Rebecca Duvall

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Asking God For Signs

LindaBelloRuiz PicI recently connected with Linda Bello-Ruiz on Linkedin.  She’s the author of the multi-award-winning memoir, From Tears to Triumph-My Journey to The House of Hope.  This story she is sharing with us today is how God changed the direction of her life when she cried out to Him.  It’s truly a beautiful story and I know you will love it as much as I do.  Linda has also agreed to write a few more stories about the many other times God has changed the direction of her life. She has been on an incredible journey with God and I can’t wait for you to get to know her more.

I asked God for a sign & then I resisted it ~ By Linda Bello-Ruiz

At the age of twenty, I sat on a San Francisco beach and looked honestly at my young tumultuous life. As the waves broke on the beach, a vision rose before me. I felt as if my identity, dignity and dreams had been plunked into a blender and now lay at my feet, shredded beyond recognition. And although I couldn’t articulate the depth of my despair, I knew the consequences of my life choices were staring me straight in the face.

In a two-year period, I had left home in a rush to be free and independent, been kicked out of a boarding house for breaking rules, hooked up with a man I hardly knew, listened to no one’s advice, allowed the man to humiliate me time and time again, stood on a street corner to prostitute, been beaten up and run for my life, and, had even aborted an innocent child. Where could I put all of this hurt and shame?

I saw myself running around the rim of an empty jar, wanting so much good from life, but never jumping in, never totally committing myself to good. My hope for a life as I’d once imagined it collapsed under the weight of my bad choices.

My eyes followed a young man as he walked into the waves and my thoughts turned to death.  Wouldn’t it be easier just to walk out into the ocean and keep walking until I drowned? Wouldn’t it feel better to die and silence the accusing voices in my head—those voices that called me a no-good loser, a nobody, a baby-killer?beach

At that moment, I cried out inside, God, if you’re real . . . show me.

Over the years, I periodically thought about God, but shut the thought down—too scared to even think that God might be real and not just a childhood fairy tale. For years, I had walked alone trying to find my own way, only to end up battered and shattered on that San Francisco beach.

I stared out into the vast ocean, feeling small and insignificant. “Please, God, show me you’re real. I want to know,” I cried. Having hit bottom, with no place to go, I dared Him to show me His existence.

Within moments, I heard guitar music and young people singing. I opened my eyes and looked around. A group of eight hippie-looking kids were walking down the beach in our direction. They drew near and in groups of two or three talked with people on the beach. A dark-haired man in shorts and tee-shirt, along with a smiling young woman wearing a granny skirt and a colorful peasant blouse, sat down on the sand next to me. She took off her sandals, scrunched her toes into the sand and smiled. “Hi,” she said. “My name is Joy.”

GuitarThe young man, who introduced himself as Samuel, held a guitar. He strummed a few chords and with a smile said, “Let me tell you about Jesus.” They sang me songs of love and commitment to Christ.

To put the record straight—I didn’t like Jesus people. Christians and Jesus people, to me, were people who were boring and too good to have fun. I didn’t want to be a square, no-fun person. It was bad enough being tall and overweight. But to be a Christian on top of that? I’d never have cool friends.

Now here I was in the presence of Jesus people, and was keeping an emotional distance. The couple continued to sing song after song and recite Bible verses. “Jesus came to heal the sick,” Joy said. “He came to save you.”

Their eyes and faces glowed with a bright light and deep inside it hurt to look at them. Even so, I sensed they cared, really cared about me. But Christianity wasn’t the answer I was looking for.

I bowed my head in shame. “If God really is real, then He knows all the bad things I’ve done,” I said. “I’m not worthy . . . of anything.” I felt the warm tears on my cheeks and noticed a few of them falling onto the sand, making tiny wet spots.

“Jesus came to save the sinners, not those who believe they’re perfect,” Joy said. “Jesus accepts you just the way you are.”

The sun began to set as the remaining members of this band of merry Jesus-people gathered to form a circle around me.

Finally, the intensity of their message broke through. I began to cry and then sob. The emotional dam that had held back so much sadness and despair broke wide open. I was ready for change.

I prayed the sinner’s prayer, “Lord Jesus, I repent of my sins. Come into my heart. I make you my Lord and Savior.”Tears Book Cover

Something magical happened. Those eighteen words from the sinner’s prayer brought immediate comfort to the searing pain inside me. A weight lifted from my body and soul and I could breathe. The heavy blanket that had been covering my entire being disappeared. I raised my head and smiled as eight young hippies clapped their hands.

We ALL have a story. What’s YOUR story? I’d love to hear it!

Linda can be contacted through her website at: http://www.lindabelloruiz.com

Up On The Mountain Top

mountainI recently had an opportunity to spend a weekend with a few friends up in Nevada City.  We found a cute 2 room cottage at the Nevada City Inn.  It was nice, clean and far from home, so it was all good!  Throughout the day we laughed and cried as we shared our stories.  Stories of our past and current frustrations; recent failures;  pain from being hurt; desires for our families; hopes of the future; dreams of what may be.  Each of these stories had a common thread….God.

Later in the evening we spent some time praising and worshiping God by dancing and singing to some of our favorite music.  I think Mandisa’s song Stronger was the theme for the night.

“The pain ain’t gonna last forever

And things can only get better

Believe me, this is gonna make you stronger”

I’m always looking ahead to the next trip, when I’ll get to escape from my daily routine.  Whether it’s with friends on a retreat, a family vacation or alone with my husband.  Then as the trip comes to a close I find myself wishing the experience wouldn’t end.   So much so that I put myself in a negative mood before returning home.  This was definitely the case this past weekend.

At BSF we’re studying the book of Matthew.  This week’s study was on Chapter 17.  When Peter, James and John witnessed Jesus transfigured up high on the mountain.  What an amazing thing to be a part of.  As we discussed at BSF today, I don’t think Peter wanted this ‘mountain top’ experience to end.  So he suggested putting up tents or shelters.  It could have been because he didn’t know what to do and felt the need to do something, but I think he didn’t want this moment with Jesus, Moses and Elijah to end.  But then God steps in and basically tells Peter to stop and listen.  He needed to pay attention to what was going on to help him be better prepared for what was to come.Potter clay

During the BSF lecture today I heard “Mountain top experiences are not meant to be long term, they are simply preparation for what is to come”. I felt like Peter up on that mountain.  Like God was telling me to stop, listen and pay attention when on the mountain top.

I always looked at the mountain top experiences (time away) as time to unwind, relax, have fun and refresh.  I never saw it as a time to learn something and I certainly never wanted them to end.  I can’t get “preparation for what is to come” out of my head.  It makes me excited for my next ‘mountain top’ experience!

Thankfully I’ll be attending the BSF Retreat in a few weeks.  I am definitely looking at this differently now.  This will be more than a time to escape the daily routine of life and connect with fellow BSF believers.  This will be a time to listen.  This will be a time God will use to prepare me for what is to come.  Oh, I am so excited!  Not for the retreat, well, yes, I am of course excited for the retreat.  I’m even more excited to come back to see what God is preparing me for.  To see how I will get to use what I learn.

I refuse to worry about what God might be preparing me for.  Whether it be a difficult trial or an amazing opportunity, I know God will equip, is equipping, me for all I need.

How do you come down from a ‘mountain top’ experience?

My prayer for us today ~ Father God, I thank you for the opportunities to break away from our daily routines. I pray we take time to be still and listen for You during these precious times given to us by You.

In Memory of…

Burning CandleIt’s been 11 years since my mom passed of Breast Cancer.  It seems like one day she was feisty and full of life and the next she was horrifically ill, fighting for her life.  Her battle was only 9 months long.  At the time it felt like forever. Looking back, it was the blink of an eye.  I’m thankful she didn’t have to go through it any longer than she did.

I was very close to my mom.  We didn’t always get along or see eye to eye, but we were close.  I told her everything.  Yes, everything.  Well, except for maybe a year or two while I was in High School I might have left out a few minor details about a couple of things. 😉 Even when I did things I knew she wouldn’t like.  Whether I was happy, sad, angry or excited I shared it with her.  She always knew how I should handle things.  Unfortunately, I rarely took her advice.

The first few years after my mom passed I would often think to call her to tell her something about my day.  Then realize she was gone.  Talking to my mom, almost every day, to no talking at all was hard.  I suddenly had no one to tell me what to do.  Yes, I know I said I rarely listened, but it helped me know where to stand with things.  If she said I should get my hair cut and let my natural curl show I would keep it long and straighten it.  If she told me the fastest way to get somewhere was by the freeway I would use the city streets.  Of course that sounds corny, but that’s how I did things when it came to my mom.  I drove her nuts!

I remember dancing around to music with my mom when I was little, maybe 4 or 5 years old.  Back then it was Jim Reeves ‘Yonder Comes a Sucker’ or ‘Mexican Joe’.  My mom enjoyed music.  When I got older and moved out I continued to listen to some of the same music she did, butdance Twist NEVER would have admitted it.  Music from Abba, Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton.  To this day I still enjoy listening to it.  It brings back such wonderful memories, especially Jim Reeves.  I have all of these songs on my ipod and usually have it on shuffle so I can be pleasantly surprised when it comes on.  It instantly brings me back to my mom and me dancing around in the living room.  The Twist was her favorite dance, which we did quite often.

I wasn’t a Christian when my mom passed.  So we didn’t talk about eternal life in heaven or Jesus before she passed.  I do know she meet with a Pastor of a local church a few times during the last few months of her life.  Based on what the Pastor said after she passed, I do believe she accepted Jesus as her Lord and Savior.  I look forward to one day being reunited with her to catch up on things.

It’s hard to lose a family member or close friend.  It’s easy to get upset with God for taking them from us.  What I do when I miss my mom, so much it hurts, is think back on the times we did have together.  It always puts a smile on my face and feels as if she is still there.  I like to guess what she would say to me when I do something odd or stupid, which is quite often.  That always makes me laugh.  What do you do to help when you miss someone you’ve lost?

I find this passage of scripture comforting.  I hope you do as well.

‘Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.  According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep.  For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.  Therefore encourage one another with these words. ~ 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

heaven

My prayer for us today ~ Father God, thank you for the gift of life. I pray we love each other the way you love us and we appreciate each and every moment we have with one another, Amen.

Giving the Gift of Life

This Wednesday, October 23rd, Robert and I will be celebrating our Anniversary.  Not our wedding anniversary, that was last week.  Remember?  We’ll be celebrating the 1 year anniversary of our Kidney surgeries.  I had my left Kidney removed and given to Robert.

heart beatIn 2008 Robert was told his Kidneys were failing.  He was unable to have a biopsy done to find out why because he was also having heart problems.  The doctors decided it was more important to stabilize the heart before figuring out the kidney.  They would monitor his kidneys through regular visits to see a Nephrologist (Kidney Dr) and medications.  Robert’s kidneys slowly deteriorated over the next few years.

By the end of 2011 Robert’s kidney numbers were getting bad and he was getting very sick.  A biopsy was finally done.  It was confirmed, the heart and his unexplainable high blood pressure had caused the kidneys to fail.  Before Christmas that year, Robert was put on Dialysis.

I had heard about Dialysis but never knew anyone who needed it.  I remember Robert telling me they took the blood out of the body, cleaned it with a special machine and then put it back.  Robert received Dialysis a few times while at the hospital, but I wasn’t usually there when they did it because they tried to keep the room ‘germ free’ while doing it.  I had no clue how hard it would be on his body.  After each session he would usually sleep for a full day.  Dialysis was 3 or 4 times a week for 4-5 hours each time.dialysis pic

The first time I took Robert to the Dialysis clinic was surreal.  There were a few rows of recliner like chairs for the patients.  I remember the room being very cold and the nurses/doctors wearing masks and gloves.  Each patient brought a blanket and pillow to stay warm and comfortable as possible, considering the circumstances.  Robert said the Dialysis process made him very cold on the inside.  Dialysis reminds me a lot of the Chemo my mom went through when she had Breast Cancer.

2 puzzle piecesI look back now and can’t believe how selfish I was not to be tested to see if I was a kidney match sooner.  God knew how stubborn I was going to be and how to get my attention.  Thankfully God took care of Robert while he straightened me out!

It is so amazing what doctors and surgeons can do today.  Unfortunately, they can’t do it all.  They need the help of a Kidney donor.  I was recently reading the stats about Kidney transplants on the Living Kidney Donors Network and National Kidney Registry websites.  Did you know there are currently about 80,000 people on the Kidney Donor list?  That is crazy! What’s even crazier is they typically wait 5 years for a deceased kidney donor and about 4500 of them die while waiting.

I know it sounds insane to donate a kidney to someone if you don’t have to, but you can dramatically change someone’s life.  I have to ask, wouldn’t you hope for someone to do it for you or a loved one?   I’m not telling you to go out and get tested.  I am asking you to pray about it.  Talk to your friends and family about it.  Help get the word out about being a live donor.

A donor who receives a kidney from a deceased donor extends their life about 15 years.  A donor who receives a kidney from a live donor extends their life about 25 years.  The recipient of the kidney is less likely to reject the kidney from a live donor.

Not everyone can be a donor, but everyone can help spread the word about the need for live kidney donors.  Maybe you can make a cash donation to one of the kidney organizations.  You could even contact your local Dialysis center to see how you can help them and their patients.  Please check out the websites listed below and see how you can help change a life.

My prayer for us today ~ Lord, I thank you for the special gifting you give doctors and nurses. I pray you reveal to us how we may help those physically in need, Amen

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