seek prayer always
Everyone has a story to tell. When we make the connection between these stories and God's great story, we come away with HIStory which involves each and every one of you.
“Please, sir,” the woman said, “give me this water! Then I’ll never be thirsty again, and I won’t have to come here to get water.” -John 4:15
On this incredibly special day right at noon, The Samaritan woman’s daily routine of filling her jar with a day’s worth of water, was totally interrupted. Like you and me, she had her list of “to do’s” and I quite doubt she had factored in time to chat with a stranger - much less to receive a lesson on water. She knew it was necessary to her survival and that is why she visited this well to collect the very needed jar of water.
This woman saw a parched and tired Jesus that afternoon. She stopped and listened to Him when He asked her “Please give me a drink.” (verse 7b) She was stunned that He would talk to her. Even more stunned that He would ask her for a drink. She was a non-Jew, non-male, Samaritan Woman. Not someone He should have been talking to by Jewish standards. But Jesus always sees and speaks to the unseen and the unheard - to those no one else makes time for.
On this special day, a woman received the greatest gift she could have ever imagined. The disciples that had been on this journey with Jesus, were not there at this moment as they had gone into the village to get food. So Jesus made a moment to speak with this woman. And this woman made a moment to speak with this Jesus. Through a series of reciprocal questions, she learns that this man before her is THE Jesus. THE Messiah. THE One this earth had been waiting for. And even after the truth of her 5 past husbands surfaces, she realizes Jesus knows and still chooses to talk to a non-Jew, non-male, Samaritan Woman, with 5 ex-husbands. It’s astonishing during an era where society likely shunned her because of it.
When we envision this story we see Jesus walking, tired and parched. He sits at the well and begins an amazing conversation with this woman. He wants to offer her so much more than the water she is there to collect. He wants to offer her His living water. “But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life,” He explains to her. The woman could have very well answered “I’m sorry but I need to get back quickly. I can not speak with you,” and then walked away. She could have ignored him altogether. But she allowed herself this interruption - she was intrigued. He did the unimaginable so it allowed her to do the unthinkable. She answered Him.
Had she not allowed this mysterious and abrupt interruption that day, she would have missed Jesus altogether. Had she not allowed this precious and life-giving interruption that day, she would have missed His gift. She would have never asked for this, “give me this water!”
I wonder what life would be like if I allowed myself to be interrupted to chat with a total stranger. It’s hard to fathom because there are days I barely have time to eat and drink let alone, time for chatting with a stranger. But how would my life be transformed if I allowed for interruptions in my life, particularly this Advent season? How might someone's life be transformed when I allow a moment of interruption? I might respond like The Samaritan woman: “The woman left her water jar beside the well and ran back to the village, telling everyone…” Oh the beauty that would ensue if I made a moment to leave what I am doing to run and tell others!
So my dear reader, allow interruptions to slow you down. Make a moment for Jesus. Receive and give the gift of Living Water this season and every season.
It’s kind of interesting how trees have become a sudden interest of mine. Maybe it’s because I await the day our newly planted trees block the window in my neighbor’s home. Searching for the fastest growing tall trees became a mission for my husband and I. It had me looking at trees like never before. I mean fixating on trees in gardens, roadways, freeways, and parks – everywhere! I promise I’m not the un-neighborly type. It’s just that we haven’t received very warm fuzzies from that part of the house. In fact, the neighbors have made it clear they do not like us nor want us here. So any privacy mechanisms that will help alleviate the tension are very much appreciated.
So when we finally planted the trees and they didn’t grow more than an inch over a few months, we knew we hadn’t planted the right trees. So upward and onward. My husband researched and finally found the ones that would do it. They are planted now and we patiently (ok impatiently) await the outcome.
So as I think about these trees, I find myself reading from the “Uninvited” study series by Lysa TerKeurst and something totally stands out to me. The study asked me to write down “promises that you long to see fulfilled in your life” from Isaiah 61. I read, “They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor.” A “planting of the LORD” – so I think: rooted in Him, watered by Him, Lit up by Him, to be displayed like flowers. So I look up the characteristics of an oak tree and I read: “exceedingly strong, heavy and durable, resistant to fungal attack, long lifetime.” It hit me. I want to be an oak of righteousness, firm, steady and ready. I want to be planted and rooted in Him for the “display of his splendor” that I would walk like a flower - a beautiful, blossoming, ripe, colorful, cheerful, bright and joyful flower - that my stem would be straight and firm, steady through any kind of weather pattern. One that would move so elegantly with the shifting winds and one that would remain ready for any rainfall, hail or storm. One that would overcome resistance and overpower temptation - a force to be reckoned with like an oak tree that is strong, durable and resistant to attack - a long lasting oak tree.
All of a sudden I find that this should be my response to my neighbors. They may not like us but we can still love them - because like an oak tree, we are firm and durable, fully rooted in His love. So I can come from a place of fulfillment to replace bitterness with endearment. And not just with an unfriendly neighbor but with every facet of my life. Because this isn’t something we haven’t received, but a promise that God has already given us. This promise is ours for the taking. This promised has been fulfilled and is right there for us.
So I challenge you today to stand firm and to live boldly in His promise ” I am an oak of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor.”
September is the beginning of a new school year, a new season in life, yet it always comes with such mixed emotions. And this year in particular we find ourselves in such turmoil within our hearts, our cities, our country, our world. Apocalypse-esque floods in Houston, monsoon floods in South Asia, continued hurricanes and fires throughout our country; all in addition to all we see unravel in our personal lives and that of our family’s. Not to mention the financial burden of back-to-school supplies, clothes shopping and tuition for some. Or maybe being confronted with the new season of teenage changes and the teenage blues that come with it. No wonder it feels so overwhelming when we add the back-to-school schedules and activities.
Some of you might even find yourselves in the back-to-work reality for the first time since giving birth to your new baby. It all leaves very little room for dealing with our own emotions as we and our children enter a new season of life. Maybe your child is off to kindergarten or entering a graduation year and you've just dropped them off for their last first day of school.
They say children don't come with a manual and neither does motherhood. I received a lot of advice when my kids were born and into their preschool years. Sometimes even unsolicited advice from strangers at grocery stores. But no one ever told me how hard September would be. I find that every year I forget about the previous Fall and then find myself in this reality of complete exhaustion - still recovering from the summer months with my kids at home.
But not this year! I finally learned my lesson - oh the hard way. So today, sweet mom, I hope that these words might encourage you and lift you up wherever you find yourself on this spectrum of motherhood. Maybe you're the “I can't stop smiling mama” because your kids are in school or maybe you're the “I can't get into a groove right now” mama. But I bet one things for certain for all of us, we’re all feeling a little spiritually parched. Most Bible Studies and groups take a break in the summer and unfortunately so does our spiritual well-being. But there is hope!
When I vacation from reading His Word I realize that it is no vacation at all. Because true rest and peace comes from being in His Word, no matter where you are. Because even if you find yourself in the middle of the storm, your heart can be at peace because you are walking and talking with your Savior. Because even if you find yourself in the depths of disaster, when you rest your soul on His Truth, you can get up each morning and thank Him. Thank Him even in the loss.
So as this year's first day of school approached, this forgetful mama finally remembered what she already knew: remain in Him. Only then was I able, for the first time, to embrace the moment and be present for my kids not letting the otherwise crazy running around and scrambling to complete the "back-to-school to do" list saga get the best of me. I want God to get the best of me because then my kids and husband get the best "me." Not an anxious mama who doesn't know how to handle the moment she walks back into the house and reality strikes. Or the moment she walks back into the office and the painstaking reality that she dropped off her son or daughter at college hits her like a thousand needles piercing her heart. Then the regrets of what she failed to do.
So… pray, and pray some more. Become a prayerful mom who knows that she knows that she knows, that He will sustain her. Read Scripture. Read a verse, a chapter, a book in the Bible. Study His Word. The Bible is a mine with all kinds of goodness waiting for you to read to be replenished. And surround yourself with women who will encourage you when you need it most.
In His Hand,
Damaris Urizar Avila
“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.” Matthew 7:24-25 (NIV)
Open your home to women in need of encouragement, just like you. Walk alongside one another and pray for each other. Start a TEA Time (Totally Encouraging all the Time) Group where you lead women in a time of Biblically-based inspiration and encouraging words and facilitate open conversation about life and personal struggles. There’s something so powerful about women encouraging women and then praying for one another throughout the week. I’d be happy to share more with you. Just send me a message on the contact page.
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