We recently sat down with Manny Mello, Singles Ministry Pastor at Cornerstone Christian Fellowship. He asked and we answered . . .
"If I had met you sooner, I could have loved you longer." These are words I've stolen from some great love song when I coo into Adam's ear, reminiscing about how we could have started this journey sooner. Adam typically reminds me that there are three amazing reasons why that would not work - we wouldn't have our children. And that - is just too big of a sacrifice for either of us to make. We adore our kids - heartbreaks, headaches, love, laughter, and all.
But I still remember that piece of paper I carry around in my current prayer journal. The one that reminds me to always write down my prayers and to never forget the power of the best conversation of all. The one with my maker, my God.
Let me give you a little back story ...
During the time of Adam's Traumatic Brain Injury, I was in an unhealthy relationship - fighting my own battles. The relationship ended with my exiting the unfaithful home and starting a new life. I didn't think about how this was an amazing blessing in disguise. I took time to dive into healing myself and starting a new life as a single mom. Focused on raising my daughter Lulu.
In July 2011, I wasn't ready to be the wife that Adam needed. God wasn't done working on me yet. I had clung to an unhealthy idea of a relationship out of wedlock. I settled for something God never intended for me. He was working on a masterpiece for me - one that would have to shatter in a million pieces to become worthy of me. And he was doing the same to me - breaking me to mold me back into a whole Raquel. One that decided to love herself despite past mistakes and physical flaws. One that could wake up every morning and say, "I'm gorgeous" (sometimes after a little blush and a whole lotta coffee).
So on my journey - I decided on January 2012, that I needed to be VERY specific about the kind of man I wanted God to bring to my life. I asked him for something in my intro - a soulmate! I was bold, wasn't I? I didn't even know it. You see, back then my relationship with God was all about convenience and quiet. When convenient, I would be bold about my faith and otherwise it would remain quite. I was and have always been a Believer, a Christian. But I wasn't always walking the walk. It took a lot of shaky ground for this girl to become closer to her God. I certainly wish I'd been less stubborn, but God knows me better than I know myself. He knew I was way to independent and my own free will was going to help me learn some tough lessons. The biggest one: God is always in control, and he doesn't need your help, Raquel. The second biggest: Start being a Mary in a Martha world, Raquel. Busy isn't always productive and chasing after a career won't fill that void.
And so, you see, for me to be this bold was a big step. Unknowingly so (because I wasn't quite that deliberate), I was surrendering my wishes, hopes, and dreams about my love story to God. I was asking him and finally putting a specific list together about the kind of man I knew I deserved. I had 14 wish list items and God fulfilled 13 of them (the least important one was left out). When I met Adam, he had just moved from Texas to Arizona and was rooming with his Cousin Nick. He didn't have his own home. You'll find more about his journey in Adam's upcoming chapters.
I believe leaving Adam being a little less than perfect was to humble me. Because I too was a little less than perfect, let's be honest. But in my eyes, Adam was the sun, the moon, and the stars. :) He was the answer to a dream I once thought was gone.
God used two broken lives to mend two broken hearts. He created beauty from ashes. How he did this, you'll soon find out.
And so I continue to coo in Adam's ear, "But never forget Adam, that I prayed for You. I still do."
In the midst of my comma, I had powerful experiences with my Maker. The following account is one of several moments in Heaven. Many who read the below testimony will be touched - others will reject it in disbelief.
Where am I? Have I died? How am I moving? Where’s my body? Am I a thought? Am I a mind? Am I a Soul?
Suddenly there’s this calmness all around me. Through me. Before me. This is where I now call The Heart Room when I retell this experience. I hear His voice and know…..I bow down. He is my Lord. All I can say is “Hallelujah.” Suddenly, this word means All I ever need to say and want to say. “Arise,” My Lord says. His beauty is un-imaginable. His presence gives me life. The sound of His voice is my heart beat. Our soul in one. Patiently, and out of obedience, I humbly stand before My King. Out of reverence, I don’t speak. The anointing is everywhere. I feel it. I’m rejoicing inside. This is ‘That Moment’…… Christ says “Dad’s not through with you yet. There’s much greater responsibility that hasn't been revealed to you……..” I was so captivated by His presence, I didn’t want to go back. I respond, “I don’t understand?” Christ says, “You have read and heard of great parables of Miracles. Greater Miracles than these you will do. You are God’s Son and I will be with you.”
Suddenly, Christ and I are standing in the midst of a spiritual battle. There is screaming, fighting, and the loud roars of battle. I see demonic beasts, demons, and creatures your mind can’t fathom all around us. I see mighty Angels, mighty Warriors, and heavenly beings at war with the enemy. The battle is violent, forcefully relentless at both ends; back and forth. There is no hesitation on both parts. I stand in the midst of war on our Kingdom. But I am not afraid, because Christ is with me. There are sounds of trumpets and battle cries. I see the demons and they see me. There’s a deep stare, as if we both know we will meet, but I see fear in their eyes. They know and see the power I’ve been given. As Christ and I walk through the battle, they shake and tremble.
I turn to Christ. He smiles and motions for me to look to my left. To my surprise, I see an enormous cage. In it are those hurting, trapped in bondage, enslaved to sin and lies from the enemy. They’re screaming for freedom. I look back to Christ and he nods yes! So I run to them. I look at the cage and see its magnificently heavy chains melted shut to the door. As I begin to think to break those chains free and the door to open - the door opens. The demons quickly look and move closer. I say, “You’re free!!!” A great deal of those inside receive freedom. I look to the others who’ve not received this and shout “Be Free. You are free.” But they hold on to the cage and grasp it even tighter than before. I lift the cage up and I’m now attempting to shake them loose. But this does nothing, they will not let go. I say “You are free!” Once again. One cries out, “I don’t want to go. If they see me, they will come again. I'm safer in the cage.”
I return to Christ. He looks at me and says, “Remember, those that want freedom will experience Freedom. Freedom is given to those who believe and obey. The ones that saw and heard you say “be Free” experienced freedom. Those that stayed believe the lies they are enslaved to. Yes, they saw others be free, but could not believe for themselves. They will never experience the fullness of God unless they believe. Man has been given free will to accept Allthat is good or selfishness. In the two is Light and darkness. No one can come to the Father but through me. I am the Light.”
“Dad’s not through with you yet. Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you Great and Hidden things that you have not known. Brother, go be fruitful and multiply.”
Something's wrong? My neck hurts. Whats going on? Nurse, stop! stop! stop! That doesn’t feel right. What are you doing? God, please have her quit. She's sticking a tube down my throat. I feel it in my chest.
I can’t move someone. Please anyone have her Stop! The nurse stops looks at me and says “Hello. We just need to make sure no water gets in your lungs. I know it hurts. We just have to make sure we vacuum any liquid." Later, I’ll learn the reason I can’t talk is because I have a Tracheotomy. There's a hole in my throat with a tube connected it to it that is allowing me to breath.
I lay there, glad it's over. But, are they going to do this everyday? Not cool God. What happened? Why am I here?
I hear voices, the lighting in the room hurts my eyes. I see the woman whom I've just recently learned is actually my Mom. Her arms are crossed. She’s listening to the doctor. I’m trying to listen? I can’t make out all the details, but Mom looks like she’s doing some solid, intense eye contact with the Doctor. They’re moving closer to me. Good…. The Doctor says, "He’s showing signs of brain activity. This is good. His body has suffered a great deal of trauma. However, if he makes it. His life will consist of a team of people helping him for the rest of his life, living in assisted-living facility. He suffered a major traumatic injury to the brain. Your going to need to decide what to do.” Wait. Stop. Hello? Are you saying I’m not going to make it? My God. I'm on life support. I suddenly hear her voice, "My son's strong. He’s going to make it. He’s a Fighter! He’s a believer. You keep him alive. My God will deliver him. I know what my God can do!"
Yep. She named me Adam. She’s one of those Bible people. Look at her she’s hurting, she’s all alone. This is to much for her. She walks over to the corner chair, sits, and begins to pray. She crying and pleading with God. She gets up and she’s pacing back in forth in the room. She’s pointing at me and telling my body to heal. She’s massaging my legs and arms. Wait. Wait. Is she …? … Yes. She’s singing. She’s singing to God?! How can she sing at time like this?!!
God, I can’t do this. You heard the Doctor. I can’t put this sweet lady through this. Please, it's not right. It's not right. God let me die. Please let me Die let me just slipway. This is too much for any person to see or go through. God, I don’t want to be bed-ridden for the rest of my life. I’ll never marry. Never have kids or contribute to society…What life is that? Or worse yet, I'll have people aid me for the rest of my life. No Mom deserves to live and go through what she’s going through.
God help her and give her peace in knowing that its ok; to let go of her boy. I'm ok with it. Take me Lord. Please, I beg you. I know you hear my thoughts and know my heart. Just please. I can’t lay here and see this beautiful woman hurt. Please. Please. Please, God.
My Mom and Dad had me when they were only teenagers. My Mom was 14 yrs old, Dad was 16. This was obviously not socially accepted then (or ever!). My Mom’s parents were not supportive. When my grandma found out about her pregnancy. She took my mom home and shaved her head bald as a punishment. She said, “Lets see if that boy sticks around now?” Long story short, My Mom and Dad ran away together before I was born. They lived in a van and traveled around the Dallas metroplex. Because of their ages, they had extreme difficulties with job placement and home rentals. Needles to say, I was born at Parkland Hospital in Dallas, TX. After being released from the hospital, my home was a van - and that remained a reality for the first three to four years of my life.
My dad worked at the airport as a union painter. Because the van was also his only mode of transportation, my mom would take care of me at a local, city park while he was at work. For me, this was the only reality I knew of. My version of normal was a Van as a Home, the City Park as my back yard, and my Best Friend (My Mom) playing with me all day long. We had the best of times. I used to enjoy hearing my mom sing to me and play. She was my everything. Her smile and angelic voice would heal this little boy’s hunger pains. I remember my mom giving me bird baths in the city park restrooms, feeding the ducks, and playing all kinds of made up games by Mom. We couldn't fit furniture in the van, so my bed was a bean bag. At night, she would rub my legs and pat my stomach while she sang me to sleep. My home was full of love, acceptance, and the warm embrace of a caring mother. I felt that no matter how bad the situation was, she was Mom. And a Mom loves unconditionally during the highs and lows. I would learn years later what the meaning of this unconditional love would be to my life.
I wake up and see those eyes staring back at me again. I try to speak, but I can’t. What is going on? Ask me something. Say something. I’ll blink, please!!! Adam. Adam. My Name is Adam. Say my name. She’s not saying anything? What are you doing?
She begins touching my arms and legs. But …. Oh my God, why can't I feel it? Why can't I move? Why is my name Adam? Who names their kid Adam? Think, think!Do you remember anyone saying your name? There has to be some memory. Ok, calm down. No tears. Your name is Adam. Your parents gave you a Hebrew name? Am I Hebrew? Wait, God created man in His own image and named him Adam. I wonder if I have my Dad’s name or maybe they’re just Bible people? Dad? Mom? Can you remember their faces? Can you remember any faces? Think. Think. Think!!!! I can’t!
Ok, so for right now, you'll be my Dad, God. You can be my Dad… Breathe.
God, you’re my Dad. I need you to help me here. I don't know what’s going on or why I’m here. I need you to tell me, please. Please. Can you just give me some hope here?
I take a deep breath and lay there in bed. Then, I hear people talking. It’s that lady again, but this time, there’s another woman here too. She's sees me and leans forward, “Adam do you know who I am?” I lay silent. She turns the other woman, as the other woman in the room says, “You’re a good Mom. Your son’s showing progress. This is Good.” She smiles and says, “I know. He's a fighter. He's going to make it…..” My God. You’re my Mom. You’re not a nurse. Mom. Mom. Mom. She walks to the corner of the room and begins to pray. She's pacing back and fourth, praying and singing.
Wait. Wait. Damn it, I’m Crying!!! Mom, I know that voice! You’re singing! I remember your singing. Don’t stop. It’s so beautiful. It’s so angelic. It’s sounds just like …. Home.
I close my eyes as she rubs my legs and I drift back to sleep.
Praise God! It's good to be Alive! Only those that know me can understand the value of that statement. Those of you that don't, brace yourselves. Get ready to hear and see a mighty modern day miracle from the Almighty God.
Before I dive into my first chapter, I’d like to make one thing very clear. I want to give all glory, honor and praise to my Savior Jesus Christ and my Almighty Father God in Heaven. I will gladly "play the background’ to Him any day.
I hear beeping. I can’t move. My eyes open to a life of uncertainty. I'm confused and taken back by my surroundings. I can’t move?! My brain is telling my body to move, but nothing happens!? I'm screaming for help in my mind, but my lips aren’t moving. Nothing's working.
God, What? Why? My name, My name….? I see people. Look at me.. I’m here! I can’t get their attention. I feel a tear drop down my face. What's my name? I feel depressed, physically weak, and exhausted. I’m mentally struggling to try and understand what has happened to me. I drift back to sleep.
Days, weeks, and months go by. I wake up nearly four months later. In the same room, with the same disabilities. Suddenly, I see someone. Our eyes meet. I think, Yes. Yes. Yes. Her lips open and she says “Adam?” My mind screams. Adam. Adam! My name is Adam!!! Someone knows me. My name is Adam.
I drift back to sleep.
Faith, Family and Friendships is a mouthful. For most people, these three F words are intimidating, exhausting, and challenging. They certainly were for me once, not too long ago. They all require work, vulnerability, and commitment - and sometimes, that's just feels like "too much" to give. But I learned the hard way that they were vital to my own survival.
At the tender age of 20, I found myself in the pool of unexpectedly single mothers. As a result of social and peer pressure, I too fell for the "I can do it all by myself" mentality. I thought that's how all single mothers managed their lives - by themselves. I didn't realize that the old adage "It Takes a Village" was so true and should have been welcomed. Without a network of fellow mothers to help me navigate these waters, I found myself very isolated. Supported by my amazing parents who offered free child care while I finished my baccalaureate program and held a full-time job in the banking industry.
Now, I should mention that I had a wonderful group of single women who were kind, good hearted souls and whom would have been my network of support - had I asked them. But I never did. That was my own mistake.
I Trust God, But ...
Fast forward to years of burning myself out, thinking I could do it all by my own strength and sheer will. Mind you, I've always had a strong faith. But it was more cerebral and an overlay on top of my life - not practical, tangible, relational. I knew God had a plan for me and I trusted that plan, but I was doing my best to work the plan myself. Pausing, so that you can <insert your laugh here>. I had no idea of what living a fearless life without worrying about every day would look like. I felt that I had to worry about it all in order to keep it (life) from unraveling. But I didn't realize, I wasn't the one holding all the yarn in her hands - it was Him, my God.
Family is a priority?
Growing up in a blue-collar home, I never saw the practical prioritization of family. Rather, I grew up thinking that work was the most important element of your life and that work ethic was a man/woman's worth. It's not that my parents didn't make us children feel loved and appreciated. I erroneously interpreted their pride in strong work ethics as their priority. They held those low-wage, blue-collar jobs because of the priority of family. They spent time with us every evening at the kitchen table. But I could never visualize them saying, "I can't go to work on Saturday, my family comes first."
Their workweek was a Monday thru Friday structure with minimal overflow into family time during evenings or weekends. This is so contrasted by the advancement in remote working capabilities that pressure today's employee to check work email during evenings, weekends, holidays, and family outings. There's a lack of separation due to our accessibility.
This transition into a fluid and accessible employee really sidelined me. I never saw it coming until I found myself working past midnight on regular basis while working for a Bay Area company at the age of 30. By this time, I had devoted the majority of my life to moving up the career ladder with one goal in mind, "never needing the help of anyone (especially my child's absent biological father), ever."
Feel the Burn?
I started seeing how often I became ill during that time. I was always battling something. I quickly developed a severe dairy allergy that would invoke the angriest of sinus and ear infections if left unattended. Within 48 hours, I would be overwhelmed by the sinus pain. This began a course of antibiotics and steroid prescriptions. These bouts of sickness continued for years. Until one day, my boss told me that the only way we could make my role successful was if I would move to the bay area to manage priorities and team onsite. We both knew I would never uproot my family, so that was the beginning of the end of a relationship. I took time to prep my exit plan and train my replacement. I was just as devoted to the organization on my last day as I had been on day one.
The first day of my unemployment during those years, I was overcome by the realization of, "what happened to those years of missed school events, date nights with my wonderful husband, time with God, and time to cultivate friendships?" Most of my friendships were distant by then, limited to writing annual birthday posts on Facebook. My time with God was continual daily prayer chats (e.g. Lord please help me with this today, it's a challenge), but never real conversations where I sat to actually listen to him (and be still). My time with my family had always been the left over from work. Often rushed and distracted. While I tell myself I put them first, I didn't give them the best of me - I realize that now and I regret it.
I vowed to change - and I did. A little, not transformed completely. I worked 60 hour weeks instead of 80. And I dove more deeply into my family, leaving little room for God and no room for friends.
The Morning that Changed it All
One morning in 2016, I woke up to a devastating family crisis which shook my entire world. It changed EVERYTHING about the way I saw life, faith, family, and friendship. I'll explain it in detail in another post, but what transpired was a health crisis that affected my husband. While I didn't make perfect decisions - there was a moment in the hospital room while I spoke to my husband (who no longer knew me) where I made a conscious decision - "I need help, I can't do this alone."
I reached out to an amazing support group called "Blended Families" at our local church. We'd been part of the group for a few years, but never truly became real family members until this season in our lives. I was very honest about where we were as a family and our spiritual and physical needs. It was horribly painful for me, but I found peace in being honest and transparent about our challenges. It was SO unlike me, to say that I could not do it all myself. It was freeing and scary at the same time.
What transpired was a series of coordinated, thoughtful and sacrificial actions taken by my Blended Family peeps as I call them. They were heroes and heroines in my eyes. They became the living, breathing, visible manifestation of God's love for me. It was so real, so touching, so honest - I couldn't escape it (Him). One of the ugliest seasons of my life, became hundreds of moments in time where God literally reached out and hugged me, fed me, counseled me, supported me from falling, made me laugh, encouraged me. It was AWESOME!
Okay, I give, I give!
And so, I learned my lesson. The more I try to hang on to my little world by myself - protecting my family from the elements, the worse I feel. The more resistance I will feel from life and the challenges that come with it. The more I surrender to the possibilities of my faith in God, my devotion to my family, and my vulnerability in friendships - the richer my life experiences become.
I truly wish I had learned this lesson in my twenties. That I had reached out to a community of mothers, leveraged my network and supported peers in doing so as well. That I had created a huge division between family and state (work) to protect those special moments and give my family the best of me much earlier on. That I had stopped to spend time with God more in my youth and truly listened. He would have helped me avoid so my of the mistakes that my free will inevitable allowed. And when I have these moments of regret, like I do this morning as I write this blog - I give these guilts and sadness to God. I know that there was a reason for the path I took. And if it meant that a single life was changed because of it, then it was worth the sorrow. I pray that he gives me the discernment to understand when I fall into old habits and helps me focus on my priorities. God, Family and Friends - yes, in that order.
I pray that he'll help you avoid my mistakes and that through reading this note, you'll see practical reasons why I truly cling to these three truths.
Raquel Gonzales (Kels) - Raquel is a 36-year-old wife of an amazing man, and mother of three beautiful blended teenagers (Elijah 18, Lulu 16, Abby 14). She has thrived in a creative career for over 11 years. Her passion is to empower others by the lessons learned in her own life and challenges through transparency and honest conversations. As a creative soul, she loves to write, design, create and publish. She hopes to please God in doing his work by leveraging the talents he gave her. This blog is but one of those digital artisan crafts. She hope it pleases Him.