Hangout time

Does it ever amaze you that the Creator of the universe wants to hang with you?

We are taught and told that we need to ‘do our devotions’ on the daily. We are given instructions on how that time should be spent. There are actual acronyms that have been put together to help us through what sounds like torture: spending time with the Father. No wonder people find it hard to make time for that.

From the very beginning, God demonstrated that He loves to spend time with us. His offer has always been friendship. Yes, He requires our obedience, but He consistently demonstrates that He wants to speak with us mere human beings. ‘in the cool of the day’, come let us reason together’, ‘there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother’. His call to us has always included a call to friendship.

This is not an instructional on how to do your devotional time. My devotion time is so haphazard that it wouldn’t make sense to many, but it is very consistent; and that is what I think is important. Choosing to meet with God regularly is an expression of gratitude to Him as I finally understand how privileged we are that He wants to hang out with us every single day, if possible.

What this is, is an invitation to you to start regularly spending time with Him alone, as you can make it work with your schedule. Forget the acronyms, and the how-to’s of getting through a devotional time. Would you want someone to spend time with you if they were following a to-do list while doing so?

The devotional time is not a chore; it is an honor and a privilege that we can choose to indulge in or not. If you show up. He will too. ‘You will seek me and find me when you seek me with your whole heart. I will be found by you, declares the Lord.’ (Jer 29:13&14). 

What does seeking Him with your whole heart look like for you? Could it be as simple as committing to giving twenty minutes a day to sitting still with Him to let Him know you are totally making yourself available to Him for that time?

How we limit our growth when we say things like, ‘I can’t fast’ because we can’t imagine the sacrifice of food, or, ‘I can’t get up early to do my devotions’ because we can’t imagine the sacrifice of sleep! Yet the rewards of both fasting and having a regular devotion time are so sweet; but we will not reap those rewards until we put in the sacrifice.

I invite you to give it a try. Determine what time of the day works for you and set an alarm on your phone for it. Go in with an expectant heart. Stick to it even when you don’t feel like it, imagining that by doing this you are working on, and investing in, an eternal relationship. Remember it’s a privilege, not a chore. Get into this habit and you won’t regret it.

Because, believe it or not, God the Trinity, wants to hang out with you.

©Debbie Mendoza, July 2018.

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Get a copy of Debbie Mendoza’s Exodus: A Journey Through Divorce on Amazon if you need spiritual help for yourself or for someone going through a divorce.
Contact: debbietillett@gmail.com
Instagram: www.instagram.com/msdahbs

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What I hear you saying

One season of your life you can be totally in the dark about a particular truth, but as life progresses, some people come into your life and others leave, or circumstances change, it’s as if the curtain lifts, and something that wasn’t even on your radar suddenly becomes as clear as day. You have learned something new; and whether that truth is uncomfortable, painful, or beautiful, it is always powerful in that, if you allow it, it can bring you a change of heart, mind, and/or behavior.

Isn’t it wonderful that we don’t reach the end of our lives with the same amount of knowledge, capabilities, and understanding as we had when we exited our mothers’ wombs? Yet, for many of us, there comes a point in our lives when we think we know all we need to know about life, love, relationships, reality. We think we have a good grip on all of it, and we are set for life. We have it covered, we think, and that there is no new knowledge to be gained, or habit to be changed or picked up. Our mindset is: ‘This is what I think, and this is how I do things.’

In that place it is so easy to not listen to others and to not allow them to influence or even change the way we think about anything that is the dynamic ebb and flow of life. It is very easy to NOT LISTEN.

Listening to others, to life, to circumstances, to change, takes humility. It’s the opposite of being argumentative and opinionated. Listening is uncomfortable because it means we have to shut up and let others speak, let life speak, and actually hear them. Listening means that our opinions are not as important we think they are, as we would like them to be.

In listening, we learn. Oh my friends, Paul says in the letter to the Romans, Let no man think more highly of himself than he should; but we do that all the time. Instead of setting our minds and hearts to learning the things about life we don’t know, we become set in our ways. We stop listening to others and refuse to let our circumstances to teach us the new things that we couldn’t see before.

David understood the principle that we cannot recognize what we don’t know, and so he prayed, Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my anxieties; and see if there is any wicked way in me... David knew that in some areas of his life the curtain hadn’t yet lifted, and that he was in the dark about some things. Asking God to search him took real humility. I don’t think he asked God that expecting Him to respond, ‘You don’t need to change anything about your life, David.’ But some of us would expect that very answer from God were we to pray the same thing. Or, we don’t pray that prayer out of fear that He might ask us to change a whole lot of things.

Truth: there is such freedom when we are not holding on for dear life to our opinions and our ways of doing things. Jesus’ brother, James, tells us, ‘be slow to speak and quick to listen’, which is the opposite of how we tend to be.  We value our opinions more than we value people; we treasure our ways more than we treasure new knowledge, and even truth. 

How can you listen more today? It takes practice. If you were to start small, who would you choose to hear out? What difficult thing are you going through that you have hardened your heart and your stance in so that you can’t hear the lesson that is there for you to learn? In what area of your life will you allow the curtain to be lifted so that clarity and understanding can be let in?

Or, are you too set in your ways to even try?

©Debbie Mendoza, July 2018.

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Get a copy of Debbie Mendoza’s Exodus: A Journey Through Divorce on Amazon if you need spiritual help for yourself or for someone going through a divorce.
Contact: debbietillett@gmail.com
Instagram: www.instagram.com/msdahbs

Parting of the clouds

There was a ‘you’ that you vaguely remember from the days before your great loss or change. She was carefree in the normal cares of life. She enjoyed simple pleasures, unaware of the pain that was on the path ahead of her.

The change in your life, when it came, didn’t ask your permission to make everything about your life different and unrecognizable. In an instant, it was just there, and you had two choices: to sink or to swim.

They say that there all these different stages of grief that are necessary to the healing process. The wise ones will tell you, though, that there isn’t a straight line from one stage to the other. You know this by personal experience. Shock, denial, pain, guilt, anger, acceptance don’t come one after the other. They do a dance in your life, constantly changing partners, and you never know when your eyes open in the morning, which of these will be your companion of the day, week, or month.

Eugene Peterson writes of A Long Obedience In The Same Direction. You may not have read the book, but recognize that phrase at work in your life. You have walked, stumbled, crawled through your healing, You’ve climbed into Your Father’s lap; you’ve held onto His Hand. There were days you’ve allowed Him to carry you through the extremely difficult parts; and if you were to be completely honest, there were times you actually took some steps backward, but what you’ve not done is to allow yourself to stand still for very long.

I’m here to tell you that one day the clouds do part. Four, five, six years into the journey that began with sudden, violent change, and after your long obedience in the same direction, something will happen and you will see a glimpse of your old self before all of this. You’ll remember how she was before she knew all this pain and growth. You’ll tip your hat to her, but be grateful for who you are now.

And somehow, the Father who makes all things new, will take the best of her then and the best of you now, and give that combination back to you in return for having walked it through. We live with this paradox: we would not have wished this change on ourselves, but even that horrible thing that whirled us around through the stages of grief is pottery in the hands of the Potter, if we allow it.

The clouds do part; they will part for you. The time of grieving will come to an end. You can’t see it yet because you are still spinning and tossed about, but take it from one who is ahead of you on the journey: the joy of the Lord will return to you in good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and overflowing.

This is not me making light of your pain, of your journey. This is good news that I have been wanting to share ever since the moment the clouds parted for me. When it does happen, there is such a stark difference between what you’ve been walking through all these years, in comparison to what you feel in that moment. You get a glimpse of what carefree used to feel like, and its beauty allows you to let the joy of the Lord flow through you.

Weeping may last for the night, but joy does come in the morning, even if it takes years.

©Debbie Mendoza, July 2018.

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Get a copy of Debbie Mendoza’s Exodus: A Journey Through Divorce on Amazon if you need spiritual help for yourself or for someone going through a divorce.
Contact: debbietillett@gmail.com
Instagram: www.instagram.com/msdahbs

A Gentle Man

Many of the men’s voices around us are harsh and angry. Even many of the men of God speak that way. Gentle men, (men who are gentle), are few and far between.

But God the Father wins us over with His kindness and gentleness. Yes, there sre times He is firm with us, but He never raises His voice at us to get His point across. He wins us over for sure….

…with His still, small voice; and that He would ask us to be still and know that I am God, the fact that He spoke the universe into being, and breathed life, that He gave us the Holy Spirit to teach, comfort, and convict, and His word for instruction, reproof, and doctrine, and that part of the fruit of His Spirit residing in us is love, kindness, and, gentleness.

In the Christian journey many have to learn how to let go of what we thought a father to be so we can learn who Father is. He is not absent, not harsh, not loud, blistering, or humiliating. Jesus paints a beautiful picture of how prodigal our Father’s love is toward us, waiting for a wayward son to come home, and rejoicing when he does.

Are there times when God is publicly harsh and blistering with some of His own children? If the answer is yes, then I feel we have been deceived; that He lured us in with promises and declarations that He is different from so many of the men we have known; and we would have to believe that he pulled a bait and switch on us. If the answer is yes, it means that we should walk in fear that He can/will one day out us for the imperfect human beings that we are. We cannot rest safely in between His shoulders, because as long as we continue to be imperfect, we run the risk of Him yelling at us. That sounds all too familiar to me, and to be honest, it is not what we signed up for.

Remember those Central bank of Belize ads that want us to learn what real currency feels like so we can know the instant our fingers touch a fake one? We have to look at His character, and the tapestry He has woven with each of us individually, all imperfect people, through the good and bad of our lives. That is the real that we have come to know. That is the real that instantly points out what is fake.

When you are faced with situations where you are forced to question why you believe what you believe, why you have given your life over to Jesus, and why you keep making choices that go against your human nature but that go along with what He desires for you to do, look back at your spiritual altars and memory stones. Look back at who God has been for you. Look at His character. You will find the answers there. And there, in those memory stones, you will know like I do, that He did not pull a bait and switch on you.

©Debbie Mendoza, June 2018.

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Get a copy of Debbie Mendoza’s Exodus: A Journey Through Divorce on Amazon if you need spiritual help for yourself or for someone going through a divorce.
Contact: debbietillett@gmail.com
Instagram: www.instagram.com/msdahbs

La Habana

Today I felt too much, saw too much. All my senses were engaged on a deeper, higher, stronger level. The colors are too vivid and deep.

The old mixes with the new too seamlessly. The poverty of the people contrasts with the money spent by tourists, but the locals seem happier than the people they serve.

The squalor is a far cry from the luxury of hotels and restaurants, but the laughter and conversation bursting out of old apartments and dirty corners is so attractive, it invokes longing.

That spirit shows up on the music that is everywhere.

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There is an atmosphere of change in Havana. A lot of restoration is happening to apartment buildings and state buildings. You can smell the change for the lurking beast it is, and I envision another Cancun; I pray to God that doesn’t happen.

Maybe it won’t. Cancun is full of new buildings trying to look like something they aren’t. Havana is full of old buildings holding onto centuries of history. Havana also has a revolution to stay true to while trying to carve out its own personality among worldwide tourist destinations. Cancun is easy and convenient. Havana is complex and gets under your skin.

If you come to Cuba a year from now you will have missed out on some of what makes it unique. It’s like a baby learning to walk. You blink your eyes or run to the store and you missed her first steps.

Havana is vibrant; but vibrant is still too soft a word to describe it. Vivacious. Energetic. These are some of her attributes. After a full day out in different parts of the city, walking 16,000 steps, having great food, mojitos, Cuba libres, accessing the internet on the Malecon, getting gipped by a taxi, jumping on a bicitaxi, getting a fifty-cent taxi, taking tons of pictures, and drinking lots of water, the images of the day are too much for me and I can’t fall asleep.

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I close my eyes and scenes from the day run through my mind like a slideshow: the young woman on her third floor balcony smoking a cigarette and watching the tourists run about like busy rats below, (she doesn’t see me looking at her, and I don’t want to invade her life by taking a picture. Instead I record the scene with my mind’s eye. The second door on the balcony is broken, and that part is covered by an old round tabletop that can’t be moved until the door is repaired, if it will ever be); the painters I’ve met who paint a variation of the same scene trying to capture the spirit of Havana on 5”×7” pieces of canvas; the bartender at Ernest Hemingway’s favorite bar who we watched make twenty mojitos in the twenty minutes we were at the bar as part of a throng of tourists, and how he does that all day, everyday; the women who offer to read your palm in doorways; and the companionable conversation and warm affection between Cubanos of all ages.

Oh Lord, please shut my mind off, I prayed. I’m over-stimulated. This city is too much on all the senses. I want to get up and go do it all again tomorrow, but for that I need sleep.

The sights of Havana are explosive. The colors are sometimes too much, and that is coming from someone who has lived most of her life in Belize. The tall buildings, the architecture, the Malecon, the history, the beautiful people, the bad teeth. The signs of the revolution.

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The sounds of Havana include constant, heavy traffic, loud music in cars, deep-throated full-bodied live music in restaurants, the melodious Spanish they speak that sometimes incorporates every body part and looks like a fluid dance. The toot of taxi horns to get pedestrians out of their way.

The smells of Havana include that of squalor, but then blooming jasmine danced under my nose one night and it was unexpected. There is the strong smell of change as plaster, cement dust, demolition, painting, and reconstruction are going on everywhere.

The touch of Havana is dirty and sticky but it doesn’t leave you feeling unclean.

Nothing tastes like the Crystal water we are used to, and so the bottled water here tastes like dirt except when you drink it really cold. They still don’t have access to a lot of things from the outside world so they make do.

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I’m over-stimulated and overwhelmed. I’ve always wondered how people are shaped by living in the shadow of a mountain like in Antigua, Guatemala, or on an island, like Ambergris Caye. Now I wonder how living in such vibrancy, even in a somewhat closed culture, can shape a person. What do you do with all that force of history behind you, and strength of culture within yourself?

For me, as an outsider, it’s like touching my finger to my tongue and then putting my finger on something hot. It’s too hot. It’s steamy. And it kinda makes me want to get away, to look forward to getting back to slow Belize, where as beautiful as it is, sights and sounds and life are toned down to a livable level.

I want ice cubes and a choice of paper products, freedom of information and seamless access to the internet. I want water in every store and stocked shelves everywhere; but for now I can’t have those things while spending time in Cuba.

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I can’t describe this country with words, so I’ve taken countless pictures to try to tell the stories of what I’ve seen here. Even those, I feel, fall short of trying to explain it to someone who’s never been.

Lord, I just want to sleep. I want to be energized to go out and do it again tomorrow. We have our day planned out, and I already envision well over 12,000 steps. Do I have mental, spiritual, and emotional room for more stimulation? To record more new things?

What do I do with this adrenaline boost? How can we call this a vacation?

But it is a vacation. It is a break from the Breaking Belize News, Belize Buy and Sell, Belize Business Review, and from the constant interaction with the world.

It is lovely to get to a place where no one knows you, and to be accepted only for what they see in you.

It is a life boost to be able to spend some time with such a passionate people, to juggle three kinds of money, to realize the blessing of conveniences that we live with in our own country, and to wonder why it is that even an island nation like Cuba can have so much evidence of its history but in our country we don’t.

Lord, please help me to sleep, I pray again. Then I get up and I write because it’s the only way I know to shut off the slideshow. It works.

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©Debbie Mendoza, August 2017. Debbie Mendoza is the author of Exodus: A Journey Through Divorce and JoyHope. For speaking engagements: (011) 501-610-4375

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Why you should visit La Isla de Flores, Guatemala

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We’ve made at least four trips to Flores already this year. Before that, I had not been to Flores in about fifteen years. I thought the only reason one would go to Flores would be as a side trip to Tikal. I assumed the roads were still bad, and feared the presence and actions of ‘bandidos’. For a very long time, Flores didn’t even appear on my radar of places I’d like to visit. That changed last year when photos of day trips to Flores started popping up in my Instagram feed. It piqued my interest, and I jumped at the chance to go see the island for myself after so many years.

Flores is an island just off of Santa Elena, Petén. It has a variety of restaurants with prices that range from cheap to moderate. There are many places to stay, some of which overlook the water. Across the bridge, in Santa Elena, you can have Pollo Campero, or American food chain franchise options like Pizza Hut. There is also a Katok Restaurant just outside of Santa Elena.

 

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Flores sits on Lake Petén Itza. The bright colors of the painted buildings and the lake effect together make for great pictures. The sunrises and sunsets are stunning. The island does have a problem with an over-abundance of birds in the evenings, so be careful as you walk around at that time of the day. They will mess on you.

Flores floods in spots sometimes. That is an infrastructural problem, and visitors just have to flow with it.

One of the main attractions is a boat ride around the island for Q150-Q200, (around US25). You have the option to stop at different places, including being able to make the short uphill walk to ‘El Mirador’ from where you get an extraordinary view of the island.  

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The distance from Melchor to Flores is about fifty miles. To drive into Guatemala from Belize there is a process in place that has to be rigorously followed step by step. The first time you go through is the most tedious, but the process remains the same each time you go through after that. The Guatemalan Immigration and staff who handle the licenses are the friendliest and warmest government workers I have ever encountered. They follow their guidelines, but they seem to want things to run as smoothly and quickly as you do.

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The owner of the vehicle has to be the one who applies for the sticker. Approach the left side of the Immigration desk on the Guatemalan side. You should have the vehicle ownership title, proof of insurance, and driver’s licences for each of the persons who will be driving the vehicle in Guatemala. You will be pointed over to a small window on the right side of Guatemalan Immigration to pay for the sticker. (If I remember correctly that one time payment is Q165, about US$23). Return to the processing area, and in a matter of minutes you will get a paper that you will have to hold on to as long as you’ll be going back and forth across the border. This is good for three months. They will keep it valid by adding three month increments if you use it regularly. However, if you only use it infrequently, or, if you don’t go back to that desk and close out the authorization before the end date, you will be penalized US$300 the next time you try to get another one of those documents.

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That first time you will also get the sticker for your windshield. Place it where it is easy for the authorities to spot. Every time you plan to cross the border, you will need two copies of that original document. You will use one to go into Guatemala, and the other to return to Belize. The officer will stamp both the original and the copy; they keep the copy and give you back the original. When that is done, cross the street to OIRSA and pay a Q17, (US$2.50 approx) fee. Once your passports and the authorization are stamped, and you’ve paid the fee and gotten a receipt, you can then cross the border. Just before entering Melchor, you will pay Q5 at the booth on the bridge. After that, you’re good to go, and Guatemala lies before you. Of course, fuel is cheaper in Guatemala, so you might want to fill up in Melchor instead of on the Belize side.

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The road to Flores is mostly smooth. It has some potholes caused by Hurricane Earl. One five minute patch not very far outside of Melchor is very bad, and you will have to drive extremely slowly. There is an armed checkpoint that you may or may not have to stop at. Unlike in Belize,  these posts have three layers,  which means you have to drive past three sets of uniformed and armed police/soldiers. They usually let you pass through without stopping you. You will drive through many small villages; each village has speed bumps and pedestrian ramps, so keep your eyes open for those.

Flores feels a world away from Belize, even though it is only an hour’s drive from the border. There, you will be among tourists from Guatemala and from many other countries around the world. We have never experienced any anti-Belize sentiment from anyone there. Service providers are welcoming. Be careful to check bill totals to make sure that you are the one who decides how much tip to leave.

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WiFi is available everywhere. Some restaurants will have the password very visibly located; if you don’t see it, just ask for it.

Restaurant recommendations so far: La Tortuga for breakfast; El Terrazzo for lunch or dinner, (try their avocado salad); and La Villa del Chef (try their kabobs).

P.S. Use your credit card to pay for stuff. The exchange rate is best that way.