Everyone has a story to tell. When we make the connection between our story and God's great story, we come away with HIStory, which involves each and every one of us.
Easter has a way of making me think about it’s meaning. Even more so than Christmas. I mean Christmas is the sweet story of a baby King. But Easter, it’s not a pretty celebration that comes wrapped in a beautiful red bow. And this year, more than ever, is it making me think! I mean Easter at home? That’s just so crazy!
I was already working full time when I graduated from college. So as you can imagine, I was one of the oldest graduates in my class. And even with that said, I was still too young and immature to understand my calling, and so I pursued a degree in a field I would never actually work in. Preadolescence, I knew my calling, but I didn’t fully understand it. And as a college-aged adult, I think I lost it. Or maybe I was limited by choosing one of the majors offered without even thinking or praying about my calling. I’ve heard of people who change their careers in their 40’s and 50’s. I love this! But I feel like it’s a bigger waste when you know it and ignore it versus just not knowing until you’re older or having more than one career because that’s what you were called to do. I was called and I didn’t listen.
One of the things that surprised me most while on this journey, is that God gave me gifts I didn’t realize I had. Art was nowhere near my extra-curricular activities and much less curricular. I was a type-A book-smart hard worker who enjoyed Math and English. So I was extra surprised at how much I loved photography, especially exploring this art with Tachu the years we dated. Well, maybe he was the inspiration, but nevertheless I loved it! Our love of photography, and each other got more serious. And one of the first things we did when we got married was create a dark room. It was so rewarding when you had that contact sheet and could see a glimpse of the black and white images you had taken and developed. Fast forward 10 years and now I was doing photography on the side while raising my girls at home with Tachu. This was a gift. But I have to be honest, I was terrible at marketing my business. I’m a natural pleaser and the thought of disappointing a client devastated me. And I didn’t want to price out the images, I wanted to give them all of the images for free. But that wasn’t a sustainable business.
So I created an app called Dreamhouse Tasks that would help my girls learn to do chores around the house. I led the art process and the engineers and released a successful app. But ask me if I could sell it… you know the answer. It was free.
Then I began writing. And that was an art I couldn’t get enough of either. I could write for days and I could storytell with unlimited characters. It was therapy. And then I published a book. I was ecstatic when my book came out. But I realized that writing it was only the first part of this journey. So again, I crumbled at the thought of selling my work if I wanted others to read it. You put yourself out there when you snap an image someone is purchasing and even more so when selling your writing that you’ve spent years compiling and have made yourself vulnerable to. So this time I decided I could share my book but I much rather give it away than sell it.
And as I shared my home more, designing and styling became a passion I didn’t realize I had. I began helping friends and our community with creating and recreating spaces. Renovation and bringing new life and meaning to spaces became my new art of choice. But only as a volunteer.
So here I am, a lover of these art forms, yet I can’t sell them if my life depended on it. And honestly, it’s not that I lack worth. Because if there’s something I know it is that I know who I am because I know Whose I am. And I believe God has given me these gifts to bless others and I feel so good doing them.
But I have realized something of infinite worth. I have understood this by simply doing it from the heart. And that is that nothing, and I mean nothing I’ve ever done nor will ever do is as rewarding and as life-giving, as when I get the opportunity to share about Jesus with friends. Sharing Him requires zero accomplishments or awards or degrees. All it requires is an open heart willing and wanting more of Him. And He will fill your cup to overflowing. Your life to maximum fulfillment. Your heart to breakthrough truth. Your soul to endless joy.
And now Easter makes absolute sense. It all comes together in this perfect yet devastating package filled with death, a crown, and blood. It’s a disfigured Savior who allowed Himself to be beaten to DEATH. He broke so we could be whole, He cried so we could sing, He separated so we could be united to Him. Do you see, He’s the God who did it all for His children? He didn’t ask us to sacrifice our lives for Him. He’s a giver, not a taker.
And alas, I understand my calling, and it is to share and live for Jesus! And I don’t crumble at sharing Him. I don’t feel like I’m going to disappoint. Because the One won’t ever disappoint.
So in the words of my Sophie, when asked what Easter means to her, Easter is LOVE!
As you are home celebrating Easter during this quarantine, take this gift! He’s giving it out for free and it lasts FOREVER!!!
We are coming on 2 weeks since my Father-in-law passed away. For those of you that know me, when thoughts and emotions are rumbling about in me, I find peace in writing them and sharing them with all of you! The death of my Father-in-law was quick from the moment he was diagnosed. Less than a year. And then at the end his health declined rapidly. Watching my husband try and process the news was hard for the girls and me. We wanted to make his pain go away as he traveled back and forth to see him. It was excruciatingly painful.
The death of a father forces you right back into that childlike state as you remember your life from that very first memory you are able to recollect. And it takes you on this painful journey of all the good coupled with the bad. And when you reach the present on this timeline of memories, the realization that your time with your father is up, hits you like the hardest/baddest news you could ever receive.
How do you move forward from this? You don’t want to remain stuck here...
My father-in-law was a believer in Jesus. He was a seeker of God. He respected his children and he never imposed his beliefs on anyone. But as we all have seen, sometimes the last days are so very telling of all that has been stored in your heart. And we got to see this firsthand. His loving heart. His quest for forgiveness. His desire to make things right. The Spirit in him leading him through his final moments, his final words, his final conversations. And there he lay, a humbled and forgiven man. And is this not the very essence of the gospel of Jesus? His daughters and sons at his feet, cared for him, cried with him and loved him with the greatest love my eyes have ever seen. With arms spread wide open, there was an uninhibited exchange of hearts. Nothing being held back. God allowed these final days to be an example of His extravagant love toward His children.
With great sadness, yet peace and joy, my girls and I watched my husband and his loving family bring peace to their father as he transitioned from this world to his heavenly home. Our hearts can only have this peace that surpasses all understanding because we know he is in the presence of his heavenly Father. What inexplicable joy it gives us in knowing that because he believed in Jesus eternity in heaven has only begun for him. Though we miss him and wish we had more time with him to make more memories, we rejoice in knowing that our time together was only a glimpse of the beginning. We will see him soon!
And maybe that’s how you keep walking forward as you allow the past to catapult you into the future. By allowing God to transform you from the inside out you allow Him to continue the work he started in your father. You pay honor to your father’s life and death by allowing our heavenly Father to continue the work of the gospel in our family.
My eldest daughter, Arianne, had the honor of keeping my Father-in-Law’s Bible. It is perhaps the sweetest gift from him as we are able to read his handwritten notes on the pages of his Bible. As we turned the pages, God’s Spirit led us to a Psalm he had highlighted. This has become our year’s verse as we remember our dear Granpa Eric. So this is our prayer for this year and we hope it will be yours too…
Teach us to number our days,
that we may gain a heart of wisdom.
Enséñanos de tal modo a contar nuestros días,
Que traigamos al corazón sabiduría.
I stare at my sweet little and ask her to turn around so I can take a picture of her. Watching her stand there in the prettiest skirt my mother-in-law just made her I think about how grown up she looks today. It happens slowly but it really feels like it happens overnight and you don’t know where the last 365 days went of teeth falling out and adult teeth coming in. Cheek bones becoming more defined. Smile becoming sweeter and her coming into her own. The long days all of a sudden feel so short and you realize that every day, every hour, every minute, every second with her, growth was happening. Her life has been in constant change and growth since she was born.
And isn’t mine too? My life in constant change and growth? It definitely doesn’t always feel that way. Change, yes. Growth, not so much. Since God led me to leave my corporate job and stay home with my girls now over 10 years ago, I’ve not always felt growth. And it’s definitely harder to see when you’re no longer sitting down with your boss at the end of the year for your performance review and maybe a nice bonus attached to it! There really aren’t any fair visible metrics to gauge performance and abilities on this job. Well, at least not in the way that I was used to. But actually, there is an even better performance review I’ve just realized. 10 years later! And I’m feeling rather passionate about sharing it with you this morning because I don’t want you to miss out on seeing it, like I did!
In the last 10 years I’ve gone through seasons of feeling stuck and irrelevant. Seasons where everything was pulled from under me that I couldn’t take care of my girls. Seasons of feeling bad at everything I do. And sure, I have felt good at some things but somehow the stronger and longer-lasting feelings are the failures. Well, “failures” because I can now see that they aren’t failures at all, just stepping stones and seasons of growing pains.
I often fill up with despair hoping and praying that God would change my circumstances instead of praying that God would grow me through my struggles. I’ve thought about this for a few days now and God has reminded me that we are not supposed to see weaknesses as weak. I know that sounds weird and maybe doesn’t make sense. Let me explain. We are to see our weaknesses not as indicators of failure, but as indicators of future growth. Our weaknesses aren’t meant to drive us into despair or debilitating frustration. They are meant to grow us. They have a purpose. And the truth is that in the end, weaknesses become strengths that point us not to our own abilities but to God’s ability to turn a weakness into a victory.
All of these less-than ideal seasons I went through, God used to write His story in my life and lead me to my purpose:
And now I see that those days have grown me into the woman I am today. Those days, have grown my girls into the women they are today and still into the women they will become. I don’t know my full story yet and I don’t know theirs. But I do know that when I am living out God’s purpose for my life, I am growing and I am victorious in His strength. Because if I have to depend on my own strength, I lose focus. But if I depend on His strength, I will be victorious, EVERY SINGLE TIME!
So as I look at the lives of other moms, or other women, I want to constantly remember, that I am not to view myself as less-than because my life doesn’t look like theirs. When I see a career that is booming and growing, I am not to see myself as less-than because my career isn’t advancing. My life is unique. My purpose is unique. So my identity as a woman is not in who I have become as the world sees it, but in who God created me to be.
And that is my new performance review, am I becoming the woman God created me to be? Because that is all that matters! So really, it’s not about performance but about purpose!
So my prayer is this, “God, take my weakness, my lack, and in Your strength make it victorious that I might live out Your purpose in my life!” In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
“For great is your love, reaching to the heavens; your faithfulness reaches to the skies.” (Psalm 57:10) “I will praise you with the harp for your faithfulness, my God; I will sing praise to you with the lyre, Holy One of Israel.” (Psalm 71:22)
Damaris U. Avila lives with her loving husband and their two inquisitive and sweet girls. Through personal storytelling, she invites women to share and see themselves in God's story. She leads young girls through BeYOUtiful Girl Time, a sisterhood where girls are encouraged to become the women God designed them to be.
"And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people."