God Wants to Use You: Quina Aragon’s Story
Children's book author Quina Aragon's home life meant trauma and pain. But it didn't get the last word. Hear her story—and how her life changed radically. God had big plans for Quina. And He wants to use your story, too.
About the Guest
- Connect with Quina Aragon at quinaaragon.com, listen to her on Spotify, find her on Audible and watch her spoken word videos on YouTube.
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- And grab Quina's book,Love Can in our shop.
- Check out her other books, Love Gave and Love Can on her website quinaaragon.com.
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Children’s book author Quina Aragon’s home life meant trauma and pain. But it didn’t get the last word. And He wants to use your story, too.
God Wants to Use You: Quina Aragon’s Story
Dave: What is the one thing that always makes me cry? Makes me tear up?
Ann: Well, you cry at every single movie you see. [Laughter]
Dave: Every movie!
Ann: So, I would say, “a good story.”
Dave: Yes, I mean, that’s it. You know, if I’m at church, and there’s an emotional moment—video, worship, hands raised, singing my heart out—that’s emotional; but when somebody walks up and tells their story, I don’t know what it is! I’m over there sobbing most of the time.
Dave: You love that, right?
Ann: I love that you do that, because you don’t do it every day, in normal life. So, there’s something that’s maybe there, but I think [for] all of us, a good story is compelling.
Ann: It draws us in.
Shelby: Welcome to FamilyLife Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I’m Shelby Abbott, and your hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson. You can find us at FamilyLifeToday.com or on the FamilyLife® app. This is FamilyLife Today!
Dave: So, today is story day. We’ve got Quina Aragon with us, a spoken word poet.
Ann: An author.
Dave: An author, a speaker, a wife, a mom. And we’re going to get to hear your story. So, Quina, welcome!
Quina: Thank you for having me. I’m so excited to be here, and I’m a sucker for stories as well.
Dave: Are you?
Quina: Oh, yes!
Ann: Well, you create stories with your words.
Quina: Yes, that’s what I want to do!
Dave: Can you tell us your whole life story in a spoken word? [Laughter]
Ann: In spoken word.
Dave: Can you just make one up on the spot?
Quina: Right! “Back in 1989,”—no! I wish I could!
Dave: I mean, a lot of your spoken word, though, is your life story, I’m guessing?
Quina: Yes, a lot of it just comes out of wherever I am in life. Actually, honestly, writing poetry and spoken word pieces came after I came to know the Lord.
Dave: Tell us your story.
Quina: Wow! Okay, so, in 1989, I was born in Manilla, the Philippines. My mom is half-Philippina/half-Puerto Rican; my dad’s Jamaican. I have an older sister, who was four years old when I was born. So, my real name is Iva Quihana Valenciano Parchment, but in very Philippino fashion, everyone just calls me Quina. So, I was born in the Philippines, then moved as a baby back here to Orlando, and [I] grew up here right by the airport.
I grew up in a pretty Catholic background; you know, my mom being from the Philippines. She raised us in Catholic mass, Catholic school; and I really didn’t have any interest in God, if I’m honest. You know, it was just sort of a thing we did. It was in middle school, maybe, that I started to ask the nuns questions. I was the annoying student that’s like, “Excuse me?”
But the answer I would get back a lot was, “Just have faith.” But there really wasn’t much of an object to my faith; there wasn’t really this study or love of Scripture. I didn’t know much about it. So, I went into high school—I went from this small, little Catholic school, where I was one of the only black kids there. I experienced racism, experienced all this stuff. I found identity and this sense of belonging through sports. Since I was good at it, that’s what I stuck with.
Going into high school, I was asked to play basketball for one of the public high schools here; so, that was going to be my focus, and it was my focus: basketball, then volleyball. I was just one my way there, and experienced—I believe it was in tenth grade—just this sense of, “What’s the point?” At that point, in a high school way, I “had it all,” right? My family was fairly well-off at the time, and I had the boyfriend; I had the popularity; I had done well in sports; I had done well in school.
I felt very Ecclesiastes, like, “Alright, I have all these things. Now what? It’s meaningless. It feels like chasing after the wind.” So, I started to, just to myself, kind of grapple with some of those questions: “What’s this all for? What’s the point? If you’re smart, you die. If you’re not so smart, you die. If you’re rich, you die. If you’re poor, you die.” I always felt very empty, despite all the good things, you know, that God had blessed us with.
So, I had a friend in my English class who was a track star. I admired her, of course, because she was another athlete, and she was very smart. What I noticed was, even though she was very approachable, she wasn’t cursing people out like we were. [Laughter] She wasn’t gossiping like we were; she wasn’t doing the same things. I just took note of that, and eventually, she ended up being the best hitter on my volleyball team. I was a setter, so, of course, I liked her for that, because she got us all the points! [Laughter]
I started to spend more time with her outside of practice; go to her house. Her family—they were believers. They didn’t kind of thump me over the head with the Bible or anything, but they were just very welcoming. It was really their hospitality that drew me in; just the sense that I could feel grace and warmth in the way they interacted with each other. All of the things made me think, “Wow! That’s interesting. They’re different!”
I think it was either after prom or homecoming—I think it was either Junior year or Sophomore year—I remember talking to that friend. I slept over, and I saw a Bible verse on her wall that she had printed out. I don’t know if people still do that, where they print out Bible verses and just throw it on their walls—
Dave: Yes, they do. We’ve done it!
Quina: It was the oddest Bible verse to have on your wall! It was from the book of James, and it said, “So, you believe there’s one God. Good! Even the demons believe that and tremble.”
Dave: That’s what they had? [Laughter]
Quina: She had that! But honestly, the Lord used that.
Quina: Because I would have said, at that time, “I’m Christian. Yes, yes; I’m good. I’m a good person. I have morals.” Of course, at that time, I was also seeing my sin snowball.
Quina: So, as much as my parents tried to raise me with morals, in high school, I got exposed to so many things. I got enslaved to sexual sin and all kinds of stuff. So, I saw that verse, and I was like, “Huh? What does that mean?”
Dave: So, God really used that?
Dave: That’s awesome!
Quina: Yes, and she shared that you can have a relationship with God. I’d never heard that language before. She just, more so, shared stories. At first, she didn’t necessarily share the full, “Okay, this is what Jesus did,” but just that you can have a relationship with Him; it’s possible.
Of course, I thought about that later. I remember one providential night, I was in my room, wrestling with those same questions: “Why am I here?” I think I was stressed about something, maybe volleyball. And it led to this breakdown. I finally had an emotional breakdown. I didn’t used to cry; I was very avoidant with my feelings. You know, suppress, suppress, suppress. “I’m tough! I don’t have issues!”
I was in my room and just had a breakdown. I have an aunt and uncle who were like my Ninong and Ninang, which is like your godfather and godmother in the Philippines, who are believers. They would send me a Bible all the time as a gift. So, I had Bibles in my room, I just never read them. They were just dusty. So, that day—that night—I opened up one of the Bibles they sent me, not really knowing even how to read Scripture or what it’s about. I just opened it to the middle, which happened to be the Psalms. It was Psalm 69, and all I remember—of course, the poetry, and all I remember—was just seeing the type of emotional language.
I thought the Bible was “Thou,” “Thy;” you know, old King James language that I couldn’t understand. I thought it was all commands. So, to see a poem, where the poet is like, “Save me. I’m drowning! I have more enemies than hair on my head.” You know, “Rescue me with your sure salvation,” and these types of words, I was like, “Wow!” Something drew me to that.
Ann: I want to read that.
Quina: Oh, yes! Go ahead.
Ann: Let’s read part of it.
Ann: Maybe you should read it, because you’re good at that.
Quina: Okay, let me find that.
Ann: I like hearing your voice when you do it.
Ann: That whole beginning is, “I’m exhausted from crying for help.”
Quina: And that’s exactly where I was at.
Ann: “My throat is parched.” Really?
Quina: Yes, so this is—I don’t even know what version I was reading, but this is ESV. This is what blew me away, the beginning:
“Save me, O God, for the waters have come up to my neck.
I sink in deep mire, where there is no foothold.
I have come into deep waters, and the flood sweeps over me.”
Oof, you guys! I may cry.
Ann: See?! I know!
Quina: Lots to cry about; just remembering that.
Quina: “I’m weary with my crying out. My throat is parched; my eyes grow dim with waiting for my God.
More number than the hairs of my head are those who hate me without cause.
Mighty are those who would destroy me; those who would attack me with lies.”
Down to verse 5: “O God, You know my folly; the wrongs that I have done are not hidden from You.” Then, verse 6: “Let not those who hope in You be put to shame through me, O Lord God of Hosts. Let not those who seek You be brought to dishonor through me.”
Dave: I mean, are you remembering that night? Is that what’s hitting you?
Quina: I am. I am, but I’m also thinking, “Wow! How relevant those words have been to me now,” twenty or so years later of walking with the Lord.
Ann: And how sweet of Him to take you to that Scripture.
Quina: Yes, yes.
Ann: It just sunk in and pierced your heart.
Quina: It did.
Ann: What did you feel? “This is a God that—” What?
Quina: That allows me to feel. I didn’t allow myself to feel, and I would say, in some ways in my childhood, I wasn’t allowed to feel. I wasn’t allowed to express anger; I wasn’t allowed to express those things. Maybe not explicitly like, “Hey, you’re not allowed to [feel] those things,” but implicitly, there were things that I didn’t know I could safely express. Here I opened the Bible, and it’s words like that. I was like, “Wait a minute!” [Laughter] “You’re allowed to talk like that? That’s how I feel!”
Dave: I mean, it’s so beautiful, as I hear your story, to think, number one, God used a family.
Dave: This mom and dad of your friend.
Ann: Their hospitality.
Dave: You being in their home. I think often we, as families, especially Christian families—I’m sure our listeners—are like, “God’s not going to use us!” No! You have people in your home, or in your neighborhood; it’s powerful! You watch them! You watched the way they lived, and at school, you noticed, “There’s something different.”
And then, God uses art through Scripture that connects to you!
Dave: I came to Christ at a music concert, and I’m a musician.
Dave: Ann said to me the other day, “Isn’t that interesting that God would use music, and it hit your soul differently than a preacher?” I thought, “Hmm.”
Dave: And yours was the Word of God, but through poetry in the Word of God.
Quina: A Psalm.
Dave: That’s just pretty cool how God works!
Ann: I love how He woos us.
Dave: I mean, you were alone in your bedroom.
Quina: Alone! By myself, yes.
Dave: Dusty Bible; you opened it up, and boom!
Quina: Yes. I didn’t know how to pray. I just knew I was crying while I was reading that. Then, I thought, “I should probably ask my friend about this stuff, because she seems to know about it. So, I was too shy to talk to her. I feel like I’ve never been great on my feet to just have a conversation or to say certain things.
Dave: You’re a spoken word artist! You’re not good on your feet?
Quina: Those are memorized! [Laughter]
Dave: Oh, really? So, you still feel that way?
Quina: I do. I prefer the comfort of thinking through it, writing it, and, “Okay, now I know what I want to say.”
Dave: Yes. So, you wanted to talk to her, but you were afraid.
Quina: I wanted to talk to her. Even though she was very friendly, I was still a little afraid to ask her about these things. It felt very intimate. So, I wrote a letter—very longwinded! And that’s also very on-brand for me. But a very longwinded letter, essentially just saying, “Hey, I don’t know what’s going on, but can you maybe just explain more of this God stuff to me?” I know I used the word “repent” wrong. [Laughter] I just tried to grab words that I maybe had heard before.
Dave: What do you mean, “I used the word ‘repent’ wrong?”
Quina: I said, “I don’t think I have enough ‘repent.’” [Laughter]
Dave: That’s awesome!
Quina: Yes, because I found the letter years later. I don’t know where it is not, but I read it and I thought, “What!?” Anyway, she knew what I was trying to say. I was nervous to give it to her; I gave it to her. And I think it was the next day, she had one of those gospel tracts that has little illustrations, and “this is what—”
Ann: Probably “The Four Spiritual Laws.”
Dave: It wasn’t yellow, was it?
Quina: It was basically that.
Ann: Yes, the gospel.
Dave: “Knowing God Personally?”
Quina: It was through the Impact movement, so it was kind of like incorporating African-American history. So, I don’t know.
Quina: It was really special.
Quina: And we were on the bus on our way to an away game for volleyball.
Ann: [Laughing] I love this!
Quina: So, she sat next to me on the bus. She opened it, explained it; especially coming from a Catholic background, it was Ephesians 2:8, you know? “It’s not by works that you’re saved. It’s by grace through faith in Christ.” That was very powerful for me, because I was thinking, “Wait! What?”
Ann: I remember.
Quina: “I thought I had to work for this!”
Quina: “What are you saying?” She even mentioned, you know, God becomes your Father. I was kind of uncomfortable about that. That kind of goes back to my story with that. I just remember being very intrigued, but I knew that God had done the work for me, through Jesus. Being a perfectionist and being somebody who felt like I was never good enough; “I’m always going to fail;” that type of person, to know that God did that for me, and that He wasn’t expecting me to try to work my way to Him. He bridged that gap. Simple truth like that; I was like, “Wow.”
She thought that I was not interested, because I wasn’t talking. I was just really taking it in. I was very silent.
Quina: She was thinking, “She’s not—she doesn’t care.”
Quina: But after the game, I remember that I went home. I kept the gospel tract, and I went through it again. You know, it has a little prayer at the end. I didn’t know how to pray, so I was like, “Okay, I’ll just read this prayer.” It was genuine, you know? I asked Christ to save me, and I went to school the next day. I was like, “Cool! So, what’s next? I did the prayer thing.” She was like, “What!?” You know, I was just thrown off by her excitement. She said, “We’re sisters in Christ!” I said, “Okay, cool!” [Laughter]
So, I didn’t know what anything really meant, but I just knew that there had been a shift and a change in me, and I was hungry. At that point, I just wanted to read the Bible. Then, of course, I was reading James; I was reading all these things, and I said, “Oh, this is relevant! How come no one told me? This is so relevant!” That’s kind of how it started, and so, you know, you have that honeymoon phase.
Dave: I mean, I’ve got tears in my eyes now. It’s picturing this high school volleyball player sitting on a bus with you, having the courage—
Dave: Because you showed interest. I was thinking, that’s something we, as parents, dream as we raise our children: that they would know eternal things and know what matters.
Dave: I mean, that was one of our goals in raising our three sons, that they would love God and love others. We called it “make a dent where they’re sent.” Wherever God’s put you, make an impact.
Dave: And she did! You’re now making an impact on the world because a high school girl said, “I’m going to share the gospel on a volleyball bus trip!”
Dave: You know, when nobody else is thinking [about] eternity. It’s beautiful!
I have to ask you this, though: what about the father thing?
Ann: Yes, that you referred to?
Quina: There’s a lot of things I’m working through in trauma therapy right now that I’m still trying to put words to and articulate what my childhood experience was, but I will just say it was a bit rocky. That’s probably putting it lightly. It was tough. So, I have complex PTSD. I was just recently diagnosed with that, so I do still get into—even though my dad and I have a great relationship now, I still get into these fight or flight moments where I get triggered by something or frozen. You know, I can feel frozen or want to run away from stuff.
When I heard that God could be my Father, it was like these complex feelings that I had. “I want that.” Also, “What does that mean? What does that come with?”
Quina: I would say a lot of my journey of learning who God is, is learning to not project the shortcomings of my father onto God; and also learning that my story didn’t start with me being born. It even started before that with my dad’s trauma and his story. He has had wounds. My mom, too; and their parents. You know, there’s intergenerational [stuff]. But then, the story doesn’t even start with that. It goes all the way back to the Garden. And then, it doesn’t even start with Adam and Eve. It actually goes before that, which is what my books are about. “Before anything, you were loved.”
My journey, I think, as a believer, has been trying to grow in that reality, that I may know intellectually, but that practically or emotionally or mentally, it can be a hard thing for me to really accept or to really soak in and enjoy at times.
Dave: Yes. I mean, you’re not alone.
Ann: I think that was my greatest struggle, even when we went to seminary. “I know God loves me.”
Ann: I know the Scriptures say that. I know it analytically, but sometimes I can’t get it down into my heart to experience it and to feel His great love.
Ann: And it’s taken years to be able to figure that out. I love that you’re wrestling with it.
Dave: Yes, and for me—it’s great that you’re in your thirties, and you’re wrestling with this. I don’t think I even started to wrestle with my dad wound. . .
When I heard the same thing, that God could be your Father, I was like, “That’s not a good thing.” My dad was an alcoholic, abuser; gone. My first thought was, “So, He’ll leave me like my dad did.” I had to wrestle through, “No, that’s not the heavenly Father.”
He’s the perfect Father. So, what you’re wrestling through, I think a lot of our listeners are thinking, “I’m there now.”
Ann: Oh, yes.
Dave: Even your children’s books, as I read through them, I thought, “Wow, these are great! These are for kids, but they’re for adults as well,” because we need to understand that we’re made out of love, and that love comes from the Father.
Ann: Yes, it’s beautiful.
Dave: I mean, as you think through—we’ve heard all the way up to, you know, you coming to Christ; what would you say, because we don’t have a lot of time left, is the biggest difference He’s made in your life?
Quina: Oof! Come on, man! [Laughter]
Dave: Well, give me ten!
Quina: I need another hour! I need another hour. [Laughter]
Shelby: Wow! We’ll hear Quina’s response to that massive question Dave shot at her at the end there in just a second. But first, I know I’ve done this, too, but grafting on our perspective about our earthly fathers onto our heavenly Father. That can be so easy to do. Scripture gives us new and pure perspectives on God. God the Father won’t leave us; He won’t abandon us; He won’t forsake us or betray us or use us. God is the polar opposite of that, and it’s always good to have that reminder.
I’m Shelby Abbott, and you’ve been listening to Quina Aragon with Dave and Ann Wilson on FamilyLife Today. You know, Quina has written a book called Love Can: A Story of God’s Superpower Helper. I love that! It explains to kids who the Holy Spirit is. And like Dave said, it’s not just for kids! It’s actually for parents, too. I know for me, as a dad, I have learned so much by reading through God-centered children’s books to my kids. It’s been one of the best ways for me to grasp these important concepts as I read and teach them to my kids. Quina’s book does just that.
You can pick up a copy of her book, Love Can, at FamilyLifeToday.com. You know, books like Quina’s can help us not only absorb daily truth from God’s Word, but also train us in how to communicate that truth to other people. Now, is there a chance that you could lead a small group growing healthier families and deeper knowledge of God in your community? I think the answer might be “yes.”
Well, we’ve stuffed FamilyLife’s Art of Parenting® small group study with key principles and practical advice on shaping your kids’ character, their relationships, and their identity; issues every parent in your neighborhood or your church faces; because every one of us, if we’re honest, is kind of winging it from day-to-day. We’ll help you facilitate meaningful conversations about messy parenting, and help you dig into God’s Word through this video-based, zero-prep study. I love to hear that!
We’ve done all that so you can have time playing chauffeur to your kids, getting them to their sports games, and homework tutor this fall. I’ve got my girl going into seventh grade, and I don’t know how I’m going to help her with her homework anymore! It’s just too hard. [Laughter]
Well, you can grab 25% off for a limited time and preview it in today’s show notes. And remember, you can make a donation at FamilyLifeToday.com or give us a call at 800-358-6329; again, that’s 800-F as in “family,” L as in “life,” and then the word, “TODAY.”
I just want to let you know that we also accept contributions via mail. You can simply send your donation to FamilyLife, 100 Lake Hart Drive, Orlando, FL 32832. Now Dave asked Quina a giant question, being “what’s the biggest difference God’s made in your life?” That’s huge! Let’s see how Quina responds.
Quina: Man, the biggest difference—
Dave: If you’ve only got one thing.
Quina: —has been story.
Quina: To go back to the beginning.
Dave: What do you mean?
Quina: I believe story, in so many ways, shapes our identity and our identities. Like I’m a Philippina; I’m a Puerto Rican. For example, the Taijino people in Puerto Rico; that has something to do with me. So, I believe story, in so many ways, shapes our identity and that, when you look at the story of Scripture—of course, it’s filled with little stories as well; many stories that make up one—God is never speaking into a vacuum. He’s speaking into a story. He’s speaking into somebody with wounds, with trauma; with preconceived notions of who He is. He’s speaking into a place where it’s not just an empty slate; no! He knows how to step into the messiness of our stories and the beauty of our stories, and to bring dignity to the imago Dei that’s in us, us being made in the image of God, and to redeem that. God is a story-writer; He’s a story-teller. He’s the best one, obviously!
He writes with a really good, redemptive arc. That’s the biggest difference, because in my dark moments, I can see my life, and even my walk with Christ, past that honeymoon phase that I was just talking about; past that time as just trauma after trauma after trauma. “What was the point? Why am I following Jesus? This is hard! I’m experiencing so many things!” Or I can look at is as: “God has been writing this story, and even through the hardships, has been interested in making a new creation out of me that changes me at a deeper level than I could have ever known.”
I’m certain that I would have given up on life itself, at this point in my life, if I did not have the Lord. A big part of that is understanding that He is writing a story with a beautiful end.
Shelby: Now, coming up tomorrow with Quina Aragon, Dave and Ann Wilson are going to be talking with her as she unpacks her family trauma, including health issues, infertility, and chronic back pain, which I know many of us, including me, can relate to. That’s coming up tomorrow. We hope you’ll join us!
On behalf of Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Shelby Abbott. We’ll see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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