Wednesday, 28 December 2016

Picture Perfect Postcard

The name of my blog is, "My Life is a Postcard;" the reason for this is because of what one sees in a postcard. Postcards are typically found at a gift shop of some popular tourist destination, or at the airport of a city that frequently travelled. The pictures on a postcard often time represents the the best images of that destination, showcasing it ultimate glory all the wonders of the world. They are the 'picture perfect' image of destinations travelled. I would say it's a frequent occurrence that people visit a location, pick up a postcard and use it to show off to friends and family where they have ventured.

I say that my life is represented by a postcard because throughout my short time here on earth, I have been blessed with so many opportunities to see the wonder and awesomeness that the world has to offer. Sometimes during my travels (or even when I'm local) I look around at my surrounding and marvel that not even a postcard could capture the beauty I see.

Yesterday is a perfect example of this. We went to Hell's Gate National Park, and as we drove from Nairobi we saw the beauty of the Rift Valley and stopped to take pictures. The marvel of it's immenseness leaves one awestruck with wonder. In the park, we see massive rock structures, which speak of days since creation, looming over the vast terrain that sustains zebras and antelope and buffalo.

There are hot water spurts bubbling up steam that rises to the skies and fills the heavens. This natural wonder that is now harvested to bring energy to so many around the country. As I look upon it, I am filled with questions for my Creator. "How did you make these,? "Why?" "Did you know how we would use it?" Later we arrive at a 'spa,' a large pool for recreation, created from the hot water springs. The smell of sulphur is the first thing you notice but then close after, the immense beauty of the surrounding area. Being a Florida girl, I never really swam much in hilly terrain, but this was a different story. From the ends of the steaming blue pool begins a breathtaking sight: the hill slowly creeps upward as it carries trees of all sorts f trees that paint a scene much to perfect for me to describe with words. Amidst the trees there is the elegance of a giraffe that catches every eye. It's purely majestic.

On the road trip home, the sun sets behind a landscape of Acacia trees (also known in my book as "Lion King Trees") and cacti, which are large enough to cut for lumbar, an orange and red glow that even the best of cameras could not capture. My heart reflects on the day and beauty of it all. I truly could stare at the marvellous creation all day and never tire. I am reminded how in Ecclesiastes scripture says that the eye never has seen enough and I know fully that this is the case for me. I look around me and I see all of creation worshipping it's Maker. Truly, truly the rocks do cry out and declare the glre sings as it worships the One who made it.

I am truly blessed beyond measure, that God would allow me to behold His creation, that I can look upon, with great excitement a giraffe crossing the street and a family of zebras taking a break at the waattering hole. I am blessed beyond measure to see the work of His hands so perfectly displayed as if He had made it purely for my enjoyment. Wherever I am, I see the beauty of His work, it's as if my life is a Postcard.

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

A Gift Without Giving

Before I begin, allow me to make a small disclaimer. This post (and all my posts, really) is based on the observations and experiences of a single individual, an individual who has their own cultural lense and, as we all do, enters situations seeing them from a perspective shaped by her own history and upbringing. The relevance in stating this is that the generalizations stated here (and elsewhere) should not be taken as an absolute truth, or even as "the way things are." They should be viewed in the context of one person's experience and should not be widely applied to all, or any specific, individuals in Keyan. In summary, don't take what I say and think it applies to every Kenyan, such generalizations could cause you to believe and act in error.

Okay, now that's out of the way, let's get going.

Over the season of Christmas, I have noticed something here that is vastly different than what I experience back home. I am used to the holidays coming around and people scrambling to run from store to store in order to find just the right gift for every individual on their list. The people on this list include all those whom the shopper wants to know that they care for them. If someone does not make it to the list, then the love for them is somehow not quite as high as it is for those whom get a gift (if you are one of those people who have never received a gift from me, please do not assume I do not care for you; for several years I have dislikes this system of materialistic affection).

People spend hundreds, if not thousands of dollars expressing their "love" to one another. Do I think that this is wrong? No. Do I think that it gets out of hand? Yes, absolutely.
*Why is 'love' in quotes? Well because often times it seems/I have felt that true care for a person is substituted by a cheap trinket on Christmas that says, "I care about you, but I have no idea what's going on in your life nor do I have the time to care, but here is a gift so that we can continue in believing that this friendship is meaningful."

What I have seen this past year (which could also be a reflection of the circles I am involved with rather than how the culture is), is that people do not participate largely in this "gifting" culture. There does not seem to be so much pressure to buy everyone you care about a trinket to prove to them that you care.

Whereas "gifting" is kept to a minimum, the "giving culture is alive and well. It is refreshing to see that not all giving comes as a neatly wrapped chrissy pressy (as my Aussie friends and family would say). People give to one another in many ways: through hosting, through sharing, through caring, through listening and speaking; to name a few.

The beauty of this giving is that it is not confined to a certain season or even a holiday. The people here give what they have, even if it is little, it is enough to share. There is a certain selflessness that I see that is willing to go visit a friend's family in hospital, that calls in on a pal not feeling well, that invites people over at the drop of a hat and prepares a meal what whatever is on hand. Genuine care for people seems to be the norm and as I reflect I think this is how it was meant to be.

Christmas is not so much about us giving gifts to validate someone's rank in our lives, if we care about someone wee should show it... All through the year. Christmas is about God showing us of His ultimate acre for us, in giving us His Son. I'm so happy that His gift does not validate me just on the 25th of Dec. His gift is an everlasting show of His continuous care and love for me.

Please don't leave this page thinking I'm a Christmas-hating, anti-gift-giving holiday scrooge. I do understand that many people give gifts genuinely and from the heart, as for all those that I have received I am extremely grateful. The point I am making is to ask, "Would people know that you care about them in the void of gifts?" If there were no obligation to give, or if you chose not to give, would the people you claim to care about still know you love them?

If I have one thing I am being challenged on this year, it is to show true friendship to those I care about, all through the year; beyond the Christmas phone call and the cheap gift I get to remind the people I "care" about that I haven't forgotten them even though it's been months since we last spoke. This is a personal struggle for me, and if you have been in the wake of my carelessness, I apologize. I truly want to be intentional with maintaining friendships and showing people I care. I want to adopt this genuine love I experience through Christ and this genuine love I see manifested through the lives of many Kenyans. Will you join me?

Monday, 5 December 2016

Learning about Carolyn

So for the longest time, well actually all of my life, I have lived with my family. Even times when I didn't, I still did (6mo in Australia with my Auntie and Uncle). I do not regret this nor do I think it is a bad thing, in fact, if given the chance, I'd do it all over again.

These past two months have been very interesting for me because, for the most of them, I have been living on my own while my roomie was on sabbatical. Being alone (but never lonely) for the first time in 25 years of life provided some interesting perspective.

My first few weeks here, before my roomate left, I was advised by one of the pastors at Nairobi Chapel to begin loving my own company. He said we should all learn to enjoy ourselves, where we do not have the constant need for affirmation from others, but are happy in our own skin and in our own space.

Being a people person, I often would feel bad, or even guilty, if I were not hanging out with people I care about. I had a serious case of FOMO (fear of missing out), so much that in the times when not with others, my worry meant I really was missing out... on enjoying life with me. :)

I'm not saying we should all become self-centered people who are absorbed with alone time. I am saying that I think it can be healthy and, for me, it's helped me to develop better who I am. The truth is, is that before having the chance to experience it, it's hard to know who you are when no one else is around.

Some interesting things I've learned about myself on this new adventure include:

  • I cook when I am bored or stressed or want to try something new (who knew?! I never cooked at home)
  • I like to dance around the house when no one is watching
  • I've found that the audio Bible is awesome to soak in the Word while getting ready for the day
  • I'm super happy with a coloring book and a few sharp pencils
  • I like to walk any place it's possible (but I already knew that)
  • I really enjoy the quiet and having time to think
  • A piece of chocolate cake and a coffee shop make a perfect self-date :)
  • I'm no longer sad for those who go to the movies by themselves... Because I've been there.
I'd love to know what you do while you've got "alone time." Please feel free to share. :)

Sunday, 13 November 2016

Dancing in Delight

The third Sunday of every month Nairobi Chapel hosts their "BnZ" meeting. BnZ (Buttons and Zippers) is a place for ladies, young and old to share together in a lovely meal, learning from God's Word, a time of fellowship and education around selected topic.

November 13, marked the last meeting of the year, and as such, there was a focus around thankfulness. Each one wrote and shared what the Lord had done this year. What encouragement there was in hearing testimony after testimony of the Lord's faithfulness.

People have received jobs, scholarships, healing, awards, grace, mercy, peace... just to name a few. As the end of the year draws near, it's vital that we reflect on the goodness of God. Throughout the Psalms (77:11, 89:1, 105:5, etc.) we are told to remember the works of the Lord, to declare them through all generations.

What is it that the Lord has done for you this year? What of His faithfulness do you need to remember and pass on to others? In the sharing of testimonies there is great power, it is the building up of one another's faith, and your own as you recall the goodness of your God.

After our time of sharing, we danced! and Oh' how we danced. I have no questions that the Heavens also rejoiced as we each expressed from our hearts the joy of knowing the Lord. Each one in their own way, joyfully expressing thanks to a God who is forever good, forever faithful, forever loving and forever with us!!

Saturday, 12 November 2016

When the lights go out.

This is a post I wrote a few weeks ago but hadn't had the chance to post, here it is. :)

So, I’ve noticed that Nairobi has an interesting phenomenon. People go about their daily lives and in the middle of whatever you’re doing, it could be at work, at home or even at a movie theatre, at whatever time you are doing it, the power could go off.

Just like that, POOF, gone. No more electricity, not more featured film, not to mention, no more WIFI. However, this in and of itself is not that strange, I mean, after all people all around the world have limitations to electric power. The astonishing thing is, is that no one seems to notice. All the sudden, you go from enjoying dinner with friends at dusk to sitting in the dark. No one flinches, and quite often no one even mentions that something happened.

Being from the West, I have the luxury of plugging into a power source nearly anytime anywhere, with no question whether it will leave me mid-conversation without the signal to send a reply, and without the thought that my movie could end abruptly at even the climax or that I could be half-way to winning a debate only possible by the answers through a Google search.

This was wondersome to me, life goes on, no one pays notice that the source of productivity is gone (e.g. need power to send emails, text, ect.).

How often though, is our spiritual life just like this. We get “plugged in” to Jesus and life is great, we have conversations with God, we enjoy searching the scriptures and learning more; then all the sudden, GONE, no more; I’ve been disconnected from the power source, and what happens?

…Nothing, life goes on as normal, I don’t immediately realize that there is something between me and a productive, fulfilling life. I keep going through the same old motions expecting that something may happen but the scriptures I turn to seem lifeless; just words on a page. The prayers I say seem to hit a glass ceiling and fall right back down to my lap.

So what was it that switched off the power? Well, unrepented sin is much like this, it’s a divisive thing that keeps us from our Almighty power source. Are right with God, or have we just assumed that all is okay? Do you even know if your power has gone out?

Beliefs that we are able to do life on our own also separates us from the Divine nature that we as Christians have been called into (Eph. 1). We must abide in Christ if we are to stay connected to the power source, just like a branch must be connected to the vine if it is to bear fruit so we must be connected to the life-giving power of the Holy Spirit if we are to live fruitful lives.

I’ve been impressed lately with the concept of dying in the flesh (see Gal. 2:20). This is the picture of unplugging your own selfish desires and wants and re-wiring our lives to hook into an everlasting power source. It’s not an easy thing, but the good news is that Christ is an electrician (… well, not really -I don’t think they had electric power in His days, but the figure of speech works for this case). He can help uncross the wires and keep us immersed in His holy, perfect and unending power. Come to Him with an open, repentant heart and ask Him to bring the re-ordering that is needed to get your lights back on. 

Glory to God because He is willing and Able!!