Tag Archives: Jamaica

Song of the Single (Paradise Uganda)

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Isaiah 54:1Ugandan children 3

“Sing, O barren,

You who have not borne!

Break forth into singing, and cry aloud,

You who have not labored with child!

For more are the children of the desolate

Than the children of the married woman,”

says the Lord.

During a visit with my pastor’s family on Monday, a familiar longing stirred within me. Pastor’s three year-old cuddled into my side and asked me to look through a book with her. I miss children.

Earlier that evening her seven year-old brother handed me pages torn from a coloring book. He had colored them especially for me, eager both to earn my recognition and to share his affection. Just a few days prior I had glanced sadly at my refrigerator, noting the absence of artwork from children who love me. Although it is covered with photographs and magnets, it seemed strangely bare. I smiled proudly at his artwork, thrilled to accept his decorative gifts. Who needs museums? Who needs professionals? I much prefer a child’s masterpiece.

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Tonight I discovered some podcasts about a project involving children from Uganda. My friend and a few other dedicated musicians are working to create change in the lives of these children and in the world by recognizing their beautiful voices. These children are talented, and they’ve gone too long unrecognized. They have incredible stories to tell, but they’ve been widely ignored. They have songs to sing; it’s about time somebody listened. Could there be any sweeter sound than that of a child rejoicing?

http://www.fln.org/fln-news/podcasts/detail/news-paradise-uganda-part-i/

http://www.fln.org/fln-news/podcasts/detail/news-paradise-uganda-part-ii/

As I listened to clips of these children singing during the podcasts, tears formed in my eyes. I want to be with the children. I want to be where the children are, do what the children do. I want to sing with the children.

I’ve never even met these children, but my heart longs for them. I’m not musical – not even slightly. The lady in the podcast mentions the rhythm that comes so naturally to those little ones and memories flood back to me. I laugh as I recall dancing with the deaf children in Jamaica. Dancing goes hand in hand with music. Both require rhythm. I was told all Jamaican women could dance. I soon learned that the beautiful teenaged girls at the deaf school – who couldn’t even hear the music they were dancing to – had more rhythm than I did… I suddenly believed the statements were true. All Jamaican women can dance. And I became all the more aware of my own fallibilities.

Ugandan children 2

Why do I yearn to be with these talented young ones? What do I have to offer them? The musicians who’ve taken an interest in these children’s lives can provide them with guidance, training, and opportunities to share their songs. But I’m no musician. What could I possibly give?

I have a mommy’s heart. And as a single woman with no children of my own, that mommy’s heart has an abundance of love eager to flow into these kids’ lives. I cannot count the number of times others have asked me about a desire for children when they hear that I enjoy being single. They are shocked to hear that I don’t really long for children of my own. Sometimes they refuse to believe me. But it’s true! There are so many children in this world already who are hungry for love! I want to love the children who are already here.

Ugandan children

In my travels, I have discovered that children often put me on a pedestal – simply because I am an adult, I am American, I am white. What happens when a small child who has been devalued stands next to woman she idolizes? “Sing, O barren woman!” What happens when that same child realizes that she is more talented than that woman? I may fall off my pedestal, but more importantly that child begins to recognize her own gifting. She feels a touch more self-confident. She feels special. And she often laughs at me. These moments – these awkward, embarrassing displays of my own inadequacies, produce some of the most wonderful memories.

I do not need to be married or birth children. I just need to be around children who need to be loved. I want to love them. I want to appreciate them. I want to delight in the talents of my children – not the children who bear my name, but the children all over this world that God intends for me to mother. I’m just a single girl, thrilled to be a mommy. And although it won’t sound pretty, I will lift my voice to sing about it!

me and the philippino kids

Translate Love

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A group I meet with weekly is currently studying Gary Chapman’s book, “The 5 Love Languages”. In case you’ve never heard of it, the author teaches that people express and respond to love in 5 basic ways 0r understand love in “5 languages”. He explains that in order to express love to someone effectively, you need to communicate through that person’s primary love language. Quick breakdown of the 5:

 

  1. Quality Time: undivided attention or special moments set aside for me prove that  you love me/distractions during conversation, standing me up, or postponing a date hurt me deeply
  2. Words of Affirmation: tell me I’m beautiful, tell me you appreciate me, openly compliment me in front of others and  recognize your love for me/don’t thank me or compliment me when I do things or make fun of me and I feel devalued
  3. Receiving Gifts: give me a gift “just because” or go out of your way to find me that “perfect something” for my birthday and I realize that you treasure me/forget me or pick up something dumb because you feel you have to and I don’t believe you care about me
  4. Physical Touch: hug me, hold me, pat me on the arm, and I sense your love for me/your aloofness or discomfort at my touch devastates me
  5. Acts of Service: do me a favor, help me with some chores, ease my burdens somehow and I can see that you love me/break a promise, neglect to finish that project you told me you’d do around the house, or shuffle your responsibilities into my lap – those things really bother me

That’s the rundown. If you want to see which love languages apply most in your own life I encourage you to take an assessment here: http://www.5lovelanguages.com/assessments/love/

Anyway, as we discussed some of these principles last night, I found my mind wandering back to Jamaica… again. There was one man, in particular, that I became attached to while I was down there. As a girl who is not easily wooed by the opposite sex, I kept wondering why this man left such a strong impact on me after just two days together. (They weren’t even two consecutive days together – we saw each other the first Friday my friend and I were there and again the last Sunday.) During our meeting last night, it dawned on me. In the two short days I spent with him, Raul (as my friend fondly nicknamed this guy) expressed love to me through four of the five love languages!

Raul was braiding my hair within the first twenty minutes of meeting. 🙂

His friendly introduction started the process. My friend and I passed a restaurant and he called down to us from the balcony, inviting us to stop. We passed by, but returned a short while later to eat lunch. He approached us with a smile and asked if he could join us. Within seconds he not only welcomed us to Jamaica, but he was talking openly with us about our trip and about his culture. Quality time.

This restaurant had a couple of water slides and water trampolines. We went for the slide into the ocean. After exploding out the slide into salt water, we climbed up onto a trampoline to lay down for a while and catch our breaths. More time to talk. He began to emphasize how much he liked me. He exalted my smile. He told me I was beautiful. He went on and on about how nice I seemed to be – which he could not always expect from tourists. In contrast, he claimed that many tourists are rude to Jamaicans. Words of affirmation.

After some more play in the water, we climbed onto the dock to relax. Raul left me for a few moments as I laid down in a lawn chair. A lifeguard came and put the rest of the lawnchairs away. When Raul returned, he sat at the end of the chair by my feet. It didn’t take long before he pulled my legs into his lap so he could rub my feet. I watched him in awe as he caressed my feet so tenderly. I thought about stopping him – how could I accept such an act from an almost-stranger? Was I using him? But I never could say “no” to a good foot massage. I decided to delight in the special treatment and he continued. Physical touch.

My friend and I left him, but agreed to think about hanging out later that night. We did end up spending more time with him and we met more friends of his later on. After a fun night together, he and his friends offered to walk us back to our hotel. We had been by the beach, so my feet and flip-flops were covered with sand. He looked down and then asked us to wait. He went for the shore and came back with a cup of water to clean the sand off my feet so that it would not irritate my skin as we walked back. My friend stared at him with her mouth wide open as he hurried back and forth from me to the ocean until my feet were completely clean. Acts of service.

Those were four specific instances that Raul expressed love to me in our first day together. I could list countless other gestures if I took the time. I highly doubt this man’s ever read the book. But he is fluent in the languages of love.

Welcome Home!

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Mommy, it’s too early to shine a camera flash in my eyes!

<— I can’t imagine waking up to a cuter face. I was in Jamaica for twelve days. That’s it. My parents pick me and my friend up from the airport and give me a “welcome home” gift from two of my close friends. I drive to my apartment and find my kitty, delighted to see me, evidenced by mass quantities of cuddling and purring. I open up my refrigerator to discover more food than I could ever dream of eating by myself. I gave my brother some money and food to watch my cat and my apartment for me while I was gone and he blessed me with far more groceries than I gave him money to buy. He also shared all the stories of how miserable my cat was while I was gone and how Oreo would not let him sleep because he was not me.

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I’ve been home for four days now, and my cat is still acting ridiculously cuddly compared to usual. This is actually a beautiful thing – Jamaicans are such a warm people compared to Americans. I became accustomed to constant touch throughout the day… Hugs, handshakes, fist bumps, you name it. To have all that healthy touch ripped away from me is difficult. It sounds kind of funny, but my cat helps me cope.

Last night I went to play volleyball with some friends. At the end of the night, one of them apologized to me that everyone seemed to have paired off while I was gone. She mentioned how hard it must be to see that once I returned. She also noted how hard it must have been to go back to work after my trip.

But I don’t really feel that way. I feel pretty awesome actually. I may keep whining that I should have stayed in Jamaica [I do miss the friends I made, but mainly I whine just because I am a whiner baby.] But how many people go on vacation for less than two weeks and come back to welcome home gifts and a thousand “I missed you so much!”s from their friends? How many people return from vacation to find more food in their cupboards than when they left? How many singles come home to an animal eagerly waiting at the door for them because the house sitter just was not mommy? On the flip side, how many singles return home from vacation to an empty house with no pet to smother them with attention? How many women go on vacation and literally feel no reason to return home? How many people return home and wonder if anyone missed them at all?

I always go through a little bit of post-travel depression. I LOVE to travel, and each time I come home I wonder why I have not moved from this country yet. But it wasn’t so bad this time. This time I was too aware of how loved I am. My friends pairing off? It’s nice to see them happy. My job? There are worse jobs. I am blessed to have one that allows me these luxuries in life such as travel. Loneliness? What loneliness? God has surrounded me by people who love me. One of my new friends from Jamaica called me last night and he immediately asked me if I was okay. All I could think was, “Why wouldn’t I be okay?” No problem, Mon – life is good!

Jamaican Me Crazy

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Mmmm….

I like my men the same way I like my coffee: Give me a man with a hazelnut mocha complexion who is sweet, sweet, sweet!

I just returned from Jamaica – a beautiful country known for its coffee. But the coffee isn’t what will stick in my memory… I couldn’t help but wonder why God sent me to this country full of gorgeous black men who like to flirt shamelessly with white women. My brother warned me that I would come home with a big head because Jamaican men love to tell women how beautiful they are. He was right. [As if I needed an ego boost…] To any and all American men who are reading this post, if you need help in the field of charming and/or pursuing women, I suggest you invest in a trip to Jamaica. Sit on the beach and watch. Just watch the men as they interact with the women. You will learn everything you need to know, I promise.

Snorkeling with Darren, the coolest lifeguard ever!!

I was treading water in the ocean and talking with some friends when I accidentally brushed my hand against the lifeguard’s hand. I immediately apologized. He looked at me curiously and asked me what I was apologizing about. I explained and he told me that I should not apologize for touching him. There is nothing wrong with that kind of touch. Then he grabbed my hand and pulled me toward him. Jamaican men are not shy. Although some claimed to be – they lied. They were SO NOT shy. A few may have felt like it compared to other Jamaicans – but stick one of those guys next to an American and he epitomizes bravery.

The lifeguard’s statement was simple. And yet profound. There isn’t anything wrong with touching a person’s hand. Why did I feel the need to apologize? What is there to be afraid of?

I kinda think God sent me to that beautiful island this year in order to loosen me up. God is known for His perfect timing… My trip to Jamaica was no exception.