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.
My current view from my bedroom are my sheer curtains waving back and forth as the soft breeze hits them from the window. I can hear the cars, birds chirping, people walking and dogs barking. Life as we know it. How I enjoy the opportunity to stop and just be. To lay here in bed and just let His thoughts enter mine. Let His words speak to mine. And it’s not parking my mind on Him but actually letting my thoughts move to the rhythm of His heart through His word. I read reminders like: fan into flame the gift of God, He gave me a spirit of power, love and self-discipline, I am not ashamed because I know whom I have believed (II Timothy 1:6,7,12). These words are my life line, my strength.
I woke up this morning to a 6am alarm - an early one for the summer. I was expected at the surgery and procedure center at 7am. Today would be one of those days that would not go like any other day this summer. I would need to rest and rest some more after coming home. Our daily summer routine would be broken but my dad would come to the rescue to get the girls to summer camp and back. My husband would take care of me.
On this long journey to what I had seen as healing, I have had to endure some painful and long nights and today an invasive procedure. Today the goal is to find out the cause of the sudden nightly spells of nausea. But will the results show the cause? Or will they just contribute to the unknown diagnosis? It’s like an unsolvable puzzle. You have all these pieces of information but they don’t fit quite as perfectly as you’d like. In fact, they don’t fit together at all. It’s more like pieces from other puzzles got mixed into the wrong box.
But then I read these reminders, His soft whispers, that tell me I believe in God almighty who has given me a brave spirit and who tells me to fan into flame these amazing gifts, HIs amazing grace. Because despite the fact that I have not seen complete healing these past years, I have seen amazing grace. I have seen it in so many forms, shapes and sizes. I see it from my family who on a moment’s notice changes their schedule to be here for me and my family. I see it in my husband who lives out those vows he made almost 15 years ago to love me through sickness and health. I see it in my girls who run in from camp to check in on me and make sure the house is quiet so mami can sleep. I see it in my friends who text and call and more importantly, pray for me. I see it in the nurse whose soft hands prepare me for the procedure. And I see it in my heavenly Father who gives me peace that surpasses all understanding moments before being taken in and all the way through.
You don’t open yourself up to seeing His amazing grace until you’re able to stop and just be. Be in the moment, taking it all in. Letting His peace and His joy take over your doubt, worry, anxiety, health, finances, conflicts, all life issues. I pray and hope that each of you are able to stop this weekend and just be. Oh that He would whisper into your heart and remind you of His many promises. Open His word and let yourself take it all in.
Holding on to Him with every breath,
It’s the day after Mother’s Day and I woke up with an urgency to say to you “Happy Mother’s Day!” One day a year just isn’t enough to celebrate the miracle that it is to become a mom, to hold your precious baby in your arms and to devote your life to raising and loving your child for as long as you live. The unspoken vows of “I do” are a promise sealed in a mother’s heart. To raise and to love through sickness and health, through tantrums and harmony, through disobedience and obedience, through tears and laughter, through the bad and the good. You vow without even saying a word, to honor and to cherish your child. A miracle it is.
And I think about my mother’s loyalty and dedication through the easy and the difficult times. Her resilience to this day astounds me. I had caused her great suffering through my separation anxiety from a very young age. Something that became evident my very first school year in kindergarten. I attended three classes in three different schools until I finally settled. Or until my mom found an administration staff that wouldn’t get tired of my antics. At the school where I finally settled, I still cried relentlessly at drop off and tried with every muscle in my body to hold on to my mom so she couldn’t leave me. When that failed, I’d run after her car on the street and scream for her to come back. I remember hearing the sounds of my Principal’s loud steps behind me calling out to me to let my mom go. He’d carry me back to the office where he and the administration staff would try to console me. I think once I even climbed onto the hood of the car in order to stop my mom from leaving me there. School may as well have been prison, at least it was to me.
But I remember all too well the last time I had a full blown panic attack like that one. It was a sunny and bright morning. Today my mom had decided she’d try and drop me off in the office since the staff had been so understanding and cooperative. I’m certain she hoped that since they had embraced me that I would be more likely to stay. So she walked me in and as she prepared to leave, I ran after her. I ran out the door and into the courtyard. I held on to her and pulled on her so tightly I made her lose her balance. She fell on her knees that morning in great pain. I had caused her to scab her knee and to cut her thumb pretty badly. I felt so awful that morning. The severity of my actions played over and over in my head. My mom cried. I’m certain it was partly the physical pain, but mostly the frustration and feeling of discouragement. And I had caused this, all of this.
Well my mom quickly got up and shook it off. I believe that day I came home with her. And what has stayed with me most through these years, is the great pain I caused her, but also the great lesson she taught me. Every morning in the car as we drove my sisters to school first, I could feel the nerves in my body becoming agitated and it was like a thousand butterflies fluttering in my stomach knowing that I would be dropped off and left without my mommy. But from the moment we drove out of the driveway of our home to the moment we arrived at my school, my mom taught me to pray. And I mean to pray heartfelt prayers and cries to Jesus. She couldn’t fix this problem. She couldn’t fix me. So she taught me to rely on the One, the only One who could make my internal pain and suffering go away. She allowed me to feel and to cry and to learn to depend on my Savior (and that was not her). So I learned to recite, and then to pray and then to feel and understand the words of this verse (first in Spanish because that is how I learned them):
No temas, porque yo estoy contigo; no desmayes, porque yo soy tu Dios que te esfuerzo; siempre te ayudaré, siempre te sustentaré con la diestra de mi justicia. - Isaias 41:10
So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. - Isaiah 41:10
It would be weeks before I would stay comfortably at school without my mom. But in the weeks following the incident, I talked to Jesus. I told Him how bad I felt and how awful it was to be away from my mom for so many hours every day. He heard me, He saw me, and He answered me. Anytime I felt the sadness come on at school, I would begin reciting that verse that my mom had so patiently and lovingly taught me. What was once a terribly difficult time for my mom and me, turned out to be my most cherished moments, my first teachings of walking and talking with Jesus. And this very verse that she taught me would be the one to get me through my own trial of sickness in the midst of motherhood, 32 years later.
So wherever you find yourself today sweet mom, know that when you teach your children to rely on their Savior and not you, you teach them the greatest lesson of their life. The greatest lesson that will take them through their own trials of motherhood and beyond.
So yesterday we celebrated and we danced in the beauty, in the miracle of being a mom. And today we are back to the day to day grind, to the monotony of everyday life. And so today, an ordinary day, I say to you, Happy Mother’s Day. Because it is what you do today and every day, day in and day out that matters most. The organizing of schedules for your multiple children, the driving them to and fro, the lunches you pack, the clothes you fold, the bathrooms you wipe down, the dishes you wash, the stains you remove from uniforms, the dinner you prepare, the grocery shopping that you complete. The labor of love that keeps on going.
So continue wiping those tears, treating those wounds, kissing those cheeks, smiling and hugging those littles.
Thank you Jesus for the miracle of motherhood. Thank you mami for teaching me the miracle of Jesus.
Praising my Savior today,
Damaris U Avila
There I was, faced with a harsh reality that relationships are far too often painful and complicated. So much work and so tolling on your emotions. Are you ever weighed down by the relationships in your life? The reality is that all facets of our lives include relationships. We are not a one man’s island with a population, “me.” We do life with family, friends, acquaintances, strangers and might I admit, even those who oppose us. In every area of our lives we encounter relationships and some are far more problematic than others.
There are days and sometimes weeks, months and even years where the dynamics within those relationships become conflicting and far from harmonious. And sometimes those conflicts can occur in more than one area of our lives. There appears to be a simultaneous and cataclysmic failure in our relationships. A conspiracy of sorts is what it feels like.
Well, let me shed some light on this reality. Jesus knew problematic and conflicting relationships better than anyone. He received opposition from every direction: from the Jews, the Romans, everyday people from both sides. He heard accusations, condescension and ridicule. Yet He responded kindly and truthfully. Sometimes He was slow to speak and other times He was quick to admonish - ever so wisely and with impeccable timing.
If we are to learn from Jesus and His example, may we let His Word come and breakthrough our hearts. In Philippians, Paul reminds us how we are to live among our family, our brothers and sisters in Christ as a reminder of being united with Christ:
Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ,
if any comfort from his love,
if any common sharing in the Spirit,
if any tenderness and compassion,
then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus...
So Christ in us: His mind, His Spirit, His love, to pour over those we are in relationship with, being like-minded, Christ-minded. Not acting in self-centeredness but in Christ-centeredness. Walking humbly and placing others first in our lives. This is mind blowing. To live this way is to live like Christ. Because when we face our opposers, we have the strength and love to respond kindly and truthfully as Jesus did. Because when we are like-minded with our family in Christ, we are supported, and strengthened to withstand opposition in this world.
So embrace your brothers and sisters in Christ. Work towards harmony today and settle any conflict or dispute. Then gather around today in unity with Christ and pray and love over each other. Then pray together over your opposers.
As my sister reminded me this week, what can be more important than loving and making time for those we love?
United with Christ,
"Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God." - Corrie ten Boom
Hail crashes down on us this morning. Only after lightning awakens us and thunder shakes the earth and our being to its very core is hail released. The torrential stormy weather sits outside our bay window and demands our attention like a movie on large screen. Wow! His power, His glory, His creation come to life. Can this be a message from The God we fear and His reminder that He is still in charge?
Just as quickly as it came, it's gone. The sky is clearing and the sun is piercing through the clouds, no, it’s fully shining on my back lawn. I look up and see blue skies - spectacular. The storm comes in and wreaks havoc, it places fear in us and it shakes us. But if we can rise above it, we can fear The One who holds it all together instead of fearing the damage it may cause. It’s having the right kind of fear. It’s the loving and faithful kind of fear that says “I trust You LORD.”
The storm is a reminder of the mighty God and majestic LORD who reigns. We forget to fear Him and through our worry we say “You are not great enough for this trial.” But He is! He is greater! And He stands above and looks upon us with loving eyes and reminds us that He’s got this! He always has and He always will.
So throw yourself into prayer before, during and after the storm hits. Before, because you "trust an unknown future to a known God." During, that He may carry you high above the stormy waves. After, to give Him all deserved praise and glory for strengthening you during the storm.
The night before the presidential election in November, there was a serene, peaceful and beautiful sunset view. It was like no other. This morning, on the eve of the presidential inauguration, a storm hits hard. Both call us to look up. Some are celebrating and some are mourning tomorrow’s reality. Wherever you are on the spectrum, pray. Pray hard, pray faithfully, pray lovingly for God’s guidance and protection on the government and people of our nation. May the church be lifted high these next 4 years and may our love for His people outshine any politics. We are advent people awaiting His return. This is not our home so let’s live with our eyes pointed to eternity.
And remember, there is a higher power that reigns above any government and nation. A kingdom that reigns in truth, in love in mercy. So don’t place all of your trust in the incoming president and government and don’t place all of your worry and disdain on them either. Choose trust instead of worry, choose love instead of division. And now, let’s pray...
Damaris Urizar Avila
As a young child I certainly had not grasped the intensity of this truth: His breath in me. I struggled with my identity and it impacted every facet of my life. I longed to be like everyone else around me, an identity grounded in commonality. But because I was raised in what you could call cultural dualism (raised and influenced by two cultures), I was neither American nor Guatemalan. I couldn’t see that I was both but only felt that I was neither. The trips to Central America only reminded me of how American I felt. The American history classes and the holiday traditions at school only reminded me of how Guatemalan I felt. How easy it is to see what we aren’t instead of what we are and to then feel isolated and lost in the chasm between two worlds.
But as I lean in to The Word of God, I see the beauty in my reality because of His truths. Beauty so profound it penetrates my heart and soul. I learn that Christ’s identity as God and Creator is my identity. He is my God and my Creator, therefore I am His child and His creation. How’s that for cultural dualism? I am both so this makes me 100% His. My newfound identity in Jesus, forever lavishly rich as His child and creation. My identity fully embraced because of His. No matter where your story starts or where your past has taken you, you are His.
I now know who I am because of “I AM.”
Embraced by His love,
Damaris Urizar Avila
I’m reminded this morning that procrastination is a terrible path to follow. Procrastination in calling the friend or family member that is hurting, procrastination in embarking on a journey that will lead to a safe haven but just requires too much sacrifice at the moment, procrastination in starting the year off reading The Word daily to nurture your hungry soul. It is that we lack faith in what is unseen. We are looking to the things that are seen and felt and we don’t want to take that leap.
If for a moment we could stop and have faith that what awaits us on the other side of that which we are avoiding, is greater than the pain and struggle we are facing today. Choosing to leave procrastination behind and diving in headfirst will bring us to that reward that much more joyfully.
We are embarking on a kitchen remodel this New Year. The idea was all so exciting and compelling as we ordered all the new items and décor. Well, exciting… until this morning. The packing that awaits me feels like a never-ending obstacle course. Moving is one of the things I loathe most because of the packing it requires. The need to remain organized so that I don’t go crazy looking for that one dish or spoon at a later date is of utter importance. But truly, the packing cannot be avoided. I cannot skip it altogether. I shall have to try and embrace it.
But aren’t putting things off so much like a lack of faith? We don’t fully comprehend or embrace the outcome so we avoid it. We don’t want to be inconvenienced, because, well, comfort trumps discomfort as does doing things the easy way versus the hard and right way. When we try and work things out in a way that bring about more palatable means, the end is never as rewarding. So we look to procrastination or doing things the easy way. But if we look to Jesus in our struggle, we find truths that remind us why we should lean in to Him and take His hand before jumping in.
“So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:18)
We look to faith and believe that though we cannot see the outcome at this very moment, it is coming. The final product will be far richer and greater than we can imagine. Every step of the way He is filling us with more of Him. Every step of the way He is leaving His fingerprints in our hearts, so that when we reach the end of this journey, we will be reminded that He was with us all along and He will never leave us. And we will fully embrace the next journey ahead and will not procrastinate but will instead dive in headfirst without hesitation because what awaits us far surpasses the obstacles we will endure getting there.
Our lives are like a kitchen remodel. We are being refined and remade when we journey with Christ.
He is installing new and shiny and precious natural stone. Your life is like a love letter being written with the very hands of the living God, “not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.” (2 Corinthians 3:3).
He is tearing out the old and non-functioning and bringing in the new. “… the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Corinthians 5:17).
He is sanding us down and refining us. “For You have tried us, O God; You have refined us as silver is refined.” (Psalm 66:10).
So whatever “thing” you are putting off today, embrace before jumping in. He is reaching out to hold your hand. Lean in, grab His hand and take the leap.
Damaris Urizar Avila
There's this light that beams through my room in the mornings. This light that calms and soothes my inner angst. It's a softness yet a firm reminder that His light is my lifeline. His light is always light is always bright is always might! This might I carry inside of me because of His light. This light follows me wherever I go. Behind me, beside me, within me, all around me. The only light that is truly victorious awakens me every morning with beauty more profound than ever. This light is the light that connects us all to Jesus and to each other. So when you ache we ache, when you cry we cry, when you get up, we get up. This, the beauty of communion, the way of Jesus, He hurts and He rejoices with us. There is no brighter light, there is no greater love.
This Christmas receive the greatest gift there ever was and will ever be. Unwrap the gift that is found within the Christmas tree all wrapped in scarlet ribbon and receive the gift He came to give, Jesus.
Our sins forgiven
Your blood given
All wrapped in a scarlet ribbon
Fear is a crippling feeling. It’s a devastating phenomenon. It comes on quickly and sometimes lingers for way too long. If only it lasted long enough to help you see how brave you are but left before making you feel your world is falling apart. I have experienced both in my life and have vowed to never go back to the crippling kind of fear.
I think about being sick three years ago and never being diagnosed. It was a rollercoaster ride of pain and suffering yet immense peace and life-giving scripture reading and communion and relationship with Jesus. It transformed my life and led me to become a writer and start this very blog. It was a time of painful introspection and beauty and growth. But I was happy I could say it was in the past.
As it would be in God’s mighty plan, I find myself yet again in this painful situation. But this time it’s different – very different. He has brought me back to a place I thought I would never visit again, except this time I’m not visiting with the same fear and anxiety as I did in the past. He carried me through this once before and I know He will yet again.
In my waking hours I look up to the skies and ask Him to make me strong. I read the verse that is up in my kitchen chalkboard: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” It reminds me each and every time that He is making me brave. There is purpose in the struggle. There is purpose in the affliction. There is purpose in the trial. I’m going to ride high above the waves because He takes me there. And the past doesn’t have to cripple me but actually remind me of where I’ve been and Who got me out of it. It is all about Him. It is always about Him. His constant love, His constant communion, His constant provision in my life.
This time is different, very different. He has surrounded me with merciful and understanding doctors. Doctors that have diagnosed me and want to see me feel better. Healing doesn’t always come as an overnight miracle. It often comes as a million little daily miracles. Because every meal that I eat, every morning that I wake, every step that I take is a miracle from my Heavenly Father. It’s a journey that is far more worthy of my time and energy than any destination.
So when fear tries to make its way into my life, I will face it with Truth. Jesus loves me, He is with me and He is healing me. It’s a million little healings every day. He restores my soul, He feeds my fear with overflowing grace, He pours more of Himself over me and coats my aching pain with His promises. So I will sing “my spirit revived in Your story (Hillsong)."
by Damaris Avila
John testifies concerning him. He cries out, saying, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’ ”
I truly love reading about John the Baptist and learning from him. Above we read that John “testifies” to the Truth that Jesus was and is. He comes in proclamation of what was prophesied and its current fulfillment. This is why He cries out in such exaltation and confidence. He wants all to see the manifestation of the Son before their very eyes. I believe He is overcome with joy at the revelation that is unraveling before him. What was told to him is coming to pass and I imagine he wants to yell from the top of his lungs, “look, listen, believe.”
John humbly reiterates that though Jesus comes after him, He actually was before him. In other words, John was sent ahead of Jesus to point the people forwardly towards Jesus but also backwardly to Jesus. It is interesting how this works. Because Jesus is infinite, all directions point to Him. He is behind us and He is ahead of us.
This is so profound when we think about the trials we go through in this life. Jesus in His infinite existence both past, present and future, fills us with Himself through every difficulty in life. This symbolizes His very presence through every stage of our afflictions. He surrounds us as He surrounded John the Baptist and all the people at the time. Just when we feel like we can’t take one more step, totally depleted by our current trial, Jesus reminds us that He is right there with us. Just like He was back then with the people of Israel (both Jews and Gentiles) He is with us today. He is in your presence wherever you are at this moment: in your workplace, in your office, in your classroom, in your living room, in your bedroom, in your car - He’s all around you. All we need to do is call out His name and He will listen.
There is always a purpose in our afflictions. And I think about how John the Baptist cried out and pointed everyone to Jesus and his eternal presence. Might we do the same? In our most difficult days and through our trials might we dare to cry out and point those around us to Jesus? Maybe that is the point of it all. Psalm 23:2,4 says:
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters...
Even though I walk
through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
To testify in the midst of our trials to The One who comforts us and leads us through green pastures and quiet waters is the highest hope we can give to others and the greatest glory we can give to Jesus; hope that is within demonstrated outwardly. It is hope looking out at a 360 degree angle. Hope towards the future because of He who “is” and hope towards the past because of He who “was.”
Jesus before me,
Jesus behind me,
Jesus beside me,
Jesus within me,
Jesus all around me.
In His great love,
Broken hearts cry out today. Their pain echo in the winds and their tears fall upon us. The divide is so very palpable and real. What do we do with this pain, both those who feel it and those who see it? We have a grave responsibility to one another on both sides of this divide. Responsibility accompanied by great potential to cross over and love and embrace heartfelt feelings. Today more than ever, our compassion and love can reach new heights. No longer bound by policies and ideologies but fully surrendered and sacrificed in outstretched love. Love that is greater than any other feeling within. Love that reaches over and says I’m sorry, I understand, I see you, I hear you. Love that is unconditionally displayed and overflowing. May we rise to the occasion today and reach deep within and believe in hope that love will triumph. May we be lovers of love; “agape” love.
“It is a love that seeks nothing in return. It is an overflowing love; it’s what theologians would call the love of God working in the lives of men. And when you rise to love on this level, you begin to love men, not because they are likeable, but because God loves them. You look at every man, and you love him because you know God loves him. And he might be the worst person you’ve ever seen.” – Martin Luther King
May love take us to new heights and to new relationships. Relationships that will teach us the art of listening, noticing and ultimately loving.
May our love spread like wildfire. Unstoppable, Uncontrollable, Incomparable. May they know us by our love.
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres."
-I Corinthians 13:4-8.
“He came to this world and became a man in order to spread to other men the kind of life He has — by what I call "good infection." Every Christian is to become a little Christ. The whole purpose of becoming a Christian is simply nothing else.”
– C.S. Lewis
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."