Sunday, August 24, 2014

Encouragement - We All Need It



Today I was sharing some of my job search "adventures" with a sister after church. As I recounted different experiences and the jumble of thoughts that may sometimes cripple a job seeker, she in all of her innocent beauty said, "Those weren't the right opportunities for you, that's why they didn't work out."

Her aura, and her encouragement just did so much in that moment and she didn't even know it.

But encouragement can be like that - sometimes it's just the little word, thought or action that makes all the difference in the world.

And then I remembered this verse later: God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of LOVE, POWER and a SOUND MIND. 2 Timothy 1:7 This week as I deal with whatever comes my way I'm holding on to two things:
I don't need to be afraid and God has got it all under control.

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What will you hold on to this week?


Friday, August 15, 2014

Life's Little Pleasures

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There is a lot of unrest in the world as I write; without me naming specific incidents you can probably recite them.
Those things can weigh you down, so instead I'll think about life's little pleasures. Not because I'm in denial, but because these things make me happy and when I'm happy I can tackle bigger problems.

So here's some of life's little pleasures:






  • The Little One had a friend over; they're doing nothing special but the laughter and enjoyment of each others company puts a smile on my face.


  • When visiting my parents in NY seeing the smiles on their faces as everyone was around.


  • Having conversations or small talk with my children; extra pleasure - hearing maturity.


  • Catching up with friends over a cup of tea.


  • Alone time.


  • Couple time.


  • Holding hands.


  • Sunrise - being outside at the crack of dawn.


  • Telling a joke and everyone getting it.


  • The satisfaction you get from the smell of clean laundry just out of the dryer; actually being at the dryer when it stops so you can still feel the warmth of the clean clothes.


  • Exercise.


  • Reading - I just completed a variety of books on my vacation which increased my enjoyment.


  • Praying - in the moment right where you are; sometimes just to offer thanks or to ask for help.


  • Answered pray - seeing solutions in small ways to big things that I've prayed about. 

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Little pleasures for me often involve laughter, smell, touch and memory. Little pleasures put a smile on my face. Little pleasures remind me that even though this world has gone mad, there's still much to smile about and perhaps there's something I can offer to quell the madness. Little pleasures have a huge impact.


Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. 

What can you add to the list of little pleasures?

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Capturing Memories

Capturing memories - that's some of what I do here on this blog. This year, we didn't have an official family reunion but my long winding vacation served as one. 

On July 16 I left Los Angeles, and headed to NY. My husband was leaving Jamaica and meeting me in NY. Funnily enough we both missed our connecting flights to NY and got in later than we anticipated. I spent the first four days of my vacation on Long Island where I had lived before relocating. I was able to spend a good bit of time reconnecting and reminiscing with girlfriends.
Our old house
Partying with a good friend

The following week we spent in Brooklyn. Brooklyn has changed and is now the place to be. Can you say gentrification? I took the subway, walked, even jogged in Prospect Park a couple of times. We took in Motown on Broadway and it was worth every penny we spent. When I heard my husband whooping after the first song, I knew we had made the right choice. It's a good show from beginning to end. We walked around Times Square before taking the subway back to Brooklyn. In addition we really got to reconnect with family and friends. I got to see how my parents were doing, and catch up on all the family happenings. On the weekend of 7/26 in particular, it seems like everyone was there, though it was not planned.

Grand Army Plaza
Playbill from Motown


Sightseeing with my sister on the Circle Line


The following week we drove to Toronto for a cousin's wedding taking place on August 1st. This was yet another good time with family. The dress code was black tie and the women were asked to indulge the bride by wearing fascinators. Boy, did the women oblige - it was nice to see everyone elegantly attired. On Saturday, we went to Caribana. I've heard of this festival for years and wanted to see how Toronto puts on a party - they did a good job though I might be getting a bit old for it. On Sunday, my Bajan cousins had a picnic and we spent part of the day with them. Then in the afternoon we spent the remainder of the day with my husband's Jamaican family and friends. 

On this trip I used AirBnB for the first time and my experience was overwhelmingly positive. Our host Liz shared her home with us and made us feel like family. Not every BnB experience is this way, but Liz is used to opening her home and letting others in. In addition she lives in a beautiful neighborhood, so on Monday we jogged together and explored. Before leaving Toronto, we drove to Niagara Falls. We didn't do a tour but we saw the Falls and all of the tourist traps.




Me and the girls from Ghana at Caribana

Once we left Toronto, we stopped in NY for a day and then we were off to Maryland to spend a couple of days with my brother. While I love the inside of his house, my favorite part is the outside which I have dubbed "The Meadow", it's that big. I generally don't like dogs, but he has a dog named Lyric which liked me and I, her. I even let her jump on me. In the evenings I played with my niece and nephew. While here, I caught up with my best friend from college - good times.
my new best friend

bff from college


One last hurrah on the last leg of the vacation.

We left Maryland early Saturday morning and came back to Brooklyn. We took my parents out to a lovely Indian restaurant called Baluchis (it sounds Italian but it's Indian). I'm not a fan of Indian food, but after eating here I am. The portions were the right sized and everything was seasoned perfectly. I think this meal made my parents very happy because we started to talk about things that we had never talked about before - particularly their histories.

Now we had to return the rental - so we drove in to Manhattan for the return and met one of our favorite couples from the Bronx. We caught up while driving, stopped by their house, then went to the Cheesecake Factory in the new Ridge Hill Shopping center. It didn't matter what was ordered as the conversation was great. Finally we made it back to Brooklyn.

Our flight was at 6:00 am August 10th, so we didn't get much sleep. My parents wanted to continue talking and then we prayed.
We made it to the airport in time and arrived safely. I fell asleep around 3:00 pm Sunday afternoon and and finally woke up at 6:00 the next morning.

I had initial misgivings about the length of this vacation, but I'm glad we did it.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Notes From my Daughter - A Child's Encouragement to Parents

Occasional notes from my 20 year old daughter. I never know what to expect when she writes, but it's usually a pleasant surprise.  Read on!

My Daughter
If you were in the boat with the disciples and Peter was your child, say even your only child, would you encourage Him to step out of the boat in the storm on to the ocean where there is no shore in sight? Would you encourage them even when God is telling them to do something you have never seen done before? Or would you try to save them from what you feel is the biggest, clearest mistake of their life?
 
One of the biggest things I hear in college when a young person is considering taking a step in their faith, whether it be being a leader in ministry or devoting their life to Christ, is "I don't know what my parents will say." The reasoning has been different depending on the situation and the relationship between child and parent but the outcome remains the same. The child is hesitant about living fully for Jesus because of their perception of how their parent(s) will react. "Come," Jesus said to Peter. But parents what would you say to Peter? (Be honest) Parents would you watch your child sink and allow Jesus to save them and not you? Philip Yancey observed that "the interesting thing about the savior complex is that our Savior had no such complex." He loved people so much that he would not impose on their decision making. Sadly I've heard too many people admit that their parents stop talking to them once they decided to entrust their life to Christ. That is the cost of following Christ - that they will be rewarded for by their Heavenly Father, we give up those things we once valued because Jesus matters most. But parents, my question is what is it that you think you are saving them from? 

It takes strength to let your child be vulnerable. You too have to follow God's commands as He teaches you to be still and know that He is God. If you reach out to "save" them from everything, you are not training them up in the way they should go, you are training up in a way that you think is best and that can be very deceiving. May I remind you of Proverbs 3:5-7 "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; In ALL your ways submit to him and he will make your paths straight. DO NOT BE WISE IN YOUR OWN EYES, fear the Lord and shun evil." Don't neglect your child when they take a leap of faith, don't shun them for living differently from you, it is not your expectations that they are required to fulfill; that is not what they will judged by in the end. Continue to guide their decisions with wisdom and encourage them. 

Pray for this generation that we would submit to our parents instruction but also pray for yourselves that you would submit to our Father's authority. His is greater than yours. Jesus responded in Matthew 12:48 - "Who is my mother and who are my brothers? 49 Pointing to the disciples He said, "Here are my mothers and my brothers. 50 For whoever does the will of my Father in Heaven is my brother and sister and mother." Basically saying it is better to be in the will of God than anything else and that those who are in the will of God are truly the members of your family. And Matthew 8:21 - "And another said to him, "Lord, first let me go and bury my father." 22 But Jesus told him "Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead."" I don't believe Jesus was indicating that everyone should disown their parent, but that they should understand that God's will takes precedence over everything. He's the one that knits them in their mother's womb, you were just the vessel. He's the one that knows every hair on their head, you are the one who took care of those hairs. He is that one that gives wisdom, you are the one who tries to give them the best education. He's the one that gave them every breath and gave them their purpose, you are the one who guides them, not the one that made them. Both of you should submit to Christ and be humble in the roles that he has given you in this life. 

Being a parent doesn't give you an authoritarian position to boast in and make your child the spectacle of, it gives you an opportunity to understand God's love as our parent and maker and should point your eyes back to Him not you. Do not be surprised if your child opposes you. First of all children like to test boundaries, but secondly as your child grows they make decisions independent of you. Whether those decisions are in wisdom or foolishness is hard to tell at times but some decisions will not be what you expect; That's OK. Some decisions will have happy endings, and some wont. 

Your child is made in your image, but they're not you and you haven’t failed because they are not your clone. You haven’t failed as a parent if your child has gone astray. You haven't failed as a parent if your child doesn't talk to you. You haven't failed as a parent if your child doesn't go college or dropped out of school. You haven't failed as a parent if your child has no idea what they should do with their life. You haven't failed as a parent if your child leaves you. You haven’t failed as a parent if your grown child is still living with you. You haven’t failed as a parent if you deal with depression because of your kids. You haven't failed as a parent if your child had an unfortunate accident and left this earth. You haven't failed as a parent if your child committed suicide. You haven't failed as a parent if your child is in prison. You haven't failed as a parent if your child is an addict. You haven't failed as a parent if your child is in abusive relationship. You haven't failed as a parent if your child became pregnant outside of marriage. You haven’t failed as a parent if your child is dealing with homosexuality. You haven't failed as a parent if your child is promiscuous. You haven’t failed as a parent if your child has a mental disorder. You haven't failed as a parent if your child is not who you expected they would be. 

You fail as a parent when you've stopped being a child and resist listening to God; at that point you fail in all your roles whether you see evidence of it or not. 

Fortunately there is redemption, our God is a god of great mercy and grace. My main goal here is to remind you of what the real focus is: Jesus. Parenting is a lifelong humbling opportunity filled with hardships and moments of unexplainable joy. I as a child can honestly say I've seen my parents love for me best when I saw how loving Jesus permeated every sector of their lives. When I saw their humanness, inconsistencies, flaws, and their evident need for God and then their obedience to God, I learned much more than a college education could ever give me. My parents are not perfect, and those who live in our household know that, but their mess in combination with God's grace is what makes them good parents in my eyes. Our family is a mess many times; there are arguments, fights, and quite frankly sinners struggling to love other sinners on an everyday basis. Those times make me see how necessary it is that God is the center of a family structure. 

Parenthood is an act of worship but I hope that you as the parent will not make yourself the center. Be humbled and let God use you as He is always willing to do. His glory is the best thing for you, your children and their future children. I hope that parenthood reminds you of your child-likeness and that you would have faith in your Heavenly Father throughout it all.


Be encouraged - parents and children..

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

No Useful Moves Detected

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Since receiving my iPhone, one of the ways I choose to pass the time if I absolutely have nothing else to do is play Solitaire. Solitaire holds a special place in my heart - it is one of the games that I mastered prior to using the mouse. When we were newlyweds, my husband and I used to see who could win a game in the least amount of time - without a mouse. The challenge of Solitaire is to stack the suits in the least amount of time with the least amount of moves. Fast forward to today where there really is an app for just about anything, I now have a new relationship with this game.

In solitaire, as in life, every hand is not a winning hand - some games just cannot be won. On the other hand, even if you have a winning hand, if you don't play your cards right you won't win. Sometimes you can get a hint that would allow you to keep on playing. In a losing hand the hints don't necessarily help, but in a winning hand they do. Once hints are exhausted, "no useful moves detected."

"No useful moves detected" equates to starting over. At this point there's nothing else to do - either start the same game (and come to the same result) or start a new game.
Have you ever felt that way in life - that you've exhausted all your options and no useful moves are detected? Ever felt the need to start all over? I have, and the only reason I do it is because of the Hope within me.
"Hope is produced by endurance through suffering (Romans 5:2-5) and is the inspiration behind endurance (1 Thessalonians 1:3;Hebrews 6:11).Trustworthy promises from God give us hope (Hebrews 6:18-19), and we may boast in this hope (Hebrews 3:6) and exhibit great boldness in our faith (2 Corinthians 3:12). By contrast, those who do not place their trust in God are said to be without hope (Ephesians 2:12,1 Thessalonians 4:13)." Source - http://www.gotquestions.org/hope-Bible.html#ixzz37adyB2lM

If you have no source and are trying to do things on your own, you will take hints from the wrong people and resources until you are a point where you don't know which way to turn.
But even as a believer you may reach this point. You may become dejected by how things are looking, or how things aren't going to plan or how it seems that nothing good ever happens to you. Don't give up, instead look up. The next time you feel, "no useful moves detected," start all over with God.

Jesus looked at them intently and said, “Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But with God everything is possible.” Matthew 19:26 (NLT)

How do you deal, when no useful moves are detected in your life?

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