Viewing entries tagged
Real Girl Talk

4 Comments

Faith Post | Let it go!


Hello Darlings,

Today I am writing from my bed and even though I am feeling under the weather I had planned an uplifting post and here it is. Today we are talking about letting go. I know, how is that uplifting? It is almost as hard to write about this topic as it is to practice it. But in all honesty, I have learned through the years that letting go is always a step in the right direction. 

We have all found our selves at the end of a relationship, whether it be a friendship or a love relationship, either by choice or not it is never an easy thing to accept. Every individual deals with it differently and while some may grieve and quickly move on, others will try to hold on for a long time  and can be so detrimental to future relationships or to our future period. 

♥ A blank slate can make a perfect canvas.
A broken relationship is usually accompanied with lots of shattered dreams and future projects. It's almost like building a home in the clouds and having it wiped away by an emotional tsunami. It leaves an emptiness and absence. All that white space may perhaps offer you a blank canvas to start painting your own dream, your own adventure on your own terms. I encourage you today to start thinking of all that crazy stuff, and huge dreams and start making a step today to get you closer. 





♥ All your eggs were in one basket? Take them out
So many times we bank all of our happiness based on an individual's ability to stay in our lives or on something we can loose. I know I have. I have given people the power to give and to take away not only MY joy but my happiness altogetherThe problem with that is, that even the person with best intensions in the world can not keep this promise because no one can guarantee tomorrow. I've learned that I should never give that power to another human person because happiness happens not to be a person but rather a journey. In my case the journey with my maker made me discover who I am, that I am much stronger then I thought, that I am enough and that I carry within me a purpose for living that does not depend on another person's failing promises. This journey has been extraordinary and has thought me to stand on my two feet and given me confidence to explore and actually make my dreams come true. Where is your deep and constant happiness coming from?

♥ Life as you know is over, but you are not dead.
I know when you are grieving after a relationship, it is very hard to imagine that there is any possibility (or desire) of life after this excruciating experience. However, the end of this chapter is not the end of the book. One of the most incredible things to me is the ability of the heart to heal and to love again if we give it proper time  and in my case to be nursed and cared for by the hands of the One who made it.

You are still breathing, in the midst of the sobs and heartwrenching pain, there's a heartbeat and there's breath and that is important because it signifies that your purpose and YOUR ability to dream again are not over. This is the time to start thinking about that trip you always wanted to take, that book deal you've been imagining or even that work out program that you've meaning to sign up for. This time is for you. 

Accept the choice
We've all had people that have willingly walked out of our lives and others that we've pushed away for different reasons. As sad as it is, they made the choice to walk out and there comes a time when we have to accept that and not make it about ourselves. We have to face that their decision does not make us less of a person or less deserving of love. You have been created with a great purpose and you deserve to be loved accordingly. Please do not settle for less. 


It may be tempting to try to reason, blame or simply justify a person breaking your heart especially when the person comes back wanting to be in your life again. First, this is usually great news because we all want the story to end well but sometimes we are not ready yet. Please remember how important you are and how happy you deserve to be but if you are incapable of doing so away from that person, take time to reconsider. 


Note: I want to thank everyone that has shared their stories with me through social media, and this post is meant to give you hope but I don't want in any way to minimize your pain or struggle. You are worth so much and you are loved. 


It's friday! enjoy your weekend, and exceptionally this week I will break my free weekend rule and post tomorrow my second photography post that I've been planning to share. Today my collaboration with Ardent magazine was published and next week I will be announcing this blog's birthday giveaway! Stay tuned. 



4 Comments

Comment

I love me | Perceptions

We continue with our series “I love ME” today by joining the conversation initiated by Soul pancake and Darling Magazine in this

clip

that talks about “perceptions”. Also enjoy a wonderful

poem

by

Natalie Patterson 

Perceptions are like words in that they are powerful and can shape our reality. Today I want to share an exercise that you can do for yourself but also with friends as you heal and grow together towards freedom from the trap of comparison and other people's perceptions.

I have received wonderful feedback from

last

two

previous

posts that are part of this series, and this week, I would love to hear more from you and get to know you a little better.

How do I perceive others? How do I think others perceive me?

I must say that my perception of myself and others has changed over time. I find that the more gentle and confident I am with myself, the more it translates into a more positive perception of others.

I see myself as being strong if need be, but that strength has different facets. Sometimes the strongest thing I have done is surrender, or cry with someone that is hurt and feel empathy. I also perceive myself as a very compassionate person and highly allergic to injustice. This is something that only my closest friends and family know but that does not come across as obvious when you first meet me.

Perceptions are powerful and we all react to them. We do it in various ways yet the manner in which we react can be healthy or unhealthy. The best thing is to take an inventory of other people's perceptions that you've heard about yourself and decipher those which are simply not true and those which are potential tools for growth.

How do I balance other people’s perceptions of me and healthy growth as a person?

By doing this exercise I was able to see how far I’ve come in learning to accept the truthful part of constructive criticism and to letting go of plain old negativity that does not apply to me. I feel that after reaching my mid twenties, I'm much more grounded due an overwhelming peace that comes from being enough for myself. I have to say that, this is very much the result of a long and ongoing relationship with my Heavenly Father, who constantly reminds me that His love can and has made me free.

Sometimes we spend too much time caring about what people think and not enough about what God thinks of us. 

Here are some things that have helped me:

- Finding my true identity by putting my whole existence back in the hands of my Creator. By doing so, all of the lies and trivial things vanish, because His truth quiets all lies.

Surrounding myself with positive, confident, and loving friends that bring out my best attributes. Be careful who you are letting speak into your life because words are powerful.

- Focusing my energy on finding my voice, tapping into my gifts, creating and spreading love instead of comparing myself to others. I have my own journey and I try to keep myself in check whenever I start slipping and desiring someone else’s life when I have a full one of my own.

How do I perceive women now, as opposed to when I was younger?

I now see women around the world as

a global sisterhood.

It's like I am part of this beautiful and diverse group and I have the opportunity to defend, pray, and speak for those that still do not have a voice.

I see women more and more as my sisters and less as my rivals. I see them as partners and international friends that have so much in common with me even if we haven’t met. I see them strong even when they are oppressed; feared even when are silent and forced to be practically invisible. I see them as beautiful even when they are rejected, and powerful even when they are bruised, scarred and abused.

Who will defend another girl or woman if not women themselves?

The importance of knowing for ourselves

One time, Jesus asked his disciples “Who do people say I am?” and they all responded based on the talk in town. They told him what others said of him, after which Jesus asked, “Now, who do YOU say I am?” I love that question because it implies the importance of knowing for ourselves who we are and where we're

at

in our journey to truly know our Heavenly Father.

What do people say you are?

Who do you think you are?

Who are you really?

That last question, only the one who made you can reveal it to you. He'll remind you when you feel down, ugly, inadequate, too big, too small, or any other label this world tries to brand us with. Remember that His truth quiets all those lies. Listen to His voice:

You are loved

. You are beautiful.

You are enough

Comment

Comment

Faith Post | Confessions about my struggle to read the Bible



hello Darlings!

I can officially howl of excitement because as you've probably noticed, I am now posting twice a week. One of my weekly posts is usually a faith post and the second is usually a life style one. I am so happy with the response and how this blog is growing. It has become a place for me to share not only my inspirations, but soon my services as well. At the beginning of May, I am planning to launch a new project that I have been working on and I CAN NOT wait to share it with all of you!!!


Now today's post. Let me warn you, to some this post will seem both sacred and border line blasphemous because I share my life long struggle and lack of discipline when it comes to reading the Bible. Don't get me wrong, I loved the idea of being a diligent reader, but came to realize that I preferred the idea of being one more then actually practicing it. 

That being said, for some inexplicable reason, somewhere along my journey I had started to believe that there was only one correct way to read the Bible and study it. The kind of methodical and unenjoyable way that for my personality was not at and still isn't at all effective. 
When did it become God's desire for me not to enjoy what He had to say to me? 
Some time ago I read a blog post that made me chuckle and get teary-eyed all at once. Quite a few things she wrote resonated with me and inspired me to also tell my story. I share this because this story precisely highlights some of my favorite attributes of God. 
How would I meditate in God's word day and night when I could hardly get myself to study one passage a day consistently? *

I started to pay attention to the times I had enjoyed reading and studying the Bible.  This is an exercise that I still have to repeat often. Today I am sharing it with you in case you want to try it.
  • I enjoyed reading the Bible when it felt natural by integrating it to the most unusual parts of my life. Having the audio version on my mobile phone, read by the man with the best narrative voice, while doing my nails, exercising or simply having quiet time makes it feel like an integral part of my life. 
  • There are times in my life when I've preferred to study the Bible by topics and not by books. I clearly remember a really lonely and sad time when I felt drawn to study humility (weird right?) but through it, I found so much peace.
  • There have been other times when I've found myself in a place in my journey where I've enjoyed reading passages on my own and then discussing it in a group. I literally saw my life change through the challenging and rich exchanges. 
  • Lately, I've started to draw again (after almost 12 years) and a lot of what I am doing has to do with watercolor paint and quotes that are often from the Bible. This is helping me (without trying) to memorize new scriptures.
  • The other day I lingered in bed and found myself quoting out loud all the psalms and scriptures I knew by heart. I cried and laughed because it brought me back to all the family games my parents organized for us to learn the Bible. But it made me happier to know that I somehow understand those passages differently now and that others I am still wrestling and struggling with.
  • I have also enjoyed reading the Bible with the community of She Reads Truth. I created a photo journal on Instagram through which I've  shared my journey in practical ways with many of you. This growing community has been  a great support providing encouragement, feedback, and such relevant insight. 
Will there be times where I don't want to read the Bible regardless of my creative ways? Will there be times where don't feel like praying even? Absolutely. There are days when I read more and days when I read less, but I don't stop. We are all different and no one really knows how much should be read every time we open the Bible. There have been times in my life when I have been stuck on the same verse, chapter, or book for months, reading it over and over again.
However, it is key that we understand that God is not looking for perfection but for hearts who genuinely long for Him and delight in knowing Him. Choose progress over perfection, grace over guilt, freedom over condemnation. I have understood that reading the Bible does not transform me, unless I allow it to do what it was meant for: to know Him. * Joshua 1:8



Comment

Comment

I love me | turn my dream into a goal


Hello Darlings,

Today's post is about allowing ourselves to dream; about how important it is for each of us to find our voice, our unique sense of purpose and fulfill the destiny given to us using our gifting. I'd also like to suggest some simple steps to get you started.  


I wanted to put our "I love me" series on "pause" for a bit as we talk about other topics. But before we move on, I wanted to conclude the series with something that can hopefully empower you. 

William Jennings said that destiny is not a matter of chance; it's not a thing to be waited for, it's a thing to be achieved. 

What is your dream?

What have you been daydreaming about recently?  You know, that daydream that you can't help indulging on; the one that makes heart race, and your brain go crazy with ideas to the point of practically exploding? Just talking about it make your eyes shine. The problem for some of us, is that we like so many things that we can hardly pinpoint one career that could encompass all of what we wish to do on a daily basis. As a result, we continue trying conventional jobs (that we sometimes don't really like), hoping that one day our dream job will cross our path. 

I recently heard a talk from a young entrepreneur called Hilary Rushford about how she has created and developed (successfully) her dream career. I used some of the principles she mentioned, combined with what has been happening in my own life in the past 9 months to write this post. 

Saint Antoine Exypery said that "A goal without a plan is just a wish" so, let's plan!

Shirt Forever 21 | Pants H &M | Shoes Payless | Cuff & ring Vintage

We create providence

This step is called: making space to allow God to work. Yes, it is true that our steps are ordered by God (Psalm 37:5) and in so many ways our instincts and our heart's desires are skewed by our own experiences and sinful nature. However, the verse right before that says that we should delight ourselves in our relationship with our God, who has "wired" each one of us with different abilities, gifts and inclinations that when used properly, not only makes us feel alive but also helps to inspire others to shine as well. 

In 2009, I became a full time minister (which in my case, speaking and teaching the Bible is part of my gifting and wiring), which was really exciting and it empowered my entrepreneurial spirit because it meant that I would be self-employed. It's funny because this is what I had always wanted, but it was not until I sat down to write this that I realized it.  It just goes to show how God has funny and unexpected ways of answering our prayers. But I want to point out that when I was offered the opportunity to be trained in order to obtain my license, I made the decision to say yes, and to take action. If you ever want a dream to become reality, you must take one step forward. God can not take the step for us, He is ahead; He knows the end of the story. He is actually waiting for us to catch up with Him. 

Tip 1: Take action. A dream begins when it ends, when it morphs into a goal by you taking action. We sometimes talk and think too much about what we would do, but never really take action (take that first step). 

Free bonus: Amazingly, when we look to God for answers about who we ought to be, instead of searching for the answer within ourselves, we discover our essence, our true self; not the one marred by our selfishness and negativity that is rooted in sin and brokenness. Finding ourselves in Him frees us to tap into our dreams and thrive. 

When one career is not enough

A recent graduate (Criminology), with a newly acquired license (for ministry), I left home to start a new adventure. This adventure was better than school in a myriad of ways because the learning curve was so steep that I honestly, now feel it was worth thousands of dollars; it was life changing. However, the the thrill of the a adventure ran out, but not before unveiling that teaching and preaching, in conventional ways, were not the only things I liked. I discovered that I also liked to train people and help them create systems to be more efficient in their work. I also discovered that I had a natural flair for event planning, and I was also very successful at being an interpreter/translator (in 3 languages). I uncovered a passion for writing that was buried in me, and I found that though I love traveling, I must admit, actually living out of a suitcase for most of the year is really exhausting. 

After all that, I still felt like something was missing. One day, with tears in my eyes, feeling flustered and frustrated, I vented  to God in prayer. During this outpouring of my heart, I understood that I was miserable because for so many years I had not allowed myself to be artistically creative (which is also big part of my wiring). Artists will understand when I say, that the day I started looking for creative outlets, I started feeling alive and joyful again.

Tip 2: You don't have to be ONE thing in life. If God has given you the ability and inclination for many things that don't seem to coexist, stop fighting it or trying to bury part of you. He wants all of you and He smiles when you use it all to shine light in this world. 



No one benefits from you being "voiceless" or aimless

Many times we are not turning our dreams into goals because we are afraid of our own greatness and the influence our voice could have. Sometimes we simply are not sure where to start. Like Marianne Williamson says, it is often not our darkness but how bright our light can shine which intimidates us.

We sometimes digress in order to shield ourselves from criticism, to shy away from attention or to insure that we will not fail. But this story is not complete without your input, and no one benefits from us playing small. 

What is your special gift? What is your passion? What has gotten in the way of to you discover it, developing it, and putting it to work? 

There is a place for you in this spectrum. 

Tip 3: Don't be discouraged because what you're dreaming of doing has already been done. You are unique, so look for ways to put your own spin and personality on it and it will attract and bless your own, tailored audience. I am not an expert, but I have experienced this in my own life. The greatest growth and opportunities are the ones that happen organically, through real relationships because they reveal to be sustainable and satisfying.

Recap

In the past months, while spending many days in meditation, retreat with my Heavenly Father (and all my thought), and attending school, I have found a new confidence in how my purpose will look in this season of my life and how it will have shaped new goals; most of which aim on how my world will benefit from my gifts in the near future. I am so glad to have you come along for the ride with me. I will keep you updated every step of the way as my new ventures unfold. 

Here are some practical steps that I'd like to share with you: 



How is the world going to benefit from all that greatness inside you? 

With love- Val


Comment

Comment

I love me: I have a beautiful body

image via Style me Pretty 

Hello beautiful people!

Just like I announced last week, today’s post will be the start of a series called ‘I love me!’. I will break the series down into short posts that will encompass different areas of a woman’s life. I am excited about where this little introspection adventure could take us because I would like it to be an open discussion and hear about your own experiences.

So today I joined the discussion proposed by Darling Magazine and Soul Pancake in this great clip (please watch before or after you read this post), both wonderful movements (for lack of a better word) that speak positively when redefining beauty and womanhood.

Let’s sit around this nicely decorated table, serve yourself some coffee, tea or a smoothie maybe, and let’s talk about these questions that are sometimes hard to answer but so necessary to address.

Am I at my ideal size?
Not according to the scale I occasionally read. I am a little over my ideal weight but I have learned to work and live in a way that promotes a healthy weight as oppose to merely ideal. This happened when I realized that whether at my smallest size or at my biggest, I never seemed to achieve ideal. There was always more, less, different, which led to frustration and emptiness because as I painfully discovered, I was after unattainable standards dictated by the glossy pages of magazines I love so much. When I understood that God was not only concerned about my soul but also about my mind and body, I asked Him for a different and better way. I educated myself concerning nutrition and I have since then made changes to become a healthier me. I have noticed that every time I do something good for my body, I grow to love it more.

When was the first time you felt you were not "pretty" enough?
It was in fourth grade when a boy in my class told me that I was fat because I had bigger breasts then any of the other girls in my class. It was a lie that I unfortunately believed. I had physically developed a lot quicker than the rest of my female classmates. It was a stupid comment this boy made but it robbed me of my naïve innocence, which dictated that it was common knowledge that I was beautiful (mostly because my father said so). Many other unfortunate evnts happened to my body later on that further stripped me away of my innocence and led me to be completely disconnected from my body.

What have you done or still do to promote a healthy self image? (or love for your own body)
I decide daily to use my energy to focus on my strengths and traits that I love about myself instead of wasting it by wishing to attain other people’s beauty. In practice this means that I don’t entertain negative thoughts or comments that may bring me down in any way. I no longer hang out with people that only talk about losing weight and dieting; I exercise and try to maintain a healthy diet. I mean I still dream of one day waking up as a red head but until that day comes, I will rock my brunette locks with pride (especially since my husband has a weakness for this particular brunette). I have painted a beautiful quote on a huge mirror in front of my bed that says: “You are altogether beautiful in every way.” (Song of Songs 4:7) and I must read it at least 50 times a day because it has been placed in a key place. I also, make it my business to compliment others often about their own beauty and their own strength, and for some reason, in return, it makes me feel more beautiful and further deepens my love for the body God gave me.

When do you feel the most beautiful?
I feel the most beautiful when I laugh (a hard, belly aching laughter) because it feels like for a few seconds I am at my most authentic self. I also feel beautiful when I have peace; you know that peace after you have taken an important decision and for some reason you just feel really relieved that you finally made up your mind. Or the peace that only God can give you in the midst of the scariest storms, yeah, that one does wonders to my skin, my eyes and my smile. Finally I feel beautiful, when I catch my husband staring at me in awe of my beauty when I am totally not trying to be cute, it feels like he is tapping into a beauty that only my loved ones can see.

What about you? Please do tell! Join the conversation below.

I am in love with the Poem of Natalie Patterson at the end of the clip. It brought tears to my eyes and I felt that we can all relate to her words, I know I do. 

Image via Style me Pretty 

Comment

Comment

11 Things I learned in the past year





Well, I am back from my extended, relaxing, crispy-cold vacation. We skipped around New Jersey and New York, and even a random short road trip to Tennessee. My husband and I had a blast enjoying intense couch potato time, long city walks, a bit of shopping, photography dates, and lots of good eating. We got a love overdose from family and friends and met some of you on the road as well. (The picture on this blog was taken by my sister-in-law during one of our photography dates (isn't the view amazing?) Also, if you look closely, you will see birds flying in a V. (They saluted me by spelling the first letter of my name.)

I know many are glad 2013 is over but I honestly loved that year and it will forever have a special place in my heart as a year of transition and commitment. I made a short list during our road-trip of the things I learned this past year and decided to share it with you. If you make one, tag me on it, I really enjoy reading those. 

1| God can make so much out of nothing and His provision is overwhelmingly timely.
In the last few years my husband and I (in our separate lives at that point) had decided to follow God's will without reservation or conditions, and as a result, we have seen His hand working on our behalf in such a miraculous and loving way. God's faithfulness was especially evident this year, as we lived through quite a few transitions. 

2| Marriage rocks, but only when the groom is the right one, given by God at the right time. We are having so much fun going through the roller coaster of what has been our first 7 months of marriage. The transition from a long-distance relationship to always being with each other was not as bumpy as some predicted.

3| It's ok to cry when tears have a purpose and that purpose is God's perfecting work in us. It is important to know the difference because I have met so many young people that have fallen for the popular yet masochist saying "real love hurts" or "if you haven't cried you are not really in love". Suffering in a relationship is not God's plan for our lives but this does not mean we will never cry or feel pain. When we put our lives in God's hands, we will be tried and purified through trials but the outcome will not be a broken self-esteem, abuse or destruction. It will be growth, wisdom and endurance. 

4| Happiness is not a destination but the ability to be thankful for what appears to be the smallest of blessings. It's a daily exercise and like saying goes, "practice makes perfect". I found I became more happy as I practiced contentment, satisfaction, and thankfulness for every single thing, no matter how minute. Basically, the key concept I learned this year is not to take anything for granted. 

5| Hot showers are awesome. Always took that for granted until I had to do without them. I don't take them for granted anymore.

6| Enjoy and learn while in the present season. Nothing is stagnant, at least not in my adventurous life with the nomad tendencies God insists on inflicting upon us. So if I open my heart to learn, submit, and enjoy the benefits of my present season, as opposed to constantly bashing the negative aspects, I might be pleasantly surprised on how much I end up loving it. This is another excellent exercise. 

7| Just do it! (No, I'm not campaigning for a famous brand of athletic wear) All through the bible we see how there are times in people's lives when God creates a perfect storm and chooses to use them in amazing ways. Many theologians call that a "kairos" moment. When God inspires us, gives us dreams and opens the right doors, JUST DO IT. Don't let the hard work, fear of failure and/or greatness scare you. So many times I have procrastinated when I should have been working and using the window of opportunity given to me by God. If you are reading this, please learn from past mistakes and get it done. Whatever it is that you are planning to do at this point of your life, just do it! (Do God's will without any delays)

8| Some deserts will be traversed alone and I should not be afraid of that. I am a really sociable and friendly person, so while I enjoy being alone for a short period, I usually thrive when I interact with others. There comes a point, however, in our journey of faith in which God separates us from everything and everyone (this is my experience) to teach us to trust Him and also to quiet down all the voices so we can learn to distinguish His with clarity, without any distraction or crutch. 

9| Friends come in all ages and shapes, and if you carefully observe them, you will see that they are God-sent angels. No matter where I have lived, God has always provided warm, kindred spirits that know how to lighten up my life and make me laugh. This move to Puerto Rico has not been an exception. I already have my hugger older, lady (whose hugs can heal any heartache), spiritual mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers and just all-around great people that sent me off to my next destination and a new group that have welcomed me with love. I am so wealthy in love, in care, in blessings and 2013 would've been impossible to survive without it. 

10| Blogging is such a hard, time-consuming, and wonderful experience all at once. I have met some awesome people in the short time that I started blogging again after 2 year of silence. I get daily messages, pictures, videos by many of you. I see how what God inspires me  to write about, impacts your life and I am humbled by it. God told me a while ago to return to blogging and I dragged, resisted and finally just obeyed. I am so glad I did because there is really a great, online community that I am now part of. Thank you for reading, sharing and communicating with me. I love and pray for you.   


11| 2014 will not be very different from 2013 unless you decide to change directions and put your heart and destiny in able hands. I chose to put mine in God's hands and that has become the best, most difficult, and intriguing  adventure that is now my entire life. With a new year comes the hope for better things. While I love the idea of having 'hope', change involves action from our part, and it cannot be wished to completion. If life has been hard for you this past year and you were not able to complete what you wished during 2013, I pray that you will take the steps to first, move closer to God. Honestly, everything begins with His love for you. Let Him love you. Let Him guide you. He knows best. 

I have been working on content for the next few weeks and I am excited for what is to come. I am also happy to be getting new tools that will make my sharing a lot easier. Happy New Year 2014!

Comment

Comment

Little "YES"





I found this quote on Pinterest not long ago, and when I read it I almost cried; I felt it related so much to me. I know it sounds extreme, but as I write this, I think about how much I have struggled to publish any other topic except for what this whole new chapter of my life has been like since I got married and moved to the beautiful Island of Puerto Rico. I felt like I needed to share how this process and many others before, have shaped me. (Just for the record I am happily married and am 100% convinced that we are at the center of God's will for our lives)

It all started with a little "yes."

I said yes to obey God and follow Him wherever He would lead. That sounds heroic and really holy but the truth is, when growth and change come through that almost insignificant yet obedient ‘yes’, we are in for a series of ‘growing pains’. I must admit (without much enthusiasm) that pain has had the great ability of speeding up and deepening my growth (in terms of maturity) and commitment (to God and others).
Change and transitions have put me in the ‘scrap pile’

A few days ago, I came across an article called “11 Differences Between dating a girl vs a woman”. I loved it, but I also felt that it lacked clear instructions on how to become ‘that’ type of woman. So I decided to write about my experience about it (part 1, part 2and this post). In my case, it has only been through different processes that usually start with obedience. This obedience is usually followed by a series of events that stretch me, teach me, and hurt me. This pain, however, only means one thing: I am growing.
If I could somehow illustrate this season of my life, I would say that I feel like the clay that is being tossed in the ‘starting from scratch’ pile that you would find in a potter’s shop. Yeah, I don’t feel like the pretty vase or tea pot on display. I feel more like the clay that is being undone because whatever it was first formed into (believe it or not) was not perfect.

I am one of those partly nomadic people that has moved many times in her life. As a result, I have developed a stellar ability to adapt. However, every time God lifts the cloud (as a sign that it is time to go) I can’t help but feeling torn between conflicting feelings. On the one hand, I always feel excited because I am an avid lover of adventure. And what can be more adventurous than moving to an unknown place, to meet unknown people, far from my family and friends to start a new life? On the flip side, I dread the ‘going back to square one’ feeling. That is because no matter how exciting or simple a transition may appear to be, it will always stretch you to some degree (I call this 'growing pains').

Being on the scrap pile is not very glamorous and hardly anyone desires to actually be there. Every time I find myself back at ‘square one’ geographically, it usually also means I am about to enter a new process of growth which implies: change, learning, stretching, and eventually a beautifying reconstruction. Going through a tough process is basically a time where my spiritual life begins "juicing" (basically fasting except for drinking only fresh nutrients in the form of fruits and vegetables). This is where I take time alone with my Heavenly Father to begin addressing all the toxins, clogged pores and tense muscles. Yes I admit I have cried at times. But deep in my heart I have joy because I know the outcome will be wonderful. 
 
That little "yes" was an act of obedience.

Many times our little grain of faith and obedience gives God room to strip us away from everything that is familiar and comfortable (muting everything that may distract us) and turn our full attention to Him while learning how to be the person He intended all along.

Maturing into women that can thrive and bring a lot to a relationship is not as self-explanatory as people may think or lead us to believe. Growth does not happen magically; it takes time, dedication, experience, pain, failures and able hands to carry us through it all. 

Submitting to God's molding is an individual process and can be a lonely road. This is the part where I've been tempted to take hasty decisions based on my needs and feelings. However, I have learned (after many failed attempts) that if I endure that temporary valley with patience I will end up stronger. It is a training ground that will reveal how present God is in my time of need. It will teach me that I can handle a lot more than I thought I could. Sometimes we get blinded because we don't see the end of the hardships, but remember, it is temporary! God already planned a way out.

I have dreaded pain in the past, but I am no longer afraid of it.

Pain connects me to all the other people in the world that are suffering and growing like I am. Every time I am put through a new ‘cycle’ of growth and what feels like personal "remodeling", I am confronted and cleansed from the idea that ‘it’s all about me’. This shared experience of pain and change has opened my eyes to a certain reality: that my insurmountable situations have suddenly become bearable. Pain gives us a better perspective because the tears clean our eyes to see clearer. We finally understand that pain is not all there is; we can finally see the big picture. We see that all along, we have been in the hands of the potter or the jeweler making a masterpiece out of us.


My journey of growth has been and most likely always will be, an accumulation of little yes’s; small steps of faith and trust that have made out of me more of a grown ‘woman’.

Comment

Comment

Year end Journal entries



So this week has been a crazy one. To be honest this whole year 2013 has been crazy for me and for my husband as well.
I have been writing a lot in my Instagram Journal about the lessons I feel God is making me meditate for what is left of this year. It is a habit I have adopted in the past 2 years, where I pray, fast and read the word of God for ‘soul searching’ and guidance for the end of the year and beginning of a new one.

1. This year instead of trying to expand, I will deepen all my relationships. I got that from something Don Miller posted on Twitter one day and it tickled me in an unforgettable way. I adopted that and decided to take an inventory of my relationships (the valuable ones) and made a mental list of what I can do to deepen them. This includes my relationship with my Creator.
2. Recognize that I am weak and that sometimes I need help. I love to ask for help from God but I sometimes struggle with asking help from people. God has made me see that the first step to experience His strength is to recognize my weaknesses. Nothing is hidden from God and I can certainly not fool Him, so why even try? Why not just come clear before Him in order to find forgiveness.
3. It matters who I give my heart to. It mattered before I got married but it continues to matter today. Single or married, we must choose daily to give our hearts to the ONLY one who can guard it, who can mold it and who can heal it. Whether you are in love or not, it matters who you give your heart to everyday not only the day you fall in love.  God wants a continual relationship and it is by keeping my heart hidden in Him that I am able to love my husband correctly.
4. About pain and tears. I have been writing a lot about that lately. It is not necessarily that I spend my days crying but this season has been another one of stretch. My perspective on crying has changed and I am not afraid of it. There is a purpose behind my tears; the potter is molding the clay of my heart to make a beautiful piece. Tears have cleaned my eyes to see more clear and have a better perspective. Are you going through a painful season at this moment?
5. Loneliness is not an incurable disease. I actually have an avalanche of thoughts when it comes to this topic and I am forming an idea for a post that I will share later. However, I want to say this: loneliness is real and is so unnatural for human beings. It is normal that we try to avoid it but growth often requires isolation so that we can learn to depend on God. It is also a place where we need to know God so that we may be certain that our decisions are ordained by God and not a result of our desperation.
6. Overindulgence. Self-control. I have a lot to say about this and I am just reading a lot about how God views excess. Especially now in the holidays I just want to make sure I use my resources and take care of my body in a way that will glorify God.
                                                                  
What are you meditating on lately?  

Comment

Comment

Who holds the right to my voice?- Women in ministry


This week I am writing about a topic that in so many ways has influenced my decisions and as a result, my whole life. This post is written to young women that are in ministry or for anyone contemplating working for God in any way, shape or form. I do not wish to take it upon me to speak for all young ministers out there because I understand that we are each made unique and walk separate paths. This is only my story; one carved by my struggles and individual calling.

I am blessed to have grown and been mentored in a community of faith that fully supports women in ministry. I grew up with a voice, and was encouraged in the gifting God had put in me. My local church leaders discerned my gifts and help me develop them. Having said this, I am fully aware that ‘having a voice’ is not a privilege that all women around the world enjoy.

I felt my story would somehow be incomplete if I talked about my experience as a young woman in ministry without pointing out that there are many of my sisters that are being ‘shut’ not only in society in general or in political office, but also in the church. The "why" is varied; from being part of a church's doctrine to cultural upbringing to tradition or like I learned recently, distraction and entertainment from the media. Whatever the reason, today I am writing in solidarity and love for them.   

I love the church, and I believe in the power of the church that Jesus had in mind. However, many times as I have observed the modern day church, I have been disappointed, heartbroken and sometimes even repelled by the way some people insist on portraying Jesus. If Jesus was like many people I have known or if he even endorsed a slight portion of the horrors that are done to people around the world, I would have no interest in following this Jesus. In my personal experience, Jesus is not like that. Like many other young believers, this distorted view taught by others resulted in a crisis in which I was left with no other choice but to start a journey of wrestling and discovery of who God was (for myself) as opposed to what I had seen through people. Surely, when we seek Jesus, he makes sure that we find him and fall in love with his character and attributes. How can you not love, Love?

When looking at ministry, especially in the evangelical arena, there's one question that I wrestle more than others in my life. Who determines if you are called to ministry, and most importantly who determines if you will be allowed to exert your calling? In other words, who holds the rights to our voice?

 Through the pages of the Bible, I discovered that Jesus listened to women, never belittling them. He never judged or approached them according to cultural standards, prejudice or expectation, but instead redeemed, forgave, and restored, all the while pushing the envelope one step further. I now know that the same Jesus that walked the earth still moves and is still lovingly calling us to be part of His story of redemption.

My calling is not and cannot be limited to a pulpit
There are many that are questioning church denominations and their leader as to why capable and highly trained women are not being allowed to teach, preach, and exert ministry in the church. While that goal is honorable (and necessary), I’ve learned that a church pulpit is such a small part of the bigger picture of what ministry is and entails.

I was called to ministry at the age of 16, and entered a training program in which I attended church seminary  and different leadership trainings in addition to my regular schooling, part-time work and local church responsibilities. At the age of 24, I was licensed as a minister (after being a lay minister for a few years), going down in history as the youngest, licensed minister for our denomination in Eastern Canada. Along with my license, came a new set of responsibilities, credentials, and a written endorsement from the church as an organization. However, it did not replace all the years of service ‘as a non licensed’ volunteer that gave me a great deal of experience and growth. 

Pre and post licensing, my pulpit has always been any place where there is a person that needs to hear about Jesus. It is a biblical principle that when we are faithful with little and use it to the best of our ability, we grow and mature enough to handle a lot more. I was mentored in that direction because I wanted to serve God, and I understood I could do that without a position, title or credentials. I say this humbly to point out that credentials did not suddenly make ‘entitled’ to a ministerial position. Leadership, anointing, and authority does not automatically follow a title. As a leader I had to learn to find joy in servanthood first and allow God to develop my character and fruit to live as worthy of the calling.

It is not because my church supported and poured into my life as a leader that I never encountered resistance, or that I was not sometimes overlooked and criticized. Yes, it happened. Was it because I was young and a female? Perhaps. As much as I think this point is relevant, I still believe that before others could fully acknowledge what God had put in me, I had to learn to trust God.  I had to learn and trust that my life, destiny and ministerial career was not and IS NOT IN THE HANDS OF MEN but rather in the hands of a sovereign, powerful God that has impeccable timing. This is what faith is; entrusting my destiny in the hands of a God I cannot see, to take me to an unknown destination, and in this case, to start walking through the sometimes unconventional doors that He would open for me.

I am thankful for every wonderful opportunity God has given me to share the good news of the Gospel. Whether it was on the subway, in a campus bible study or outreach event, in casual coffee dates, in a mosque (yes, you read right), camps, conferences or trainings, because in every occasion God opened the right door. After making so many mistakes I have finally understood that it’s time that we (as the church) spend more time fighting our battles on our knees and bringing our frustrations to the Lord of the Harvest (to the real boss) instead of spending so much time quarreling in an attempt to convince people that are determined to prove me wrong. The alarming truth is that this young generation of Christians has the overwhelming task of spreading the gospel to the largest world population in history in the shortest amount of time. Needless to say that ALL hands are needed (Luke 10:2) for the task, and that there's no obstacle, argument, tradition, doctrine or plain machismo that can ever stand a chance when faced with God's relentless love for humanity.
 
Call me crazy, but I firmly believe that He will (and faithfully has) worked out his plans for my life (Psalm 138:8) and changed the hearts of the most stubborn people and opened doors where there was no door to begin with.

I refuse to be boxed
In her lecture called "The Danger of a Single Story" Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie says that the problem with stereotypes is not that they are completely untrue but mainly that they are part of an incomplete story.
Believe it or not, there are stereotypes about women, about ministry, about Christian women, about young women and finally about young women doing ministry. There are expectations, teachings and mental images that even the best people have formed in their heads about what one should ‘ideally’ do, wear or even say. The proof of that is that every time I travel for ministry and clear customs there is always an immigration agent that will look at me with doubt and say ‘you are a priest? But you are so young and a girl’ (ha!). Usually after a few minutes of friendly conversation where I swiftly incorporate the presentation of the gospel he lets me go with a ‘welcome back to the United States mam’.  

As a young woman doing full time ministry, I find that I have to constantly fight to maintain a balance in order not to fall into the temptation of fitting everyone’s expectations. I serve others and I happen to be born a woman but that is not the totality of my story or who I am. I have a brain, a personality, dreams, passions, aspirations, a family and so many elements that make me who I am and for people to know Valerie, I have to tell the full story. There is so much individuality and uniqueness that I sacrificed at the point of my life when I had yet to understand about how much God loves and delights in diversity.

Fear of not being accepted or recognized, often motivates women to conform to a ‘ministerial persona’, ‘ministerial look’ (whatever that is), to be as efficient as the Proverbs 31 woman on a daily basis (nothing wrong unless like me you get tired solely by reading all she does) and to mute all type of ‘zaz’ that may distinguish them from the rest. Fear is never a good motivator and is never from God. For many years we have failed to recognize that there is beauty in diversity and individuality, it is actually through it that we can better serve and be a blessing to the world. Difference in personality, passions and abilities lead us to separate platforms that work parallel to fulfill the great commission given by Jesus himself.

Your existence is not insignificant. You are important, you are loved, and the story is not complete without your input. In other words, we are so important that Jesus not only gave it all to save and restore each one of us, but is also constantly looking for ways to brings us to a closer relationship with him. He does this through conversation (commonly known as prayer), written correspondence (his word) and through loving relationships with others. As if all that was not enough, God also chose to put in us a message of good news and keeps inspiring unique ways to convey it to a world that He loves. 

I firmly refuse to be boxed and limited by short snippets of my story that people choose to focus on. Like someone once said, 'whoever defines you, owns you' which is a statement that immediately makes you think and rethink the whole notion of preconceived ideas. If you choose to serve full time as a minister or in any other way, go for it full force and do not let people limit you by making you feel like as a woman, you are limited to speak for or to women only, or to the youth only, or to a limited cultural group (just because you happen to belong to that cultural group). God has no limits. I could have chosen to conform (as part of a minority, culturally and in gender) to not follow God's crazy adventures for my life by focusing on labels and expectations. Instead, I choose to follow my own story. I choose to see my cultural heritage and gender as assets of incalculable wealth as opposed to limitations. It’s almost like God keeps saying (and I paraphrase), "Girl, my purpose for your life cannot be boxed because it does not fit the expectations or prejudice others may have." I pray that through our belief in His purpose, we will take giant leaps of faith; refusing to be limited to our comfort zone or labels and follow God further than where our imaginations could have ever taken us.

Real life
This post is not a theological exegesis about women in ministry (I will leave that discussion to a younger me or to other skilled writers that have done a fantastic job) but I do want to clearly state that I fully believe in women in ministry and the crucial role they play in body of Christ. I do not want to appear as if I am underestimating the struggle women live everywhere, because I have experienced it first hand, however I purposely chose to focus on a different perspective.
I have spoken about believing in God’s time and earlier in this post I added that we should trust his sovereignty. God raised a man and a women for ‘such a time as this’ in each generation. David was not raised to fight the Philistines, it was Samson. If God chose to put you were you are, it’s because you are the right one. I hope that you will bloom and make history right where you have been planted and not get discouraged by the resistance and adversity you will encounter.
I have found that trials, roadblocks, sticks and stones thrown at me (not literally thank God!) have really been the materials that I have used to build a stepping stone to get closer to God and His purpose in my life. I do not say it with anger or grudges, but I say it with joy. No pain no gain. This cool slogan is not just true when getting in shape, but also in our journey of faith. A natural human reaction is to try to avoid or shelter ourselves from the hurt that results from criticism and other realities of ministry, but the truth is, it is when we learn to soar above the negativity and let God guide us through it and let him take care of the haters, that we gain a scoop of maturity, strength,and victory.
This year marks my 13th year of ministry (4 as a fully, licensed minister) and this is honestly the first time I have stopped to think and publicly write about it in detail. At the age of 9 God started to make it known to me that He had a lot of traveling in mind for me and something about using me to reach ‘unconventional people’. That last part took me a while to understand because at that young age I still did not even know how unconventional I was myself (ha!) and how God would use all this weirdness for His glory.
I have since then travelled to many countries of Central and South America, United States and some parts of Canada preaching and teaching the word of God, done some missionary work and collaborated in some exciting projects, but I have still so much to learn, so much to grow and so many more places to go. Over and over again, God gently leads me back to a place where I can be undone and solely depend on Him because when I finally run out of resources and ideas, He can show himself powerful on my behalf.

Don’t go at it alone
Abraham Lincoln said: “I see further because I stand on the shoulder of giants.’ I love that quote because it literally represents my life. I came after people that are honestly great and giants in the faith. My parents, pastors, leaders, friends and mentors that have dedicated their lives to raise, pray for and pour all they had into my generation and the next. They conquered enemies that I do not have to fight and brought down walls that I will not have to break. They made a way through example, devotion, love and prayer for us to run faster and further then they could. I do not say this to boast; they intentionally lived for that to be the outcome and I work and live in order to impact the next generation.
 
As a young woman, I feel I have gained so much from my relationships with individuals that are different then I and that are willing to engage in dialog while challenging some of my ideas. Sometimes, as ‘churched’ people (I am speaking for me) we can sometimes be so disconnected from the world’s reality and needs. While God calls us to be a light and to live holy, he also chose to leave us in this world for a reason. This week I read an article about how identifying with someone’s pain can lead us to better love them and serve them and I believe that this is done when we as the church choose to let our guards down and engage in open conversation. It is through that dialog that we will be able to tell which part of God’s story we should tell first, and how we can better serve. Just like there is not only one type one biblical womanhood or only one type of ‘christian young female leader, there’s also not only ‘one size fits all’ way of sharing the powerful gospel of Jesus Christ. If we listen we will know how to answer.

And lastly, to all the young girls that are still trying to find their voice, their path, their personality,  and are starting to discover the greatness that is in you, you are important and you are needed. In the past weeks the world has been hearing of Malala Yousafzai a young teenager that stood up against the Talibans for her right to education and even after she was shot she is still advocating for what she feels is important. I love her story because she could have let the difficulties of the suppressive and scary regime dictate her destiny and taker her voice away, but she did not back down within the limits of what she could do. 
Do not let people take your voice or your influence. Be faithful within the limits of the world in which you have been placed. Give it your all and whatever door needs to be open for you to exert what God has for you, will be opened in due time.

After wrestling for hours with the question of ‘Who gets to decide the limit of my influence and the repercussions it will have?’ I still don’t have all the answers, but one thing I am sure about: MY life and destiny are in the hands of a powerful God that loves me and chooses to use willing vessels for his glory (women or men) and NO ONE can impede His plans.

Find more ressources concerning mutuality

Order this book that I am looking forward to read called 'Jesus Feminist' by Sarah Bessey. I'll write about it later. 


Comment

Comment

They call her bossy



“What if mastering a gentle and quiet spirit don't mean changing my personality, just regaining control of it, growing strong enough to hold back and secure enough to soften?” – Rachel H. Evans  

I honestly hate the term ‘bossy’, especially when it’s referring to a woman because it is so often misused. I spoke a little about my temperament personality combination in previous posts, and today I am writing about the struggle that people may have with accepting who they really are and how great they can be in the hands of God. I know I did and it was mainly because I was destined to break molds and challenged to walk in paths where no one around me had ever walked.

I was odd from the start
I am the oldest of three girls, and both my sisters miraculously inherited my mother’s patient, loving and quiet demeanor. I, on the other hand, inherited my father’s personality or “determined spirit” as it’s otherwise called. I was never quiet or calm; I was curious and inquisitive about every single topic under the sun. I knew how to say the alphabet in both Spanish and French at the age of two and spoke both languages fluently by the time I entered kindergarten. I was also born with what I call my ‘thorn in the flesh’ which is my fiery spirit and fierce passion. The problem with this extreme passion is that I am intense about everything; whether it’s Jesus, injustice or a simple pebble on the floor. Needless to say, I was very different kind of girl with great verbal abilities and a BIG personality (for lack of adjectives). 

To add to this dangerous personality “fruit salad”, I seemed to have innate leadership qualities. I was always the youngest of the group, but for some reason, even in the school yard, my friends played what I wanted, by my rules. I definitely embodied the 'bossy' definition.

Imagine my parents surprise when they found out that I was not like any other female in my entire family. I was supposed to become a godly, quiet, and submissive woman so that one day I could marry a godly man and make godly babies. This task, however, was looking rather complicated considering my untamed spirit.

Personality transplant: DENIED
 As I grew, I subtly started to get the message that I was not only different but that I was: rough, bossy, mean, hard headed, impatient, overly verbal, etc. My father always encouraged me to be independent. He always patiently answered all of my questions and jokingly went along with my unending debates. However, I still felt that something was wrong with me and I needed a change. 

I met Jesus, and obviously, the first task he assigned me was to go and apologize to half of the world’s population. It was mostly for things I had said and also for often having a rude attitude. I became very familiar with that gentle yet firm nudge of the Holy Spirit (called conviction) telling me that I was overdoing it and that I needed to calm down. 

As a result, my love for Jesus intensified my desire to be more like Him. Since I was always getting in trouble for being me, I concluded that I needed a personality transplant in order to be more like Jesus. Every time, I found myself at the feet of Jesus, yet again asking for forgiveness for the same things: my fiery character had gotten the best of me or my tongue spoke faster than my thoughts could handle or I had gotten impatient with people that had taken too long to ponder on a solution when I had seen the solution miles away. So, I would go back to the cross and ask for forgiveness and find grace. I was sick of this vicious cycle. I wanted a quick fix that involved me becoming angel-like and that would make me soft spoken and miraculously QUIET. I prayed, cried, begged, and asked very nicely and consistently for God to change my personality. God said ‘NO.’ No? What do you mean Lord? He said “I will not give you a personality transplant, my grace is sufficient.”

That is when I got the biggest eye-opening experience and my life was changed forever.

They called me ‘bossy’ but God saw the potential of a warrior

1. My personality is part of my destiny
 My name is Valerie (which means strength) and my middle name is Jasmine (speaker of love) and before I knew the meaning of them both, it was hard for me to understand how even my name was part of who I was to become in Christ. 

Until then, I hated my personality because I was different and because I dreamed of great things and fearlessly chased after my dreams no matter what people thought or said. I failed to see that every personality has its pros and cons (I only saw part of the picture) and that everyone needs God’s grace to work on their weaknesses and polish their strengths. I was not an exception. 

Through literature, prayer and loving mentors, God clearly showed me that I was born with a determined spirit (commonly known as stubbornness) because He planned that in my life I would encounter many thick walls that would require my determined faith to inspire others to work through. He unveiled the explanation behind my love for ‘high risk’ activities and my inability to calculate risk (usually called reckless behavior), showing me that it would be needed in my walk of life to take many huge leaps of faith that would normally scare any sane human being. I also discovered that my above average speaking capabilities would certainly be useful since He had planned to take me to many countries where He wanted me to skillfully speak to them about Him in their language. He wanted me to translate, teach, speak (basically talk a lot more but with purpose) for many years to come. Last but not least (and this was my biggest struggle), God taught me to not be afraid of my leadership skills and my strength; traits that are so often culturally categorized as male characteristics. He also taught me to be confident in the beauty of it because He was raising me to lead many in different functions and seasons of my life. These discoveries blew my mind and still do because who am I that the maker of the universe would pay special attention to every detail of my life (2 Corinthians 2:9). And He did the same for you.

2. Our frustration is often part of the calling and success 
It was then that I understood Paul’s prayer to God asking for the removal of his ‘thorn’ in the flesh which sounded awfully similar to my personality transplant request (2 Corinthians 12:9, 10). He probably wanted a quick and easy solution to his weaknesses but God chose to leave it there so that he would constantly have to go back to the cross and get his daily dose of grace. It is frustrating, but it is my very weakness that keeps me mostly connected to my Heavenly Father. It is in my weaknesses that God’s power is made perfect, and his power fixes and perfects my strengths each day and uses them for His glory. My thorn keeps me humble and aware of my humanity, which is really the road to success. When we decrease, God’s character grows in us. You want to be great and successful? Well darling, death is on the menu. Death to our pride, to our ‘know-it-all’ attitude, to our lack of love of who we really are as well as the fear of discovering how extraordinary we were made to be.

3.The man for me would not be afraid of my strength but will encourage it 
Now let’s talk about the elephant in the room. Ok Val, you love yourself, but do men really want a woman with too much to say or with a competitive nature; a girl that strives for success and is not traditional at all? I am voluntarily picking on my personality type because this is who I am, but every personality has the same load of good/ bad. Same grace is available, don’t forget that. 

Many well-intentioned people warned me about being so outspoken and intense about things. They lovingly advised me that men would be intimidated by my strength. However, God has taught me that real confident men are NOT intimidated by strong women but instead know how to bring out their very best. Years before I met my husband, I dealt with my personality conflict and started to truly love that part of myself (which is why before you can love others you must allow God to teach you how to love YOURSELF) and decided to put to death all detrimental behavior.

I can say with assurance that my husband is a true, confident, strong, wise man of God. He is fully aware of my personality and loves every bit of it. He loves that I love so passionately, that I am a trooper in the hardest of times, that I fiercely chase after the dreams God has put in my heart even if I die trying. We are both complete self-sufficient individuals, but putting us together was God’s stroke of genius because in so many ways we balance each other out. My husband nurtures and encourages my dreams while giving me the freedom to be who I truly am. He is never intimidated by my zeal because he is fully aware and safe in his identity. He always listens and he always lovingly challenges me to be more Christ like. (I’ll ask him if I do the same to him and let you know ha!)   

How many fears are hiding behind your pretty face? Have people or circumstances made you believe that you are too much of something and perhaps not enough of something else? You and you alone determine what people will see in you. Your identity is found in the one who made you. Stop fighting your destiny; instead, prepare for it. It’s never too late!


Comment