Love & Faith conquer all
by Lisa Velez
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April 12, 2003
By: Lisa Velez
As children we think we’re invincible and that nothing and no one can touch us. We think we’ll live forever despite the odds. We think our parents will live forever, and that nothing bad will ever happen to them. We believe that they’ll always be around. We treat life like a game as if nothing can stop us. Then we get older and things start happening. And we find out that our previous thoughts about things were wrong and that no one on earth is invincible and untouchable. We start to realize that life is short, and that too much of it is spent on worrying over needless things. We begin to understand that we must make the most of the time we are given, for tomorrow is promised to no one. Sometimes I wish I knew how long I was going to live so that I could prepare. Then again, if I did know how long I had left, what truth would there be to the way I was acting…There would be none. For I would only be acting out on making the most of the little time right “in time” instead of living the most for each second, every second. Maybe that doesn’t make too much sense, but to me, it makes a world of sense. Some see the glass half empty while others see it half full. Some see the rain as annoying and tiresome, while others see it as a life-giving miracle of God, which it is. Not to say that the rain or nothing ever gets me down. Hey, I’m human. I’d be lying if I said nothing ever affected me. I just know that in my twenty-eight years (almost 29 years) of life, I have learned a lot. And I know I still have a lot more to learn. Yet, I do thank the Lord for what I have learned. What better thing to do with the treasures that we’ve learned than to share them with others? Hey, it’s up to us to make this World a better place. As long as we try our best, then we know our lives have been worth their living.
Oh, to taste the innocence of childhood again… What would I give, but everything I have. We don’t realize what we have within our reach until it is gone and we can have it no more. We don’t appreciate many gifts until they have faded in to the wind. I know looking back; I could have done a lot more with my childhood, except worrying it away to nothing. I know nothing can be done about it now, and that there is no use thinking about it. But, I know that just saying this and pouring out my heart to someone else who will read it in time and learn to live and cease each moment as if it were their last one, before it’s too late, is worth all the effort and sleepless hours. If I had but one moment left to live, left to dream, left to say what I always needed to say, what would I do? God could take me in the next breath, and what legacy would I have left behind but an empty box of useless concerns? I want to leave a lot more behind. I want to touch lives the way Jesus did. I know I am not worthy to tie his sandals, but just to be but a glimpse of what he was and still is, is a dream worth going after. For all things are possible with him.
I was born, Lisa Marie, on October 16th, 1974 in Paterson, New Jersey. I was born with dislocated hips. And after six operations on both legs and years of praying and hoping, I finally walked on my own, without any hardware or anything connecting my hip joints in 1977. It was truly a miracle. I used to think about what people would tell me. They used to tell me about getting plastic surgery to take away my scars. Then as the years passed, I began to become very fond of those scars. I figured, and still do, that if Jesus can wear his scars eternally, forever for me, then why can’t I wear mine for him, as a remembrance of how much he loves me? I am honored to wear my scars and will never take them away. I am proud to have them on my body. No matter what anyone thinks or says, they’re here to stay, until God perfects this earthly body in the end of all time.
I was born to two parents named John and Barbara. I grew up in Passaic, New Jersey. It wasn’t easy growing up. I was always made fun of and told I was ugly. The saying: “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me,” is so wrong. Words do hurt. They are so powerful, and sometimes we just don’t realize how much they really are. The only trouble is, I began to live my life according to the words of others, forgetting how special God really did make me. Everyone has things about themselves they’d like to change, but if we’d only first accept and love ourselves for who we were created to be, then we’ve hit the top. I’m still learning to do that, but I believe I’ve come along way in my thinking and feeling about myself and about who I am and want to be. If God believes in me so much that he gave his life just to save mine, then why can’t I believe in myself? I long for more faith in him, as well as in myself. I’m sure everyone goes through good and bad things growing up…some worse than others. But, if we’d only learn to rise above it all and realize that God never dumps anything on us that we can’t handle and get through with him, then we’d be better off.
See, my sister, Jennifer (who was born on July 1st of 1981) and I grew up with physical, verbal and emotional abuse from my Dad. It wasn’t an easy thing to live through. I know there were, and still are a lot of children who have been through and are going through what we’ve gone through and much worse, but still I don’t wish it on anyone. It’s not easy living with the thought that you’re not good enough and that nothing you ever do is either. It was so horrible living with a Dad who treated other people’s kids and families better than his own. It wasn’t easy when Daddy would yell and scream to the top of his lungs over anything and everything, especially at me. He started out, in the beginning treating my Sister better than any of us, but then a few years after, his pattern of anger and abuse began to hurt her too, as he started doing the same things to Jennifer as he did to Mommy and me. I thought, deep inside, and even asked it many times to my Mother, “Why doesn’t Daddy love me?” I was sure that he didn’t. Mommy would keep reassuring me that he did love me and that he just didn’t know how to show it. I think he knew, but was always afraid of what would happen if he opened himself up. I would even act out in school and my grades suffered because of it all. I would find myself in the car, waiting for my Dad to come out of the store and promising myself, as I held my baby doll, “Today, I’m going to be good.” Thinking that his yelling and carrying on for no reason must somehow have been my fault. Then, the day would end the same way practically as the last, and I’d wonder what was really wrong with me? Was I really a bad child? Sometimes I wished my Mom would divorce my Dad, when I started to realize that it wasn’t really all my fault for the ways my Dad was acting and speaking. We all played our part. But, now thinking back, I know that giving up would have never been the way. I love my Dad very much and I know I always have. Yet, he has never been the easiest person to love. He’s the type of person that leaves this feeling with you wherever he goes. He could get you madder than anything one minute, then go away on a business trip and you miss him like crazy. Sounds strange I know, but it is so true. My sister can attest to that. I always knew that my Dad had and still has a good side, but he always hid it, for some reason. Only now, is he beginning to let out his true self, by the grace of the good Lord above alone. Sometimes I think that it really was my fault when my Dad would grab my skin with his nails and make me bleed or punch me in the arm hard and give me a bruise. As he grinded his teeth at me, he looked like something out of a bad dream and I just cried and wanted my Mother to hold me until he was gone. Sometimes, out of anger, pain and hurt, I would just throw stuff at him, hoping it would make him go away and leave me alone…only it made things much worse. The things that would fly out of his mouth, I never imagined, especially as a child, that anyone could be that cruel to their daughter, or in this case, daughters.
I knew my Dad had been in the Vietnam War, and had a bad job (which he still has), that affected him in so many ways. Still, I always knew that it wasn’t an excuse, even though it explained the reason or reasons why. I wanted my Dad to love me so bad. I cried myself to sleep at night and clung to anyone who would make me laugh, especially my Mother. She was always the saint and eventually would make us upset when she would lie to get us out of trouble, only to make trouble for herself, which she still does sometimes. Only this time, we tell my Dad the truth right in front of her so she doesn’t get the blame and hurt for it. My Mom was always my best friend and still is to this day. My Mom can even tell you how mean my Dad was to our dogs, throwing them over the gates in our house while we heard them cry and watching my Dad kick them in the ribs and then deny it. I just didn’t understand his actions. I couldn’t. I didn’t really want to sometimes, it was too painful to think about. To this day, it still can be. Writing this is difficult, but I feel it must be told, because it’s a story of pain, hurt and broken hearts, but it ends on a happier note than the one it began on. Guess maybe that’s why I love music so much. It’s the only thing that we can control and make to sound so beautiful that no one can destroy it. It’s like our own little world that we can escape to, with nobody else but God following us. It caresses the soul with sounds that sound like they’re flying straight from Heaven. Actually I’m sure that’s what they really are. For all good things are gifts from our Creator. He is the love and music in our hearts that no one can take away from us. He alone gives us hope during these times that keeps us going further and beginning each new day with the promise that it will get better if we keep our faith strong in him and in ourselves. It’s funny, now as I think about it, no wonder my sister and I grew up on a street called: Hope Avenue. Maybe God was trying to give us a sign that no matter what we went through, there was always hope as long as we held on to him and each other. And I thank him for that. I’m sure my Mom and my Sister do too.
I, by no means, intend this writing to belittle my Daddy. For I want it to help those that have gone through or are going through similar things as these. I want people to know that there is hope in Jesus as long as we hold on to his hand and never let go. As I said before, all things are possible with Jesus. And I know that if Jesus can change my Dad, then he can change anybody, that’s for sure. J I know and I think I’ve always known that, my Dad is and always was a terrific man. I mean, you get him in the water at the beach or at the lake and he was and is a transformed man. He’s like the best person to be around…laughing until he turns bright red in the face. He’s always been that way. He has a lot of love inside his heart, and I think he’s gone through so much in his life, some things that no one even knows about and maybe that’s why he has trouble expressing how he feels. Sometimes I would joke with my Mom and Sister and say something like, “Daddy is so nice when we go to the beach or the lake that maybe we should just live in the water.” We laughed because it seemed so true. Sometimes I think maybe we should throw him back in. Maybe he’s a lost fish or something turned human… (Just kidding, but it’s a thought.) My Dad just lets everything bother and worry him. My Mom worries too, but she doesn’t let it affect how she treats people. It’s like My Dad was always so full of anger, and still is. He doesn’t know how to deal with it. It’s like he’s filled to the rim and he doesn’t know how to let go of the past. Instead of moving forward, he keeps to what he knows, the hurt and the pain. He told me once that his Dad used to squeeze his fingers the way he did mine and it never hurt. Yeah, right, like I believe that! How could making someone’s hands bleed not hurt? Yet, with my Dad saying even this to me, could he have been starting to open up to me and I didn’t even notice it at the time? Only God knows for sure. All I know is, I love my Dad, and I want him to never forget that. He even blows up at my Aunt and Uncle, yelling at them for no reason, especially my Aunt, his Sister. I just have a feeling that he went through much more in his life than he’s letting us know about. I wouldn’t think any less of my Grandma or Grandpa if I knew they had problems in the past. That’s why it’s the past. It’s like passing a house on the highway. Once you pass it at 55 miles an hour and leave it there, there’s no turning back because it’s a one-way street. If you turn around you’ll only get a ticket, right? That’s why, as hard as it is, we must learn to leave hurts in the past, because if we hold on to them, it becomes harder and harder to live and to love. But, if we keep driving on the highway, though we may come across bumps and deep, narrow turns, eventually there’ll be a treasure at the end, even though while we’re going through the bad times it’s something hard to believe.
The toughest thing to learn how to do is to forgive. Especially when it comes to forgiving someone who’s hurt you most of your life. I knew I loved my Dad growing up, but how could I teach myself to forgive him? I guess I had to forgive myself for my part in it, and then leave the rest to God. It hasn’t been an easy road. I always thought I would get married and move farther than far away from my Dad when I did. But, of course that wasn’t to be…God had a plan much greater than any I could imagine. And his plans are perfect. For “His Strength Is Perfect, When Our Strength Is Gone,” is a line that has touched my life from a Steven Curtis Chapman song, at some of these times in my life…the song still hits home, for it does nothing but speak the truth and it grabs hold of your heart by the power of God’s Holy Spirit.
In July of 1992 I met a wonderful man named, Ramon Velez Jr. This day, though I didn’t know it at the time, would change my life forever. And I’m sure glad it did. He was 22 going on 23, and an American born Puerto Rican, and I was 17 going on 18, everyone’s classic “Blancita,” white girl. I was, at that time for all those who know me now, shy. (Yes, I was shy, believe it or not). I wouldn’t even look at him those first few minutes of our first conversation. I just looked at the table or at my lap. After he drove my friend and I home from working at “Wendy’s” at the mall -(my friend, Isabella, who lived with my parents and I for a few weeks. She was engaged to Ramon at one time, until she cheated on him), he amazed me. He had me go in to his car and he told me that he liked me on that first day and that he hoped something would happen between us someday. I still don’t know why, I guess he liked the shy, smell like cheap hamburger type. That says a lot about what his personal ad might have said if he had one. I thought he was nuts, since I didn’t even really know him. He even tapped me on the leg on the drive home and wondered why I was so quiet. Of course I didn’t know what to say. Two and a half weeks later he said, while me and Isabella were in the car, “Watch, one day I’m going to marry you, Lisa.” Again, I thought he was totally nuts! I was thinking like, “Who is this guy?” I didn’t even know him! He’s just nuts (again I must repeat…). I, at the time, liked an older guy who was always making me laugh and I didn’t want anything other than a friendly relationship with Ramon. I was just stuck on the thought of waiting for this “guy” who shall remain nameless, to come around and love me back. Until…
One night, Izzy (What we called Isabella), Ramon and I went driving in his big green bomb of a car to Paterson. Of course, Ramon knew he needed a new battery, but he went driving anyway…(Men!) Anyway, of course, the battery died on Union Ave, in Paterson. Well, Izzy, decided to yell at Ramon and start telling him what to do and insulting him, like she always did. He got mad and even snapped at me when I tried to help him, and he walked away. Thinking he’d left us there, (even though later we found out that he’d only walked around the corner to cool off) – Izzy and I both decided to get out of the car and walk to a pay phone to call my Dad to come and get us. Now picture that… Two young women, in almost pitch darkness walking around alone, in thug city-Paterson, not a pretty picture, yet God kept us safe as he always had done before. My Dad came to get us and he was not a happy camper, as you may have imagined. Hey, at that point, I wasn’t even a happy camper. None of us wanted to see Ramon again!
Upon arriving home in my Dad’s car, we found Ramon, who looked like he was crying, in the parking lot of our school across the street from our house. He wanted to talk to me, but of course at that point, he was no longer allowed to. He said he was sorry over and over again. I wanted to go to him, even though I was still hurt, but I wanted to hug him. I wanted to forgive him. I didn’t like holding a grudge, I still don’t. It broke my heart to see him with tears in his eyes and I didn’t want him to drive home like that. But, hugging him that night would never happen. Only time, at that point, would tell if our friendship would ever restart.
As the weeks followed, I found and envelope in my mailbox with Romantic love-song tapes and an “I’m sorry” letter. Izzy and I decided to be friends with Ramon again and forgive him, without telling my parents. What really put me over the top and touched my heart was when Ramon came to my job at Wendy’s with three red roses for me to say, “I’m sorry.” So with that, our friendship began again. After that, Ramon began picking us up at work every day and I would meet him at Izzy’s new apartment when she did move out of our house, just to hang out. It was there that for the first time, Ramon told me that he loved me. I’ll never forget that moment. He thought, at the time, that I loved him back, even though in reality I wasn’t sure how I felt. Between still liking that “nameless older man,” and how my Dad felt about Ramon because of what had happened at what we started to call the “Union Avenue Incident,” I wasn’t sure how I felt. Even though I told Ramon that I just wanted to be friends, when he would come and pick us up, as we waited for Izzy to finish talking to my old school mate, Edwin that she liked, I would let Ramon hold me by his car while we waited. I think it’s because I enjoyed being liked, and held and wanted, especially by a man. Mainly I think because my Dad never made me feel that way. He never liked to hug us. He’d always stiffen up, which is still something I’m trying to break him out of today. I guess that’s why Ramon started to think that I liked him. I began dating him for a few weeks in October of 1992, but when he kissed me for the first time, across the street, before he went home, in my old school parking lot, I wasn’t sure how I felt. Besides that, I knew my Dad would kill me, so I just thought to myself that I had to find some way to break it off before he got too serious. When I was chatting with our friend, Troy and I told him what was happening and how I felt, he decided on his own, without telling me, to tell Ramon the truth. Well that’s how we broke up and it literally tore him apart. He wanted to leave and never come back. Still, something kept him there. He just gave me time and space and the room to make my choice. We still remained friends and yes, Ramon still kept trying to kiss me. Even before he went to his friend’s wedding in Indiana, but of course, I turned my face. He called me from his trip and told me he was thinking about me. I always looked forward to hearing from him, and even sat on his lap when he helped me with computer work when he got back. Was I starting to like him? I wasn’t sure. Not yet…
Soon, it became clear how I was starting to feel for Ramon. It took my best friend, my Mother to point it out to me and wake me up out of the “sleep” I’d been in for so long.
My Mother and I were lying in her bed at night, having one of our famous talks when she said something like, “You’re spending your time waiting for someone to love you, when there’s someone around who loves you for you right in front of you.” It was then that I began to wake up. I always wondered why I didn’t love Ramon right away; just by the sweet and kind way that he treated me, and everything he did for me. It was at that moment that my true feelings began to crack open and pour from my heart. I couldn’t wait to see Ramon the next day, like I always never could, but this time I knew seeing him would be different.
I believe it was sometime in December of 1992, and we were driving in his rental pick up jeep kind of thing and I, who would never say anything of this nature in all my life, just came out and asked Ramon, “You, wanna go out again?” I don’t even think I believed that it was my voice that had said it. I think Ramon said something like, “If you want to, sure.” That sounds like Ramon. When we agreed to go out again, we kissed at every red light it was so romantic. One time he kissed me, and I even hit a snow bank…but enough said… Moving right along…
In December of that year, he also proposed to me. We just knew in our hearts that we were supposed to be together. So, on June 10th, 1995, what he had said in the car to Izzy and I had actually come true. Ramon and I got married. A priest that had known me since I’m about a year and a half, and who is a dear friend to our family, married us that day. Ramon even said at the wedding, “See, in yours and Isabella’s face!” It was the best thing I’ve ever done in my life. Funny, Ramon even came out of the hospital the day before our wedding with a kidney stone and passed it at our reception. He was in the bathroom so long, and at the time I didn’t know he was passing it, so I started to think he that he realized what he’d done and he jumped out the bathroom window or something. I sent my Dad in to check on him, and like Ramon always does, he came out of the bathroom sweating, smiling and most of all relieved. Our life, my life, had begun…Finally…
My Dad, while Ramon and I were dating didn’t like the fact that I was going out with a Puerto Rican. He always had something negatively racist to say about people of other races for as long as I can remember. He even said in front of my Sister once while Ramon and I were dating, “It’s okay, Jenny, at least you’ll marry a white guy.” Well, I can’t tell you how that made me feel. Does bright red give anyone a clue?
Nevertheless, now my Dad loves Ramon more than life itself! They are the best of friends and I couldn’t be happier about that.
The first couple of years that we were married were the hardest. What everyone was telling us was true. We also learned that, even though we have our good and bad times as all couples do and will always endure, with Jesus, we could get through anything. Going through it all, helped us to really understand that. We learned never to scream unless there was a fire, and how to be as one but to never destroy whom the other person was inside. We had to be together as one but our own individual souls.
I believe my husband was a born-again Christian years before me, but I became one sometime in 1993 or 1994. I always believed in Jesus but I never understood what it meant to be “born again.” I wondered how a person could go back in to his or her Mother’s womb and start again? It seemed weird. Then I learned, at a Spanish church translated to English by Ramon, his Dad and his Sister, Maritza, that being born again, simply meant to put away my old life and start again, and to lay my life in the Lord Jesus’ hands and repent of my sins and become a new person in him. It was the best day of my life. Because of the Lord bringing Ramon in to my life, I learned more about the Lord and became closer to him. I will always be grateful to God for giving me a husband who not only loved me for me, scars on my legs and all, but I will always be thankful that I was given a Christian man, who brought me closer to the Savior, one step at a time.
It was about 1993 or 1994 that I heard my first contemporary Christian music CD, entitled, “Steven Curtis Chapman,” “The Live Adventure.” Well, I listened all right…I listened and cried like a baby. I had hardly ever heard the gentle speaking voice of a before. He sang and he spoke with such compassion and love, of the Savior, to touch not only the Lord but also his listeners. My heart was changed through Christ even more. Steven Curtis Chapman became my favorite from that time on.
In March of 2002, God, yet again blessed my life again, by having Ramon and I meet Steven Curtis Chapman before one of his concerts in Lowell, Massachusetts. The Spanish restaurant we were going to eat at was closed, (Thank GOD!) so we decided to eat at the hotel restaurant. After we were sitting down for a while, and waiting for our food, Ramon asked, “Hey Lisa, doesn’t that look like Steven Curtis Chapman?” Well I thought so immediately, but was in denial. We just kept glimpsing over at him. Ramon even walked up and down the entrance of the restaurant to get a good look at his face, but when Ramon was facing him, Steven had his face turned side-ways. When I started hearing his voice as he talked to his band members, I was almost sure it was Steven, but I was still afraid to believe it. At this point my heart was pounding and I was freaking out, for lack of a better way to say it. When Steven and most of his band members were ready to leave, Ramon said, “That’s it, I gotta know.” So, he just waltzed right up to him and asked, “Excuse me, are you Steven Curtis Chapman?” And he replied, “Well, yes I am.” It was then that I got up, took his hand and just said, “Oh my God.” *(Forgive me, Lord.) Then I walked right around to the front of him like I’d known him forever, for I knew Steven was just a regular person doing God’s work, and I waited until Ramon was done talking him in to coming to NJ (God-willing, someday). I told Steven that I had promised myself that if I’d ever met him, I would hug him and thank him for his ministry and I believe I had explained to him why he and his ministry meant so much to me. So, that’s what I did. I hugged him. And it was like hugging no one I’d hugged before. I felt God’s Holy Spirit of love all over him and it was amazing. I wanted to cry and I just hugged him again within a few minutes. He was one of the first people that I heard speak the way he does and actually be as “real” as he sounded. I even told him that my Mom thinks he looks like: “Doogie Howser,” an 80’s/early 90’s TV character played by: Neil Patrick Harris, which he does. Steven just blushed. He is such a humble man. With every compliment, he turned a new shade of pink. You just wanted to pinch his cheeks. I hoped he would never forget me, and with the mention of him looking like: “Doogie Howser,” there was a good chance of that…Thank GOD! My life has just been one blessing after another.
Ramon is one of my best blessings and friends as well as my husband. Through Christ, he’s the one who started me re-thinking my relationship with my Dad. He and my Dad had (and still sometimes have) their little and big “tiffs” with each other, but they always got (and get) closer in the end because they began to respect, understand each other and make each other stronger. My Dad began to open up to Ramon in ways he never had with anyone before. He started to call Ramon the “Son he never had,” something he still calls him today. Watching them together is like watching a miracle. Even though, deep down, I wish he were like that with us now, and even more so growing up, it’s nice to see someone begin to change for the better; especially someone we thought would never change.
My Dad still wasn’t getting along too well with my Sister and I. He also always yelled at my Mother, like he had while we were growing up, and nothing seemed to change him. We always fought and hurt each other with the weapon of words, which sometimes, if harsh and mean enough, can sting worse than the spike of the sharpest sword. Ramon didn’t understand the whole story and how we grew up right away. We would argue over us “answering back” to my Dad and so on. Even though “talking back” to my Dad was wrong, Ramon began to see and understand why we did it. We were just heart broken because our Dad didn’t show us love. He only showed us anger, and that hurt us. Ramon eventually saw for himself what we were talking about and it hurt him too. He didn’t like seeing his wife, who didn’t even live in the house she grew up in anymore, still cry over the way her Dad treated and was treating her and her family. We, or I at least, never thought anything in my Dad would ever change. I always seemed to give my Dad another chance, hoping he would change, but I always held the hurt inside me from the past. I guess I never really totally forgave him for a long, long time. To forgive my Dad and myself for my part in our past experiences was like taking a giant leap over a mountain peek of eggshells. I guess I figured that it was “no use” trying again to help my Dad because he didn’t want to be helped. Daddy would try for a few days and then revert back to the way he was before. He was even physically abusing my Sister more and that broke my heart. I wanted him out of my family’s life. I didn’t want my Mom to be subjected to pain anymore from my Dad or anyone else in that house. I wanted, sometimes, to run away with my Mom, Ramon, my sister and our dog Snoopy that we grew up with, and never come back again. Yet, thinking on everything now, I know that, that would not have been the solution. For running away from problems never solves it, it just covers it up. How could anyone ever live that way, holding a grudge or grudges? It’s not the way that God intended us to live. It, or they, only eats away at a person until there’s nothing left to hold on to anymore and it (they) destroy everything in its (their) path by the hand of the enemy allowed by nothing but our will to accept it.
In my old church in Passaic that Ramon and I got married in, right across the street from my house, I had always seen a sign, around the Easter season for a play called, “Savior,” at a church called, “Calvary Temple, in Wayne, NJ. After seeing this flyer for so long and hearing how good it was, I wanted to see it so bad. Well, in March of 1999 Ramon and I went to see “Savior” and were almost hooked instantly on Calvary Temple. I got chills all over my arms and I just sat there and cried. I had never seen anything like it in my life. At the time Ramon and I were “church hopping” since our old church in Passaic was falling apart spiritually. We tried to help our old church, but they just refused to be helped, so it seemed. One priest, who shall remain nameless, was two faced, though I cannot judge him. Thank God, I do hear he’s better now, but he used to talk about people being ugly and fat in the pews to the alter servers who were up there, and then preach the word of God to the congregation. I couldn’t belong to a church like that. Especially when I heard after that, that this priest was being cruel to my family. We had to leave.
And so, after “church hopping” for a while, we finally decided to settle in “Calvary Temple,” and we knew instantly when we got there for our first service that we were where God wanted us to be. I never imagined that in a church that size that anyone would even remember our names. Boy was I wrong. Going to Calvary Temple gives new meaning to the phrase, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” Thought it’s outside is so big, and I mean big, they focus on each person. They’re always willing to hug you, to cry with you, pray with you and laugh with you, etc. etc. It was the best decision Ramon and I ever made, besides giving our hearts to the Lord and getting married.
So, a few weeks after, in April of 1999, I joined the choir, where Ramon eventually followed in 2000. The following year, I actually got to be in the Easter play, “Savior,” something the year before I promised myself I would do. I learned a lot at Calvary Temple and I still do. I learned that I do deserve to be loved and that I am special, just as God has made me to be. Sure, I still go through my ups and downs, and there are times when I feel I just don’t like myself too much. But, I do like myself much more than I ever had before, thanks to the Lord. Because of the Lord and Ramon in my life I was able to overcome fear. I can sing and speak better in front of people like I never thought I ever could before. I guess loving the Lord more and the person I am inside was the first steps I had to take before beginning to correct anything else in my life, including my relationship with my Dad and my weight.
I was always skinny growing up, and then working at Wendy’s and being introduced to eating “Puerto Rican” with big bowls of rice, etc. helped put me on the road to overeating, even though I have no one to blame but myself. No one put the food in my mouth but me. Anyway, I went from overweight at 167 pounds to fat at 226. I gained and lost, gained and lost, like a seesaw. When I found out I was borderline diabetic, being a patient recovering from Panic Disorder, I immediately began to cry out of fear. I didn’t want to die young. So, I went on a strict diet that a diabetic nurse put and followed me on and I lost about 46 pounds. I was down to about 186 pounds. Then I stopped going to her and gained almost all of it back again. Weight is still a struggle for me, yet I know, with the Lord’s help and laying it before his cross will I ever be able to do it. I know I will. My husband is overweight too, and has been on the seesaw lifestyle too. Now he is on a monitored diet from the Mother of a youth pastor at our church and he’s doing wonderful. He’s lost about 25 or more pounds, and I couldn’t be more proud of him. I’m with him all the way, as long as he promises to eat and take care of himself, which he has finally started doing. I’ll nag him if he doesn’t anyway. J
In 2000 or 2001 I found out that I have “Polycystic Ovarian Disorder.” It’s a disorder where my Insulin stays high and my sugar remains normal for the most part, but if not treated can turn in to full blown diabetes. When they took my test for Diabetes after that, my sugar went up, but not very much. It was usually normal. With POD, a woman has too much of the male hormone-testosterone, which causes hair to grow in places we’d wish it didn’t, irregular periods, and fertility problems because it keeps the eggs from maturing and coming out and then the hormones go batty. This is why the doctors now don’t really think I am diabetic. Well, after loosing the 46 or so pounds in 2001, in the beginning of 2002, I began seeing my periods getting more regular again. Sure, they were still maybe a few days to a week late, but they were normal in flow and pretty much on time. Because of POD and my irregular periods I had a hard time getting pregnant. In 2002, that was all about to change. God began to speak to me, but not in a way that I would wish he had. I wound up getting pregnant at the end of May or the beginning of June 2002. I was so happy that I started shaking and crying. It was the first time this had ever happened to me and I wasn’t sure that it ever could. At about six to six and a half weeks, everything seemed to be going well. So the doctor and we thought…
We had our first ultrasound in the doctor’s office and the embryo seemed to be developing nicely. Our Doctor, Dr. Fisher, decided to send us to the neighboring hospital for the diabetes I was said to have, and because I was born with dislocated hips I was almost 100% a sure candidate for a C-section. Hey that part was good news to me, no labor! Well, with this special check up at the hospital, they had to have their own ultra sound on file, so they gave me one of their own. They noticed that my uterus was larger but the embryo didn’t seem to be growing and the heart was rather slow, only over eighty beats a minute, instead of the normal over 120. That scared me. I didn’t want to loose this baby. With these results, the hospital doctor didn’t know if the pregnancy was viable and if the baby would survive. He scheduled me for another ultrasound the week after. I was terrified. It was at that next meeting that our worst fears were confirmed. As we looked for the little embryo’s heartbeat, we found none. Our baby had died.
I prayed and prayed the week before and I wondered why my prayers weren’t answered the way I had hoped for. Then I began to realize that my prayers were answered and that God was saying, “Everything you asked for will happen, but just not in your time, but mine, for mine is perfect.” I came to grips with the fact that God can see things that we don’t. I knew then and still know now that, God was trying to tell us that we could get pregnant, since we had been wondering that for so long, but that now wasn’t the time. I know God is going to give me back that same baby in his due time and that he or she is with him now, waiting for me…waiting for us-Ramon and I to be ready. I found peace, by God’s grace alone, and the love of a wonderful husband, through this trial. I praise the Lord for this, which he has given me. Ramon and I kept the little embryonic picture of the first hospital ultrasound. It’s something I will hold on to forever, and something I know Ramon and myself will always treasure.
Recovering from years and years of panic disorder was not easy. Still isn’t, as every day is a fight to get better and smack the devil in the face when he tries to attack God’s people like he always does. I always had trouble being in hospitals because for some reason, I’d get panicky in them, I guess thinking something would happen to me while I was there and I’d wind up in it as a patient. Probably I was like this, my Mom would tell me, because I was in the hospital so much as a child, maybe subconsciously I feared it would happen again. Well, amazingly enough, when Ramon and I found out that God took the baby home and we were preparing for the D&C, the procedure in which the doctor put me to sleep to clean out my uterus and take the dead embryo out, just laying on the hospital bed with Ramon right beside me and having the sweetest of hospital staff way on me, I knew I’d be okay. I wasn’t that afraid like I normally would be, especially with doctors and nurses pricking me. The nurse, finding out that I was recovering from Panic Disorder, came in thinking I’d be “climbing the walls,” but I wasn’t. It was then that I knew I was being prayed for. I felt strong. I felt like I could do this. And I did. Without prayer and the Love of Jesus I would never have gotten through that and many other obstacles in my life. I feel I became stronger because of it and am now able to help others going through that and similar situations. And it helps to know that the Lord is holding our baby close to his heart. My friend, Angela said she had a dream meant as a message for me. She dreamed that God took me to Heaven and then handed me my baby. Angela cried as she told me this and I knew one day, it would come to pass.
Every once in a while, like when they’re dedicating babies at church, etc., I find myself thinking about the baby and crying some. Then God makes me stronger and I can look toward tomorrow instead of back at the past. With all that I’ve gone through, though I’m a child in many nice ways, I can actually say that I have finally become a young woman. My family and friends in and out of Calvary Temple sure have helped me get through this. They were with me before, and stayed even closer during and after everything had happened. They never left my side. They are truly the extended family of Ramon and myself and always will be. It is a miracle and a treasure to be a part of such a wonderful church family and have so many that care about and share what we’re going through and feel.
Being at Calvary Temple, I’ve learned a lot about what the Lord wants for my life. I’ve learned how to forgive like I should, especially my Dad. Sure, he gets me mad sometimes and frustrated, but God showed me that he just wanted to feel loved and accepted, even though he complains and “so on and so on and so on,” he still needs to be loved and feel wanted. So, as hard as it was and can still be sometimes, within the last 2 years or so, I began trying to hang out with my Dad more and hugging him, whether he liked it or not. I wrote him Daddy-Daughter “love notes” and began spending more time with him. To my amazement, he began opening up to me and smiling more and enjoying my company more than he ever had before. My Dad and I began to get closer and form a bond that we never really had before. And, for the record, he finally did stop the physical abuse, he stopped with me a few years before I got married, and then shortly after, with my Sister. It truly was a miracle. I can honestly say that is was at this time in my life that I finally, truly learned how to forgive…and especially forgive my Daddy.
I am such a blessed young woman. I owe the Lord my life, my relationship with my Dad and everything that I am or ever hope to be. He proved to me that “All things” really are “possible” if we only believe in “him” enough to bring them to be. We can do nothing right in our own strength without the strength and love of Jesus who shed his blood on Calvary for us. I am forever grateful for the blood shed on that cross and the resurrection. Thought the enemy should and has caused me to doubt, I will never loose faith. My faith only gets stronger by the miracles I see and hear happening in Jesus’ name and everything foretold in the Bible that is coming true today. I can only pray and hope to get closer with my Dad in the years to come. I feel so fortunate that we can have these special times together and show each other real love. Sometimes I just want to pull his “left over” hair out, but what good would that do anyway?
I’d still like to loose weight and that is another journey I know I must take and conquer. I know I will win the fight with the Lord’s help and guidance and my family and friends in Christ right by my side.
Now, with the spring of 2003 before us, Ramon and I are trying to get pregnant again, but we’re leaving it in God’s hands, more so than before. We know everything works out for the best when it’s left at the feet of Jesus.
There is so much I’d love to accomplish in my life. I love to write and get my heart’s thoughts down on paper. I long to touch lives for the Kingdom. When Izzy was living with me for a few weeks, she would write songs and inspired me to start while I helped her. I never knew the talent I had within me to write, until then. I thank her for that and always will. Since then, I have written many contemporary Christian song lyrics and love lyrics to my husband and family. I am making a CD now, which should be done near the summer of this year-2003. Yet, again, I leave this in God’s hands because I know that whether it takes 3 years or 20, if it is done the way God wants it to be done, it will surely touch lives and it will be worth all the hard work that was put in to it. Ramon, Johnny O, our CD producer and friend are being blessed just doing this project for the Lord. It’s such a wonderful experience. John and his family make me feel loved, wanted and cared for. They always make me laugh, especially John. They hold and will eternally hold a special place in my heart, for they love each other unconditionally and gently, without yelling or screaming or calling of names…a family life I had only dreamed of growing up. The way they are together is something I can only pray to make a reality for Ramon and myself. I know it will come to be, with faith.
It’s 3:48Am in the morning on April 12, 2003…what else have I left out that needs to be said? I know there is so much more about my life and about life in general that I can write, but for now, I think I’ve said what’s most important. Before my eyes, I see my parents growing older. And even though age is really nothing but a number, and I pray they still have many, many more years to go, God-willing, I know there will come a day when God will call them home to be with their parents and those they loved and hold dear to them. However, for now, I will hold them and everyone dear to me close, for we never know when God will close a door in our lives. Though he always opens a new and brighter one in the end of one chapter, I want to close each one with nothing but faith, forgiveness, love and hope for tomorrow…that’s all we can ever hold on to. It’s all that’s worth living for…and to get closer to Jesus and to each other, just the way we were meant to spend this life and the eternal one to come… There’s no time to waste.
~ Lisa Velez
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