All Posts By

Jackie Torres

Devotions

There Is No Song Louder Than Love

When your fear is currency
And you feel that urgency
You want peace but there’s war in your head
Maybe that’s where life is born
When our façades are torn
Pain gives birth to the promise ahead

Switchfoot, I Won’t Let You Go

There are some moments in life that exceed expectation. Some moments that are so rich in God’s goodness that all you can do is bask in the light of His presence. Last Tuesday, I went to a concert that I have been waiting rather impatiently for: Switchfoot and Relient K’s Looking for America Tour. Two of my favorite bands touring together was a dream come true, and to share that with some of my favorite people made the night even more special. But beyond hearing amazing live music, I felt God’s nearness to my heart in a way that my soul was craving.

I’ve spent so much of this year struggling with reproductive health issues and the news of potential infertility. It’s a lot of painful irony for someone whose job is to support Mothers in giving birth. Maybe it’s the warring hormones, dashed dreams, or a combination of both that has blotted out a lot of hope in my life. Then I heard Matt Thiessen’s fingers run over piano keys, and somehow it was easier to choose for a moment not to let my heart ache despite anemia, doctor’s appointments, ultrasounds, supplements, teas, essential oils, fertility diets, and talks of high-risk pregnancies and potential miscarriages. It was a moment when God sang to me through Jon Foreman that He won’t let me go.

In the mixture of joy, laughter, fun, and tears on that night, my hands went up in worship to my God who carries me through it all.

I don’t know what painful experience you are going through, whether directly or indirectly, that may be unbearably hard to carry. And sometimes we only get a fleeting moment when the clouds break enough to remind us that the sun is still shining before the darkness envelops us again. Yet, I believe those are the moments when God is nearest trying to reveal who He is to us in the dark, and as we cling to faith for light to shine again we can know that when it does it will be brighter.

Relationships

Truth Be Told

I listen to stories for a living. Sometimes they’re joyful ones like hearing about a baby’s first smile or a successful trip to the grocery store with a newborn. However, sometimes the stories I listen to are painful ones about a sexual assault or how it felt birthing a dead baby. Every day I venture into the unknown as I knock on the door of my client’s homes never knowing what story I will be given that day and whether it will be one that wounds me to my core.

I started going to story slams earlier this year in Philly, and it has become one of my favorite events to go to. A story slam is where there is a predetermined topic and people come prepared to share an experience that reflects that theme. One slam that I went to had a lot of talented storytellers who often weaved in humor into their pieces to lighten some serious events and get the crowd laughing. After several people shared their stories, there came a man who went up on stage and talked about his experience with cancer. No jokes, no lighthearted anecdotes. Just the raw truth of how he almost died and that sometimes he wished he had. After he was finished people politely applauded, but I could feel the discomfort in the room as the host for the evening returned to the mic.

“We need that sometimes,” the host said to the crowd. “I want people to know that these stories don’t have to be happy if they aren’t happy. They don’t have to be anything except true.”

I’ve learned in my practice of listening to stories that the heavily edited version of myself isn’t the part of me that God uses to draw people to Him. The reason I know this to be true is because the parts of the people I love and care about are also what makes them so completely imperfect. It’s the flawed parts of loving that makes me wonder if as a culture we’ve adopted an entitled attitude in only exposing ourselves to the stories that are aesthetically pleasing to us. We habitually change the channel, filter our newsfeed, metaphorically put our fingers in our ears, and even worse, walk away from people in need of our empathy and compassion because it seems too ugly, messy, and hard. In turn, we don’t realize how much we are cheating ourselves from truly experiencing the real beauty in humanity. A beauty that includes stories that may be challenging to hear and be a part of.

There is a storytelling podcast called The Moth and above is a story from a woman who presented at one of their community showcases in Seattle. She shares what it was like for her to find a home in community after her marriage fell apart. I hope that as you listen to her unpolished truth that it inspires you, as much as it has for me, to let others in on your first drafts and to choose to lean into theirs.

Well Being

You Picked Me

I am an Autumn lover.

Everything about Fall, from the pumpkin-spiced everything to sweater weather, makes me so happy. My favorite thing about Fall, though, is picking apples. There’s something special about thinking of all the potentially sweet things I can make, searching the trees, feeling the gentle snap of the stem releasing the branch, and putting the prized fruit in my basket.

Recently I’ve been reading a book by Lysa TerKeurst entitled, Uninvited: Living Loved When You Feel Less Than, Left Out, and Lonely. It’s a book about coping with past, present, and future rejection and the feelings of not being enough. When I first read an excerpt of this book, I felt like God was speaking to my soul things that He’s wanted me to know for so many years.

Lysa talks candidly about her past experiences of rejection including a speaking engagement that didn’t pan out the way she had hoped to thinking her college boyfriend was going to propose to her on her birthday and in reality he had fallen in love with someone else. Her stories took me on my own journey down memory lane of all the moments I felt that sting of feeling unwanted. Some of those experiences were so tucked away in my mind that I almost forgot they were there, though the effect on me has always been present.

Watching the boy I had a crush on in second grade walk across the room to blatantly throw away the note that enclosed my heart into the waste basket of my English classroom. The five years and hundreds of emails from potential employers saying they found a more suitable candidate for the position. The boy in middle school who said I was too fat for anyone to ever like me. When a friend stopped answering my phone calls. I’m sure you have a running list too, that list that contains similar moments to these that can sabotage even the best relationships, including the one we have with God.

God has been calling me to live loved, because I am. I am the fallen, rotten apple that He picked and in doing so established my worth and value. Sure, there are so many times when I look in the mirror and hate what I see, and when someone is silent about what they think of me, I tend to assume the worst. But in the midst of that, there is God trying to reorient me to the truth of who I am to Him–I am chosen and so are you.

“You have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you and I have appointed and placed and purposefully planted you, so that you would go and bear fruit and keep on bearing, and that your fruit will remain and be lasting…”

–John 15:16 (AMP)

Relationships

Love is Layers of Sharing

I remember how it felt sitting on the couch holding her newborn baby in my arms as my client, her mother, and her sister recounted the events of the night before. Her boyfriend was jumped and held at gunpoint, while a black SUV pulled up in the alley in back with guns out ready to shoot up a house full of women and children. She cried as she told me how she was screaming for help hoping the neighbors would hear her pleas. As I listened to the details of that night, I looked down at the sleeping baby girl resting in my arms.

I have helped many people in processing their pain, but I can’t say it’s been without a cost. I decided to start therapy about a month ago because I was struggling to cope with all the suffering I’ve been exposed to in my work. It was like the light went out in my life and all I could feel was this gravitational pull toward darkness. I thought that in going to therapy that I would just simply get strategies on how to take care of myself better and give in a healthier way and that would be all–short, sweet, and to the point. I have quickly learned that there are no shortcuts on the road to healing.

A couple weeks into my therapy she started reflecting on the dynamics of my personal relationships I brought up in conversation. I told her that it has been harder for me to feel like I can trust people with my pain which was making it almost impossible for me to genuinely connect with the people I care about. I often feared that if I told people how much I was hurting that they would respond in a way that was insensitive or judgemental which would make me feel even more alone. Then my therapist said something really profound to me, “Not sharing your painful experiences could be amplifying the pain you feel in your life–it could really be adding to that sense of being disconnected, leaving you fearful and guessing or assuming people may react in a way that is hurtful when in reality they could be really supportive.”

I’ve been studying attachment theory for a training at work and it describes love in a way for me to help parents form healthy bonds with their babies, but it also impacted me and how I view my relationships with those around me. Love is described as this process of sharing layers of yourself with someone. The more you receive acceptance, kindness, empathy in that sharing process the more you feel safe with that person and your relationship deepens and love grows.

However, we all have parts of ourselves we can be afraid to let others see. We either create or relive the horror stories in our mind of the times we have been rejected and wounded by offering our true selves to someone else. So it becomes easier to develop a laundry list of reasons not to trust someone and assume the worst in them as an excuse to disengage. When we accept the assumption that people are out to hurt us it steals the potential for them to respond to us in ways that can be even better than anything we could have ever hoped for.

I often say that my clients are the ones who have impacted my life more than I have theirs because it’s true. I’m a stranger they have chosen to let into their story. They offer to share their pain and assume that I will be sensitive and kind to their unarmed hearts, and the moments I have been along side them in their tears, laughter, suffering, and joy have been the moments when I have felt most alive. These women have taught me that the greatest gift we can give to others is ourselves, and I am forever in their debt for that.

Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. –Romans 13:8

Relationships

Do You Know The Enemy?

My best friend when I was 5-years-old was named Tommy. He was from Germany and had hip dysplasia which meant he walked with a limp. I never seemed to mind that he couldn’t keep up with me when we ran on the playground because I valued having someone to laugh and play with so much. Our friendship was so special to me that I even bestowed the high honor of naming my cat after him.

One day a little girl from our kindergarten class came over after school to play with Barbies at my house. As we were playing she saw a picture of me and Tommy on my nightstand and in her little snobby voice exclaimed, “Ew, you’re friends with Tommy? He walks funny!” I don’t remember much after that, probably because I was blinded by rage, but my Mom recalls me snatching the Barbie from Tiffany’s hand, pushing her to the floor, and yelling to my Mom that she needed to send Tiffany home. Even as a child I had a deep sense of loyalty that I felt was worth fighting for, but identifying the enemy was always a problem.

Moses was a man chosen by God to deliver His people from Egyptian slavery. In Genesis 2:11-15, we read about a circumstance that describes Moses’ approach in handling injustice:

“One day, when Moses had grown up, he went out to his people and looked on their burdens, and he saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his people. He looked this way and that, and seeing no one, he struck down the Egyptian and hid him in the sand. When he went out the next day, behold, two Hebrews were struggling together. And he said to the man in the wrong, ‘Why do you strike your companion?” He answered, ‘Who made you a prince and a judge over us? Do you mean to kill me as you killed the Egyptian?’”

I can imagine Moses in that moment with the fear and shame he must have felt. He thought he knew who the enemy was. He thought that the decision to save his Hebrew brother’s life by taking the life of an Egyptian was a fair judgment. I wonder if it was later in his time as a fugitive that Moses realized that the devaluing of humanity that motivated him to kill was more enslaving than making bricks without straw.

I have read and heard thoughts centered on Matthew 5:43-48 about loving your enemies for most of my life. In the passage Jesus says, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

It wasn’t until I started working at my job as a public health nurse in the worst parts of Philadelphia that I was truly confronted with the difficulty in these words. For the last year and a half, I have been surrounded by the most intensely dark circumstances imaginable trying to be a source of hope to those entrenched in trauma. Two weeks ago I was in the hospital with my client during her thirty-six hours of labor. The father of the baby, her ex-boyfriend, came to her room for about thirty minutes and wasn’t too thrilled to even be there that long. When he told her he was leaving to go to a barbecue with his new girlfriend she was understandably upset. She was clearly frightened about the possibility of raising this child alone, and his reaction to her fears was to yell threats and verbal abuse as swells of contractions were beating her like the waves at high tide. I stood up wanting hurl those insults back at him, and it took every ounce of self-control not to tear him limb from limb.

It’s in the heat of those moments when I’m faced with an injustice that God’s perspective reminds me that we are all affected by the cruelty of this world and sometimes a heart of stone is our means of survival. When God reorients me to the sacrifice He has made for those I would consider my enemies, the questions that are raised in my mind shifts from wondering what is wrong with this person to what wrongs were done to them. It is then that I start to see that my enemies are not people or even the hatred they may hold inside of them, but my enemy is the part of me that would rather strike and kill than love.

The last battlefront of the Great Controversy is in our hearts, and I have learned that becoming a warrior for Christ means fighting for compassion. That fight within comes from the understanding that I am not beyond the enslaving hatred that strips people of their humanity. When I live and act out of that truth that is when Grace starts to win. That is when Love starts to change the world by transforming me.