Perfect Combinations 

Some things are much better when experienced together …..no two ways about that……..

When we think of coffee, we remember coffee mate

When we think of a peanut butter sandwich, then it’s automatic that jelly comes to mind

One hardly speaks of a ham sandwich, but ham and cheese…..rice just goes better with red peas, ackee with salt fish makes a national dish. Now if one or more of these cannot go alone, then what says us……….as fragile and vulnerable as we are.

I had some experiences in my little life that I wouldnt even want to imagine, doing alone.

Like the submarine tour In Barbados……it was so much better with the girls. That was where I discovered that below the surface of the sea is not so level and flat…….ūü§źūü§źūü§źūü§źūü§źno comments on this, okay.

I got stuck underground the other day……and I didn’t even flinch. It was only after about 20 mins of being there, that I started thinking how I would feel if I were alone on that train.

The fire alarm went off the other day…..and in the panic and the shrill of that noise I just grabbed my handbag and went to the parking lot in my night gown, with all the other occupants of the building. I am so happy it’s not a high rise. That you see, is my biggest fear about living in an apartment building……but I felt way better knowing I would not be the only one losing all my possessions had it not been a false alarmūüôą. Suffice to say, I was very relieved for my self and my neighbors too…….

Turbulence on an airplane….well I think everyone agrees that we take our cues from the flight attendants. Since they are cool, then so are we.

Losing a loved one….and pets are included too, is never easy. But feeling that pain alone, well that is something that can kill you too.

In the caves at Green Grotto……….being tall and ¬†suffering from claustrophobia, makes doing this alone even more traumatic.

A shared community…….like church, walking groups, life groups, AA meetings, rehabilitation centers. How could we survive without them?

And the things we do alone…………well my view is, that’s because we have no alternative.¬†

Interviewing and starting a new job, I am sure we can all identify with this one. And the truth is, there is no way around this……unless you want to be stuck in your career and live with regrets.

Suffering…………any form of suffering, no one can feel pain for us……we have to go it alone. Jesus had to go it alone…….and so do we. The nail prints are there to prove.

Confronting, getting feedback, giving feedback…..it’s all about you, on the receiving or giving end. If we are honest, these are very ¬†uncomfortable but necessary realities.

Dentist visits and any type of ¬†surgery…….these are my worst nightmares.

Giving birth……..I think I know enough to know, that no one can do that for you.

Death ūüė¨ūüė¨ūüė¨ūüė¨

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1.5 and counting ?????

I don’t think I have learnt more about myself in the past ’30 odd’ years of my life, than I did, in the last year and a half. I know this has a lot to do with my deep and growing connection with God as without that lens I would not have seen things in a different light or be able to manage the darts and pangs that have come my way. I am learning that nothing really happens to us, but that most things happen for us to gain perspective. We have to decide what we do with that which comes our way.¬†So whenever I am tempted to think someone is doing something to me, I just change the narrative. I tell myself nothing is wasted, it is just an experience that God wants me to have so that I can know……..

  1. What I ought not to do in a similar future situation
  2. What to do to help someone else, as they traverse that valley or similar lane.

Our¬†thoughts influence our feelings ………..Jon Ortberg describes this so superbly in his book,¬†‘The Me I want to Be’. Our feelings inform our actions…….pay attention.

I am God’s tool……Ephesians 2 v 10. Now this of course doesn’t mean we become passive actors in the whole process, we still have to be intentional about how we respond to our environment –¬†not in our own wisdom and strength but with the full backing of the Holy Spirit. This has to be so because as we all know, when we act in our own strength, we invariably do more harm than good.¬†I find it very weird thus, while quite appropriate,¬†that it is in the land of abundance,¬†waste and excess; that I am actually learning to become more grateful and compassionate. Yes, I believe now, that those two traits have to be cultivated………like so many others.

..so I¬†suppose there is no better time than now, and nowhere better¬†than where everything is in your face all the time, and where it is constantly reinforced that more is better and enough is never enough. How else can you wrestle with scarcity but to have its tentacles touch you?¬†I have always said that until I attended university I didn’t know I was poor. Poverty was only a concept for me. Well, comparison was really only a concept for me until I got here. I now have to be very conscious of how this very real monster can seep into our bones and leave us feeling diminished and depraved even though we may well have over 30 pairs of shoes and too many clothes for the more than one closets.

The car is never new enough, the house never modern enough, never enough vacations, bank account never big enough, never enough brand name purses, …..oh my gosh, if you are not strong the tide pulls you in. And one more thing, it’s about knowing who you are and never about where you live…….of course I am not advocating for people to live in Raqqa or Aleppo.¬†I have desires, who doesn’t? ¬† But I am learning to temper them and I find I ¬†‚̧ԳŹ myself more when I do. In fact, when I spend impulsively or indiscriminately, I actually do not feel good. So many times I¬†delay gratification- to feel better, or if I must, I buy something¬†for someone. I must confess though that the latter is not always with¬†with the right and purest of motives. The only thing I have no buyer’s remorse about buying, is ice-cream…………….nothing has changed in that regard.

Then I am learning a lot about how church works this side of the world…………….I provide a list below.

1. Church is, for the most part well attended each Sunday ……. but then I am hearing that weather conditions impact church attendance much the same way it does eating out at restaurants.

2. People at church volunteer and serve…..you are never short on that. This is something I really find inspiring. Wish I could do a photocopy of this spirit for church at home.

3. People can be hesitant to reach out and be welcoming and friendly, much the same way people are everywhere else. If you are not careful, or should I say depending on your mindset you may mistake this for aloofness or prejudice. It may be, but it may not be…..

4. Church attire is very casual…….Personally, I resolve to dress up for church…….much more than I dress for work………..Why???? Because I believe the way I dress for church is directly correlated to where I place my emphasis. But¬†that’s me and that’s the reason I dress for church…..I cast no stones here.

5. Church giving is very impressive…….that blesses my heart and motivates me on my giving. But I keep close to my heart the story of the Widow’s Mite……..and remember that my giving is not solely financial.

6. There is a lot of missions work….never a shortage of missionaries or missions trips. I hope to go on one in years to come………..although I was told that some people upon their return suffer from PTSD.

7. Most Christian kids go to church summer camp. I remember as a child we would have church summer camps too……it was so much fun………..although¬†I hardly remember anything Scriptural that I was taught. I don’t know if these camps still happen, but they are very essential- that I know. Christian camping is very active here, the kids get so much spiritual depth from them…..and I have no doubt it’s a lot of fun too.

8. There are many active ministries………I am jealous for my church at home.

So whilst I am on church, as you might be able to tell, I am thinking¬†about the church at home alot. It needs a spiritual awakening and a complete overhaul……as¬†like any other organization without proper leadership it will fail, and it is failing. Just look at the ones that are thriving and see the difference.

My church at¬†home was given¬†a revolutionary, courageous, competent leader for the past seven years¬†but he was taken away recently to another district that needs him more- so the ‘powers that be’ have decided………..goes to show the magnitude of the¬†problem. There just aren’t enough of these kinds.¬†¬†I firmly¬†believe that church needs these leaders, because we see the results when this type of leadership is non-existent. In fact the Christian virtues¬†…….patience, love, humility, self-control, kindness etc are not practiced by the fainthearted……these things require wisdom, strength of character and courage.

There is a leadership drought all around- and church is not immune.¬†So how do we fix this? In my mind its as simple and as difficult as those who can, must volunteer, and be willing……so that those who can’t, will¬†find their true north. We see this leadership deficit¬†in so many other areas too……… partisan¬†politics comes to mind. And it goes both ways………….. Those who can, believe its too corrupt and demanding so they stay back and watch, and those who cant take the¬†opportunity¬†to¬†advance their self-interest. Then those who can¬†complain and¬†abstain and then those who can’t,¬†continue to reign. The end result therefore is low ‘voter/congregation’¬†turnout, apathy and finger pointing. Well, we all know how finger pointing goes.

So it’s for this reason that I have decided I must become a less passive participant….and not in the realm of partisan politics. We have many other agencies and¬†institutions in which we can serve…….there is the family, church, school, NGOs and not-for-profits,¬†companies etc……..we must each find our place and do our part. The thing is, I feel that I need to do this at home………I wait for more clarity on this one.

 

Millenials 

Ever since the Baby Boomers, each generation seems to be defined according to some prevailing ethos……..

Aside from categorizing according to time of birth, sometimes I wonder why we think we are the captains of our souls and masters of our fate. If when you were born is such a powerful influence, then what says who your parents are and where you were born?

There are a number of things that are further used to profile. Aside from the fact that Millennials are perceived to be have a strong sense of entitlement and are known to be extremely liberal. They are powerful enough to be engendering change in the workplace, at churches, at their homes and in schools. Now we can all agree that these places are the major institutions of socialization. Makes me wonder who or what is controlling who or what.

A lot of churches have many empty pews……. maybe they are not aligned with the times to attract this very powerful cohort. Then you ask the question, is Christianity supposed to be pandering to the wishes of people? It was CS Lewis who said something to this effect……” I thought, when I became a Christian I would find a place, but I found a person….” The truth is, it’s hard to find this person when we are always plugged in and looking down………

Many employers have started paying attention, the cost of turnover has grown astronomically and commitment is no longer a given……..Companies are now giving ear to employees’ ideas, linking their work to a purpose, expressing gratitude and becoming deliberate in how they reward and recognize effort. All mistakes are not been punished, giving feedback and soliciting feedback have been normalized, social concerns are been embedded into company policy, learning and development opportunities are commonplace, and work life balance is a staple on job ads. Company benefits are not only tangible and financial these days……..and there are frequent ‘lists’ of best places to work.

And then there is home……..Many still live at their parent’s homes for different reasons. Some are single, many are irresponsible, and others are straddled with large debt or all of the above. I guess it’s sobering to realize we don’t always get what we want, and that we can’t have it all. ¬†Maybe that’s why this generation is so heavily medicated……

And then of course they are the darlings of technology……there is an app for everything and then there is Google. Grammar is forgotten, don’t mention spelling and sentences are long outdated. Letters and numbers replace real words and social media is actually a place…….makes me wonder what will come next. Just in case you are wondering, I am a millenial!

 

Mind-boggling

IMG_7712[1]I went on top of a mountain in summer and found a lot of snow like winter……I got the worst sun burn I have ever gotten but was very cold in the shade.

I have seen in the dead of winter the brightest sunshine of summer, yet when I put my clothes out to dry it never does.

I have been outside in hurricanes in Jamaica and was never moved by the wind, yet I was here in a freak storm and was afraid of the wind.

I know no one who relishes winter yet everyone stares in awe at snowflakes, the crystal white and pristine nature of its splendour, and who doesn’t love when the frost decorates? 

I want to believe global warming is a myth, but no one can dispute sea levels are rising, ice caps are melting and breaking off, summers are hotter and winters warmer? If we put it to the recesses of our mind, it doesn’t mean it is less real…..

I really want to know if it’s more difficult to raise kids now……….I don’t believe it but I have never raised a child, neither then nor now. 

And who put it in man’s head to make gondolas, rocket trains, parachutes, airplanes, space shuttles, submarines, the Great Pyramids? I have my views on this………..
 

 

 

Have you ever…….

1 . Have you ever been stone walled? I think this comparable to water boarding.,…..not that I have ever experienced the latter.

2. Have you ever grieved from pain or a loss so much so that you don’t eat, can’t sleep and can’t find the energy to do necessary things like bathe, cut your fingernails and wash you hair? And have you ever felt joy……joy that warms and tingles, a joy you can’t find sufficient words to describe?

3. Have you ever prayed for something and gotten it? Did you want it?

4. Have you ever planned something really big and exciting ……then it fell through because you got sick or it rained, or the car broke down? What then?

5. Have you ever had a really difficult conversation?  How many?

6. Have you ever forgiven someone you swore you never would?

7. Have you ever made an irreversible error?

8. How many times have you ever said words you regret?

9. Have you ever given someone what they deserve? How did you feel afterwards?

10. Have you ever felt you NEEDED a move, more clothes, a piece of jewelry, a new job, a new relationship, and then you get it only to find out you are still needy and still broken?

11. Have you ever had something to say, and feel if you don’t say it you will burst? Follow up to #5

12. Have you ever stalked anyone? Or tried to read or read your boyfriend/husband’s/ wife/girlfriend’s text messages?

13. Have you ever fallen asleep during prayers?

14. Have you ever spat on anyone……not deliberately, maybe with food in your mouth?ūüôą

15. Have you ever had a time when you were relieved to know you were not alone……..or glad to know you have a ‘big daddy’?

16. Ever heard one side of a story and totally believed it and then when you hear the other side you believed it too?  I am always intrigued by evidence and cross examination, Proverbs 18 v 17 speaks to this very issue.

17. Ever had a job that was your worst nightmare, until it became the best thing to ever happen to you and then vice versa?

18. Ever had a lover with whom it wasn’t love at first sight, and then you find yourself hopelessly in love with them?

19. Ever had a friend, a really good trusted and respected friend and then you end up marrying them or one small straw breaks the camels back?

20. Heard about Ponzi schemes and scamming, and wonder how the victims can be so stupid until you meet one of the perpetrators…… or it happened to you. Have you ever been scammed?

21. Ever swore you would never do something and then the next minute you find yourself doing exactly it?

22. Have you ever heard someone’s story………and once it’s done you remove all the adjectives you had used to describe them and just think of them as human…..a person, just like you are?

23. Have you ever done a marathon? Use your imagination……..not just running, maybe talking too, or crying etc……

24. I met an Iranian taxi driver who I would rank on the top of my list for ‘Gentlemen of all Gents’……..have you too, been victim of the ‘single story’, to borrow a phrase from Chimamanda Adichie.

25. Have you ever slept for 24 straight hours? If not, what’s your record?

26. Have you ever felt you have/had too much of any one thing?

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. But I may just have to settle for the tulip festival in Ottawa.

4. ¬†The Berlin Wall and more of Germany including the camps …….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.

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, ………..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 another 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 always 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, hope is the mot powerful drug in the world. 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 about keeping the beautiful things in your life constant…..because if you are not careful those will change too.