Sunday, May 10, 2015

Becoming My Mother

My mummy & I, Christmas 2014
I looked in the mirror the other day
And I realized
That slowly I was becoming my mother.
Somehow, her face was being superimposed over mine.
I opened my mouth the other day
And I realized
That my mother's voice was coming from my mouth;
The words and tone were hers, recorded in my voice.
I woke up the other day
And I realized
That becoming my mother wasn't such a bad thing.
My mother is superwoman
She has eyes in the back of her head
And the ability to read my mind.
My mother is a woman of high standards
"If you're going to do it, do it properly" she always says.
She will put me in my place
And push me to reach for the stars.
She's the one who would ask about the other 1%
When I brought home a score of 99 on an exam.
My mother is the embodiment of unconditional love
And my biggest fan.
She is my 4:30am wake-up call so I don't miss a flight
She still buys all my favourite foods when I come home.
My mother is Excel spreadsheets and lasagna
And reading all the instructions in the box.
She is tea in the morning 
(Two cups, and one more in the afternoon, and at night).
My mother is dark skin and curly hair
And singing hymns and reading books
And smiles and laughter (and scary silence when she's mad).
My mother is "If you don't know it, look it up"
She is "Godliness with contentment is great gain."
And "Tomorrow is another day."
And "Don't be sorry, be different."
She is the voice in my head that whispers,
"Keep going"
When I don't think that I'll make it to the end.
My mother is the reason why I can embrace change
Because she always has:
"Never a bad happening" she says.
I looked in the mirror today
And I realized
That if I could be half the woman that my mother is,
I'd be a remarkable woman indeed.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Where my trust is without borders...

As I get ready to start a new chapter of life, I've been learning a lot about trust and about faith. I'm at a time when everything in life is uncertain, or at least, the things that seem to have the greatest impact on my day-to-day life. But although I'm worried on the inside, I have also been (mostly) at peace, knowing that there is a hope and a future out there somewhere, even if I'm anxious to know what that looks like: where will I be living in six months? What will I be doing? What will happen to the friendships and relationships that I've built over these past few years? 

And through all this, I remember these words from Oceans by Hillsong United, which truly capture the prayers of my heart:

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders, let me walk upon the waters, wherever you would call me...

Whenever I hear this song, I always think of standing at the ocean, on the shore with the vastness of the sea before me. I smell the salt and feel the wind and the ocean spray hitting me. And then I hear the voice of the Holy Spirit saying, "Step out, walk."

So I take the first step, and then another, and then a few more. I look back and see the shore fading in the distance as I move away from its safety. But in looking back to see the shore, I've taken my eyes off of Him, the one who leads me, and I stumble, and panic. I cry out, "Lord, save me!" just as Peter did when he took his eyes off Jesus as he walked on water. I turn my eyes back to Him, and I stop flailing and I can walk on water again.

And so I follow Him, across the waters, far away from the shore. I still smell the salt, still feel the wind, and the brush of the ocean spray, but I've left the shore and I am walking into the unknown where my trust has no borders.

That's okay though, because as the shore becomes ever more distant and fades away, so does my fear, being replaced by increasing faith and trust in the One who leads me.

In this, I can be confident: that the One who leads me is always working for my good, and for the good of all those who love him. So who knows? Maybe in six months I'll be living in a new state or country, far away from all that I know and love. As scary as that may seem, that's okay. I'll just keep my eyes above the waves, and on my Saviour.

Be blessed and shine without borders!

Friday, January 23, 2015

27 Verses

It's my birthday! Woot woot!

Last year I did 26 bits, which developed into Biweekly Bits of wisdom that I've been sharing for the past year. For this year, I wanted to do another birthday post, so I decided on 27 verses!

The title is really self-explanatory. For my birthday this year, I've decided to share with you 27 of my favourite Bible verses in pictures! (Feel free to download the ones you like. I made them the right size for facebook/IG.)

These are verses that have challenged me and encouraged me, verses that remind me of who I am and tell me who God is, verses that help me to grow in my walk with Christ.

[Disclaimer: there are a LOT of images in this post, so it may take a while to load!]

Okay, here goes!
That's right, my WHOLE heart.

Psalm 27 - Coincidentally, this is one of my favourite psalms ever! (Can we call it my golden psalm since I'm 27 today?) I really love the entire thing, but instead of making it one big "verse", I've chosen a couple of verses that I love to reflect on.

Oh to see the beauty of the Lord!
And to see this beauty, I seek His face.

God is sovereign over all on the earth and above the earth and under the earth. These next few verses always remind be of both the bigness and the greatness of the God that I serve, and how deserving God is of my devotion.

For the times when I try to make God less than anything in life.

God loves us and calls us as His children. And so we are.

Jesus! The Word made flesh.

People knock the Old Testament, but there is so much wisdom in these books. We learn much about the character of God and the nature of man. We are inspired (or cautioned) by the lives of the people whose stories are told in these books.

Something about this verse just makes me stop and reflect every time I read it.
There is rest in walking in the good way.

Justice. Kindness. Humility. That's what God requires of us.

The Bible also gives us instructions for how to live life as a follower of Christ, both by the example of the men and women who lived in those days, and by the instruction given to God's people by His chosen ones. Here are a few verses that remind me what is important in life.

Hosea is one of my absolute FAVOURITE books of the Bible.
This story of God's redeeming love reminds me of His power and sovereignty

Paul's letters provide so much insight into the Christian walk and the life of the church. We look to his letters for instruction, inspiration, and explanation when it comes to living life in Christ. The next few verses are those from Paul's letters which have stuck out to me the most.

This verse gets me every time: the power of His resurrection and the sharing of His sufferings.

I always say to myself, "Let your words be seasoned with salt, in case you have to eat them."
This is actually part of a much longer section on the marks of the true Christian
(but I ran out of space, lol).

Of course I could not share my fave verses without sharing the ones that have encouraged me time and again. These verses tell of God's promises and His faithfulness to His people.

For the days when I may be losing heart.

It's so interesting that Jesus tells us that we can have peace in Him,
and then that we will face persecution in the world 

Job's story has always inspired me, and reminded me that no purpose of the Lord can be shaken off course

What are some of your favourite verses? Share them in the comments below! And if one of yours is here, feel free to download the graphic!

Be blessed and shine!

This post is linked to Christian Mommy Blogger

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Biweekly Bits #26: Always a New Lesson to Learn

After writing 26 bits, I realized that there is so much I could elaborate on with each of my bits. So I decided to turn them into a biweekly (i.e. fortnightly) series, for the next year.

Every year that you live, there are more lessons to be learned. And I look forward to them, even if they are difficult ones.

I can't believe that 26 is over. Tomorrow, I begin a new year in life, armed with the lessons that I have learned thus far, including lessons learned this past year. And the greatest lesson definitely has been that there is always a new lesson to be learned. As I reflect on this year, I could not have imagined the things that I'd learn about myself, about others, or about life in general.

Some of the lessons learned this year have been hard. Some lessons came after I took the test on the material, as life tends to do. There are a few lessons that are still in progress, and a couple that I'm repeating the course.

Over this year, I've realized that it is important not to take the things in life for granted. It may be opportunities, or people, or relationships. Each of these is valuable, and we should treasure them. People can leave our lives suddenly, situations can change in an instant. I have been encouraged to see the wonderful work of God in everything and every person that He has created, regardless of the circumstance.

I've learned to keep practicing patience and choosing joy, and I've been tested on those lessons a lot this year. I have learned again and again that God is capable of so much more than we could ever dream of, and that God works through us by the power of the Holy Spirit to do good work (and works) here on earth. I've learned that humanity can be the most beautiful and the most ugly thing in the world.

I pray that as I see each new year, I never stop learning lessons from life, even the tough lessons. I pray that you keep learning lessons too, through every situation and circumstance that life throws at you.

 Be blessed and shine in every lesson!

Thursday, January 08, 2015

Biweekly Bits #25: Pick Your Battles

After writing 26 bits, I realized that there is so much I could elaborate on with each of my bits. So I decided to turn them into a biweekly (i.e. fortnightly) series, for the next year.

Pick your battles. Not everything in your life requires that you respond to it. It took pretty much the entire 26 years that I've lived thus far to learn this one. I don't think I'm done with this one either.

This is an ongoing lesson in life, and something that I still struggle with. But through this struggle there are things that I have learned about battles that make it easier for me to take a deep breath and mentally walk away. Here are three things that I've learned about picking my battles:

1. Some battles are not worth your energy.

Once I figured this out, life became much simpler. I'd be expending all of this energy stressing about things that at the end of the day, either didn't matter, or I couldn't control. So now when something irks me and I'm ready to act (or to worry), I mentally take a step back and ask myself "Is this really worth my energy?" And very often, I could conclude that there are other things in life that are much more important than winning a particular argument, or getting my own way, or whatever the situation is. This way, I can save my energy for the things that really matter to me.

2. Some battles are not battles at all.

Another thing that has helped me is to identify which "battles" are actually battles. There are quite a few things that I have fought against in life that didn't need fighting. To be honest, many of these came out of misunderstandings or misinterpretations of a situation. Sometimes we need to listen instead of fight (verbally, physically or otherwise). This has been true both in my interactions with others, and in my relationship with God. There is much to be said about the value of listening carefully, of patience, and of compassion. This helps us to discern whether there is really a need for us to be up in arms about the issue at hand.

3. Some battles are not ours to fight.

This is the hardest one, and there are two ways to look at this. Firstly, if you've ever had a loved one who engages (engaged) in destructive behaviour, this may be a familiar feeling for you. You want what's best for this person, but he or she needs to make their own choices, and live their own life. At some point, you have to admit that the battle at hand belongs to your loved one and not to you. It benefits no-one for you to try to fight that battle for him or her.

The second instance is in situations where God acts on our behalf. Sometimes God says to us, "I got this. Just watch me work." Our job is to have faith that God acts for our good, and that God is able to resolve these battles for us. Sometimes this means that we do not have to act at all, and sometimes it means that we have to act in ways that would not be our first choice of action. The difficulty here is discerning when and what to do in these situations.

Jehoshaphat learned this lesson when he faced battle with Ammon, Moab and Mount Seir all at once He cried out to God saying, "We don't know what to do, but our eyes are on you." to which the Lord replied, "The battle is not for you to fight; take your position, stand still and see the victory of the Lord on your behalf" (2 Chronicles 20:5-17).

I am learning to pick my battles carefully. Our fights take a toll on us, and so we should make sure that they are worth it. Almost always this means taking time to count the cost of doing battle (or not doing battle). This does not mean that we should never fight, but let's make it a point to choose carefully what we fight and when we fight it. Sometimes it seems that some battles in life come our way only to waste our energy so that we cannot endure in those battles that mean everything to us. Let us side-step these distractions and focus on the things that truly are important to us. Let us pray for discernment to know which battles are ours to fight.
Be blessed and shine in battle!

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Hymn-ful Sundays! "Come and Join the Celebration"

The last Hymn-ful Sunday post! It's hard to believe that it's been a year already.

This week's hymn again speaks of the birth of our Saviour Jesus. It is a celebratory hymn written by Valerie Collison and is sung as one of the Christmas/Advent traditions of my home church in Barbados. Valerie Collison is a contemporary hymnwriter and organist from the United Kingdom, and this is one of her most popular compositions.

Come and join the celebration
It's a very special day
Come and share our jubilation
There's a new King born today!

See the shepherds, hurry down to Bethlehem
Gaze in wonder at the Son of God who lay before them:

Wise men journey, led to worship by a star
Kneel in homage, bringing precious gifts from lands afar, so

God is with us! Round the world the message bring.
He is with us! Welcome, all the bells on earth are pealing:

Valerie Collison

Let us celebrate, for God is with us! Let us invite others too, to share in this celebration of Christ. His birth represents for us a new beginning, a chance for new life. It is Jesus that makes every day a special day.

Be blessed and shine in jubilation!

Subscribe to The Journey Deeper by Email

Friday, December 26, 2014

Biweekly Bits #24: Encourage others

After writing 26 bits, I realized that there is so much I could elaborate on with each of my bits. So I decided to turn them into a biweekly (i.e. fortnightly) series, for the next year.

Encourage others. My senior year of college, I was a tutor for students in 100-level biology and chemistry. All of them were students of color, many of them were first-generation students as well, and all were science or pre-health majors, and were struggling in the intro science classes that they were required to take. But we worked hard, and they had practice problems and analogies (and the occasional marker thrown at them for saying foolishness). But I didn't realize until much later that the greatest thing I did for them was that I believed that they could do this whole college thing. One of them said to me one day, "Shanique, sometimes I think you believe in us more than we believe in ourselves." My reply to her was, "Well, someone has to believe in you." They all have either graduated from college, or will graduate this academic year.

Perhaps the biggest, and possibly one of the most overlooked feature of this Christian walk is community. We were never meant to serve Jesus alone. We supposed to be in loving community with each other, bearing one another's burdens, encouraging each other.

In fact, encouragement is one of our biggest motivators to keep walking, even as the road gets tough. We are encouraged by a God who is always faithful. We are encouraged by a Saviour who loved us and conquered death so that we might have abundant life. We are encouraged by a Holy Spirit who comforts us. In the same way, we are encouraged by other men and women, old and young who are walking this walk with us.

Having been encouraged, we should now look to encourage others, not just in words of affirmation and expressions of how much we believe in them, but also in the time we take to work with them to help them achieve their dreams and goals. It is good to say, "I believe that you can do it", but is it not better to walk with you, as you do?

Let us not be afraid to take the risk of investing in others, no matter who they may be. Not because they can give us something in return, but as a manifestation of the Light that fills us and leads us. Encouraging others, both in what we say and what we do, is part of the responsibility that we have in building others up. If we say as is said in 1 John 4, that we love because God first loved us, then what better way to show how we love than with a love that does? With a love that encourages? With a love that builds?

Be blessed and shine in encouragement!

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Hymn-ful Sundays! "Joy to the World"

This week's hymn continues in the Advent trend with a popular hymn by prolific hymnwriter Isaac Watts, who lived in the 17th century in England. Watts wrote many hymns and songs based directly on passages of scripture. This one is based on Psalm 98.

Joy to the world! the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare him room,
And heav'n and nature sing.

Joy to the earth! the Savior reigns!
Let men their songs employ,
While fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains,
Repeat the sounding joy.

No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make his blessings flow
Far as the curse is found.

He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of his righteousness,
And wonders of his love.

Isaac Watts

The coming of Christ is indeed a joyous occasion. Let all the earth rejoice in knowing that we have a Savior who dwells among us, even in the darkest of days. Let us take comfort in knowing that He does indeed rule the world with truth and grace.

Be blessed and shine with joy!

Subscribe to The Journey Deeper by Email

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Hymn-ful Sundays! "Love Came Down at Christmas"

For the third Sunday of Advent I've chosen this short poem by Christina Rossetti which was set to music as a Christmas hymn by several composers. The poem was composed and published late in the 19th century, and was one of many poems composed by this poet. Christina Rossetti began writing poems as a teenager, and religious devotion became a big part of her life after a nervous breakdown which caused her to leave school. Christina became well-known for her poetry, and her siblings were creative as well, one brother becoming a celebrated artist, and the other brother and her sister both becoming writers.

Love came down at Christmas,
Love all lovely, love divine;
Love was born at Christmas,
Star and angels gave the sign.

Worship we the Godhead,
Love incarnate, love divine;
Worship we our Jesus:
But wherewith for sacred sign?

Love shall be our token,
Love shall be yours and love be mine,
Love to God and to all men,
Love for plea and gift and sign.

Christina Rossetti

This simple poem reminds us of the reason that Christ came to earth: as both the Word and the love of God manifested on Earth. The coming of this Love had been fortold for many centuries before He finally came to live among us. And this Love that came down at Christmas came for all, and is available to all. What an encouragement this is! To be reminded that Jesus came as our Saviour and the love of God incarnate.

Be blessed and shine in His Love!

Subscribe to The Journey Deeper by Email

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Biweekly Bits #23: Speaking the Truth, Graciously

After writing 26 bits, I realized that there is so much I could elaborate on with each of my bits. So I decided to turn them into a biweekly (i.e. fortnightly) series, for the next year.

Everything that's true doesn't need to be said. I'm not saying to lie to people, but if the truth isn't constructive (constructive => construct => building up), then is it beneficial right at that moment? For example, when I was in fourth form (~9th grade), one of the girls in my class decided to shorten her school uniform skirt by folding its hem on itself and stitching it up. As a result, her school skirt had a hem of about 5-6 inches, which was quite noticeable, and quite frankly, did not look good. She was also sporting a red weave that day. Self-conscious, (mostly thanks to the snide remarks coming from other students) she asked one of the other girls how she looked. The girl replied, "Your hair looks bad, your skirt looks bad; you on the whole look bad." Was it true? Yes. Did it need to be said? Probably not. Definitely not in that manner. (Also, refer to #17.)

Sometimes we use truth as an excuse to make petty, hurtful comments. You know, the times when we say things that we know will hurt others, but wrap it up with statements like "I'm just speaking the truth" or "Truth hurts."

We've probably all done this a time or two. But the question I have here is, when your motivation for speaking the truth is to tear down others, how helpful is it that your words are true? We forget that although something may be true, it doesn't mean that it needed to be said. Or sometimes, it's that it needs to be said in a different way.

In Colossians 4:8 Paul tells us to let our speech always be gracious and seasoned with salt. [Whenever I read that verse I always whisper to myself "in case I have to eat them."] The way in which we speak to others matters as much as the words that we speak to them. We should strive to speak graciously, constructively, planting our words as seeds of love and compassion. There will be times that we have to speak harsh words, that may hurt others, but when we make gracious speech a practice, those hard words tend to be much better received.

Yes, we should indeed strive for truth, in all things, but let us not taint the truth with our own malicious intent. Let us instead strive for gracious speech, in all things.

Be blessed and shine in truth!

Sunday, December 07, 2014

Hymn-ful Sundays! "Come Thou Long Expected Jesus"

This week's hymn is, once again by Charles Wesley! Charles and his brother John were founders of Methodism in the eighteenth century, and Charles was a prolific hymnwriter, writing many of the great hymns of the faith. This hymn of his is generally sung at Advent, which makes it a wonderful choice for today, the second Sunday of Advent!

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Hymn-ful Sundays! "O Come, O Come Emmanuel"

Today is the first Sunday of Advent, the season in the liturgical tradition which prepares us for the Christmas celebration. Thus for today I have chosen a well-known traditional Advent hymn, which dates from the 12th century. It is said that this hymn has several contributors, so there isn't a single author, but it was translated from Latin by John Mason Neale, an Anglican priest and hymn-writer in the 19th century. The versions of verses vary, especially for the later verses, so I have chosen the version most familiar to me. 

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Biweekly Bits #22: Tell others how much you appreciate them

After writing 26 bits, I realized that there is so much I could elaborate on with each of my bits. So I decided to turn them into a biweekly (i.e. fortnightly) series, for the next year.

Tell people how much you appreciate them. This past year, one of my favorite secondary school teachers passed away quite suddenly. She made a huge impact on my life, and taught me how to dodge markers aimed at my head, as well as the most excellent Spanish (I stopped Spanish after 5th form/10th grade and my senior year of college I took the Spanish placement exam and placed into 300-level Spanish [i.e. almost SIX years later]). I never got to tell her how much I appreciated her, or even that I ended up being a language major in college. How I wish I had.

There's a saying, "Give people their flowers while they're alive." You know, when they can still smell them, when they can appreciate their beauty and feel the love with which they were given.

When you're young, sayings like that don't mean much to you: you think that everyone is going to live forever, yourself included. But then someone passes away suddenly -- an accident, an undiagnosed health condition, a sudden illness, a crime snatches them away from you all too soon. Then you realize, life isn't forever, and someone, anyone could die before you were able to tell them how much they meant to you, how much of an impact they had on your life, or how much you looked up to them. And you're left thinking, If only I'd said "I love you" one more time, or I wish I could have told her how much she meant to me.

When my secondary school Spanish teacher, Mrs. Wilson passed away suddenly last year, I was shocked. She was my mother's peer at school, so she wasn't an old woman. She was vibrant and inspiring. She was a phenomenal teacher and not only taught me some excellent Spanish, but she encouraged me so that I was confident in using the Spanish that I knew, and figuring out how to work around what I didn't know. I never got to tell her how much she inspired and impacted me, or that I'd decided halfway through college to add a language major. (I also still have her copy of Punto por Punto but I never told you that, because I'm still afraid of her.)

I wish that I could tell her what her teaching, both Spanish lessons and life lessons meant to me. I wish I could tell her what an amazing woman she was. But she is already gone, so I'm hoping that she knew. Instead, I will tell the other inspiring, impactful people in my life how much they mean to me, how much I admire them. I encourage you to do the same.

Be blessed and shine with appreciation!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Hymn-ful Sundays! "We Plough the Fields and Scatter"

This week's hymn is one by German poet Matthias Claudius in the late eighteenth century. Matthias' father was a Lutheran pastor, and he originally went to university to study theology, but then changed his course of student to law and languages. He wrote many many poems, several of which were under the name Asmus. His work includes the poem Death and the Maiden, which was used in a composition by Franz Schubert. He turned to writing religious works after a grave illness caused him to return to the faith of his childhood. 

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Hymn-ful Sundays! "Jesus Calls us o'er the Tumult"

Our hymn this week is the work of Cecil Frances Alexander, an Irish nineteenth century hymnwriter and poet. "Fanny" as she was best known, began writing at an early age, and wrote many many poems and hymns, including some well-known children's hymns. In fact, hymns for children was her specialty. This week's hymn is one of the few that she wrote that weren't for children.