Journaling Jamaica

Day 5 in my new officially official 😊 house in St. Ann’s Parish, Jamaica. The smells of burning at nights and in the morning are just as familiar as the coffee churning every morning in downtown Jacksonville from the Maxwell House coffee plant. The coffee smells each morning from the Hubbard Street house were only supplemental to the lovely smells of my own coffee percolating. And occasionally as we are still quite close to the main highway here in Jamaica, I hear fast cars and bikes racing by and big Mack trucks blowing by with their steam powered horns that get your immediate attention no matter what you are doing. The frogs that lull me to sleep at night with the cool “winter” breeze (about 72 at night with mid percentages of humidity) are one of my favorite parts of Jamaica.

The cool breeze runs through the house. I can see the leaves of the mango trees blowing in the wind; they remind me of home, like home, my cousins, especially David, he loved mangoes… I can remember family dinners when we were little, the cool evening Florida breeze as we wreaked havoc through the streets of north St. Pete with our hide-n-go-seek and cops and robbers games. Jamaica is like home.

Then there is the money system, the injustice, the economics, the rat race, and on the macro level remnants of years of wanting more for its country as it slightly eludes the Jamaican people each time.

And yet, this hasn’t wrecked the spirit of the people, rather, its, “welcome to Jamaica” with her big smile and brimmed hat, as we left the food store!

Jamaican woman hustling to sell her goods

She is an example of the Jamaican heart, the Jamaican way. I am so excited to learn the culture more and more each day. I enjoyed our walk to town yesterday for the first time alone – two white girls with our carmel skin and curls, hearing whistle after whistle and “pst” after “pst,” nonetheless, there is respect. No harm, just enjoying what they see. People are complicated enough already…

But when you add other characteristics of Jamaica, like culture you see something very cool! The teacher in me must explain “culture” a bit further. Culture happens on different levels. There is our immediate family culture (what we experienced and learned from those in our immediate home). Community culture, your neighborhood and other family members and close friends, perhaps. Work culture is developed within professions but more influential would likely be the culture experienced with specific employers. Finally, and only to serve as a brief explanation of the ways that culture influences, the final level of culture would be your place of birth. The country you call home. The place that has formed the parts of you that make your people group different than another.

Photo by Kelly L on Pexels.com

Jamaica is quite different from America. America may be accused of lacking culture, it is not particularly distinct in culture like Jamaica, and has been called a melting pot – various people groups contributing to the diversity of the “United” States of America by adopting various cultures. This is very different from more collectivist countries like Jamaica. In my experience, this can make assimilating challenging. People are people… people change, assimilate, evolve, and yet still there spans a bridge that connects all of humanity no matter how different. At least that is what I have discovered so far in my travels. And that is love – at the end of the day we have all the same needs – being known and knowing.

As I spoke with a special person last night, under the stars, literally! We talked about what matters and keeps a relationship. He asked what I believe keeps a relationship together. My answer was textbook A+++, “Love and Respect, of course,” I said, with complete confidence he would agree. He di, but, he his point was the first one. Love! Of course, and I do believe that love can and will indeed conquer all! Yet somehow, I felt so shallow and unlovable to give such an answer, because the words are easy, living it is another, especially when loving requires sacrifice.

In a world where inequities reign, and where often the greater of two evils must be chosen, there still can remain the simplicity of loving your neighbor. May we all have the same fighting spirit as the little old Jamaican lady welcoming us to Jamaica!

Everyone Needs Some Power!

I could remember days thinking if I only had someone to call that is neutral and will tell me the truth but be kind and gentle. I mean the type of help that is not bossy or imposes their crap on me, etc. This is what a life coach can be. A life coach does not take the place of friends, family or even therapy. Instead, I view it as a supplement to what you may be already doing. If that is not the case, and you do not have support, I highly suggest a life coach or therapist.  

To paint the picture plainly, I liken it to vitamins. I used to hate when my mom would say, “that supplement will be more effective if you took it with this…so I took the other vitamin, then she would add another vitamin and before you knew it I would have a pile of vitamins on the counter that all had a specific purpose. While true, super annoying and it is super expensive!

It cost to take care of yourself. Not just monetarily but it costs time, emotional energy, creating intentions, mindfulness, and exercise to get all the chemicals working together and balanced in your body!

Hiring a life coach can be a pivotal shift in your next steps. I listen, I ask questions. Life coaches are not necessarily giving advice, we are not advice givers. All that you need is within, sometimes, we just need help rediscovering it. That is my role, to ask the right questions to help you rediscover what somehow got tucked away somewhere. There are many reasons why we compromise or ignore our conscience, nonetheless, we do and finding our way back to knowing ourselves and making decisions that are true to self is what coaching is all about.  

Personal power was a big one for me. It was that space where I constantly squashed my gut feelings and resigned myself to being agreeable for the sake of peace. While there is a place for peace and agreement, in my experience this was not a healthy response overall and wounded my spirit and self worth. I will never forget one couples counseling session and the counselor told me in front of my ex-husband that it is perfectly normal to desire personal power over areas in my life even while married. In this space, the space that I had permission, just like everyone else, despite my experience for 17 years in a difficult marriage…for the first time, in a long time I felt like I was given this space in time to experience a level of freedom and power. I felt of little value for so long in our marriage that I lost sight of my personal value regardless of my behavior or what anyone else thought of me.

When I began rediscovering my personal power I experienced so much freedom, l felt like a bird let out of its cage! I knew exactly where I wanted to go, what I wanted to do, and began that journey as soon as I was free! I hope this happens for you too!

Struggling through race and identity

Been thinking a lot about race and identity and how to bridge the two without wounding. My children are bi-racial, I found out a couple years ago that I was bi-racial even though all of my life, as I have shared in my story, I have always felt “different” and am asked on a regular basis, “what are you” “where are you from?” Now to help my children grapple with this question in an information based, competitive society is another feat indeed. As I watch my children struggle through their experience, I am reminded of something God says in Psalm 34: “he will deliver us from all our troubles,” in the original text this isn’t exactly as us English speaking folk suspect. Rather, “deliver” in Hebrew means to prepare, equip or strengthens. When I reread the verse with that in mind, here is how it reads with the preceding verse:

“The poor man cried out, and the Lord heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles. The angel of the Lord encamps all around those who fear Him and prepares, strengthens and equips them.” (italics mine)

This changes everything because in a society that is self-entitled, avoids pain at all costs, I mean come on…we have a drug for everything, a label for issues, we are impatient, we throw major temper tantrums and…leave the marriage, leave the church, leave the job, leave the friendship, the list goes on and on, we look for anyway to be “delivered” from the situation. Clearly, this isn’t how God operates.

I find this truth to be hard when I am personally facing troubles but also extremely hard when I think of my children and their troubles which is why I am always blown away that we are called God’s children. When our children are struggling we only taste a small sliver of his pain he feels when we are troubled. If only I could make everything right when they are struggling especially when their troubles are a trace of my past sin, or when they have no control over the situation – like the color of their skin. Then there are the adult children…they sure know how to remind you of how jacked up of a parent you were and are. The struggle is real for sure with them but let us not forget the cute little stubborn, strong willed children who insist on their way.

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The Psalmist goes on to say, “those who seek the Lord will lack no good thing.” At first glance, we think wow, I seek the Lord, and surely there are good things in my life but what I am going through right now is NOT good and it says, “we will lack NO good thing.” Digging a little deeper, this is about the result of seeking the Lord, not our circumstances, possessions or our narcissistic selves feeling good. When we seek the Lord, we will only find good, there will be no lack of good as we are seeking the Lord in the struggle.

Yeah, I know it stinks that it doesn’t mean what we thought, right! But check this out, this Psalm may have been written over some time (not exactly sure of time frame), and I am not a theologian but think about it, we know that David suffered many injustices, but we also know he suffered at the hand of his own choices. When you get to v. 19 the tone changes.

He declares, “Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all.” This is a major declaration the Psalmist makes, yet, if only it really meant that we could avoid pain and suffering but again, deliverance here is – stay in the struggle and I will prepare you, strengthen you and/or equip you. This fits right in line with other scriptures that tell us about suffering – you are going to suffer, but this does not change who God is and how our struggles fit into the story of God that we play a part in.

But hold on, be encouraged, there is actual deliverance in the way we prefer – look at v. 4, “I sought the Lord and he heard me and delivered me from all my fears.” This deliverance means: snatch away, save, take out! How beautiful, remember perfect love casts out all fear and that God is love, and fear brings torment, torment is not what God uses to shape and conform us, rather troubles, suffering, hardship. I would say they really are different.

This looks completely different from the “troubles” that come when you love the unlovable, choose forgiveness for someone who has hurt you deeply, or in humility speak gently to the teenager who regularly rolls her eyes in rebellion. Surely, I want to be “delivered” (snatched up) from that child, or should I say, I want to snatch up that child, but these are the things that the Lord prepares, strengthens and equips us for, they can move us to seek him, and when we do, we lack no good thing!

As I work these truths, I am digging dipper into what this looks like for my “bi-racial” children and how the Lord intends to prepare them for their place in history (His story). Or maybe deeper how can we as a generation reconcile the racial constraints put on another and often by the hands of those that are the “same color” as us. Meanwhile, I will stick to what I do have control over and grapple with my children in the day to day questions they now get to answer for themselves, and hopefully in light of Gods truths and not the worlds.

Tomorrow…

Tomorrow, my daughter Mary, who I placed for adoption, will turn 24 years old. When I think about this, I wonder not necessarily as a mother but as a woman what she struggles with. Does she have friends in her life that speak truth to her and encourage her when she is down? And in light of my last post does she know she is significant and has an irreplaceable role in this life?

The irony of all this is that I didn’t know I had an irreplaceable role and beauty that no one could take when I was her age. I exchanged it all for a lie. I bought the lie that boyfriends, sex and being the bad girl would give me significance and beauty.

prom mom 2

As a result of believing this I ended up with all types of troubles including two unplanned pregnancies among other consequences. I say that carefully and very lightly. To be clear, both Mary’s life and Xaviar’s are precious and planned by the Creator. He makes no mistakes!

Surely, my consequences could have been something different than pregnancy, after all, there are plenty of women we know that can’t have children, couldn’t God have closed my womb and caused it not to bear life? Absolutely! But he didn’t.

The acceptance and affirmation we seek in this life can only be met God. I am not saying God can’t bring people into your life to speak into these places, he did for me, especially as a young woman who didn’t have a father, but apart from God’s will, seeking this out how we think best will only end in grief and disappointment.

Unfortunately, even after two pregnancies, I still struggled to see my worth and ended up remarrying with lots of baggage only to discover that I still through marriage was seeking something only the Father could restore. I remember when all the disappointment was laid bare for me to see! Years of seeking temporary fixes to my unmet need – all along my beauty and irreplaceable role that gave me significance and affirmation I already had, it is who I am and always was.

Cool pic with Sam

The story isn’t finished, as I am still walking out marriage and womanhood, but one thing I am sure of now, I don’t need a husband, friends, money, or success to tell me I am beautiful and worth it. My worth is found in God alone. God is and has restored the broken places of hurt and disappointment.

We are worth more than selling ourselves to an empty lie… whatever the lie is you are tempted to believe.

I pray that every woman who reads this will seek and find the truth, know your worth, that your choices don’t have to make or break you, and God is a Redeemer!

I would certainly be blown away if she sought me out! I would be honored to have that place in her life to remind her who she is. For now, I pray the God who delights over her and celebrates her life keeps her pure and holds her in the palm of his hands!