BE STILL

I got back from the Dominican Republic on a Sunday morning. I had intended to go to church that morning. I hadn’t really missed it much but I usually go every Sunday. For some reason I couldn’t make myself do that. I just felt as if it would ruin the trip somehow.

I had brought my Bible along on the trip but I didn’t read it much until the last night when my son and I discussed Christianity. I didn’t do anything at all religious on the trip. In fact for most of the trip I was lounging around in a bikini, not because I wanted to be cute and sexy but because clothes were just unnecessary in the tropical heat.

I wondered why that I felt closer to God when I was in the Dominican Republic. I was at a greater level of peace and happiness than I have every obtained in the states. My son and I had some very deep discussions which I may have been a bit defensive about if I had had them at home. I did straighten him out on a few things but for the most part it was an equally based discourse of intriguing ideas.

I think of all the work my church goes to to have women’s conferences. I never go to them. Usually I can not afford them but even if I could, I wouldn’t go. My relationship with God is not about group settings. I do enjoy my Bible study group and I consider them my second family but the intimate times I have had with God have not had other people involved. It has just been Him and me.

I think another thing that contributed to the intimacy with God is that I had no electronics other than lights. I didn’t even have an AC in the house. I did have a bit of an internet connection but as far as anything else I was totally isolated with my wonderful son.

My company had been cool enough to clear my schedule of documentation that they could have demanded I do while on vacation. So I could actually relax without constantly checking my work email and fretting about getting things in on time.

As I was thinking about this over the past week I realized that I had been still. In the Bible it says to be still and know that God is God. I was still. I wasn’t rushing to and fro. I was just still. I think sometimes we get all caught up in acting like we are Christian by going to Church every time the doors open. I don’t think that impresses God much. That is what the Pharisees did and Jesus detested them.

I think churches have way too many things to go to and very few of them draw us closer to God. Sometimes you just need a house on a mountain, looking out at the ocean, to realize that God is everywhere and sometimes he just wants you to be still.

TRUSTING GOD

I am still reflecting on my trip overseas to the Dominican Republic. It was an unforgettable experience. I preceded the trip with a lot of prayer. I really wanted some time to talk with my son about God. He is highly intelligent and gifted by God in many arenas. I wanted to make sure he was on the right path.

When we first got into the Dominican Republic we had to exchange our currency. We arrived on a Sunday and my son was determined we were going to find a bank that first day. We didn’t find one in Santa Domingo. It may have been easier if we spoke Spanish but neither one of us did. By the time I had decided we needed to redirect our focus on finding our rental house the sun was starting its descent in the western sky.

It took us forever to find the house. I was horrible at navigating and as we snaked in and out of the mountains the thought occurred to me that I should probably be freaking out. I didn’t though, because I just reminded God that I had prayed about this trip and we needed to find our rental home. Somewhere around 9 pm we finally found it and the view was breathtaking. I think God may have wanted us to arrive that late because it was a bit cooler when the sun went down and the house was magical at nighttime.

As we continued the trip I realized how dangerous it was to be in a country where we didn’t even know the language. I thought I should be a bit more worried in case a tragedy happened. I didn’t know how to say “hospital” or “doctor” or “emergency” in Spanish so what was I to do if something happened? I could have fretted and worried, essentially wasting a lot of time on the trip walking hand in hand with fear. But I didn’t. I just reminded God that I had covered this trip in prayer and I trusted Him to protect us.

I didn’t get a chance to talk to my son about God until the night before we left. We had a very interesting discussion on that night and I hope I clarified some things for him. It was a very challenging discussion for me. I could have forced that discussion on the first night but I didn’t. I just reminded God that I had prayed that I would get the chance to testify to my son and left it in His hands. If I had forced it I may have encountered resistance from my son.

There were so many times I could have grabbed hold of fear on this trip. I didn’t though. Instead I grabbed hold of God’s hand and rested in His peace. For the record, God is the best travel agent ever.

DRIVER AND CHEF

For this vacation I made all of the reservations. I paid for the flight and the rental home and just before leaving secured a rental car also. I didn’t plan every moment of the trip once we arrived because I wanted my adult son to have input into what we did.

When we picked up the rental car the agreement was made that he would do the driving. I am not blessed with one navigational gene in my body and I am totally surprised I can still find my way home most days. He, on the other hand, is great at navigating. So he is the driver.

Being as we have not had good luck with restaurants here I have elected to be the chef. With all of the tropical fruit and melons it has been fun to experiment with different ideas for meals. The other day my son said he felt bad that I had to do all of the cooking. I asked him “Why would he feel bad? He was doing all of the driving and I hadn’t once felt a bit of guilt for not hailing a taxi. He was fulfilling his end of the bargain and I was doing mine.” Besides I am having fun. Cooking in this kitchen reminds me somewhat of all of the times I played as a little girl out in my playhouse which was in our garage. It is simple, fun, and unlike my playhouse, I actually cook real food.

This reminds me of the passage in the Bible where it talks about the church and how we all have our own duties to do in the church. Each church member is important in their own way. We are all supposed to flow together and help out with no one bossing or demanding that someone do their job a certain way. We all have talents and contributions to give with no one more important than the other. It would be nice if all churches worked that seamlessly but I doubt that most do.

I have learned from this trip that it is beneficial to share some of the responsibility with my son, who is a very capable young man. It has made it much less stressful for both of us and I do believe that is what a vacation is supposed to be. I wonder if that is what God had in mind when he said that we all have different responsibilities in the church and like a body we are not to discard or diminish anyone in their role.

VACATION HOMES

The vacation home I rented for the week is lovely. It has three bedrooms and an infinity pool in the front yard. I really like it because it is all concrete. It is so easy to clean. It is a mantra among some of my friends and I to always leave a place better than we found it. I have done this at camp sites, beaches, lakes and other areas of recreation.

When we first arrived it took us quite awhile to find our vacation home. When we got there it did not have air conditioning. It is amazing how much one can value a cool ocean breeze when there is no air conditioning. I am one who always sleeps with the house cold and then I cocoon myself in under the warm blankets I have on my bed. Not here though. I haven’t even gotten underneath the sheets at all. I lay on my bed and throw a soft towel over me at night time. Before this excursion I would have never thought I could sleep in heat like this. I have gotten used to it now and may even miss it when I go back home.

The first full day was a busy one for my son and I. We had to change our money into pesos and then go grocery shopping. The house where we are staying at has a kitchen and the few times we have eaten at a restaurant we have not been that impressed, so I have been the chef. I made spaghetti in the evening of our first full day here and left the kitchen a complete mess. I was exhausted and went to bed but knew that I would have to clean up the kitchen the next day.

The next day we took a horseback ride up a mountain to see a spectacular waterfall and went swimming in the pond where the waterfall had cascaded down. By the time we got home I was psyched to clean up the kitchen and clean it I did. It was such a good feeling and I even put all of the dishes away in the cabinets, which had not been done when we arrived.

Wouldn’t you know it, the next day was the day when the maids arrived unexpectedly. I was so thrilled that they didn’t have to stay long, they just changed the linens and then swept. Those stinkers took the broom with them so that I couldn’t sweep anymore. I guess they were trying as hard as they could to make sure I relaxed on this vacation. I still try very hard to keep the kitchen clean, so as not to attract a family reunion for every fly on the island, but I am without a broom so no sweeping for me.

When I was thinking of this and the mantra about leaving a place cleaner than you found it I thought it was a bit sad that many times we think to leave a place cleaner than we find it but don’t treat people in the same way. I was thinking about this today and I realized that leaving a place cleaner than you found it is showing respect for those who would have to clean it once you left. So it is not only caring about material possessions but also about people.

There is really no way for a mere human to leave a person cleaner than we found them. However, Jesus, God’s Son had a reputation for cleansing people from their sin. In fact, it is reported that “Though your sins be like scarlet, they shall be white as snow, Though they are red like Crimson, they shall be like wool. Isaiah 1:18. That is definitely leaving a person cleaner than what they were before.

VACATION

I am currently on top of a mountain looking out onto the ocean. I am on vacation in the Dominican Republic with one of my sons. I rented a house which has an ocean view and it is the most lovely spot.

I have been surprised by many things while on this trip. I have seen very few cars. Most people use scooters or motorcycles to get places. Unlike America, there has been no accidents. Maybe that is why very few people wear helmets.

In the evening we have driven through Las Terrenas and the streets are littered with people. It is a very social atmosphere when the sun goes down, as it is also during the day. People rarely go into their houses because most of the houses are mere shacks.

There are very few mosquitoes here, a few flies and a couple of insects that look like Crickets on steroids. The fruit gnats are abundant if you leave your fruit out on the counter but overall there is little annoyance from the insects.

As I think about my life back home I realize I work hard most of the day and occasionally talk to my neighbors if we happen to be outside at the same time. The majority of days after interacting with people in my job I hide away in my house and isolate myself from others.

I was talking to my sister about this some time ago. We said how interesting it was that most Americans disappear inside houses at the end of the work day. In the Dominican Republic it seems as if the drum of life keeps beating well after the sun sets.

This may be because in America we have television, internet and nice houses. We disengage from people to go watch other people we don’t know on a black box called Television. We sit at a computer and engage in social media tweeting and messaging every person we care about, but seldom venture out to see them. I spend hours upon hours at my home cleaning it, trying to make it look inviting for people who never come to visit.

Here in the Dominican I am staying in a house made of concrete. There are no floors to vacuum and no wood to polish. I am not trying to bash Americans but I will say this; staying in the Dominican Republic for a week has been liberating and delightful. It has cleared my mind and given me much needed focus. I have realized more than ever the trappings that I have allowed in my life as I have pursued the idol of materialism. This has been a wonderful vacation and I am dreading the moment I will have to leave.

WAS IT WORTH IT?

I have been a single mother since my kids were toddlers. There were many nights I went to bed exhausted. There were other times that I could not get them to sit still, so that they could eat the home cooked meal I had made for them. Yet other times I had to referee fights. Many nights I checked their school papers. There were times I wondered if all of my hard work was worth it.

I think it was and I would like to encourage all single parents to keep trying to do your very best. Believe me, I know it is exhausting but it is so very important.

This weekend my daughter and her boyfriend and my son from Louisiana and his girlfriend were at my house for dinner on Saturday night. I worked so hard all day preparing the dinner. We had brisket, baked beans, corn on the cob, dinner rolls, a gourmet potato casserole and a delicious dessert. Throughout the dinner there was a lot of laughter and sharing and when it was done I was so very pleased. It was a fabulous night and will be a very cherished memory. I just love having my kids over and cooking for them has always brought me joy.

Then I thought about God and how I am His daughter. He has protected me from storms. He has stood by me when I have been slandered and lied about by very wicked people. He has provided for my children and I, every single day of our lives. He has blessed me and those I love with good health.

I wonder sometimes what I am worth to Him? The realization is astounding. I am worth the sacrifice of His one and only Son. Nothing, absolutely nothing, I have done as a single mother even remotely touches the depth of that love.

GOD BLESS YOU

I have always been one to give to the homeless if I had extra money to give. I have sometimes given when I didn’t have extra because I always felt like I had more than they had, even if I didn’t have enough to cover my bills. Almost every time I have given money to the homeless they have spoken God’s blessing over me. I usually drive away thinking if God needs to bless anyone, it is them, not me. I couldn’t ever figure that out until today.

Recently I have been struggling financially. The job that I am working at is not giving me enough of a caseload to pay my bills. I was promised I would have a full time position and the job has not provided what was promised. I am putting my feelers out for other opportunities but as I do that, I am searching God for what I am to learn from this.

I have a sense that I am to be thankful for what I do have and not yearn for what I don’t have.
I may not have a well paying job but what I do have is friends and family that are amazing. They help out in whatever way they can. Today I went to Petsmart to buy some food for my animals. A friend of mine had given me some coupons. I spent only 72$ but saved 53$ with all of the coupons and discounts I racked up. I was so excited that I called that friend to thank him. He said he was sorry that he couldn’t do more to help me out. I said,”Are you kidding me? I think that is awesome that I saved 53$!”

As I have gone through this lean financial time I am learning to value the things which can not be bought. I value the wonderful relationship I have with each of my children. I call my parents almost every day to make sure they are alright. I value the friends I have and thank God for each and every dear friend which He has blessed me with. I thank God for my neighbors and I am praying for the new neighbors who will be moving in beside me soon. I thank God that my children are healthy and give to God the difficulties I am facing in my health, believing for healing or financial blessings to address these difficulties.

I have realized that when you don’t have much, every thing that is given to you, to bless you, is huge. When you have a lot nothing really impresses you. Maybe God did need to bless me with understanding of the thankfulness I have felt when I have given money to the homeless. I understand now. I am not homeless but I am struggling and of all things I am thankful for, the greatest is God’s son. His life and salvation are free and He is willing to give it to anyone who believes in Him.

LEAVING THE LIGHT ON

My daughter moved back in with me a couple of years ago. The first year and a half were really tough. We were both on edge about our careers and had several verbal exchanges which left me in tears. I kept praying about it because I had allowed her to move back in due to a Bible verse I had run across which said you should not hide from your relatives when they need help.

I must admit there were several times I shoved that Bible verse back into God’s face and told him he needed to do something in my daughter’s heart. I had done what His word has said for me to do so it was about time He did something about her attitude. I waited for a change and I waited some more. Last year the change started occurring. I learned that to talk to my daughter in the morning was not a very smart idea. She learned that she didn’t need to bite my head off every time I asked her a question.

The other night I was already in bed when she came home and she walked in my room and started me giggling with her antics. That night, as on several other nights, she left the stairway light on as she made her way to her bedroom. I had told her before not to do that and had impressed upon her that my income did not provide for unnecessary use of electricity.

She had told me she wouldn’t do it again and now, here she was doing it again. I was a bit perturbed. I considered yelling up at her to have her come and turn it off but then a thought crossed my mind. “If something ever happened to that dear sweet child of mine, I would pay a million bucks just to have her leave that light on again.”

So I didn’t yell at her or correct her. I just got up with a smile on my face and thought, “At least I know she is home because she always leaves a light on when she is home.” Then I turned the light off and went to bed thanking God for my daughter, who leaves a light on in my home and who can touch my heart with the light of her love.


RACE AND COLOR

I was listening to the news while traveling back from Louisiana. I heard something which saddened me. An African American woman and her seven year old son were shot in Baltimore. There were shot by someone of their own race and the person wasn’t a cop so it won’t make national headlines. This was a mother and her child though, Freddie Gray, was a guy who had 23 convictions at the time of his untimely death. So the convict becomes the hero and a wonderful mother who is out on a walk with her son gets forgotten? Seems kind of messed up.

On the way back home, I stopped at a gas station to get a snack and some Red Bull because my arthritis was acting up. That drink sometimes helps me when my bones are screaming in pain. It took forever and a day for the clerk to get to me. As I stood in line I was rehearsing the list of things I needed to do once I got home. I began to think that I may just go to bed and do the things tomorrow. The clerk was taking forever. I thought about just leaving and going to another gas station to buy my snacks. There were two men in front of me. Both of them were African American and I was sure that they had places to go also. I began fidgeting.

Finally the first man was taken care of and stepped aside. Then the most unusual thing happened. The second guy stepped aside and said, “Go ahead, Sweetheart.” I have been called Sweetheart by quite a few people but it didn’t make the impact that this man did on me. He was a complete stranger, I had not done anything for him at all and he was African American. My heart melted into a big puddle on the floor of that gas station but that wasn’t the end of my heart melting.

As I got into my car I saw the most adorable little African American boy sitting in a truck, peeking over the door. I could only see his eyes and cheeks. He was beyond cute. I smiled at him and he smiled at me. Then he waved and I waved at him, then blew him a kiss. He waved one more time and I waved back and drove away.

I got to thinking about all of the racial tension in this country. I don’t understand racism, never have. I can’t understand why someone would disrespect someone just because they are a different color. I also don’t understand why that mother and her seven year old son were murdered by someone who was their same race.

I know that something, somewhere needs to change. I started thinking. What if there was a program where cops could be a big brother or sister to someone of a different color? If a white cop became a big brother to a cute little boy peeking out the window of a pickup truck, the cop may think twice about pulling a gun on a grown up black man. The cop may be led to try and change the environment that his little black brother lives in and start to help his neighborhood rebuild.

When I think of that little adorable child sitting in that truck I realized that I was looking to him for cues. I smiled at him first and then searched his face until I saw the smile return. He waved first, then I waved back. I didn’t know if he had ever been blown a kiss but I did it anyway, kind of half-hearted, because I didn’t want to appear creepy. Then he waved again and I waved back.

I realized that something had changed within me. Due to all of the racial tension in America I was fearful of offending the little guy. A few years ago I would have waved first.

Book Review – WALK TO BEAUTIFUL

The book popped up on my kindle. I don’t know why. I don’t have a real interest in country music or country music stars and this book is about a country music star. It was more than that though. This book was also about a kid who had been abandoned and abused and thrown around from one home to another before God placed him in a loving home.

The book is extremely well written. Although Jimmy Wayne has been through what could be considered hell, I did not detect any plea for self pity. I detected instead, a very strong will to survive and a desire to help others find love so that they may survive also.

Recently I read a book which I have not mentioned on this blog because it was narcissistic in nature and I refuse to promote books which are based on self absorption. Jimmy Wayne had every right to make this book all about himself. He had had a very tough upbringing. He also could have claimed to be a self made man. He could have written a book about how great he was for overcoming a mother who allowed him to be abused and abandoned him.

He didn’t though. He did accurately reflect how horrid his childhood had been but I never detected any bitterness. I just detected a young boy who desperately desired love. He finally found it when he met an elderly lady who allowed him to move in with her and her husband. This sweet woman nurtured him as his mother should have.

The thing that amazes me most about this book is that this young man seems so full of life and love when he was not shown love by either his mother or father. He talks a lot about God but doesn’t seem preachy. Instead he seems real.

He also makes a case for extending foster care for children who are over 18 at least until they are 21 years of age. That is a start, but I also think that children in foster care could benefit from a mentor and possibly a scholarship fund. There is mention of a mentoring program towards the end of the book. It is important that all children, including foster children, are provided the right tools to succeed in life.

If you have a heart for children I would suggest you buy this book. I hope it touches your heart as it has touched mine. The book is entitled “Walk to Beautiful” and it is by Jimmy Wayne. It is well worth the read.