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Marta Vargas

words, songs and a little more * palabras, canciones, y más

My Story/Mi Historia

Sharing A Little Bit of My Story...

(Esta página se ofrecerá en Español PRONTO!)

 Born in San Juan, Puerto Rico, my parents named me Marta Idalia, an inspiration which came in great part from a great fellow poet, my dad, who later wrote the why behind the name: “Marta fue santa, Dalia fue flor, que juntos simbolizan el amor”. To my dad, naming me after a Saint (Martha) and a flower (Dahlia) was the closest he could come to calling wrapping heaven and earth into one name, which to him, symbolized “love”, without giving me a name I might want to change later. J Not sure if that has anything to do with the fact that Psalm 85’s verse is one of my favorites, but something about “heaven and earth shall meet, justice and peace shall kiss” that I really dig. Heaven meeting earth --- and the love that springs forth Yeah…A cool thing indeed.  

There’s been music playing in my heart and in my head ever since I can remember, even as a small child. Word is I’ve been singing practically since I could talk. When very little, one of my first recallable childhood memories was how it was rare to play the usual kids’ games. Instead, I’d play with my cousin Adrianita “finish that song”. One of us would start singing and making up the song as we went along, and when we would run out of words the other would jump in to help continue or finish it. I did play with Barbie dolls too though the game was more ‘playhouse’ than ‘house’! My family tells me I’d create these elaborate scripts acting out all the parts complete with voice inflections, sound effects, narration, the works! Every time I was asked to sing at school and other celebrations and I did it with so much joy. One night, there was a party for one of my parents’ friends’ homes. Can’t remember how old I was, just that I was still a kid. I sang for them that night, and as always, it was fun! The real funny thing was that about a month later at my aunt’s house about 45 minutes away from that home, I broke out in to song while playing by myself in the backroom as usual and within minutes, to my surprise and everyone’s, there was a knock on the door: someone who was at that party heard my voice and they wanted to know if I was that same little girl they heard sing back then That was my first close encounter with the power of song and just how God can use that gift to touch others, sometimes in ways we least expect. And the fact that my teeny tiny voice could have that big of an impact that someone would remember a month later a few towns down 45 minutes or so away enough to knock at a stranger’s door because they were that blessed by it was quite powerful for me even if at a much smaller scale as only a child could understand.

My first song came at age 8, “Por Qué”: essentially a letter to God asking the “Why” or “Por Qué” of many things, why birds sing, why the sun rises, why everything happens, and primarily, why love exists, and why it brings people together. Love, what is it exactly? This song was written when I was 8, still 7 years before finding out what inspired my parents to give me my name, and how, in a way, I was writing about the meaning behind my name, even if only to ask about it.   

When I was 12 years old, my mom was coming to pick me up at school and she couldn’t find me in my usual place or anywhere. Just as she began to worry and loose hope, she heard music, and followed the sounds until she found me, on stage, singing with a local young pop music group comprised of middle school and high school kids directed by our High School principal that I continued to sing with for a bit. I have no idea how I got there or how it started. It is my mom who recalls this story, and quite fondly, but I do remember that even though it was very small time ( local events and things of that sort). it was an awesome experience. It wasn’t so much the sharing the stage with peers to perform favorite tunes with peers to the sounds of a band but the discovery of just how much joy a song delivered with love could bring to people’s faces that made this a life changing experience even if I didn’t know it at the time!

Meanwile, two very concerned parents urged their daughter not to get side tracked, to make academics (and future job security) the priority which wasn’t too hard since I did and do love learning about as much as singing and story telling, so it was very easy for me to make good grades and sweep with all the medals on honors day at school. The attention wasn’t bad either, and truth be known those accolades did help to keep me motivated and focused in that direction for sure. It felt good to feel “smart”. Little did I know that is such a limited view and it would be long until I’d grow up enough to know better, while in the meantime, new ways to create came my way, which I joyfully embraced. My father offered me the opportunity to write a column for his community newspaper El Lagomar. I jumped at the opportunity! My column “Aqui La Juventud” (“Our Youth Here and Now”) was a simple column about happenings in arts and entertainment relevant to teens nationally and in our community. This experience too was life changing in the discovery of the joy of connecting with people and keeping connected with them. Dad also gave me two unbelievable gifts that year which helped as well: a lettering book and a pack of calligraphy pens. By helping dad create some graphic designs for his newspaper ads and my own column, all while reporting what was going on in my world, I discovered another fun way to express myself creatively that I took with me to my High School in Puerto Rico where I became editor of the newspaper and had a lot of fun with that, and continues to be a part of my life to this day.

 But then, that fun seemed to come to an end when my family moved to Florida. At least momentarily. I cried for six months! Until my dad reminded me that I had two choices. To stay in the past and do nothing further with my life, or to make the best of what I had now and start living the rest of my life. Those words actually did not take long to understand. I knew he was right, and quickly took his advise to heart.

There was no music during those years though on my Junior year, my creative heart found a way to manifest itself again when I took an art class and actually surprised myself in discovering I could draw, paint, and have total fun joking around with my professor as he insisted I had to be lying about not having done this before (true I’d done hand drawn graphics and lettering with the two newspapers before but all that was all basic and self-taught) Art class was fun. It was cool to see what I could do with paints, brushes and a canvas, though if I paint again it will most likely be abstracts. Getting the dimensions and features right is a lot of work for me! Well, I did recently start again (yay!) and have enjoyed doing flowers and butterflies so stay tuned for some of that work… J

My pivotal moment in high school wasn’t being inducted into the National Honor Society, being elected to Student Government, or becoming an officer with the American Field Service exchange club. It wasn’t being selected a Tampa Times Honor Student for being on top of my class or being offered a couple scholarships. Nope! It was a talent show, and I wasn’t even in it! I was merely a spectator. One of the girls came with her guitar and sang a very sweet song, and did it so beautifully! I wouldn’t say I felt envious because I was happy for her, but my heart felt a void. A void I couldn’t quite put my finger on yet and would not be able to through college as I busied myself getting my business degree in between a gazillion extra curricular activities from Student Government to Trade Groups to social groups and a coop job at IBM. Had I just been bitten by the corporate fast track career bug? Or had I lost my way? And could there possibly be any co-relation, an intersection between where the passions my childhood revealed and where God’s purpose for my life, His call for me, is at? Those questions and answers did not come revealed until years later.

Sometimes this quest and its questions take us through struggles, and struggles came alright. My faith was shaken and I came to question. But then the questioning actually brought me closer to God and to my Catholic faith in ways beyond imagining in a unforeseen re-discovery that made my faith stronger than ever before. I call this my “Road to Damascus” time, when God became truly real and no longer some “power in Heaven” we talk about or pray to, but someone close, and personal, through His Son Jesus Christ. Truly a friend. His Words and promises came to life and I became aware of His presence like never before. Walking with Him brought me immense joy. There were many special people God sent into my path to exemplify these truths in their self giving and sharing as well as others sent for me to pay that forward, as opportunities to share that hope with others now going through similar challenges came. Interestingly, a huge step in this process was beginning to understand and embrace my own gifts and, even more interestingly, such understanding and commitment only began by understanding where my gifts were not, yet not to feel badly about what I couldn’t do, but to grow in and do what I could in gratefulness and joy, while seeking God’s guidance to go with those gifts to wherever He would ask to bless most. So in a sense, facing my imperfections was a huge gateway to a deeper understanding of God’s perfect love for me, and a growing desire to share that with others. Matthew Kelly in his book “Perfectly Yourself: 9 Lessons to Enduring Happiness” puts this into perspective perfectly (no pun intended). He talked about how straight branches do not make a perfect tree, in fact sounds pretty laughable. Sometimes our very imperfections are the most perfect manifestations who we are, and perhaps even the very indicators or who we are uniquely called to be. And that is not only a key to becoming the best version of ourselves, this in turn is a key to our ultimate contributions to society as can only be made when we are all that we are called to be and are true to that call.

During that time, inspiration came and somehow I begun to write songs again but realized my heart wasn’t in the right place yet, so I entrusted the music back to God until He would believe I was ready. During that time someone I met through a travel agency who were clients of mine came forth with a potential idea for a music project. Next thing I knew I was in a beautiful apartment in Key Biscayne discussing details of this would be project, investors, the works, but God had other plans: the project fizzed out just about as quickly as they came along and I went back to work.

Years had gone by when one morning I woke up from a dream that was more like a music video than a dream where I saw a girl immersed in a beautiful ocean, the sun shining above, singing a beautiful song about Jesus and His unconditional love. Then I realized – heyyyy wait a minute! That’s my song! And woke up to write it down and record it right away. The music hasn’t stopped since, although it’s challenging because the songs were now constantly in my head. Day, night, on/off work. My roommate would say“Marta se levanto inspirada” (Marta woke up inspired) as sometimes in the mornings I like to sing aloud while the new melody is fresh in my mind while trying to figure out how it should go. One day she came home with a flyer for an ASCAP event with many known song writers. I’ll never forget the words of one of the panel members, Rudy Perez: “Just do it”. He said. I did continue to check out whatever chances came, but they came and went. Yet, there was peace, knowing there’s always a reason. I trusted God, while I kept working, and this time, also kept writing, for a change.

It was upon my return to Tampa bay and during the years following that I re-discovered Christ’s love in an even deeper way than in my “Road To Damascus” days, in great part through discovering the wonders of God’s amazing paths and the joy of serving others through ministry. Before long and after many more amazing stories, I was St Cecelia’s Catholic Church singing with a contemporary music band where I served for five years and started a middle school program then called Spirit Nights. It was then that the pieces all began to fit. Singing became more than making people, it became a ‘reading of love letters from God to the people’, it became about sharing faith, hope and love. In between singing out about God’s promises to great music plus learning and working at unpacking faith for these youngsters so its wonder and hope would become as real to them ( without yet knowing it God was working on me too)! The scriptural words “Zeal for your house consumes me.” Became alive in a new and neat way. I dove in deeper and in it began to more clearly see how through all these years and experiences, through the joys and the struggles, God was not only fully present, He was actively working as if reaffirming that He did have a plan. A plan that I now could see unfolding as beautifully as the weaving of a colorful and rich tapestry. It was as if everything, life experiences and even professional journeys were coming together into one stream to meet a common purpose. And throughout the journeys there were numerous lessons to help me grow in what I do admit is still a feeble understanding of the power of God’s love and forgiveness, the wonder of hope and grace and the call to not just grow in that but to share it and pass it on. My heart was opened to seeing the power of the word and the great responsibility this entails, along with the importance of more consciously seeking to make our words and deeds life-giving as opposed to soul-destroying… and how that very simple principle is a key foundation of peace. Partly inspired by this, partly sensitized by the challenges in my life that brought me to my first ‘Road to Damascus’ experience,, I became growingly committed to being part of the difference, to build an environment where those entrusted to me felt affirmed and inspired to affirm others, as well as challenged to go beyond in ways that express authentic faith that’s genuinely caring and self-giving, that sees and upholds the special value, worth, and uniqueness of every human being. Philippians 4:8 emerged as a wonderful summation of many a foundation from which many of these things flow when applied, in it becoming one of my special and favorite “blue prints to life”: “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things… Then the God of peace will be with you”. (Philipians 4: :8-9)

Suddenly, adults who sat in my Spirit Nights at St Cecelia’s began to ask when I’d be doing this for them. Lo and behold, Spirit Night wasn’t just for kids. Of course! The experience of God’s love as real, tangible and linked to life is for everyone! Afterall, that’s what got me there! So I prayed about the day I’d be doing this with adults too, never imagining that a few years later I’d be leaving my job, giving away my things, and moving to Miami to do Part Time Campus Ministry at the college level, which I did for 3 years before my current work in Family Life Ministry. Truly had anyone told me then I’d be I’d be doing that even a few years before I would have been laughing. But then again, somebody did tell me! One sunny day nearly two decades before a man I’d never met came running after me after a conference saying, “Excuse me, excuse me, someday, you will be helping to lead the youth.” I thought that guy was pretty crazy, little did I know the crazy one may have been me. And as if God hadn’t surprised me enough, here I am, back to the beginning. Back to the music! (By the way, yes, we could say this is partly what the first song release you will hear, “Eden”, is about, as you will see in the stories behind Eden soon to be posted on the blog! )

Who knew that it would take all these years seeking this and seeking that and thinking I would do this and would do that to get right back to the very start, to my childhood days, when the purity of my heart allowed my ears to listen to His whispers as music in my ears, my eyes to see Him in that, and my lips to sing as He would lead before the noise of the other voices of this world would lure my steps away? But then again, to He for whom years are but a moment, who owns time and knows all, quite likely part of a plan that may not have led me here otherwise, much less with the same gratitude with I share this little story with you today.

And to think that all along seeds were being planted. To think one day these seeds would fuel a burning desire to bridge people, spread hope and be a spark to the fire that can only burn in hearts when we discover just how cherished we are individually, personally, unconditionally - a transcendental moment that heals and begets new hope and gratitude that’s life-giving and opens hearts in transformative ways as can only happen in that security of knowing not just “who” we are but also and more importantly “whose” we are. Then defenses melt away, barriers crumble, selfishness dissipates, self-giving and kindness grow, understanding and compassion flow. Suddenly it was all before me. It took years to live through the experiences, it will take even longer to even begin to truly and fully understand the depth the height, the length and width of all this as the colors brighten, the mystery deepens, horizons expand, perspectives widen, and celebration abounds all around.

  Today as I look back at this and so many faith adventures in between, and what became somewhat of a struggle between following my heart and following the world’s Rx, I smile in realizing that God knew that and knew how to bring me back. I smill amazed at how He can do such great things, even despite ourselves. And if anyone ever doubts it, all they have to do is look at me. Because if He could do something with me, he certainly can do it with anybody. I hope that if you get nothing else from sharing in my story you take that. He can do all things, and He has a plan for you too! And if you let Him have His way, He can even do it despite you. Wow! How awesome and freeing that it’s not only up to us, how cool and refreshing to see how things continually come full circle in this journey with God’s hand on every step along way. All we need to do is seek God’s voice sincerely and with our heart while being open and attentive to His leading, somehow, someway He does wonders with our loaves and fishes as He takes care of the details. That’s great news and great hope for all of us. Myself included. (And This story shall continue...)

“...and once again it’s nice to be home”

– Excerpted from song I’m Here Again ©2005 Beyond The Word, Inc.