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!

Don’t stop dreaming!

Dreaming is a way to visualize what you plan to accomplish. This blog post is sort of on a whim. Nonetheless, a good reminder. We are feeling creatures who think and feelings are the beginning of an idea. Ideas are creative and imaginative. I think we forget to create and imagine because we get wrapped up in what others are creating and imagining and sharing on social media.

Rabbit trail: Not everything needs to be shared on social media! Just saying!

I have come to understand imagination as the brains way of exploring all the possibilities and impossibilities. The above picture is an example of what imagination and innovation can bring about. Oh and if you missed my recent posts, innovation requires disobedience. We must be rule breakers for revolution and real change to come about in whatever capacity we are dreaming of change.

If you don’t already know my story then I hope you check it out. This is my Italian Grandpa and my first born son. This is my grandpa who, when I first brought my black best friend home, Briana, he told me that I won’t be bringing any n____ (that word) in his house.

Needless to say, my Grandpa gave in to such cuteness no matter the color of his skin! In a day where there is so much crap floating in the air and people hate people because of the color of their skin, I thought I would share that dreams do in fact come true. It is good to dream. I dreamed! I dreamed of a day that he would change his mind! I am glad he did! It is necessary that you dream! Don’t stop dreaming!

Notes to Self for 2015

I know we’re already in 2015 but that’s why I think my timing to write this is ideal because all the New Years resolution blog posts, status updates and tweets about new goals has decreased so now is the perfect time to reflect on the remainder of 2015.

First note to self: The greatest things come from the hardest places. And as much as I hate acknowledging this, its certainly easier to acknowledge in the quieter, sweeter times. Most of the hardest places in my life are being restored into beautiful places that I wouldn’t change for anything!

I am going to be in the present starting today is my second note to self. I just witnessed Xaviar (my first born, adult son) propose to his girlfriend on January 1st actually! When I think of all the ups and downs this quote from one of my favorite rappers (yep you heard it right, I listen to rap!) comes to mind: “it takes a moment to make a memory but a lifetime to forget it.” Whether good or bad, every moment is made up of choices. The marriage commitment was never intended to be broken, rather intended to demonstrate the greatest of loves. So I will be their biggest fan as they journey into new and exciting ground.  But while remaining committed to the future, I am learning this past year that being in the today is so cliche we forget it.

My third note to self comes from the experience of buying my first house: Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a dream fulfilled is a tree of life. (Proverbs 13:10) I get that to some people this is the American dream we chase but for me it was representative of another place that God restored to me (more on this but for another time). Certainly I don’t put my hope in the house, or don’t think I am so hung up on earthly treasures that I am not willing to walk away from my “dream come true.”

It is true that you will NEVER go wrong waiting on God.

Words of wisdom from one of my mentors during a dark time: “walking though hard places with hard people demands holy resignation” is my fourth note to self. Waiting on a persons stubborn, hard heart to come around is so painful.

Forgiveness

Resigning alone is not godly. Love is proactive and intentional. But when resigning is holy I would say its where in submission we say, “Lord, I am not in control of when that person comes around or what that person does, I am angry and hurt, yes, but only you can turn their heart of stone into a heart of fleshI am going to carry on with my day knowing what I am responsible for and wait on you to convict and change that person’s heart.” 

One more thing to add to this, love and especially in the context of a difficult marriage, but any relationship really, I don’t think always means quietness. Loving confrontation is necessary. In order to break unhealthy, patterns and cycles, we have to be willing to see and call the baggage what it is. Sometimes, everyone involved is not so willing.

Perfect place for the fifth and final note to self: I am only responsible for how I respond. This has been a long learning process for me, one which I am pretty sure I am still working on. Growing up, somewhere along the way, I internalized I was on my own and the world and everyone in it was against me. I had to carry my own and as a result shut down mostly and resisted love in every way. The sick part is that I actually wanted to be loved. And it is Love that softens and restores us back to who we are.

In this process, I resented love, feared man, and controlled everything and everyone around me in order to keep everything at a safe distance. I made judgments using words like never and always. I will never let someone…, I always let…, I always have to…, They never…

Eventually, through the hardest places, I would discover that God uses people to love us, and that created in his image we are relational at our core – created for intimacy with people and him. Love is sincere, I had to be real about what I felt, what hurt, and my view or perspective along with the choices I made because I am responsible for how I respond to life – no excuses. Even though some of it may be the result of a difficult childhood, I am an adult now, I am responsible for what I do with what happened then and what is happening now.

When what happens now is the result of what happened then, I must own that fact or hurt I am faced with, and do something about it, if its in my power to do so. If not then I must espouse the holy resignation attitude and wait on the Lord to work out his perfect plans and purposes.

Significance in Friendships with Women

I am learning about friendship. While on the phone with a new friend I was sharing my current struggles and requested prayer, she seemed uncomfortable. She was very gracious and let me know that she struggles with diving into friendship because she’s been hurt. I chose to listen to what she was really saying and pray for her and our relationship and not take offense.

The next day I was on the phone with one of my closer, longtime friends who I can share my struggles with when she shared with me her current feelings of insignificance; and that God was speaking to her about how she was seeking significance through relationships. And there it was, BAM! The light bulb moment, the Spirit shed light on a huge truth that freed me and I am certain is freeing for all women.

Between the two conversations, I was overwhelmed to say the least. Their blatant contrast first of all; but what struck me the most was how the second friend gave me insight to share with the first friend – that my expectation isn’t in her. I know she will fail me and I know for sure that I will fail her. Third, in all our struggles we were listening to a lie. After all this, I wrote a letter to the first friend and here is what I shared:

I am learning that when friends look to friends for significance or acceptance it makes the relationship tricky. Rather a mutual relationship shares the load and recognizes apart from love we stumble terribly. This frees us to be who we are in Christ without fear of not getting the need met or failing to meet the others need. Obviously, this doesn’t negate that we have legitimate needs to share and connect. In godly friendships we experience beauty and richness of connection with our girls in the Lord!  While all this is easy on paper, recognizing when our search for significance has led us into a hopeless pit is another story. If the role of the Holy Spirit is to lead us into all truth then hearing and recognizing the voice of God ministering to our spirit is critical, especially when we are hurting.

We were created to be needed and need. We were created in the image of a relational God. Recall for a moment the Garden, when God had finished creating man he said it is not good that he be alone, this wasn’t just about the marriage relationship. Woman reflects the image of God that man does not. In other words, we as women are needed in this world for a specific purposes and because we are a woman. No matter what our personality type (introvert or not) we are relational at our core. We, as women, are the creative art work God realized to depict the mutual, unstained relationship God intended between Himself and mankind. Or put this way in the book entitled, Captivating by John and Stasi Eldridge, “we have an irreplaceable role in this life to fill!” How is that for significance?

However, we no longer live in the Garden. We now live in a broken world, trying to rediscover our “irreplaceable role.” Therein lies some of the challenges I have been faced with recently:

Friendship is messy. Most days I would prefer to stay in my little safe world without any risk or relation. But through my friends I have learned so much about myself. There is such sweetness in sisterhood – a friend sticks closer than a brother (Proverbs 18:24b).

Relationships require vulnerability, which defined is being open to attack or damage.  If we are to be people of God, women in true relationship with one another, we do well to consider how we listen to God first before we can listen to our friends. Our identity in Christ is foundation to our friendships with one another. Without it wounded people wound people!

Sometimes, we all need a lift. In the Return of the King, Lord of the Rings Trilogy, the two Hobbits (Frodo and Sam Wise Gimchie) are carrying the burden of the Ring they must return to its place before all of Middle Earth is destroyed. Only Frodo was ultimately responsible for getting it back but his friend Sam Wise Gimchie insisted on sharing the burden with him despite all the danger and heart ache he already experienced on the journey. When Frodo could no longer carry on, Sam Wise picked him up, put him on his shoulder and carried him. I wept! This picture of friendship spoke to my heart, the place where I seldom let people go because showing my need for another is risky business. Letting someone carry me somehow communicates that I am weak. Ironically, its the very opposite, humility takes great strength.

Among the other lies I believe, the one I often struggle with is that I am not adequate as a friend and I am surely not qualified to speak into any person’s life, after all, look at my life, it seems I have learned everything through failure.

To this lie what sets me free is first, I am still in this process, yes I do know this, but over and over again the Lord points His finger on this lie and squashes it like I squash ants on my kitchen counter-tops. So when I step out with purpose to be vulnerable and walk in who I am in Christ – a fierce woman with an irreplaceable role in the unseen battle that wages war against me daily, I become a significant friend.

Second, I am qualified because of who qualifies me. It is the working of the Holy Spirit in me, equipping me for life and godliness that is qualified to be whatever is needed through my life.

I end with a verse that keeps speaking to me: He who loves his brother (sister) abides in the light and there is no cause for stumbling in him. (1 John 2:10)