Wednesday, May 25, 2016

His Mercies Are New Every Morning

Those closest to me know that I have been dealing with a lot this calendar year.  I mean, that in itself is an understatement. 

Most heavily prior to losing our brother-in-law just a few short weeks ago, I've been dealing with a very dear friend whom I love, that is battling personal demons.  These demons are decades of childhood trauma, abuse, substance abuse and rage to name a few. 

The one thing that surprises me each and every morning is the very loud and booming, yet cheerful "Good morning, Sunshine!" when I stumble into the living room or kitchen.  Now, I am NOT a morning person and my first instinct is to want to punch him in the throat......but I don't.....because that would be frowned upon.  

Usually, the next sentence goes something like, "Are you still mad at me about yesterday?" or "I'm sorry about yesterday."  In my sleepy mind, I have to shuffle back through the last 24 hours to figure out, "Wait, what happened yesterday?," only to remember, "Oh yeah, that."  My almost daily response is, "yeah, just don't let it happen again," or something similar. 

The last time I heard this I got to thinking; every day is a new day.  Every day is a new day to try to fix what was done yesterday, or continue the path from yesterday (either good or bad!).  Either way, we forgive each other daily (over and over and over again) because we are called to forgive one another.  

In Matthew, Jesus was sharing knowledge and wisdom with his disciples.  In Matthew 18:21-22 we read:

      "At that point Peter got up the nerve to ask, “Master, how many times do I forgive a brother or sister who hurts me? Seven?”  Jesus replied, “Seven! Hardly. Try seventy times seven."

I'm not a math person, but that's a lot of times to forgive!!!  Easier said than done, right?

Lamentations 3:22-23 also reminds us:

     "It is of the Lord's mercies that we are not consumed; His compassions do not fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness."

Did you get that?  "They are new EVERY morning."  So if Scripture tell us that "His mercies are new every morning," (towards US!!), then who are we to not give new mercies every morning?  New mercies, forgiveness, compassion towards family, friends, co-workers (hardest part for me to this day!), people we make contact with on a regular basis and yes, even ourselves!!!!

Do I forgive easily?  Yes! 
Do I forgive enough?  Hardly! 
Do I need to make changes and improve on being more merciful, forgiving and compassionate towards other?  Of course!
Do I need to make changes and improve on being more merciful, forgiving and compassionate towards myself?  You bet!!!

Friday, January 29, 2016

I’m With the Band, Man!

I’m With the Band, Man!
Elizabeth Espinoza
January 29, 2016

No I suppose I’m not exactly with the band. I mean, I don’t play an instrument, at least not any more.  Although, when it all comes down to the core of who we are, we’re all instruments……our voices (although there could be many levels of vocal abilities) are instruments.  Just recently during a personal worship session it dawned on me exactly how many songs I know lyrics to…fluidly…and I quickly blew my own mind.  Yet I lose my keys on a daily basis, go figure. 

But then I went deeper.  I started to think of all the worship musicians I’ve had the honor of knowing, (I actually gave birth to two of them); and how these songs, among many, many other songs are programmed in their brains.  Every intro, every outtro, every vamp, every key change, every groove change, every step up, every breakdown, every……single…… transition……; their brains acutely trained and their overall senses flowing with adrenaline, yet they are still worshipping with their spirit. 

One of my favorite experiences as a mother has been watching my two gifted sons grow as I take a step away from the worship team that bonded us so tightly; and just being amazed at how much energy and visual communication goes on during a full set.  Yet, to see them close their eyes while they play and allow themselves to worship; that has been to this day the most deeply felt, wonderful moments of sheer awe towards God and feeling totally unworthy of being their mom.  But that’s me, He chose me for them.  I wonder if they realize exactly how anointed and gifted they are. 

But I digress (Sophia moment). 

Next time you’re in the middle of a worship session, while you ponder your own heart, take a listen to every instrument; each one has its own melodic lines.  Listen to every voice; listen for the subtle blending of harmonies (or not); the using of a natural gift, a talent, a sacrifice of praise at times (SERIOUSLY!); to bring songs of deliverance and healing to a hurting world. 

"Praise him for all his greatness! 
Praise him with trumpets and horns!
Praise him with harps and lyres!
Praise him with tambourines and dancing!
Praise him with stringed instruments and flutes!
Praise him with loud cymbals!
Praise him with crashing cymbals!"
Psalm 150:3-5 ERV

Sunday, August 30, 2015

The Bird Story

In 2005 began the manifestation of severe depression symptoms.  I had suffered a bad break-up, a life-changing injury, and felt I had lost complete sense of who I was and why I was here.  I didn't want to be here and I could think of many ways to make that happen.  For whatever reason, God reminded me over and over again that I did not have the right to make that decision but let me tell you, it took hundreds of dollars in therapy and medication to make me believe it.  

I remember one particular evening, my ex who had returned home to help take care of the kids when I couldn't, was washing dishes after dinner.  I remember sitting at the head of the table, taking it all in, as if I was watching my life as a third party.  And as it happened often in that time period, I remember wrapping my arms around me and gently rocking myself back and forth, as if comforting myself.  I realized that I did this as a mom to my babies while I was holding them in the rocking chair.  For some reason, my mind took me back to that pacifying action.  I remember rocking myself back and forth many times, but for some strange reason, my ex had never seen me do it.  I did it in the shower while not wanting to come out from underneath the cleansing waters......I did while watching TV....I did it when nobody was watching but here it was, out in the open, for everybody to see that I had clearly lost my marbles.  To make matters worse, when he realized what I was doing, I remember he said, "Woman, (he always called me woman), what are you doing?"  All I can remember clearly saying was, "I don't hear the birds anymore."  I can only imagine what must have gone through his mind, knowing the mother of his children was clearly losing it.

Why the birds?....There are few sounds that can bring a smile to my face.  The first one will forever be the sound of my boys laughing, first as babies, then as children, and now as young adults.  When I hear them laugh, my heart expands as I look at them and hear their different sounds, especially when it's one of those deep can't-catch-my-breath laughs.  Another favorite sound of mine is the sound of the wind rustling through the trees......yet another would be the sound of the ocean waves making their presence known......but my clear favorite, is hearing the sounds of birds singing, chirping, talking, fighting, whatever it is they are doing, it's music to my ears.  If I couldn't hear the birds, I had lost my joy.  

I wish I could go back in time and explain to him what I was going through internally at that moment but I chose to keep it all in until I broke, unable to carry a short lifetime (I was only 30 at the time) of repressed depression now unfolding due to a chemically induced imbalance.  I wouldn't wish that on anybody, it's a horrible feeling knowing that you could potentially lose your children because someone thought you were crazy.  I didn't think I was going crazy, but I can only imagine how it looked like to the outside world looking in.  

Through prayer, a Christian counselor, a ridiculous amount of medication (before we finally found one that worked!) and just good ole time, I healed.  God saw me through my desert and led me to a place where I could hear the birds again.  And now, when I hear them, I make sure that I stop, even for a second or two, to sit, close my eyes and just listen.  God speaks to us not just through His word, through inspired music, and through each other, but through nature as well.  We just need to listen more. :-)

Matthew 6:25-26 NLT:
“That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing? Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are?


Friday, August 7, 2015

Missing Our Friend

As many of you know, those of you who have followed this blog space, we lost one our contributors and best friend, Michael Higby, mid-April.

As we head into the 4th month of him being gone, it doesn't get any easier.  For those of you who don't know me, or know much about me, I moved a week after his passing.  I wasn't able to share my progress with him but I knew he'd be proud of me following my heart, even though I knew it made him sad to not have me down the street. 

About 2 weeks after he passed, I was sitting out in my backyard enjoying my new environment.  I am surrounded by 6 trees all around the property and enjoy the sound of the wind rustling through the leaves.  During this time I remember looking up towards the heavens and having a very one sided conversation with our friend.  I'm glad I took the time to write it down that evening.  Being so close to to his passing, I wasn't sure I wanted to share the words with the world but I realize now, that I must.

My conversation went something like this; "Where are you?  How are you?  Who are you?  Do you look the same?  Did you get a new body?  Would we recognize you?  Can you hear me?  What do the angels sound like when they sing?  That evening, did it hurt?  Were you scared?  Did you just fall asleep?  Who greeted you?  Was it your angel?  Was it your mom?  What about your grandparents?  Have you seen them?  Oh my God, whom have you met?!?!  Are you debating with the Greats now?  Are you winning?  Do you miss us?  What have you learned?  Does it all make sense now?  Why can we still hear you?  Is that you speaking or is it our memories?  Will you be there when we go Home?"

By this time I was in tears, feeling an overwhelming sense of loss.  I just remember saying, "I'm sorry," over and over and allowing the tears to flow.  As is very common, those left behind to mourn our loved ones feel a sense of guilt and regret for not doing more, not knowing what the "more" is.  Even worse, we couldn't say goodbye. 

The following morning while doing my Facebook perusing, a page that I follow posted the following excerpt from The Little Prince:

“In one of those stars I shall be living. In one of them I shall be laughing. And so it will be as if all the stars were laughing, when you look at the sky at night. And when your sorrow is comforted (time soothes all sorrows) you will be content that you have known me. You will always be my friend...I shall not leave you." Antoine de Saint-ExupĂ©ry

It was as if he saw me staring up into the starry night and heard me.  I cried of course, and then I smiled knowing that he was still comforting me, just like he did when I was going through trials.  Yes, he will always be our friend and he has not left us, he's just moved to a new realm and he will always be in our hearts, our minds and memories of the countless stories he had.

Our dearest Michael, you are loved and missed sorely.  But as believers, we know that we will be reunited with our loved ones when it's our time.  I pray that those that are here missing you are having these conversations with you as well.  Say hello to momma for me, we love you and we'll see you all soon.


Friday, July 20, 2012

Instead of posting a blog with my thoughts about last night's shooting, I wanted to share this blog from a mom of teens who was there and lived it.

It's powerful. Read it. Share it. 

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Letter To My Husband

Letter to My Husband
Elizabeth Espinoza
January 28, 2012

About a week ago I started doing something I thought was a little off, even for me. I started writing a letter to my husband. Now those readers that know me know that as of today Saturday, January 28, 2012, I am unmarried. No, I am not betrothed and I am not even dating at the moment.

So why the letter? I don’t know. I felt this strong sense of needing to do it. What it’s ending up sounding like (I’m not done yet) is almost a vow. And I even thought to myself, “how silly to be writing vows to someone I don’t know.” But do I not know him? Has he entered my life yet or is it someone that has been in it and I just haven’t figured it out?

A funny thing started happening while I was writing the first few paragraphs of the letter. I felt compelled to pray for him. Him. Who is “him?” Who is he? Who the heck am I praying for? Poor boy has no idea what he’s going to be dealing with that’s probably what you’re thinking, especially if you know me. “Lord, I’m surely losing it,” is what I was thinking to myself. But at the same time, I wondered, “What if this is what I am SUPPOSED to be doing?”

And just for clarification, this isn’t the “praying for my husband” prayer that many of us single women have done, “Lord send me a husband.” I got over that a long long loonnnnng time ago. And this also wasn’t the “Girl, I need to pray for MY husband because I’m just about done with him.” I figure, God knows what I want, and if I keep asking for the same thing then I’m no different than a child nagging their parent for a toy at the check-out line.

No, I started praying over this man. I prayed for his health, I prayed for his family, I prayed for favor with his employers, I prayed for wisdom and patience. I realized that I was praying for him the same way that I pray for myself, especially when it comes to wisdom and patience. It dawned on me that while I always thought that a good Christian man would probably bore me and I would probably not have much (other than our faith) in common with him, it seems like I really do want someone like-minded, who is doing everything in his power to walk the walk; the walk that if it was a piece of cake to do, more people would be living it.

This is probably where you think this little story ends. However, today, Saturday, January 28, 2012 I attended a Women’s Conference. I make it a point that when I visit Women’s events that I go with a purpose; whether it’s a weekend retreat or a simple breakfast, I go there expecting: I walk in with a purpose, I need something revealed, I need a word of encouragement, I need affirmation, confirmation, I need something. “Lord, just give me something.”

Well, “ask and ye shall receive,” correct? And boy did I. A gentleman that I had never heard of before, a comedian by the name of Michael Junior was the opening speaker. I thought, “Great, some comedy before a serious message. This is a first.” Well, the guest delivered alright. He was funny from the moment he stepped on the platform.

And while I figured he was just a “clean” comedian, I realized he was a believer as well. He threw a few little nuggets out there, one being “Abstinence makes the heart grow fonder.” I like that one.

After his bit was pretty much done he talked about his wife and a book she had written and he shared how she had been praying for him before they had even met. As you can imagine, my heart skipped a beat. He mentioned that she had been praying for “him”, again, not having met “him” yet. In essence, she was praying the same way that I started praying over my future husband. I had a “You’ve got to be kidding me Lord!” moment right then and there. I laughed apparently loud enough for my neighbor to hear me. The poor woman must have thought I had a delayed reaction to the presenter’s bit, but I just shook my head in amazement, because I knew God was speaking to me, He always has been, it’s just that now I’ve started to listen and receive what He has to say.

Now, I’m not going to share my letter with you because it is quite personal and reveals a lot of who I was and who I am now and how my past has shaped my life, but not defined my future; but I CAN tell you this. I look forward to the day when I can hand him this letter and instead of it beginning with, “My Dearest __________,” it will have a name, filling the blank.


Thursday, January 12, 2012

Breaking The Cycle

January 12, 2012
Elizabeth Espinoza

Ever get frustrated when you can’t get grandma’s recipe right? You’ve followed all the “guidelines” required because quite honestly, does grandma really use recipes? A dash of this, a sprinkle of that, “un tantito” (a little bit) of yet another ingredient but no matter how many times you try it, you just can’t get it right.
Then, you have the wonderfully gifted people who can take grandma’s recipe and do something to it amazing…make it even better! “Shut your mouth girl” is probably what your grandma would say at that last statement. And when they make it and share it with friends at a gathering or potluck what do you thing they hear? “Great recipe, where did you find it?” Or maybe they’d hear “Can you send me this recipe?” Regardless, that lucky person would have the honor of saying “My grandmother passed it down to me.”
That of course is a positive thing to share with family and loved ones. But what about the other stuff? You know what I mean. It could be something as minute as a trait(such as vanity) to some big hitters such as alcoholism, domestic violence. Not a pretty picture right?
As believers, we hear that once we accept our Lord and Savior we are a new creation, all things are passed away, (2 Corinthians 5:17 “Now we look inside, and what we see is that anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life burgeons! Look at it!” as is eloquently put by The Message bible). And we stand firm on that belief because why would we want to continue in our old ways right?
Well, while we may have the best intentions in a moment of emotional awareness to God’s presence in our lives, let’s be honest; it may not be that easy for some of us. Some new believers are able to stop smoking, drug use, drinking, swearing, and taking out their aggressions, physical or emotional, on their spouse and/or children. And for that we say “Thank YOU Lord!” for that truly is a miracle of God. And it’s not that a switch has been turned on in our brain that now tells us “wait, that is wrong behavior.” We KNOW for a fact the difference between right and wrong. We know, even in our faulty human nature when we are doing something that is going to cause sometimes irreparable damage to our bodies and/or relationships.
The issue is that some of us don’t change that easily. Some of us can’t. Some of us have chains of bondage that are way too strong for us to believe a very simple and open hearted prayer can break. It takes work! But here’s the great part of that work. We don’t have to do it!!! In Matthew 11:28-30 we read “’Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me – watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.’” The key word there is UNFORCED. He is not going to bring you to shame about not breaking the cycle, He is not going to twist your arm and cause you to regret “accepting.” A few other key phrases are “Come to me,” “Get away with me,” “Walk with me and work with me,” “learn.” Learn is my favorite. And then there is the ultimate promise, “I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you.” He is ASKING us to join Him, to walk with Him, to learn from Him!
Like a funny movie once said in a scene mocking the Bible, “aww this doesn’t have all the answers!” we may sometimes feel that’s true, BUT there is inspiration, encouragement and PROMISES in the written word. We have to be open to learning new things, we need to renew our minds, we need to be willing to make changes in our lifestyle that can be quite painful (such as releasing certain acquaintances or putting distance between you and the people that feed in to your weakness) but as He stated, “you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
I decided to be the one in my family. The one who broke the cycle of disbelief. The one who would do anything in their power to ensure her kids received the proper spiritual education (not from me but from people that God put in our lives such as teachers and leaders). I decided that I was going to start new traditions, I decided to join a ministry because I knew my gifts would be used in a positive way. Seeing my teenage boys join their Youth ministry band and now having joined the adult team, I believe my decision to be that person and walk in God’s will for our lives was something that I had to do, not just for us but for those that follow; my nephews, my niece, my future grandchildren (did I say that?!). It hasn’t been a walk in the park, I’ll be the first one to admit there were times that I wanted to quit and a few times that I “stepped down” because I just needed a break. But just as the sun rises in the morning, I knew where I was needed. I knew where a position had been created for me to fill.
With that being said, let’s break those cycles. Let’s seek each other out and lean on each other when times get tough, praying for each other that God would come and lift our burdens. Let’s be history makers in our families so that when someone asks your future grandchildren, nieces or nephews how they were introduced to their Lord, Father of their faith, they can proudly say someone decided to break the cycle.
Rock on!