2015

This has been the LONGEST year of my life! Before this year, I’d have said that the wait from age 7 to age 10 took the longest.

It was around the age of 7 that I made a decision for baptism but was informed that I was too young to follow through with my decision. In retrospect, I think the elders were right to hold off on allowing me to be baptized. It allowed time for the decision to be solidified, tested my commitment, and provided an opportunity to get grounded in the teachings of the Bible.

The other thing I began waiting for at age 7 was to become a Pathfinder. They started a club at my church and you had to be 10yrs old to join it. My 11yr old brother joined and they made an exception for my 9yr old sister to get in a year early. But, in spite of my beggings and pleadings, they could not let me in 3yrs early (although I thought myself mature enough).

Finally, when I was 10, I joined the Pathfinder club and was cleared for baptism! Those three years took f.o.r.e.v.e.r. because I was waiting on the fulfillment of some significant life events.

But this year has been, by far, the longest year of my life. Probably because it has been filled with multiple significant life events.

Getting married in May, for one, was a big deal. Funny thing is, at the time, it didn’t seem that huge of a deal – it just felt right. And moving into the same living quarters with my husband also felt like the natural progression of our friendship. Looking back at our May wedding pictures, though, I realize how inexpressibly happy I was at that time. May 10, 2015 was probably the best day of this year for me.

A month or so after our May wedding, my husband and I learnt that we would be welcoming a new member into our newly established family! It was a happy surprise! And fraught, since then, with oh so many emotions. It’s waiting for this baby to arrive that has slowed time down the most for me this year.

No-one ever told me that being pregnant takes a LONG time! Everyday is long and the nights are even longer (with all the trips to the bathroom). It takes forever to get from one week to the next, let alone from one trimester to the next – Firstly because of the nausea, then the fatigue, then the heaviness of carrying extra weight and the discomfort of any postural position…be it sitting, or lying down.

We’re down to 6 weeks before our due date. I am so glad to be counting down weeks in the single digits now! Yes, I’m excited to meet our son! But I’m also excited to have my body back. And to have my brain back – it currently feels like mush (something else I wasn’t forewarned about).

ps: everyone’s experience of pregnancy, I’ve been educated, is different. Even each successive pregnancy differs for each Mom. So if God should so bless us with another child in the future, maybe it’ll fly by next time!

So with my mushy brain, I had the privilege of addressing the General Conference in session for one of the morning devotions. Being in my first trimester and feeling nauseated and exhausted, all I remember about the experience was much prayer and gratitude to God for sustaining me through the experience! The fact that a snippet from my sermon that day was used in a Young Turks video about Ben Carson later in the year just underscores God’s work in spite of ourselves.

After our second wedding in Zimbabwe (which was another undertaking altogether), Arch and I moved all our stuff to Lansing where I started a new job with an old employer. The weight of starting at a new job was mitigated by the fact that I was working with some old friends and that some of my responsibilities were familiar.

Arch and I also started searching for a house to call home. It only took us a month to find the place. With pre-approval letter in hand, we moved forward with the mortgage process only to be declined one week before our closing date. Thankfully, the sellers were willing to wait while we started the whole process again with another lender. <sigh> I’ll write about that whole experience another time – it was terribly trying!

With only two days to the end of the year, we were finally able to close on our new home! And end the housing saga. Thank God!

So in summary:

This year I got married, got pregnant, spoke at the international gathering of the world church, started a new job and bought a house. Those are the major points.

It’s been a long year, filled with very high points and very trying moments. And I’m so thankful for God’s constant guidance through it all. He is so faithful!

As soon as the baby arrives, I’m pretty sure everything will speed up again. Remains to be seen. For now, I wish you all a happy new year filled with the presence of God at every step.

thoughts on the Syrian refugee crisis

It has taken me over a week and a half to synthesize why the backlash towards Syrian refugees (in withholding them asylum on the grounds of the Paris attacks) bugs me so much. Even now I’m not sure I’ll manage to clearly and concisely summarize my thoughts, but I’m ready now to take a shot at it:

1. Oversimplification/Stereotyping

As a means of simplifying otherwise unmanageably complex social relations, stereotypes, are useful. They help us organize things neatly into boxes so that we can find some space to navigate our human interactions. But stereotyping comes with the connotations of OVERsimplification…a carelessness in deciding who to place in what box or a decision to use too few boxes (That’s the error I’ve heard repeated when people would qualitatively equate ascribing to Islam with voluntary involvement in the fascism of Nazi Germany). Not every Muslim is a terrorist – just like not every terrorist is a Muslim (frustrating to have to state the obvious…!).

2. What happened to loving your enemies?

Even if every Muslim were to be typecast as the enemy, how could a Christian refuse to help an enemy in need and still claim to be a follower of Christ? Is Jesus not the One who said to “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you…”? And that parable of the good Samaritan…?!

No, it seems to me that mistreating those who mistreat you is inconsistent with Christianity. Paul puts it this way, “Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.’ Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.” Romans 12:19-21

3. In Whom do you Trust?

Our fear is that if we treat others with kindness, especially those who we perceive to have wounded us, our kindness will be mistaken for weakness. And we don’t want to look weak! We want to project strength to ensure that we are never mistreated again. It’s all about protecting ourselves, you see.

But, I ask the Christian, what happened to “God is my refuge and strength”? What happened to “My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth…The Lord is thy keeper: the Lord is thy shade upon thy right hand…The Lord shall preserve thee from all evil: he shall preserve thy soul. The Lord shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore.” Ps 121.

Rather than trusting our safety to God completely, the fearful brand of so-called-Christianity subscribes to the unbiblical “God helps those who help themselves” platitude. It would be more truthful to say that God helps those who trust in Him! The Christian does not have to worry about protecting themselves because God’s already got that covered. All that remains is to remain faithful to Him.

4. Religious Liberty

My understanding of American history is that religious liberty has long been a value this nation upholds. But the Seventh-day Adventist Church does not advocate religious liberty because it is a denomination that was birthed in the USA. Rather, this legacy is ours from God’s own example.

He could have created human beings without the power to choose to obey or disobey but Genesis 3 corroborates the reality of human freedom of choice. Moreover, the cross of Calvary demonstrates the lengths to which God is willing to go to protect humanity’s freedom to choose. At cost to Himself, God safeguards the individual’s liberty to choose their religion (knowing that many will not choose Him!).

In step with God’s own example, Christ’s followers are committed to preserving the freedom of every human being to choose who/when/how they worship…even when those choices aren’t in line with my own choices. Yes, as a Christian, I must do all I can to preserve every individual’s freedom to decide their own religion; be it Islam, Buddhism or Pastafarianism (yeah, the satirical religion that worships the flying spaghetti monster).

These are probably my top 4 reasons why the anti-refugee comments have bugged me. Each of which I could write an entire separate blog post about…But I’m tired and it’s way past my bedtime so this’ll have to do for now.

Oh to have more Christians who are more like Christ!

 

It’s Complicated?

All throughout our courtship, we’ve joked about updating our relationship status on FaceBook to “It’s Complicated.” You see, our cultural differences made for an interesting scenario on who to tell what – when. (And now I’m debating if I should try to explain it all here…And I’m shrinking from the task! <sigh>)

Well, when Archie and I first got together, I had to ask him not to update his FaceBook profile or change his profile picture to include me in it. It was a challenging request for me to make because I didn’t want him to misunderstand my request as insinuating that I felt our relationship was something to be hidden or ashamed of. Yet I had to ask this of him in order to follow my culture’s protocol for informing my family of the development. As evidenced by the fact that we got married, Archie was very understanding and accommodating!

Our relationship, thus far, has been this continuous journey of navigating the various cultural expectations of us – Frustrating at times…Fun at other times…But always enlightening! The classic illustration of the differences we worked through is physical closeness:

During our courtship, we went to visit Archie’s Uncle and Aunt in St. Louis for a weekend and when we were leaving, they wanted to take some pictures of us, so we stood next to each other. Archie’s Uncle says, “stand closer!” so we did. But I guess we weren’t standing close enough so he repeated his request with the remonstrance that we ought to look like we like each other in the picture!

St. Louis

By contrast, when Archie came to visit my family in Zimbabwe, he was under strict instructions to make no physical contact, whatsoever, with me. Generally speaking, the men and women would sit separately during meals (I didn’t notice this until Archie pointed it out, actually). But Archie would always come and sit next to me – not super close, but it was, still, an anomaly! All through his visit, I felt like I kept pushing him away for the sake of cultural propriety.

Our first engagement was on September 26, last year. It was just the two of us, with his ukelele, at the beach at sunset. It was perfect!

beachIt had to happen then so that we could initiate the Zimbabwean engagement process which ended up happening on December 28th. Well, what happened on the 28th of December was the Lobola proceedings, which meant we were, by Zimbabwean custom, considered married, but we took it as an engagement because we wanted to be married by a Pastor. Oh, and the other engagement date was Christmas Eve with Archie’s entire family and all the wonderful bells and whistles!

proposal

If I were to pick one of the engagement dates, I’d probably pick December 24th as our primary one. It came at the most welcome time. And it was special to have Archie’s family there to witness it. While the other two dates are significant, they seemed somewhat incidental.

So we set August 16 as our wedding date – and it just happened! It was an amazing experience to have all these parts of my life converge in one day! Friends from pre-school, all through Pearson and Wellesley, and even my most recent boss was there! Since it was in Zimbabwe, my family was there, but it was extra special to have representatives of Archie’s family there too! The ceremony and reception were a mix of cultural customs and flavors – Yum.

familia

When we got married on May 10th, earlier this year, it was also perfect in its own way. Very small, very intimate, short and sweet in our friends’ backyard.

as-64We went out to eat afterwards then drove a couple hours away for our mini-moon. It was so easy to plan and execute, stress-free and chill – and in that sense, quite dream-like. But none of our families were there – it broke our hearts. And to respect my family’s wishes, FaceBook was off limits in announcing it; so the word had to get around one person at a time.

We have potentially one more wedding to go (I mean a wedding where I’m the bride and Archie’s the groom). It’d be in California, since most of his family wasn’t able to make it out to Zim. An excuse to get the family together, you know, and celebrate! We don’t have a date on that one yet but that’d make 3 engagements and 3 weddings!

Between May 10 and August 16 for a wedding date, it’ll have to be May 10 because we took our vows that day before God and witnesses, and we signed our marriage certificate that day!

signingBut since it was less than perfect, I’m thankful we had the opportunity to celebrate our marriage with friends and family this month! It also initiated me into the world of real wedding planning i.e. working with multiple vendors and competing wishes from various sectors…If only we could have combined the chill aspect of 5/10/15 with the thrilling joy of friends and family of August 16 to make for the absolutely perfect experience.

So 3 engagements and 2 weddings later, I think I’m thoroughly married. It’s no longer complicated!

32 Things I’m Thankful For

For my devotions, this morning, I decided to meditate on the Psalm for the Sabbath (since it is Sabbath today) and I couldn’t get past the first phrase:

“It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord” Psalm 92:1

In the midst of thanking God for one thing, I found myself complaining about how that thing was nice but inadequate. A good friend once called me an ingrate (faithful are the wounds of a friend!)…and for the first time today I understood what she was referring to all those years ago.

So, in honor of my 32nd birthday this past week and to battle the spirit of ungratefulness I didn’t even realize I had, here are 32 things I’m thankful for today – in no particular order (for the most part) and without the murmurer’s qualifications (that’s the hard part for me!). I’m thankful for:

1. God’s faithfulness to me – He’s just always been there for me whenever I turn to Him!

2. God’s forgiveness – He never drags up the past to make me feel bad about it.

3. God’s patience with me – Case in point is how long it took me to realize I even had a problem with gratitude!

4. God’s provision – I’ve never gone a day in my life without at least one meal, except by choice.

5. A place to call home – I have a fully and beautifully furnished apartment that I couldn’t have afforded to furnish as such.

6. My landfolk – They go beyond the call of duty and look out for my wellbeing.

7. A wardrobe full of clothes – Which means I have more clothes than I need.

8. My seminary education – which is teaching me more than the course material.

9. Two student jobs – without which I could not meet my expenses.

10. Awesome co-workers – Going into work is never an unpleasant experience.

11. Bosses who pray with me- they care about my spiritual welfare too!

12. Friends who pray for me – Some days, I know I’m surviving on their prayers.

13. Friends who encourage me- and remind you to focus on Christ.

14. The Bible.

15. Friends who give me the opportunity to love selflessly.

16. My fiancé – He’s an unexpected blessing in so many ways (just don’t want him to dominate this list, haha. I’ll elaborate in my personal journal on this one!).

17. Family.

18. Victory over sin – God has given me so many victories during the lifespan of our relationship! Praise His name!

19. Warmer weather! – It means I can start my outdoor running now!

20. My church family – They have come through for me so many times over the past two years

21. Music – It’s just therapeutic, you know.

22. Nature – It’s therapeutic too!

23. Sleep – Restful sleep. No nightmares. Just sweet, sweet sleep. That’s therapeutic too, hehe.

24. My plants – that have survived with less sunshine than optimal in my basement apartment.

25. Controversy – It teaches me to be firm to principle.

26. Good health

27. A fast metabolism – I know it won’t always be like this so I’m thankful for it now

28. Another year of life

29. A car

30. Technology – that allows me stay in touch with my family who are so far away

31. Opportunities for ministry – God has given me the privilege to testify of His goodness before thousands

32. The Sabbath

not so happy Hawai’i

Hawai’i was beautiful!

Sunshine.

Warm ocean.

Fun with family.

It was the almost perfect vacation!

Just one thing marred my experience.

No, it wasn’t the reality of having to come back to the Polar Vortex ravaging our Pure Michigan.
Nor was it the faint recollection of all the schoolwork I was not getting done while on vacation.

Since we would be going to Hawai’i for Jo and Johnny’s wedding,, Arch thought it’d be a great idea to watch a documentary related to the islands. So we watched Hawaiian: The Legend of Eddie Aikau. It was a captivating watch and Eddie’s story is inspiring. But by the end of the documentary, I no longer wanted to go to Hawai’i.

A thread running through Eddie’s story, as told in this documentary, is the loss of and fight to maintain a sense identity for the Hawai’ian people. Eddie dies in an effort to save the lives of his crew mates on the Hokulea, a ship symbolic of native Hawai’ian heritage. His career as a surfer is portrayed as part of the Hawai’ian’s attempt to assert their identity. In short, the native Hawai’ian is depicted as a disenfranchised people whose land and culture is still being exploited by the West.

This perspective of the islands has haunted me since, and hung as an unwanted skeleton in the closet of my consciousness. Everywhere I went on Big Island or Oahu, my eyes were open to spot the natives. I wanted to see how they live…where they live…if they’re really unhappy or if the Western domination has settled in for them.

But I couldn’t find them (except as the person driving my boat through the hotel and resort in Kona, or the server at that dingy Zippys on the outskirts of Honolulu). Ok, so if you take into consideration, the parenthetical statement, I did see some natives. But I wanted to see them enjoying the things tourists come to the island for…patronizing their own resorts and beaches.

My problem was that I placed myself in their shoes. If Hawai’i were Zimbabwe…and you only ever saw non-Zimbabweans at the Victoria Falls or the Zimbabwe Ruins or Chimanimani…There was a time when a native-ancestry Zimbabwean was a rare sight as a patron at our national treasures. But that was during colonialism!

Hawai’i?

Our tour guide through the Big Island (and Archie’s uncle by marriage) is part native, so I did get to hear a bit of the native perspective. For one thing, he told me of an island designated  for the preservation of Hawai’ian culture – Ni’ihau. He said you had to prove native Hawai’ian ancestry to live there with no power lines, no paved roads, no plumbing etc. Something  about Ni’ihau made me feel a bit better. But only a bit.

I’m not concerned with rejecting Westernization in whatever form at any cost. No. It’s about the freedom to govern one-self that bugged me about the whole situation with Hawai’i. Freedom is the value I feared has been denied the native Hawai’ians.

With their freedom, they may still have chosen to become the 50th state. They may have chosen to turn their islands into one big tourist resort. And perhaps they would have decided to put themselves and their culture on display as a means of making money. But it would be their choice!

There’s nothing I can do about it, I suppose. But that won’t stop it from bothering me. And I want it to bother me. I want to be bothered by exploitation and injustice anywhere I see it. Then, wherever God grants me opportunity, I want to be on the side that brings an end to it.

Why It Isn’t On Facebook

Most people who have found out from me that I’m in a relationship, respond first with incredulity. haha. Yes, they laugh. Then they notice my straight face and double back, “wait…you’re serious?”

Apparently part of why it’s so unbelievable is because they didn’t see it on Facebook! And to be sure, once they’re in the loop about the fact, they’re on Facebook trying to figure out how they missed it.

It’s not the most obvious thing on Facebook because when we begun our courtship, we decided against a status change. I’m pretty sure neither of us could have articulated it quite as such at the time, but here are 5 reasons why we kept it off Facebook:

1. Authenticity: Eliminate the need to keep up appearances so we could be real and seriously tackle the issues that would make for a solid relationship

2. Community: Avoid the temptation of a false sense of community and be intentional about creating a substantial community that would keep us accountable in our relationship

3. Freedom: Maintain the sense of freedom to explore our compatibility with limited fall-out if it came to that – not that either of us went into it planning on a break-up, but neither were we married already

4. Family: We wanted to be able to tell close family and friends ourselves as opportunities afforded

5. Simplicity: This one reason was probably clearest for us both – keeping it off Facebook just simplified an already formidable process of preparation for a possible life together.

So it never was a secret that we were in a relationship, and it isn’t a secret that we’re engaged now! (I’m so excited I’d like to shout it from a roof-top – he’s so wonderful to me!) But, I think we’ll keep things as they are for now 🙂

may-blog

May is the month when I wasn’t sure I’d get my monthly blog in or not.
It was really a toss-up: “I may or may not blog this month,” I thought.
But I just really did not want to break my beautifully consistent record of blogging every month so here I am writing something down.

It’s not for lack of things to write about!
Several ideas have presented themselves to me over the past month.
Some with greater force than others.

For instance,

I have this blog idea floating around in my head about why I am a Seventh-day Adventist.
I mean, why I’m a Seventh-day Adventist and not a Jew, or a Catholic or a Muslim etc.
Hopefully I’ll make the time to write that one.

Then there’s the “living in the tension” series of which I’ve only produced the first … ahem.
There are so many facets to it that I’m becoming convinced that the Christian experience is all about it and that this very fact makes the Christian witness of a life lived by principle is the clearest articulation of the Christian faith.
Oh so much to say on this – I really should be writing a blog a day to articulate my thinking in this area!

But the one that almost got me writing with fury was a response to a conversation with some friends yesterday…
The men (the majority of the men engaged in the conversation) were trying to make the Bible say that women are worse affected by sin than men were and that’s why society must be harsher to women than it is toward men.
Infuriating!
It’s one thing to be of the opinion that women are somehow morally inferior…ok, it’s ridiculous but, ok…
It’s quite another thing to try to squeeze that out of the Bible! (smh is not an adequate descriptor of my sentiment here)

Yet with all the pathos and intellectual stimulus that these ideas have evoked, I still find myself unable to blog about anything this month.
That I’m too busy is true but only betrays the fact that there are things in my life right now that I consider to be more important.
Perhaps as I find my summertime groove, things will sufficiently subside so that blogging can be somewhat restored to the priority list.
YaY for summer!

Wait

Saw this poem as a friend’s note on Facebook and I liked it, so I share it here for your blessing.

(Author Unknown)

Desperately, helplessly, longingly, I cried.
Quietly, patiently, lovingly God replied.
I pled and I wept for a clue to my future,*
And the Master so gently said, “Child, you must wait.”

“Wait? You say, wait! ” my indignant reply.
“Lord, I need answers, I need to know why!
Is your hand shortened? Or have you not heard?
By faith, I have asked, and am claiming your Word.
My future and all to which I can relate
Hangs in the balance, and YOU tell me to WAIT?
I’m needing a ‘yes’, a go-ahead sign,
Or even a ‘no’ to which I can resign.
And Lord, You promised that if we believe
We need but to ask, and we shall receive.
And Lord, I’ve been asking, and this is my cry:
I’m weary of asking! I need a reply!”

Then quietly, softly, I learned of my future*
As my Master replied once again, “You must wait.”

So, I slumped in my chair, defeated and taut
And grumbled to God, “So, I’m waiting…. for what?”

He seemed, then, to kneel, and His eyes wept with mine,
And he tenderly said, “I could give you a sign.
I could shake the heavens, and darken the sun.
I could raise the dead, and cause mountains to run.
All you seek, I could give, and pleased you would be.
You would have what you want ~ But, you wouldn’t know Me.

You’d not know the depth of My love for each saint;
You’d not know the power that I give to the faint;
You’d not learn to see through the clouds of despair;
You’d not learn to trust just by knowing I’m there;
You’d not know the joy of resting in Me
When darkness and silence were all you could see.

You’d never experience that fullness of love
As the peace of My Spirit descends like a dove;
You’d know that I give and I save…. (for a start),
But you’d not know the depth of the beat of My heart.

The glow of My comfort late into the night,
The faith that I give when you walk without sight,
The depth that’s beyond getting just what you asked
Of an infinite God, who makes what you have LAST.

You’d never know, should your pain quickly flee,
What it means that “My grace is sufficient for Thee.”
Yes, your dreams for your loved one overnight would come true, But, Oh, the Loss! If I lost what I’m doing in you!

So, be silent, My Child, and in time you will see
That the greatest of gifts is to get to know Me.
And though oft’ may My answers seem terribly late,
My most precious answer of all is still, “WAIT.”” WAIT ”

*original reads “fate” to rhyme with wait, but I didn’t feel comfortable leaving it there for its theological inaccuracy so I’ll take a hit with the rhyme. Poem was too good to pass up though…!

the more I know the less I know

I absolutely love being a student again! Seriously! Sometimes, I can even feel my brain grow! It’s awesome!

Brain Exercises

Now that I’ve convinced you of my sincerity by the overwhelming use of exclamation points, I shall proceed to confess to a phenomenon that is completely new to me. Yes, I’d heard it spoken of, but I didn’t come close to imagining what the experience would be like. And though I may have thought I wanted to have myself a taste of it, I had no idea what I was asking for.

A speaker once said, “A Degree is just that – one degree out of 360!” Ok, theoretically I agreed with him. But surely after all these years of education, I could lay claim to some superior knowledge…right? Even if it did amount to just a degree it was more than I had before!

one degree

Then another said that the more educated you are, the more you realize how little you know. There was an oxymoron if you ever heard one. How could you know less by knowing more?

graph

 

Whether I like it or not, I’m beginning to understand what those adages were all about…and the understanding is somewhat of a painful experience, but I think that’s just because it hurts my pride.

You know how people try to make you “feel better” about your age? I tell them I’m 31 and they say, “Oh, but don’t worry, you don’t look it!” In response, I’ll usually say something to the effect, “Do you know how hard I worked to be 31?! I had to work everyday for 31years to reach this age! Are you trying to tell me all that work was for nothing?” I take pride in all the wisdom I assume myself to have gained from 31years of life experience! Wouldn’t you?

proud

So now you throw me in a classroom where the more I learn, the more I realize that I don’t really know that much – it wounds my pride, you see.

No, I’m not talking about failing or passing tests! What I’m talking about is when you master a concept and inherent in that mastery is a challenge to years of assumptions that may or may not be validated based on this freshly acquired knowledge. What I mean is that what you learn forces you to re-evaluate your preconceived notions. Your whole world is in flux and its thrilling!

Honestly speaking, this whole process would be far less than thrilling were it not for a few anchor points that have already been worked out.

1. the Bible.

When I read the Bible every morning and evening for my personal devotions, I know that I can trust it as a source of knowledge and foundation for experience. In the world of scholarship, you have no idea how comforting that is!

2. family.

In here I count biological family as well as friends who are like family. The emotional stability that unconditional acceptance provides cannot be overestimated when you’re going through metaphysical upheaval!

3. God.

He is and has always been that One constant through every change I have experienced in my life. The assurance of His love, guidance, and presence has an inimitable stabilizing effect.

So that’s my current state of mind as I go into the final month of my second semester as a Masters student. I’m learning so much. Loving every minute. And realizing how little I really know!

Who would do a PhD after all this?!

how was GYC?

A conversation I had with a Croatian friend of mine during our first year of college in the US stands out. She said, “Sikhu, I don’t understand why Americans ask, ‘how are you?’ when they don’t really want to hear your answer!” She would actually take the time to craft a meaningful response to their question, but by the time she opened her mouth, they had already moved on.

Over the years, I’ve developed quick responses designed to be more descriptive of my true state of being. For instance, “I’m awake” = Waking up was rough, this morning, but here I stand nonetheless/I’m really sleepy and would like to get to bed soon! Or, “Can’t complain” = Things aren’t going the way I’d like but because I trust God is in control, any complaints would be unwarranted. So when I say that “I’m doing well, actually,” it means that I’m actually doing well!

Another one of those #Idon’treallyexpectananswer questions is the post-vacation “how was break?” or in my case, for those that know I went to GYC, it’s “how was GYC?” My quick response for that one has been, “It was different!” Sometimes people actually want to know how GYC was for me, and they’ll inquire further as to my meaning, but sometimes, it was just a conversation filler (and that’s ok!) For those who are actually interested in knowing what GYC was like for me this year, I’ll share a bit of my experience.

For starters, although I’ve always volunteered for GYC, this year was a different kind of volunteer experience. You see, several months ago, JMac called and invited me to be the morning devotional speaker for the Conference. After talking with God, a LOT, about it, I agreed to do it, only if 1. He wouldn’t make me do it alone i.e. He’d be with me the whole way and 2. He’d be fine with it being me up there speaking – I couldn’t be anyone other than myself and I’d do it if He was fine with that.

The first morning I had to speak, I was so scared. So I just kept reading the texts that bring me comfort anytime I have to speak for God (Ex 4:12, Jer 1:4-9). Standing there in front of everyone, the thought struck me, “this wasn’t a joke! it’s for real I’m supposed to speak now!” Then I remembered God’s instruction to Jeremiah not to be afraid of their faces and the fear dissipated.

I must not have gotten enough sleep that night because waking up was very challenging the next morning. By the time I had to speak, my mind felt so foggy, I had no clue if what I was about to say would make sense. Praying that God would help me, I went up and, after the fact, I knew God had helped me because my mind was clear the whole time I was up there.

But then day 3 and 4 of speaking came with challenges unique to any of the times I’ve ever spoken in public. Never, before, had I preached while sick but on that Sabbath morning, I woke up and my body was just not right. The fever that had started the night before hadn’t broken, my body ached and I knew I’d need God’s help in a unique way.

Having spent the day resting, I hoped my body would be back on my side Sunday morning but that was not to be the case. When I woke up Sunday morning, my voice was gone. Now, music was always my thing growing up, and I’ve had situations where I had to sing a solo but I was so sick I had no voice, yet when the critical time came, a voice emerged. But never before had this happened to me before preaching. And singing a 3-5minute song is one thing…preaching for 45minutes is quite another!

Many prayers were ascending in my behalf that morning and God came through once again. No voice before and after speaking, but the record shows that something came out of my mouth that morning.

I have committed and continue to commit the messages that God used me to share at this past conference. Maybe they can help someone in their spiritual journey. In the miraculous way God works, I know it’s quite possible they could bless someone.

But as for me, I learnt a new way of depending on God at this past conference. I learnt that if we give Him our meagre selves, He could do something miraculous in our behalf. I learnt that even though I’m so small and, in the broad scope of things, apparently insignificant, God would condescend to let me work with Him. I learnt that it really is sweet to trust in Jesus.

So for me, this year, GYC was way different!