It was 59 degrees – a little windy and overcast but beautiful weather for a long walk. Mr Love had sent me something and I decided to walk to go get it. As usual walking gives me the kind of sensory scope that breathes life into an otherwise ordinary day. As I began to look at the vegetation around me, I am reminded again about seasons. It is winter here, but it is evident that spring is announcing her inevitable arrival, not too long from now. My mind began to vibrate with excitement as creative juices started to flow. I stopped for a couple of minutes to make a note in my phone. Here it is.
As long as the earth remains, seed time and harvest will always be a universal law that exists. Seed time and harvest are activities that happen within certain seasons. They herald preparation of the soil, sowing, and reaping. They signal specific times when everything either looks dormant or alive.
Winter can be very overpowering, but at an appointed time, Spring pushes her way through. And she doesn’t just push through. She shows off. She can’t help it. But there is no denying that winter provided everything possible for Spring to be as indisputably beautiful as she is. Winter provides the perfect canvas which highlights all the brilliant sights and sounds of Spring. So don’t hate on Winter. He is just a conduit. A facilitator for all that Springs forth.
Now as this relates to us. Please don’t try to measure your life or seasons by anyone else’s yardstick. How do you know what they’ve had to endure in their Winter or how much they’ve lost because of it? Do you even know how hard they’ve had to hold on just to make it to Spring?
The other thing is, it depends on where you are, your winter or spring may come sooner or last longer. There are so many variables that can affect the changing of the seasons. My encouragement to you is, mind your own seasons. Learn from what you are experiencing and don’t forget to pay it forward. Everyone’s experience is different because we are different. But I am quite sure that there are some nuggets that you can unearth from my experiences that can and will inform how you live through your seasons and vice versa.
Once upon a time there was someone that I called my ‘best friend’, but I do not know if the feeling was mutual. Maybe in word, but judging from my experience, not heart. My wakeup call came when I found out from someone else, what was her alleged life situation at the time. It was something big. Something life-changing and yet, as close as we were, I did not hear it from her. I had to ask her about it, because that’s how I am with friends. Of course when confronted she admitted it was so, but from that day my view of our friendship was altered, permanently.
After that experience, I have been very careful who I give the title of ‘friend’ to. As a matter of fact, I have not endowed the title ‘best friend’ to anyone since then. From that time until now, I have formulated some critera that I use as markers to give me an idea of who I am dealing with, give or take a few.
Is that person willing to share their life experiences, within reason, with me as I do with them?
Are they willing to gently tell me the truth even if it hurts?
If they ask me a question, and I respond, do they accept my answer, or do they try to change my mind in a way that seems pushy?
Are they always argumentative no matter the subject being raised or discussed?
Do I always feel like I need to justify everything I do or say?
Are they always secretly competing with me?
Do they give the appearance that life with them is perfect, while punching holes in mines and everyone else’s?
Are they supportive of my dreams and aspirations or do they find cause to be critical?
Do I feel comfortable being myself in their presence or do I always feel pressured to be someone else?
Do they covertly try to make me feel inferior to them?
Do they cover me in public while confronting my wrong in private, or do they expose my shame for the world to see.
As the Bible said, and I think it goes without saying that we should always endeavour to do unto others as we would like them to do unto us. (Matthew 7:12)
So, here I am today at 51 and I choose my affiliations very carefully. As a matter of fact, if after the ‘getting to know you phase’ I find that any two or three of the above markers are evident, I will go into self-preservation mode. Life is too short to always be trying to justify yourself and your thoughts to others. It is certainly too short to always be struggling to make a friendship work.
Jesus said in John 14:27, “Peace I leave with you, mypeace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” I try to maintain that peace as much as possible and that means choosing my friends wisely. As a matter of fact, I let the God who knows every person’s heart, choose my friends for me.
And let us always bear this in mind as well, “A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother.” (Proverbs 18:24)
Mastering moderation means being able to eat, drink and exercise without taking an all or nothing approach –Simone Samuels Wellness
That saying also applies to the application of makeup as well. I remember growing up as the daughter of a Pentecostal pastor and we weren’t allowed to wear makeup. I even remember being put on the back bench for six months for a combination of shaping my own eyebrows and lying to a nosey church member, when asked about it. Of course, she told my father. Yes, she did. She thought it her Christian duty to let my father know. Bless her heart! I have forgiven her but it’s one story I will never forget.
Anyway, although I love God as much as the next person, I am a girly-girl and I also love fashion and looking good. So, as a young girl I painted my nails with ‘yellow-dad’ (a yellow vine that grows wild in the islands) and I bought Corn silk powder to tame my combination skin. In other words, my appearance was important to me and there is nothing wrong with that. Being a Christian does not mean that you have to look unattractive. Look at the Garden that God placed us in. He got very creative with his palette – colors, tones, shades. I take my cue from Him.
Today, as a maturing woman, I still pay attention to my appearance – my hair, my face, my body – but I’ve always done and will continue to do so in moderation. As you get older you grow hair in places you don’t want to and lose hair from places you would prefer not to. Therefore, I find myself paying a little more attention to my eyebrows and my eye lids. And that’s why I found myself perusing videos on YouTube. I’m happy to say that I found one that really spoke my language of moderation and I thought I’d share it with you. Here goes…https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WAElS6KCaLM&t=656s
Dimma Umeh is beautiful, knowledgeable and funny all at the same time. Her demonstration is simple enough for the novice and I must say that I did not feel overwhelmed at anytime. Take a look and let me know. Please share, comment and like.
In this post I am referring to makeup for everyday wear.
About a month ago I had a dream. I was at this function and there was someone on the platform getting ready to share. I was busy talking with the person sitting next to me, when I realised that the individual that was going to share was bending down close to me. They got my attention and whispered in my ear, ‘You are peculiar’. Other things were said to qualify that statement, but that is all I remember. I awoke out of sleep feeling really affected by the dream and the statement. It has stuck with me until today. What’s more interesting is that I believe it. I am Peculiar.
As a child and teenager, I was called proud. As an adult I’ve been called anti-social. All by people who did not know enough about me to make those statements. Some even grew up with me but didn’t appreciate our differences enough to accept who I was. But every life has a backstory. And before we go placing labels on others, if it’s so important to label, we should find out why someone might be the way that they are.
Additionally, we should not let the opinions of another person colour our opinion of someone we do not know. I have always operated by the Modus Operandi, “I hear what you say about that person, but I will get to know them based on their own merit” – if it becomes necessary to create a relationship with them. Just maybe, I may come away with a different perspective than you did.
So back to me being peculiar. When I got over the emotional impact of the dream, I settled down and agreed that I am peculiar, in more ways than one. As a teenager I can remember not wanting to be or look like anyone else. It went as far as my fashion sense. I would wear two socks of different colours because it expressed how I felt at that moment. And I didn’t care what anyone else thought of or felt about it.
I also remember my mom buying a dress for my valedictory service. It was a beautiful white dress made of a floral-patterned material. To add some pizzazz to it, my mom sew beads to the bodice. If by chance anyone else came with the same dress, it wouldn’t actually be the same because she had altered it just for me. So my mom as well contributed to my propensity to be different.
Today, even though wearing our hair natural has become a trend, I know it’s something I struggled with for years. The struggle was not with myself, but the people around me who didn’t particularly like the look of natural hair. I wanted to appear attractive to them, so I went along with their desires for ‘my hair’.
Not long ago at my 50th birthday party, my sister/friend created a crossword puzzle as one of the fun activities for the attendees to do. One of the clues alluded to the way I prefer to wear my hair. And the answer was of course, ‘natural’. I smiled because up until then, although I had not pushed the envelope as hard as I should have about my preference, it was the truth. That moment planted an indelible seed of discontent and determination about the change I was going to make.
As a matter of fact, what my friends and family didn’t know is that in that moment of what they thought was a fun activity, I had already begun the transition to my natural ‘creps’, which by the way are beautiful. The question in the game was only confirmation that I was on the right path. After all, being in my 50’s means that by now I should know what I want and not be afraid to express it, right? It’s a moment of do or die. I’m already on the other side of my ‘three-score and ten and by reason of health, four-score days’ allotment of life. So might as well get on with living a life that I’m happy to live. Don’t you agree?
Recently I was looking at some pictures, and I found one taken as far back as 2013, which was the first time I did the big chop and decided to wear my hair natural. The old adage, “if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again’ comes to mind, as this would be the third time that I’m attempting to go back to my natural roots, and by George (sorry brother) this time I’m sticking with it.
I don’t mind being peculiar. It means that I am one who swims against the current. It means I don’t especially care what people think about me. It means that I may not have a large entourage because people generally like to go with the flow. It also means that I prefer to walk the narrow road that leads to a narrow gate that many don’t know eventually opens into a large field. A field of freedom with room to grow and space to soar. And I’m all for that.
As a matter of fact, we who are believers are called peculiar in 1 Peter 2:9-10, “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light; Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy. Praise the Lord!
Peculiar in the Merriam-Webster dictionary means different from the usual or normal. Other words associated with someone or something being peculiar are special, particular, odd, curious, eccentric, unusual, crazy, quirky, weird, to name a few. It means that you are not normal by the standards of the person or criteria describing you.
For me it also means that I’m not common, and that my friend is how I would like to classify myself. I may appear quirky or eccentric to you, but I am cherished and special to the One who loves me most. His thoughts are all I care about. As a matter of fact, He is responsible for who I am today, therefore my only concern is that He is daily pleased with who I am becoming.
Peculiar begets peculiar. Who wants to join me in standing out?
“When yuh see yuh neighbour house on fire wet yours”. “Who have cocoa in the sun should look fuh de rain”. These are sayings that my mom would repeat if we as children would come home with a story about someone else. She was not one to encourage discussions (gossip) about other people, nor would she talk about others in the presence of her children.
Now as an adult I understand what she was saying. We all have our issues. If it’s not one thing, it’s the next. No life is perfect. Every person struggles with something. Every family wrangle with their own issues. Therefore, the more time we spend looking at or talking about other people’s business, is the less time we have resolving our own issues. If we spend our time looking at someone else’s pot, most likely our own pot will boil over or burn.
This year I celebrated my birthday, Christmas and the dawning of a new decade and new year in beautiful Anguilla. I did so with family and friends – and it felt good. It felt right. I remember washing dishes on the last day of 2019 thinking about the changes that had taken place in my heart and life over the last eighteen months. And how at that moment I was happy that I had taken the time away to make the necessary adjustments to get to the place where I was comfortable in my own skin.
It took time. It required me to mind my own business. It required me to do my own personal work which brings me to the title of this blog. I believe that this year God is calling us to ‘huddle’. Huddle is a term used in American football where the players all come off the field, form somewhat of a circle and literally put their heads together. They do that to
Motivate one another
Take a break from the game to recover
Strategize for the next play
Regroup personally and collectively
Establish unity in purpose
I think that we can benefit much from this practice both personally and relationally. Too many persons are talking of ‘burn out’. Too many families are disintegrating because our focus is off. Instead of trying to impress our loved ones, we are ‘running down’ life to impress the public who really don’t care. Instead of ‘bringing the game home’, we take it to the streets. Instead of internalizing our efforts, we externalize, all the while investing our time and energies in things and people that do not add value to our lives.
I’ve come to realize that anything worth having is worth fighting for and at the end of the day the family we are a part of is not a mistake. Our family is all we have, and that same family is what agitates us to become who we need to be. Iron sharpens iron. The rocks closest to the surf are the smoothest because of the constant bashing of the waves on them and against each other. We collect them because they are beautiful, not realising what they went through to become as attractive as they are.
For this new year, why not take the time to determine what’s really important to you. Many of us don’t give our partners the credit for holding us down. We don’t realize that if they were not ‘having our backs’, making sacrifices and supporting us, we couldn’t do or be who we are in public. Why not give yourself and your relationships the necessary attention by calling for a ‘huddle’? Why not take the time to mind what is important to you, if in fact it is important to you?
In essence, call your players off the field and huddle for a bit. The outcome of the game depends on your commitment to coming up with winning plays. The success of the game depends on your desire to win. And may I suggest that a commitment to success would quite frankly and without apology sound something like this.
Adults: Mind yourself. Mind your significant other if you have one. Mind your own marriage. Mind your own business. Mind your own purpose (reason for breathing) and most of all, mind your relationship with God.
Youth and children: Mind yourself. Mind your parents or guardians – in most cases they want what’s best for you. Mind your education. Mind your talents and giftings. Mind your future. Most of all, mind your relationship with God.
In 2020, bring it home. A winner at home is a winner in the marketplace and you can take that to the bank.
King Solomon, the wisest man that ever lived eloquently states in Proverbs 22:1, “A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving favour rather than silver and gold.”
A name. What’s in a name and why is it so important to have a ‘good’ name? Have you ever seriously thought about that? What about your name? Is there any significance to your name? And what about all the other names that people call you or that you answer to? Do they bear any significance/resemblance to who you are or who you are becoming?
And you’re asking, “Susan where are you going with these questions on this good first Friday in December 2019”. Well, I’ll tell you and then you can decide whether what I’ve said warrants further consideration.
I was ‘minding my own business’ on Facebook when I came across Ms Gabrielle Leonard of Events and Marketing Studio. She was talking about making a personal name change earlier when she had just started her business. I pulled the brakes on my browsing because I was like, “What name change is Gabrielle talking about now?”. I only know her as Gabrielle. So, my interest was piqued, and I continued to watch.
You see, I knew Gabrielle as a little girl in the British Virgin Islands and as I said before I only knew her as Gabrielle. Every time I see her now, I marvel at what an accomplished woman she has developed into. As a matter of fact, in 2018 when I began to seriously think about rebranding and leveling up ‘my business’ (which is still a work in progress), I hit Gabrielle up. We caught up and I left the conversation feeling like I had let the ball drop, but that there was still hope. She provided me with the name of one of her clients who is a book coach and the rest is history. History that was made on 17th July, 2019 – the date my first book, A Helper Suitable was published.
In essence, Gabrielle was saying that it was necessary for her to change her name at that time in her life, because she was changing. She had done some personal work, and in order for her life, both personal and professional, to reflect the inner changes, she needed to change her name. You might be saying that it doesn’t take all of that, but I am inclined to agree with her one hundred percent.
I signed off from her broadcast and my curious nature got the better of me, so I consulted Google for the meaning of Gabrielle. Most of the results agreed that Gabrielle means “God Is My Strength” and her testimony confirms that she believes that. Now why wouldn’t anyone want that empowering statement to be pronounced over them every day?
Before I continue though, I would like to say emphatically that I believe that every name, be it a common or proper name, has significance. Which brings the discussion to me. I was christened E Susanna Best, and everyone either called me Susan or Susie from preschool up to Primary School. I was happy with the name Susanna except when the village teasers, who were also school mates, would sing ‘Oh Susanna, don’t you cry for me’ which would result in me crying anyway…all the way home.
And then it all changed when I entered Secondary School. All of a sudden, I had to be called by my names as they appeared on my birth certificate and in the order as they appeared. I was not happy because, again the school children told me that my name, which I thought was my second name, was an old lady’s name.
I became an adult and would hide my first name. That was until I needed something to hold on to. Something to help me to feel good about myself. Therefore, in a moment of desperation, I researched both my names and found out that the meanings were both beautiful and empowering. That was the beginning of me reversing in my mind and my disposition all the negative things that I had come to believe about myself.
The thing is, I knew that names were significant, so I was very careful about the names that I gave my son. Yet I didn’t apply the same philosophy to myself until the day I needed to believe something good about myself. I felt that knowing what my names meant would give me some kind of impetus to be.
So, for those who are wondering, my names as they appear on my original birth certificate are Eunice Susanna Best. I later applied for a name change and switched them around to Susanna Eunice Best. I did that because I love the sound of Susanna and it is what most people have called me up until now. Well they actually call me a derivative of Susanna, which is Susan.
For as long as I can remember myself, I have loved flowers. We would be walking to church and I would stop to smell the flowers that we would pass on the way – scented or unscented – it didn’t matter. I’m in my middle age and I still do that. Every time I smell a flower, I can hear my mom saying, “one of these days you’re gonna inhale a bug’, to which I would smile of course.
Both my names are Biblical. Susanna was a wealthy woman who took care of Jesus and his disciples when they came through her town; and Eunice was a faithful woman of God and Timothy’s mother. Susanna means ‘lily’ or ‘rose’. A flower that loves flowers. Did you see that? Go figure. Eunice means ‘good victory’, ‘joyous victory’, or ‘she conquers’. And ‘Best’? Don’t get me started on how it took me all of 50 years to embrace what it means to have a surname like that. But that’s a discussion for another time.
Where I sit today, I have one regret, and it is, that I had not allowed more people to call me by my first name. I most likely would have experienced more victories in my life, where I’ve seen failures. Plus, it would have over time, in a shorter amount of time, helped me to recognize the indomitable soul that I am. But I’m good. I have come to embrace both my names and Eunice actually sounds beautiful when it’s pronounced by someone who speaks Spanish. So, call me Eunice as much as you like. Smile
Which brings me to the crux of the matter. Would you agree with me that words have life and that names are words? Yes. Therefore, if names are words and words have life, then whenever your name is called, a pronouncement is made. In the same token, if you are called by a negative, common word, that person is making a pronouncement over you, especially if you accept it or just shrug it off as people being people. Note that once its pronounced and released into the air, it’s been given life unless you reject it immediately.
According to Joyce E A Russell, a contributor to The Washington Post, in her article entitled Career Coach: The Power of Using a Name, “A person’s name is the greatest connection to their own identity and individuality. Some might say it is the most important word in the world to that person. It is the one way we can easily get someone’s attention. It is a sign of courtesy and a way of recognizing them”.
Pssst! Yes you. Tell me. Why would you answer to a name that does not resonate with who you are or where you want to go? Why would you answer to ‘bad’, ‘crazy’ and some of the other really unsavory words that I hear people calling one another, in jest? Are you really bad or crazy? Is that how you feel about yourself?
What about you parents? Why are you calling your children dumb and stupid? Why are you telling them that they will never amount to anything? Can’t you see that you are reaping the fruit of such pronouncements when your child really begins to behave unruly. Why not take a deep breath when you become angry, calm yourself down and call them what you would really like them to be? It is not easy, but its possible. And practice makes permanent.
Our words are prophetic, or they become self-fulfilling prophecies. Words have life. And since names are words, they hold the ability to create whatever we say. Let us pull the reins on our words today. Let us make better pronouncements over ourselves and our loved ones. Let us accept the goodness of our names and fiercely reject those names that do not reflect who we are or where we are going.
I remember something we used to say as kids when our names would be called so often, we’d get fed-up. “That’s my name. Don’t wear it out”. Well today, I reverse that and say, “Call my name. Wear it out”, because in calling my name you are pronouncing who I am in the world and I endorse that message.
What’s in a name? Everything. Your identity. Your potential. Your future. No amount of money can erase a bad name or the effects of it. Be careful what you allow people to call you. Only answer to who you know you are because it dictates who you become and where you are going.
“A man’s belly shall be satisfied with the fruit of his mouth; and with the increase of his lips shall he be filled. Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof” (Proverbs 18:20-21).
November 29. It is almost winter again! I am prepared!
Presently I live in a warmer climate, but where I am experiences the four seasons as where I was. Around September this year, I realized that it will begin to get chilly very shortly and I began to get really concerned. I had left all of my winter stuff in storage back where I migrated from. To be honest, I was more than concerned. I was becoming frantic in my mind because it was my intention to return and collect my winter duds before the temperature would begin to drop in both places. Granted, where I was coming from had harsher winters than where I had settled. So, the plan was to get back there before it really got uncomfortably cold for me, so that I would be prepared for a much milder winter here.
I returned and what I noticed is that, although it was colder than where I left, I was able to endure it. I was prepared mentally and physically for whatever the temperature would have been. A totally different scenario to last year when it was my first time experiencing minus zero temperatures, hail, storm and snow. But praise God, I survived and even thrived. I pushed through and made it to Spring, Summer, Fall/Autumn and now my second Winter.
Last year, I remember speaking with someone who had lived in that environment for many years, and they wanted to winter in a warmer climate. Ding! That gave me an idea. I was due to make half a century and made plans to celebrate it with my family and friends – in the islands. Yes! Warmth! Sun! Who wouldn’t want that! I would go down to celebrate and stay until winter was over. What a cop out! But how many of you know that God is something else. I called one of my sister-friends and was telling her about how uncomfortable I was and what I was planning to do. She didn’t tell me what to do but she said as gently as she does, ‘on your journey it is best to experience the full circle of the seasons’. She said, ‘if you don’t go through the winter, you will not be able to appreciate the spring and what it has to offer’.
I received what she said, pondered it in my heart and boarded the plane with enough clothes to last for 3 months anyway. I got to the USVI and one day I got into my sister’s car, turned on the radio and this song by Hillsong called Seasons came on the radio and I was floored. I don’t want to spoil the discovery for you by writing the lyrics here, so I’ll advise you to click on the word ‘Seasons’ above and listen for yourself. Suffice it to say, I broke down and began crying because I knew what I had to do. I had never heard the song before, so I knew in that moment that God was saying to me, ‘weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning’. In other words, winter may be uncomfortable right now, but spring is coming.
He is saying the same thing to you as you read this little love note. I know it’s hard right now. There seems to be no end to your discomfort, and you wonder if anybody cares. I’m here to tell you that, I care and most of all God cares. He created the seasons and they all have their purpose. Trust Him. He will carry you through.
Here are a few things I heard God said to tell you.
Stop despising, cursing and minimizing your season. They may not all be God-created, but they are certainly God-ordained/allowed. (Sometimes we enter seasons because of decisions we made in a previous season.)
Embrace the present. As difficult as it may seem, the quicker you surrender to the pressing and the refining process, the more fruitful your understanding will be. There is something to be learned from what you are going through. Ask God to show you.
Prepare for the next season – especially spiritually. (Develop a relationship and prayer life with your Father that will sustain you in any season. Practice putting on your whole armour so that it becomes second nature every day)
Pay It Forward. What you learn was not only for your benefit. Be quick and open to helping someone else. Not because you had a difficult adjustment/time means that everyone else should. My friends dispensed information such as what weight underclothes to buy for the colder months; what is black ice; and that I needed to take vitamin D during the winter because of diminished sunlight etc.
Additionally, this is what I’ve learned as I progressed through the seasons of my life and more so for the last 16 months. What you do not confront, work through, or pass, you are doomed to repeat/revisit. Some people are of the impression that if you don’t acknowledge something, it will go away eventually. I beg to differ because again, there came a time when I had to ‘sit a test’ that I had exempted myself from almost 30 years before. Seasons are cyclical. What you sow in one you will reap in the other. The converse is true. You don’t sow. You can’t reap.
So I was presented with this situation and I recognized it for what it was. I had seen it before and had failed miserably. This time I decided to face it head on. It involved me conversing with someone about a decision I had made, and I was a bit apprehensive because of their personality. But I knew that I had grown. Life had forced me to grow and that growth was reflected spiritually, mentally, and especially relationally where I was no longer as afraid to speak my heart on any matter.
I consulted God about timing and wording, presented myself for the test and I am happy to say that I passed with flying colors. I was now ready to move on to bigger and better and even more difficult circumstances, but I had growth on my side.
This is the benefit of ‘growing through’ your seasons. It might be a case of ‘which comes first – the chicken or the egg’ in terms of when you first realize that your life experiences are seasonal. But wherever you find yourself, recognize it for what it is.
Winters may be dreary, cold, wet and just uncomfortable and yet beautiful. It depends on your perspective. But what is true is that they force you to reevaluate your life and what is important. You have to be more conscious. You have to slow down. You tend to spend more time with the people whose company you value, such as close family or friends and therefore, your communication skills and coping skills are sharpened. Just like the plants, you shed the old and unnecessary to make room for the new and better – and that sometimes also means people.
Spring comes eventually, and literally it speaks of new life. Vegetation takes root and begin to grow having been dormant during the winter months. During the winter you had the time to reevaluate your life and now it’s time to put some of those resolutions into gear. You begin to shed the heavier clothes for lighter ones as you slowly warm up.
Summer brings unabashed warmth and the opportunity to just be fancy free and footloose. Sometimes being too loose to the point where if you are not careful you make decisions that can negatively affect your life for generations. So, in the summer it’s important to enjoy yourself, but you also need to keep in mind that the season will change. What you do in the summer should enhance or positively contribute to your life and not take away from it.
Fall/Autumn is a beautiful time. It’s not too hot and not too cold. The leaves begin to turn those orange, burgundy and gold colors we love to see, as plants and trees begin to grow dormant during this season. Crops are most likely planted between fall and winter and that timespan varies depending on geography, climate and weather conditions. In this season you know that summer is past, but you’ve harvested and have gathered what you need to go through the winter months. It’s in this season that you better be ready, or winter could be harsher for you than it is for others who would have taken steps to prepare.
My coming away from the islands and living in an environment where the seasons are distinct and separate periods of time and function, really brought home to me that we too experience seasons in our lives. It would be to our benefit to adopt this metaphor for life as the Bible says, “While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease” (Genesis 8:22) and “Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise: which having no guide, overseer, or ruler, provideth her meat in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest” (Proverbs 6:6-8). There you have it! From the mouth of the Creator Himself.
Seasons are here to stay. They look differently for each individual, but we will all experience them. Let us stop. Be intentional about our lives. Let us remember that we are here today and may be gone tomorrow. The seeds that we sow, the lessons that we learn are paid forward whether we are conscious or not. Let us be guided accordingly. It makes for, not necessarily easier, but smoother seasonal transitions. Enjoy! Shalom!
“It is not over ‘til the fat lady sings” – Unknown
My version of that saying is that ‘it is not over until God says it’s over’. To be honest, holding on to anything (a marriage, family, friendships, dreams and expectations) can be excruciating especially when everything that you see (sense) signals that it’s not worth it. IT being the energy, the stress, the good wishes and even prayer. Yet we keep on pushing.
Why? Because we tell ourselves, once there is life there is hope and even a glimmer of ‘good’ spurs us to think that there may be better days ahead. So, we hold on. But wait a minute! Aren’t believers called to endure because there is salvation or a prize at the end (Matthew 10:22; Philippians 3:14)? But how do we do that without losing our joy? How do we, like Paul in Romans 5:3-5, glory in tribulation?
In this post I want to address ‘not giving up’ in relationships that look like they are in trouble. How do you keep pushing through in a relationship that by all accounts looks like it’s on its last leg? Do you make decisions based on what you are experiencing or based on a promise that you were given?
Relationships are the backdrop of our lives and when they are good, we feel productive, energized and alive with hope for the future. When they are challenging, they drain us mentally, physically and emotionally. They even drain us to the point where we wonder if investing spiritually makes sense. I’ve been there and I’m still in the trenches, so I know whereof I speak.
Giving up after a battle (long or short) is easy because you can calculate what you have invested against what you have gained or lost. If there is little or nothing to show for your investment, you have all rights to cut your losses and close shop. No one will fault you for that. “At least I tried”, is what you tell yourself. It helps you make it through the day without feeling like a failure.
Let me digress here just for a moment. This is what I’ve learned. Winning or losing has much to do with our perspective – qualitative or quantitative. And some wins take the scenic route. It might be worth your while to hold on for the ride, as rough as it may seem. There is so much to gain/learn even when it seems like you have lost.
Take a smile break here with me. Now back to our regular scheduled programming.
Here it is. It’s the ‘hanging in there’ that takes work. It’s the ‘hanging in there’ that takes a tenacity and a gumption that is super-human. For goodness’ sake, it takes crazy faith, but sometimes even while we are faithing it our focus is shifted from the prize to the pain and we begin to lose heart. Here comes my favorite phrase, “after all, we are only humans, right?
What makes it worst is that we sometimes allow what others think or say to dictate our response to what we are going through. And some people mean well, but I’ve heard that even in a birthing room, empathizing with or feeling for the mother in labour holds up the birthing process. What helps is encouraging her to PUSH and giving her a picture of what awaits at the end of all the hard work and pain. That’s what I’m here for. To give you that PUSH.
My friends, sisters and brothers, there are so many examples in the Word about crazy faith and tenacity in the face of pain and what looked like impossible situations. But what comes to mind as I ponder the resolution of “I’m Not Giving Up” are questions like:
What if the children of Israel had stopped on the 6th day of their prescribed 7-day march and said, well we don’t see any indication of this Jericho wall cracking and falling, so let us just pack it up and go back to our tents? (Joshua 6)
Or, what if Jesus on that pre-crucifixion night had given up in the garden of Gethsemane as he agonized in prayer for the world? (Matthew 26:36-42)
And what about our mothers? Women were created to endure 9 months of discomfort, some at high risks to themselves and their precious cargo. But what if they give/gave up in the middle of labour pangs and decide(d) not to push anymore? Do you get the picture?
As I count down to my year of Grace 5.1, I am compelled to be more honest with myself. I’ve been called determined and until I heard it articulated, I had never looked at myself that way. But truth be told, I am tenacious when I believe in or for something, especially if my cue is coming from my Heavenly Father.
So, I’m standing in the kitchen and I’m thinking about my legacy – what seeds will I sow into my son’s life to the third and fourth generation? What past, present or future strongholds will I break or enforce in his bloodline (DNA) because of a decision I make today. And I heard myself say out loud, “I’m not giving up!” And I can hear you saying, “Why not, Susan?” “You have all the reasons in the world to give up”, …or so you think.
Therefore, if we say that we are children of the King and we follow His lead, then we should allow God to make the pronouncements in our lives, even when the obvious is staring us in our faces. We should allow Him to pronounce the “Yeah” and “Amen” in any situation, because until He does, we aren’t really sure we’ve made the right decision.
Our job is to continue to pray unceasingly for the salvation and deliverance of our spouses, children, families, etc. To listen intently to the voice of God, and to speak words of life against all odds. This may require you to step away from a trying situation for a while to work on yourself and to get a fresh perspective. If you can, nothing is wrong with that. It may require you to say to your partner or family member, we need the help of a professional to sort through our mess, but whatever the case, giving up is not an option.
Don’t get me wrong, there are extreme cases where persons need to just call it quits. I am not talking about those. I am talking about cases where you may have started wrong, but God is able to take what ‘is’, and work it out for your good. Cases where right in the middle of things going right someone may have gotten distracted and lost their way. Don’t give up. Give God scope to work His ‘exceeding abundantly’ miracle.
I don’t know about you, but I am not allowed to give up on my marriage, my family (immediate or extended). I’m not allowed to give up on the people that God has placed in my community. I believe that God has given me a particular kind of grace to endure, so I can only speak for myself. However, if I experience an ‘end’ or a ‘the fat lady has sung’ moment in any relationship, it wouldn’t be because I gave up. It would be because I concede to the All-knowing One, that says, “Susan, this is an Omega moment”.
I always say that my life is not my own, so I don’t have the choice to do whatever I feel because I may have the right to do so. And what people think really does not matter in the bigger scheme of things. I’ll not be guided by my emotions especially if they are contrary to what God says about me. I may look like a fool or sound like a greater fool but I’m subscribing to an institution that God Himself created and sanctions even today. His promises contain the ability to sustain me even in difficult times, so I allow Him to hold me.
And as I wait for His verdict, I will continue to persevere in prayer. I will continue to self-improve – live, love, laugh and grow. I will continue to hope. My holding on or giving up, my fighting or retreating depends on my counsel from and my confidence in a God who is well “able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we (I) ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us (me)”(Ephesians 3:20). He IS the Alpha and the Omega of everything, so it is in my BEST interest to be party to what He is doing, right now and in the future. Otherwise, I don’t have a clue, and it shows. Wouldn’t you join me in repeating this mantra? I’m Not Giving Up!
Welcome! This tour will take some sharp twists and turns, but I urge you to sit back and pay keen attention. There may be something that you can relate to or learn as you traverse through the musings of my mind on the subject of Love.
Loving you is not easy because it goes against my natural reaction to your natural actions toward me. I want to revile again as you have reviled me. I want to treat you as you deserve, because that is the fair thing to do. I strain to do the opposite. Yet I am compelled by something greater than myself to be the bigger person. And it hurts. It’s not fair. I deserve better because I am ‘good’.
Ahhhhhh! Why can’t I be like everyone else? Why do I have to take the high road? Don’t I have the right to fully express myself? To feel and revel in my emotions for just a little bit…before I hear you saying, “You know better than that, so do better”? Or “Your feelings will wreck you if you don’t check them”?
Am I not allowed to be human…for once? No! You are not only human! You are a spirit, with a soul housed in a body. You are empowered to go against the grain and live above what’s natural. You are endued with power to do the supernatural. You are graced with a super-human strength to love the unlovable. “My grace is sufficient for you and my strength is made perfect in your weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9 paraphrased).
Okay. So, it is a new day. I have a new determination…again. I am going to take a deep breath and once again patiently be good to you. I am going to support you even when you find it difficult to support me. I will gladly give you your props, rejoicing with you at every victory and letting the world know how awesome you are. I believe the best about you, covering you in your times of weakness, all the while keeping it real and one hundred behind closed doors. (1 Corinthians 13)
I groan under the weight of such a mandate, but I am encouraged because it was heavy for you too. You followed through on your commitment. You didn’t shift blame nor complained to your Father when the pain got unbearable. You toughed it out and pushed through even when you felt forsaken and alone. You persevered because there was a ‘cause’. I am persuaded to do the same and find comfort because I know you understand.
Feelings? What feelings. I am dead and my life is hidden with Christ in God. My affections are set on things above – not on the beggarly elements of this world. I am a new person and my mind is renewed every day based on the knowledge of Him who created me. I am not malicious, nor do I blaspheme. I may get angry, but I do not sin. Swearing? What is that? (Colossians 3; Ephesians 4:26)
Today I put on this beautiful dress. It is heavy because of all the rare jewels that were painstakingly acquired and sewn onto the fabric. Gems such as mercy, kindness, humility, meekness and patience. Peacefully and with much gratitude I walk through my day forgiving those who hurt me because it is the best thing to do. Love is the foundation garment that I wear. It smooths out all my bumps and holds me accountable to the greatest love of all, Jesus Christ.
And He makes me shine. He puts me on display making all other efforts obsolete and unnecessary. His love for me trumps all. I love Him and aim to please Him which makes it possible for me to love you. I love you!
Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another. (1 John 4:11KJV)
Awhile back I found out that this is indeed true. This might sound gross for some, but my goal is not to offend you. I like to eat healthy for the most part and one of my favourite veggies is asparagus. So, I would eat a whole pack of asparagus and when I would go to the bathroom to urinate, I would get this pungent scent. It happened once, twice and then one time too many.
I got concerned that something was the matter with me, health wise, so I decided to do a little research. Do you know what I discovered? “Asparagus is notorious for making urine smell like sulfur after you eat it. This is because our bodies convert the asparagusic acid it contains into sulfur-containing chemicals. These chemicals leave the body through urine, causing the distinct sulfur smell.” Wow! It’s a good thing I didn’t make an appointment to see the doctor.
Another example relates to the challenge I’ve had with low blood after I started to bear children. The health professionals call it anemia and advised me to eat lots of leafy green vegetables, beets and occasionally meat/beef to build my blood. I don’t particularly like beets but found if I included it in a juice, it would be more palatable. Plus, it helped.
Well, one week I decided to really be vigilant in trying to decrease the frequency of light-headed episodes that I was experiencing. I created juice concoctions that included beets and drank them as much as possible. And what was the result? Red or orange urine. I thought I was dying from internal bleeding. Go figure! The beets came out just as red as it had gone in. I smile at the memory.
What about the effects that food can have on your development? Your growth? For example, I began making my own protein shakes to drink after I worked out. Most of the commercial ones had too much sugar or some other ingredient I couldn’t ingest. One of my versions would include almond butter, unsweetened soymilk, chia seeds, flaxseed, maybe some sunflower seeds, half a banana and strawberries or blueberries. I did that about three days a week for a couple of weeks, and you know what I noticed? My fingernails and hair were noticeably stronger and longer and my skin became smooth like glass.
Interesting stuff, right? But all of this got me thinking about us as human beings in terms of what we consume on a daily basis, outside of food. The songs that we listen to, the literature that we read, what we graze on while surfing social media or even the company that we keep. They all make deposits into our souls (mind/intellect, emotions and will). So my question to you is, what are you feeding on? I think the old computer adage that says, GIGO – garbage in garbage out, applies here. It can also be interpreted, ‘good in, good out’.
Let’s be honest. Sometimes we live and work in toxic environments, or we spend a considerable amount of time around people who swear like sailors, use abusive language or talk nothing with substance (jesting). Maybe you are no longer in a toxic environment but in the past, you were. Whether you are conscious or not, words have life and they attach themselves or they enter your subconscious and before you know it, you are spouting the same things you’ve been around. (See 1 Corinthians 15:33) How do you combat that?
You have a choice. You can either (1) disengage yourself from people whose words or conversations sear your soul, or (2) fill up on good every day so that when you are in an environment that is toxic, there’s no space left for garbage.
Read literature that edifies and motivates you. Watch clean movies, listen to clean music. Refrain from social media pages that showcase filth. Surround yourself with friends and family that feed your soul with good things.
The Bible says in Luke 6:45
“A good man out ofthe good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out ofthe evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for oftheabundance oftheheart his mouth speaketh.”
Our heart is that part of us that no one but God sees, and it is that which drives our actions, our speech, our passions etc. It can either be filled with bad or good. Matthew Henry in his commentary of Luke 6:45 says this and I tend to agree with him.
“The heart is the treasure, and the words and actions are the expenses or produce from that treasure, Luke 6:45. This we had, Matt. 12:34, 35. The reigning love of God and Christ in the heart denominates a man a good man; and it is a good treasure a man may bring forth that which is good. But where the love of the world and the flesh reign there is an evil treasure in the heart, out of which an evil man is continually bringing forth that which is evil; and by what is brought forth you may know what is in the heart, as you may know what is in the vessel, water or wine, by what is drawn out from it, John 2:8. Of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks; what the mouth ordinarily speaks, speaks with relish and delight, generally agrees with what is innermost and uppermost in the heart: He that speaks of the earth is earthly, John 3:31. Not but that a good man may possibly drop a bad word, and a wicked man make use of a good word to serve a bad turn; but, for the most part, the heart is as the words are, vain or serious; it therefore concerns us to get our hearts filled, not only with good, but with abundance of it.”
What we eat either nourishes our bodies or make us sick. Therefore, whatever we are exposed to or absorb on a daily basis have some positive or negative effect on our lives or the lives of others, as we communicate. So, what is it going to be? Are you going to keep saying, “I’m sorry, I didn’t really mean to say that”, or “I was just joking, that’s not what I meant to do”? Oh! Oh! What about these two famous ones? He or she was drunk or angry. They didn’t know or mean what they were saying. Yes, they did or their subconscious did. I firmly believe that whatever a person says when they are angry or drunk is exactly what their mind had been marinating in for a while, and at the first chance of lost inhibitions, it comes out.
So again. What is it going to be? Aren’t you tired of hurting those that you claim to love…with words? Isn’t it time that you begin sowing good seeds that can bring forth a good harvest in the future? Now is your chance. Turn over a new leaf by purging your soul. Go on a fast. Here’s how you can do that.
Quit social media for a specific amount of time – minimum 3 days
If possible, disengage yourself from company that is toxic for your soul (people that you hang with on the regular)
Grab your Bible and reference these scriptures: (Search me, O God, and know my heart…[Psalm 139:23-24]; Create in me a clean heart…[Psalm 51:1-12])
Begin filling up on good, wholesome content – from the Bible, music and literature etc
It is said that it takes 21 days to form a habit and 90 days to create a lifestyle. Take your pick. 21 or 90 days. But I’m sure if you were to report back to me after whichever time period you chose to do this exercise, the report will be a positive one. Will you take the challenge?
Please feel free to comment if there is anything you think I missed on this list.