This is the sixth post in Wendy’s and Anna’s joint blog series Breaking Light, a series in which people from around the world share of their deep valleys and God’s powerful Presence in them, of how He is using what was meant to harm us to bring abundant life.
Today, Carolina Cisneros, host of #OpenMicMonday joins us to share her story. Anna met Carolina via blogging and has found a kindred spirit in Carolina’s writing and been so blessed by her personal and faithful words of encouragement. Carolina is mom to a fabulously creative teenager, mom to a master Lego builder, and wife to a hip hop educator and believes: “The mess still ebbs and flows because becoming a Christian doesn’t mean everything is sealed up tight with a ribbon and bow.”
Anna: Carolina, thank you for joining us today. I know it is never easy sharing the most vulnerable parts of our journey like this with a larger audience. Thank you for being willing to share your heart here with us to the Glory of God. We pray and trust it will bless all those who visit.
Carolina, of all the characters in the Bible, who do you most relate to and why?
Carolina: Jacob, because great strength is born from great sorrow. I relate more closely to Jacob because he always felt he couldn’t get ahead no matter what he did. There was a time in my life when all I felt I was doing was wrestling with God. For years, I couldn’t seem to catch a break. From dead end relationships to custody issues to destroying the very spirit of myself, I could not seem to capture God’s grace.
It wasn’t until many years later and many failed attempts, that I gave up living for myself and started living for the Most High. Just as God told Jacob to go back to Bethel, he told me to let it go. Go back home. Go back to your core. I joined a retreat in 2013 and my life was forever changed. I felt I had a new name: Forgiven. God gave Jacob a new name as well. He was no longer Jacob, he was Israel. He is the God of second chances.
Jacob went to Bethel and had many children. That is the grace of the Almighty God of second chances. I am now married with a baby on the way and I feel that God has granted me this second chance to have a family and shine the light of Christ within me. It is never lost on me.
Anna: Oh Carolina, this is so heartbreakingly beautiful. I love how God pursued your heart and opened it, even through such pain and heartache, so that you might return to His loving and compassionate arms.
What is one of your favorite Scriptures and why does it mean so much to you?
Carolina: Ecclesiastes 3:11 “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has planted eternity in the human heart.”
There was a point in my life where I was downright ugly on the inside. I couldn’t understand why my life was not what I planned for it to be. I hated everything. I tried to destroy myself with words, with sharp objects, but it never took away what God was planting in my heart. Years later I would realize that it was in his time it would all be revealed, healed and made new. His timing, not mine. He planted all of eternity in my heart when I gave my life to him.
Anna: Oh Carolina, this is so powerful. It’s funny because only a few hours before you shared this with me, I was reflecting on your favorite verse and felt God saying to me that our heartache is so great because we seek the fullness of Christ, this eternity, in people and earthly treasures. The eternity He has placed in our hearts becomes a yearning that we strive to fill, but only He can as our Father of Comfort, Healing, Transformation, Restoration, Safety and so much more. It is so beautiful how God took this deep yearning of yours and has begun to fill it with His amazing Love.
What events, circumstances or struggles in your life have been and/or continue to be your deepest valleys?
Carolina: I still have connections to past relationships because of my beautiful children. I share custody with both fathers of my children and it’s crippling when someone asks why they are not with me full time. It begins to open up wounds from the past. There are many times I begin to believe the lie that I’m not a good enough parent. It is a small part of me that opens up and begins to gnaw away at me.
Anna: My heart aches for yours as a Mama. I cannot imagine the deep pain in your heart.
In what ways have you experienced God’s nearness in these valleys?
Carolina: The open wounds are always a call from God to draw near to him. Those are the times I pull out my bible, call my sisters, or sit down to write and pray over what I’m feeling. My constant prayer is for my children to know how deeply I love them. God reminds me that his grace and his love are sufficient. Just as he loves his children, I am the light my children are drawn to when they feel stuck in a valley. I am always here to remind them that I love them and that God’s love is greater still. It’s a huge reminder for me as well.
Anna: I’m so thankful that God has drawn so near to you through it all and is teaching you to lean into His and His Body’s loving arms.
Often, people apologize to us for these deep valleys: for the loss, the grief or the hard of our journey, wishing they could take it all away. What would you like to say to people whose hearts ache reading of your valley?
Carolina: God never forsakes us and he never abandons us. For the last two years,there has been an incredible mending with my daughter and a continuous outpour of love for my son. That was something only God could do. All glory and honor are for him. When you think God has left you, he is preparing you. He is always preparing me.
Anna: Thank You, Jesus.
In what ways have you seen God minister to others through your deep valleys?
Carolina: I have been more open about my valleys because God uses everything. I understand that now when I meet women who were in my shoes. Women who have been there or know other women who have walked a similar journey. Because of this valley, I started a blog and have been part of a beautiful community of writers through Compel Training and Proverbs 31 Ministries. I also lead an amazing group of writers within Compel. That opportunity, that closeness with the Almighty would have never happened had I not encountered my deep valley.
Anna: Even though my journey is not the same, I too have found such comfort and hope in the words God has gifted you. He has given you such a beautiful heart of compassion and I am so incredibly blessed by it, as I am sure many others are too.
How have you seen God build community through your deepest valleys?
Carolina: Take this interview for example. I have met incredible bloggers, writers, and sisters who have come together to uplift each other and let one another know that they are never alone in what they face. We are all in it together. I’ve seen women around me form bonds of motherhood and sisterhood that cannot be broken. God speaks loudly when we stop to listen.
Anna: Thank you for your beautiful words, Carolina. No, we are never alone. What obstacles have stood in the way of the ministry God has called you to through the hard? And how have you responded to these obstacles?
Carolina: My call to write has come with many obstacles: time, writer’s block, doubting myself. I think the biggest obstacle is that I’m a “baby Christian” so I’m not well versed on the Bible yet. I learn as I go to church or bible study. I learn as I read and find little nuggets that I can’t wait to share with the world. A good writer will always read. I’ve responded to these obstacles by giving myself grace to take a break, the discernment to be able to see God in everything, and I’ve picked up my bible more and more. I’ve read and watched videos. I’ve stayed true to study it after prayer.
Anna: What has worked against community from forming or being built up through the hard? How have you and others responded to these obstacles?
Carolina: I know that if I let the hard consume me that I retreat into a little bubble without letting anyone in or extending an arm out. It’s hard to form community or to even drag myself out of the hard if I’m not reaching out to anyone. The best piece of advice I have ever read was: When you are hurting, help someone else.
Anna: Such great advice. It’s so true that it helps too! What one piece of advice or kernel of wisdom would you like to leave with our readers from your journey through your hard thus far?
Carolina: There is grace enough for you. God’s grace is sufficient and when you don’t think it can be done, God is greater.
Anna: Thank you for drawing near to others by sharing your story here, Carolina. May it bless in comfort, hope and God’s incredible nearness.
You can connect with Carolina here:
We’d like to invite you to go into the draw to win a copy of Kara Tippetts’ and Jill Lynn Buteyn’s beautiful book Just Show Up. Just comment on today’s post or this Friday’s and we’ll put your name in the draw. Commenting on both posts gives puts your name in the draw twice.
Kara Tippetts’s story was not a story of disease, although she lost her battle with terminal cancer. It was not a story of saying goodbye, although she was intentional in her time with her husband and four children. Kara’s story was one of seeing God in the hard and in the good. It was one of finding grace in the everyday. And it was one of knowing “God with us” through fierce and beautiful friendship.
In Just Show Up, Kara and her close friend, Jill Lynn Buteyn, write about what friendship looks like in the midst of changing life seasons, loads of laundry, and even cancer. Whether you are eager to be present to someone going through a difficult time or simply want inspiration for pursuing friends in a new way, this eloquent and practical book explores the gift of silence, the art of receiving, and what it means to just show up.