Thursday, December 29, 2016

THIS IS MY STORY, OUR STORY, AS 2016 ENDS



  I wanted to read another good story tonight. For some time, I skimmed through the many book choices on my kindle. I thought about getting up and re-organizing my kitchen. Thinking about pots and pans making lots of noise and waking up half the world made me scratch that idea quickly. I went through some music and thought of listening to some praise and worship. Maybe there’s a dance idea hidden in some of these old songs? But, no. What was keeping me up was not another moment to read or listen to music, not even getting up to do some last minute cleaning. There were words pushing through, begging to come out and when I stood still enough to give them attention, it was clear God was present. Flashes of what the Lord has been doing swept my thoughts. I put my Kindle down. Quietly, I left the bedroom and found my way to this old computer. Here, I give permission to every word stored in me to jump out and on to the screen. Speak away.



There are only a few more hours left to this present year, 2016. The New Year, 2017, will begin and well, most everyone is asking the “What will happen in this new year” question. Many of us seem to get very melancholic or poetic during these times. There are many that become sentimental or depressed. We look back and seem to focus on our losses because our gains or our wins have been so few. We tend to look back on years when perhaps we had so much more, or at least, we try to believe we had things a put together a little bit better and imagine that somehow, way back then, it was just a little easier to get by. We lie.


As I lay in bed looking for one more book to read, I thought about many of my losses. Yes, there have been many losses, financially and physically, in many ways, especially in the last three years. In moments that I looked at the areas in my life where I had experienced set backs, I also sensed the Lord grabbing my face and turning me away from the picture of yesterday’s defeats, and placing my face to look somewhere else. He pointed elsewhere. “I see it, Lord. Forgive me.” As I allowed God’s hands to move my face and look elsewhere, I could see that through each struggle, each painful moment in my life, there has been a greater moment where He was definitely at work in my life, in our lives. I’ve never been alone.

 Image result for God has a plan



I look back and I saw a marriage that only a little while ago was broken, filled with too much hurt and it seemed impossible for even God’s grace to heal and restore. I look back and see how I lost everything, my job of our twenty years, a house that I had put all my finances into, and I saw my family, my beautiful family falling apart.

There were moments where I had begged God to take me, when I was in this dark place and couldn’t come out. God allowed me to experience an Alice In Wonderland moment, as it seemed that I fell through this bottomless hole where I would remain and not be able to escape. Yet, through the shattered moments I lived for that season, God remained every present and ever loving. You see, I look back and I see a God that healed and restored my marriage. I see a God that although I don’t have that job or that salary that I once had, I have been blessed with a job where I can give to others and help others in so many ways. I look back and I see how the Lord is healing my heart. I see the Lord working in my children, though at times you will look at them and infer that God is not at work in them, I see it and I experience it.



 I continue to believe that the Lord is at work in my son’s body. Rapha, Healer. He carried every sickness, every disease, every illness upon His body. He has carried my son’s physical problem. God will restore. I believe God has great plans for my three children and I see it. There is peace in my home where there was once great division and discord. God heals our minds, brings us out of depression and low self esteem. God heals us when the world has abused and battered us in every way possible, then throws us to the curb with the garbage and walks away. God shows up where you find what the world calls garbage and unlovable. God shows up where the hurts and the scars cannot be seen but live on through memories and nightmares. God shows up when the Enemy says, “It’s over! I won!” God shows up and says, “Excuse me? You must have the wrong address!?"

Are we perfect or are we at one hundred percent? Nope. I’d be lying to tell you that the Enemy of our souls doesn’t try to attack us on a regular basis. His will is to destroy, to divide and to confuse God’s children. My job is to believe and trust God’s word and never give up. I look back and smile. Christmas 2014, our landlord who had promised us we’d never have a problem living in our home tells us we have to move because he needed the apartment. And, he needed it sort of quickly. I prayed as I realized I might end up homeless. Once more, I was looking for a place to live. I had already lost the home I thought I was supposed to live in forever. My income had drastically changed, as I was no longer teaching. I’d given up most of my belongings and here I was again, going through another change. “Lord!” I cried, “What do I do? I can’t ask my family take us in?” I had friends that would call and share they didn’t have work or were looking for a new home and I had to keep quiet about our struggles and offer hope, pray with them and keep positive through our fears.



We ended up moving into the smallest apartment ever. Thus, once more, we had to downsize ever further. No living room. No dining room. No closets. Hardly ever heat. My kids were always sick. Barely a kitchen and bathroom and the rent, well, if you live in Brooklyn or Queens, New York, I don’t have to explain myself when I say, “rent”. We were paying their mortgage and Lord knows what else. There were months when I prayed and asked the Lord, “Do we pay rent, or do we buy food?” We lived like this for almost a year, to be informed the rent was going to be increased by January 2016. We were scarcely making it. Our family was distraught and this didn’t help matters any that my family was just falling apart. We were a broken mess, emotionally unattached, and I found myself alone, seeking the Lord and wondering what He would do next.

 



A leap of faith. 2016 was a year of decisions and living faith out loud. It was a year filled with painful moments and memories I wish God would permanently erase. But, it was a year I stood before the Lord with my family and said out loud, “I’m taking my family back in Jesus name!” and I did. In October, 2016, with our lives falling apart and seeming to the world that everything was fine, when it wasn’t, I asked the Lord to do a new thing and that I would follow, no matter the cost. It seemed like the craziest thing to do at the time, but I did it. I was desperate and having faith was all I had to live on. After an Anniversary ceremony where we rededicated our marriage and our family to the Lord in front of our family and friends, I cried out to God and asked the Lord to guide us. “God, I don’t know what to do next.”

Frankie and Angie 25th Wedding Anniversary


 I look back and I laugh! How could it be that we ended up purchasing a home, our farmhouse? How can it be that the past four years that we spent living in extremely cold apartments, we are now nestled in the warmth of this ranch? God used my parents to help me walk in faith and believe for a home. How can it be that we are making ends meet with our crazy traveling in the morning and only a few months ago, I didn’t know if we’d have enough for groceries? I look back and I have to praise the Lord because He has done something I cannot explain. 



 I look back and see someone who was told she would never minister again in any shape or form and this year, the Lord restored to me the opportunity to dance. Once I had known the love for preaching and teaching God’s word and working for His Kingdom, giving my all to the church and the leadership. Once I had given my all to the arts through dance ministry and helping other churches start their ministries. Once I had lived a dream as far as ministry is concerned and in seconds it had all been taken away, leaving me empty and devastated and believing God could never use me again. This year, God used my brother as an open door and I’ve dance again, not just in my home or in my dreams, but before the Lord in His sanctuary. God has given us a church where we can try again, hope again, little by little- again.

Our New Home! My Three Kids painting the front porch. "Blessing!"
 Yes, the year is coming to an end. We can count our losses and focus on our needs, our lack and what has challenged us. Or, we can look at what God has restored, what God has healed, what God is doing in our midst and we see it so small that we don’t realize how great and amazing it all really is. Someone will ask, “Don’t you get embarrassed to share your life?” And I say, “Nope!” 

  My parents helping me fix and paint our new home.
    

 You know why? When I share what God has done, I am also saying that the work of Satan is void, broken, disabled and crumpled. When I yell out that God is working in my family and in my home, I am saying that what the devil meant for destruction, God has taken it and turned it around. God is getting the praise! We rejoice! What the devil has used in the dark to defeat, confuse and condemn, God has used to show love, forgiveness, compassion and unity. God be glorified over and over again!

 Jacob's Graduation, June 2016. Front of our new home.
 How is your year ending? I bet there are still aches and pains. I have those. I bet there are issues, challenges, struggles and problems a plenty. I have those, too. I even bet financially and physically, things aren’t all that great. Well, I am there with you also. We are still praying for healing and for miracles in many areas of our lives just like you. But, through our hardships, we cannot deny that God is present and that God is real, and that He is really at work in our lives. In our stress and our pain, we need to see that those areas in our lives we sometimes see as small, again, I say, those are the great moments in our lives when the Lord is putting His hand upon our lives.


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Look what the Lord has done!
Will you allow the Lord to turn your face from the problem, the hurt, the problem and the anxiety just enough for you to not only look back and focus on how the Lord did great things in your life, but to help you have a different outlook for the new year. God is still working in your life just like He’s working in mine. There are hardships in this world and we know God’s word tells us that at one point in time, things will only get kinda worse, especially if we decide to hold on to faith and live by Godly principles. But, what if we chose to focus on God and what God’s word says is true for our today and our tomorrow? Then, we truly have a hope. A hope and a future. God’s plan is what I hold on to. I don’t know it and I surely don’t understand it all, but I chose to hope and walk by faith. 
 
 My prayer tonight is that you will focus on how the Lord has brought you through. Maybe it was a new home, a new job, restored family, a new church, or something only you know. But, He did it. He did it for you and He will do it again. I pray the new year will be full of moments where you draw closer to the Lord and see the Lord in your life in a greater way. The Lord bless you greatly! I know I’ve written like crazy, but like I shared before, the words were in my head crying to be put on the screen and well, I just obeyed. This is my story, God has rewritten my story. I pray you will let Him continue to write the pages of your journey, in Jesus Name, amen.

Written by Angeline M Duran Santiago and lovingly inspired by the Lord.