God doesn’t make mistakes…


 For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known. —1 Corinthians 13:12

I am 52 years old and I’m going blind, >wistful smile< or maybe I should accept the fact that I have almost arrived. For much of my life I thought the disease killing my retina was just something I had to simply endure.  That is, it had no purpose other than causing me fear and anguish.

In truth, since the disease (RP) progressed slowly, I didn’t give it very much thought. Much of my life was lived in a numb state of denial, aided by the use of drugs and/or alcohol; avoiding the reality but, perpetually sad and fearful.  After my encounter with Christ the issue was put on the shelf called trust…I was clueless …seeing through the mirror dimly. Then, one beautiful Saturday morning while attending a retreat, right there sitting on a bench in a lovely courtyard, God stepped down from eternity to bring truth and understanding in to my life. I read the words that gave my suffering clear focus.

Psalm 139:16
Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them.

In that moment I began the long journey of knowing that my blindness had a purpose. Those amazing words… yet being unperfect…told me that my diseased retina was no genetic accident. I mean, He knew me as He made me and allowed for the RP.  How mind blowing is that?! Sitting in that courtyard, I knew that His plan for me included the slow progression of the disease that would rob me of my physical sight. …The psalmist says, "All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be" (Ps 139:16). I didn’t understand it then and if I were to be completely honest, I can admit that I still struggle with it now but, I felt an assurance that it was true and  Somehow, knowing that He made me with that imperfection gave me more peace than I’ve ever known.

 Before I made you in your mother's womb, I chose you. Before you were born, I set you apart for a special work. (Jer. 1:5 NCV).

When I was a little Cuban refugee kid people often called me the professor, well, that is, when they weren’t calling me Mr. Maggoo. The sad reality is that I didn’t get it when I was called Maggoo but, I seemed to understand what was meant by the professor…ironic. I have always been very sensitive, shy and quite introverted. My concerns were for the feelings of others and I was very intuitive. Unfortunately, even as a child I struggled with depression and low self esteem. These issues along with fear were my constant companions. I left Cuba at age three, along with my twin brother and twelve year old cousin thanks to the freedom flights in 1962. My brother and I were gathered together with my ten year old sister who as “Peter Pan” kid was sent to Miami a year prior. We lived in Miami with our aunt, uncle and five other cousins. I was diagnosed with RP at around age five after complaining to my aunt that I couldn’t see in the dark (hense the nick name Mr. Maggoo). My mother, due to a series of tragic circumstances, remained in Cuba six years after sending us to live with her sister and brother in law. She was informed of my condition upon her arrival to the United States.

He seals the hand of every man, that all men may know His work (Job 37:7 NKJV).

I wanted to do something that would help people, at first.  I considered physical therapy due to my interest in massage and physical fitness but, after getting scared off by the required hard sciences, chose instead to be a psychotherapist.

May the favor of the Lord our God rest upon us; establish the work of our hands for us -- yes, establish the work of our hands (Ps 90:17).

Ironic as it seems, the very illness that caused me so much sadness became the vehicle used by God to send me to college. When I was seventeen years old my mother suffered a heart attack. Concerned friends of our family feared that I would do nothing with my life as I rarely left the house and had few if any friends. They felt the need to intervene and referred me to the proper agency. Blind Services of Florida assigned me a rehabilitation counselor who would change my life forever. When I met Bob Magaz I was an eighteen year old who barely made it out of high school. I was depressed to the point of having frequent thoughts of suicide and was certain that nothing good could ever come of my life. I was painfully shy and terrified.  He talked about getting a job and/or going to college…WHAT! COLLEGE, WHO ME?  ARE YOU CRAZY!

I see him in my mind's eye and cry …He just cocked his head to one side, smiled and said, "Yeah, you, sure.  Why not?" He saw something in me that I didn’t know existed...

Bob did rehab battle with my family to open their understanding as to the potential lying dormant within me:  I just needed the proper support, the necessary tools and the guidance to realize it. I suppose that members of my family were as frightened as I, to allow Bob to push me out of their protection and into the world. I treasure my AA degree in Psychology from Miami Dade Community College above all the others because, at MDCC I came to realize that I had a fully functioning brain and with the financial support given to me by The Division of Blind Services, I was enabled to use it. Bob Magaz was a gentle but determined and persistent force in my life; He didn’t let me get away with anything.  I will be forever grateful for his stubborn faith in my potential.

I went on to Florida State University to further my education and completed a BS degree in psychology with a strong minor in rehabilitation counseling.  

God is working in you to help you want to do and be able to do what pleases him (Phil. 2:13 NCV).

I moved to Tallahassee in order to further my education at FSU and was thrilled! My experience at MDCC gave me confidence and with Bob’s encouragement I was ready to continue the journey. North Florida is beautiful and I had enough sight to enjoy it!  I drank it in; The gently rolling hills, the old brick buildings and well, the first spring was amazing!  I’ve never seen dog wood trees bloom. Watching the trees and the other flowering bushes bloom just blew my mind. I loved the change of seasons; Fall, Winter Spring and summer. Well, summer isn’t very nice in T-town; it's actually hotter and more humid than Miami (I didn’t think it was possible).

FSU is a great university and in my time there I bloomed in my studies (both in psychology and in rehabilitation counseling). Unfortunately, I still struggled with fear and frequently took Speed, believing it gave me the necessary courage to both navigate the huge campus and to function in class. I used other drugs and alcohol to fend off fear in social situations…sad, but true. The fear was always with me. I was raised Catholic but, couldn’t find God. Although I didn’t know who He was, I looked for Him everywhere and spoke to Him often. Looking back, I know He was there, guiding and protecting me but, I wouldn’t come to know Him for many years. 

While at FSU I fell in love with the man who would eventually become my husband and the father of my son Zack. We were both clients of DBS.  Vincent studied Social Work and since my field of study was psychology, we had frequent discussions claiming the merits of our chosen professions.  Most of these discussions revolved around who's was the more noble.  According to Vince, he wanted to feed the poor where as I merely wanted to know how they felt about being hungry. 

If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies (1 Pet. 4:11)

Since both Vince and I were clients of Blind Services we decided to return to Miami for assistance in job placement after two years of failed attempts to gain employment in Tallahassee post graduation…thus…the reentry of Bob Magaz in to my life. Bob successfully placed both of us in a psychosocial rehabilitation agency working with mentally ill adults. At Fellowship House I grew up. I spent seventeen years evolving into a rehabilitation and case management warrior; doing battle for the poor, outcast and disenfranchised of society… along the way I found God.

The fruit of self control…

You do not gain God, Christ or the Holy Spirit through self-control: you gain self-control through God, Christ and the Holy Spirit.  I loved the “members” of Fellowship House and their families.  Warrior for them I was and battle for them I did (a little Yoda talk for you):  I was full of piss and vinegar. It took many years, the wise counsel of good friends and the love of Jesus to teach me that I couldn’t rescue the abused and abandoned of the world, rather it was my job, as it had been in my own life, to offer them the support, tools and guidance that would enable them to fight their own battles...but what a long and painful process it’s been.

Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart (Ps. 37:4 NIV).

As much as I appreciated my work at FH, I knew it wasn’t my only calling. I’ve always wanted to be a psychotherapist and prayed fervently about this longing.  CS Lewis said, “Prayer is taking part in the process of knowing”.  The process of knowing Him and being known by Him. The concept that the creator of the universe would want to be known by me blows my mind!  As the psalmist said, “...such knowledge is too great for me…”.

The more I prayed about my desire to be a psychotherapist, the clearer the path became. I researched the various graduate programs in the area and felt strongly that I would study marriage and family therapy at The University of Miami. The odds were stacked against me:  UM is an exclusive, private university, I hadn’t the financial resources,  and my GPA AND GRE score were none too impressive. However, God had a plan for me…He uses the weak things of the world to confound the strong and uses the foolish things of the world to confound the wise (1 Cor 1:27)… I was accepted into the UM College of Education: School of Counseling Psychology and received an MS Ed. In marriage and family therapy. It took four years to complete the degree while continuing to work full time and trying to be a wife and a mother.

I promised Vince that I wouldn’t burden our finances with school loans.  God being true to His calling in my life paid for my master’s degree; I received scholarships that could only be described as divine intervention. I can’t say that we didn’t pay a dime, but if we paid three hundred dollars in the four years it took to complete the degree it’s probably claiming too much cost. God was very good to me and as the trials of life continued, I learned to lean on Jesus. He revealed Himself as my source of peace and comfort with every new hardship. Two weeks after finishing the clinical practicum at UM my brother was in a catistrofic car accident. He was between life and death for two months. A week after Jose’s accident Hurricane Andrew destroyed our house and most of the southern part of Miami.  Life was very stressful but, God was so faithful; We were able to find an apartment near both work and Zack’s school during the reconstruction of our house.

Two years later it became painfully obvious that my vision had deteriorated to the extent that I needed assistance to get around safely. I didn’t feel comfortable using a cane and decided to contact The Seeing Eye. Michelle was my first Seeing Eye dog. She was a beautiful black lab. She was with me when I started the pre-license internship in private practice. She herself developed into a great co-therapist and worked with me for eleven years. Many hard things have happened within that course of time, but with every painful circumstance or mistake I’ve made, I have learned to cling to Jesus and was guided by His word. My work in practice is also ministry and I’ve witnessed God do amazing things, both in me and in the work with my patients.    

Max Lucado said… to have Christ within?

To have my voice, but Him speaking.
My steps, but Christ leading.
My heart, but His love beating
in me, through me, with me.
What's it like to have Christ on the inside?

To tap His strength when mine expires

When we assist or resist, we miss God's great grace. We miss out on the reason we were placed on earth-to be so pregnant with heaven's child that He lives through us. To be so full of Him that we could say with Paul, "It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me." (Gal. 2:20)

 I guess I should finally tell you that my name is Flora Del Cueto. I am a licensed psychotherapist and work with a Seeing Eye Dog. Meghan is a beautiful golden retriever and is the third Seeing Eye dog I’ve had the privilege to work with. Although there is much in my life that wasn’t shared in these pages, what I have written is true. I didn’t tell you that my mother insisted on keeping my eye disease a secret and the shame that brought to my heart. I chose to leave out my struggle with Lupus. I also decided to leave the sorrow and humiliation of abuse and the victory in overcoming its wounds for another day...

I decided to wait to tell you of how my marriage was destroyed by rage, leaving a little boy to carry that pain into adulthood, but oh grace...so amazing! He asked Jesus into his heart at age six and is now a man serving God despite the anguish his parents put him through. Yes, there are many stories in my life left unsaid but, God willing, they will be shared in His time. I was motivated to begin writing this story after my twin brother, Jose, died suddenly this summer. He had a massive heart attack. The shock of losing my brother so abruptly made me want to begin sharing the lessons of my life. For now, I hope that sharing my journey in becoming a psychotherapist has been an encouragement

…with God nothing is impossible (Matthew 19:26)…