My Bucket List

For some strange reason I revisited my bucket list this morning………two years to the date of conception.

This is what made my list back then and is still on my list today.

1. To make a snow man- well I told you about that already.

2. Live in God’s will and in peace- harder than I imagined, but I am working on it. Every day I am tempted and tried………..but “Resist the Devil and he will flee from you”

3. Visit Keukenhof and Amsterdam……since the ‘Boy and the Dyke’ and those childhood books with windmills and tulips I have been in love. Makes me wonder if that’s why the Universe transpired to send me to Alberta too….for I was also in love with the meadows and those red barns.

 

4.  The Berlin Wall and more of Germany…….some may say I have German Ancestry. I may or may not, but the Germans really did land in my neck of the woods.

5. Golden Gate, Lombard Street, Alcatraz, the Street Cars ( Maya Angelou was the first black female conductress)………only hope this is not another Vancouver experience.

6. Boston and New Orleans…..history and soul food. Not a bad combination.

7. Ride the Bullet Train……hope they run above ground.

8. Ski in Switzerland………I don’t know why this is still on my list, for I have changed my mind about learning to ski……..cant ski if you are scared of the ski lift in the first instance.

9.  The Great Pyramids………

10. Happy Family Life……..and a Happy Home even if I remain free, single and childless. I am way more than my circumstances. 

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Parts of a whole

I didn’t know where I was going, and I knew only one person. As you can imagine that is scary in and of itself…… I must say off bat, I could never have survived it thus far without my connections. Luckily, I had made sure no bridges were burnt.

At first, I was drowning in fear. How cold could it get? Could I figure it all out……where do I buy food? Where is the hairdresser, could I afford one? As I watched the train filled with commuters each morning and the cars going to and fro each day, I wondered if or how long it would take me? Where will I work? What will that be like? I literally was immobilized with fear and for those first few days I stayed inside, afraid of outside.

As the days passed, I got emboldened…….. enough to visit the mall and then I took the train. I started going to church and then I got a job- those two things changed everything. Aha moment……that’s how someone new, integrates and pass the days; but still, there was never a day I didn’t think of home.

Home for me is more than just a place, it’s where sunshine and warmth is, in more ways than one. It’s where my umbilical cord is, it is familiar turf…….I knew the places to avoid, how long to stay out, best places to eat, where to shop, how to get home, the genuine people, who to ignore, when and what to speak. Home means family and I don’t just mean the biological ones. They say……in prosperity your friends know you, but in adversity you know your friends. That was so true for me, because it was the transition that helped me to sift through the sands of friendship.

So now I have to make a new home…..especially because I don’t know when I will get to go home. The feelings that come from knowing that are raw and intense, there are so many things I long to do. Like just sit under a mango tree or go to a melon garden and eat to my heart’s content, listen to the storytellers who congregate in our thatch kitchen or under the ackee trees, go to 3 T’s and be entertained, visit Dee and get a belly full of laughter, hang with Fulhood and Blacks on the farm, visit Maria, Dawn and Millicia, jumping in the car to just go, visiting the sick and attending funerals, attending church and graduation ceremonies, shopping online to my hearts content, wearing the same clothes year round……….

Be that as it may, being away has been good albeit difficult, a paradox I know. I have to learn to control my life better and figure it all out, alone………..find things to do to that gives me joy, discover new passions, build financial austerity, find a new community not to replace the old one but to supplement and help me grow. Church has helped in this regard. I have signed up for seminars, courses and retreats, done bible studies and have had many many conversations……walking together and otherwise. I have been invited to lunches and dinners, given a ride to and from the grocery stores, picked up and dropped off on cold winter mornings and evenings, invited out to banquets and special events, offered furniture and clothes, taken to parks and fun activities………no we do not, we cannot make it alone.

I have had to put my foot forward too, had to reach out for it……I had to learn how to want/need something. I have learnt, re-learnt and reinforce many other things too.

1. Big splashy, shiny things, big events and big occasions are good to look forward to and does give joy, but don’t rely on those solely for joy. Joy must be found in the Small everyday moments that we CREATE, most notably when you serve others.

2. Not everyone who smiles and say hello is a friend, although it might feel that way in a cold and lonely setting. Take your time to figure things and people out. Its easier to stick to your own in a foreign land, that is good and bad. Good as you always keep a piece of home at heart, but bad as you miss the benefits of diversity. You may not learn or grow.

3. Learn to say No…….be selective, you cannot accept every single invitation, follow your gut.

4. Forgive people, the bigger the transgression, even better. The person who receives your forgiveness will almost never hurt you again.

5. Do not look back, keep looking forward. Looking back is good only to inform you on the future. According to Sheryl Sandberg, when Option A is not an option anymore…….kick the shit out of Option B and even C.

6.  If someone, anyone even someone who is family, cannot find the time to say hello, well I wouldn’t waste any time on that person. Leave them be.

7. We are not only to be givers but also takers……give someone else the opportunity to give to you.

8.  No one is indispensable……..you are secondary in neither person’s life………..even your parents. No one loves you more than God, not even your parents.

9. Timing is everything…..the right time will come and more often than not it is not immediately. Take time to clarify and prepare.

10.  To quote a line from my favorite gospel song “never be too busy, to help a brother carry his load”.

11. God will give you new seasons, friends and opportunities but sometimes you have to be willing to make space for them. Learn to de-clutter…….and as Oprah says ” nothing happens until you decide” that’s what free will is all about.

12. Know thyself and be thyself……..if you don’t, then every shadow, doubt and situation will kick your butt. Don’t be like ‘ the man, the little boy and the donkey’.

13. Prayer is real and it works…….I don’t know about coincidences. Oh and there are many different types and forms of prayers.

14. You can form friendships without ever seeing someone in person, it’s trust that informs relationships. Love and connection are not spatially determined or time bound either. 

15. A friend of mine told me this years ago, “bloom where you are planted”………. sometimes you have no choice.

16. You control your actions and reactions…..people do not have super-human powers, neither is blaming the Devil a good excuse.

17. Do not let others have to ask you for an explanation, preempt them and the sooner the better. Apologizing and speaking the truth on your mind are forms of therapy. And in that same breath, do not assume your assumptions are right…….just ask.

18. Be kind to self, forgive self, love self ……..start with self. Learn to laugh too.

19. No one is too broken to become whole again……..the world is replete with examples of people who have risen from ashes, who have been rescued from coal mines, and climbed out of dungeons.

20. Hope must never die………and we cannot live without faith. Suffering has a purpose.

21. Make the most of an opportunity, make the most of a day, even if it costs you a little more time and some more money…….do it. Everything is a cost benefit analysis.

22. The decisions we have to make are hardly clear cut…..you will always be weighing and measuring various options and scenarios, consequences and trade-offs……get over it that’s just how it is. Ask for help if you have to.

23. If you want to test your friendships…..stay together for a week or a month maybe.

24.  Change is hard and we resist it……out of fear for the unknown. But change is also good, and the best part is if God leads you to it, just trust him. He can do way more than we can imagine or conceive (Ephesians 3 v 20) and he loves us. Furthermore in no time you will find a new normal. Just be deliberate and intentional in keeping the beautiful things in your life constant…..because if you are not careful those will change too. 

To be human………

A complex being………with a heart. The heart is treacherous…..who can know It? That’s the rhetorical question Jeremiah asked.

We are body, mind and spirit……just like the Trinity……that’s what Glennon said.

We all want to know we did okay and that we are okay ……that’s what I heard Oprah say.

Life is a stage, we are all actors………..that’s Shakespeare’s account.

Don’t compare your insides to other peoples outside…..I read that from Anne Lamontt

So who are we? What does it mean to be human?

Well if I am to follow the above,

A human has a heart that is unreliable. We all have a body and a soul too……..we all want to be validated, and we all have individual plays which coincide at times in some strange acts on varying stages.

We all compare, compete even; we feel fear, apprehension, shame, make mistakes, feel pain and fail. But at the same time we can find happy, feel joy and peace, love and trust, satisfaction and fulfillment in between. We all need faith, family and friends, purpose, meaning and counsel and to know we are not alone.

We are all born as blank slates, but with the capacity to build courage, learn empathy and gratitude, be kind and creative, humble and serve others. We also learn prejudice, to deceive and exploit, steal and hate. I went for a massage today and my therapist told me I am twisted…… I said yes, and not just physically. We burst out in laughter.

We all have things we wish to forget, utterances we want to take back, things we wish we had done or didn’t do…….but it’s all in the mix of keeping us human and humble.  It thus, goes without saying that we all NEED a Saviour. And we have one, for our Creator did not make one person who he doesn’t love and one person who Jesus did not die for.

We are all born with potential, blessed with varying gifts. “It’s our job to figure it out” that’s what Oprah said. Hard work for some, easy as cheese for others…….but according to Mark Zukerberg, it’s so much easier if we have “the freedom to fail”. I think of a high school friend who was a song bird, it was easy for her to find her true north……..and she has blessed the world with her awesome gift…….but it’s not always so easy for the rest of us to discover our God-given potential.

If you want more insight into just how human we all are……read John Ortberg’s…………………………. ‘Everybody is normal, until you get to know them’……. and ‘The Me I want to Be’

“I am sorry”…….”Thank You”

Sheryl Sandberg in ‘Option B’, spoke to the fact that there was a point during her period of acute grief when she was apologizing for everything to everyone…..As I read that, It reminded me of a recent experience with a friend. She had the courage to ask me what I was sorry for, on one occasion when I said “I am sorry” out of context. It then struck me that I involuntarily and regularly apologize out of turn, out of place and for no apparent reason……I had to fix that.

As I ruminated, I realized too that I tend to say “thank you” in the same way and its not that I don’t know better……..but I seem to live in a world of gratitude and apology overkill. I grew up with my grandmother constantly telling us “manners carry yuh thru the worl”……., although at the time I had no idea what she meant by that.  I took that to heart undoubtedly, as I found and still do, that in the instances when I don’t say ” thank you, please, hello, excuse me, you are welcome, good morning…..” its because I choose to be impolite, stubborn and rude. And it doesn’t feel good.

My thoughts on the matter were punctuated by questions such as… Are there specific/appropriate instances for saying ” I am sorry or thank You?” When we say “I am sorry” because we feel overly dependent, or feel that we are a burden…….. is it rational?

Are these just relics of the past? And why does it become a platitude or why do they lose value if they are repeated too often? But then why are you frowned upon when they are not said at all?

Are there cultural differences and rules? Thus are ” no worries, sounds good, for sure, sounds like a plan, et al ” suitable alternatives?

As I introspect, I think of Paul and what he said at Romans 13 v 8………….and I got my answers……for love is one of the most nebular terms I know and is the underpinning of  trust and respect on which relationships are built. So isn’t it the irony of all ironies………that in our very impersonal, idealistic, selfish and individualistic world Facebook, Twitter, Snap Chat, Instagram etc…are such big successes? And why do we need numerous research to tell us how to create employee engagement and grow sales when those are the very simple, honest-to-goodness things our grandmothers taught us?

 

 

The Barbecue

My friend is a real host………I am captivated by her skills. There was so much warmth, mirth, kindness and sincerity from the welcome and smiles at the front door to the open door policy and the decorated back porch. This has so resonated with me that for the first time in my life, I feel I should, could host a barbecue too.

You see this family is Christian and if I am to paraphrase JJ John……people want to become a christian or not become a christian for one of two reasons, they either met a christian or they haven’t met one. I believe that the way they host is exactly what is expected of us from Hebrews 13 v 2, and also is what Jesus meant at Luke 14 v 12-14 when he said ………” I was a stranger and you welcomed me….”and most certainly what Peter was referring to at 1 Peter 4 v 9. 

I first heard the term ‘barbecue’ at high school. Each year this was a major fundraising event. Truth be told, since that time I have been trying to figure out if it is a noun or a verb or a little bit of both. On this particular occasion, I got my answer- for there was barbecuing at the barbecue. With that in mind, I have decided that when I visit home I will host a barbecue………or should I say a jerk (dunno).

So as I mentally think of my guest list and literally created a menu. ……..pickles, cheese, onions, chips, mustard and mayo included and then it occurred to me that I cannot host this at home without some fish, Red Stripe Beer, log wood and coal……And what about dessert? ‘Corn pone’, drops, grater cake too??????Barbecue J’can style…….not even the term ‘barbecue’ is HOMOgeneous…..now don’t get me started on that prefix.  Then my dear friend at home, informed me that we should host a barbecue when I come home (no, she didn’t know of my little plan)………..so there you go I have a venue.

I won’t be able to replicate the eclectic mix of cultures as my friend did, we are not so diverse at home. For at hers there were continents in one place……. But I know for sure we can find the numbers, the sunshine, the games, stories, laughter and some music……… for you see when you host anything in paradise there must be music.

Mood Swings

Sometimes my mind is a blank slate……and other times it feels like a minefield.

Its raining…….the most rain I have seen here, but still not the most rain I have seen in my short life. Its called a storm, but my description would be its just continuous rainfall. Its amazing how we can always find words to narrate an occurrence. According to Jodi Picoult, ‘we cannot extricate the storyteller from the story’….I need to always remember that. It is the same with pain, isn’t it? And incomes, and how much junk we hoard…..I may see it as excessive, whilst for another person its just enough.

Sometimes I love my decisions……and other times I am just swimming in regret. Decisions are not to be hastily made, neither should we think that they impact only us or are felt only in the short term.  We invariably pull others into our circle and they have long-reaching implications. Maybe if I had known this sooner I would have made different decisions, but then no choice is without consequence. That said, I love who I am, (I am still a WIP however) and I love the path I am on.

Some days don’t have enough hours……..and other days well…….they just can’t end.Paul said in Philippians 4 v 11-13 that he knows how to be when there is plenty and he also knows how to be when in need. Who among us doesn’t know what boredom, monotony, drudgery and a whole lot of times on our hands mean (and we may not been imprisoned). I hope we also know what it is to not have enough time to ‘scratch your head’. Which do I prefer? Do I have to choose? One thing I can say for sure, and its that we need both…….as much as we need day and night………

Sometimes I feel full of faith……and then the next minute I can’t define faith. I think faith looks a lot like courage and patience, humility and obedience and love at any given time. I like to think too that peace in the storm, creates a lot of faith……….and that faith is definitely not hope. Faith is about now, hope is futuristic. So does that mean that faith is sight?? Not quite……Look at Hebrews 11 v 1……and lets reflect on those bible heroes in that same chapter.

Some days I just want to talk and talk and talk……….other days I want solitary confinement.

Some days I am happy to be here…………………other days I just want to go home.

Some days I want my mother…………………..other days I am really glad to be an adult. 

 

 

 

Wisdom from Above

DON’T BELIEVE EVERYTHING YOU SEE……

I have always heard I should believe none of what I hear and half of what I see. There is a scripture in Matthew which speaks about the eye…….the eye being the lamp of the body, so if the eye is bad the whole body is bad. God’s words NEVER fall empty to the ground. The other scripture I wish to quote here is ‘ judge not……..’ This is my most recent experience.

I woke last Friday to rain……..I had recently bought an umbrella so I felt no anxiety. Its weird that I shelter from rain and not from snow…….why???? That is just not making any sense to me right now, as I am trying to figure out which is better or worse. But be that as it may, as I approached the bus stop, I saw the young man who is my ‘bus stop companion’, albeit we conveniently pretend to not see each other. He was not sheltered from the rain in any way, I felt a nudge from the Holy Spirit to offer him cover under my umbrella. I was tentative, and I started conjuring the usual reasons why I shouldn’t……”its just a light drizzle, he is accustomed to it, that’s not the culture here to offer, he will say no so don’t ask, blah blah blah”.

Anyhow, I mustered the courage and did ask, and he politely refused. But guess what, I didn’t feel offended or marginalized- I felt good, I am maturing. This is exactly what I am learning…….. when you do the right thing it feels good- irrespective of the outcome. I wish to view this little activity too as part of my practice in courage. I can never tell how these daily opportunities will come, but they never fail to arise. Maya Angelou once said “you learn courage by doing small things, courageous things……we are not born with courage”. Upon reflection, I was grateful for this little courage muscle activity.

Then, I realized the real lesson was not even in the act itself; it was instead in the thought that visited my mind as I stood there waiting for the bus to arrive. It suddenly hit me that for the passersby (those walking and driving) I may be looking quite selfish, although it didn’t occur to them to stop and offer us a ride either. Selfish, as I was sheltered and this lad (poor lad for that matter) for that’s how we tend to view things outside of us (one person as victor and the other as victim) was getting wet. But then I realized most forcefully, that I have been those passersby on multiple occasions. I reminded myself right then and there that my sight is biased……what I see may not be what I get, neither should I conclude for others. I must always hear both sides of the story and then wait for the truth…….then again we have to be careful too that when we act we just do the right thing and not worry about the perceptions. I am praying about my judgmental vein…….

IMPATIENCE HAS A PRICE……..

You would think that practice makes perfect……and I believe it does, but how many times do you have to do something before it becomes a habit and then, even when it becomes a habit…..will you ever always get it right thereafter? My Achilles heel I would say is impatience, Below I chronicle my most recent experience…….

My friend is coming to visit me, and I am excited and of course writing the itinerary…..with her input of course. I am responsible for the visit to Banff……..two months ago I started the research for one-day tours that allow me to kill two birds with one stone. I found only two companies that offer the configuration I want. The two companies however are vastly different in terms of price, personalized experience, and reviews. The more expensive one comes out on top, however there is a problem. And there always is a problem……life has taught me that. They only had, at the time of my inquiry, both of us expressing an interest. They will need, I was informed, at least four to make the trip. I had to wait…….and I decided to wait because somehow I didn’t like the other option so well, even though it was cheaper and was giving me a similar trip. I am trying to teach myself to follow my intuition.

So two months into the wait, and 10 days before the day I still heard nothing from my favourite tour company. I was in a quandary as I didn’t want to waste that day, what if I waited and they never go and then when I am ready the other company is fully booked?  In fact these days I am learning to make the most of a moment, the most of a day, the most of an opportunity. I decided to fall back on my second option…….reluctantly and to my chagrin. But my mistake was, I didn’t pray about that….I acted without guidance. As fate would have it, the very moment the booking confirmation came to my email, would you know it, that my first option advised me they would be going on the day I wanted and that the were inviting me to book. What should I do now? I thought about it, and thought about it and the unmistakably small voice whispered……make the most of the time. This was then confirmed in my next day daily devotional from Ephesians 5 v 15-17. Opportunities are either seized or missed…..it was up to me. I decided that this one I would seize despite the obvious costs. I have a feeling, just a little feeling that this particular configuration of Rita and I, Banff and Calgary may never occur again………too many other places to visit, too many unforeseens and just that life sometimes gives you only one chance. These days too, I am making an effort to do things right, the first time. Rita of course, graciously agreed to do whatever I decided. I have great friends……that I am sure of.

DECISIONS DO NOT IMPACT THE MAKER OF THEM ONLY……….

Choice comes with consequences and actions have reactions…….no escaping, this is a cause and effect world. I have been seeing examples of these types very frequently in my readings……so much so that I am wondering if they were there all along and I just wasn’t seeing them, or whether it is I am choosing to read now that which has these undertones.

Either way, what is coming to the fore, is that mine, yours and all decisions impact multiple persons……..it is never about you alone. It therefore means we must ‘ look not only to our own interests but also to the interest of others’. I have had many many things that I have forgone because I was thinking about others- and some of them regrettably so. I am not blowing any trumpet here, or seeking any likes I am just very cognizant of the fact that ‘I reap what I sow’. Now that I live in an apartment building, the sense of shared community is even more in my face and this thought resonates with me deeply. I have had hives wondering if I turned the stove off and unplugged the iron, left the pipes on, am laughing too loudly and vacuuming too late……. I guess the neighbors feel the same (maybe)………living like this has certainly taught me how important it is to be my brothers’ keeper, even though I don’t know my brother.

In the same stead too, when I left home I didn’t understand fully how many persons would be touched by such a personal, individual decision. First and foremost. everyone I know must have been asked by me, at some point of another, to get my mom to call me. Secondly, my cousin has to accompany my mom to Kingston to see the doctor and then all my friends up there have had to pick up and drop her off at the doctor or bus terminal thus far…………

And one other thing, our attitude impacts others around us too. Have a cheerful, positive outlook and demeanor and you will attract a lot of ‘bees’, goodwill and content.  But a negative, complaining, grumbling spirit is like poison. It seeps into your bones and before you know it, it has started distorting your facial features. Whilst I can concede that on some days there is nothing to smile or laugh about……..we can still be vestibules of joy and peace. Easier said than done I know, for joy and peace are fruits of the Spirit. They are not automatically displayed and especially during trying times.

LIES, LIES, STUPID LIES…………. 

I believe the biggest obstacle to a relationship is a lie or lies ……..no matter how difficult it is to say something- say it, don’t allow the other party to assume……speak the truth, speak it sooner, speak it often and connections are bound to flow. You owe no one any obligation but still- respect is due, at least if the relationship means anything to you. Albeit all this, we find it easier to lie, way easier to lie. It always seem like the better option but only until the lie is told or omitted.  I am a Christian so I believe there is never a good reason/excuse to lie……but cut me some slack here, it hard not to lie especially by omission. The worse kind of lie though, in my mind is the unwarranted one. It stands to reason therefore that it is most inimical to relationships, as it breeds all kinds of contempt, mistrust, confusion and anger……..the person on the receiving end cannot fathom it, and we all know that when we cannot find an explanation for something its worse, never mind the fact that there is always a reason. But worst than that, often times the liar doesn’t even know they are found out…………this is exactly what happened between two people I know recently, who obviously are no longer friends. That you see was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

And there is something else too, when you lie, you always tend to want to overcompensate…….either way, you are not on the right path.

OPINIONS…..

We all have these. Some are restricted by law, others by conscience but at the end of the day, we find some way to express our opinions. Its the one thing we own, that’s for sure. However, in these days of human and animal rights, pro- this and anti- that, semantics and ambulance-chaser lawyers, some people are afraid to say much as someone is always offended. Now I don’t know of a time, when there wasn’t some repercussion for speaking your mind- overtly or covertly. The only thing that is different now, is the Internet and social media. And here-in lies the problem, as so many people now have wings to fly, a voice to speak, and a smart phone to take videos…………….so many opinions abound and people are abused…….maybe I am late, but I have never before heard of so many people being criticized for their views as they are nowadays, and anonymously too.

The thing is,  if I cannot get to voice my opinion I may just get shingles. There are many days when I don’t feel free and at peace until I say what I need to say…..I don’t know if it’s the same with others. Now that said, I also know that sometimes saying anything at all to some people is like flogging a dead horse, save your breath. And still in other cases, it is wisdom to restrain your words, don’t try to teach a mule anything new or anything at all. For some others still, they already know everything and cannot learn anything from anyone who they perceive as inferior to them.  I struggle with not speaking my mind because as a Christian, difficulty is trumped by trust in God and obedience. If I need to speak I must speak, however I am learning too that I must not throw caution to the wind, take a look at Proverbs 23 v 9, chapter 9 v 8 and 12 v 15……..

And one last thing, when you have the opportunity and the privilege to speak your mind- be grateful for I know a few persons who have no voice…….and these persons do not live in either North Korea or Russia. Persons who over time have voluntarily given their voice away to others……..and are now swimming in regret, what a painful existence that must be. That said, I don’t know how to describe someone who would want to hold someone hostage like that……….

BODY LANGUAGE……..

“We learn body language before we learn to speak”…….that’s what I read recently. The other day as I washed dishes from the upstairs window I looked down on the conversation that was ongoing between two ladies and a gentleman in the apartment foyer. I had no idea who they were or what they were about, but what was interesting was the fact that they were speaking inaudibly to me of course, but with their body in such a way I could almost get the gist of their conversation. Hands were pointing, and fingers were twirling, heads were nodding, eyes were focusing and bodies were moving. It was so enthralling I stood for longer than I should just to watch……..their body language in fact told me it was a professional/business meeting and not a casual exchange. And just to confirm, yes I love to people watch……….

ACCOUNTING….

Since this is something I know a little about, it hit a nerve when I found this scripture. Proverbs 23 v 6-7….. I didn’t even know this was in the Bible, but I can assure you that I know a few people who are like this. Now since Solomon knew some too, then I can surely believe that there is nothing new under the sun………..