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Cheryl Mendoza

How He speaks to me…..Or… can't He just call my cell when He wants to talk?

Advent: Remember, reboot, refocus…

What to write….what to write? Sometimes it feels like different topics are warring in my mind to be what I wwhiskey-typewriter-shutterstock-570x380rite about, but it never really takes shape till my fingers start typing on the keys.

My emotions are in a bit of a roller coaster this morning, and it all started last night.  While it was nothing specific, there was a general feeling of anxiety. I would put it in the class of “anxiety attack” although last night’s version was pretty mild. I started to get a little panicky and was feeling hot.  I even slept on the couch last night because when I feel this way, I just need a little more space, cooler air and not stressing over waking my hubby.

I have general anxiety like most people do, but a couple of years ago I started having what I call attacks.  Immediately stressed, can’t breathe, hot sweaty periods of time where I have to work to bring myself to some kind of control.  It is hard, and they are scary.  It mostly happened at night, when distractions were taken away and my subconscious could do its worst.  So this morning, I was really interested in taking time to spend time with the Big Guy and find some type of peace.

So I was reading about Jesus and his nighttime encounter with this religious leader, Nicodemus.  It’s kind of funny how it starts out.  Nicodemus comes to Jesus and is like, “hey….we know you are sent by God because you do these great miracles.”  And instead of saying something logical like, “thanks….glad to be here,” Jesus gives an answer to a question.  The problem is, no question has been asked?  What?  Now you can go in and check out the answer and what Jesus explains to him, but that is not the point of my little writing this morning.

So what is?

Well, I love the fact that Jesus gave him the answer, before Nicodemus even knew he IMG_5206wanted to ask the question!  God knows us, and so does His Son.  Jesus knew Nicodemus deepest, darkest, subconscious thoughts, dreams, stress and heart’s desire.  He knows mine too.

And in reading that this morning, I realized that even before I knew I would have a night of anxiety, He did.  And in what I wrote yesterday, He has already given me the answer for the peace I need today.   So this morning, I’m taking the time to remember, reboot and refocus on what is true.  The God who provided yesterday is the same one who will continue to do so today and in the future.

imageWhat’s going on in your life today?  Do you really need an answer to that question, situation or stress?  Look back!  Remember, reboot and refocus.  You might be surprised at what answers you may find!

 

Advent: Huh?

thSo it is only 5:36 this morning, and I am already just amazed where my mind has gone.  It started as soon as I woke up.  I won’t be saying why I started thinking this morning, due to HIPPA laws, but I am anticipating a more tight month with money, so I was concerned.

As my brain started to kick into gear and see how we can work things to make it all work out.  So as I was wondering how this would work out, my mind went from thinking about it, to worrying about it.

3D man near red question mark

It was crazy how fast I went there.  I was barely awake and within seconds worry was standing at my doorstep. It was mind boggling!  While I lay there trying to work out how we could switch things up to make sure it would all work out, the worry did not go away. It only became worse!  And that is when I heard it.  NO!  It was not a voice, but I knew WHO it was.  Again, God reminded me of how He has cared for me and my family.  How it has not always been easy, but how in the end He has provided.  I was embarrassed, because I know this!  But it is amazing how fast worry can grab you! So I got up and started reading again this morning.  Today I was at the story of Jesus turning the water into wine at a wedding.  I was struck by the craziness of the story.  The wine is gone!  A serious faux pas!  Mary though had a plan.  She tells the servants to do whatever Jesus says, and what he asks them to do is weird! Fill up those jars with water, then take a cupful to the “master of ceremonies,” this guy must have been like the DJ(?)  When the servant does, the guy is like “yes!!  Rombauer!”  Sorry for those of you who don’t drink wine, all I can say that is not two buck chuck.

There it is again, Jesus asking us to do something that makes us go…..huh?   And we can either go with it in one of two ways.   We can either go with  worry or with trust.  Worry comes with stress and trust comes with….. well trust comes with a lot of things.  Sometimes trust looks like peace, joy, feeling tentative or maybe even laughter.

I laugh every time I think of the crazy things I think God is leading me to do, and what people must think.  But like the servant knowing that it was water in the cup, I am always excited to see the result of what I offer.  He offered water and found it was wine.  I offer words and find encouragement.

images-6So as I’m sitting here, I am shaking my head, not sure of where this day will go.  But yes….I’m laughing thinking that it’s going to be a crazy month full of writing, work, doctors, family, love and lots of lights…… Well it is Christmastime you know!

Advent: Trusting the gardner

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So another day…..another post.  It’s funny, because when I start these writing binges, I typically have a day or two of posts in my mind.  Day 3 though is always where there is surprise.  I typically have no idea where I am going, and it makes me nervous. What is going to happen?  Will I be able to write anything?  The funny thing is, something typically catches my attention.

So I have been reading through the Bible this year.  I’m not following a reading plan or anything, just reading along until I’m  too tired, or I find something that I want to ponder for a while.  Just going at my own pace.  Well as I started to read today, I wondered if I should go to the Nativity story since it’s that time of year?  That would make sense….right?

But…..I really wanted to keep reading where I was.  So back to the beginning of the gospel of John and what he wrote about John the Baptist.  Ah…another outsider.  I’m  intrigued by the path of the cousin of Jesus.   His mom getting pregnant way past her prime, his father doubting and struck speechless, the Angel and the news that this young man would be the forerunner.  The one who would come before the Messiah. Pretty cool….  You’d think he would be an important part of the temple and everything that surrounded it, but he wasn’t.  I’ve always wondered about that.  Why not? It is part of his family heritage, it would make sense….right?  The ultimate insider!

I ‘ve tried to get on the inside, but it’s never really worked. Isn’t the church where you IMG_5979use the gifts you have?  I’ve taught Sunday School and was pretty good at storytelling, but any role outside of that has never happened.  There have been times over the years where I’ve thought, I could be used for that!  Or I’ve being willing to say, use me!  For some reason though, I was never picked.  Or there wasn’t a place for me to use my gifts.  It used to bug me, and I wondered what’s wrong with them?

It was hard at times, but trust is a great thing.  And I had to work at trusting God.  I had to realize that it was not them, but really me.  If God didn’t open that door, there was a reason.   God used those times to help build trust in Him.  Not people, not pastors and not in church, but Him only.

I wonder if it was like that for John?  He knew that God was going to use him and even what his role was.  The real question was how was that going to look?  I can’t imagine his parents thinking it would be the way it played out. Your son, the one who is supposed to come before the Messiah, out in the wilderness, eating bugs and telling people to repent.   Where is his place in the temple?  Wouldn’t’ that be where the forerunner spoke from?

 

IMG_7061John though was an outsider, and I like him because of it.  Maybe because he was an outsider, he was able to be who God really needed him to be?   I like to think so.  It helps me to think that any time we may spend on the outside is just a proving ground. A place where God can weed, water and grow us to who He really wants us to be.

Advent: Outside looking in…..

So yesterday I was thinking about the shepherds.  You know the ones?  Those “In the fields by night” kind of guys.  I had to teach kids about them once and to help them appreciate the shepherds position in life we talked about how smelly they would be.  I know….not very spiritual….but true.  Think how you would smell if you were in the fields outside of town with just big fluffy sheep for companions?

 

ca9583de30e2e850b492eff0c494a42d--nativity-silhouette-silhouette-cameoNow some put shepherds in a category of outcasts from society, but others say they are just another group among the poor.    Either way, they give us a picture of separation from other people and the normal rhythms of life.  To have a big flock, you would need a big area of grass to feed them.  Have you ever seen sheep go through a field?  And when that field is done, you need to move them to another one.  The life of a shepherd was not a normal one of home and family.

 

So…Why do the angels tell these guys?  Was heaven so crazy with excitement that it could not contain the celebration?  The party was so wild that the heavens split and the craziness spilled out into the hills of Bethlehem.  I don’t know about that, but all I do know is that these were the men who first heard confirmation of this incredible birth.   On that night, the angels could not contain the joy of heaven and brought day into night.  And they brought it to these men.  The outsiders, the humble, the poor single guys who might not have smelled really good.

 

While my life is nothing like the shepherds, I like their story because sometimes I feel like I am on the outside looking in.   I used to hate that feeling, but now I see that it has its advantages.  Many times it gives me a different perspective, and I am grateful for that view.  Sometimes, like those shepherds I feel like heaven opens up and gives me a view of something other worldly.  Something beautiful! Those are the times I am grateful for who God has made me, but I still fight it.  It feels lonely sometimes, trying to find a place where you fit.  Now don’t get me wrong, I seem to be able to pass through many groups but while I can do that I am never totally comfortable where I am. I guess that seems to be the way God means for it to be, so I try to be content.  And when I feel out of sorts about it, I remember the shepherds and the amazing thing that happened to them that day.   It was to them that the angels brought the best news of all…..

 

But the angel reassured them.  “Don’t be afraid!” he said.  “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people.”   Luke 2:10

Seasonal focus….

I needed some focus for the last part of the year, so I am taking a page from Lent.  I use Lent as a way to focus and write daily, and this December I really need some focus. Why?  Well the Christmas season is upon us, I have a big family celebration at the end of the month that I am in charge of, and I am also studying for a test for work.   That is not even the half of it, but I can only say so much.  So while I use Lent in the spring to bring focus to my life, I decided that Advent might help me do the same this winter.

dsc_0835-2So I was thinking, December 1st I would be on it!  But…. I missed the date.  Ugh!  Needless to say, it is all good, since today is officially the start of Advent. Who knew? Well obviously not me.
So what am I pondering on this first day of Advent?  Well, Christmas of course!  Specifically what this season means to me and really the effect it has had on my life.  I just finished writing a small vignette (?) for lack of a better word. While some of it is fictionalized, it is based on some things that have happened to me.  It was like God put them together for me one day, to give me perspective. It helped to remind me that God was with me.  And in reminding me of where we have been, He reminds me that He knows where we will go.  That gives me hope!  And isn’t that what the season is all about?  Hope?

For in the velvety darkness of winter, a star is seen and hope is born. The hope that the separation between us and God is about to be put to an end. That the love of God is brought to earth as a baby.  To start the transition from separation to reconciliation.

Life…and what it makes you.

I hate puzzles.  Maybe hate is a strong word, but I have never been a big fan of doing Unknownthem.  What I do like about puzzles is the what they show……A complete picture.  You have all these pieces that go together but they are in such weird shapes, it is not easy to see how everything fits.  But they do.

IMG_5203Life is like a puzzle.  All the days and everything that happens to you become pieces that are fitted together to create you.  How you think, how you feel and how you live.

Sometimes it is hard to see how some things fit in your life.  Death, pain and struggle, but they do.   They belong.  Without those pieces, it is hard to appreciate the simple things.  We have the tendency to take them for granted.  But when you place them beside the hard things, sunshine, green grass, laughter, food on the table, or holding hands with your love one, you see them for the wonder they are.

So here is today…..and another piece added to the puzzle!autism-puzzle-piece-clip-art-cliparts-co-lilgLt-clipart

 “One day I’ll stand before You and look back on the life I’ve lived.  I can’t wait to enjoy the view and see how all the pieces fit.”
Casting Crowns 

Reading the heart…..

UnknownHow do you talk to people?  Especially people you don’t agree with?  As I was reading, I was struck by two conversations this morning. Two conversations, two different outcomes.  Two different questions, with two different intents.  And one Jesus.

One question was asked to trick and catch him saying something wrong.  The other was asked seeking an honest answer.

One was asked to show how wise they were.  The other to gain wisdom.

One was asked, but the answer didn’t really matter to those who asked it.  The other was asked, with the answer being of the utmost importance.

Two answers were given that day, but only one truly listened.  I was struck by both questions, their intent and the reaction to the answers.

When you talk to people, what is your intention? Is it to prove them wrong?  Or is it to understand?

thWhen the one man heard wisdom in the answer, Jesus said “you are not far from the kingdom of God.”  Sounds like a mile marker to me.  How the man approached the question and reacted to Jesus’ response, showed something about his heart.

I wonder…..what do our questions and responses show about ours?

Mark 12:18-35

Believe=Live

DSC_0132“I gotta live how I say I believe.”  It doesn’t roll off the tongue very easily, but t’s something I’ve been saying a lot lately.  It’s mainly due to my children and their struggles or downright danger they put themselves into.  Ok, honestly? Some of it just has to do with me and my response to the world around me.

I was reading this morning and came across the story about the friends who bring a crippled man to Jesus.  These guys did everything they could to get their friend into the room where Jesus was teaching.   They let nothing get in their way, not even someone else’s roof. I’ve told this story and heard it many times, but something about it hit me differently today.  When I tell the story to kids, we always used the word “friends” when describing the men who carried the guy in.  I even used the word friend when I started writing this, but the bible never uses the word friend?  It always says men.

images-2What’s the difference?  Well, it seems to me that it’s all about perspective.  If I see these men bringing in their friend, that makes sense to me.  I can “help” my friend see who Jesus is in my life and maybe they will be like “cool….tell me more”.   Sounds great! But I checked out 5 or 6 different translations and they all just said MEN not friend.

So what might the story really have looked like? There’s a couple of guys, and they’re hurrying off to see this teacher they’ve heard about.  He says the craziest things, but what they’ve heard has them thinking.  I know….four men thinking…. Who would have thunk it?  So either they know each other or better yet….maybe they don’t?  Probably at least 2 did and they were walking together. Maybe then third and fourth are just walking that way too and they all converge at this intersection that is just down the street from the house.  It is so close they can see it.  They are intent on getting there before too many more people show up.  Picture Disneyland when they first open in the morning. Some are walking enjoying Main Street, some are doing that funny walk/run and some are downright sprinting to be first in line at Indiana Jones.  Well as these guys get to the intersection, they are greeted by someone who can’t walk.

Maybe he is calling out to Jesus because he has heard the scuttlebutt.  Or maybe this guy is calling out for money? For whatever reason, they choose to do something. They see that he is laying on a blanket and they grab the corners and go.  They walk for just a bit but stop.  It is really hard with just the two of them and they put him down.  They’re panting, thinking “this is harder than the WOD,” and as they catch their breath a shadow falls across them.  Two more men have stopped.  They all look at each other and without another word they each grab a corner of the blanket, mat, whatever the guy was on and well you know the end of the story.  Jesus, forgiveness and healing.  The end seems to point to the conclusion that maybe they don’t know each other.  When the man is healed, he just gets up and just walks out.  Maybe these guys go and have some goats milk together at the local whatever was back then, or just maybe after listening to Jesus they go their separate ways.

IMG_0143It seems to me this is kind of how life works.  We are all in need of healing and could use a little Jesus to do that.  Along the way people can come beside us and take a corner to help us get to where we need to be.  If we see this story only through the lens of helping a “friend” then we might miss out on all of the other opportunities to help people we don’t know see Jesus.

Sometimes it takes a long time for someone to make that complete journey to forgiveness and healing.   And every day is a new opportunity to pick up the mat of those around you.  Whether they are technically a friend or not.

So how does this relate to “I gotta live how I say I believe?”  Well if I believe that everyone around me is someone I can “bring” to Jesus, it should really influence how I treat everyone.  Right?  And that means in every situation.  School, work, grocery store, politics, baseball field, FREEWAY and even in church.  Sometimes it takes a long time for someone to make the complete journey, and everyone I meet is another opportunity.  A new chance for me to pick up the mat and help them on their way.

16939225_10211261381504215_4523643083069843847_nThat is the plan, and it is way harder to do than it sounds.  But you know… gotta live how you say you believe!

Study in Pink – Sophia Medina

_DSC0032Is this really a “Study in Pink”?  Well I think so.  I spoke with this young lady because of her intention of becoming a pediatrician, but was also interested by the stage she is on right now.  The Miss America pageant system is going through a transformation.  The “beauty” pageant is going away, and there will be more focus on the WHO these ladies are and less on HOW they look.   What will that truly look like in the future?  Not sure, but today, I know it looks like the accomplished young lady I spoke with a few weeks ago……

 

I met Sophia Medina when she wasn’t royalty. Her family lives in Hanford, and are founders of the Kings Cultural Center in Armona. She started dancing at age 4, and now spends time promoting the cultural center and the benefit it brings to the community.  That is where I met her, and came to know so much more about this talented and focused young woman.

_DSC0009She just graduated from UC Santa Cruz, and is studying for the MCAT.  Yes….that is to get into medical school!  While dance is a passion for her, so is science.  “I am a nerd like that,” she told me.  After taking the MCAT Sophia will be attending medical school with the intention of becoming a pediatrician.  “I love science,” she said, “Anatomy is awesome!”  She is not only inspired by science but also her father, who is a doctor, and the time she spends at KCC.  Teaching dance to kids at the cultural center showed her how much she enjoyed working with children.  So why not combine her passions?   She is excited about becoming a pediatrician, “you have to communicate with parents and kids,” she told me.  And communication has been something she is working on lately.

When the idea of running for Miss Outstanding teen in 2012 was presented to her, she wasn’t sure at first.  “I am not the most girlie girl,” she said, but when the event was framed as a scholarship opportunity she felt that she wanted to give it a try. She was also motivated by the opportunity to “break out of my shell.”

 

_DSC0090She described herself as “not the most outgoing,” and she had growing sense that she “felt necessary to speak my mind.” In running for Miss Outstanding teen and then for Miss Kings County, she told me that it has “helped with my style and presenting myself.”  One of the most exciting aspects for her is the platform that each contestant seeks to promote during their reign.  “Getting to share about Cultural Appreciation is something I am passionate about.”   For Sophia, Cultural Appreciation is not just a platform, but is something that has been passed down from her parents.  “My parents are super supportive in anything we do,” she said.

So what are her hopes for the outcome of the pageant?  “Just enjoy the experience, and connect with the other girls.”  I of course am hoping to be speaking to the next Miss California, but she has a much more grounded answer.  “With 75% of the girls being returnees,” she said, “I would be happy to break the top 15.”

_DSC0060No matter where she winds up in the standings, it does not matter, she is already inspiring and encouraging in so many ways. So good luck and many blessings to her this weekend in the Miss California pageant.  And may that luck and blessing continue as you bring beauty, healing and grace into your community.

 

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