Lota Joel

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Chapter 1

"One Foot In, One Foot Out"

I always enjoyed going to church. My parents always shared about God, His love, and His presence in our lives. Always giving thanks and asking for His will to be done. They did what was taught to them and it continued with us, their children. It was what they knew and it was what I knew, we lived what I would call a normal life until the very young age of 8. 

I saw things change. I don’t remember much but bits and pieces. One vivid memory was my dad crying on the stair, angry and hurt. I wanted to comfort him the same way he had done for me before, but nothing I did helped. He made fists with his hands, hitting the stairs as he groaned with pain. I had never seen him like that. He had suffered a massive heart attack sometime before so my brothers joined me begging him to stop and to please calm down. We were all crying uncontrollably, afraid his heart would give out, that is how intense that moment was. My mom was upstairs, and I knew she could hear everything. Why wasn’t she with us helping my dad? Instead, all I heard was her say, “Just leave him alone, he will be fine, he is just trying to make a scene.” This was no intentional scene, it was not in my dad’s character to act like this. What I experienced was a man whose heart was shattered and broken. At the time, I didn’t know the details just that things were not ok between my mom and dad. They split up and I moved from the only house I knew as home, to an apartment not too far away. My mom had another “friend” come around, he was very nice and I saw my dad on the weekends. I loved spending time with him and I don’t remember being sad since they both seemed happy, or at least it was what they showed me. I just went with the flow. 

I prayed, did all my religious classes, and everything asked of me to be a good catholic girl. I loved music, acting, and singing. It made me happy and came naturally. I remember washing dishes looking out the window and I started singing a song that I came up with for God. I quickly got a piece of paper and wrote the words down. The chorus read, “and You're all I need”. One year later I moved to a new state, a new school far from my dad. Now I would see him only in the summer. I missed him so much but I grew a little older and my heart searched for love in the wrong places. 

I was not the easiest teenager but I didn’t know any other way than what I saw and was surrounded by. At around 13 I went to a retreat and it was amazing. I didn’t want it to end. All I kept saying is that I wanted to do good. I came out happy and determined, but I didn’t understand grace. On my first mistake, I was sure God was mad at me and I gave up. I said, “this is too hard and I can never be good enough.” Throughout God was always “around”. I met a guy at the age of 14 who introduced me to Christian music. I met him at a church group my mom would take me to. The artist was Amy Grant and I loved all her songs and bought all her “cassettes” (LOL, technology has changed so much and so fast). But even then I had one hand in church and the rest of me in the world. I did what was considered normal and seemed like so much fun, so I went with the flow. I continued to make many mistakes and be hurt by many people I trusted. My life was a whirlwind but as I look back, God always held on to me by a thread as I call it, and He never let go. It just seems so crazy how I lived with Him being “around” but not for Him. I had my own agenda, so at that time, I came to a realization that this was the best I was going to get, a little of both worlds. 

I met Marco at 15 and we loved hanging out together with my friends. One of my very good friends was named Eli and her mom was one of the holiest people or at least that was how I saw her. I say this because she was always sweet and a home caretaker. Always had the Christian channel on her TV. All she shared about was God’s love and prayed for us. I never saw this before but ultimately didn’t think anything of it then, just another way of God being “present” in my life. Eli and my other friends were just like everyone else. The only difference I saw with Eli was that she had more rules to follow and came from a strict household, nothing more. 

At about 17 Eli invited me to a small group from her church. I went to a home where we met and a message was shared. We had finished and we were about to leave when the leader asked for all of us (about 10) to hold hands in a circle to pray. Well, this was different for me but I just went along. Then the leader asked, “is there anyone here who hasn’t received Jesus in their heart?” In my mind, I questioned myself. I opened just one eye to see what the others were doing. I think the leader sensed some confusion. I thought to myself, I had been part of the church my whole life and no one ever asked me this question, nor did I know what it meant. I KNOW God and He was present in my life. I was baptized as a baby, did my Holy Communion, and Confirmation, and even had a Precious Moment Bible. I went to church a lot more than others I knew. So what did he mean?? These thoughts all raced in my head so quickly when so graciously and patiently he just started explaining about being saved and if I wanted to, then repeat this prayer so I could have Jesus in my heart. Well what harm could it do, so I said YES! 

I said the prayer repeating it after him and something instantly changed inside of me. Some say it takes “time” to feel something but not with me, I felt it right away. It was like something had lifted and I felt light with an unexplainable JOY!! I was so excited, but I didn’t know for WHAT, just excited. I knew for sure, I didn’t want this feeling to end. 

I shared what I had experienced with others but no one really understood, at least those that surrounded me. I was walking on the clouds, always smiling, and with this urge to have more of God. So, I did what I thought would show this new feeling. I bought a religious necklace called a scapulary. It meant a lot to me because my dad always wore it and he was the closest person I knew to show me unconditional love so to me he was the closest to God. My life started changing and doing good became easier and easier turning into more of a joy than a burden. 

At that time I was in a relationship with Marco but it was a long-distance one. He had to move back to New York and I scheduled a trip to go visit him. I did this often and I was excited to share with him this newfound joy I was feeling. I didn’t understand it nor what I was supposed to do with it, but I knew it was God and I was determined this time to hold on and not let go.

I arrived and of course, I was so happy to see him. We had a special connection. We were in love and had so much fun together. He was like my best friend. I felt safe with him, but what did I know about love or life, I was barely 17. 

At our first moment alone I shared with him my whole new experience. As most girls do, I shared all the details, every single one in the hopes he could feel like he was right there next to me experiencing it with me. I remember sitting on the bed in his room telling him the joy I felt, walking on clouds, and wanting to do right with God. All was great until it came down to intimacy. Then everything fell apart. There was no compromise or changing his mind. We had been intimate before and no matter what I shared about wanting to abstain, he was not having it. My heart broke and I knew at that moment I had to make a decision. Little did I know that this decision would bring so much future heartache as well. 

I grabbed the one thing that represented God to me at that moment, the necklace around my neck. I grabbed it so tightly as we started to kiss. I was having a raging war inside of me and it was one of the hardest things I did up to that point in my life. I wasn’t tempted to be intimate with Marco. I knew God lived in me and gave me the strength to abstain, but I was not able to let go of Marco and our relationship. I wanted him in my life so instead, I took the necklace off and forced myself to give in to what he wanted so we could stay together. 

That day I rejected God and put Marco first. Writing about it now, I could only imagine how I shattered God’s heart into pieces. I went back to the old me, living my life as before. God was present but no longer with that fire I had for Him. I know my heart broke also but the physical “love” I was experiencing with Marco overcame what I couldn’t see or understand fully at the time. Thank God for grace and unconditional love because even though I turned my back on Him, He never left my side.


Chapter 2

"Let the Wedding Bells Ring"

 

I was 15 and ready to conquer the world. I was young but very independent and focused on my own life agenda. I was a responsible student and worked as soon as I was legally able. I met Marco at an outing at the mall. He was very charming with his words, but I was not easily swept off my feet. We started just as friends and I enjoyed our time together. Being so young I didn’t have much freedom, but we made it work. I met his family and he met mine. We understood each other and loved to take adventures. Every outing together was planned for new experiences. Since he was new to the state, we explored and did lots of sightseeing. It was nice. 

A major Hurricane hit our area shortly after we met so he had to move back to his hometown in New York. We attempted a long-distance relationship where I would visit him or he would come visit me. We had our rocky times, but it went so fast and no matter what was going on, when we got together, we were happy. 

Marco finally got the opportunity to move back to Miami and we were official again. He had a daughter, Natalie. I met her when she was just a year and a half. She was so precious and I loved her. At around 3 years of age, Marco got full custody of her. I found myself not only a girlfriend but now in this women/mother role for this adorable child. It was a lot, but I was happy. I loved children and my plan was to become an elementary school teacher. I will not say we didn’t have bumpy roads. We were both so young trying to live life and still keep this relationship going. 

I remember one time Marco came to me and said he felt stuck with me. Although I was taken aback by his remark, I loved him enough to give him the space he needed. I didn’t want to be with someone who wanted something else, whatever that may be. Plus we were young and so we gave each other a break. Not sure how long it lasted but it was our first official break up. I was sad but it felt right and I think we both needed it.

What that time apart did for me was just confirm that I did love him and wanted to be with him. He agreed and felt the same so we reunited. Of course, there were many things I would have done differently knowing what I know now but this is the path I walked. I was in love and ready to be the best woman, wife, and mother I could be. 

I was married at the tender age of 18 and Marcel was 23 years old. We had Natalie who was 4 years old now, as our beautiful flower girl. It was a beautiful wedding full of love and family. Soon after our son Marco Jr. was born. We had our own family and could not be happier. 

As time went by the waves of life hit. All the things that were ignored or pushed under the rug began surfacing. We had no choice but to face them. We were two imperfect people, young and inexperienced handling a new household with all the responsibilities that come with it. 

LOVE??? Was it still there? Did we take each other for granted? What did we expect from each other? 

Did things go as planned? 

Who’s plan were we following anyways? 

We were both from broken homes and both with missing pieces. Perhaps we expected each other to fill those voids or tried desperately to find fulfillment in this world. All I know is we were together til death do us part RIGHT? I wanted this marriage, I wanted my family. I was willing to do whatever it took, but a heart can only take so much and what the world taught me was only creating division. I was set that there was one thing that would tear us apart and I never wanted to deal with it, infidelity. 

*********My First Encounter with Infidelity*********** 

The story of my mom and dad 

One summer visiting my dad I was staying with my aunt. I was very close to my cousin Luisa and so my dad knew I loved spending time in her home. I believe I was about 12 at the time. Leyla shared a room with her older sister, my cousin Cecilia, and we were all three getting ready for bed. I don’t remember how the conversation started but Cecilia asked me if I knew the reason why my parents had divorced. I hesitated but quietly said no. (God had protected my heart and innocence). She then very cold-heartedly blurted out how my mom cheated on my dad and with no filter started sharing all the details. At first, I was in disbelief and in shock. I wanted to cover my ears or run out of the house, but my body just froze. I felt completely devastated and heartbroken. I loved my mom and looked up to her. How could she possibly do something so horrific to someone I loved so dearly? My dad was so precious to me. He was the only person I knew that showed me unconditional love and it tenderized my heart to God. I had no idea he went through this. He always showed so much love and respect to my mom even after the divorce that he never wanted. Years later my mom did talk to me about the incident and said if she knew then what she knew now, she would have never left my dad, but it was the life she lived. 

My dad showed me what it meant to forgive even though no one encouraged him to do so. On the contrary, they teased him for being too soft and stupid. He quietly took it and walked his walk his way, loving and never wronging my mom. Even until his last days, ALWAYS loved her. 

Who knew I was about to walk into a similar situation? I was about to start a journey that I was chosen for to break the chains of bondage and see the VICTORY God had for me, my family, and my future generations. Let me share my life before I came to this realization.


Chapter 3

"Picture-Perfect Family"

 

Years into our marriage had passed and trials were constant. I always had a feeling Marco was fooling around, but all the good times in between and the idea of us as a family always surpassed the hurt. I tried everything I thought of to try and make our relationship better. Of course, my first turn was to prayer which really never ended. I cried a lot and felt like my life was just this BIG mistake and I had ruined it. Then I thought what we needed was to go to counseling. They are professionals so they MUST know the answers to make our marriage right. After that, I reached out to a friend that dealt with spiritism and thought if she can give me insight into the present and future, I was sure I could fix things. At one point, I went as low as to hire a private investigator. I thought if I could get hard proof of Marcel’s infidelity then he would realize that I wasn’t just acting crazy or suspicious and he would surely stop. My last resort was trying to become a woman I thought Marcel wanted, I mean why else would he be looking for someone else, I must be lacking something, so I became the wild wife. I am not pleased reflecting on my past and what I attempted to do, but I learned that NOTHING worked. I was living a neverending cycle that wasn’t breaking. 

It was just before my college graduation. I was about to acquire my bachelor's degree in elementary education and was so happy with what I had accomplished. Things were bad again with Marcel and I felt like we were riding a roller coaster full of ups and downs. I had enough. I said to myself, “I have cried my last tear and I am ready to move on.” That summer after graduation I left on a trip to visit family in another state. Marcel wanted to reconcile but my heart was stone and I felt nothing for him. The love had left and I was looking forward to my new future. I had enough of fights and trust issues. I was ready to conquer the world on my own. 

I left for about a month and during that time Marco met a friend at the gym who invited him to go to church. He was searching for help at the time so he accepted. When I returned he was transforming and I thought “is this fake?” He wanted me to join but I refused. I was furious saying to myself, “oh now you want to go to church?” When he never showed any interest in the past when I brought it up. He was going to church often and there was a special service for marriages that met weekly and he always asked me to go. Finally, I just gave in and said “OK, I will go.” I remember sitting in church and as soon as it started I got up and RAN OUT. I can’t explain it, but it was just too much for me. I felt so overwhelmed and said, “What just happened?” Little did I know that spiritual warfare had just started for me. 

Days later the leader’s wife, Maria, from the marriage ministry called me. I was sitting on my stairs and after a short “small talk” conversation she starts crying saying how she feels all the pain I am going through. I quickly tried to calm her down and assured her that I was fine, very calm, and complete. In other words, I was GOOD. She asked me to give the service at church another chance and if I would come again. She won me with kindness, so I agreed. 

I really didn’t want to go, for at that time I had met someone else and was in a relationship. WHY NOT? I was clear with Marco that our relationship was over and besides, he had done it to me several times. It was what it was! 

I started joining Marco at church as I promised Maria. This time I felt something different, but it felt familiar at the same time. I felt like what I had experienced at 17. I started feeling JOY again. I was eager to listen to the message and wanted all they were sharing about marriage in my life. But not with Marco, it would be with the new person God had for me. 

There was a marriage retreat coming up to go away for the weekend. I agreed to attend. That weekend was incredible and my heart was changing. I was willing to give “us” a try but I had conditions and it was a long list. It included that we had to go to church every Sunday, at the least, and we had to read the bible. I wanted no part in a relationship with Marco if these conditions were not going to be met, and I made this very clear to him.

I went full force in my walk with God, church, and the bible. The kids also enjoyed attending church and they had a wonderful program for them as well. We started the baptism classes together, but Marcel stopped going so I completed them alone and got baptized. What I noticed is the more I moved forward, the more I saw Marco retract. He became distant and started his old ways again. At this point, it didn’t matter anymore. I had found something new and wonderful with God and this time, I was not going to give it up, not for Marco or anyone! 

I remember going to a restaurant with Marco and a conversation started about our situation. Very clearly I said, “if you think you are going to be with other women and I am going to stick around, you are very mistaken.” I felt like for the first time we were both in agreement that maybe it would be best to part ways. So we did what any other couple would have done. We hired and “Christian” lawyer to handle our divorce. We were amicable, and calm and wanted things to go smoothly for us and the kids. We agreed not to tell anyone until things were final. 

At the time we continued to go to church as a family and on the outside, all looked picture-perfect. We were both doing a great job of fooling everyone. The church was hosting for the first time a Family Retreat weekend getaway. I hesitated, but we agreed that it would be for the kids, so we signed up. Come to find out Jr was a couple of months short of the required age group. “Well I guess we can’t go”, I said, but Marco had a way with words. He took the coordinator aside, and before we knew it he was back giving us the ok to all attend. I say, looking back now, GOD had plans and He wanted us there. It was an experience I will never forget. 

We arrived Friday evening and we all slept in different cabins. Perfectly separated with one for the girls, one for the boys, one for the men, and one for the women. It was like being in summer camp all over again. We had activities separately and together. Saturday night we had a service together in the main hall. We sat as a family listening to the message, when it was about to finish, they asked if anyone wanted prayer to come up. Natalie jumps up, goes to the alter, and falls on her knees. I glance at her and realize she was crying. I quickly got up and went to comfort and hold her from behind. It always breaks my heart to see any of my children cry and I wanted to do whatever I could to help her. In a faint voice, I hear her say, “I don’t want you to leave me.” Oh how that pierced my heart and I could not contain myself and I started sobbing. In my mind, all these thoughts come about how I had met her at only 1 ½, and by 3 she was living full-time with Marco, being ripped away from the life (whatever it was good or bad) she had with her biological mom. She had been through so much, full of instability. By 4 we were married, hoping that would bring her some type of normality, but I know she saw so much she should have never seen, and she heard so much she should have never heard, would her heart ever heal??? She lived with the uncertainty of the unknown of where her place was in this family, in this life, in this big world at only 9 years old. We had told no one about the divorce, but she knew, how? I don’t know, but in like so many other things, she heard, she saw and she knew. Oh how I wish I could turn back time and make all things right, but life doesn’t work that way, only GOD could do this for her now, but I did what I did at that moment just for her. 

She WAS MY daughter and I held her so tight and said, “I would never leave you.” I kissed her head, got up, and went to another corner of the room. I fell to my knees and just cried. I was exhausted! I cried out to God, opened my heart, and said, “God, You know what I have been through and what I am going through now. You know what I want in a man, in a marriage, in a family. I cannot do this, I simply can’t. But, if you want me to stay with Marco, You have to do something, because I just can’t.” 

At that moment Marco came to me and tried to console me putting his hands on my shoulders but I quickly pushed him away. I was so angry, I just wanted to scream. I was angry with him because of his constant betrayals and inability to be faithful. I was angry with myself, why could I not be good enough for him so that he wouldn’t have the need to look elsewhere? Why could I not hold this marriage together, this family together? I was so frustrated and confused as to why this all had to happen, I mean no one goes into a marriage wanting it to fail, but that is exactly how I felt. A complete failure! How could this happen to me? 

I finally got up and sat by myself in the farthest row away from everyone. A woman came and sat next to me, she said softly, “I know what you are going through.” I turned my head slowly to her, with a very stern look, and said, “You have NO IDEA what I am going through.” I turned my head back towards the front. She said nothing, got up, and calmly walked away. At that moment the Holy Spirit nudged me and I felt it. I was very rude to her, so I went to her and apologized, then I felt led to give her my number. Her name was Rosa and she was so sweet. We didn’t speak for the rest of the weekend and went home. 

During the week after, I got a phone call from her. She said that she prays with a friend over the phone for their marriages and she had a book she wanted to give to me. We agreed to meet at a restaurant. As we sat down, and before I even gave her a chance to speak, I said, “so, you said you knew what I was going through? Well, let me tell you ALL of it.” At the moment I spilled the beans as we say it. I wanted to justify all my actions so, like any normal person, she would have to agree that a divorce is exactly what I should be doing. She was so patient, didn’t say much at all, but just listened. We were together for almost 5 hours, poor waiter, he just kept looking at us, hoping we would leave. She didn’t give her opinion or any advice, she simply gave me the book and asked me to join her in the call that evening. I agreed and we said our goodbyes. 

That night I joined the call for prayers. I had never experienced anything like it. I was amazed and thought how great would it be to learn how to pray like them. It wasn’t repetition or empty, it was sharing their hearts with God with love and passion. I loved it. After hanging up, I grabbed the book and sat on my stairs. I closed my eyes and prayed, “God, I have listened to everyone’s advice about what to do. I have tried everything I could possibly think of with no success. Today, I want to hear what You have to say. Open my heart as I read this book and speak to ME. What are You trying to show me? I am surrendering to You and want to hear all that You are telling me. My focus is on YOU!”


Chapter 4

"Poor Me"
 

You are so beautiful. You are so wonderful. You are a great mother and wife. You deserve so much better. He doesn't deserve you. There is someone so much better for you out there. You, You, You…. 

That is what I was told over and over again. And, I started repeating it over and over, all the time. When someone, anyone tried to tell me any different, like “Hey marriage is hard, people make mistakes, you have to work on it” anything, I would quickly bombard them with a huge pity party sharing all he has done. I was the innocent victim of this horrible behavior. Then they would say no more. I mean who really could? It would devastate anyone right? 

Well until the day came. My day, my appointed time as I call it. The day I decided to open the book I was so graciously given. I didn’t know what to expect, but I just knew something had to change. The last thing I thought was just how much change was about to start happening in ME. The first couple of pages was so encouraging like God was speaking directly to me and giving me that spark of hope. I was excited about how He was going to change my SITUATION, and my HUSBAND, and that finally, I would have the MARRIAGE of my dreams. 

Until the pages continued and I realized this journey I was about to start was all about ME. I thought, “wait, WHAT?” I AM good, kind, and loving. I mean I took his daughter in like my own giving him a family. I am what all others see as a perfect woman. This book started confronting me and I started questioning every part of my life. How could it be? I remember God starting to chisel little by little into my heart until finally, I understood. All He wanted was ME, all of ME. Was I willing to surrender all I was? All I ever knew? How I was raised, and how I thought a woman should be. Was I ready to finally give Him the opportunity to show ME who I am and who He wanted me to be, beautifully created by Him?

The beauty in all this is that as many times as I wanted to throw the book out the window, as it started to reveal all MY faults and errors, God in a loving voice would just guide me to keep reading. As I continued to read, each page allowed me to grow so much closer to God. I started feeling His true and only purpose in all this, to open my eyes to the truth of how I was living my life, good and bad. HE wanted to teach me His way, and His will and heal me so that I can live FREE in Him. 

Until this time, my focus and blame all fell on Marco and never on me. Now, I knew this was my time between ME and God. I submerged myself in His word, His truth, and most importantly His love. He took me back to my past as a child, adolescent, and young adult, peeling layers and layers of past hurts and mistakes. He brought to mind things I never wanted to remember. Things I had buried too deep that I had forgotten, or at least that was my intention to do. 

I thought “WHY? Why bring all this pain, betrayal, and hurt up again, why?’ As each incident and memory came to mind I knew I needed this as much as I wanted it to stop. I needed to trust Him. Each hurt that surfaced He was ready to comfort and heal me. Most important showing me to forgive. Forgive those who hurt me, and forgive myself. It was His will to bring all this YUK up to the light so that with Him, I could be freed and cleansed. Although it was so difficult, it was worth it. I felt light. I was healed from my past. I had a new start and it was great. 

I came to the realization that my life and every area were standing on sinking sand and I wanted to be solid ground, God’s solid ROCK! The guilt of my past was gone and now it was time to work on the present. My situation with my marriage and family. My heart broke as I thought of how much destruction I had created. YES, me. I quickly learned that my crisis wasn’t marital but spiritual. I was FAR from God and what He called me to be. I was determined to rebuild my life on His word, my guide, which is the ROCK my life so desperately needed. I learned that nothing this world offered worked and by learning His word I was getting to know God, who He is, and all about His love. I started to fall in love with Him. I had for far too long put too much in front of Him. My heart was finally turning back to Him, My first true LOVE! 

if they pray to me and repent and turn away from the evil they have been doing, then I will hear them in heaven, forgive their sins, and make their land prosperous again. 2 Chronicles 7:14 GNT


Chapter 5

"I am in LOVE"
 

As I was going through this spiritual makeover, one of the first things God showed me to do was let go. I had to let Marco go, no, not leave him but stop nagging him or keeping track of his every move, or asking him for anything. 

I know that many of you may read this and think, “WOW, how bad was she really that she needed a makeover? I mean HOW far does she really have to go in changing or to what extreme? Do I also have to go through all of this to know God? Is all that I am reading normal or even healthy?” 

What I am about to share many may not understand and think the same as what I shared in the above paragraph. I can sympathize because I thought the same until I experienced God’s love. When His love is experienced all the “normal” is transformed into extreme faithfulness to Him. It is never a burden but an honor and a passion to follow His ways and His will for our lives. My hope is that as you continue to read, you also will open your heart to understand more about Him and His love for you. 

So back to my makeover. I was transformed by His love. It was a love I had never experienced before. It was like no matter what I shared with Him, He just kept loving me. His love took away all my fears and gave me comfort when things around me were not Ok. I experienced his forgiveness. I thought, “How big is God to be concerned with someone so small as me.” He showed me complete forgiveness and I realized if He could forgive me then how can I possibly not forgive others? I must and I did, with His strength always backing me up. 

He gave me His great gift of grace. I say gift because there was nothing I did to deserve it. His grace showed me to live discretely, NOT giving in to feelings or reacting to them. I also no longer had to hold them in or bottle them up inside. I found the Love of my life. The One I could run to anytime I wanted, share whatever I wanted. Going to Him with every care or concern showed me He IS present and ready to take care of my every need. He never judged me and He was never too busy or occupied with other things. I was able to surrender everything, and release all my burdens to HIM and in turn, He gave me comfort. He helped me understand that trials produce so much good. They brought me closer to Him and I should embrace them. His grace gave me the strength I needed to walk through this journey, walk through the fire, more than anything I could have ever done on my own. 

So back to the beginning where I shared about letting go. God asked me not only to let go of Marco but so much more, my marriage, family, and finances. All the material things, my dreams, and desires. This was not just a physical surrender but most importantly a heart surrender because He always saw the heart and its intentions. I didn’t do it because I “wanted” something, but because I desired to show Him that I loved and trusted Him completely. I needed to let go and surrender everything to Him so I could in turn live my very best life in Him. 

I was learning His word, obeying His lead, and doing everything He asked with love because He deserved everything from me. He became my reason for living, my purpose, and my everything. I started loving the new me and never wanted to look back. I was happy, content, and at peace. I told God that now that there was a new me, I would no longer mess up and everything would be good, so I was ready for my perfect marriage and perfect life. I had put my house in order. My relationship with my children flourished. For the first time, I really felt like I understood my role as a wife, mother, and woman of God and I loved it. God gave me this incredible desire and love for my home, my husband, and my children. I could see with His eyes, love with His love, and forgive with His strength. It was great and I was excited! 

“My Love, You are all I need, You are all I want, You are all I love for.”


Chapter 6

"Love Never Fails"
 

Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. James 1:2-3 NLT 

As I shared in the previous chapter, I stopped contacting Marco. I attended to the home and the children. When he would come home I attended to him, but only if he wanted me to. I didn’t ask questions nor share any issues of the home unless he asked. We were living in the same house, but worlds apart. 

I knew I needed my time with God and He was handling Marco. I was so overwhelmed (in a good way) with the newfound Love that I had no time to mope around. If I wasn’t attending to the children or the home I was studying His word, in prayer or worship, in other words, just spending time with Him. This was the fuel I needed and never wanted it to run out. 

I had made new friends, Lina and Rosa (the one who gave me the book). We practically prayed daily, shared His word, fasted, and worshiped together. We encouraged each other all based on God, it was wonderful. I never tried to do any of this in front of Marco. My new relationship with God was mine and I didn’t want to show off or try to look religious or better than him. I wanted any changes in Marco to come from God, as He did with me, and not by pushing or persuasion or any actions on my behalf. 

I tried to really love Marco unconditionally. 

“Love is patient, love is kind, it does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.” I Corinthians 13:4-5 NIV 

I have heard this verse SOOOO many times especially at weddings, like so many others, but do we really follow this? Well no, I didn’t, but this was the kind of LOVE I experienced with God. I desperately wanted to show this kind of love I had found to Marco. I hoped that one day he could perhaps understand and accept it also from God because I knew “Love never fails.” I Corinthians 13:8 

It was a Thursday evening and I had gotten home from a class I was taking to earn my Master's degree in education. Marco and the kids weren’t home so I was tired and went to bed. Later that evening I hear the door open of the room and Marco standing there says he needs to talk and that it is very important. I thought ok so I sat up quickly and gave him my attention. He sits next to me and shares, “Something almost happened today and I need to tell you. I met someone and I am dating her. I really like her and I need you to take this relationship seriously so you need to know. The kids were with me today while you were at school and they almost saw her but I managed to move them away.” 

My face went numb, my eyes just gazed into his face and my heart started racing, but with all this, I did not move an inch. Marco continues, “Hello?? Are you listening? Did you hear what I just said? I met someone else and the kids almost saw her and I don’t know how much longer I am going to be able to hide this from them. Well? Say something.” 

Snap out of it Lota, I said in my mind. I started calling out to God inside and looked down to try to buy myself more time before speaking. I felt God calm me and give me this peace I could not understand. I looked up and said, “Yes, I heard everything you said and I understand.” Marco quickly got up and said, “OK then, good.” and walked out the door. 

This was the first time ever that Marco actually told me he was with someone else. I always suspected or speculated but I never really knew for sure. It was always hidden, but this time it was thrown in my face and he threw it HARD! 

I wanted to cry, scream, argue, plead, DO anything a normal person would do in this situation, but I couldn’t. You see, I was different. I had this source of peace that I knew only came from God. All I could say was, “God? What now?” 

In a short time before this very day, I had been fed all this spiritual food, growing each day, proclaiming how much I loved God, trusted Him, and that my faith was in Him, believing all the promises He gave me. Well, this was my time to not only SAY these things but now I had to LIVE them through my actions. 

“What good is it… if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions?... So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless… I will show you my faith by my good deeds.” James 2:14-18 NLT 

I got on my knees and prayed, “I surrender my life and You deserve everything. Help me God, to follow Your word and live by them so that they come alive in my life. Keep me close to You because I can’t do this without You!” 

The one thing I had told Marco in the past, in a very proud and arrogant voice, was I would NOT take or put up with him being with another woman. Here I was standing in front of this exact predicament. Well, what were my options? Go back to my old self and leave? That would mean throwing away everything I had learned, what I had become, and the relationship I had created with God. It would be all gone!! I couldn’t! I couldn’t imagine my life without God or being separated from Him. It would mean every promise He had given me in the most intimate times, I would have considered them all LIES if I just got up, walked away, and moved on with my life. 

No temporary joy or satisfaction of my flesh could compare to the eternal love I had found in Him. Plus, I knew trials are temporary and FAITH, my faith is the assurance of what I hoped for and the certainty of what I do not see. Hebrew 11:1 God promised to restore my marriage and every area of my life. I CHOSE to believe and trust in HIM wholeheartedly.


Chapter 7

"You Make Me Brave"
 

“Lota, Lota can you hear me? …………..Yes Lord I hear You.” “Come, Come walk to me…………. But Lord, I don’t see you” “Follow me, here I am…………. It's dark Lord and I am scared.” “Lota, I have my hand stretched out for you………….. Ok, I am walking.’ 

“Lord, Lord can you hear me?..................... Yes, Lota, I hear you.” “It is getting hot and I can hear the raging fire, I don’t see you and I am terrified to go any further, please let me turn back………… Ana, My perfect LOVE will cast out all your fear.” 

“Lord, If I keep going I will get burned…………….. Lota In the shelter of My presence, in the shadow of My wings, you are safe. Now come, hold my hand.” 

“Lord I have Your hand,……………. Now trust in me Lota and keep your eyes on me, I will never let you go. 

“Lord, You make me brave!” 

Courage is to be willing to go through with something that is still difficult, scary, or unpleasant. God was not only giving me supernatural courage but His love that flowed in me was casting out all fear. I started walking through FIRE, some just a flame, others raging, but I felt peace and strength knowing that everything was in His hands. 

It was a normal day and JR hopped in the car. We were about to head out to the store when in the back seat he starts crying uncontrollably. I quickly put the car back in park, took my seatbelt off, and rushed to the back seat. “What’s wrong? Why are you crying?” I asked. Poor thing it was so hard for words to come out of his mouth, but finally, he said, “I am not going to see her and I don’t want her to be mad at me.” I thought, What is he talking about? So, I asked “who honey? Who is going to be mad at you?” Then he looked at me and said, “Ivette mom, Ivette.” My heart skipped a beat or can I say MANY!!! He then kept sharing, “We were supposed to go the fair together with Dad but look at the time mom, it's just not going to happen and she is going to think I did not want to go and I don’t want her to be mad at me.” He just kept crying. He was so upset. I don’t know the exact arrangements that were made and I didn’t ask. I just simply held my hurting son in my arms trying to comfort him as I wiped his tears from his little face. I said, “It's going to be ok, don’t worry there will be another opportunity for you to see Ivette and I am sure she will not be mad at you since it's not your fault, sometimes plans change.” 

WHAT!!! was I saying??? I had just found out for the first time that my children not only knew of Ivonne but had interacted with her, so much so that my baby was in tears. One of my biggest fears had come and this one was different from the rest. This one I struggled to trust God. I mean, I am a mother. I am supposed to protect my children. I never wanted them to be exposed to any of this. Oh my Love, How could this happen? Why? I understand me, this being my walk but why did my children need to go through this? I was ready to climb any mountain but never did I want to drag my kids along. 

“For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so My (God’s) ways are higher than your ways and My (God’s) thoughts higher than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:9 NLT 

I dried Jr’s tears, put a smile on my face, and gave him a big hug. He calmed down and we continued our day with not another word spoken of that incident. 

Weeks later Marco asks to speak to me, at a random moment. He says, “I want to let you know the kids have met Ivette and I was thinking of taking them to Disney World with her and her family.” I don’t know how I managed, but I calmly asked if we can speak of this at a later time and he agreed. This was a double blow. God made a way to get me out of that conversation quickly because He knew I was not ready for that at all.

I finally heard it from Marco. Not only did he bring the kids around Ivette but now he wanted to take a trip with her family. God knew I needed time alone with Him, He never gives us more than we can handle. Then it hit me, this was my process of letting go of my kids and trusting God. I got it, I did, but it hurt so bad. I prayed, “my Love this is my children, the children you gave me to protect and love. If you are asking me to surrender my children, promise me You will protect their heart and their future. I want them to know what it is to love and honor their future spouses and most important honor You. No matter what they see or experience, show them Your truth and way.” 

I guess I had hoped for Jr’s incident to be an isolated case, but clearly, now I knew Marco was playing family with Ivette and again it pierced my heart. 

Here I was asking God for His strength in what I was about to allow. I poured my heart to Him as I always do. I shared, “My Love, Marco and I had never taken the kids to Disney as a family and I really wanted to be the first to experience it with my children. I know I have to surrender and be willing to lose this opportunity and I have to be honest, I feel like I am being robbed of this.” I could say no more and I just started crying uncontrollably. After some time I felt His comfort and He softly asked me, “Do you trust me?” With the little voice I had left, I said, “I do.” He assured me through His word that He would protect my children and heal their hearts. 

The next time the conversation came up we were sitting in a restaurant eating. It was just the two of us and he asked me what I thought of the idea he had mentioned earlier about Disney. Then my words just flowed, “Marco you are the father of my children and I trust you to make the best decision for them. You know we have never taken the kids to Disney together and as much as I would love to be the first one to experience it with them, if you want to take them, then do so.” I felt this burden be lifted from my shoulders as I had finally taken my children and placed them into the arms of God. Who better than Him right? Marco and I never spoke about it after and the trip never happened. I was so grateful but understood that either way God was in control.


Chapter 8

"Take the Good"
 

I have to say that one of my biggest struggles was my mind. It would wander into the “what if’s” or the “could be’s” being uncertain of just how far or how long my journey would be. I tried to enjoy every moment but it was a weakness I had and I have to share it. My willingness to walk the path He was leading me didn’t mean I would not get to some points where I felt like it was too much to bear. 

Rain falls because the clouds can no longer handle the weight. Tears fall because the heart can no longer handle the pain. 

Would I break at some point? How difficult would it become? I constantly had to renew my mind with His word and just believe that everything would turn out for my good. My children now knew of Marco and Ivette and would there be others to find out what was going on? I was discrete with my situations, but those “what if’s”, I had to surrender daily. I had to walk one day at a time, finding the peace that surpassed all understanding. 

My brother had borrowed Marco’s car for a couple of days. I got a call from him to come over. He literally lives less than five minutes away. My brother and I have a very close relationship and he is one of the best human beings I know. So I drove over and he was standing outside with tears coming down his face. I quickly got out of the car and ran to him. “Is everything ok? What’s wrong?’ I said. He replied, “I can’t believe this.” Almost in an angry voice saying “what is this?”, holding a picture of Ivonne in his hands. He continued to say, “I was driving and I put the sun visor down and this falls on my lap. What is going on?” Then, his crying intensifies and I am at a loss for words. Oh God please help me. There were all these emotions in the air, betrayal, anger, and sadness all at once and I needed to do something. I felt God guide me and I grabbed his shoulders, looked him in the eyes, and said, “I am so sorry you saw this and I know you are upset. I love you with all my heart, but please know it is all going to be fine.” instantly my brother’s face went to a “yeah, right, sure” face. So I continued, “Look at me (keeping a calm and positive attitude) I am going to be fine. Don’t be mad, just trust me that all this is going to work out. I am taking care of it.” 

This was my first encounter with a family member being affected. It hurt and I was embarrassed. Would he understand why I was still with Marco after all this, or would he judge me as being weak and stupid to put up with it. That was an insult I was willing to take and I did often. I couldn’t protect him, only trust God he would heal him too. My brother wiped his tears and said, “OK, I am not going to say anything, but it's not right.” I agreed, we hugged, and I left. 

The moment I got in my car and turned the corner I cried so much. All I could do was praise God and thank Him. I had learned that praising Him through these trials brought me comfort. It was the complete opposite of what my flesh wanted to do, but I was trying my best to walk in the spirit of God and by faith. 

In the meantime, Marco’s relationship with Ivette was getting stronger. He had met all her family and they adored the kids. All of this I knew because Marco didn’t mind sharing with me all the details. I just quietly listened and smiled, always trying to be happy and encouraging. I was learning that my happiness and strength no longer came from my circumstances or surroundings, it came from God, my new Love. So I made sure to show this no matter what I was listening to or no matter what was happening. 

My relationship with God grew stronger as he continued showing His faithfulness to supply my every need. It may not be what I wanted all the time but I lacked nothing. Every chance I had, I met with my two friends, my sisters in Christ, and my prayer partners. We formed a 3-cord together and God really knew we needed each other. We held each other up in times of weakness and always kept our focus on God. No matter how much I wanted to lean on them, they always guided me back to the true source of strength, God and His word.

I don’t remember why but I was driving Marco’s car and heading to Lina’s apartment. Rosa was already there. We would get together often to pray, share His word, and fellowship. We cried and we laughed. We did it all. It was a beautiful friendship like nothing I had before. I got to the parking lot, parked the car, and without thinking twice I put the visor down to use the mirror so I could put some lipstick on. I flipped it down and there staring at me was the picture of Ivonne. I had completely forgotten about that picture being there and my heart sank. I quickly closed it back up. I became sad, went upstairs, and knocked on the door. Lina popped the door open with her BIG HELLO!!! She saw my face and quickly brought me in. I blurted out, “I just saw a picture of Ivette in Marcel’s car. I never really saw her and now I had stared at her picture. My heart hurts and I don’t know how much more I can take this.” Well, Lina and Rosa jumped for JOY! What?? YES, Joy! Did I really expect anything different from them? You see, one of the many sayings they lived by was, “Lota, you have to take the good and throw away the bad.” But what GOOD could this possibly bring?? Oh but rest assured Lina and Rosa always found something good in everything and this wasn’t going to be any different. It brought a smile to my face and I was learning that every trial brought a blessing and a breakthrough. So I said, “Lord what are you trying to show me today?” Then it came to me, I needed to forgive Ivonne and see her with God’s eyes. Not only did I need to forgive her, but I also needed to love her and pray for her. Rosa and Lina got excited because they knew this moment was exactly for that. 

So I ran downstairs, opened the car, and grabbed the picture. As soon as I got back to the apartment we started praying. God was leading us. I fell on my knee and truly asked Him to help me forgive her for all that was going on including all the pain I was feeling because of her involvement with Marco and the kids. I needed to recognize that blaming or holding resentment would do nothing for my situation and I had to love and forgive everyone. That included her. When we finished it was miraculous. I can say I felt His love in me for her and I was free.

The beautiful thing about God is that He knows everything and that includes the future. He knew that what I just experienced, needed to happen to prepare me for what was about to come. 

“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the LORD. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11 

Soon after we finished praying and we were having a bite to eat, my phone rang. It was Marco. I answered, “Hello.” He says, “Hi there, I know I was supposed to stay with the kids tonight, but we just finished a movie and Ivette wants us to go out alone for a while. Is that ok with you?” I replied, “Sure, but I am Lina’s apartment.” He answered, “oh no worries, I can drop them off there. I am not far and will be there in 20 minutes or so.” We hung up and told them my kids would be joining us soon. They didn’t mind. Lina had two girls and Rosa had two boys. With my kids, it was a bunch of six and they all got along and enjoyed the company. 

At about 20 minutes later Marco called, so I answered, “hey if you are here just send the kids up and I will meet them at the elevator.” He says, “no, I want you to come down and get them from the car. Besides I am with Ivette and I want you to meet each other.” AHHH, What???? Why?????? I didn’t say that but I screamed it inside. What I did say was, “ok, give me a few and I will be right down.” 

My friends saw the look on my face and it changed in an instant. I hung up and said over and over, “I can’t do this, I can’t do this..” They said “What?? Can’t do What??” I replied, “Marco wants me to go downstairs to get the kids and meet Ivonne, like face to face. Why is this really necessary?” Then Lina grabbed me by the shoulders, looked at me straight in the eyes, and said, “you can do all things through Christ that strengths you.” Then Rosa added with excitement and confidence, “besides God already prepared you, Duh, why do you think all this just happened right before.” I thought YES, I must pass this test and show Him that I did forgive her. So I started my walk down to the parking lot. My heart raced but I did not take the smile off my face, telling myself, I got this because God is with me. Then the moment happened. The kids came running out of the car as soon as they saw me coming out of the elevator. I got such big hugs and kisses that day from them and oh how I needed that. As I approached the car Marco got out, then Ivette. I swallowed hard and smiled as I said hello to Marco, giving him the opportunity to introduce us properly. He said, “Lota, this is Ivette, and Ivette, this is Lota.” As politely as I could, I said, “It is so nice to meet you.” and I shook her hand. She replied, “likewise.” That was it. Marco finished it quickly saying, “ok, we are leaving now, and sorry for this unexpected drop off.” I said, “it’s no problem at all, have fun.” I turned around with my children, each holding my hand, one on each side walking to the elevator. I did not turn back. I felt like I was walking on clouds. I never thought I could do what I just did, but I did it and I knew Who was behind it, my Love, thank you.


Chapter 9

"One Step at a Time"
 

The shower is on and I am downstairs reading. Marco has been in there for a while now. I hear him rumbling in the closet getting ready to go out. He wears his nice clothes and sprays his favorite cologne. He runs down the stairs and says, “how do I look?” I just smile and he says goodbye. He was off to one of his many outings with Ivette. I decided not to get sad anymore, but instead, get excited because it was my alone time with God. I cannot stress enough how important this time we had together was to me. As much as I wanted my marriage restored, I knew my time with God was crucial in making everything new, in making me new. I was in the Potter’s hands and I needed work, and in the end, I knew it was going to be beautiful. 

Marco and I went from barely talking or seeing each other, to becoming friends again. The wall had come down and we interacted again with no pressure or expectations. This was hard at times, believe me, I heard things I REALLY didn’t want to, but I followed his lead. We started laughing again together and genuinely enjoying each other’s company. I always gave him his space, and it seemed the more space I gave him the more he wanted to spend time together. I didn’t pay much attention to this and focused more on my time with God. 

Christmas was coming up and there was a trip to New York planned to visit Marco’s family. It was like a mini-family reunion and I really enjoyed spending time with his family. We were getting ready to go out to the city and enjoy the Christmas lights. Marco’s phone rings and it is sitting right next to me on the dresser. I hear him in the bathroom saying, “Lota, can you bring me my phone?” I take it to him, and he looks at it, gives it back to me, and tells me to answer it. I look at the phone and it’s Ivette calling, so I answer, “hello?” she replies, “Um is Marco there?” I say, “Yes he is right here, hold on.” I hand Marco the phone and I walk back to the room. I had no interest in listening to their conversations, but I did wonder why he asked me to pick it up. Was he looking for a reaction? I don’t know, but shortly after he came into the room and randomly, in an odd way, confronted me about the time I had gone to visit my family in another state. The trip I had made right after my college graduation, the trip I had met someone else. 

Now I have to share that in the past he has brought it up to me and I would always deny I had any relations with this guy trying to protect myself and my reputation. But, it had been such a long time since then, I had really hoped he had forgotten about it all. The thing is, God doesn’t leave any area of our lives unresolved. Not because He wants to punish us but because He wants to heal us. In my prayer time, God was already bringing this relationship to my mind and no matter how much I wanted to forget it, it was tugging in my heart. I needed to confess this to Marco, but I was so scared. Things were getting better between us and I didn’t want to mess things up. 

This was the appointed time from God, oh please help me. Marco starts saying, “I know on that trip you were with a guy and I know you deny it, but I know something happened between the both of you…” and before he could finish, I said, “Yes, you are right, I did sleep with him. This whole time I did deny it, but you are right and I am sorry.” 

I closed my eyes, with my shoulder tensed just waiting for the wrath of Marco to come upon me. I just knew he was going to let me have it and have it good. Instead, I heard nothing, just silence. I slowly opened my eyes and he just sat there on the bed looking down. I waited there knowing I had nothing else to say. Then he finally spoke, “You know Lota, I want to be so mad at you, I mean really angry, but I can’t explain it and I don’t know why, but I can’t. I can’t be mad at you.” He got up and said, “come on, let's finish getting ready, besides I need you to help me pick out a Christmas gift for Ivette so I have something for her when I get back home.” 

All I could do was smile. I looked up and whispered to myself, “Thank you God because I know You softened Marco’s heart.” I was not going to let that last comment from Marco take the joy I had received from being forgiven and finally free from that part of my life. Things were falling into place and I was being transformed one step at a time. 

New Year’s came right after our trip and return home. My family always does a huge party and it's a tradition that is never missed. This year was one of the hardest. Although I was grateful because Marco stayed with us until midnight, he was ready to leave right after to go spend the rest of the evening with Ivonne and her family. For us, after midnight, the party is just starting. We are eating, listening to music, and dancing and all the kids are running around playing. He insisted on my staying, but I couldn’t bear to be there alone and have everyone asking me questions or worse suspecting something was wrong between us. Throughout all this time no one knew about my journey, only my brother vaguely, and I didn’t want to start any unwanted conversations. So, I left the kids with my brother and I asked Marco to drop me off at home. He did and quickly left. I went up to my room, layed on my bed, and wept. I asked God to hold me and I just wanted to feel His presence with me. Many times I felt like giving up, thinking how much easier would it be if I was single and I could do my own thing. Here I was all alone while he was out having a good time, but God always comforted me and gave me the strength to go on and keep loving. 

“Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.” I Corinthians 13:13


Chapter 10

"Great Joy"
 

It was a new year and I always loved how this time of the year gave the vibe of new beginnings. After much time in prayer, I felt like God showing me not to pursue my master’s degree. I had completed one semester, the time Marco first mentioned to me about Ivette, and although I was taught that the higher the education the better, I knew God asked me to let go of it. I don’t have anything against it, but I understand that each of us has our unique walk, and ultimately what is important is to always seek God about everything and ask for His guidance. So, instead of pursuing this degree, I pursued my studies in His word and the many books He lead me to read. It's funny because I was never a “reader”, but in this short time, I read more books than I did in my whole lifetime. 

I also concentrated on educating my children about God and His word. Any opportunity I had I shared about Him and His love. Always with the hope that they too would find their own personal and intimate relationship with Him. Remember how I said in the very beginning I loved music? Well, I made sure every Christian concert that was in our area we were there. They were my partners and I loved spending time with them. I truly enjoyed motherhood. 

Even things with Marco were getting better by the day. I kept my distance and gave him his space knowing he was still in a relationship with Ivette. I assumed all was going well with them, but there was one day I remember clearly that showed me otherwise. Marco and I were with the kids at a store purchasing some items. Marco’s phone rang, he answered it and walked away. I didn’t pay any mind to it and continued with the kids. Then it happened three more times, his phone rang, he would walk away and then return. Finally, it happened for the last time, but with this phone call, he didn’t walk away and was clearly arguing with the person on the other line. Then I heard him say her name, Ivette, and I knew he was talking to her. I didn’t want to hear the conversation, but it just happened that way. For the first time, God was showing me that things weren’t as good as I thought or as they seemed and their relationship was struggling. God was making changes and fulfilling His promise that this relationship would one day end. 

Though the lips of the forbidden woman drip honey and her speech is smoother than oil, in the end she is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a double-edged sword.…Proverbs 5:3-4 

Within weeks later, I saw Marco’s heart turning back to me slowly. He started to become more loving and caring. Although we were friendly, he hadn’t shown any affection for quite some time, so this was all new to me. One day he came to me out of nowhere and asked me why I loved him so much, after everything he has done to me. I didn’t answer him, but just smiled and shrugged my shoulders. The most vivid memory was when he called me on the phone one day saying, “Lota, I know what I am doing is wrong and I want to come back fully to you. I realized that you are the only one that will love me and the kids the way we need to be. I want you to know that soon I am breaking it off with Ivonne.” 

That didn’t happen right away and at first, I was discouraged. God was showing me that although he was changing Marcel’s heart toward us again as a family, He still had more work to do in him. There were ties to her that only God could break, so I had to wait patiently for God to finish what He started. 

I can’t share many details about how it finally came about. There wasn’t this definite time or day that I can say GOD restored my marriage just the little events of Marco’s heart returning home and becoming my husband again. The phone calls stopped and his outings became fewer and fewer until it all ended. He was now fully committed to me and his family. 

I knew there was something different about Marco. It didn’t happen overnight but gradually changes occurred. I really knew things were different with him when his sister came to me one day saying, “Hey, what’s going on with my brother?” I said, “What do you mean?” Then she said, “well remember when he took my friend and I to Miami Beach because we needed a ride? I was a little shocked because the whole time he didn’t look once at a girl or make a comment about one. Now that is not like my brother. He has really changed.” At that moment it hit me. I knew things were different with him in front of me, but I had no idea if he was that same person when I was not around. For the first time, I felt this big sigh of relief that finally, it was real!! God really did change his heart. Things that once grabbed his attention just didn’t matter anymore. God had his heart and He turned it back to me. 

In February we celebrated our wedding anniversary together. God was slowly mending our relationship back together piece by piece. Soon we were talking about having our third child and by May we were pregnant with our restoration baby. 

Things were amazing and Fabio was born. He was such a joy to all of us. He definitely had a personality on him with a strong character, but that made him unique and so loved. He was our restoration baby and we could not imagine our lives without him. 

Nothing was perfect, but I did have the perfect Love that never left my side in God. No matter the circumstance I was facing my strength and joy came from Him. Although I loved Marco very much, my heart was and always will be God’s. It’s the only way I know and want to live now. I was determined to dedicate my life to sharing His goodness and ability to restore lives to everyone and anyone He would lead me to. 

I was happy because God was in my life and that was all that mattered. This journey allowed me to learn that no matter what I had to face in life, I can face it with confidence that my heart was safe in His mighty hands. 

She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future. Proverbs 31:25


EPILOGUE

 

We are ready to celebrate our third child’s 20th birthday. I can’t believe two decades have passed. Wow, how time has gone since my restoration journey began. Each day God shows me how He keeps each promise He gave to us, our family, and every area of our lives. We have 3 beautiful children and one granddaughter named Alina. In February of 2022, Marco asked me to remarry him on our anniversary weekend. We had never been married through the church and it was a desire of my heart for a very long time. He has shared his interest in getting closer to God again, re-engaging his relationship with Him, since for some time he was distant. In April he asked to meet with the Pastor of our church. After his meeting, he announced that on Easter Sunday of 2022 he was getting baptized and he did. In February 2023, we set the date to have our renewal ceremony. Our Pastor will be marrying us at our home with family and close friends present. 

During these 20 years, I would love to say all our trials ended, but we are always a work in progress and each one brings us closer to God. Marco and I continue to grow, have our falls, and sometimes struggle to get back up. There have been times we have strayed but God has always been faithful to bring us close to Him. He is our strength and rock. We live a joyous and fulfilled life because of God. Our only desire is for others to know Him in an intimate way also. So, whatever path He has for them or leads them through, I hope they will know they are never alone and always loved. All things are POSSIBLE with God. 

And I will give them one heart and mind to worship me forever, for their own good and for the good of all their descendants. And I will make an everlasting covenant with them, promising never again to desert them but only to do them good. I will put a desire into their hearts to worship me, and they shall never leave me. I will rejoice to do them good and will replant them in this land with great joy.” Jeremiah 32:39-41 LB

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1 thought on “RJN “Brave Through the Fire” Lota Joel”

  1. Maybe I am too late but it’s just now on a Sunday afternoon my Husband led me here to check the name of Lota’s RJN thinking it was the same as her RMT and the same as a popular movie (to make sure she was aware in case she wanted to change it). It’s not the same nor does it come from a direct line from her novel.
    My suggestion is to add the exact line or to change the title to “Make Me Brave” because that’s a title that would compel me to read it.
    Most importantly in order to utilize new RJN and gain a following I believed one chapter per week would be added and featured in the blog. It seems a shame to just put it all out there at once.
    UPDATE: Before leaving my Husband had me copy the entire novel and check the word count.
    This is actually a Novelette since it has just 13,654 words and that’s including the title page and table of contents.

    Novel: 50,000 and 80,000 words.
    Novella: 20,000 and 49,999 words.
    Novelette: 7,500 to 19,999 words.

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