We all meet people along our journey that make an impact, a beneficial difference for life. As God would have it, Ruthie Castaneda moved next door to me in 2012. Immediately we were connected by a live stream recognition as purposed by the Holy Spirit for His double blessing. Before we were knit together in our mother’s womb, our Father had His plans for us. “You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb.” Psalm 139:13 NLT Ruthie’s daughter Alexia was six years old when we first met. Her grandmother Eva had recently joined Jesus so Ruthie asked permission if Alexia could call me Abuela. God knows our needs and He fills everything in His supernatural, wonderful way. Ruthie loves to travel to Mexico with her two kids so that they may maintain their rich heritage. This post is to highlight the legacy of Ruthie and her beloved mother Evangelina Zapien who was born in Tijuana, Baja. Our Father comforts us “Those who sow in tears shall reap in joy” Psalm 126:5 and for sure and certain “A person finds joy in giving an apt reply – and how good is a timely word.” Proverbs 15:23
Ruthie was born in Fresno, California on July 4, 1983 to Vincente Mancha from Piedra Negras, Coahuila and his wife Evangelina otherwise affectionately called Eva. Ruthie had five siblings; Elizabeth, Silvia, Jesus, Ignacio, and Berta. In 1988 when Eva was pregnant with Berta, after being viciously beaten by her husband and slashed with a machete, Eva secretly extracted her six kids away from potential harm. They traveled by bus to Stockton, California. At the age of 5, Ruthie and her siblings landed in a shelter where they welcomed the message of hope from an Evangelist from Temple La Hermosa, a Spanish Pentecostal Church in downtown Stockton. “Consider it pure joy my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds. Because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.” James 1:2-3 After a time the Mancha family moved to Lodi where they met the Jimenez family of six. These two Mexican families bonded for life and to this day, Ruthie credits Josefina Jimenez for helping Eva raise her traumatized tribe of six.
Ruthie shared that her family was in a constant state of change as they moved from apartment to apartment. Eva earned income by cleaning houses and taking care of kids while Josefina worked. “There was an abundance of love and little money, but we were always comforted and made to feel safe and secure.” Ruthie attended three different High Schools; Fremont, Franklin and Edison. She went on to complete her general education at Delta College and at the age of 20 she got married. Her daughter Alexia was born on August 2, 2005 in Long Beach. In March of 2008 because Madre Eva had become critically ill, the Castaneda family moved back to Stockton. Eva died at age of 56 but before she joined Jesus she bravely gathered her kids to give them specific instructions. Momma told her kids “I am not afraid because I know where I am going”. Eva was adamant that her kids did not cry but sing, praise God, and wear RED! ‘Let the Godly rejoice. Let them be glad in God’s Presence. Let them be filled with joy.” Psalm 68:3 Obediently, from her deathbed, Eva called her ex husband to tell him “I forgive you”. Our Father said “But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” The Pastor of Temple La Hermosa led Eva’s Celebration of Life as the family sang El Alfarero (The Potter).
Ruthie listened and wept as she translated the Spanish version into English remembering that this was her mother’s favorite song. LYRICS: Take my life, reshape it. One day I was praying and I told my God – You are the Potter and I am the clay, mold my life to Your liking….do what You want, make me a new person. He told me I don’t like who you have become, so I will take you apart. I will transform the lump of clay into a new useful pot. But in the process, I will make you cry – because I must pass you through the fire. I want you to smile when all things go bad. I want you to praise Me instead of complaining. I want you to trust Me during every trial. I want you to learn to forgive.”
Have you asked God to take your life as it is and reshape it? Do you set your own goals, go your own way, then pray for God’s blessing on your activities? Or maybe you humbly admit that you have left God out of your life altogether? We delude ourselves if we think that our way is superior to God’s Word, Will and Way. Each of us has a distinct, spiritual identity that is part of our Father’s divine plan. Everyone was born with a particular mission and purpose to serve God. This mission if you choose to accept it includes embodying the qualities of God – and reflecting His nature. Our individual divine purpose requires a willingness to surrender to God. Our own preferred plans or personal ambitions are cancelled so that He can fulfill His purpose through us. Our desire to be respected, liked, well-known, promoted, or to be well-off are all part of our grandiose selfish nature. Finding our spiritual identity involves striving to be rid of undesirable character traits, and sacrificing any view of who we are that is not in accord with God’s expressed word for us. As much as I appreciate the content of many cultures, be reminded that real wisdom only comes from the Holy Spirit. God’s Word must be the beginning and the end of the standard by which we conduct our lives in this world. For eternity sake, silence the voices of the world, be still, be certain, be assured that the Word of God is Truth. “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” Proverbs 9:10
Ruthie shared that she once attended church on Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays. She sang in the church choir with her good friend Carolina. On July 7, 2022 Ruthie revisited her mother’s faith and her own. Life is a song, and it is our glorious opportunity to sing praises to God for all His plans. Ruthie and I talked about Jason and how God allowed me to sing as I remembered my son. Saved souls are connected, the Holy Spirit is the thread that holds us together.
From the lips of God “Like clay in the hand of the Potter, so are you in My hand” Jeremiah 18 Our Father warns us to NOT do evil in His sight and to obey His every word. The world we live in divides us by race, culture, accomplishments, denomination, religion and language. God unites us by His Spirit and calls us His, a child of God. Ruthie cherishes all the days of her life and fondly remembers receiving trophies at church for learning Scriptures. In 2010 she graduated from the University of the Pacific with a BA in Sociology with a minor in gender studies and humanities. In 2012 she bought the house in which she currently lives with her two kids Alexia and Evan. Ruthie worked as a Special Ed Assistant for six years and in 2018 she returned to UOP to obtain her teaching credential. In 2021 she graduated with a Masters in Teaching along with a credential for: Multiple Subjects, Mild to Mod, and Mod to Severe. On her summer break 2022 Ruthie traveled to Mexico to reconnect with the woman who God arranged to live next door. Ruthie knew my son Jason and we spoke about how God used LifeSong Church to change his heart and eternal destiny. God willing, may we reunite again before Jesus returns. #RuthieCastaneda
God bless us all with a vision of His glory to come. Matthew 16:27 “For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with His angels, and then He will reward each person according to what they have done.” AMEN Isaiah 6:3 “I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of His robe filled the temple…and they were calling to one another: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of His glory.” Almighty God of Heaven and of Earth, there is no one like You. Thank You for choosing me, anointing me, giving me hope for a forever future with You. Thank You for the Scriptures, for the scribes who devoted their lives to copying the writings. Thank You for those who canonized and printed the Bible and for those who distributed it. Thank You for those Christians You led me to and for the Holy Spirit who interprets Scripture and leads me in the right way. Thank You that I have instant access to Thy Word at any time. There is no lack of availability to Your holy Presence. I pray for increased faith in the Truth as You reveal Your plan for me in the Holy Scriptures. The Ark Encounter and the Creation Museum are filled with scientific evidence that validates every living Word in the Holy Bible. According to Your good and perfect will, we shall continue to praise You with our whole being because YOU alone are worthy of praise. A recent Word from LifeSong Church in Stockton where my son was baptized. We have the freedom to be on fire and passionate about God. Jason remembered Good Grief