And the Thunder Rolls…

Something that has always remained with me from high school was a literary device my English teacher pointed out.

She said, “Anytime a thunderstorm appears in a literary work, it means that a major plot change is about to occur”.

In other words, thunderstorms serve as foreshadowing. Last night, I sat and listened to the thunder roll and reflected on the current “plot” of my life: struggles, memories, people, etc.  I can’t help but wonder if literal thunderstorms (that I am so in awe of ) are sent by God to open our eyes to the figurative storms around us.

God has a perfect and a permissible will and sometimes people, events, and circumstances occur in your life because God allowed them in His permissible will.  However, He wants us to seek His perfect will for our lives, but in order to do this, there must be a “plot change” or a storm.  These storms are made to shape and transform you into the best version of yourself.  Something we tend to forget to do is praise Him in the storms we encounter.  We must be reminded that God causes some things, allows some things, thwarts some things, and limits some things, but uses all things for our good. These storms have been filtered through His fingers of love.

As you prepare for the next storm in your life or as you currently see yourself through yet another one, know that He is with you, in the eye.  You are not alone, and once you have made it through to the other side of that circumstance, that event, that person, you will understand why that storm made a path through your life.

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I have resolved to Finding God New Year's Resolutions...we all tend to make them, but somehow halfway through the year, or maybe even sooner, they tend to fade.  We eventually forget all about the resolution we were so bound and determined to complete on December 31st.  However, let's make one that we can't let fade or forget.  Let's find our faith, our love for God, and our determination to be a light for others.  During 2018, there will be hills, and there will be valleys, but through both we have to sing the same song.  A song of praise.  During the live-streamed service at Venture this morning, the pastor said something that has already taken a hold of my heart,
"Let the song you sing be based on the character of God and not the circumstances in life."
Each and every day we must praise Him, even if that day is a valley.  So today I ordered my New Year's Resolution, Finding I Am, and what I hope for each and every one who reads this post is that you can find Him too.

#WheninHaiti

If you’ve ever been to a foreign country to mission or visit, you know there are a few things that only the locals know.  So here are a few things that people become accustomed to while in Haiti:

  1. When walking through the village, you may here a few little voices yell, “Hey you!!” Don’t be alarmed.  This is just one of the few English phrases that children have learned quickly gets attention from passersby.
  2. Women in labor yell “Whoa Jezi” or begin to sing hymns.  Birth is a family affair.  Everyone is there.  Everyone wants to watch.  More importantly, there are lots of cries to the Lord and hymns sung…well that is what you can understand in between contractions.  As any mother reading this probably knows, what Americans yell while in labor isn’t anywhere close to this glorious.
  3. Children, teens, and adults alike yell “Blanc” as your school bus passes by school yards, restaurants, and local markets.  At reading this sentence you may a little surprised, but “Blanc” as we use it means “white,” but the Haitians use the term to describe those that don’t speak their native tongue, Creole.  My friend Caitlyn Johnson went to Haiti, and as soon as they realized (only after several failed Creole communication attempts) that she was not in fact Haitian, she was labeled with the term “Blanc” as well.
  4. Overheard a conversation between two Haitians: there are lots of hand motions, facial expressions, and yelling, but nine times out of ten… they’re not mad. This is most nearly always the first observation any foreigner makes about the Haitian people that they are very… expressive.  Their language is so beautiful and full of life, and once you realize that every conversation is not an argument, you yearn to learn a language so beautiful and expressive as Creole.
  5. Heard a goat, and thought it was a small infant.  Goats’ bleats will stop your heart once or twice…or three or four times.  You’ll run to the nearest gate to save the crying infant you’re so convinced you’ve heard; nearly bust down the gate trying to get to this infant, only to discover it’s a…goat.
  6. Feared for your life as you were chauffeured down the rock road and through to the next village.  There hasn’t been a time when I’ve been to Haiti where I have feared for my life…except when riding in a moving vehicle with a Haitian driver.  Driving in Haiti basically makes you an Olympic medalist at playing chicken, but one rule is always prevalent– the bigger vehicle always wins.  Each time I go back, I look at the road ahead of me less and less to save my heart from the near-misses of the dump truck, the tap-tap, or the fifty motos weaving in and out of the millions of people on the road.
  7. Seen goats, chickens, turkeys, and pigs hanging upside-down from the side of a tap-tap.  Friday is market day, which means every one is transporting their produce to sell.  You may drive past a tap-tap so covered in chickens and turkeys that you begin to wonder if it hasn’t turned into a huge bird itself.
  8. Realized that Haiti holds the world record for the number of people that can fit on a motorcycle (aka a moto).  The most I have counted is eight, but even more miraculous than that is a mom who had just given birth to twins and had her sister hold one and she hold the other while they were driven an hour or more home…yes– on the back of a moto.
  9. Watched a sunrise/sunset or storm roll in from a rooftop/hilltop.  The Hope Center of ButGod ministries in Galette Chambon has a flat rooftop that is perfect for watching the night sky erupt in a lightening storm or watching the sun paint its last rays of light on the Haitian sky.  You can also see fires on the surrounding mountains, as well as the twinkling lights of Petionville.
  10. Had the Holy Spirit speak to you in the dusty wind or touch you through a child’s hand.  When in Haiti, the Spirit starts a fire in your soul that can’t be put out and lasts until you return.  It’s a spark that begins when you get off the plane; a small flame when you see a woman carrying what looks like 100 pounds on her head; a small fireplace fire when a man looks at you and says, “Bonjou” (good morning); a bonfire when the first child asks you for a sucker, and a roaring inferno when you sit in your first Creole worship service.

This article gives you a small insight into what being in Haiti is like, but in order to get the whole #wheninHaiti experience, I encourage you to visit yourself.

Where does the hate originate?

….and you begin to ask yourself, where does the hate come from?  We have begun to become accustomed to receiving news of mass shootings.  We are less and less shocked by it with each one, but all I can think to ask is why?

When did we become such hateful creatures towards one another?  When did it become okay to use “that’s gay” as an insult?  When did it become okay to joke about getting cancer?  When did it become okay to joking tell someone to kill themselves?  When did we become such hateful race? 

After tragedies (especially deaths), there is an overwhelming sense of love and support from people you know very well and from people you may have never even met.  However, slowly but surely things go back to a normal routine, but what if they didn’t?  What if we as people were this loving and supportive toward one another on a daily basis?  Can we remember how to return our society back into one that is enveloped in love?  That’s what God created us for-to be companions for and to love one another.

It seems painstakingly simple, but tendencies to judge and not have your heart focused on loving your neighbor turns deadly, and sadly it has cost us too many lives already.  So as human beings we need to begin to do what we were created for and just love.

April Showers Bring May Flowers

The saying “April showers bring May flowers” never meant much to me until now, now I get to reflect on all the flowers that will bloom because of Susu’s life…

When I was little, I can remember my grandmother’s backyard always being stocked with flowers.  She taught me how to name each and every one.  She taught me which flowers made their own seeds so you didn’t have to go and buy them from the store, which ones you had to pick the dead blooms off of so the new ones could sprout, which ones were watered in the morning and in the evening, which ones could have lots of sun and which ones had to be partially shaded, and how to make sure the hose had to run for a minute before watering the plants so it wouldn’t scorch them after being in the sun all day.  Just like that Trace Atkins song says, “she thinks we’re just fishing,” that’s all I thought was “oh we’re just planting flowers”.

Little did I know that I’d be looking back realizing that we weren’t just planting flowers.  In the midst of “those are hibiscus flowers Chandler not ‘hot biscuits’” and “remember you have to make sure you collect the zinnia seeds so we can replant them next year” were life lessons.  “Make sure you collect the zinnia seeds” turned into give someone a second chance, “water those plants three times a day” turned into invest time in your talents so you can be the best you can be, and “be sure to loosen the dirt on those before we put them in the ground” turned into be kind to someone and give them a little help in order to allow them to reach their full potential.  

Me and my grandmother planted so many flowers in her backyard, but when I was younger, I wanted immediate results (like come back in an hour and have a full grown watermelon results), but I quickly came to realize that caring for plants takes patience, attention, and care.  Key things that I learned while planting flowers with Susu.

My grandmother taught me not to be judgmental, how to forgive those that have hurt you in the deepest of ways, how to laugh even when you feel like there isn’t a thing in the world to smile about, and how to be a strong, strong Christian woman that puts others before herself.  She planted these seeds when I was very young, and little did I know that throughout her lifetime she had been watering them, putting fertilizer on them, making sure they didn’t get too much sun or not enough, and having patience to sit back and watch them grow.  She may not have gotten to see all her seeds bloom, but she sure loved to make comments on the growth of each one and critique my techniques for their care whenever she felt the need.

Reflecting on the many hours spent in the dirt in the hot summer heat, I have come to realize that some of my best life lessons were learned there, kneeling beside my grandmother.  Even in her death, she has planted yet another seed–one of hope.  Hope for a future for me.  Throughout this difficult time, I kept telling myself there has to be a bigger plan.  I kept reciting the verse: For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.- Jeremiah 29:11.

And there was, it has been there all along.  Susu had planted the seed of hope for my future and now all I had to do was remember everything she had taught me while we were “just planting flowers” and watch the seed grow.

Susu passed away April 29, 2016 and with the “showers” of tears from those last days in April will come flowers in May from the seed of hope that she planted for my future.

Be THAT girl

Have you ever been listening to a song or reading the opening lines to a chapter in a novel or listening to the narration of the opening scene in a movie, and it’s a man speaking from afar about a woman he doesn’t even know.  It’s a man admiring from a distance all the observable things about this woman.  Her hair, her smile, the way she chews on the inside of her cheek as she concentrates, the way she fiddles with her rings as she contemplates what her next move is, he doesn’t even know her, but yet he thinks she’s amazingly beautiful just by observing her for these few minutes.

Sometimes, don’t you wish that was you?  Don’t you wish you could be the woman in the opening scene of the movie that he’s observing or the woman he’s writing the book about or the woman that’s going to inspire his next single?  Well, you can be, but it doesn’t need to be for these reasons.  Let your inspiration to be THAT girl come from within yourself.  Be the best version of yourself for you, and the song will be written about you, but you’ll be too humble to even notice.

Be THAT girl.

The girl who has her heart completely enveloped in God’s love and so giving of herself to others so that they too can know His love.

Honest and trustworthy.  This one can go without any explanation.

Awesome.  Go and be awesome.  You want to volunteer at a camp for kids with special needs?  You want to go to a concert even if you have to drop your last two paychecks just to go?  You want to go to Disney world, and you’re 19? Go. Go and experience and take risks and have fun because you know what? With each and every one, you become more and more awesome.

True friend.  Above all things, being a true friend will give you the foundation to make real connections, and trust me, these you will need.

So ladies become that girl in the opening chapter of someone’s book or the closing line to a song, but be that girl for yourself, not for the guy writing the tune or the best selling novel. The girls that get things written about them are the girls who are living to be the very best versions of themselves for no one other than the fact that they wish to be the absolute best person they can be.

“Wise [Word] Choices”

“That car is beautiful.”

“I love that shirt.”

“Those shoes are precious.”

These are phrases we hear often and maybe even say because it’s just the language of our society, but I’ve come to realize the more frequently you say words the more they lose meaning.  Especially, “I’m sorry.”

I had a high school English teacher who gave us a list of words that we weren’t allowed to use because they had either multiple meanings or didn’t give your writing enough value.  It was almost as if those words were a waste of space in your brain, and by the end of the school year, you had practically deleted them from your vocabulary.  A few of those words were a lotgreat, and very (because a lot was an empty piece of property where you built a house and great and very were too vague to describe anything). But… maybe it wasn’t that at all.  She has been a teacher for an extensive amount of time, and maybe she was just tired of hearing the same words so many times that over time, they had lost their meanings to her. As a result, she made sure we pressed the backspace button countless times, while rethinking every single sentence and thought that came to our minds before it appeared on the screen before us.

It didn’t take me long to realize that it wasn’t just my English teacher that gets tired of hearing the same things over and over (or rather reading the same thing over and over). If you continuously use the same words to describe things, no matter how different they are or how differently you may feel about them, it all begins to seem the same.  You can’t use the same words to describe your favorite cup of coffee to describe how you feel about your best friend.  You can’t apologize for things you didn’t do over and over because the moment you actually have something to be sorry for, the “I’m sorry” will fall short.

However, practicing what you preach is something you have to work at every second of every day.  I catch myself constantly saying “I love this song.” or “That’s a great outfit.” or “That’s one of my very favorite restaurants.” While it’s not a crime to describe things this way, be careful when you go to actually describe a person or a landscape you’ve seen and you want to be understood.  Your words must have meaning if you want people to even begin to try and grasp the way you actually feel about something.  So as a people, let’s try to be more careful as to what we say we “love” or what we say is “very important” to us or what “is great” because these words are so vital to our language, but the more we throw them out there without a second thought, the more meaningless they become.