Writing has been a passion of mine since I could hold a pencil. It always fascinated me that by the careful construction of words I could easily express my emotions. Worship, grief, love, anger, fear, and joy bubble up from my heart and onto the paper as I pour my vulnerability out to whoever is willing to read. Spoken word is a whole other beast my brain has never been able to master due to brain fog and anxiety. The eloquent sentences wanting to be heard will leave my mouth stumbling like an intoxicated frat boy but flow smoothly from my pencil like butter on toast.
I’m in complete wonder when it comes to fictional storytelling. It’s amazing to me the way our minds can create people and places so real that we miss them when we finish the last chapter. Through words we can slip through the pages of a book and visit the moon or sail the open seas on a pirate ship.
Even though I enjoy writing encouraging posts, and will continue to do so, my heart and mind are with my fictional novels. Three babies, gifts from God, that have been growing inside of my heart and mind rather than my womb. So while you may notice my posts are less often and my online presence is infrequent please know that I am nurturing a project that I am incredibly excited and blessed to be working on.
My family had to unexpectedly move a few months ago-our 5th move in 8 years. I didn’t want to move this time around and it showed. An adult version of “Why me” and “It’s not fair.” My husband laughed and said his famous line usually reserved for our son, “Who said life is fair?” I shot him ‘the look’ but inside I smiled because I knew how childish I was acting.
My husband and I have struggled to find our roots in a community and due to my list of health issues we struggle sometimes financially. At church we were introduced to Dave Ramsey and we made a decision as a family that we would go on debt free journey to gain financial freedom. The Bible evens warns us of debt.
Proverbs 22:7 The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is the slave of the lender.
This journey meant sacrifices and one was finding a much more affordable place to live. A twin house in a town we have lived in once before.
Enter: Comparison. It’s easy to compare ourselves as we are bombarded by everyone’s highlight reels on social media. “BLESSED” often follows pictures snapped of happy families standing in front of their brand new homes, cars, or while they are on vacation. In reality we don’t know the stories behind those pictures. How can we compare our beginnings to someone else’s middle? I used to laugh at the notion that I was in the beginning of my journey when I am well over 30 years old. If you feel the same way let me encourage you right now: JK Rowling was 32 years old when she published her first book. In the Bible Elizabeth was at least 60 when she gave birth to her first son, John. Vera Wang didn’t become a designer until 40. Julia Child was 39 when she published her first cookbook and it wasn’t until she was in her 50’s that she had her own show.
We have now been in our home for about a month and are finding blessings everyday. Wonderful neighbors, beautiful snowballs bursting on the front porch, chamomile and strawberries growing in the garden, baby birds on our deck. I will enjoy all of these gifts as I work on my writing and we find our footing in life.
Don’t be blinded by comparison or you will miss out on all of the gifts that are hidden in life. What you once thought was a weed in the garden could turn out to be sweet fruit.
Christina Zambrano-The Joyful Ginger Blogs
PS: We already paid off 2 debts! The sacrifices are worth it!
We parked the car along side the railroad tracks and started walking towards them. I glanced at my phone to double check the directions my friend graciously took time to give us. The directions said we were to follow the tracks for a half mile until we get to a path on the right. I was looking forward to going on this hike since I first heard of this hidden piece of paradise. The approximately 3 mile hike leads right to ponds with water as blue as the Caribbean right here in our backyard in NJ.
As soon as my feet hit the wooden railroad tracks I was met with anxiety. My old friend “What If” stopped by to tag along on our adventure. What if a train comes? What if my son trips and falls? What if wild dogs attack our sweet Sadie pup?What if I have a heart attack in the middle of nowhere? (Disclaimer: I have a diagnosed cardiac issue so this is an ongoing thought I unfortunately have.)
Fear is a joy thief and something I have dealt with for almost my entire life. Riddled with fear I ran down the stairs in my New Kids on The Block pajamas and called 911 when I was in third grade to announce that I was dying. Irritability goes hand in hand with anxiety and soon I found myself snapping at my husband and son. I immediately turned my attention towards Jesus and one particular song lyric started playing on repeat in my head. “I’m no longer a slave to fear-I am a child of God.” As quickly as the blinding cloud came over me it was lifted. That is where I was met with a hard pill to swallow.
I commented on how the twisted vines and trees that laid among the brick ruins of the old mill town looked to me like a fairytale. “More like a nightmare,” my son replied. That was followed by a thousand of his own “What If’s.” What if Sadie gets a tick? What if I get a tick? What if we get lost? Are you sure this is the way? Will I get a disease? Will Sadie get a disease because there is poop on the ground? I was so wrapped up in my own mind I was oblivious to the fact that my child was wrestling his own demons right in front of my face. I could almost see him wrestling on the ground like Jacob did with God. One part of him wanted to trust God and continue on our adventure and the other part of him was paralyzed in fear. We knew he struggled with anxiety for a little while but now it was crystal clear in my face.
I’m not going to lie, my unfortunate and immediate reaction was to tell him to knock it off and he was being dramatic. That is when I felt God whisper in my ear that He is patient with me in my time of fear and doubt and I should extend that same grace to my son. Punch to the gut this reality was. I held my boy in my arms as he sobbed and said he didn’t want to live in fear anymore. We looked down and we were met right there at the cross. Well more like two pieces of wood arranged like a cross but to us it was a sign. In our most vulnerable time in those woods we were not alone. We were reminded to leave our fear at the cross.
“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7 NLT
The rest of the hike we talked about fear, anxiety, and God. My husband and I prayed for him and he prayed too. We explained that this is something he may need to wrestle with his entire life, or maybe just this season, but it would be a fight he never had to fight alone.
“Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.” Isaiah 41:10 NLT
We made it to our destination and it was even more beautiful than I could have imagined. Crystal blue and green waters surrounded by soft sandy beaches, a paradise. Being slaves to fear would mean missing all of the wonders God has given us. What helps you when you are afraid? What is your favorite scripture verse to help you through those times?
Sitting at the kitchen table drinking my first pot cup of coffee of the day I clicked on the message notification icon and was met with another message from a woman pouring her heart out to me. The past few weeks I have felt a strong pull to share more about struggles I wrestle with. In doing so I have received many messages, in solidarity, from women in all different walks of life. The common theme to every conversation was this: in the midst of darkness and shame these women, like me, questioned their worth and existence. I would be lying if I said I never had those thoughts, in fact they have taken up residency in my mind for so long time I should have started charging rent. The truth is those words are all lies from the enemy meant to keep us from experiencing all of the greatness God has in store for us.
My family and I have been taking advantage of the down time that has come with the quarantine and started taking art lessons online. One particular day my son was in the middle of a pastel creation when his pastel crayon broke. I could see the frustration blanket his face as he got up from his chair, crayon in hand, and walked over to the trash can. “What are you doing?” I asked. He held up the two peices of crayon in his hand without saying a word.“You know broken crayons still color, right?” I responded.
If broken crayons can still be used to make art then God can use us and all of our brokenness for beautiful and big things!
Christina Zambrano The Joyful Ginger Blogs
By now most of us have heard the Bible story of the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4). It is a story that brings me hope so I wanted to share. The Samaritan woman left her home during the day when it was hot to gather water. Typically this would be collected in the evening as temperatures dropped, but she didn’t want to run into anyone.
Shame will do that to us, it will make us hide in solitude. Luckily we can’t hide from a Father who will meet us in the mess! Jesus was at that well waiting for her and asks her for a drink. Because of her sin and shame she quickly gets defensive. (Raise your hand if you can relate to that 👋)
“The woman was surprised, for Jews refuse to have anything to do with Samaritans. She said to Jesus, “You are a Jew, and I am a Samaritan woman. Why are you asking me for a drink?” Jesus replied, “If you only knew the gift God has for you and who you are speaking to, you would ask me, and I would give you living water.”” John 4:9-10 NLT.
The Samaritan woman continues to question Jesus and He responds with a truth bomb (✋ 🎤).
Jesus replied, “Anyone who drinks this water will soon become thirsty again. 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.” “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.” “Go and get your husband,” Jesus told her. “I don’t have a husband,” the woman replied. Jesus said, “You’re right! You don’t have a husband— for you have had five husbands, and you aren’t even married to the man you’re living with now. You certainly spoke the truth!”
He then reveals who He is to the woman, despite her history! She was so full of joy she left her jug of water at the well to spread the good news. He chose a repeat sinner to lead a community to Him with her testimony.
We have all heard the term “thirsty“ used in today’s culture. It means trying too hard, usually to describe a man trying to get attention from a woman. The thing is we all can be “thirsty” at times. When we put our validation and self worth in things of the world (social media likes, money, attention from the opposite sex) we will remain thirsty. Nothing in this world can quench the thirst our soul craves, only The Living Water can do that! Nothing that you could have done will make you unworthy of His greatness and Love. He is ready to fill you up!
Growing up I would often daydream about what my life would look like in the future as a wife and mother. Those June Clever images were filled with similar scenarios. Hot home cooked meals would be on the table as my husband walked through the door each night. He would be met by a house filled with the sound of children’s laughter as I chased after them throughout the house. My makeup and hair would be on point and the house would be impeccable.
Reality wasn’t too far off in the beginning of our marriage. It wasn’t until the birth of my son that my body began to cease cooperating. It seemed like every year there was a new diagnosis and no relief on the previous condition. Each condition piled up onto one another as the doctors threw surgeries and pill bottles my way to minimize the symptoms. Slowly the home cooked meals were one by one replaced with take out and the playful activities with my son were replaced with another cuddle session on the couch.
The expectations that formed in my mind on that cool August afternoon when my husband and I exchanged vows in front of our family, friends, and God were very different from what would become our reality. When I said “in sickness and in health” I imagined an elderly couple sitting together after years of adventures. Never in a million years would I have envisioned a 29 year old in the hospital having her heart cardioverted back into a life sustaining rhythm or a 35 year old woman unable to put her own shoes on at times because her joint pain is so severe. You know what else wasn’t in the picture? Fatigue, pain, lonliness, and guilt. BUT HERE WE ARE.
I am God’s daughter and dearly loved. I believe this, yet it is so easy for me to slip into redefining myself in the midst of chronic illness. When the joint pain is unbearable and the fatigue clouds my mind it is hard to see past the clouds and into a new day. I begin to label myself according to my symptoms. Lazy, pathetic, angry, hopeless, unreliable.
Sister, just because your body and health are unreliable does not make you unreliable! You are so much more than that list of symptoms, diagnoses, and medications you keep in your purse in case of an emergency.
Christina Zambrano TheJoyfulGingerBlogs.com
When is the last time you saw your true self? I’m not talking about the woman you avoid to catch a glimpse at in the mirror, hair falling out and bags under the eyes. No, I’m talking about all of beauty that God has knit together inside your delicate body. The things that despite our failing vessels are a part of who we truly are. Putting your faith in Jesus can help you find yourself once again.
Having faith in Jesus doesn’t always look like healed bodies and joyful moments, sometimes it’s just getting through the day hanging on a mustard seed. Spending time in scripture helps me to hang on even in the storms.
““Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”” -Matthew 17:20 NIV
“My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak, but God remains the strength of my heart; he is mine forever.” -Psalm 73:26 NLT
“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” -2 Corinthians 12:9 NIV
If you are also struggling I want to encourage you. While your pain is real, so is hope. Hope is defined as a feeling of expectation, trust, and desire for a certain thing to happen. When I think of hope I always think of one particular story in the Bible:
“So Jesus went with him. A large crowd followed and pressed around him. And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse. When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering. At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my clothes?” “You see the people crowding against you,” his disciples answered, “and yet you can ask, ‘Who touched me?’ ” But Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it. Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth. He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”” Mark 5:24-34 NIV
Just a little history lesson on this story. Because of the continual bleeding, the woman would have been continually regarded in Jewish law as a menstruating woman, and so ceremonially unclean. The flow of blood would need to stop for at least 7 days in order to be considered clean. Because of her constant bleeding, this woman lived in a continual state of uncleanness which would have brought upon her years of social isolation. According to the Law, anything or anyone she touched became unclean as well. The fact that she was in the crowd pressing around Jesus means that each person who bumped into her would have become unclean, too—including Jesus. But, after twelve years of suffering, she was obviously desperate for a miracle. It was through faith and hope that she was healed.
But what if our story isn’t one that ends with healing? We may not understand why, but we can hold onto who He is. The Bible says God is a perfect Father. If you are a parent you know you would never enjoy seeing your child suffer. I believe if God allows an illness to remain in our lives the payoff must be far better than we could ever imagine. Perhaps He wants to grow our faith. If we don’t understand why, trust that He does. Hold on to that mustard seed!
She stops at the back door stripping off her cloths. She doesn’t care who sees anymore. Her children no longer run to greet her after being away all day. They know mommy needs a shower before she can embrace them. Her feet are throbbing as she walks up the stairs to the bathroom. As the water heats up in the shower she stares at her face in the mirror, swollen from hiding behind a mask all shift. She gets in the shower and rests her head on the wall as the hot water runs down her back and she prays it is hot enough to kill off anything that may have stowed away on her, threatening her family.
Many of us knew what we were signing up for when we chose the medical field as our career path. It’s no secret that the job filled with SO MUCH REWARD is packaged together with long hours, working understaffed, management breathing down your back, and policy changes fifty times a week. It is not for the faint of heart in normal circumstances but in these unprecedented times it is downright challenging. We have taken an oath and stand by it-but sometimes we need rest. In a pre-Covid time that looked like manicures, hot stone massages, sweat sessions at the gym, drinks with friends on the patio deck of the local bar, or even sneaking in a nap while the kids were at school. Now when the medical community is working harder than ever before THE WORLD SHUT DOWN.
Where does our rest come from in a time we need it the most?
The truth is while the above activities are enjoyable (VERY) they do not offer the rest we need. This type of rest can be found not just on break times and days off, but every moment of every day. How you ask? By giving your burdens to Jesus. We weren’t meant to carry these loads on our own. The burden of caring for others is far to heavy for our backs and hearts to bear.
I sat on the cool metal railing of the 13th street boardwalk looking out over what used to be a vast land of sand. I close my eyes and inhale the salty air as the wind gives my cheeks a pink hue you can’t find in a makeup pallet. With my eyes still closed I imagine the beach that lay before me in all of it’s splendor. Rows upon rows of brightly colored umbrellas are lined up, offering a shady retreat from the hot summer sun, though no one really takes it. Kids are running through the maze of beach blankets, careful not to kick up sand at the sun worshippers who are hoping to get a good base tan going. I can almost smell the familiar scent of sweat, salt, and Coppertone when I am abruptly brought back to reality by an unpleasant sound. Two seagulls were fighting over a stolen slice of pizza from a Manco and Manco customer. I looked out at what was left of the beach. It seems like every year the beaches in New Jersey are being restored, but it was especially dire this year. Hurricane Sandy tore through the loved town only five months ago destroying everything in her path. Now the beaches were eroded and unrecognizable, waiting to be restored and then filled with laughter once again.
Restoration often follows tragedies. We restore beaches after storms, houses after fires, even the economy after collapse. At this moment we are all waiting for the world to open back up and for life as we know it to be restored.
All of the tangible ways to restore brokenness can’t touch the unrest in our souls. This is the place we are to invite our Father into. The dark and sinful parts of us that we try to restore on our own by purchasing all of the self help books and hiding behind the latest filters. This is where we need Jesus the most and where true restoration can happen.
Christina Zambrano-The Joyful Ginger Blogs
There is nothing in our hearts and lives that our Father doesn’t already know so why do we try to keep the most important things from Him?
She holds the sleeping baby boy in her lap admiring his cherub features. The sun slipped through the bay window embracing her like a warm hug on that chilly May afternoon. Memories of motherhood crept in her mind, and although those memories were now in bits and pieces, the sparks were still enough to ignite and warm her heart. Her frail hands touched the newborn’s clenched fist as his tiny hand momentarily uncurled and he grasped her finger in his palm.
The newborn smelled sweet, like warm summer skin, Dreft, and sugared milk. Immediately her senses perked up and transported her to a time when she was nursing her own baby. Though the mind may forget certain people, places, and things, it can never forget motherhood.
Christina Zambrano-The Joyful Ginger Blogs
Those memories and moments are woven into the inner most parts of our brains where they are kept safe from a disease and the very real threat of being erased.
Her eyes told of stories my ears longed to hear and my mind longed to understand. An invisible language barrier sat between us like the Hoover Dam. Given the chance to be broken down would her stories gush out from her lips to my ears? I regret not taking the time to learn the language before her stories were ripped away from her forever.
As the pages on the calendar were torn away so was her memory. It’s starts out slow, a detail here and there, and eventually speeds up until family becomes strangers to her eyes. Her mind transforms my husband into a visiting doctor instead of a grown man visiting his abuelita.
How frustrating and fearful this disease must make a person feel. It’s torture for the loved ones to witness. We ask them to remember, we beg of it, we plead for it, we pray for it. It comes on good days scattered among the mess. Small lucid moments that we cling to with joy. Let them sit in these moments with peace in their hearts.
A few years later during a visit I watch her watching the children play. Once again the mid afternoon sun is offering it’s embrace. A smile forms out of the corner of her thin lips and I catch a glimmer of joy in her eyes. In that moment was she back in Colombia watching her young children run around their home? Could she still hear the laughter and the potter patter of children feet?
Though the mind may forget certain people, places, and things, it will always remember motherhood.
I remember vividly when I was 17 and a brand new driver. My friends and I would pile into my white 97’ sunbird with the ceiling lining resting on our heads. The smell of CK One, Bath and Body Works pear lotion, and fresh linen air fresheners filled our noses, creating memories we didn’t know we needed. Music streamed through the crackling speakers and into our souls. On these the nights we would drive with no destination to reach.
There was something so freeing about traveling with no pre determined location to end our journey.
The older we became the more our focus shifted to the destination and less on the journey. This was true not only in our physical travels but our lives as well.
We were made to believe our timelines should all look the same, as if the destinations we were meant to reach would be handed to us in a neatly wrapped package with a shiny bow.
For some this was true. Graduating high school by 17 and college 4-7 years later followed by a house, a wedding, and many children as if life just knew to follow the expected timeline. This was not true for my life, however. I know many can relate when I say that my life was more like the path least traveled. It has been full of hills, valleys, twists, and turns.
During my travels I have sat in anxiety waiting to get to my destination. I was eager to reach the end of my journey. I watched as all of my classmates and friends reached their big breaks. It made me want to drive faster, put the pedal to the metal. Driving faster means missing many things around us though. The world wizzing by our windows. Then something shifted. An epiphany. What if by focusing all of my time on reaching my destination I am missing out on the joys of the journey? There is so much beauty to be found in the waiting and the road least traveled, so I will sit here a little while longer and soak it all in. One day my big break will come and I will finally reach my goal but until then I will enjoy the ride.
What will you do when you finally REACH the place you have been working towards? I want to hear from you!
One of my favorite aspects of writing mostly fiction is the ability to create visually stimulating scenes and captivating characters with my words. I also have the unique ability to erase any character flaws and the opportunity to rewrite their stories. This is something I do quite often. Perhaps it is this perfectionism that has prevented me from finishing a single novel so far. Recently I did this with the novel that I am currently working on and my husband, lovingly, called me out on it. Halfway through the third chapter I decided to change the name of the main character. I didn’t warn my husband of this change prior to giving him the latest piece to read over. “You can’t change his name, He is already Wes” he said glancing up from the computer. I looked over at him expecting to see a smirk across his face, but there was none. I laughed and then realized he was completely serious. “He’s already a Wes you can’t change it. You created him as Wes, his personality is Wes’s personality.” So begrudgingly I changed his name back-and I’m glad that I did. This exchange between my husband and me got me thinking deeply about life.
If we were given the opportunity to rewrite our stories would we do it?
There are many things in my past I wish I could simply hit the backspace button on and type out a whole new ending to those scenes. A teenage pregnancy and death of my baby boy-backspace. The desperate need for other’s approval-backspace. Addiction-backspace. Jealousy-backspace. Hurt-backspace. Every single mistake I have ever made-backspace backspace backspace-DELETE.
I began to think about how I would rewrite those scenes when it dawned on me that I don’t need to. I don’t need to because Jesus has already done it for me.
The day I accepted Jesus into my life he hit the backspace button on the shame and pain that covered me and in turn rewrote my story filled with grace, forgiveness, and love.
Have you ever noticed that most of the notable people from the Bible are ones that could have used a rewrite but their stories remained the same-and would be told throughout history. The thing is it is because of Jesus their messy past became stories we love.