Unspeakable Joy

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After months of planning for my wedding and adjusting to a new job, Styl’d by Grace is back in full swing.

During the past few months, there have been many life changing occasions which include my marriage to the love of my life, Edward Palma, living on my own for about a month (Edward moved in after the wedding), and being given a great design opportunity (a.k.a. a much needed and welcomed job). God has come through in more ways than I could’ve ever imaged. He is faithful in everything! And that’s an understatement.

Stepping into adulthood is not as easy as I imagined when I was younger. Every step of the way requires faith and trust in God. I believe one of the things we neglect to add to the list of requirements is joy. If we learned to rejoice in every moment, even the moments that aren’t as pleasant, we would see the journey in a different light.

While planning our wedding, it was difficult for me to find joy in the process. I commend wedding planners because it is a very stressful task. Time and time again I was advised to “take in every moment”, to “make the best of this time”, to “enjoy the planning”. There were times when we had no idea how we would pay for the wedding, but we trusted God and prayed fervently for every need to be met. However, there were a lot of details that had to be compromised in order to be frugal and wise with our finances. Those were the moments when I found joy… I say that I “found” joy, because many times joy isn’t going to be something you feel. Joy, I would like to propose most times, will be something we have to find or choose to have.

In reality, when I think back on our wedding day, the details did bring me happiness. It was a magical day in a magical place. There were things that didn’t go as planned as well. But we found joy from the intangible: the people who helped us make it happen, our families happiness and support, and the immeasurable love we felt from every person there. We found joy!

The joy that you find verses the joy that you feel is very different. The joy you feel can be described as excitement, happiness or butterflies in your stomach. The joy you find is an unspeakable joy, you can’t describe it. It’s supernatural and it is invigorating to the soul.

Every morning Edward wakes up early to head to work and I wake up with him to fix breakfast and his lunch. If you know me well, you know I am NOT a morning person. I don’t like talking until I am fully awake. It’s the way I’ve always been. But Edward wakes up SO happy, no matter how early, no matter if he had a good nights rest or not. Lately, I haven’t really been sleeping much. Edward moves a lot while sleeping and I’m a light sleeper. (What are the odds?) I am so tempted to wake up and be upset for not sleeping long enough and well enough.

But I choose joy… my household’s peace and well being depends on me choosing joy. I can either wake up with an attitude and make my husband’s day start badly or I can wake up joyful and infect him with it. Choosing joy is infectious and it can determine how you will impact the people around you. My example of choosing joy might not be as deep or serious as some of the things others may be facing. However, in every situation, through every hardship and struggle, God’s unspeakable joy can be found and us choosing joy can draw other to Him.

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.” Philippians 4:4-5

God desires for us to have faith and trust in him and I believe that in the process of having faith and trusting Him deeper, He wants us to learn to find His joy. The quicker we grasp this principle, the more gratifying the journey will be.

Can you share a time when you found joy in a difficult situation or in a situation that was out of your comfort zone?

Special note: During the Christmas season, many people struggle with finding joy due to loss, being away from home, financial hardships, etc. Share this blog with those you know need the comfort of knowing God’s joy.

Stay connected for special Christmas posts that will include FREE desktop and mobile downloads! 

Thank you to my good friend Natalie Fernandez for proofing my blog.

Be Anxious for …

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Nothing, means absolutely nothing. Not even how you’re going to pay for groceries or your student loans.

Yesterday I made a decision to meditate on Philippians 4: 6-7 the entire day. It was my first time really taking the word “meditation” to heart. Every single time I felt anxious about anything (or nothing), my mind was made up to recite the verse word by word. To my surprise, I was able to accomplish two things: memorized the verse and put to rest my anxiety.

When the verse says “Be anxious for nothing”, it is implying that there is a part for us to play. “Being” requires an action and it is our responsibility to take control of anxiety, negativity and any other feeling or thought that keeps us from living in freedom. Yes, there are things in life that we have no control over but we do have control over our reaction to those things. Will we choose to be anxious and worried or will we choose to meditate on God’s promises? I guarantee, meditating on God’s word will only make you healthier emotionally, spiritually, and even physically.

It’s amazing what we can accomplish when we decide to actively dismiss the thoughts or words that intoxicate us with anxiety and worry. We work better, we love better, we can hear God’s voice better. And it’s as simple as taking a deep breathe and thinking to yourself “Be anxious for nothing!”.

What are some things you can do today to take control over your emotions, words and thoughts? 

Playing for the Home Team

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Everyone that knows me well can say that I am the least athletic girl they have met. I can’t catch a ball if my life depended on it. Sports were never part of the extracurricular activities I was involved in when I was in school. I was more of an “artsy” person. I did drama, choir, art club but never really tried getting into sports. My sisters always tease me because I can’t throw a football correctly. “You throw like a girl!”, they scream at me. Once, in high school, one of my really good friends Amanda convinced me to go to her conditioning for volleyball. Needless to say, I was an embarrassment. I don’t think I would’ve even made the junior varsity team.

Ironically enough, I am engaged to a sports fanatic. And when I say fanatic, I am not over exaggerating. Edward is a mans man. He loves sports! But he mostly enjoys (to say the least) watching the Miami Heat. He will schedule his day around the time they play. It’s kind of scary to me but, hey, if that’s what makes him happy, right? The playoffs are amazing for him but not so much for me. It’s funny though, because the more I watch the games with him, the more engaged I become. His love for the game of basketball and the Miami Heat is contagious after a while. By the middle of the playoffs I find myself rooting for our home team, the Miami Heat. Chants like “3-0-5, till I Die” start to become part of my speech and I even get mad at the refs for calling something wrong.

Even if it’s just fun and games, I have learned something from this. Defending our home team is close to our hearts because our identity lies in the place we originate from. We know who we are when we know where we come from. I read an article that said that adopted children search for their biological parents out of curiosity to know if they look like them or if they share any personality traits with them. We all have a desire to be connected to and know our origin. I believe it is something God put on the inside of us. Although our geographical and biological place of origin can bring a sense of connection to us, I am speaking of our spiritual place of origin. When we have the revelation that we come straight from the heart of God and were formed by Him, we find our true identity.

The Book of Genesis tells us that God spoke to earth for it to produce living creatures according to their kind. (Genesis 1:24) But when He created man, He spoke to himself and said “Let us make mankind in our own image”, (Genesis 1:26). The animals that came from the earth can’t survive unless they stay connected to their place of origin. As is with every other creature created. That principle applies to us as well. We came from God and we cannot survive unless we are connected to Him.

When we start to uncover the magnitude of this truth we see ourselves drastically different. We start to understand why sometimes the things we are so attached to become old and uninteresting after a while. Knowing that we come from God and are made in His image, changes our perspective of life and our purpose suddenly becomes clear. The things our world and culture tells us are valuable suddenly aren’t as valuable anymore. See, the greatest revelation I’ve had thus far is that playing for my home team, God’s Kingdom, is best. It’s the place I feel most comfortable at, it’s where my gifts come alive, and it’s where I can walk in my true purpose.

When we know where we come from we:
1. Walk with authority
2. Have peace
3. Know what and Who we stand for

I believe those three things dictate how we operate our lives. Assurance and authority helps us have a healthy view about ourselves and instills the belief that we are called for greater things. Knowing we are of God and made with a purpose gives us peace. Thoughts of doubt and any sense of rejection leaves our minds. We can sleep well at night knowing we were God’s idea. Most importantly, when we stand for something, we won’t fall for anything. The conviction that comes from knowing I am God’s, helps me stand for all things that are righteous. My mind is alert and my heart can discern what’s of God and what’s not of God. Our generations identity crisis can slowly but surely be resolved, if we understand that we come from God and were created in His own image.

How can knowing you come from God and are part of His team, help you on a daily basis? 

In the Presence of Sisterly Love

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Today’s blog is dedicated to the most important women in my life: my momma and two older sisters. They are the inspiration for this blog.

Growing up as the youngest of four (one older brother and two older sisters), I rarely felt the need or want to have many girl friends. My two older sisters, Olga and Monica, are my best friends. I tell them my struggles and hurts and they, for the most part, are there for me. I’ve continually felt their love and support through all the phases of my life. Our mother taught us to be that way. We don’t feel envy and jealousy towards each other. It’s not something we contemplate on or embrace in our relationship. A victory for them, is a victory for me and vise versa. It’s always been like that, and I pray that it will always be like that.

The blessing of having a healthy relationship with my sisters has stirred a longing in my heart for us, as women, to stop hating on each other and start building relationships that resemble a sisterhood. I’m not saying I never argue with my sisters or get mad at them (they annoy me sometimes), but I do feel like I can be honest and open with them. There is room for me to express myself and not feel judged. I know that even if we don’t agree on certain things, we will always be sisters. Nothing will take that away.

What if we learned to see our friendships like that? How would our community look like? How would our world look like? How would our churches look like? Sometimes it seems as if we’re just trying to “one-up” the girl that’s next to us. If she gets engaged before us, we freak out and think, “Dang! And I’m still single. I better find a man, quick!”. If she gets a better job, we get depressed and start feeling bad for ourselves. It’s a disservice to ourselves and others, to harbor envy, contention and jealousy. We will never reach our potential when we are too preoccupied with what others have over us. I once heard an ad on the radio that said “There will always be someone prettier, someone smarter, someone taller, someone funnier. But they’ll never be you”. That’s truth! I can only be the best version of me. And others should only worry about being the best version of themselves.

sister_collageI cannot remember a time when I felt obligated to compare myself with my sisters. We were raised to embrace our unique personalities and talents. It took me a while to realize that the foundation my mom had formed in our family unit, should also be applied to the friendships in my life. When the lights when on, I learned to embrace other women, celebrate their achievements and be content with who I was. By content I don’t mean being mediocre, rather, feeling fortunate to be who God called me to be.

This week I heard a message from my Pastor about unity. He said that unity is something you work on. It is not something that just happens. While I digested that thought, I remembered a passage that says, “Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality.” (Romans 12:10, 11-13) All the words in this passage are an encouragement to take action. Building healthy, non-toxic relationships, will require action. And it doesn’t surprise me that the passage urges us to love each other with “brotherly” love. Loving others like a sister or brother, will take an effort. You will hurt for them, you will have to call them, you will have to make an effort to spend time with them and you will have to choose to celebrate their happiness even when you’re not feeling happy.

So many of us make the mistake of thinking that we can be called a friend without putting time and effort into the relationship. Yes, we all have busy lives and hectic schedules but you make time for the relationships you care for. My sisters always make time to talk to me, laugh with me and encourage me. They MAKE time. You can’t call someone your sister or friend when they only value your relationship enough to “squeeze” you into their schedule. It’s about valuing our relationships more than our personal agenda and personal gain. Let’s rise up to promote an environment where other women can be themselves, feel loved and feel united in our presence.

Shout out to my friend Cindy Diaz. She is a fabulous writer and has been editing my blog posts. You are the bomb!

What makes a King out of a Slave?

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You might think I’m kind of nerdy when I admit the following: I have memorized the movie The Wizard of Oz by heart. I know every single song and I can literally play it in my mind as if I was watching the movie. It comes in handy when I can’t sleep. DON’T JUDGE ME!

When I was in middle school I was enrolled in a performing arts school and one of the first plays I was part of was The Wizard of Oz. The funniest part of the story is that I got casted as one of the munchkins. And honestly, since middle school, I think I only grew about two inches. I’m pretty short (4 foot and 11 inches tall). Despite being shorter than the average 24-year-old, I don’t mind when people make fun of my height… but it wasn’t always like that. I was a very insecure girl all through middle school and high school. I hated myself. Looking at myself in the mirror was torture and I just wanted to change myself into another person. When I decided to make Jesus my Lord and Savior at the age of 15, I knew that my “old” mentality had to change. However, the deep-rooted insecurity that I had struggled with for most of my youth had taken root into a very ugly and disgusting monster called “fear”.

I can’t remember when I started to fear, worry, and feel anxiety all the time. It came over me like a wave that I couldn’t manage to jump over. When God started using me to pour into other young women’s lives, it was a struggle to not feel intimidated by other leaders that were being used by God as well. I always felt inadequate, less than, and insufficient. And my reaction was to be a little “extra”. You know what I mean by “extra”. Extra nice, extra humble, extra spiritual and extra fashionable. Basically, extra FAKE! God was using me and I was allowing Him to use me, but I think He got tired of me serving Him in fear. He asked me to step down from a few of my responsibilities and during that time, God examined my heart and revealed the junk I had stored away.

In that time of self-evaluation, I came across a verse that I have read many times. Many people use this verse when they pray. Honestly, it’s one of those verses that you kind of disregard over time. But when you truly understand it’s meaning and depth, it changes the way you think and live. It reads: “This is why I remind you to fan into flames the spiritual gift God gave you when I laid my hands on you. For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.” (2 Timothy 1:6-7)

When we live in fear, it counteracts the action of “fanning into flame” our God-given gifts. It is clear that with rekindled fire and zeal for God, fear cannot be present. Fear is an extinguisher to faith and we cannot grow in the continual presence of fear. Interestingly, the word fear in this context is better translated as cowardice or the lack of bravery.

If you recall, the Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz wanted nothing more than to stop feeling scared. He is my favorite character in the movie. Maybe because I could identify with him. The king of the jungle was living in fear which didn’t make him much of a king. He says something in the movie that struck a chord in me, “Courage! What makes a king out of a slave? Courage!”. Living courageously (lacking fear), has the power to set us free! Courage allows us to be real and walk in our true identity. If you are a believer in Christ, your identity is that of royalty and the only thing you should be a slave to is your faith in God. Like it says in 2 Timothy, we will have power, love and self-disciple. Power to overcome feelings of intimidation and love to serve others freely as God calls us to. Most importantly, courage conditions us to live dependent on God and not our reckless emotions.

Some practical steps to be free from fear are:
1. Speak to someone you trust that can give you sound advice on the matter. Surround yourself with people who will speak words of love and life into you.
2. Be diligent in deepening your relationship with the God by attending church regularly and reading the bible. Sometimes we do this out of habit but when we learn to do it with authenticity, it makes all the difference in the world.
3. Actively remove negative thoughts from your mind. Don’t contemplate voices and thoughts that are not edifying to you. If it’s a thought that makes you feel less than, fearful and anxious it’s time to purge it.

What are some steps you have taken to overcome personal struggles in your life? 

Remain in Him

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The most unexpected situations sometimes birth the best fruit in our lives. Sometimes it takes a loss, a disappointment or a season of emptiness to stir up what’s already inside us. When our faith is tested, we have two choices: choose God or not. It really is that simple. We can choose to remain in Him or remain in our funk.

Graduation was almost a year ago and I worked diligently to make the most of my education. Last May, I received a Bachelors in Fine Arts in Graphic Design. It’s a pretty high achievement for those studying graphic design. Employers take notice of candidates that have a BFA in design so it all seemed like it would work out for me. While I was going to school, I was freelancing and interning on and off to gain experience and be ready for the real world. Honestly, nothing prepares you for the real world. The real world, prepares you for the real world.

Following graduation, I started applying to different job openings. Jobs that I really wanted and jobs that I really didn’t care for. I had phone interviews, follow up interviews and didn’t land anything for six months. In the wait, I learned a little bit about myself and a lot about God’s divine plan for my life. Life’s interruptions are really God’s Divine interventions. I thought that all the dedicated work I had put in while being a student would automatically qualify me, over others, for any opportunity that came my way. I realized my faith was set on the idea that a degree would enable me to have a steady income. My faith was set on my own works, not on the Grace of God.

John 15:5 says, “Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.”

I have realized that my understanding of remaining in God is miniscule. It has taken more than I expected for me to gain a greater understanding of this principle. Landing an internship after waiting six months for a full time job wasn’t the breaking point. I had to go through landing a job with an employer that wasn’t being honest, giving a two weeks notice for what seemed as the opportunity of my dreams and being “let go” after only 2 weeks of working there. I had even moved out of my parent’s home to pursue this “dream job”. Consequently, my parents made the decision to separate in light of me moving out.

There are many questions I have for God like “What am I supposed to do with my life?”, “What is my purpose?”, “Why couldn’t my parents work things out?”. He hasn’t answered all my questions and He might never answer them all. But one thing I am sure of, I am to remain in Him because apart from Him, I literally can’t do anything. The dictionary defines the word remain to continue to exist, especially after other similar or related people or things have ceased to exist. So what does it mean to remain in God? It means to continue to exist in His presence even when you lose a job, when your parents are getting a divorce, when you lose a loved one and even when you don’t know what will happen next.

When we have nothing to hold on to but God, we realize that He was all we needed from the start. When we stay stuck to Him, it’s inevitable for us not to grow, succeed, and live in our purpose. He is the source! The biggest lesson I have learned is that my personal truimphs or lack there of, aren’t going to determine the outcome of my future. God is the only one who determines the outcome. That is why it is vital for me to remain in Him. I can bear mediocre fruit if I rely on my own works but I will bear divine fruit when I remain in the Him.

Styl’d by Grace

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For months I have been contemplating to start my own blog. A blog with content that will edify women and empower them to live out their God-given purpose. In a relevant way… of course! After being encouraged by family members, friends and a gut feeling, I decided to start.

“Styl’d by Grace” is a blog for women of all walks of life. You’ll be able to read about the latest trends in fashion, learn about design, be inspired by posts that are faith-based and read stories about relationships, dating and friendship.

The main purpose of Styl’d by Grace is to provide a resource to young women that encourages them to live respectful and authentic lives. There are too many magazines, TV shows and twitter accounts that influence women to lead unfulfilled lives. This is my way of saying, “I’ve had enough!”.

It’s really tiring to be styled by what others think and it’s really overwhelming to be styled by the standards of our society. However, to be styled by truth brings freedom and revelation to our lives. I believe this blog will help women uncover truth in a practical and relevant way.

I invite you to join me in learning how to be Styl’d by Grace.