give me a clean heart so I can serve Him with pure love. 

And slowly, God has been placing opportunities along my path for me to do what I’ve asked. But it wasn’t easy stuff like give money or give the clothes off my back. It was giving my time, sharing my heart with my newly met brothers and sisters in Christ. 

Each time an opportunity presented itself, I pulled back more and more. Did I really want to become attached to new people? Couldn’t I just serve from the background? I started doubting whether or not I truly wanted to follow Jesus blindly. 

Things started popping up, things from my past that had led me to having a very calloused heart. I’ll refer you to an old post I wrote about my brother in law. After that post, I worked on it and I continue to work on it each and every day. It’s hard, but I make a conscious effort to not hate him.

Anyway, this past Sunday my pastor gave a sermon that I felt was directed towards me. He started the sermon by asking us how many of us have enemies? I shot my hand up, glancing at Carlos, my eyes saying “yeah you already know.” My pastor then asked, “How many of you would get on the cross for your enemies?” I sat there and rolled my eyes because I knew EXACTLY where he was going with this. I felt my flesh want to reject the message. I thought to myself, “Lord, I don’t know if I’m ready for this.” 

As the message continued, I felt the callouses around my heart put up a pretty big fight but eventually gave way. And I cracked. I called my good friend, Edith, and told her to pray for me. That God was working on some deep rooted issues in me and I needed a lot of guidance from Him.  She shared a few verses with me and told me that she would keep me in her prayers.

Three days later, Gods test came knocking. I was shocked. I didn’t think that this was how God was planning on working through me even though He had been preparing me for that day for awhile. After all was said and done, I still felt a bit uneasy. Unsure that this was a door God wanted opened in my life. Unsure of what could come out of it. 

But yesterday I received my confirmation. I went to visit Edith, her husband, and their five beautiful girls (the youngest being my goddaughter) since it had been awhile since I had seen them. While we were all sharing with each other, I told Edith of God answering my prayer. And she told me that her husband, Ismael, had wanted to share a passage with me in regards to the subject. 

Matthew 18: 21-35 “The Parable of the Unmerciful Servant” 

Cliff notes version: A master has a servant that owes him a lot of money. The servant can’t pay him back so he begs the master to forgive his debt. The master, being merciful, forgives the debt. The servant then goes on his way and comes along another servant that he had loaned money to. When he asks his friend where his money is, the friend asks for more time because he cannot repay the debt. Instead of being merciful to his friend like his master had been with him, he has his friend jailed. When the master hears of his unkindness he punishes his servant for being unmerciful. 

That’s when Ismael looked at me, saw the look on my face, and knew that I understood what was being said. And it came back around to one thing. “Forgive as you are forgiven.” 

You see, I always thought that one of my greatest gifts was my ability to forgive. But in that moment talking with Ismael, I realized that my forgiveness is conditional. If the person didn’t acknowledge the wrong they did, I would not forgive them and I would then I harbor a lot of resentment towards them. How dare they think they did nothing wrong? 

But I realized, after many years of not knowing that this was my struggle, that forgiveness is actually anything but easy for me. I think that God has been working on me for years to be able to truly understand forgiveness and what it truly means of me. 

I’ve spent years asking God to lead me to a place where I have to trust Him wholeheartedly. And in this moment, if trusting Him with my fragile heart and the door that was opened is what I have to do then so be it.

I don’t know if I’ll publicize much of my road to forgiveness as it will be a personal one but I do appreciate any sort of encouragement or if anyone would like to aid in keeping me accountable in my journey.

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Let’s talk about sex…

I normally avoid talking about my sex life at all costs. It makes me uncomfortable to the point where I start nervously shaking and sweating. Even talking about it with my sister makes me blush like a tomato. Don’t misunderstand where this post is headed. I’m not going to into detail about my sex life in detail. But I do feel compelled to talk about my journey to where I am now.
I started having sex at 16. I’ve only ever been with my husband but he has had other sexual partners. I grew up in a Christian home but at the time I wasn’t practicing. I believed in God but not enough to stop me from having not sex. But when we started having a sexual relationship I felt guilty.

This was us about three months into dating. March 2007.

Then maybe after the first five times I stopped feeling guilty. Let’s be honest, sex is F U N. It feels good and it’s stress relieving. And the more you have it the better it gets. Especially in the beginning. Coming into senior year of high school I had my own car and Carlos was at the community college. Needless to say but I skipped a lot of school that year. If he wasn’t in class then neither was I. Luckily I still managed to get into university and graduate with honors.

Now I just want to point out that I’ve been fat for as long as I can remember. I’ve always had bullies reminding me of it. So when I found someone that wanted to have sex with ME I was more than just surprised. I was petrified. My first time I stayed underneath the covers and with my shirt on the whole time. It was awful. I was so fearful that he would see my fat and run away. Looking back I realize how ridiculous I was.

My insecurities didn’t stop there. Even though I had fun while having sex I still couldn’t completely let go of my inhibitions. There was this very loud voice in the back of my head telling me he would leave, that he was grossed out by my body, he was only with me out of pity. The more I thought these things the more cautious I became during sex. I never wanted to be in a position where my fat was completely visible or I would make sure my eyes were closed so I couldn’t see if he was grossed out.

Not sure how many of you have felt this way during sex but for those of you that have you know that you can’t fully enjoy sex while your mind is racing a mile a minute.

Fast forward to sophomore year of college. I joined a Christian sorority and focused on my relationship with God. Carlos was an unbeliever at the time and didn’t want our relationship to change. I decided we should break up so I could focus on school and God. But whenever I went to Miami on the weekends there I was calling him and before I knew it we were hooking up.

Hanging out during our "breakup."
Hanging out during our “breakup.”

Whenever I talked about my struggle with my sisters I was met with kind words but told very bluntly I was committing sin. Over the course of the next two years I struggled with sex. At this point in my life and relationship with Carlos it was how I showed affection. I’m pretty sure I cried every time, heavily weighed by my guilt.

I felt dirty and sinful for not being able to fight my desires. It was awful. Sex stopped being as enjoyable for me as it once was. I was allowing the negative views the church holds towards premarital sex affect me. These thoughts followed me into our marriage.

Fast forward to us getting married. Our wedding night was amazing. We ordered Little Caesars pizza and watched How to Train Your Dragon on HBO. And yes we did consummate our marriage. I was looking forward to this moment. We were officially husband and wife. I wasn’t going to feel guilty anymore. But that wasn’t what happened. I still felt that pang of guilt once it was over. I remember being in bed wondering why this was happening. Didn’t I do the right thing?

I continued to feel that way for the next two years of our marriage. I tried to do everything to stop feeling that way. I prayed and talked with my woman’s group but still I had that tiny pang to in the pit of my stomach. Looking back, I think it had to do with me not feeling married. Nothing in our relationship changed except us sleeping in the same bed every night.

251215_1856177199571_2379332_nIt wasn’t until we got pregnant with PJ that something clicked. It wasn’t just him and me anymore. Our love created something. We were a family. Slowly I stopped feeling guilty. I started enjoying sex again. I stopped worrying about the sexual immorality that once consumed me.

But once PJ came my physical insecurities came back. Would he hate my post-pregnancy body? Oh my gosh he touched my flab, did he notice my flinching? I started keeping my eyes closed praying he couldn’t sense my panic.
At the start of 2015 I got tired of feeling so insecure. I was scared of having sex with my husband. Scared of him being grossed out by my body. I knew it made no sense considering he’d seen it hundreds of times. I decided that’s it. I needed to change my mindset. So I made it a point to start having sex with my eyes OPEN. Really paying attention to his face to his eyes. I needed to trust that my husband wanted to be with me. And woah did things change!

Sex stopped being about fulfilling a need but about intimacy. We started laughing again and making sex more playful. We started having sex like teenagers again. I make it a point to stare into his eyes and just be in the moment with him.

I started learning more about myself, learned that I needed to start accepting myself no matter what.

I don’t want my post to make it seem like I’m against the church for preaching abstinence or refraining from premarital sex. Do I think that it’s realistic in the world we live in? No. I do think that the church needs to stop focusing on sex being dirty. I’m sure I’m not the only person on the planet that couldn’t shake that sinful feeling when having sex while married feeling. I don’t know how to fix the problem. I don’t know what we can do to change the views. But I do know that I’m going to need to figure it out for PJ.

Us on the rambla. October 2014.
Us on the rambla. October 2014.

Clouded Faith: My walk with Christ

I feel that in the current state of our society, Christianity is being eaten away, being diluted by political correctness and sensitivity. People are constantly bashing Christians for their views on hot topics like gay marriage or abortion. The anti-religious are becoming more vocal in their distaste towards Christians, while openly embracing other religions. Young Christians are afraid of sharing their faith in fear of being seen as “uncool” or are content in being in the lukewarm waddling pool of the faith. 

I used to be one of those people. I grew up in a strong Christian home, my mother being our example of who and what a Christian is. We went to church three days a week; participated in youth groups, bible studies, and volunteered whichever way we could. However that isn’t to say there weren’t major bumps on that road. I was bullied by other kids in the church for being fat and having a fat family. My sister and I were never invited to birthday parties or outside of church get togethers. That didn’t stop my mother from being active in the church until she was diagnosed with breast cancer. 

At that time I was 9 years old and tried very hard to hold onto my faith. But it proved to be difficult whenever my aunt picked us up for church and the church kids would make fun that my mom had a shaved head. Or would be sweaty/weak/sick from her chemo treatments. I hated going to church but not going wasn’t an option. At least not until my mom had a conversation with our then-pastor that we stopped going. I don’t know the exact topic of the conversation but I do know that the straw that broke the camels back was when he said, “You must be so full of sin that God allowed you to get sick.” 

My mom never went to his church again. He’s had a lot of success as a pastor and is now known as the “Prophet of Profit” or something in Miami. Good for him. 

But his lack of kindness is what darkened my view on religion for the next eight years of my life. How could someone say that someone deserves cancer? That God, the loving man you portray, would use this awful disease as a punishment? I slowly came to hate religion. I hated religious people. I always looked at them warily and tried to steer clear of them before they could hurt me. 

I spent those next few years lost, constantly searching for something or someone to fill the void in my heart. I was desperately holding onto unhealthy friendships, defying my parents, and experimenting with things that don’t make me proud today. My mom always tried to remind me of God. That I was His child, that His love for me mattered more than anything, and that most importantly Jesus died for me.

You can imagine how often that conversation led to a fight due to my lack of response. But I wasn’t ready to hear it. I hadn’t yet found someone that practiced the love they preached. 

But summer 2003 I experienced one of Gods inexplicable miracles firsthand. My sister had a boyfriend that lived out of state. He came to Miami for her high school graduation and stayed on our couch. One night I was in my room listening to my portable CD player (haha, remember those?) and I fell asleep relatively early. Not exactly sure what happened next but I woke up to my CD player door open, the CD turning backwards and hearing in my headphones, “Michelle WAKE UP, Michelle WAKE UP, Michelle WAKE UP!” over and over again. Needless to say I was creeped out enough where I tossed it across the room and darted for my bedroom door. As I opened the door, there was my sisters boyfriend reaching for the handle to my room. I ran past him, straight for my parents bed, hid under the covers and kept repeating, “Greater is He that is within me than he that is in the world.” 

Looking back now, I like to think that God was protecting me from whatever that ex-boyfriend of my sisters had intended for me. Later on I tried showing my mom how the CD sounded while rotating backwards but it didn’t work. I was stumped. At the time I didn’t know what to think other than I was going crazy. 

Fast forward to May 2011, a week before Carlos and I got married. My sister, my friend Vivi, Carlos and I were headed to a club when we got into a scary car wreck on the interstate. It was the type of accident where you spin out of control, hit a bunch of cars and pray you don’t die. But right as I was losing control of the car and we were headed for the barrier I felt hands other than my own on the steering wheel controlling the car. Carlos would later try to explain it as the power steering but I know what I felt. 

At that point I had already had a personal relationship with Christ. I went to church regularly, was in a Christian sorority in college, and volunteered at a faith-based orphanage. I knew that Gods miracles were possible. But I was still insecure about sharing my faith. God saved me, twice, from awful things happening to me. I should have been shouting His miracles from the rooftops. But whenever it was unearthed that I was a Christian I made sure to explain that I was NOT a Bible thumping Christian. I made sure never to preach or share my faith in fear of chastisement. Whenever I was in church I made sure not to worship too loudly or dance or jump because I didn’t want people to laugh.

I’m so ashamed of those fears. I hate that I worried what other people thought of me. The only person who has proven to be there for me time and time again has been Jesus. He has protected me from the things I wanted and given me the things I didn’t know I needed. 

I’m sad that I allowed a handful of negative people cloud my view of Christ. How could I see His glory when I was blinded by hatred? People will always disappoint you, ridicule you, and try to break you. But Christ will protect you and guide you through what needs to happen to reach your end goal.

I came to Uruguay with the obscure intention of spreading the Gospel. And while it’s taken me almost two years to start, I’m going to take the first step and start spreading the love and joy Jesus brings to my life. 

Stumbling block

If I hadn’t said it outright in this blog before, let me just say that I am a Christian. Not surprising coming from a 20-something American woman from a southern state. The point is when I decided that I wanted to move to Uruguay I convinced myself—more like lied—that I would do so to do missionary work. But I haven’t done an inch/ounce/gram of missions work. I don’t know if it’s because I haven’t found my calling or maybe I haven’t heard it yet. Or maybe I’ve been running away from it. 

I love my God. I love my Jesus. I am not ashamed of my beliefs. I have found a church I feel comfortable with. I have found friends within that church that accept me and don’t expect anything more from me than just my company. But I’ve found myself unraveling in my relationship with Christ. For awhile I was closer to God than I had ever been, but the past few months I have let my personal darkness seep into my relationship with Him. I’ve slowly gotten quick to anger, lost any patience I may have previously possessed, and have been retreating from friendships new and old.

I like to joke that my quickness to anger has something to do with my fiery Cuban blood but in all honesty my rage is my biggest stumbling block. Specifically my revulsion towards my brother in law. To say we have a tumultuous relationship would be an understatement. You would think that us living over 3,000 miles away from each other we would be able to forget the other exists but that’s unrealistic. I’ll spare you the gory details which span the eight years of my relationship with Carlos, just know that my brother-in-law and I are sworn enemies.

Some people may say that our signs don’t mix, a select few would tell me to cuss him out, and others would tell me to accept things as they are and move on. Seeing how I don’t believe in Zodiac signs and my inability to keep calm when expressing my emotions to others, I find myself immersed in my total distaste and distrust of him whenever the opportunity presents itself. The past few months those opportunities have been creeping up left and right. I have regrettably wasted time spewing obscenities about my brother in law any chance I’ve gotten to anyone that will listen. I have allowed my opinion of his unfavorable character permeate through my household, my marriage, and most importantly my relationship with God. 

My husband obviously takes no stance on the issue, always saying, “He’s my brother. What can I do?” The worldly woman in me says, “Disown him. Ignore him. Hate him.” But the godly woman I’ve been suppressing has been telling me one word: FORGIVE. 

forgive: verb; stop feeling angry or resentful toward (someone) for an offense, flaw, or mistake. 

The first thought that comes to my mind is simple. “I don’t want to.” But then during my more pensive moments I think, “I don’t know how to.” How can I forgive someone who doesn’t feel like they’ve committed an error? How can I forgive someone who isn’t willing to change or make an effort? How can I stop feeling angry for someones offenses and flaws? And then I got slapped with the truth. I got slapped with MY truth. 

 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. —Colossians 3:13

Forgive. Forgive as we are forgiven. For me, the base of my religion is built on that one word. Forgive because you are loved. In my religion forgiveness and love are synonymous. No matter all the rotten things my brother in law has brought into my marriage, no matter how I feel toward him as a person, my main job in this life is to love thus forgiving him whether or not he asks for forgiveness. Forgive because it is my role. Forgive because I was forgiven.

I’m struggling in my relationship with God because I can’t do what He did for me. And I cry. I feel myself chipping away, allowing myself be consumed by my inner darkness. I’ve stopped reading my Bible. I don’t listen to worship music as often. I find myself indulging in secular things more and more. Finding it easier to crave a world I have never wanted to be a part of. 

Writing this post was my first step in closing the door to the anger I feel. I can’t hide behind false ignorance anymore. I need to be deliberate in my seeking Gods face again. I desperately hope to move past this rage. I pray that God move me. I pray that God work in me. I pray that God change ME.  

I hope that what follows this post is a road to forgiveness so that I can finally start running toward whatever my calling may be in Uruguay.