Life Isn’t Fair, but God is Faithful!

Sunset on the Elk RiverThis past weekend I noticed that my heart was heavy for a seemingly unknown reason.  I went to visit my cousin on Friday night because I just needed to be around family.  When I woke up on Saturday morning, I still longed to be in the presence of my family, but it was impossible because everyone was away on vacation.  I just wanted to go home and stay with my parents for a few days.  I felt so empty and broken in a very strange way, but couldn’t figure out why I felt tears in my eyes and heart.  And then Sunday hit, and it all became clear to me.

One of my best buddies from church was diagnosed with cancer several months ago.  Being who she is, she has kept her head raised high, fought like a champion, and praised our God throughout this entire journey.  She’s been in church every Sunday when she feels good and continues to be active in life.  She has had many good days, but there have also been bad, pain-filled days as well.  And yet, no one would ever know the depth of her struggle by just watching her…she’s got so much life in her and she has such a genuine love for God that she finds a reason to thank Him for choosing her to face this struggle.  Out of the struggle of cancer, she knows God will do great things!

After going out of town for a quick trip on Saturday, I arrived to church yesterday and discovered why my heart was so heavy.  My partner in crime was moved to a hospice center over the weekend.  My heart broke, but not a single outward emotion could emerge from me.  I just sat stunned not knowing how this could be possible.  I had just spoken to and exchanged text messages with this friend last week.  How could this be?  She of all people doesn’t deserve this path!  No answers, but I was left to sit there amazed at her strength…she doesn’t want to burden others with her struggle, so she and her immediate family choose to put ALL of their trust in God and face this journey privately with each other, knowing that God’s will (whatever that may be) is what’s best for them.

I don’t know that my faith could remain that strong, but as I sat on the pew, I was reminded of my own grandmother and her strength.  I was encouraged for my friend because when doctor’s had given up on my grandmother’s life and decided there was nothing they could do, God stepped in.  I remembered my grandmother sharing with me how a young boy came and prayed with her, and shortly thereafter the tumor that was in her came out and she was healed.  Her faith and the faith of others led to her miraculous healing.  Not only was she healed, but she lived another 50 years, overcame another bout with cancer, and lived a full life until the very end!  That encouraged me because it let me know that the situation with my dear friend may look bleak, but there’s nothing too hard for my God!  He can breathe life into any situation and make all things well.

But even if my friend’s situation doesn’t improve, I’m encouraged because her faith has never changed and I’m thankful because God has allowed our paths to cross.  This is a friend who can fuss with me and encourage me in the same conversation.  She can call me crazy, foolish, and stubborn, all while telling me I’m intelligent, gifted, and essential to God’s kingdom.  We don’t often get friends like that, so I’m thankful for this blessing.

As I’ve done before, I ask for your continued prayers for my friend and her family.  They’ve got an uphill battle, but we’ve got a mighty God who is able to do more than we could ask, think,or imagine.  Life isn’t fair, but God sure is faithful!

Until next time, God’s love and peace!

I Soon Come, Mon!

This morning I overslept for church in a major way.  Early service begins at 8am, and I woke up around that time making it impossible for me to get from my house to church in time for service!  Initially, I felt bad, but then it occurred to me that I’ve been on the go ever since I got back from Jamaica.  I needed the rest, my body needed the rest, and I shouldn’t feel bad about that…I don’t do a good job of listening to the cues my body gives, but my past behavior doesn’t have to reflect my present or future behaviors.

This brings me to the title of today’s post…I soon come, mon!

Despite being frustrated by the disregard for timeliness while I was in Jamaica, since returning to the States, I have come to appreciate the relaxed approach to life there.  No one is in a rush for anything in Jamaica…arriving an hour or two late is completely normal, and definitely acceptable.  To the contrary, since I’ve been home, life has been moving at its usual swift pace.  The American way seems to be one of start early, work late, jam as much into one’s day as possible, and if possible, avoid vacation, who needs a time of renewal.  We work non-stop, our schedules are packed with social outings, we have families to take care of, and we have responsibilities for outside organizations that are just as burdensome, if not more, as the responsibilities of home and work.  In my experience, people tend to not understand one’s need for a time of relaxation until burnout shows up in their own life, but it shouldn’t be like this.  People shouldn’t be under so much pressure that they work until they fall apart.  Something is wrong with this!

In Jamaica, people affectionately use the phrase, “I soon come” to let one know that he/she will be there to fulfill their responsibility as promised.  The caveat is, “soon come” may be in a few hours or a few days, it simply means that one will get back to you at a point and time in the future.  Everyone knows what the term means, and no one seems to be bothered.  The Jamaican people seem to accept that life will be what it will be when it will be.  How amazing is that!  I feel like telling a few people “I soon come” these days.

At this moment in my life, I don’t want to be bound by strict timelines and unnecessary pressure.  Yes, that may be going against the grain of the American way and it may get me in some trouble in my future, but I’ve got a lot of life in me to live, and I’d like to enjoy it.  As a society, we place ridiculous amounts of stress on ourselves and I believe we’ve lost our ability to truly relax and be renewed.  We don’t even have relaxing weekends anymore!  Our ability to relax is limited to that week away on vacation, but even in that time away, many of us remain connected to work or our daily life.  I don’t think this is good…and for me personally, I’m really thinking long and hard about the changes I need to make to enjoy this life even more.

Until next time…God’s peace!

Love is in the Little Things!

Love CardsOver the past week and a half, my perspective on life has been shaken at its very core.  I’ve been challenged to think deeper about my faith, my discipline level, my motivating factors, my basic interactions with people, and even my view of love.

I’ve always had my thoughts on what love is, what love looks like, and how love expresses itself, but I think my thoughts were all wrong.  In the past, love for me looked like a scientist or engineer, love was Joe Cool, love looked good on paper…love was based on very material things.  But, I’m learning that true love isn’t found simply in the criteria I had identified for myself, there’s more to it than that, honest love is found in the heart of a person and it manifests itself in the little things.

I’ve been blessed to cross paths with someone who truly loves me for me with my jacked up little big toe, extra weight, crazy fears about relationships, and over the top insecurities.  No doubt, he loved me before Jamaica, but I don’t think I fully appreciated his love until the Jamaica experience…the missions trip had absolutely nothing to do with missions work for me, did I mention that earlier, it was about me growing and learning.  I now feel the love he has for me in an even greater way when he prays for me and us at the most random times…I now appreciate his love for me in a different way when he shares his dreams and visions with me…where I would have rejected his small acts of kindness or been quick to criticize him before, I now understand that he’s simply showing me how much he loves me in his own way!  Jamaica broke me down, it didn’t take away my uniqueness, but it broke down some walls that were preventing me from living life fully!  It made me all emotional and mushy (I’ve cried more since the middle of that trip than I have all year).  These outward emotions certainly aren’t things that have characterized me in my past, but I’m okay with this.  I can be vulnerable to all the wonderful feelings of love, I can show emotion, and survive even if a few folks joke me a bit.

So, I embrace love in the little, everyday things!

“He’s not perfect. You aren’t either, and the two of you will never be perfect. But if he can make you laugh at least once, causes you to think twice, and if he admits to being human and making mistakes, hold onto him and give him the most you can. He isn’t going to quote poetry, he’s not thinking about you every moment, but he will give you a part of him that he knows you could break. Don’t hurt him, don’t change him, and don’t expect for more than he can give. Don’t analyze. Smile when he makes you happy, yell when he makes you mad, and miss him when he’s not there. Love hard when there is love to be had. Because perfect guys don’t exist, but there’s always one guy that is perfect for you.” – Bob Marley

Take Me to the Water!

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Baptism at the Caymanas River

Early on Sunday morning, before heading to worship service, we journeyed to the Caymanas River for baptism.  Without a doubt, this was one of my most memorable moments on the trip.  Funny enough, I had planned to skip it because we had to be up and out by 5:45am and I wanted to sleep in (Sunday was a challenging day for me, I’ll write more about that later).

One of the things that I quickly learned in Jamaica is that there complete outward trust in God is different than what I often observe here.  I’m not suggesting that it’s better, worse or actually different, it’s simply seems different.  Baptism is an example of that.  I’ve never witnessed baptism by immersion because we mainly baptize by sprinkling in the AME church here, but in Jamaica it seems that baptism by sprinkling is an anomaly.  The Jamaicans want to go down in the water and rise up a new creature in Christ!

So, we journeyed about 45 minutes from Kingston out to the river.  The main roads are much like what we have here in the States, but once we got to the village roads…things were a bit different.  There were many potholes and narrow stretches, but we arrived safely.  The area where the baptism took place was rather interesting as well…it was in a park, that also is a concert venue.  In the middle, there was a beautiful river, but around the perimeter was a bar and soundstage, and we could smell the reefah as we were leaving…kinda interesting, but God is omnipresent!

As we got to the river, there was a baptism ceremony already going on.  It was a little different than ours, in that, those being baptized wore anything they wanted, but it was still a beautiful sight to see.  As our baptism began, the ministers and baptismal candidate were all dressed in white, we sang songs, shared readings, and watched with joy as our sister in Christ was dipped down in the water.  The water was amazingly clear…it just looked like holy water.  I was snapping pictures and internally rejoicing all at the same time.

There was something so beautiful and special about this experience.  I’m not sure if it was watching the elders of the church prepare the young lady in her white headdress for baptism or the glistening of the water or the quiet anticipation as we all sat watching the baptism take place, but there was something beautiful about it.  It made me think of how baptism is so routine here in the States, one has a baby and the baby gets baptized based on his/her parent’s profession of faith.  We may or may not see the family back in church consistently ever again, it’s as if baptism isn’t special, it’s just what we do.  I’m not judging, but I somehow wonder if baptism is more impactful after one has declared his/her own trusting faith in Jesus Christ.  Baptism shouldn’t be just something we do, it’s a serious matter, it’s symbolic of dying to our sinful nature and being washed and transformed by Christ.  After baptism, our faith still has to be nurtured as we grow in Christ.  I remember wanting to be baptized again after accepting Jesus for myself, but as AMEs we believe in one baptism, so it wasn’t an option for me since I was baptized as an infant.  Despite this, I’m fully convinced that there’s something deeply impactful that occurs when one is baptized after professing his/her own faith in Jesus.  This thought is certainly something that I will continue to ponder on in the days ahead!

Until next time, be well!

D

It was really for ME!

My friends from Chapel of Christ Our Redeemer AME Church, Kingston, Jamaica

My friends from Chapel of Christ Our Redeemer AME Church, Kingston, Jamaica

Almost 24 hours ago, I arrived home from my first missions trip.  While my return marked the completion of one of my most challenging 101 list items, it also marked the end of one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.  There are not enough words to describe the impact this trip had on my life!  God was present just for me!

We spent our time beautifying the church, sharing gifts with the community, and sharing with a HIV/AIDS orphanage for children.  Each experience was memorable in its own way.  Working on the church was fun because I got to hang out with my Dad, but it was good for my soul because I observed a group of people who were so eager to help make their church look more inviting.  While my Dad was on the roof strengthening its structure, I worked with a team who repainted the exterior of the church.  I had the pleasure of meeting a wonderful lady who is about my age, Miss Denise.  Denise had a horrific life story, she was attacked by a man with a machete at 17 years of age.  As a result, her hands and legs are deformed, but she does not view her life as a loss or waste.  Denise worked all day and into the evening painting alongside us.  When we would stop for a break, she kept on working.  She shared with me that she gets so tired of people overlooking her abilities because they are so distracted by her physical disability.  Her response to life was simply a song, “Look what the Lord has done!”  What a beautiful spirit and testimony…where some of us, perhaps even my own self, would have given up on God, Denise lives to honor and serve Him with her whole life.  Miss Denise has 3 beautiful little girls and loves the Lord with her entire being simply for His faithfulness.

I wonder what my response to my life would be if I slowed down long enough to think deeply about what the Lord has done in my life.  Yes, God is faithful, He’s provided food, clothing, shelter, and employment, that’s the easy testimony, but God has done so much more for me!  He spared my life when I knowingly did wrong and should have been punished, He covered me and protected me from harm when I decided church and faith weren’t for me, He allows me to live every day despite making poor health choices and being disobedient to His command to take care of the temple He has gifted me, He keeps His hand on me when I make deliberate choices to be sinful!  Despite my desire to do things my way, God holds on to me from a distance so I won’t ruin my life.  He saves my life daily for my good!  That’s what the Lord has done and continues to do for me.  This trip showed me that every once in a while I should step back and look solely at what the Lord has done and give intentional thanks!

If I’m completely honest, I thought I was going to Jamaica to serve others, but as I think more about my experience there, I’ve come to realize that this trip was really for me.  God used the cover of a missions trip to take me away from my every day life to work on me and to teach me.  It was a time for me to be challenged in my thought process, my discipline, my faith walk, and my insecurities in this life.  I had moments to just reflect on me that were totally unexpected, and I left with so many questions to answer in my alone time.  There are so many things to write about this trip, and I’ll be posting more over the next week, but the one thing that I’m so clear about is simply this…this mission was really just for ME!  The time spent helping others was a blessing and a joy, but God ministered directly to me in my area of need in Jamaica.  My time away was just the beginning of stepping out of my comfort zone…the real mission is just beginning!

Until next time…look for God doing His work in you in unexpected places!

DMW

A Missions Update…

Another day is coming to an end here in Kingston. We had some great laughs tonight. They were much needed after a long day of painting. The blessing is the exterior of the church we’re sharing this time with looks great.

This week has had its share of challenges. I’m far from a punctual person, so I rarely complain about lateness, but the lack of order this week and the constant lateness is driving me up the wall. The perfect example…we’re supposed to be going to baptism at the river at 6am tomorrow. The river is 40 minutes away and we’re leaving at 5:45…am I the only one who has an issue with this. There is clearly no intention of being on time. On top of this, some of us are going to participate in the morning worship service, but no one knows who this is. Church is tomorrow, how do you not know?

I’m not gonna lie, it’s hard for me to bite my tongue. I’m thankful to have my dad here with me. That’s my only safe place vent in this world that lives according to the rule, “Be flexible”. For me, I believe in flexibility, but I believe we should also be honest about the challenges of this experience. There’s no criticism…I’m just tired of eating chicken three times a day and I’m tired of disorganization. But, despite tonight’s real frustrations, I know we’re making a difference.

A quick check-in

I managed to find WiFi,  so I can post a quick update. We’re hard at work. Today, Dad worked with a team to construct a new roof for one of the houses on the church’s property…they have several homes here on site. I helped a team painting the exterior of the church, and helped sort items that will be distributed tomorrow at a health fair.

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All is well… We’ve had lots of rice, beans, and chicken. It’s certainly different here, but I appreciate that they have traffic lights, police, and a visible hospital. It’s the little things.

JM15…On a Mission!

Well…I’m just days away from checking a major 101 item off of my list!  I’m heading to Kingston, Jamaica along with my dad for a week of missions work in just a few days.  I’m excited and nervous at the same time.  If you haven’t heard…I don’t really care for flying.  It’s a control issue, turbulence makes me nervous and my inability to do anything about it can send me over the edge.  I have no idea where my issues with flying come from, I took my first flight at 6 or 7 year old, have been on many planes since then, and have never actually avoided a trip because of the plane ride.  Still, flying gives me a bit of anxiety.  But, it’s not stopping me from taking another trip…I’m going to pop my pills and enjoy the experience.

I won’t be able to blog extensively from Jamaica as I had hoped.  If I can manage to find a wifi connection, I’ll at least post a few lines or a picture.  And, when I get back, I’ll definitely have lots to share about my experience.  It’s going to be a great time with my Dad!