Thursday, February 21, 2019

Beauty for Ashes

"...and provide for those who grieve in Zion— to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor." Isaiah 61:3 (NIV)

I want to tell you the story of a prayer request. The prayer request started with my late grandmother, Lady Rocha. She got married when she was young to my grandfather. My grandmother, a Christian, started praying for the salvation of her husband, my late grandfather Sebastiao Rocha. My grandparents, had four kids, one who passed away at an early age. Through the ups and many downs of life, my grandmother kept praying for my grandfather's salvation. 

The prayer request was passed on from my grandmother to her three children, one being my mother Sueli. This prayer request was such a pervasive part of our spiritual walk that I do not remember a day when we didn't pray for my grandfather's salvation. I bet my mother was praying that prayer when I was in her womb. I can't remember when I first heard that prayer request because it was always there.

When I was in high school, my grandfather got sick. He had to stop working. We kept praying for his salvation still. I will be honest and say that we didn't stop to wonder if God was hearing this prayer request that started with my grandmother years ago. We knew too much about God's power to doubt Him. The same God healed my grandmother of cancer when I was a young child. We were not about to abandon the foundation of our entire life. We pressed on believing God for my grandfather's salvation. 

The day my grandfather was glorious. I was far away from my family, going to college here in the U.S. My grandfather surrendered his life to Jesus one Sunday night, a year or so before he died. 

I like the image Isaiah paints in verse 3 of chapter 63. God gives us beauty for ashes. He doesn't tell us how long we'll live with the ashes. One thing is for sure: there is beauty coming. 

If you knew that God would be faithful (and He is!) would you pray the same prayer request for 50 years? Would ask the same thing so much that your children and grandchildren pick up on the thing you are asking for? Would you commit to praying in public so your children and grandchildren can learn how to pray? Would you commit to praying without ceasing because the Bible tells us to do so? 

My late grandmother's testimony always encourages me and I hope it encourages you too. Pray without ceasing. Don't be a secret prayer agent for Jesus: pray in public so your family will learn from you. More importantly, remember that God is amazing in giving us beauty for ashes. 

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Working Motherhood: Courage, Community, Humility

"Life is not the mountain top: it is the walking in between," the songwriter said. I couldn't agree more. My walking in between as a working mother is different every week. I'm no robot, I'm always adjusting as I keep my eyes on the goal. My goal is to care for my husband and children.

I'm almost finished writing a book about transitioning from being a stay-at-home mom (SAHM) to working mom. I'm compassionate for all mothers. I know every mother works so you will not find disdain or criticism towards anyone. You will find support, understanding, and encouragement on every page of my ebook.

Back to today and this post. One often wonders what does it take to be a working mother. I believe that the words Courage, Community and Humility are a good place to start answering that question.


“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” • 
Winston S. Churchill

Because of my job, I am now exposed to millionaire investors. I was meeting one the other day and he asked me why I had a necklace with a key with the word "courage" in it. I forgot about my need to look good and impress a prominent person and I told him the truth. I told him I'm a mother and I have little kids. It takes courage. He asked me how old my kids are. I told him. He doesn't have kids but he told me about the time he kept his young niece and how much courage it took to change explosive diapers. Courage doesn't discriminate. A few moments later, that gentleman told our group about the many times his ventures failed. It took courage to learn from failure and keep going. Working mothers get to continue to invest in the lives of their families. Day after day, courage is there for us.

The greatness of a community is most accurately measured by the compassionate actions of its members. • 
Coretta Scott King

I believe that community is the secret sauce that makes the lives of working mothers successful. Whether is the community you pay for or the one you belong, being part of a group of people makes us whole. We were not created to be alone. Community is where compassion is embodied. I have experienced compassion from members of my community when I needed the most. I have also received surprise acts of love from community members. It is true that we get what we give. I try my best to be a person who is always looking to do good to others. I pray that even when I feel I have nothing to give, that God will give me words to be an encourager to others. One last thing, community is more than your family. If you have the "us four and no more" mentality, you are missing out on God's plan for your life.

Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it's thinking of yourself less. • C. S. Lewis

I am well aware that humility is a cuss word in today's word. The problem is, God hates pride. I am not speaking about the pride that comes from doing a job well or the pride you feel when your child finally does something on their own. The pride that God hates comes from a haughty spirit, one that is filled with self-absorption. Humility is a key tool for the working mother because you have to get used to God's good ways. "He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way. Psalm 25:9" There is wisdom in being humble (Proverbs 11:2). All motherhood is a journey of humility if we follow God's design for motherhood. Being humble does not mean being a doormat. It means being more like Jesus.

Courage, Community, Humility. How can you add these tools to your working mother box? 

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Finding Your Unique Voice

My friend Sarah is an artist and she teaches other artists how to find their own voices. I really enjoyed this quote she shared with them in one of her classes.

What are your skills?
What is your design?
What is your technique?
What risks are you taking?

Monday, February 18, 2019

Play your part

There is wisdom in playing your part. In a play, each actor sticks with their own parts. If one actor starts playing someone else's part in addition to their own, the whole thing would be confusing. We understand this concept when it comes to acting but it is challenging to apply it in our own lives at times.

Here is how my family and I are playing our part: 

We can't do everything - as a matter a fact, we won't do everything. I have learned not to kill myself just so I look busy and my kids look successful. Doing the death march from activity to activity only means we are busybodies. Find our focus and sticking with our family's plan is worth the effort.

We're not good at everything - we're not great at every sport out there. We're not good at every art form. We really are not good at crafting. Because I know this, I focus on our strengths. If I notice one of us is interested in a certain area, we will be glad to try. I don't believe in "you can be anything you want to be." We need to stop that lie. Why? Because a professional ballerina will have a hard time winning the super bowl and vice-versa. We can be open to discovering our sweet spot without lying to ourselves.

We are good at being a family - we are good at loving and nurturing. We are good at encouraging one another and believing in one another. We are good at forgiving. We are good at teaching. We are good at training our children for good works. God made us a family and I choose to believe that's what we're good at.

We are willing to learn - we learn from God's word and we learn from others. We also learn from our many mistakes.

How are you playing your part? 

Thursday, February 14, 2019

My sweet reality

I have a bunch of feelings about Valentines Day. My feelings about my husband and children are firmly established in the fact that we are one. God put us together and we are thankful for that all the time.

My feelings about the actual holiday are mixed. I understand this is a capitalist culture so everyone is trying to make money every chance they can. I always wonder if the efforts to combat childhood obesity are thwarted because every major and minor holiday revolves around candy. At least the dentist will make some money.

I also have mixed feelings about single people on Valentines Day. I’ve been there. I decided I wasn’t “less than” just because of my marital status. I tried to spread this message back in College and I continued until this day. I wrote a letter to my single friends. I hope you read it and share it with your friends. I believe that people who are single are marvelous, they have worth and there is value in their season of life. I also think they need to be celebrated, not for their marital status, but for who God created them to be.

Back to my feelings about Valentine’s Day. Let’s face it, a blog post might not change the culture. The only culture I can change is the one inside my home and the one I profess on social media.

At home, I love my husband. We also noticed the 3 pairs of eyes absorbing our every movement. Our children are learning what real love is all about. I decided to keep up with our Listenbee family Valentine’s Day breakfast and we also spend some time telling the kids what real love really is all about. God is love. Love is patient, kind, not jealous… we use the Bible’s standards. Relationship questions come up. We share God’s wisdom and our family’s convictions. Everyone leaves with their love tanks full.

I hope that your love tank is full this Valentine’s Day. Don’t allow a person or a past relationship hurt to ruin a perfectly good day. God made each day for your enjoyment. You are loved just the way you are.