The no-regrets life

As a habit, I’ve always actively taken a daily measure of where I am emotionally and spiritually by how I feel in those first few moments when I’m coming out of sleep.  I have learned to spot peace, frustration, anger, hurt, joy, happiness, love, and a wide range of emotions. Those first few moments are probably the most honest I am with myself all day. And for a few Saturdays now I’ve been waking up with a feeling of no regret. It is a wonderful feeling. 

I took immediate notice the first time it happened as I opened my eyes. I lay in bed and lapped up that feeling. I didn’t know why I was feeling it, but there was no way I wasn’t going to allow myself to enjoy it. The relief of it after all the emotional battles of the past few years has gotten my attention. Where did this come from? There are many things still not right side up in my life, so what have I done to bring me to this place? I give it some thought, then I go through my week and forget about it; but then it happens again. Today I stop to face and embrace it, and give thanks for it.

I thank God for bringing me from that place where Friday nights were mistake-nights, or fight-nights, or too-much-alcohol-nights, and where I chalked up regrets that marred even my first waking moments. I thank Him for bringing me from the place where I listened to, and believed, the voices raised against, and fingers pointed at me.

In spite of it, I’ve somehow been able to keep my eyes on the little bit of light He continues to shine on the path just in front of me. I have been determined to not take my eyes off it, and suddenly my spirit knows that I am in the absolutely right place, even though I can’t seen much ahead. I have no idea what a year from now will be like for us, but this no-regrets life has grown my faith in God and in His plans for our lives. There are still things that I want fixed in my life, and things I want to accomplish, but my Saturday morning feels make me think that He’s got those covered for me. 

I share this for two reasons. One, to publicly thank and acknowledge our Father for bringing this desperately needed healing. Two, to encourage you in your own walk/life/journey. “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” (Gal 6:9 NIV). 

This, and other verses, keep popping into my head because they have carried me. They sound so cliché, almost flippant, and it is easy to think that they don’t have weight in today’s world; but I am convinced that things are going on in the spiritual realm around you that you cannot see, and that these verses bring hope because they are true. As one who is on the path ahead of you, I can attest that it is going to get better. The days won’t always be hard and dark and full of struggle. “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.” (Ps 30:5).

So, keep believing. Keep doing the good you know to do. Keep walking in the light He provides for you, as small as it might be. The Christmas season might make it harder to do because of the expectation that everything should be right in the world at this time of the year. Many of us know firsthand how unrealistic an expectation that is.

Sometimes the only way out is through, and one day you’ll wake up and realize that God has been beyond what you ever imagined faithful to be. “For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him.” (2 Chron 16:9). Keep believing…keep doing…keep walking… Even if it takes years.
©Debbie Mendoza, December 2017.

Debbie Mendoza is the author of Exodus: A Journey Through Divorce and JoyHope.

Contact: debbietillett@gmail.com

Instagram: www.instagram.com/msdahbs

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I am you

Every now and then I catch a glimpse of myself in a mirror and I see you. I hate that. Two nights ago I sat in a window booth in a local diner and I couldn’t keep myself from checking my reflection because every time I looked I saw you and I kept hoping that the next time I turned my head toward the window I’d see me instead.

I was fixing my hair one day last week and used a hand held mirror to check out what the back of my hair looked like. It nearly fell from me when I saw your hair at the back of my head. No, I thought. We have totally different hair. Mine is full of curls and I don’t have to relax it when I’m in cold weather because it just behaves. I’ve never seen yours not-relaxed, but I can judge from the roots that our hair is different. How then is it that I now see your hair in my hair?

Every now and then I catch myself gesturing, whether nervous or otherwise, in the ways you do. I sit in the passenger seat the way you do. My face rests the way yours does. My eyes move the way yours do. Now more than ever I see you in me and I don’t like it.

There was a time when I was proud of the ways I was like you. But now as more of you shows up in me I’ve had a negative reaction to those reminders. There are things there, I tell myself, that I would change if I could.

What if, when people look at me, they see you and not me? That is a scary thought. I’ve worked all my life to differentiate myself and to try to be the best version of me as I’ve understood it at any given point in my life. After all that, to now be confused with someone I’m not is so belittling. I can’t stand it.

But come now, I’ve had too say to myself. The woman staring back at me and at anyone who looks at me, is me. Wanting to change any of it is denying who I am and where I come from. Denying me goes against everything I want to be and what I teach. To be whole and healthy, I have to accept that in many ways, I am you.

I am you in ways I didn’t expect, and so I embrace the you in me in a way I never have before. You influence me in ways I would never have imagined you would. I’m hit with this surprise that as different as we may be in choices and worldview, I can still be mistaken for you when I walk into a room or when I answer a telephone call.

So I look at myself in the mirror and say, ‘Who bex, bex.’ and that includes me. I am you in my God-designed physical attributes, and I’m okay with that now. I will embrace that. I don’t have you in my life anymore, but I see you when I look in the mirror and that is good for me. It’s like I have you in spirit because I have me. I have your hair, your hands, your face, and your simple gestures. I now thank God for all those things.

Where they once angered me for being reminders of what I no longer have, I am now glad for them. In accepting them, I’m accepting me. In embracing them, I’m embracing us both. And if others see and hear you in me then that’s all good because without you I wouldn’t be me.

©Debbie Mendoza, December 2017.

Debbie Mendoza is the author of Exodus: A Journey Through Divorce and JoyHope.

Contact: debbietillett@gmail.com

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Thankful

This year I’ve learned how to be thankful on a larger scale. It started one night more than halfway through the year. I couldn’t sleep and my mind was doing what minds do at that hour: focusing on everything that wasn’t right in my life.

So I did what I have learned to do over the years. I prayed that God would make things better, intervene, soften hearts, and do other things for me.

To be honest I can’t remember how I went from begging to saying thank you. But as I lay there in bed, the night’s sounds floating around me, I thanked God for provision, for the bed I was in, the house I lived in, for the oatmeal I get to eat everyday with my particular mixture of seeds and nuts. I thanked Him for the vehicle we drive, and for how He made sure we were never without a vehicle in this very trying year. I thanked Him for health, and for the ability to exercise.

Every time I said thank You for something, my mind latched onto another thing I should be thankful for. It was as if thankfulness bred more thankfulness. I was on a roll. Next thing I knew, I was even thanking Him for the complications in my life and the areas in which I didn’t ‘have’. Instead of lamenting over what I was missing, I thanked Him for the lessons I was learning by ‘not having’. Yes, I could count it all joy. (James 1:2).

A strange thing happened. I felt lighter. For a moment I let go of wanting to have everything my way and in my timing. I realized how good God has been to us, and how we’ve been in the palm of His hands this entire time. How safe we are! How loved we are!

I went back to sleep with a huge smile on my face. I was bathed in peace and my heart was lighter as I had gained the understanding that our Father is always looking out for us. We often take for granted that because He’s made the promises He has, that we don’t have to return to say thank You for the areas that He is constant in; but if He were to stop doing those things, they would appear to be huge matters to us.

The following day, a bunch of things fell into place for us. Things we had long waited to see, happened. Things smoothed out where before there had only been obstacles. I was blown away. It was as if my Heavenly Father had just been waiting for me to learn this lesson so that He could move me to another level in my relationship with Him.

I realized that just as an earthly parent wants to hear ‘thank you’ for the things done for a child, so does our Father, in whose image we were created. Parents are obligated to do certain things for their children, but when those are received with thankfulness, it makes a world of difference in how giving a parent will be as the child grows.

Since that night I have practiced this kind of prayer on a regular basis. Whenever I can’t sleep, or sometimes just in my devotions time, I will start by saying, ‘Thank You’. It can be a very moving experience because every time it brings me to a place of humility, of understanding how dependent we are on His goodness, His knowledge of what is best for us, and His plans for us. Every time it causes me to let go and to go back to a place of rest. (Is 30:15).

Sometimes when I pray like this nothing changes in situations where I’d like to see mountains move; but, I’m okay with that. This past Sunday was one of those mornings where all I could do was offer my prayers of thanksgiving as I considered the many ways He has taken care of us. I finally told my husband about this new way of praying that I’ve picked up.

As we worshipped it was brought to my remembrance how I used to be dry bones and how I’ve been brought to life. I wept. I couldn’t stop the tears from flowing; I didn’t even want to. We ate the Bread and drank of the Cup, and I knelt using the chair in front of me as my altar. Of all the things I have been thankful for this year as I’ve learned this new way of praying, the most important one hit me: my heavenly Father loved me enough to not let me stay where I was in my comfort zone of dry bones. He took my hand and led me through, continues to lead me through to a different life; and the process isn’t over.

So after giving this some thought I’ve decided to share it with you. It’s too good to keep to myself. Every once in awhile, make your prayer time just about saying, ‘Thank You’. During that time, ask Him for nothing. I’m sure that like me, you will be amazed at how much there is to be thankful for. You’ll be reminded of how faithful He is to you in particular. It will reinforce your understanding of Whose you are: a child of the King; and it will bless your Father’s heart.

And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, returned, and with a loud voice glorified God, and fell down on his face at His feet, giving Him thanks. And he was a Samaritan. So Jesus answered and said, “Were there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine? Were there not any found who returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?” And He said to him, “Arise, go your way. Your faith has made you well.” (Luke 17: 15-19 NKJV)

©Debbie Mendoza, November 2017.

Debbie Mendoza is the author of Exodus: A Journey Through Divorce and JoyHope.

Contact: debbietillett@gmail.com

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Piercings

I had been having deep thoughts about two separate matters. I prayed for wisdom about one of them, but had prayed so much about the other in the years prior that I felt there was nothing else I could say to God about it.

I sat down to do my devotions the following morning and to my surprise (not really) both issues were addressed in the verses for that day. I think sometimes we get numb to the fact that we serve a living God, and that He cares about exactly what we are going through.

Maybe I needed more coffee to clear the morning cobwebs, or maybe I’ve gotten to used to the fact that the Word is living and is for the here and now; but it took awhile to sink in that two of my deepest thoughts from the day before were being addressed right in front of me. When I allowed the familiar piercing to go through me, I knew that in spite of my doubts and my questions, I was right where I was supposed to be, doing what I was supposed to be doing. I was in the center of His will for me.

For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. (Heb 4:12).

I could have missed that reassurance and still be walking in doubt and questions today. Yes, I was outwardly doing the right thing, (my devotions in the early morning before anyone else was up), but what if I had only been going through the ritual of it and not listening to the Spirit? What if I were there only in the physical? What if my attention was not focused on the Word that He wanted to give me, but rather on the duties of the day ahead?

All of those things could have been true of me that morning, because they’ve been true of me many times, more so than I would like to admit. But I’m going through a season where, like the young Samuel, I say repeatedly, ‘Speak Lord, for Your servant hears’, (1 Sam 3:10). It takes humility and knowledge of your dependency on God to walk like that, but to be quite honest, it’s a place I love to be.

And so on that morning I shut up and listened, and allowed the words to pierce through me. I read them over and over again. The tears rolled down my face as I read through the verses from Song of Songs and Isaiah. I felt the reassurance I needed. My doubts receded. Calm came to my spirit.

I shuddered at the thought of how easily I could have missed all of that if I had not chosen to listen, to hear, to pay attention to the words laid out before me. You know that Facebook questionnaire that does the rounds occasionally, the one that asks how many piercings you have? I want my answer to be gazillions! I wouldn’t be talking about man-made piercings though; I’d be referring to the number of the times I’ve allowed the Word to beautifully, deeply, affect me.

Our lives and our days are so busy. The Christmas season is approaching and that is going to add to the madness for many of us. I have a suggestion that is thousands of years old: Eli said to Samuel, “Go, lie down; and it shall be, if He calls you, that you must say, ‘Speak, Lord, for Your servant hears.’” (1 Sam 3:9). I suggest we take Eli’s advice, and listen to the Spirit.

Allow the Word to pierce through you, whether it’s going to bring change, reassurance, discipline, peace, joy, and/or, prophecy within you. Whatever He tells you will be for your own good. The Word is there, living and powerful, and available to us; it’s up to us to shut up and listen.

Get pierced!

©Debbie Mendoza, November 2017.

Debbie Mendoza is the author of Exodus: A Journey Through Divorce and JoyHope.

Contact: debbietillett@gmail.com

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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.