Let me preface this post by saying there are many ways and places to serve people whether international or not. Community service and helping others has always been a passion of mine, however it wasn’t until I started going to the church I currently attend that I developed my passion for international mission work. I 100% believe that it is the support of my church that makes it much easier to decide to go.
Recently I not only had the opportunity to go but also lead a trip to Greece for my church, something that honestly scared and pushed me beyond my comfort zone. I‘m an extroverted introvert which means for me that I enjoy people just as much as I desperately need and enjoy my alone time. In the end I am glad that I stepped up to the challenged because my team was amazing and it was a complete blessing serving.
Honestly one reason why I was slightly uncomfortable was that I’ve gone on six international missions trips so far and I’ve had my husband with me for about half of them but the times that I didn’t have him with me I was always the only black person on the trip. This is to be expected since I attend a predominately white church, but being the only black person on the trips can sometimes be exhausting! Trust I get that there just isn’t enough of us there to go on each trip.
However, this past trip for the 1st time, I had the pleasure of having another black female from the church go as well, who happens to be a friend of mine. I have to be honest it made all the difference. This was her first international mission trip and I was excited from the moment she signed up. It can be extremely lonely going on a mission trip where you are the only black person. Even though I don’t believe anyone means any harm there are ALWAYS moments where something is said or done that can be awkward for a person of color. Let me give you a few examples over the years:
I can go on but you get the point. I'm usually always all alone thinking that when I speak up to challenge an idea or comment they just wont get it. They might become offended and/or defensive due to fragility on racial differences, tell me about their one black friend from middle school that has nothing to do with what was said but makes them and not me feel better, and/or probably think I’m just an “Angry black woman” in the group. It usually just backfires so sometimes I just avoid the drama and exhausting conversation altogether for my sanity.
On the flip side, however, I have ALWAYS felt incredibly supported by my white brothers and sisters from my church. They have encouraged, loved, prayed for me, sent me letters of support, and given out of the blue financial blessings towards my trips. I’ve had amazing and much needed conversations about family, race, church and politics with some which breaks down barriers. The amount of love and support they have shown me over the years along with the work to be done has ALWAYS outweighed all moments of awkwardness by a bunch which is why I continue to go. However, to not mention my frustrating moments would eliminate some valid and personal experiences with being black on mission trips though.
This particular trip- I felt that I always had someone who knew exactly how I felt without me saying anything at all and there is a level of comfort in that. Don’t get me wrong I had an amazing time with an amazing group of people that I adore, however I am constantly reminded that we as black people constantly assimilate to navigate a world that truly doesn’t understand us as a mean of survival. This is not something white people have to constantly think about.
One of the conversations my friend and I had was about black people going on international mission trips. She and I both grew up and spent most of our lives in black churches. We both agreed that although there were opportunities for service and support of mission work, the mention of members actually attending international mission trips was rarely if not ever discussed. I honestly didn’t know anyone black who had gone on an international mission trip before age 30, who wasn’t in upper management at the church. To this day I only know about less than maybe ten friends of color who have gone. My friend and I discussed the desire to see more black and white churches partner on this.
In Greece we worked with a large group of people from various African countries (among other countries) and was told by them that they had never had anyone come from America that looked like them outside of us. There was a level of banter, teasing, and looks that we all innately understood no matter the language and economic differences. I remember my sorority line had a service project in Jamaica at a school years ago and we felt completely at home with the students and staff dancing non-stop, laughing, and loving! In Greece, it always felt for my friend and I, that these were OUR people and we wanted to pour into them all we had for that very reason. We might be the only black Americans they get to be with when the teams come so it was time to put in the work with them that we came to do. This was also my exact experience in Haiti as well.
My current church lives and breathes mission work. They currently have over thirty-five trips planned just for 2019. Serving God’s people and bringing Him around the world to people who may never get the chance to hear of Him is important. You are inspired at my church and pushed out of your comfort zone. They also provide amazing ways to support and help you finance your trip so that money is never the reason you dont go. Maybe this makes all the difference because essentially all you need to do is make the decision to go and they support you the rest of the way.
I just want to start a dialogue about why it seems like it is rarely people who look like me who go on international mission trips. Trust me I know it’s not everyone’s desire or calling (it can be scary and stretch you), among many other reasons, but REPRESENTATION MATTERS. If there is anything I can personally say to inspire more black people to just start the conversation around this, then this blog post was worth it.
A copy of my guest blog post from July on my friends website. www.Jaymeleehull.com
Anyone who knows me, knows I'm a serious planner! I love to-do lists and check lists. Seriously highlighting and checking things off my lists as complete brings about a sense of accomplishment in me. I've never been the most spontaneous person. It stresses me out to not have some idea about what is to happen next...
For example, The other day Wesley, my husband, says as he is getting ready, we are going to go to the movies in a little bit. HUH? Wait a minute! All the questions swirling in my mind- what are we going to see, what time does the movie start, are we eating before or after the movie, which theatre are we going to? My husband is much less of a planner and much more of a "we'll figure it out when we get there type of person."
I'm not ridiculous in my expectations, I just would like to know some details prior to so I'm not wasting time. In the end my need for prior planning saved us from standing in a super long line for tickets and we got two great seats that I picked out in advance.
The funny thing that I joke about in God creating me as a planner is that, He rarely allows things to work out exactly the way I have them planned. I think sometimes God looks down at me and chuckles. He may even throw in a "bless her heart she really thinks she's controlling everything."
The other day I met with a friend to just catch up and little did I know that this meeting would leave me more inspired than ever. My friend shared that her husband had lost his job about a month or so prior and it put them in a tight place financially. She said she really had to take on the "Israelites, quail, and mana" thought process. She had to look at each day and say ok mortgage is paid, we have food in the fridge, and all bills that are due by today have been paid- thank you God and leave it at that. The way God sent down enough quail and mana, just enough for each day speaks volumes. My friend had to say I have what I need for today. She mentioned, if she even thought any further than just what that day needed it would stress her completely out. This was a good reminder for the planner in me.
Interestingly enough earlier that same day I met with my mentor for breakfast, and she told me about a skiing trip she and her husband took many years ago. She said it was an incredibly foggy day out on the slopes making it impossible to see all the way down. Her husband said, ok see that spot a little ways down lets just ski to that spot, and then once they made it there they would pick another spot not too far down and ski there until they made it successfully down the whole slope. She said the next day the sky was clear and randomly enough she fell more times trying to go down the clear slope than the one where they could barely see the way.
Two relevant messages in one day for the planner in me- interesting God! Maybe there are times God only gives us just what we need little by little? Could maybe seeing the entire picture cause us to fall or maybe even become cocky and think we don't need his guidance because "we've got this?"
I don't fully know His reasons but I'm glad to know God is THE ultimate planner and His word says,
For I know the plans I have for you- this is the Lord's declaration- plans for your welfare, not for your disaster, to give you a future and a hope. Jeremiah 29:11
My personal experience with cops has been a pleasant one. I don't recall ever being racially profiled or treated poorly by a cop ever. I have spent my childhood growing up on military bases that have been very multicultural so I've been blessed to have friends all my life of many different races and ethnicities.
I can't say that directly to my face I've personally had many negative racially tense experiences as a whole. I definitely deal with the occasional somewhat ignorant comment that comes from a white person who in my opinion just has not been exposed in direct relationship with anyone who was not white, so they just have no clue. Those experiences don't create in me a feeling that the person is in fact a racist, just that they need to get outside of their comfort zones.
I could not imagine my life only having one race of friends and associates. I honestly feel sorry for people who live this way. I've personally learned so much about others through building relationships with people who don't look like me.
Lately it's gotten out of hand all the white people who feel threatened by black people who are just out living life to the point where they are calling the police for no reason. Police are coming out and in some situations arresting black people who have done absolutely nothing wrong. Here are some of my thoughts and/or questions on these situations.
What causes some cops to arrest and some cops to see that it is a bunch a crap, speak up and then leave the situation? Clearly it can't be protocol to arrest everyone who has had the cops called on them, so why is it done in any of these false situations?
Starbucks situation: White manager calls cops on two black men waiting for business partner. When the cops arrived and saw/heard from many witnesses that these men did NOTHING wrong, couldn't they have assessed the situation and then left the guys alone? No crime was committed, so why waste time and money when there are real crimes occurring that could use their attention?
Airbnb situation: White neighbor calls cops on black people leaving a home they rented because they looked suspicious. If this lady truly had good relationships with her neighbors she would have known that the home was used as an Airbnb, she would also have called the neighbor if she felt concerned.
I have all of my neighbors cell phone numbers. We look out for each other's homes and we let each other know when we are going to be out of town and even who may be coming in and out of our homes as well. Seriously though when was the last time someone robbed a home in the middle of the day, coming out of it with packed luggage and suitcases? Did these people really need to be detained??
Yale student situation: White student called cops (at least 2nd time) on black student who fell asleep in study room while writing a paper. I'm still confused to how she even got the cops over to that dorm? Since when are cops coming out because someone is sleep on a college campus? Could they not have deferred her to an RA or staff in the building? How was this a matter for the police exactly? What crime was committed?
Although the cops came and essentially let the black student go, there was a couple of moments in conversation when the cop was like "I'll let you know if you belong in this building," that I wanted to scream no her account that shows payment for her tuition and room and board will let you know that she belongs in that building!
BBQ situation: White lady calls cops on black people BBQing in the park bc of the grill they are using? I just don't have enough time in my life to wait for over two hours for cops to arrive for a situation so DUMB. A complete waste of tax payers money! She felt threatened? Why was she posted up in front of their BBQ for so long then? Just go home, mind your business, and the "threat" is eliminated. No need for you to stand around hovering if you feel unsafe.
Food shop situation: White guys yells, belittles, and threatens to call ICE because Hispanic people were speaking Spanish. So now we can call the cops on people for speaking their native language in public? IGNORANT!
Unfortunately there are many more crazy racial situations happening each day. This is truly getting old! There needs to be more training with police how to handle non-violent (no crime) situations and repercussions given to people who are quick to call the cops on such nonsense.
On a positive note I really appreciate seeing white people stand alongside these black and brown people and call stuff for what it is. If it's wrong it's wrong no matter the skin color and it's going to take us as a people to stand up together for injustice.
Another one of my guest blog posts from February that I’ve added to my blog page! It can also be found and much better presented (in my opinion ;) on www.jaymeleehull.com. Enjoy!!
Some people believe that the opposite of success is failure, but I'd disagree. The journey to success will more than likely include lots of failures along the way while continuing forward on your journey. Perhaps the opposite of success is merely giving up.
It's easy to just give up. It's easy to make excuses to why something won't work. Over the years I've had my share of goals and dreams I sort of let fizzle when I felt overwhelmed and scared of failing.
The cool thing about goals and dreams that you know are God given to you, is that they continue to come back and nag at your soul. Your life doesn't quite feel complete if you don't at least try and go for that dream.
I'm all for watching movies that show the dream, struggle, and victory. This type of story line to me always makes for the most dramatic and emotional experiences. For instance in the movie, The Pursuit of Happyness, I teared up multiple times at all the hardships Chris Gardner (the main character) endured. I read the book and it goes into way more grueling details. Chris' story is even more difficult than an hour and a half movie could ever portray. His journey to making something great out of his life was a long and tiresome process. Don't even get me started on, Cinderella man. I was a big baby, sitting on the edge of my seat that entire movie. What a beautiful story of love, character, and triumph.
As much as I love a good successful dramatic ending, the problem with actually living that dream, struggle, victory is that it's not typically easy nor fun to endure. When you are in the midst of a struggle it's harder to talk about and be excited. However once you've made it over those hurdles it creates the most amazing and encouraging story to be shared.
Anyone who became successful at anything had to start somewhere. Most success stories didn't happen instantly without some blood, sweat, and tears along the way. When you need some encouragement read about the journey of successful people. I love to learn about someone else's journey. For me it puts things in perspective that the journey may not be easy but it's worth it.
Some of my many favorite dream, struggle, victory stories of people who could have easily given up are:
Fail your way forward if necessary because nothing is over until it's over. Don't let age, money, race, education level, background, or whatnot stop you from your goals. Encourage and uplift one another and support each other's differences.
I'll end with two of my favorite scriptures. Although sometimes my emotions and flesh gets the best of me, I do have faith and I know that God's word is the only truth you can stand on whole heartedly.
"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." Philippians 4:13
"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not to your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him and he shall direct your paths." Proverbs 3:5-6
God is the one who will give you the strength to endure and it is definitely better to trust and lean on Him!! I know personally that leaning on my own understanding typically gets me into trouble anyways...
Let's make 2018 a year filled of working towards dreams and goals together!
I can’t remember what grade I was in when I learned what the word oxymoron meant. It was such an interesting concept that just sort of stuck with me, but now describes my random thought processes on so many levels.
I would describe myself as a transparent-complete open book type of person so I’ll just say it-sometimes I’m just a hot mess. My emotions, thoughts, and feelings are all over the place and Wes (my husband of almost thirteen years) has to talk me off the “ledge” and give me some perspective to ALL my crazy. God bless that man!
My melancholy ways and my constant over thinking can get the best of me. So here are some of my conflicting viewpoints that I struggle with:
I’m happy-sad. I have a wonderful husband who is not only awesome and loved by all but also super calming and consistent, which balances me out nicely! I have the cutest and sweetest little girls ever and some of the most loving and supporting friends but there are so many things in this world that makes me sad. Injustice, crime, hatred, poverty, racism, internet trolls, crazy politics- and the list goes on. If I could just stay in my own bubble and not deal with the negative going on in the world around me maybe I could just be happy-happy all the time.
I’m blessed-stressed. Remember when I said above I’m married and I have small children (who btw are aged four and two)...need I really say more?? Whoever thinks marriage is going to be some walk in the park fairytale happily ever after- good luck to you! Oh and those adorable little girls that melt my heart into pieces can turn into whiny, demanding, self-serving monsters in a blink of an eye-(cues video of multiple meltdowns Saturday). God gave me Wes and blessed me to be a mom, something that I longed to be, but seriously this wife and mama is EXHAUSTED and sometimes drowning in all those blessings, feeling incredibly stressed.
I’m skinny-fat. Ok-next cue the eye rolls here for anyone who has seen me. I know I would probably not be considered fat to anyone but let me explain. After two kids I’m loving the extra pounds everywhere else but NOT in my midsection lol As small as I may look- I just don’t feel healthy. Skinny doesn’t mean healthy people! Im a slacker and a snacker and thanks to both my pregnancies, I now have a sweet tooth something I NEVER had before. It also doesn’t help that I don’t enjoy working out.
What’s the protocol? Can I still claim extra “baby weight” four years later? I did JUST have a baby- 2years ago though. ;) I know how I want to look and feel and I’m not there yet! However if I’m honest with myself I haven’t exactly done what’s necessary to fix it. Not to mention, the three bags of dark chocolate almond bark I just bought (it was on sale- I had to!!) although yummy-will not help!
I’m successful-unsuccessful. If anyone knows my life story- I give God the honor and glory from what he has taken me from growing up to where I am today. I honestly should not be this sane (on my good days ;) happy, loving person if I looked like my past! The fact that I am happily married (most of the time-let’s be real...) to the same person and a great mom is a testament to God’s power and grace.
I am a success story hands down and a person who has changed a future generation in my family for the better for years to come, so why do I sometimes feel so unsuccessful?? Maybe a little social media, maybe the comparison game, but mostly it’s because I know that although I’ve come so far, God is not done with me. I’m still sitting on some things God has told me to do that I just can’t fit into my crazy life right now. I’m terrified because it’s going to stretch me and I feel like if I’m stretched anymore than I am right now I’m going to break.
A few others... I’m the goal setting-stagnant person. I’ve got a lot of exciting goals that I take off in twelve different directions but too overwhelmed to finish and stick with most of them! I’m the outgoing- introvert. I love people and can chat it up with the best of them but sometimes I just don’t want to bothered by people. The graceful-grudge. I can forgive easily but some people and/or situations I’m just tired of being tired of and have moved on. The overly involved-uninvolved person. Saying yes to committees but wait what day is that meeting on?!?! I want to help everyone but the way my life is set up screams “No” louder than my lips do! I could probably think of many more- Like I said I am a hot mess at times!! Working on it...
I know how to fix most of my issues, however it falls on whether or not I choose to die to self (a phrase brought up in an recent “super warm” conversation with the hubs. ;). Yikes! Die to self and live the “what would Jesus do” lifestyle? That’s too hard- it’s much easier to wallow in my fleshly ways!! I’m a working progress so I’m striving to be more like Jesus and I typically head in the right direction when I’m in my word consistently and looking directly to HIM for direction/purpose..
There is a song that I love by Jonathan McReynolds called “Pressure”. Check it out hereyoutu.be/Rkt90aSlZVo. This song means so much to me because I seriously need God to release me from the pressure to be, look like, act like, something he has not created in me. God made us all for a purpose! I, with all my flaws and issues, was enough for God to send his Son to die for and so are you!
Also no matter how discouraging it may feel for me to be in my typical “Mom attire” (stretch pants, chucks, t-shirt, and no makeup) and then catch a glimpse of the fabulous Beyoncé or rather ANYONE slaying and feel like a complete slob-to know it’s going to be ok!! This too shall pass...although I just may need a life coach after this super long post ;) Just do you!
This picture was taken by a friend during our trip from the roof of our hotel. God is truly majestic!!
I was randomly asked recently, if you had to instantly pack up a few belongings for you and your entire family to leave your home and possibly never return what would you take with you?
Being the melancholy person I am a bunch of questions popped into my mind... Why? Where am I going? How am I traveling? How many bags can I have? Can I take my purse w/ wallet, identification, passport, phone? How many of my photo books, family/wedding pictures and children's keepsakes can I take with me? Can I stop by an ATM for cash? I'd be a mess trying to sort this all out with limited time.
For me this is only a hypothetical question but for most refugees who had to flee with short notice this is a reality. They have left their homes and everything they know and worked hard for, in order to avoid harm/death.
The harsh reality of the "typical" refugee living in Greece is that they don't want to live there indefinitely but that may be what happens for many of them. For a while Greece was at the front line of the refugee crisis. In 2015 1.2 million Syrians, Iranians, and Afghans fleeing conflict headed through Greece to get to Northern European countries until the borders closed at Macedonia leaving more than 53,000 people trapped in Greece and in limbo of what their future holds. I'm not 100% sure what that number looks like today.
I wanted to know more about why the economy in Greece is in such poor shape. Was it due to the overwhelming influx of refugees? After some basic research I've gathered that Greece has actually been in a financial crisis for many many years before the refugee crisis took place, which has essential added more onto their plates.
The 1999 introduction to the Euro bound 19 nations into a single currency zone which would bring Greece's lackadaisical spending and extreme borrowing habits to the light. In 2008 after Wall Street imploded Greece became the center of Europe's debt crisis. In 2009 Greece was shut out from borrowing in the financial markets due to understating their deficit figures for years and by 2010 they were veering towards bankruptcy.
After several bailouts which brought about deep budget cuts and steep tax increases essentially putting Greece in more debt, the economy is what it is today. High unemployment rates and limited work and financial support for the Greeks, means no jobs and limited support for the mass amounts of the refugee population stuck in Greece as well.
Many refugees living in Greece do so in desperate situations. They have no healthcare, no work/income (or extremely limited), they don't know the language, children's education and future employment is questionable, and living situations are undesirable (for many it's tents, large shipping storage containers, barbed fenced-in camps, or multiple families living in 1-2bedroom apartments).
For example-The other day I was standing on my couch and fell off and landed onto my wrists (long story smh) and by the next day all within about a 4-5hr span of time I had scheduled a Dr. appt, was seen by my Dr, had an X-ray completed, and was at Walgreens picking up meds for inflammation and a wrist brace. There are people in Greece who have been dealing w/ serious illnesses, tumors, and other ailments for 2+ years with NO medical treatment or plan in sight because no one will help them and/or help is limited. Talk about perspective...
We really must put ourselves in other people's shoes when we view the refugee crisis. What would you do? How would you feel to not be wanted in your home country as well as everywhere else you flee to? It’s been mentioned, "We just want to be accepted somewhere. We want to go someplace where we are welcomed and accepted."
They are exactly like most of us- they had fulfilling lives, thriving businesses and professions, homes, loving families, etc and made life or death split-second decisions to leave. This could have been me! It's not me only because of where I was born, not because of anything I've done personally. I'm not better or more worthy of a safe and free life than the next person.
There is definitely not enough time nor space to write about what all is going on around the world. There are so many needs and causes to support in the US and abroad.
As we go about living our comfy lives (which by the way no matter how much money you feel like you have or lack thereof the harsh reality is that in comparison to most of the world, here in America we live pretty comfortable lives) please remember there is real struggle out there! Just because something isn't affecting you personally doesn't mean your heart should not be burdened for those causes.
As we go into the holidays, try to incorporate ways to help someone else in need. Ive made it clear in my house I'm not bringing in more toys and stuff w/out giving away some of what we already have! Build relationships with people who don't look like you, ask people their story and really listen.
Ive already made this post MUCH longer than I had planned so I'll end with this feeling I experienced...
As my heart was saddened by stories and experiences, my heart was also overwhelmed and filled w/ joy and thanksgiving for the level of love and hospitality shown to me. I experienced people who had very little from a economic perspective, enthusiastically want to share what little they had with me. They were willing to give their last to a guest in their home.
The Bible is full of stories on hospitality yet it often amazes me the extreme level of hospitality given by non Christians. As Christians we are called to this and I am as guilty as the next of sometimes not going that extra mile, so I’m vowing to do better Lord!!
Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for some have welcomed angels as guests without knowing it.
When a foreigner lives with you on your land, you must not oppress them. You must regard the foreigner who lives with you as the native-born among you. You are to love him as yourself, as you were foreigners in the land of Egypt. I am Yahweh your God.
I can't believe it's already been a year, and trust my being late writing this post is seriously the story of my life lately...
One year ago I set out to start blogging as a way to challenge myself out of my comfort zone and to write down and share my many thoughts. To be honest I still struggle some with getting out of my comfort zone especially when it comes to posting my blogs and speaking up. I sometimes wonder, "why would someone care what I think..." but I've been blessed by the positive texts, emails, calls, and even topic suggestions I have received over the year. I am overwhelmed by the amount of views and new readers each week and I’m grateful for all the support given.
I have also been blessed by the opportunity to guest blog on my friend, Jayme Hull’s, encouraging website since February. www.jaymeleehull.com I still don't know everything there is to know about blogging and I have tons of improvements to do, but I'm glad I went ahead and took the first step and just got started instead of waiting for everything to be perfect first. This is something that typically hinders me from moving forward in my goals.
This year in a nutshell has been a very "testing" year for me. I've been challenged beyond what I even thought I could bear at times. I've been stretched and I’ve questioned my goals and direction on multiple occasions. Sometimes I've been negative and compared myself to others and sometimes I've held onto God's wise counsel and compared myself only to who He has called me to be. I've also really struggled at times w/ balancing being a wife, mom, and friend.
It's been difficult to say no and not over-commit to requests. It's also been hard for me to take time for myself and not feel guilty about it. (Mom guilt!) I’ve struggled with being in the middle of unnecessary family drama. I can think of some moments this year that God has told me do something but I procrastinated and put it off because of fear of failure. At times this year, Ive not been 100% supportive of my husband, nor opened my Bible to read nearly as much as I've needed to.
BUT GOD...Thank God for hope and grace because on the flip side, this year I've also had many beautiful moments where God has continued to show me how faithful he is. I've seen him make a way out of no way for myself and those around me. I've had prayers answered and situations turned around. In the midst, I've learned many lessons that will only make me a better person. I've gained some amazing new relationships and have worked hard to try to do the things that are “eternity focused” but not always popular.
The goal of my blog was to share my faith in God, my marriage, my parenting, and my life with others and I believe I ultimately accomplished that goal this past year. I pride myself on being a super real and transparent person. I don't think I'll ever be the “life of a party” but I do believe that people know that if they need someone to talk to about real life who is relatable, I'm that person! ;) I want people to know I don't have it all together. I have similar struggles and fears as the next person. I'm human and flawed and good news- I don't have to be perfect because I'm not God!
As I continue to blog and work to become the person I was created to be (which sometimes is a challenge in and of itself), I hope you join me on this journey and challenge yourself as well. Thanks again for your love, encouragement, and support and I look forward to what God has in store for the next year!! Love you all!
Below is my guest blog post for the month of Sept (www.jaymeleehull.com) Please check out Jayme's beautiful website!
Although I'd never be casted in an episode of Extreme Cheapskates, (bc I'm not THAT crazy!!!), I am definitely serious about getting a great deal!! Trust me I wasn't always this way. I realized when I went off to college that I never learned how to become a financially responsible adult!
Although I worked all throughout college to support myself, I still managed to rack up college and credit card debt and had no savings to fall back on. Looking back it was pretty pathetic the way I viewed money and debt. I didn't mind taking out extra student loans to get that alluring "refund check" and I saw no problem with paying minimum balances on my credit cards. I was just crazy!
Now fast forward to my life now. I am CRAZY thrifty and proud of it! It took many tears, years, prayer, sermons, books, and tons of delayed gratification to get to a point where I am no longer held captive by my past financial choices. I also no longer care about how things may look to others bc appearance isn't alway reality.
My prayer is that I can save my own children and others from the annoyance of financial stupidity with my transparency. Drastic measures were required to initially change my past poor thinking however everyone's financial situation is different so this way of living may not make sense nor even be necessary for you.
Living within my means has just become a part of my life, starting from a place of desperation but evolving into becoming a better steward of what God has blessed us with.
So how thrifty am I... you ask? Here are some basic examples:
We live in a time where people seem to have more and more stuff/affluence yet seem less and less fulfilled and more depressed/lonelier than ever. Discontentment and dissatisfaction is running rampant and more stuff won't fill that void.
I have learned to be content in whatever the circumstances I am. I know both how to have a little, and I know how to have a lot. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being content- whether well fed or hungry, whether in abundance or in need. I am able to do all things through Him who strengthens me. Philippians 4:11-13
Wes and I are far from rich money-wise, but we have God, love, family, good health, necessities, and a purpose, so what more do we really need?!?! I imagine that most of us live in abundance, especially if we viewed our lives based on what we actually need.
Well today is my Birthday! I'm not one to bring that much attention to my day but I wanted to do a post to reflect on where I am in my life at thirty-four. I've learned a lot along the way and I'd say even in the past year I've grown tremendously. I definitely have a long way to go in my journey but I also need to celebrate my small successes, something I don't do very often because I am hard on myself.
Any of my close friends, who know how the last eight or so months of my life have been, could tell you that my faith has grown to a new level. It has been challenged beyond what I thought I could bear but I'm still standing and smiling. I've shared of my life, resources, love, and friendships to a new level over the past year, when I know just how often I felt depleated in many of those same areas...but God!
I think I'm becoming more comfortable with being myself, Im ok if I don't measure up to the expectations others place on me. I am appreciating more and more where God has me not trying to compare myself with others. Now more than ever I value quality friendships over quantity. I'm also more heightened in my awareness and passion for what is going on in the world around me. There is much more to life than a focus on myself, my wants, and desires.
Less than a year ago, I decided to write this blog...something that terrified me. I have to say at times I'm still a bit nervous to hit the post button or to share my topics on social media but I'm slowly conquering that fear. The support has been beyond what I ever expected. I'll be the first to admit my blog still needs a ton of work. The design of the pages, formatting, etc. I've even looked back at some of my posts and cringe at the grammatical and spelling errors. Shoot you may even find some in this post. Ugh! I'm passionate but definitely not always grammatical! However, I'm thankful to my readers who continue to support and see that my goal is to share my heart and God with others. Thank God he can still use me through my imperfections.
This is another area I've grown in. I used to be a perfectionist to the point where it would cause me to be stagnant. If I didn't have everything in perfect order then I wouldn't proceed. Well I'm glad that I stepped out to write even when I didn't (and honestly still don't ) really know what I'm doing. ;) I'm also moving forward with that in other areas of my life (stay tuned!!) which is exciting.
In the end my thirty-four years consists of many peaks and a ton of valleys which I'm sure there are more to come, but I'm blessed!! I have an amazing and loving husband Wesley, who is EXACTLY the same person at home that he is in public. What you see is what you get with him and I value that beyond words!! I have two beautiful, sweet, and exhuasting little girls who bring joy to my life everyday!! I have friends, family, and a wonderful support system but most of all I have a Heavenly Father who loves me more than I could ever be loved or love myself. So no matter what is going on in my life- I'm definitely winning!!
Maybe God is constantly testing me, because I always seem to be in the mist of an awkward situation where I typically resort to just "holding my tongue." If I'm offended by someone, I will more than likely not say anything about it and just smile it off just to keep the peace which isn't always the best.
Here are some examples of situations that I've held my tongue on that maybe I should have spoken up about...
1. Negative comments I've seen about refugees. Stop assuming and start healthy conversations. You'd be surprise the love and level of hospitality many have to share if you were open to starting a friendship. I've personally been blessed beyond words by a budding friendship with a (new to US/nashville) Syrian family!!
2. Asking a stay at home mom "if they are bored being at home yet?" This annoys me especially since I hear it all the time. It's like staying home is synonymous with staying locked in doors or something. I actually get to spend much more time now participating in my passions, like volunteer work. Yes some moments arent as exciting, but let's just be real, I've had boring days when I worked a job but interestingly enough no one cared as much then!!! I've been bored in school, bored at EVERY graduation, bored in conferences, and seriously I've even had some boring moments in church before.
I don't question a mom's choice to work outside the home so please respect my choice to be home with my kids. I'm doing what matters to my family whether or not it sounds glamorous. (What? Cleaning up messes and hearing fifty requests for snacks each day doesn't sound glamorous to you?? ;) I can get a job when I want to, but I can't ever get my time back, so no worries I'm good with my decision. Thanks
3. When someone says something that could be perceived as racially insensitive and when confronted they mention the friend they had in grade school or wherever that is "X,Y,Z race". Please stop. I've witnessed this and it's embarrassing and getting pretty old. Its perfectly ok to just say sorry I didn't intend to sound offensive or just talk it out and move on.
4. Specific comments made about people who rent vs people who buy a home. After going on several mission trips, you come to realize just how blessed you are without labels that we place on ourselves in America. I rent currently. I want to buy, and trust I will buy a home one day when God sees fit for me to do so (claiming it). It's not a race so I try to focus on where God has me now. I'm just grateful to live indoors, in a clean, loving, and safe place. Thank God!
5. Once I had a white male Doctor put his hand in my hair and said its interesting you are wearing your natural hair. You don't see this much nowadays because everyone wears weaves and fake hair. Talk about a bite my tongue situation! I smiled...thinking to myself-Doctor how about we just focus on my throat pain.
I really wanted to say to him, black women wearing their natural hair is actually VERY common now. Seriously it's much more common now than I remember when I first started my perm free life about thirteen years ago. I love my hair. I also enjoyed wearing my hair colored, in braids/twists w/ extensions, and it was cute when it was permed too ;). Hair is just hair...
These examples are not huge mind blowing situations but my prayer is to not shy away from opportunities in the moment to speak up. I want to find a balance in my life with speaking up when necessary and knowing when it is best to just shut my mouth in order to keep the peace as well.
Lord, set up a guard for my mouth; keep watch at the door of my lips. Psalm 141:3 HCSB