Journal writing

2014 In Review

Every year I do the same thing.

Sometime around the end of December or beginning of the New Year I write a year-end review in my journal. I reflect on the year’s highs and lows and usually will reflect how my relationship with God progressed or regressed.  The following is an excerpt of this year’s:

* * *

January 2, 2015

About a year ago I rounded up 2013 in a very angry and bitter manner. I know why, and I am ashamed to remember it. I can only say that I am sorry that my lack of faith and my selfishness made me dishonor God in such a way.

2013 was a year of trials, 2014 was a year of…what?

Honestly, I have mixed feelings as I write. The end of 2014 brought an end to something that I’d been holding on for a while. My old love is officially old business; he has really moved on. How do I feel? I am neither bitter not jealous, just a bit… I don’t know… Is it wistful? Sad? Maybe just a bit resigned to the way my heart chooses to work. How did Anne Elliot say it? We women tend to love the longest even when all hope is gone. It’s silly, and to the most experienced I’m sure it’s laughable how in love I’ve always been the one to unreservedly give my heart to someone, and when it doesn’t work out it is the one that always lingers. But I have not been alone all this while, because despite the loneliness, the discouragement, the failed attempts, the uncertainties and the setbacks of this year, I end it in victory.

I have returned from my first day at my new job in a position that seems to have been tailored just for me, my skills, and my attention-level. It’s like God himself took that mental checklist I had about the job I needed and led me to it at the perfect time. I have finished December having passed my certification exams, I am planning to buy new gear—and have the funds to get it. I am starting a new business, I have acquired a valuable investor who believes in my vision. My family is healthy (I can hear their laughter outside my room), home is a warm place. I am happy, blessed, and so incredibly favored by my Heavenly Father. Is it presumptuous for me to feel warm and fuzzy when I think that the great King of Heaven loves me—indeed, favors me? Is it insane that at night the last thought I have is a prayer to Him and in the morning my first conscious thought is to breathe His name?

* * *

Unlike all the other years, there will be no resolutions this year.

There will only be a single prayer request every morning and every evening of every single day of the year. Yes, I will batter the gates of heaven every morning and evening with this single request.

Show me your will for my life.

Teach me to be able to discern your voice even in the noise and bustle of everyday life. Once I know your will and once I know that it is you speaking to me, empower me to obey you.

As to my heart—my foolish heart—I’ll leave it with you. I’m really, really sick of dealing with its excesses. So…this year I’ll trust you first to heal it and then to set it to rights, so that my heart will overflow with thankfulness and praise instead of aching from unfulfilled longing. Let it soar like an unfettered bird and let it sing with joy because of the hope that you instill in me.

For now, my heart beats steadily, strong and sure in my breast. My life feels very warm and quiet for now, and I like that just fine, for I’m gearing up for a very busy year.

What I learned in 2014 is that life with God is an adventure.

So with that in mind, Welcome 2015.

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Story of the Month: Paula Perez

Hey check it out! A chapter of If You Only Knew was featured at River Ram Press as Story of the Month. Awesome! and Thanks the RRP for featuring it and Ms. Alban for the lovely illustration. 🙂

River Ram Press #InspireWriters #InspireReaders

SOTMonth Header October

Zuri_illo

With falling leaves and hot beverages we welcome the month of October- featured this month is a touching piece by Paula Perez entitled “Zuri”. In this short work, we view a very thoughtful interaction between the antagonist and Zuri, the story’s namesake. Part of a larger work, please enjoy this excerpt. To read more of Paula’s work, please visit her blog, Tree.

To read the original piece, click here.


Zuri

By Paula Perez

Wednesday found me once more on my way to prayer meeting. As usual, Zuri asked me how my day in school had been, what interesting new books I was reading, and how my cousin’s health was. We lapsed into silence after that, because it was obvious that I did not want to talk, and Zuri was one of those rare adults who didn’t take that personally. She left me alone with my thoughts and  cheerfully navigated…

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God is good.

Thanking God for the Weekend

God is good.

It was a really rough week.

I got sick and struggled in my preparations for a major portfolio presentation because of it. I had to handle a difficult client, battled with doubt and anger. Reached the end of my patience. Dealt with late and missed deadlines….

All I can say is that I’m glad I survived. As I look into my study journal I notice that when I need God the most he speaks to me the loudest. When my strength is insufficient he helps me to overcome and go beyond my own expectations. There was pain this week, but through it all He was there.

God is good indeed. Wishing you a happy weekend spent with Him 🙂

Perfection - the ultimate example is God - The example our Lord gives us is not that of a good man, or even a good Christian, but of God himself. “Be ye therefore perfect”…

Perfect

“…love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matt 5:44-48 NIV)

Continue reading

Alive, but barely.

Alive

Waking up was a painful business. My eyelids felt heavy, but I managed to keep them open this time, though the light was like daggers to my eyes and my head was pounding.

It was the worst headache of my life.

This time I won’t be sick. I won’t be sick. I refuse to be sick . . . 

Once my eyes focused and adjusted to the light, I looked around me and I saw that I had been wrong. It hadn’t been a dream after all—all that screaming, the oxygen mask, and the ambulance ride. It had been real. I recalled it and re-lived the grotesque nightmare.

Everybody was yelling at me. EMTs. Nurses. Then a doctor. They were talking, talking, talking. Yelling at me. Yelling at each other. Making so much noise. Why couldn’t they just shut up and let me rest?

That changed suddenly. I felt a strange surge and was sick multiple times. Clarity. Everything was too loud and clear suddenly.  And then I couldn’t catch my breath. Was I hyperventilating? I could feel my pulse. It was erratic. I couldn’t breathe. An asthma attack? Impossible. I didn’t have asthma. Was I drowning? No, only fish drown in the air. . . . The too-clear sounds and lights and voices began to grow distant.

Panic.

No.

Terror. Terror overwhelmed me then with the full realization that I was not some detached observer. This was for real. This was happening to me.

No!!

NO!!!!

I don’t want to die!!

Please, God . . .  SOMEBODY . . .  I never meant to die. I swear, it’s not what it seems . . .  I never meant for it to get this far . . .

* * *

I was sure that I’d seen the end. But I had woken up.

I was alive, but I was so cold and wretched and alone that I wondered if I’d been granted mercy or punishment. I had tubes stuck to different places of my body. My mouth was dry and tasted gross. It hurt to move, it hurt to swallow, it hurt to breathe.

I shivered and was sick, but nothing other than a sickly substance came out. My sobbing sounds brought someone in eventually, but it wasn’t Mara or Julio or Zuri or anyone I knew. The nurse looked at me with contempt and berated me on the subject of choices and consequences. I didn’t care what she had to say. I curled up in my own vomit and began to cry.

It hurt. It hurt so much….

I never knew just how much it would hurt to live.

Part 23 – If You Only Knew

Never Seek to be Satisfied

I was angry at the world. I cried out and it did not listen. I was in need and no one helped me. I wanted someone to love me; I longed to find someone who could make me believe that I was precious and special, but I only saw cold indifference around me.

No one cared. No one helped. I could throw tantrums, sulk here and there, and I could be miserable… and still the world would continue to go on it’s merry way to hell at a breakneck speed. I was being swept along by it.

I did not understand how I–a believer in God, a so-called Christian–could be so wretchedly unhappy, so lonely.

God… WHY???

I was so blind.

BLIND.

Around me were people who were going through greater pain and loneliness, who had no hope, and who were in a desperate situation. And I–so foolish and so selfish–was too blind to see that. When I was placed in a situation to comfort the needy, I had nothing to offer them. Maybe some sympathy, but no comfort except that which could be found when our misery found company…which was precious little.

* * *

Every experience in life is preparation for ministry. My loneliness taught me to feel how a human being could be driven to feeling that death is preferable than to continue living an empty life. I learned to be merciful to those who did not succeed because I found myself in the same position. I can also understand how people are driven to do crazy things and put aside their personal dignity in their futile search of love and acceptance away from God. I understand now.

But things don’t end with simply understanding others.

I need my self to be broken beyond repair–a broken vessel that is continually filled and is continually giving out from the blessings received; a container that is cracked and broken and and yet pass on God’s blessings to others.

God, may I be a container filled with your love, and may my self be broken enough for me to act upon the understanding that the dark times in my life have taught me. Fill me with wisdom and gentleness to do the right thing and speak words that will be like a balm to those who are hurting.

“He that believeth in Me out of him shall flow rivers of living water”–hundreds of other lives will be continually refreshed. It is time now to break the life, to cease craving for satisfaction, and to spill out…God spilt the life of His Son that the world might be saved; are we prepared to spill out our lives for him? –Oswald Chambers

Being alone sucks, especially if you're stuck at home and it is raining outside

Alone

There was no greater torment for me than staying at home alone with my thoughts while it rained. I could not read books, I could not watch TV, I couldn’t even do homework—the way Mara interpreted scripture, if one could not actively do good works like hand out tracts, or witness, or volunteer, the least evil activity that one could do in the Sabbath was to nap. I was such a contrary daughter that I couldn’t even do that. Tossing and turning and flopping in bed, it was as if I was ten years old again—a chronic insomniac—fighting alone against the hidden demons of my past those many nights.

Determined to put the past behind me, I pushed away those memories, and threw the covers aside.

I had expected that Tony would call, but he didn’t—and I certainly wasn’t going to call him.

I thought about last Wednesday. He’d called me after prayer meeting, just as I got home and was taking off my shoes at the door Mara shouted from the living room, “There’s a call for you in the phone”

“Ok. I’ll take it in my room” I’d said and had run upstairs before she had the chance to catch a glimpse of my red and blotchy face.

“Hello?”

“Hey—Tanya?”

“Who’s this?”

“It’s Tony”

“Tony?” I asked incredulously, “What’s up? How did you get my number?”

“You left your binder at church, kiddo, and I got your number from your student handbook.”

I cursed and threw the phone receiver on my bed while I unzipped my backpack. I glanced inside; no binder. I double checked by dumping its contents in my bed, hoping that he was mistaken. No binder. No notes. No dynamics lab report. No linear algebra homework. No French Literature paper. No student handbook with—

I saw red.

How stupid could I get? How had I left that behind? I thought back. Oh, yes. Zuri had picked me up from work, and I had brought my binder to sketch on while the prayer meeting was going on. Then I’d had my crying fit, and the rest was history.

“I can’t believe I did that.” I spoke into the phone, “Thanks for holding on to it, but what am I gonna do now? I can’t ask Zuri to take me after all the trouble I caused today… and then I don’t see you until Monday….” I calculated my odds of success with Mara. They were not promising.

“Aren’t you going to need it? I can drop it off at your house if you want.”

I sighed, “I’m so sorry…but could you?—I’ve got my lab report there.”

“It’s the same address on the cover of the handbook? Halcyon Drive?”

“Yes—Oh! Do you mind not knocking at the door?” I felt immensely awkward, but in this case necessity was greater than my embarrassment so I pushed on, “Mara—I mean, my mother—will ask me a million questions. Can you honk or something?”

“Ok, I’ll call you up when I’m there. You can save the number on your caller ID, that’s my cell phone.”

And just like that, twenty minutes later he called me saying he was in front of my house. He’d handed me back my binder without any comment, except to ask if I was alright. “I’m fine.” I smiled, relief had made me almost giddy, “Thanks for this—really.”

He nodded, and after considering something for a few seconds he turned the ignition off. “Hey, Tanya?”

“Hm?”

“I know how it feels—when in prayer you are confronted with who you are and you realize that it is not the person you want to be.”

I looked down and was silent while I thought back on my prayer, “I don’t know if that’s what happened. I just,” I sighed and hugged the binder tight against my chest “I don’t know if it signifies much, but I just want to start over.”

He nodded, “I know. Take courage, kiddo, I’ll be praying for you.”

“Thanks.”

He’d driven off in his sleek black Jag, and I’d gone back home wondering about the kind of person Tony was— I couldn’t make him out. He was young, but he obviously had a well-paying job as evidenced by his car and the time I’d seen him dressed in a suit. Yet the image of the successful Tony clashed with the image of the guy who had come in to church one rainy night, soaking wet from the rain in jeans and a hoodie—and that image also contradicted the Jesus freak who would eagerly go to prayer meeting on Wednesdays and Bible studies with a bunch of old people.

But that episode with the binder had led to my overestimating him. I suppose after that I came to think of him as someone I could trust, so that on Friday—faced with the menacing thought of returning to Hilltop Church the next morning—I’d called him. I wanted to be talked out of going. Instead, he encouraged me to follow through with it, even going so far as to offering to meet me there.

“Two are better than one,” he’d quoted, “For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow”

Pfft! You sound like a preacher.”

“What?”

“I mean,” I modified my tone and amended the statement lest I come across as offensive, “sometimes you say things that sound like they came out of the Bible. I’m pretty sure Jesus said that.

He chuckled, though I didn’t for a second imagine he was laughing at me, “I know my Bible pretty well, I guess. Didn’t I ever tell you? My father is a pastor”

“What? You didn’t tell me.”

That was when he told me that he’d been the black sheep of the family. He’d made a run for it the moment he had graduated from High School, and now here he was hundreds of miles away from home trying to return to the straight and narrow. I didn’t get to ask about details because Mara had entered my room to inquire why I was still up and who I was talking to.

“I gotta go now.” I said to him after having evaded a minor quarrel.

“Ok, so tomorrow 9:30, right?”

“Yeah.”

“See you tomorrow, then.”

He’d said that, but then he’d never showed up.

More than being angry, more than being annoyed—I was disillusioned. Once more I’d gotten my hopes up, and once more I’d seen that there was no one who really cared. It’s so easy for people to talk and say that they’ll be there for you, but when it came down to it, they are always too busy for you. Adults…they are so fake.

And yet, that was not enough for me to give up hope that maybe he would call and say that there had been a fire, an accident, or someone had been taken ill and had kept him from going. I even refrained from going online to the BookNrds chat room in case Tony called (this was back in the AOL dial-up days).

But it was no use hoping—after all, I was just a stupid kid.

 

Part 22 – If You Only Knew