Navigating confusion in the midst of decisions

In every big decision that we make, there are little elements that causes us to pause. Most of the times we are not aware of these because of the way they present. Let’s talk about that little element of confusion. The mind has to reconcile in the midst of breakthrough moments and big decisions, is this really the right thing to do or am I crazy? I call this the element of confusion. Confusion is “the inability to think as clearly or quickly as you normally do.” It comes with a number of signs, including,”sudden changes in emotion, such as sudden agitation.

READ MORE: Bursting the myths of fear

Have you ever felt confident in a goal or desire that you are pursuing, but something or someone comes and knocks you out of your adrenaline rush? Once certain that the Lord gave you permission to take that trip, take that exciting opportunity, or refrain from doing something; but, the moment you settle into your decision something happens. You shared it with people, and now you have to reconcile their viewpoints as part of your decision making process- leaving you a little hm, confused. Did you really hear God the first time? Are you making the right decision? These questions plaque your mind leaving your brain too overwhelmed to decide on what is best for you.

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“For God is not the author of confusion but of peace…”1 Corinthians 14:33. Making decisions can often cause us to pause for many reasons, but remember we have to keep moving forward, not fall prey to confusion. So how do we ensure that we don’t get stuck here…and give up forever. Let’s ask ourselves a few questions: why am I confused? What did God tell me the first time? And who am I allowing to make my decision for me?

Why?

When it comes to certain decisions, I often feel that I do not have the ability to trust myself to make this decision, especially when I’ve failed too many times. So I go seeking counsel from sources that I believe have my best interest at heart. Many times when we share our goals with too many people, what we find is that everyone has a different perspective and rather than having to wrestle with our own, we now have an overload of opinions. I have a colleague who is looking for a house. She appeared extremely anxious and overwhelmed. When I inquired, this is when I learned that she had been getting so many opinions from friends and family so she has no idea if she’ll ever get a house. The market is too crazy! Move out of town! Wait til summer, blah blah blah….That’s what happen when we rely on other people’s opinions. Why are YOU confused? Well, when we choose to surrender our decision making abilities to other people, that’s what happens. Yes, we get to take counsel from others (choose who you want counsel from), and when they give us, we can decide for ourselves how beneficial their advise is to us. In other words, do we toss it or keep some or all of it? Once we take back control over our ability to make the decision we stop being confused.

Who?

Who are you surrendering your decision making abilities to, family members, trusted church brethren, friends? I realized that I was allowing these wonderful Godly women whom I trust and whom I consider experts in the area that I am making a decision, in the relationship realm. This is not the first time I’ve done this over my life. Out of fear, I wanted to hold on to every opinion in hopes that they would stare me right. But, I felt more confused than at peace. I don’t get to share my goals and desires with everyone – because even their good intentions can be hurtful and wounding to the soul. Rather than being helpful, they are hinderances to my faith. Even though I trust that these friends have my best interests, I still don’t have to put a heavy weight on their opinions. I still get the final say!

What?

“What did God tell you the first time?” This is the question my dear sister asked me when I told her I’m becoming more confused with all the opinions I’ve been sorting through. Rather than feeling stuck, I have to come back to God. I get to tell Him in prayer, “Lord, I am stuck and confused right now and I know you are not the author of confusion, so please remove everything or everyone that is causing me to feel confused. Please remind me of what you told me the first time.” This way, we are bringing God right where He needs to be, in our hearts.

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We get the right to make decisions- this is the summation of all of our life experiences. We all want to “do the right thing” so that we don’t mess up and fail. But, honestly, it’s better to make a bad decision and fail, rather than surrendering control of our decisions to others – and then fail. When we make a “bad decision” this is an opportunity to learn and then pivot. When we make a good decision, we can celebrate our win and gain confidence to make more decisions in the future. The point is, we shouldn’t give up this amazing power, even if we are scared. I am in the midst of a life changing decision, and I for one am very scared. I seriously do not trust myself, but I have prayed. “With Christ, I can do anything” Philippians 4:13.

READ MORE: Let’s do a new thing in 2022

Let that be an encouragement to you in month 5! Don’t give up on yourselves, we can do this. Remove every confusion and keep on moving. If you are in the middle of a big mistake, pivot, but don’t stop. Trust yourself. You got this!

Bursting the Myths of Fear

Fear; an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat.

Oxford online dictionary

This year has been interesting for me so far. Yes, like everyone else I have my desires and goals that I want to accomplish. But, while those are at the forefront of my mind, I am faced to tackle my fears. In January, I learnt that a close friend of mine died, Mr. Moss-Solomon. I could use a lengthy page to tell you about his accolades, but those were not how I knew him. He was a mentor and a friend to me. Someone who believed in me. Though we met in Jamaica, at the University, where he held the position as Executive in Residence, he continued to stay in touch when I returned home in Canada. We stayed in touch years later, even a little over a month before he died. I didn’t know that our last conversation was going to be our last, otherwise I would have stayed on the phone longer with him- it was his birthday. He died on Jan 04, 2022.

Read More: An elegy to Jimmy Moss-Solomon.

That death has a shock to my new year. Because the thing I began to reflect on was time. No matter how much we have, it’s never enough. Kinda like money, actually. All jokes aside; there are some things in life that we all need to do, we are called to do them because of our unique skill-sets, experiences, and personality; but we keep feeling fearful. My friend used to tell me all the time that I am made to do more than I am currently doing (though he wasn’t that politically correct when he told me so). That was the rolling joke for us- he was a man that was as direct as they come. And he hated the way Canadians were always so politically correct all the time. There is a Jamaican song that not so eloquently expresses this point in patios, “..who don’t like it not….(I won’t end the lyric). Since I am Canadian-raised, I am forced to remain politically correct.

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When we allow it, fear will stop us dead in our tracks and prevent us from moving ahead. Yes, because the feeling is utterly unpleasant. It’s a moving out of our comfort zones to places we have never been before. It makes us pause, gauge our surroundings, and make a decision about taking a step forward or backward. In my last article, I shared how I stood on the ski hill for almost 10-15 minutes looking down. How would I get to the bottom without falling? Did I really want to do this? These are all legitimate questions that the brain must conceptualize. But, the final decision is always up to us. The questions that we should begin to use to rebut are: Will this hurt me or make me better? Even if it hurts, won’t I learn from my failure?

Read more: Ready, set, pause.

It’s natural that our brains aim and program is to protect us by any means necessary. Have you ever walked on a lake before? I went out walking on the lake yesterday. I did it while being afraid. My brain automatically started to process the possibility that I could fall because the ice could crumble under my feet. That even though all those other people and their dogs were out there walking, I was going to be the one to fall. I slowly started to walk. The truth was, it was hard to tell where the land ended and where the lake began because the ice was also covered with snow, everywhere. My brain reprogrammed itself because it realized things were not as it thought. Even though it was my first time, this was perfectly safe. The next time I go out there, I will gladly go walking on the lake. I was extra vigilant at first, but now that I see that there was nothing to fear, I intend to do it again. Everything that is out of our comfort zones become an imminent danger, and is to be feared…until we do it.

Overcoming fear requires that I step out of my comfort zone to do new things.
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Basically, if I was to follow my brain every time I would never do anything new.

My encouragement to you before we begin yet another month is to DO IT! Do it in the midst of feeling afraid. Ask yourself these other rebuttal questions: Will this actually hurt me? And even if it does hurt, will I learn whatever my failure has to teach me?

“…Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

Let’s do a new thing in 2022!

“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?” Isaiah 43:18-19

It’s exciting to start new things. New hobbies, new love, new jobs. It’s the feeling that I have no history, no perceptions or knowledge about the thing I am doing and I get to have a clean slate. Plus, there is no judgements from other people about me. Starting at day one, I am free to be anything I want to be, or even better, the best version of me. The Lord told Isaiah (43:18-19) to “forget the former things.” That is, forget the past because He is doing a new thing. Can you not perceive that it is already beginning to happen for you? What an exciting place to be on the first day of the year 2022!

Photo by Mikhail Nilov from Pexels

Awareness is the gift I give myself this year. Today, I went out walking on a trail nearby my house. I usually do that, but today was the first time for 2022. I wanted to be present and to feel alive and to experience the joy of something so simple. I spent time giving thanks to God as I reflect on his goodness and mercies. Each time a future plan came to mind, I committed it to God. With each step, I found joy and peace. I am excited about the fact that God promises to do a new thing and it will be better than the former. I don’t have to worry about whether God is going to come through this year like He did last year. I also don’t have to go looking for my blessings at the same places where He blessed me last year, because this year it is going to be different. Doesn’t that fill you with anticipation about what God is going to do this year?

I sure do. And what I love is that I am reminded by Matthew (6:30-31), “God will certainly take care of you, much more than he takes care of the grass. You should trust him more than you do! Do not have trouble in your mind about these things.” I am committed to lean on God’s promises so that I am not anxious, worried, or afraid. If 2022 is going to be an exciting year for us we must set our hearts with great expectations. Will you join me in doing so?

Since I left some advice in 2021 I decided to do it again this year.

READ MORE: Let go of the past and say hello to 2021!

Here are some tips for my 2022:

Set boundaries: In the past I have often felt that this is a rejection word (And I suffered from this painful feeling for years). Now, I am embracing boundaries because I realize that I need the space from people (including family members) to become my best self for them.

Pray about everything: The bible tells us to do this, but when the bad things come around we are so anxious that we can’t even sit for a minute to say a sensible word to God. But, this is when we need to pray, so that we won’t do something stupid that we may regret.

Avoid unnecessary conflicts/Contentions/Arguing: No I am not saying to be passive and to ignore the need to address certain difficult situations. What I realize is that I have always been ready to address the conflicts when others are shunning them. And because I don’t get my resolve, this might set me off to ruminate and not think good thoughts towards the person. Plus, I become the one causing more conflict (including for myself). This year, I will use wisdom to know when to not respond and walk away and offer grace to people who irritate my skin.

Trust God to fight all my battles: I witness God fighting for me last year, over and over again, at work and in my family. It was like watching miracle after miracle. And the best part was, I didn’t have to be bent out of shape in the end. I experienced peace and I gave God is praises that is due. So I am committed to doing the same thing again.

Wait: Yes, I know this is a tough one. This is where the anxious thoughts come in. But, let’s be honest we do not control the times and we do not control people. So, I am going to be doing a lot of waiting and while I wait, you best believe I am going to be praying and worshipping.

As I set out on this first day with great expectations I know that every journey has its bumps in the road, but I will use my tips above to get through them, one at a time. I am committed to believing God for every promise He ever made to me. I hope to come back after a year to share my testimonies (and that you might do the same).

May you move ahead seeing and perceiving the new things the Lord will do in your life this year. He will do it.

Have an extraordinary year my friends!

First time Travelling by Train to Edmonton

Leaving Vancouver on Via Rail was something else. I was passing through Vancouver to visit Edmonton for the first time. Everything was new. The Bridges, the buildings, and even the buses. I read once that the brain thrives on new experiences: “Novelty.” I may not know the neurological process, but I know that what I was experiencing felt good. Travelling makes me come alive fully.

READ MORE: 10 things to know while travelling

My train ticket from Vancouver to Edmonton costed me just under $200, which covered one economy seat. It was spacious enough and no one was sitting next to me. There were two bathrooms per railcar and I had access to the other railcars as well. Once we were settled in our seats, the conductors introduced themselves and laid down the rules and expectations for us. As soon as they were done, I made my way to see what the other cars looked like and where the dining car and the skydome were located. Basically, just to get a lay of the land. Familiarize myself with my surroundings since I would be travelling for 26 hours. I learnt that the bathroom in the other car next to mine was more spacious. And since there were fewer passengers, hardly anyone used it. Next, I grab my laptop, books, and note books and sat in the dining car to begin my writing. Too bad there was no wifi access. It is a feature benefit in the business car though, which was further from where we were. In a way, I felt an invisible label “lower class” placed on me. Not that the service was bad, it’s just that I felt the division. Maybe it was the way the server barked at me when I ventured down a hallway pass the kitchen were I shouldn’t have crossed. It was just a feeling…

On Via Rail in the dining car

Still, travelling across the country by train was a bucket list item. When I woke up the next morning, I could see snow covered pine trees. I didn’t order breakfast because I was still full from dinner the night before, salmon with rice and veggies. I planned to get breakfast in Jasper once the train stopped. I sat in the dome car with others, looking through the transparent ceiling at the mountains all covered with snow, the aqua coloured water below, and the pine trees lining the mountains. “Gorgeous” were the words just rolling off the tongues of passengers, and “Aw” and “Wow” “Unbelievable” “Breathtaking.” The best word that described this experience though was “Divine.” It wasn’t made by man, but by God. And it was perfect and flawless.

Inside the dome car

The train sped under tunnels that went through the mountains. The mountains were on both sides of the train. Our eyes swung from side to side, ahead and behind…just trying to capture every moment with our eyes, with our mind. I think I had. I can still see the experience vividly. But, not the same way as what it looks like on the many photos I took or the videos taken. No. The one captured in my mind cannot be replicated. It is as I saw it, and it will remain that way forever.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Yes, I made conversations with a few passengers, listening to travel tales, and strange meditation practices or grounding practices. I often find that passengers who travel for fun are the retirees, which puts me as an anomaly. I was the only black person, except for the French conductor. Half the passengers were in my age group. One family was travelling with two infants, which must have been difficult. There wasn’t a bed for them to sleep on, or a place to play. The boy occupied the aisle with his toys. The baby was spread out on the large size seats. Very uncomfortable.

Stopping in Jasper for breakfast for the hour broke things up a bit. I was able to get fresh air, walk around, buy touristy things and grab breakfast before re-boarding. I went straight to the dome car to eat. I wanted a good view as I enjoyed my meal, with matcha tea that had messed up my white gloves, and left blotches of green on my black coat. After not bathing for over 24 hours or changed my clothes, I started to feel, dirty. Maybe I belonged in the lower class car at this point. It didn’t matter in the moment.

READ MORE: The Halifax Citadel: Lest we Forget.

I used my afternoon to read and journal about my experience. As it started to get dark again, I made my way back to my own seat. And sat there to enjoy what was left of the train ride. It would be arriving in Edmonton in 2 hours. Approximately 6:30 pm, I said my good -byes. The conductor was kind to take down my luggage and had it ready at the door for me. As I waited for my ride with an elderly woman beside me talking my ears off, she whispered, “we call it Dead-min-ton.” And then disappeared in her taxi.

10 things to know while Travelling

“Be brave enough to live life creatively. The creative is the place where no one else has ever been. You have to leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition. You can’t get there by bus, only by hard work and risk and by not quite knowing what you’re doing. What you’ll discover will be wonderful. What you’ll discover will be yourself.”

Actor, Alan Alda

I find travelling to be the most creative of things I can do, specifically when I do it alone. I am connecting the dots through every decision I make. I am connected to people I’m never going to see again, at restaurants, while walking, or standing in line. Each person I meet has no idea whether I am a local or a tourist, not unless I actually tell them. When I was in the west of Canada, there is no distinct marker between me and the people I meet. Saying, “I’m from Ontario” doesn’t create any surprise reactions. Except, the people are curious about how my experience is going. Sometimes I would share my next venture with them, that I am on my way to Alberta.

Granville Station, Vancouver

When I got off the ferry, I took a bus to Vancouver’s skytrain. It wasn’t hard, just frustrating to figure out where I am going while on a strict schedule. I wanted to be at the Via Rail train station at 2pm. I sat on the bus between two asian young women, one white man at the back of the bus, and another white woman joined him with her suitcases. Once I got off the bus, I followed one of the asian woman. She agreed she would show me where to get the skytrain since she was going on the train too. While we arrive in the elevator, a black man (which I had seen in the ferry terminal in Victoria) was already in it, and an elderly white woman joined us. Most of us didn’t really know where we were going. We were figuring it out together. We lost the man who ended up taking the escalator, while the rest of us women walked to another elevator that took us to the platform. On the train, we started talking about Canada. I shared that I was on my way to Alberta, the Asian girl shared that she went to visit her parents on one of the island and she is returning. The elderly woman shared how she has watched Vancouver transformed into the big city it is now. There was another young white woman behind me who got my attention, and shared that she used to live in Alberta, but she is happy to live in BC now. She is in graduate school but doesn’t think she’ll be going back to Alberta. “Don’t go to the Edmonton Mall” she said, “Everyone goes there. Go to the Art Gallery or the Museum instead.” Well, I took her advice.

Art Gallery of Alberta

The elderly woman had told me to get off at the City Centre. Even though my GPS wanted me to continue on the train. I decided to take the elderly woman’s suggestions. When I got out of the train, I asked a number of people for directions. What I noticed was, no one was from Vancouver! The strangest thing… Two young girls directed me down an escalator, and from there I followed the signs to the platform. Nothing was completely difficult, it’s just that with the added stress of not wanting to miss my train, created anxiety. Anxiety and travelling is an uncomfortable mix. That’s probably why most people won’t do it. But, what calms me down is the confidence that, no matter what choice I make or not make, everything will work out just fine.

READ MORE: Ferry to Vancouver.

Travelling opens up my curiosity and puts all my assumptions and expectations behind closed doors. I wish that I could live like that in my ordinary life. Each moment is an opportunity to create a memory and to not take anything for granted. When travelling, I am fully aware of how to live in the moment, because I am certain that I won’t get another opportunity to come back to that very spot. Sitting in the train with strangers talking like ole friends hardly happen for me at home. We connected over our transitory journey.

So to end this post, I want to say that I have learnt a lot while travelling, I just have to use those same lessons in my regular life. Let me share 10 of them with you:

  1. Always ASK questions, don’t assume nothing.
  2. LIVE in the moment and don’t take anything for granted.
  3. Set aside plans, and go with the FLOW (this is the one that I use as my mantra).
  4. Be CURIOUS and try new things (this is a staple of travelling)
  5. Always go with your HEART and set aside every limitation.
  6. Create MEMORIES not nightmares.
  7. Be OPEN minded.
  8. Be anxious for NOTHING.
  9. Make MISTAKES. They can turn out to be best memories.
  10. Be completely FREE to be yourself (no one is judging!)

Ferry to Vancouver

Monday morning came. I laid in bed for a little while, wondering what was happening outside the walls of this hotel. Were people frantically trying to get to work on time? Were children apathetically walking to school? If I was home I would be in the former category, but I was not at home. I was in Victoria, British Columbia. And this morning I was going to Vancouver by ferry to catch the 3 0’clock train to Alberta. Now, that was exciting to me.

My suitcase was pretty much packed from the day before, so I only had to get dressed. The drive to Enterprise rental car was calming. Looking outside to see the colourful scenery in the comfort of a luxury car, with my favourite music playing was idyllic. I felt a sense of completion because I had done everything I wanted to do in Victoria. I anticipated whatever was going to happen next. I was quite surprised when Enterprise told me that they would provide me a taxi to the ferry at no cost to me. Within five minutes the taxi arrived. Every thing went seamlessly.

READ MORE: From the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean.

After being dropped off by the taxi driver, an Indian man who had been living in Victoria for the last 25 years with his wife, I went through the ferry terminal doors. It was easy enough to purchase my ticket, then follow the escalator down to the lower level to sit with the other passengers. As soon as it was 10:30, I heard the announcement calling for the passengers to commence boarding. I peered through the little peeping holes (like the windows of an airplane), to watch the orderly flow of cars driving unto the ferry. It reminded me of when I took the ferry from Nova Scotia to Prince Edward Island.

READ MORE: Adventures to Prince Edward Island.

I was in a long flowing line of passengers going though a lengthy hallway. I showed my ticket and stepped unto the ferry. That’s when I realized this was nothing like the one I took. This one was huge! I didn’t know where I wanted to sit because there were so many options. I took a corner row that had five very broad seats, with equal seats in front of me. I had that row to myself. After I was settled in, I decided to go exploring – only to find there was a section for dining. A full restaurant with everything, including chefs that were making meals, cashiers, as well as a cold food section. And there were so many dining tables. It was a restaurant, and one with the best views! I left the dining section, I opted not to take the elevator, so I could climb the stairs to the upper level. This was where the deck was. The deck also had tables and several seating areas on both ends. Some people were getting their meditation in the sun, and backing in this glorious experience. I went back to get my wallet.

The ferry started moving. I looked out of the numerous windows to observe the snow covered mountains in the distance. It looked like the mountains touched the sky. The food line moved quickly enough and I was at the cashier ordering a burger with fries and a hot chocolate. I carried my tray upstairs to the deck. The wind almost blew my tray away. It almost blew me away too. Another passenger picked up my wrapped burger from off the ground and walked with me to a table. Luckily, there was an overhead covering that blocked the wind. It was a bit cold, but not too cold to prevent me from staying on the deck long enough to get my heart’s content.

The ferry ride was only 1 hour and 30 mins and I really wanted to take in as much of the view as possible. So after lunch, I walked around the deck, my hoodie blocking the wind. I went under the overhead covering to look through the glass at the rough waves the ferry was making. I wondered if I would see a whale or dolphin in the deep blue sea, but I saw nothing. Being at sea though wasn’t boring. The sea drew me to reflect on the Creator of this magnificent ocean. And I worshiped the Lord, God.

From the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean

It turns out that the Gray line sightseeing tour bus was a great idea after all. On my third day, I was itching to get to Vancouver, for a number of reasons. Mostly, so that I could catch the Via Rail on the Monday afternoon. I felt that by arriving in Vancouver on Sunday I would have time to see the city and get to the train hassle-free in time. Since my hasty decision didn’t work out (or at least, I caught myself quickly enough….literally), I decided to use the tour bus as an opportunity to see more of the city that I might have missed.

Photo by cheyyenne north on Pexels.com

Let me explain what I meant by “I caught myself.” I was dressed and getting ready to check out of the hotel that Sunday but I was running late. I still had to drop off the rental car and get to the ferry on time. I began feeling a little anxious. My scarf got caught in the zipper of the suitcase, while the scarf was hung around my neck, and the zipper just wouldn’t close! As I was bent over the suitcase, I also noticed I wasn’t wearing my socks (the ones I had in my hand just minutes before being stuck). In that moment, the still small voice of the Holy Spirit asked me, Why are you in a rush to leave today? To that, I quickly assessed the position I was in and decided against leaving. Strangely, the zipper loosened right away, and I glanced at my socks in my handbag. Do you believe in these random signs?

READ MORE: Walking in the rain at Beacon Hill.

I left the suitcase where it was, unpacked some of the unneccesary items and looked at the time. 11:30am. New plan: I will catch the sightseeing bus at 12pm. As usual, it was raining. Non-stop. I arrived on Wharf street and I saw the tour bus down the road, but I went the opposite direction to order my meal to go. I looked at the time while waiting for the server to pack my meal, 11:55. When I finally got my order, I hasted. “Ticket for one” I shouted jovially to the conductor, once I knew he could see me. “Hey we waited for you yesterday for 2 hours” Commented Derek. I was surprised he remembered me. “No, you didn’t.” We laughed. I made my way into the bus and was seats away from Derek, who would conduct the tour. “Oh you’re sitting with me today.”

“Yes. Am I able to eat in the bus?”

“Certainly.”

I unmask my face and made myself comfortable. There were a few other tourists, but they chose to ride at the top of the double decker bus. On a summer’s day, I am certain I would have loved to sit up there. But, it was too cold since the top section was roofless.

READ MORE: When it rains, it pours.

My Sunday tour turned out to be perfect. I listened to the audio tour guide, combined with Derek’s interpretation of Victoria’s history, and updates about when we were stopping. Since I was sitting so close, I asked my own questions. And he answered them in between his announcements. We passed through some of the places I had visited already like China town. Once we left the inner harbour though, I could see the Pacific Ocean in the outskirts. I was itching to join the people at the scenic lookout points. It was a glorious kind of deep blue and the sun glistened on the water. We passed through Beacon Hill and continued again along the ocean.

I hadn’t realize how much of Victoria was surrounded by the sea. Of course, I knew it was an island. But, it was on the tour bus that I could to see much more of what the island had to offer in terms of scenery. I decided to get off at Oak Bay. I didn’t want to miss another opportunity to spend time by the ocean. “Be back here in 2 hours.” Derek told me. “I will be looking for you.”I stepped off the bus, in the cold, feeling sure I wanted to see the ocean up close. It was too beautiful not to. I walked down the hill, the bus passed me and disappeared from my sight. The sun that had come out earlier, had disappeared again. I kept on walking (yes, thoughts about getting lost, crossed my mind, but I ignored it.) hoping to see the ocean. It was too big not to miss. I passed houses after houses, and decided to turn down one street.

When I spotted the ocean, I followed the boardwalk that led to a restaurant. I could see the change of colour in the water. The deep blue emerged with large waves splashing on the rocks. What beauty. That’s when I realized, I have been from coast to coast. From the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean. I was inspired. In awe. Absolutely amazed that I completed what I set out to accomplish eight years ago.

READ MORE: Travelling post Covid-19

These are the experiences you will have to experience for yourselves, because the telling of them doesn’t quite do justice. Like I said in an earlier article, travelling for me is a calling. I see things in a new way and experience life, in my opinion, the way it ought to be experienced. With Wonder.

Victoria’s Chinatown and other charming heritage sites

As with every architecture in the city of Victoria, the stones used to construct the entrance of Chinatown is pristine. It was like, it was designed yesterday. I walked through the entire Chinatown in five minutes. Well, until I figured out the hidden alleyways that are so narrow, it’s easy to miss. It makes the experience more interesting. Since the only chinatown I’m familiar with is the one in Toronto, I really was expecting more shops, more places to eat, street vendors, and the chaos that often comes with the place, which of course makes for great bargaining. This China town could be packaged in a museum, the way it was so perfect. Across the street was a Chinese school that children go to learn about their Chinese culture. I observed two mothers speaking in there own tongue outside the school, as they held their little ones’ hands. I didn’t stop for food, but I bet that’s why later that night, I was craving Chinese food.

Photo by Brett Sayles on Pexels.com

I eventually saw the same city tour bus passed by me, but I felt that taking my time to experience more of the city on foot was best. After I left Chinatown, I went to Market Square. None of these places are by any means extravagant in size. I managed to walk through the square in a short time. Maybe, the experience would be lovelier in the summer months as I saw there was a performance stage in the centre. There were cute shops and patios on the second story to have lunch. It makes for a cute hang out spot (if it wasn’t so cold and windy).  On my way back, I saw the Eaton Mall. You can bet this mall was not your ordinary modern mall. The designs are Victorian in nature as well. The mall had all the stores you would expect to find in any shopping mall. But, the architecture was stunning, much like the entire city.

READ MORE: I have come home.  

What I love about the experience of walking through the downtown is that, every building has kept its original architecture. The following day, while on the City Bus (…I almost missed it again!), I learnt that all the hotels, stores, and any building was preserved as a historical site. So for decades to come, every owner of these buildings will not be able to completely change the look and feel of this beautiful city. The tour guide told us the history of one famous hotel. The hotel has kept its original design, with with many changes of owner, no one has stayed in there for 75 years, and no profit. The recent owner added to it, but is not allowed to change the original bricks. From the Chinatown, to native landmarks, to Victorian built, they have all been preserved as part of the historical look and feel of this charming city.

Photo by Rishabh Parange on Pexels.com

I felt safe and comfortable to walk around as a single woman of colour. The city had a little bit of diversity creeping in ever so slowly, it’s easy to miss it. I saw a biracial young girl working at the Rexall pharmacy and the following day when I went back to the pharmacy, there was an Asian woman. When I was walking through China town, I saw many Asian people. I didn’t see many other races, outside of Caucasian.  Like I said, it was easy to miss the diversity. I chatted up a few strangers, one was an ex-police officer working at the legislative assembly. I shared with him what I do for a living, and he was encouraging me to apply for jobs in British Columbia. I would say that the people are just as charming as the city. Also, the city seems to care a great deal about its retirees. I learnt on the tour bus that special care in height of buildings have been taken into consideration for accessibility reasons. With the fact that the city has a mild winter, it’s surrounded by the pacific ocean, and everyone has a green thumb, all makes for a beautiful place to live or vacation or even retire! I honestly must say that this city is a must see for anyone who loves the sun and sea!

Travelling post Covid-19

There is nothing like putting your job on hold, in order to make time for travelling. Travelling for me is more like a calling. When I go to a new place, I don’t merely go so that I can “have fun.” I immerse myself in the new city or country by going for long hikes, strolling through museums, and reading every plaque I see. Overall, I try to gain understanding of the history of the place, and I use my senses to get a feel of the people and their culture. Whether the people are nice, laid back, busy urbaners or homogeneous in nature. As a black woman walking into an all white location, I am curious how I am perceived. Are eyes darting in my direction, or are the people oblivious of my presence?

Fisherman’s Wharf, Victoria, BC

In the City of Victoria, my very first interaction (well outside of the airport and the rental car company) was with the hoteliers. There were two receptionist at the front. One lady with dark eye liner circled all around her eyes stared right through me. It’s like she was caught like a deer in the headlights. Was she nervous in my presence? Or was she new at her job? I stopped looking at her because she was making me nervous. The other receptionist tended to me hastily. My questions were answered abruptly, but not disrespectful. There was something that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. Plus, I was going with my new mantra “let it go, let it go….” It must have been the elephant or more appropriately, “the deer” in the room. My room was just as I expected; two beds, a clean spacious bathroom, and a large enough window with a view of the public library. That was more of a personal taunt for me, “More room to write in case the desk with the office chair and the dining table with two chairs wasn’t enough.”

READ MORE: Peggy’s Cove, Nova Scotia

The first thing I did after settling in was to go for a stroll. It was too nice a day not to go out. Plus, I had just been given three hours extra because of the time zone difference. Only 1pm in the afternoon and a full day ahead of me. I didn’t really know where I was headed. From the Quality Inn Hotel where I was staying, I turned on to Blanchard and then Yates which took me down to Wharf street, where the harbour was located. Out on the horizon was the lake. I saw signs pointing to the Songhees walkway. This is what I love about exploring new places. The brain is working overtime trying to piece its surroundings together. With no previous point of reference, each new observation becomes just that. The sun disappeared, and the rain came down in a quick drizzle. The sky was covered with grey clouds. Hard to tell whether this is what normal is for Victoria. I was at least glad that my long black rain coat kept me dry and warm. When the rain poured on, I covered my head with my hood and carried on…30 mins, 45 mins, another 1 hour, who knows. I hadn’t the slightest idea where I was headed. I finally stopped to ask these strangers how long the Songhees walkway went for. “Another 10-15 minutes” the blonde woman said, “There are riveotters at the end, they are so cute.” “I’m sorry, what?” “They are like big rats.” She responded. “Oh, River Otters.” After we said our good byes, I carried on…crossing a bridge, the sea on both sides. I was looking for those Otters now. Even though I didn’t see them, I saw a lot of logs in the water. I wondered if the Otters were responsible for bringing them there.

Photo by Finn Whelen on Pexels.com

I finally arrived at the end, “Fisherman’s Wharf.” I saw boats galore. Did people live in them? I decided to head back because it would be another 45 minutes walk for me. But halfway on my journey I stopped at Spinnakers for lunch. The restaurant sat on the lake/sea. I asked the greeter to place me by the window. The restaurant had a rustic and idyllic charm. Wait was that a moose walking through the grass? Did any one else saw it? It disappeared in the bushes and no sooner it returned, I saw it disappear again around the corner of the trail. No one else seem the least bit perturbed by this animal. And I was too stunned to get my camera fast enough to take a photo. Maybe that’s normal around here…

I did the wise thing and ordered dinner to go. Only an Ontarian would ask for the LCBO apparently! The locals corrected me, that there were no LCBOs in BC. I have now been schooled. I grabbed a bottle of Moscato and cocoa truffles for dessert. Before dinner, I went for a swim in the pool.

READ MORE: Adventures on Prince Edward Island

My Friday night was complete. Dinner and movie in bed in a new Province and City. What more can I ask for? Another dream has come true. For a few years now, I’ve been talking about going to see the many different Provinces of Canada. In 2018, I began that journey when I went to the east coast. Three years later, with several months of Covid-19 restrictions, I made it happen again. I am in beautiful British Columbia!

Stay tuned for more on this journey to the West Coast!

Experience your inheritance

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly placesEphesians 1:3

What is it like to know that we have inheritance beyond this earth? This thought must be difficult to fathom especially if we’ve always lived a life of lack. I have read Ephesians many times, but when isolated, this verse struck a cord within me. What does Paul mean by “every spiritual blessing”? What are these spiritual blessings or inheritances? Personally, I think they are vast and undefined. Inheritance could be everything and anything our mind can conceive of and even those that we haven’t yet fathom with our faculties. My other question is, what does Paul mean by “heavenly places”?

When I think of the heavenly places I think of an eagle soaring in the sky. The far out of reach heights that we cannot go by our own will, because we need the help of the Holy Spirit to take us there through prayer. Or said another way, we need faith to get to the heavenly places, because it is beyond our natural reach.

The Apostle Paul, therefore acknowledges and appreciates God, the Father because this is where our spiritual gifts come from. Do we know this truth? Perhaps if we knew, we would be on our knees even more to approach the giver of spiritual gifts…

But, what happens when we pray to the Giver and He delays his precious gifts that we asked Him for? Do we allow the wings of faith to help us soar higher? Or do we recline to disbelief? This verse makes it clear that the gifts are not in arms reach but they are in highly places. Do we ever allow the Holy Spirit to help us get to these heights?

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It’s like a fisherman going out to catch fish, believing that he will. He will remain out in the seas for hours on end. Yet, if he comes home empty handed, he goes again tomorrow. Still believing he will catch some fish. When it comes to the great human needs; the deep pain and sorrow, the excessive poverty that we face, we often choose to believe this was our plight in life all a long. That, we were never meant to receive these spiritual blessings. That, indeed, they were meant for some other person. We are the unlucky ones. But these thoughts are wrapped in self-pity, doubt, and disbelief ….none of these will allow us to soar like an eagle.

…but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary,they will walk and not be faint.

Isaiah 40:31

So maybe the reality is, prayer is hard work. It requires perseverance, long suffering, and everlasting faith. It requires from us a sacrifice to be made within ourselves….to actually sacrifice ourselves, our will, our beliefs, our pride. When our prayer become less of a prayer and more of a conversation with the Lover of our souls, maybe that’s when we have finally arrived in the heavenly places. And at that very instant, we can ask anything in His name.

“And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.”

John 14:13

What I love about Jesus Christ dying for my sins is that, He is now my High Priest. And at this very hour, I can boldly approach God in faith and pray to Him.

Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Hebrews 4:14-16
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Therefore we can begin that relationship with God through prayer, and boldly ask our Father for the inheritance that belongs to us. Know that prayer isn’t a quick fix to an immediate problem. Prayer is the beginning of a relationship that the Father desperately what to have with His children- you and me. I hope you will experience the spiritual blessings or your inheritance from your Father in heaven. Above all, may you experience His peace that surpasses all understanding.

Thoughts are like clouds…

Thoughts are like clouds that float by in my mind.

One by one I let them move me to action,

or submerse me deep in pain.

I hold on to them because I believe they define me.

They are me, and I am they.

Thoughts are like clouds that float by in my mind,

Each one tells me a story, reminds me of my history,

or tries to protect me.

When my heart is full, they still carry on, with little concern about their impact.

Anger, annoyance, frustration, anxiety, worry, you name it.

Thoughts are like clouds that float by in my mind.

The sooner I learn to let them go, the sooner they’ll stop hurting me.

I can select the good ones, and let the bad one float.

When I feel mad or sad, I know it was a bad thought I had.

The story they tell is not always true.

Because thoughts are like clouds that float by.

Where they come from, I do not know.

When I let one thought go, a new one will arise.

When I hold on too tightly, I will miss the others passing.

Like clouds, I will let them float,

Stopping only to be observed, but no sooner I will let them go.

With curiosity, I study what they came to teach me.

But now I know, they do not define me.

I am not them, and they are not me.

They are my fears, my hopes, my dreams…

If I am still enough, I can see which ones are good or bad for me.

Thoughts are like clouds, and their only job is to float through my mind…

Never Alone

Loneliness is the painful experience when you look around and there is no one that you know. For me, it was the moment when I was sitting in the airplane, after being escorted to my seat in a rush by the flight attendant. I was thirteen. That was the moment I realized what my dream costed me. 

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For a long time I wanted to travel on an airplane, to come to Canada. I dreamt about it for so long, but I didn’t know it would happen. And I couldn’t imagine how I would feel. That I would have to be peeled from the grips of my mother’s love, and pulled through the airport to be seated next to this woman with red lip stick with Jamaican accent. My eyes fixated on the tiny window across her lap, staring one last time, wishing for one last glimpse of my mother. The dark-skinned woman pulled down the window cap and I looked at her red mouth saying something but I could not hear her. My bawling drowned her out and my thoughts and my dreams turned to fear. 

Read More: The Land I Love

Fear that I may never see my mother and brothers again. Fear that this pain that I was experiencing for the first time would last forever. I was faced with feelings of loneliness for the first time in my life and I was scared. I was stuck between my first love; of country, of family, and of home, and my dreaming of living in another country. I was stuck in uncertainty. Up until that moment, my life had never been uncertain. 

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It was my mother who woke me up every morning and helped prepare me for school. It was my mother I had slept with at nights that comforted me and shielded me from the pain of the outside world. It was my mother who made sure I had lunch money, uniforms, and even a good school to attend. I knew everything wasn’t perfect, but surrounded by the protection of my mother’s love, I never had anything to fear. Not until now when I couldn’t see her. The part that scared me most was I didn’t know when I was going to see her again.  

The strange thing I learnt in that day was how feelings totally change. I wasn’t thinking of my mother as much. I was looking to a future with my father. As I walked side by side, I believed I was protected again from the world. I was safe. I was too young to know that this was my season of growth. Not mature enough yet to see that I was developing strength, resilience, and my own identity. I would find a new home here. 

Photo by Kamaji Ogino on Pexels.com

This pandemic has given me time to pause and reflect on my long journey through all the seasons of my own life. That’s why tonight, as I look out at the midnight sky in the comfort of my own home, the countless stars flickering makes me cry. All along, all these years, God had been walking in tandem with me, watching over me, carrying me through the most difficult parts of my life. Guiding me through my transformation, letting my roots grow deeper, mixing the colourful experiences with the ugly. All of it, for Him, for His glory, for me to know that I was never alone.

Let go of the past and say hello to 2021!

Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other. Galatians 5:26

When I was a child I desired the praise of others, particularly my mother. I wanted her to see how smart I was, how fast I was, and how talented I was. My mother would come to my track and field events to watch me run. Many times, I made her sit in the living room to listen to me recite my newest poem, and I enjoyed seeing the excitement on her face. But at thirteen all this attention abruptly stopped.

Let go of the past and say hello to 2021!
Photo by Kamaji Ogino on Pexels.com

My aunt and guardian in Canada wasn’t as attentive. She never came to any of my track and field or soccer competitions during high school. She hardly knew that I was part of the announcement club, the anti-racism committee or the geography club. I was a star in high school and no one was watching, at least not the people I wanted to see me. This is what I remember most as I got older, the feeling of rejection, isolation and lack of love. All because I associate my mother’s attention to be what love was, and when I wasn’t getting that devoted parental love from my new family in Canada, I assumed they didn’t love me.

READ MORE: Take the step of faith

Could it be that we are this conceited (or desire vain-glory) because we are trapped in a moment of lack when we were a child? What I mean is, at a time in our lives when we really needed the validation from others and we didn’t get it, we started craving it more and more. And we look for it even in random strangers. I am saying, we are conceited because we lack love. The love and affection that we desperately needed from those loved ones may have provoked us and made us envious of others. It’s a vicious cycle.

Let go of the past and say hello to 2021!
Photo by Kamaji Ogino on Pexels.com

Paul says do not become conceited, provoking and envying each other. Are you doing those things? Many times we exhibit behaviours that we may not be totally aware of. I encourage us to be mindful of our feelings.

I admit that for a long time I carried that need for attention, for love, and the need to belong everywhere I went. The good thing is that God finds ways to work with us. When I found a church at 14 years old and got baptized at 15, I committed myself to a new family. Even though I didn’t realize that I was throwing my need to belong on them, it was a safe place. But of course, I wasn’t at church every waking moment. When I went off to University I still carried with me those same needs. And when I became an adult, those needs were still tagging along. Until I became aware of them and addressed them…

READ MORE: Let your Father help you

My Advice for 2021 are these:

  • BE AWARE: Know yourself, your weaknesses, your strengths. What makes you anxious? What makes you frustrated? What makes you sad?
  • GIVE VOICE TO YOUR EMOTIONS: Do not suppress your emotions and ignore your bodily symptoms. Find respectful ways to express your feelings.
  • DO NOT HOLD ON TO NEGATIVE EMOTIONS: Do you feel jealous? Envious? Angry? Why? Let them go- write about it, sing about it, share it, just get rid of it and let it not consume you.
  • STOP CARRYING AROUND THE PAST: This is such a heavy burden to be walking around with every day. Learn what you need to learn and move on. Forgive who needs to be forgiven, Speak the truth to those who need to hear the truth, and forget about it.
  • LOVE BIG: Love really is the answer to everything. You love by giving, by serving, by showing up, by listening. Don’t be afraid to love people, even those who are hard to love. Love compassionately, love prayerfully, love forgivingly, just love the heck out of people- they will change.

By becoming more aware of our own issues and pain, we get to develop compassion for others and are better able to love them. It’s hard to be conceited, provoking and envying to those you love. Love prevents us from exhibiting the acts of the flesh, but we need the Holy Spirit to transform us from the inside.

So for this year 2021, let us choose the gifts of the spirit: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. And let us abstain from the acts of the flesh: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. As we journey through our lives do not carry our past pains into our future. Rather, I pray that you will learn from them so that they will transform you to become a servant for God’s purposes. I love you all.

*****

This is the end of this series of Galatians 5. I want to thank you readers for showing up to read my blog each week. I hope that you were richly blessed the way I had been as I showed up every Sunday to gain a new perspective from God. Honestly, it was a joy to show up for God this way. May God’s love envelope you this year and I wish you an extraordinary 2021 journey.

Let love last all year

For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbour as yourself.” Galatians 5:14

Love is the answer- to this crooked, evil, and unforgiving world. Love is the answer to the dysfunctional families. Love is the answer to the chaotic, cold, and indifferent workplaces. Have you noticed how the Christmas season is totally different from the entire year? Over the Christmas season, we often feel a somber, joyful, unspoken presence of love in the air. It’s the music, the lights, and the excitement of giving. We are focused on preparing for this one big day which carries through the entire month of December, or until December 26. That’s the day, when the world goes back to normal. Don’t you ever wish that the feeling could last the whole year through? I think, when we are focused on loving one another, we have little room in our hearts to hate, to be impatient, or apathetic.

Let love last all year, gifting others
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Love transforms terrible marriages, restores broken children, and rebuilds unliveable communities. The world we know was built on love. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). Yet, instead of love, we are bombarded with hate, violence, and evil. By the time children go to school, they are faced with envy, unkindness, distrust, and rudeness. From every angle, you see the opposite of love. Our world, though created by love, seeks to create in us this spirit of hate. Have you ever asked yourself why? Why is it so easy to express hate towards others, rather than show love?

READ MORE: Faith and love move mountains

Our past dictates the person we are. We allow our early interactions with our loved ones to become the voices in our heart that plays like a record years later. Our parents abandoned us, and now we no longer feel deserving of love from others. Our parents abused us, and we in turn abuse others. Someone in our early lives told us we were nothing, and now, we consider ourselves nothing. Have you ever asked yourself why you do that? Why do we let people of our past control our thoughts even when we turn adults? The only voice we ought to listen to is the voice of God, the one that calls us a chosen people, holy and dearly loved (Colossians 3:12). I think we catch the spirit of hate quicker than the spirit of love, and we don’t notice when we have diseased hearts. We can’t tell when we are hurting others with our words, actions, or thoughts. We begin to say things like, I am the way I am, because to change seems too hard.

READ MORE: Love will never fail us

But, this we know, I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Philippians 4:13). In other words, we have to let Christ come into our hearts and scrape out all that hate, all the damage that the world did to us. This is the thing, during the Christmas season, we are our best selves. The world tells us to stop all the hate, and bring our Christmas cheer. Be happy and jolly and spend our money on gifts. But, we don’t have to wait for Christmas to transform our hearts. We can actually do it all year round. We don’t need a special occasion to show love, whether through gifting others, doing acts of service, or words of kindness. Look for ways to show love, and you will be surprised to see how love will literally transform the broken, indifferent, and hateful attitudes around you. First, let YOUR heart be transformed by love through Christ, and then you will be surprised to see how easy it will be to love your neighbour as yourself.

Are you a good teacher?

I am confident in the Lord that you will take no other view. The one who is throwing you into confusion, whoever that may be, will have to pay the penalty. Galatians 5:10

I like good teachers. Those that believe in their students, even when he or she is at their worse. Do they make teachers like that anymore? Even though teachers these days seem to lack patience and empathy for their students, especially when they neither understand nor can relate to their student’s culture, this was not the kind of teacher Paul was. Paul was a shepherd of a teacher. Not only did He taught well, but he gave encouragement to people that seemed like they didn’t deserve it. Have you had a teacher or mentor like that?

are you a good teacher

Teachers were once students, and it’s like they get to have a foresight over their students’ future. That is, they can call forth gifts and talents out of their students, that the students can’t really see for themselves. But, if that student trusts the teacher, he or she will believe in the words spoken, and strive to become what the teacher called into fruition. We are assuming here that the teacher is speaking nothing but positives to their students. But, do you know that if that teacher prophesies negatively over that student it will also have the same effect?

READ MORE: Take control of your thoughts

You will probably agree, teachers have influence over every student they come in contact with. Paul is the head teacher and he is not pleased. He asks, who was it that was throwing the Galatians into confusion? Paul says, they “will have to pay the penalty.”

I’ve had some great teachers in the secondary school systems, both in Jamaica and Canada. And I have also had profound professors at the University level, both undergraduate and graduate. I have been blessed with teachers who filled me with encouragement, had patience with me, and empowered me by their words to be extraordinary. In fact, up until my experience at Seneca College in Toronto, I have never had a negative experience with a teacher. I was 30 years old when I attended Seneca College. It was my first and only time I had a teacher that looked down on me. I could tell she thought I was never good enough in the four months I was with her. She gave me a failing grade in the end. This kind of teacher can thwart God’s plan for a student’s life. Even though I felt crappy and demotivated, my thoughts were above confident. I was already a University graduate and a professional woman. The fact is, I already knew I was a great student, regardless of how she felt about me and the grade she assigned me. If the Apostle Paul were in Canada, he would have stepped in the class to give me a pep talk: I am confident in the Lord that you will take no other view. In other words, regardless of the teachers ill words, grade or attitude towards you, you are still the star God made you to be. That one teacher do not have authority to change your life or destiny.

READ MORE: Running the good race until it’s over

Paul says those teachers who create confusion will pay the penalty. Teachers come from all walks of life, they are in the church, in the workplaces, at conferences, at home, and of course at school. We ourselves might even be a teacher. We have a responsibility to be great teachers, as well as to pray for those not-so-great teachers. While God hasn’t overlooked what they have done to you, we do have a responsibility towards them as well. Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 12:34). Let us be transformed by the word of God. As teachers, we have a great responsibility. And that is, we ought to teach well. None of us should be in the business of causing other people to fall into confusion. As Christians it is our job to uplift and lead everyone to Christ.

African Canadian Social Development Council Fights Against Anti-Black Racism

The fight against anti-Black and systemic racism continues in our African-Canadian communities. On Thursday, August 20, 2020 the African Canadian Social Development Council (ACSDC) – Toronto held a rally at the Toronto City Hall, and invited guest speakers within the African circle of social justice, academic, political, and criminal justice to speak on the issues that affect our communities, and to give us a message of hope. The event commenced with the sound of drumming, a symbolic African tradition that accompanies every ceremony. The purpose of this rally  can be summed up in the words of the President of the ACSDC, Nene (Chief) Kabu Asante, “The system has to change. We can’t breath and it’s killing us slowly. We need the city, the province and federal government to invest more in our communities…” These words, “We can’t breath” echoed from the African-American man, Mr. George Floyd who died by the hands of police brutality in Minneapolis, Minnesota, earlier this year on May 25, 2020.   

READ MORE: There is hope

3 men drumming, fighting against anti-black racism

The ACSDC is an umbrella organization for all African-Canadian community agencies and cultural organizations in Ontario. One such organization is the Sickle Cell Awareness Group of Ontario (SCAGO). The founder and president, Ms. Lanre Tunji-Ajayi states, “Far too long, people of African descent and the black community have been stigmatized and racialized. We must rise with our voices, our pens, and papers, and demand a change from systemic racism.” SCAGO has been advocating, educating, and building awareness about sickle cell since 2005. “Three years ago, when I came to study in Canada, I was paralyzed because of my sickle cell, leaving me unable to use my hands and legs. I was a quadriplegic, who needed life support,” says, Ms. Oluwayemisi Abatan, who is now a supporter of SCAGO. As a result of this organization advocating for her health, Abatan can now walk and take care of herself. Systemic racism, in our health care system, affects patients who are of African or Caribbean descent because quality care may be withheld, and without proper advocacy, may result in death.  

This is the reason the ACSDC has organized this Anti-Black Racism rally because Black Lives Matter in health care, in our school systems, in our criminal justice system, in our work places, and in all segment of our communities. “…The fact that systemic racism is not as prevalent in Canada does not mean it does not exist here” says Mr. George Chuku, TV host of Afro global television & VP Nigerian Canadian Association. “We have to create a level playing field for everyone to succeed, because only a few privilege successes is guaranteed, while others are struggling. We are asking to be treated fairly.”

MPP Faisal Hassan speaking, fighting against anti-black racism

MPP Faisal Hassan of York-South Weston reminds us that, “Racism is rooted in all structures of government, and that the experiences of the Caribbean, African, and all immigrants should be taught in schools.” He further stated, “there is discrimination based on postal code, such as auto-insurance, because we are targeted where we live. It must end.”   

READ MORE: Mandela, Floyd, apartheid, uprisings, and unrest

The agenda had many other speakers such as: Professor George Sefa Dei (UofT), Lawyer Eyitayo F. Dada (President of the Canadian Nigerian Lawyers Association, Francois Yabit (Executive Director Northwood Neighbourhood, Toronto, Shamso Elmi (Mending the Crack in the Sky, Co-organizers), and Rocco Achampong, Defence lawyer and civil rights activist.  Achampong expressed a resounding sentiment in the words of Mahatma Gandhi, “We must…be the change (we) wish to see in the world.” To make change he says, “We must come with clean hands.” 

These protests have been consistent within the Canadian black, African and Caribbean communities due to the death of Mr. Floyd earlier this year. Today, it was the African Canadian Social Development Council and the different agencies and organizations it represents, speaking out to our governments, and echoing the words of Mr Floyd, “We can’t breath.” The ACSDC is calling on the city, the province and the federal government to stop systemic racism, increase funding in the black communities, stop targeting our neighbourhoods, and give us quality health care, including increase funding for sickle cell disease.         

For law or for relationship?

“Listen! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no benefit to you at all!” Galatians 5:2

Have you ever being told to do things because “it was the law?” or “this is what we do?” But never understood the reason for doing so? I am reminded of a story about a wife, whose husband asked her why she cut part of the turkey before baking it. Her response was, “that’s the way mom did it.” She decided to call her mom, and her mom told her the same thing, “thats how mom did it.” Luckily, great-grand mom was alive and when they asked her, she told them that it was because the turkey was too big for the pot she used for the oven. It’s an interesting story, how we take to traditions, even when circumstances have changed. The writer of Galatians 5, Paul the Apostle, is making it very clear that circumcision is like the woman cutting off the end of the turkey, when the times didn’t call for it. That is, even though circumcision was a pledge to live by the rule of Law, Christ came so that we should have relationship with him and not with the law.

When we lack understanding of what we do, we simply build up yokes between us and Christ. Yokes are no good because they put a strain on the relationship we have with Christ. For that reason alone, Paul is warning us, “…if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no benefit to you at all.” The yoke in this verse refers to the Law. When Paul talks about circumcision, it was a tradition that was done by every Jewish boy. Acts 15:10 says it this way, “Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of Gentiles a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors have been able to bear?” Being tied up to the Law makes us a bit like a robot. We do not have to use our god-given ability to make choices because the law tells us what we say, what we wear, and what we do. Does that sound familiar?

Photo by John Ray Ebora from Pexels

I have spent a better part of my teenage and young adult life as a Pentecostal Apostolic. Since the day I was baptized, I felt as if I had to put on a yoke of religion. The women wore hats, no pants, no jewelry, and attended church 2 to 3 times a week. No, this wasn’t normal, but when you started building relationships with the people, you’d be surprised to see how natural it was to follow the rules. You stop questioning your every thought about what you like, and replace them with what is expected. You go shopping and have to ask yourselves, what would sister so and so think when I buy this sleeve-less dress? It was a subtle way of conforming sinners to saints. But, it lasted as long as the relationships you developed lasted. In other words, once you have broken ties because of circumstances like university, or travelling or moving to a new city, those same unanswered questions begin to pop up again. Do you do the same things, even when circumstances change?

See Part II: For Freedom, He died

Robots do not think, but people do. Thoughts lead to choices, choices lead to decisions. We get to make decisions as humans because we are free. “For freedom, Christ has set us free.” Therefore, since we have been set free, Paul feels that it is important that we do not become circumcised again. Why? Christ will not be of any benefit, Paul says. My thought is that, since the Law tells us what to do, we have no need to come to God in prayer. One thing we could bring to God in prayer for instance would be the clothes we wear. Instead of listening to what a religious sect tells us; do this, and do not do that, we would be able to exercise our freedom in Christ. We can ask him what to wear [This is a basic example about clothing, but it goes for any part of our lives that concerns us]. Christ who thrives in relationship, would be all too happy to share in this aspect of our lives, and together come up with something that is both appropriate and uniquely us. This is what He does with us, if we let him, if we let go off the yokes that burdens us, and allow for relationship with the one who gives freedom.

Solidarity and hope: OPSEU recommits to ending anti-Black racism

By: https://opseu.org/news/solidarity-and-hope-opseu-recommits-to-ending-anti-black-racism/108616/

In a high-profile step towards true equality in the workplace and in the union, thousands of OPSEU members and staff participated in the union’s July 7 telephone town halls on anti-Black racism.

“Systemic racism is real. It is deadly. And it has to stop,” said OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas at the beginning of the meeting. “The good news is that we can stop it. Working together, we can help build a foundation for a new way of thinking, and a new way of acting.”

The town halls were just one element in OPSEU’s strong recommitment to the fight against anti-Black racism, and gave members and staff a chance to share their stories, questions, and concerns. Members and staff are encouraged to continue submitting their stories and recommendations by emailing them to antiblackracism@opseu.org.

The town halls, which were held in two sessions to accommodate members’ schedules, were moderated by well-known personality and anti-Black racism activist Farley Flex. He was joined by a panel of Black OPSEU members and staff, President Thomas and OPSEU First Vice-President/Treasurer Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida.

“My life hasn’t always been easy and I’ve had to overcome a lot. But I’ve never had to overcome the systemic racism that Black people face,” said Almeida. “I’ve seen it firsthand. I’m a Correctional Officer, and I can tell you that that there are too many Black and Indigenous Peoples in our jails.”

Thomas and Almeida finished the town halls with strong commitments to read and reflect on all of the questions and comments from members and staff and report back soon with plans for concrete action, including more education and investment.

“Today marks OPSEU’s renewal of our vow to eradicate Anti-Black Racism. We know we haven’t always gotten it right.  But we hear you,” said Thomas. “We promise you that we’ll never let up. One thing about this union: we never give up.”

Fred Upshaw

Thomas, Almeida, their fellow panelists, and the members and staff who asked questions made it clear that there’s still much work to be done to eliminate anti-Black racism in the workplaces where OPSEU represents members and in the union itself.

As a union strongly committed to social justice, OPSEU members have often led the fight against systemic racism. Former President Fred Upshaw became the first Black person to lead a major Canadian union when he was elected in 1990.

Joscelyn Ross

Panelist Joscelyn Ross, an OPSEU health and safety officer, said a concrete action that all workers can do is think about anti-Black racism as a health and safety issue: document it, and grieve it.

“I encourage conversation with your health and safety rep to look at racism and microaggressions in the workplace, which can lead to psychosocial stress,” said Ross, who was an OPSEU member for more than 20 years before joining its staff in 2016. “When you can demonstrate to the employer that employees are facing stress due to workplace discrimination, you can then say, ‘Here’s our evidence and we need to talk about this because you have an obligation to provide the safest workplace possible.’”

Many of the comments and questions from members focused on what OPSEU can do to support members – particularly young workers — who feel afraid to speak up about discrimination in the workplace, whether it’s being passed over for promotions or outright harassment.

Shauna-Kay Cassell

“I know what it’s like to be a young worker and to stay silent. But if something feels wrong, it probably is. Trust your gut. Now is not the time to be silent,” said panelist Shauna-Kay Cassell, a Local 526 member. “And remember that there are many things protecting you, from laws like the Ontario Human Rights Code to your collective agreement and your union. They all help protect you.”


Carlotta Ewing

Panelist Carlotta Ewing, a Local 228 member, added that members facing or witnessing racism can always call on their Local President or their staff rep for guidance, assurance, and advice.

“With OPSEU, you have so many resources and so much expertise to help you,” said Ewing. “Equity, communications, campaigns, legal, grievances. This union has so much to support you. And it’s yours – use it.”

Peter Thompson

Panelist Peter Thompson, who is the chair of the OPSEU Coalition for Racialized Workers (CoRW), said that as long as he’s been a member, the union has been at the forefront of the fight against racism, whether it’s been through sensitivity training for members and staff or through ambitious projects like social mapping.

“I see all kinds of corporations and organizations coming out now with statements against racism, but I’m proud to say that OPSEU and the Coalition of Racialized Workers have been making these statements and doing anti-racism work for years,” said Thompson. “If you want to know more about what the union and coalition are doing, ask your local presidents – the more they share this information, the better.”

Evan Wickham

Panelist Evan Wickham, who sits on the OPSEU Provincial Young Workers Committee (PYC), echoed Thompson’s point that, in many ways, OPSEU’s locals are on the front-lines of this struggle.

“The murder of George Floyd has roused a lot of us and given us opportunity to be heard,” said Wickham. “OPSEU is a member-driven union. We have a lot of support as members, so let’s step forward and keep voicing our concerns and filing our grievances. That’s how we make the most of this opportunity.”

Along with the members’ locals and the CoRW, OPSEU’s dedicated Equity Unit is another source of information and support for members.

Andrea McCormack

“We’ll never leave you to stand on your own in the fight against racism,” said panelist Andrea McCormack, a long-time OPSEU staff rep who is temporarily reassigned as an Employment Equity Lead in the Employee Relations Division. “This is the first of many conversations that OPSEU will have. Make sure you’re part of it because the support from the union’s leadership is strong. OPSEU is committed to amplifying our voices.”

Flex finished the town hall by asking the panelists for a few final thoughts. They were all moving (you can find them here on Twitter), but Cassell summed it up beautifully:

“I’ll finish with four thoughts,” said Cassell. “One: Speak up, especially if you’re a young worker. Two: Know your rights, you have a lot of them. Three: Find a champion, there are many in OPSEU. Four, and this might be the most important: be hopeful. Change is inevitable, but progress is up to us. And I believe we can make progress.”

Anti-Black Racism Resources & Feedback

We encourage all members and staff to continue sharing their stories and recommendations by emailing them to antiblackracism@opseu.org.

Mandela, Floyd, apartheid, uprisings, and unrest.

Transformational leadership is the ability of a leader to guide nations and organizations alike, focusing on a clear vision, motivation, being a change agent, and building trust. These are the cornerstones of great leadership. One such leader that comes to mind is former President of South Africa, the late, Nelson “Rolihlahla” Mandela. At a time in history when the worse form of segregation, codified into a statutory system called Apartheid, was taken place, Mandela emerged as the first-ever elected President. He dismantled the legacy of the apartheid regime, institutionalized racism, poverty and inequality. He brought diversity into government, established the truth and reconciliation commission to foster racial reconciliation, and reestablished the balance of power for land owners. What did it take for the nation’s heart transformation? It took time, people’s lives, and 27 years of imprisonment of the greatest leader of all time. 

Has history taught us anything? We read books about our famous heroes that marched for justice and equality, for the right to vote, and to have equal and fair wages, thinking that these are problems of the past: We are free now. In the 1930s, our honoured Nelson Mandela was also free. Free to get an excellent legal education, free to marry and to become the next chief. Yet, when the 22-year-old ran away to south Johannesburg, now called Soweto, he saw for the first time what the lives of native Africans were like: Confined in overcrowded shantytowns or slums, where it was insanitary, no electricity, no telephones, and poor road conditions. Police visited these slums continuously in search for vagrants. This is where Nelson’s political education began, yes, this is where the vision was birthed (BENSON, M., 1994, Nelson Mandela:The Man and the Movement, Penguin). 

May Day 1950 was when the workforce stayed home. Protesters called for the removal of the colour bar in parliament, in education, in industry and in the administration. This became the turning point in Mandela’s life because he saw first-hand the ruthlessness of the police, as well as being deeply impressed by the support African workers and Indians gave to the May Day call. “Chiefs and followers, leaders of political associations, ministers, teachers, journalists and lawyers came together from all parts of South Africa and overcame division of tribes and languages, rural and urban backgrounds” (BENSON,1994).

70 years later, May 25, 2020, an African-American was killed because a police officer knelt on his neck for over eight minutes in Minneapolis, USA. Similar ruthless police practices sparked worldwide protest, every continent, language, and government came together to protest by kneeling for change. “The fight against all forms of racism and racial discrimination remains a priority for us,” said Michael Ungern-Sternberg, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Germany to the United Nations Office at Geneva. “The past weeks, many people around the world raised their voices and took to the streets to send a clear signal that racism and excessive use of force by law enforcement officials against minority populations cannot (any) longer be accepted.” Again, has history taught us anything?

See my blog: Police Abusive Use of Force: Yatim and Floyd Case

Uprisings and protests were happening in the 1950s just as they are happening now in 2020. As the unrest of protesters and anti-apartheid leaders spread and became more effective and militarized, state organizations responded with repression and violence (BENSON, 1994). The government banned all opposition, and police officers enforced curfews, causing many anti-apartheid leaders to be imprisoned, including Mandela. Similarly, the United States chose to respond to the nationwide demonstrations after police in Minneapolis killed African American George Floyd, in a manner that undermined our fundamental rights “…the right to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly,” said Fionnuala Ní Aoláin, the UN Special Rapporteur. We are watching history play over again, the police brutality and the governments adverse response to the protests.

In 1951, Mandela chose to become a change agent for his nation and his people. He was a lawyer, a founding member of the Youth League of the African National Congress (ANC), and appointed as volunteer-in-chief of the defiance campaign. “This campaign was designed to organize a large-scale resistance movement and work toward the repeal of discriminatory legislation” (JAMES, R., 2011, Nelson Mandela, Great Neck Publishing, Database: MasterFILE Premier). Mandela was arrested because he was fighting for his nation’s heart transformation. His prosecution for treason, and a lengthy prison sentence did only one thing; it bolstered Mandela’s vision for justice and equality. It was behind bars, that the transformational leader emerged. Upon his release, Mandela built the South African civil rights movement; and in 1991, became the president of the ANC, the rest is history: South Africa held its first-ever free elections on April 27, 1994. With majority of the votes given to ANC, Mandela was elected president. It was victory, not just for one race, but for an entire nation.

The death of Floyd has stirred our nation’s heart in a profound way. And it is the spirit of 46-year-old Floyd that became the transformational leader that the world desperately needed to see the vision. So, transformation requires time, people’s lives, and imprisonment. Sometimes history has to be repeated for our nations to take a stand for the vision that our beloved heroes, like Mandela stood for.

I spy with my little eye, racism

For a long time, I thought I understood racism based on the definition, “prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one’s own race is superior” (Oxford online dictionary). But now as an adult, I have to ask, do I really know racism, if I see it face to face? How can I tell? Can you? When I watched Malcolm X movie for the first time in my grade 12 religion class, I saw what racism could do to people, to a nation. The divisiveness of it, and how it created such practices as John Crow laws, and the offensive apartheid regime in South Africa. But, when I left the protective embraces of my school, and stepped into a world of big bad wolves, I don’t see these flagrant acts of prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism. Instead, what I see are very polite people who are going about their daily lives, too busy, too focused, too apathetic to concern themselves about me. In other words, everyone is out there, trying to get what’s their’s, “by any means necessary” (to steal Malcolm X’s words). So, how do I spy with my little eye, a racist in all its disguise?

How can I tell that one believes that he/she is superior? This is the premise of racism, right? For one thing, I cannot read minds. So if I enter a room with an all white interview panel, and a month later, I am informed, I didn’t get the job, is that because of racism? In an isolated situation, we can never know. I am unable to tell whether the simple act of not picking me for the job was discrimination, or straight up, I wasn’t the best candidate. But here is a real incident that happened to me in 2014. I was one of approximately 20 students in a Public Administration program at Seneca College. The program had an internship component, which was why I chose to take this graduate certificate program in the first place. Four months into the eight-month program, seven students were selected for the internship. All seven were white. Is that a coincidence? What was their selection criteria based on? Grades? We were not given an explanation. The rest of us who were not selected were part of the great Canadian non white diversity. And we did nothing about it. Why? The students expressed their concerns to me, that they were shocked, and disappointed, but on the other hand felt afraid that if we were to do something about it, we would be punished (i.e. getting a bad grade).

Check out Deandra’s blog: This is a Phase   

Upon doing some research, I find that we condone racism in one of two ways. Either we do nothing when it happens, or we benefit from someone else’s demise, then lap up the blood from the corners of our mouths. It’s a wolves world and we are in it for ourselves. But, there comes a time, when each of us have to stop and think. Stop being naive, stop acting in apathy, and definitely stop benefitting from someone’s loss. It’s time for me to wake up, and realize that racism doesn’t come with a label. It comes with a subtle feeling that something isn’t right.

Recently, I went grocery shopping at my local Food Basics. As I was pushing my cart, I saw an older white staff standing in front of one of the aisle with his coffee in hand. Having been to this food basics many times, these people are aways working, so it confused me as to why he was standing so stiffly. I looked down the bottom of the aisle, and there it was. The staff’s target was a black young man, early twenties, searching for something on a top shelf. Was that what I thought it was? Even as I made my way to the cashier I wondered. I felt something was wrong because I had spot racism. It can’t always be determined with those big words, but it can be with your gut.

When we spot it, we must decide what to do about it. In Food basics, I did what many Canadians would do. We acknowledge it, but we do nothing. I was not the one being a racist, and I was not the one experiencing it. But, I was a witness. So what is my role? It’s important to think about it in terms of what the bible says,

“Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ. Galatians 6:2

In other words, be brave for our friends, for our co-workers, for our neighbours. Why? Because God said so. “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me” (Matthew 25:40).

We may never truly know on the onset when we are experiencing racism, or when we see it being done to someone we know. But, rather than labelling it immediately, listen to your gut. Trust it. What you do after, is your decision. Ultimately, we all have a role to play when it comes to racism in our society, and playing a blind eye, or feeling sorry for ourselves, is not a role. We must act.

 

The Land I Love

Following my heart, turned out to be a good decision after all. The moment I said good-bye to one season, the sooner I am beginning to see new opportunities arising with each new day. This last couple of weeks, I have been able to attend events, meet amazing people, spend more time with friends, and explore a deeper Jamaican history.
Just a few days ago on August 6, 2015, I celebrated Independence Day at the annual gala held at the National Stadium. I stared in awe at the numerous performances; including shows about Jamaicans fighting for freedom, and listened to music that aroused my sensibilities and triggered thoughts of my childhood days. I stared at the proud Jamaicans intent on creating a united wave across the stadium. A simple seemingly impossible act was made possible because we were united, I thought, as I watched in astonishment at the hands rising and falling all around the stadium. I imagined it would never end. The lesson of unity gnawed at my heart the rest of the night, leaving me to ponder: What are the other impossibilities that we could accomplish when we work together? Could we use music to break down the different classes and political divisions here?

The Land I loveSuddenly the lights went out, leaving us in darkness while lulling to music such as “Cherry Oh Baby” and “The Land of my Birth”, old songs by Eric Donaldson. I felt sure and proud to be Jamaican that night.A light switch had been turned on, and I realized that this was where it all begun. The spectacular fireworks brightened the stadium with myriads of designs plastered across the night sky, and filling the stadium with wide open eyes staring in amazement. The fireworks shed light within my own heart, causing me to reflect on such things; my first dreams were made on this land. Not just that; my first words, first steps, and first lessons all took place here. And although at this moment I do not know where I will end up, I am sure that all my future steps will leave a traceable trail back to this island.

The following day, I woke up feeling sure that I had made the right decision- to extend my stay. I was introduced to new colleagues, Dervan Malcolm and Leo Gilling- on Power106FM, who reassured me that there is a new option; to embrace  my Jamaican roots, while accepting that I am also Canadian, as an official member of the Jamaican Diaspora. So when it came time to leave the radio set, I was renewed and felt hopeful that Jamaica will always accept me no matter where I am, and will create room for me should I choose to call it home.

Related: A Taste of History

Weeks before, I was going through the pain of walking away from this country that I have come to love over the last year, but now with my new awareness, I am realizing that I will never be separated again. I am empowered to walk the Hall of Fame as a proud Jamaican.  The energy and smiles from the people I met over the last couple weeks imprinted something new on my heart- we are all proud, strong and a powerful people. I am charged to be optimistic about a brighter, more united future for my Jamaica, the land I love.

I+am+Jamaican.

I+am+Jamaican

I had another chance to celebrate Emancipation Day in Jamaica and what a day it was. I woke up feeling groggy, and disinterested in rushing my day. I wanted to cancel the previous early morning plans in exchange for my favorite pastime- making breakfast and then eating it on the balcony. But it wasn’t going to happen this morning. Instead, I decided to go against my feelings and just get on with the day.

The sweet Caribbean breeze grazed my skin the moment I stepped out the door, and I thought, maybe this isn’t going to be a bad day. I walked in serenity to the taxi stand; and ignoring my impatience, I waited inside the cold taxi for the driver to fill it with passengers. When the taxi driver stretched his hand across me to open the door, letting in yet another passenger, and requesting that I sit in the middle next to him, I did not say a thing. I decided, ‘nothing will bother me’.

I am Jamaican

As I was getting out of the taxi at the JUTC bus terminal, a phone call informed me that the bus was ready to leave and I must hurry. Luckily, I was just in time, to embark on an amazing historical experience.

With a cheerful set of passengers next to me, the bus went on to do its tour of Kingston. The tour guide called out familiar places such as Devon house, and gave a quick history behind the street name ‘Lady Musgrave’ prior to our first stop at the Bob Marley Museum. Although it was my second visit to the Museum, I was not disappointed. The happy tour guide, Susan, entertained us with her singing and history lessons about Bob’s life. Highlighting his numerous awards, the clothes he wore to play soccer, and his favorite hang out spots- where he would have come up with songs like “who the cap fits”. Using songs to desist conflict with his complaining neighbour and general daily life experiences seemed to be the way he made many of his popular hits. The final part of the museum tour led us to the ‘shot room’ so called, as this was where Bob was shot, but as the newspaper article highlighted, “the show must go on”.

I am Jamaican

The tour moved on to show off Bob’s statue at Independence Park, and then to the Government Yard in Trench Town where I learnt about places like Rema and Jungle. Stepping into Bob’s old room and seeing how his life would have been as a young person, showed me how tough Jamaicans are. It gave me a sense of connection and feeling of the Jamaican spirit, and knowing that all of this blood is also running through my veins. I am glad that this trip was done amongst fellow Jamaicans- although they may not have thought of it, there is a deep connection we all have as a people, no matter our values and class. Like Bob, every Jamaican has this raging power to do great things- to change the world.

The tour didn’t stop there, we went on to Tuff Gong, the studio where music is produced- and I learnt from the very interesting tour guide about the meaning of the name Tuff Gong; signifying that Bob is tough and like the clanging Japanese bell, he always command attention from his audience no matter where in the world he went to perform.

Related: Me And Bob’s Family

Emancipation Day has new meaning for me now, and I will forever correlate it with Bob Marley and his songs. His songs were to uplift Jamaicans out of the struggle and into a reality of hope, as well as a brighter and more united future. I hope that we will come to see ourselves as ‘Princes and Princesses’ and ‘Kings and Queens’. For me, I’m just glad I did not spend the day in solitude, because learning about my history sure puts everything into perspective. I am Jamaican.

Thursday, May 23: A dream at Strawberry Hill, Jamaica

Truly, I am in love with Jamaica. When I think things can’t possibly get better it does. When I think that I have already seen most of what I had in mind, there’s more. I have never heard about Strawberry Hill until today. It’s located in the parish of St. Andrew up the mountain in an area called Irish Town. Apparently the hotel & restaurant are owned by Christopher Blackwell, the recording studio owner where Bob Marley produced his albums. Before I tell you about beautiful strawberry hills let me talk about the Zoo.

Hope gardens was not really on my list of things to see, but I had a chance to see the Zoo and the small botanical garden. The zoo is not as luxurious as other international zoos but there were birds there that I admired. The macaws, the yellow-chest parrots, and the peacocks were a few of the memorable species. There were tons of parrots but one in particular said, “hello” to me- it was as clear as a person talking. And I happily had a conversation with him. Being around nature today was totally relaxing. It was labour day here and while some people were outside working away, and others like my family spent the day at home. As for me, I used it as a day to see other attractions in Jamaica.

Something New
Strawberry Hills (below the restaurant): There was a museum that I walked through, which led me to where I am standing.

The best part of the day was driving up the mountain (seems like all the good places are either up a mountain or down a mountain). How can I describe this adventure.. it was perfect, idyllic, surreal….it must have been a dream.

It’s only in a dream where things are exactly to your expectations. All around I am at the same height as the tips of other mountains I see in the outskirts.  The clouds just hovering above us. The restaurant is in the shape of a country house…or mansion. Tables were located along the balcony while others are in a more enclosed area. There are different ways to walk outside and no matter which direction, the view is perfect. The general manager walks inside to greet us and had a small conversation with us and really made a connection. The servers all wore their smiles very well, which made for excellent service. A dream, I think. When it got dark the moon and the stars came out to look on us and being that close to the sky it almost seem I could reach them. Dinner arrived and we ate. The music created for a romantic atmosphere with the lights dimmed to perfection. When we finished all our courses, we walked towards the railing of the balcony near us and looked into yonder where all the city lights could be seen from a birds eye view. My thoughts were too many to nail one down. I just wanted to be. If I could just stay in that exact location til morning, it would have been fine with me. All I would need is a sweater, because at that altitude we were at, there was a drop in temperature.

I wish I could find the perfect words to fully describe this day and this night. It was by far the best day I have had in Jamaica, in terms of the cool climate, the height in which we were at, the view, the food, the company, and the service. I guess in a way it did not feel like Jamaica from that high. Or the experience really opened my eyes to experience Jamaica in a way that many locals have not even experienced it. When I walked over to another side of the restaurant to get a different view of the city below I was just enamoured by the moment. It had to be a dream. God is truly an artist. The way He has designed his creation is a marvel.

Jamaica has personality, it’s very appealing to look at and to experience, it’s a world in another world. It’s romantic to be around… I can choose between a day at the beach or a day in solitude on the mountain top. Jamaica is welcoming and warm (or in fact very hot). At the airport, I love that the large hummingbird that sits in a garden outside reads, “Welcome home”. The truth is, I feel at home here, so much that I’m wondering how can I stay here.

Day 22 to 25: School system in Jamaica

Although there are some aspect of Jamaica that is changing like wildfire- in particular the homosexual culture, there are other things that haven’t change- prayers in school. It almost seem odd to watch these boys clasp their hands and repeat a prayer, something they have been doing since they entered the school system, before being dismissed for lunch. They say another prayer after lunch and still another to be dismissed from school. Although I do not arrive early in the morning to watch them stand in lines at the front of the school for devotion, I know they do not go a day without doing this. Let’s just believe in the name of Jesus Christ, that these prayers will be immovable.

On Wednesday this week, I had an appointment to visit one of the primary schools in Portmore. One of the ladies working there, unlocked the large gate to let my cousin and me in. After sometime, the guidance counsellor greeted us and took us to her office. I explained my line of work in Canada and what my studies entail, then she began to spill the issues they have been struggling with. A few of those issues are: Boys kissing each other, two seven-year-old boys attempted to rape a little girl, boys ‘exhorting’. Many of the issues they were having had to do with boys. And although they seem so huge, she alerted me that these are the minorities. Overall, the school has been doing well; in particular, they did exceptionally well at the primary school champs (track and field events). For the coming school year, she said, they have space for 164 children, but over 200 have already registered, “I don’t know what we’re going to do with the extra children” she said.

Male mentors are needed, I told her. Parenting is becoming an issue. It’s not only in Jamaica, Canada too, but at least schools and churches here realize that that’s where the issues lie. Children are being abused in every way (physically, verbally, sexually)…sometimes there are no parents. On my first day volunteering, one student disclosed to me that his grandmother had beaten him with a broomstick which prevented him from doing his school work that day. He did not inform the teacher. Thus, you can imagine her frustration as he stared into space the entire morning without as much as  to remove his backpack. I pulled up a chair next to his desk to inquire the reasons. Tears ran down his cheeks but no words came. I had to coax him into going to buy lunch, that way I would be able to get him to divulge whatever was on his mind. It was on this walk to the tuckshop that he shared the details. So when we returned to the class, I suggested that he take out his book and hold it in his lap since the desk was unreasonably higher than where his hand could reach. The school in general could do well with new furniture and more space. To think one teacher is in charge of up to 18 of these children, who are functioning at such a lower level. The children would do better with more individualized attention. I suggested it to one teacher. It would be useful to make good use of their volunteers, seeing that tons of us go in and out. Yet there is no set program for us. A volunteer coordinator probably would have been useful. But who has money to fund this position.

To be honest, I was thinking about how effective I would be if I found people in Canada who would be willing to volunteer- at this point, I can see that schools are in dire need of help. Let’s see how it goes…

Monday and Tuesday I spent at YMCA and facilitated a presentation for the class I had been working with. In general I think I had their attention. This Thursday I decided to go to the soup kitchen a little earlier, causing me to skip YMCA. I had to help package groceries. There were large bags of flour, sugar, cornmeal, and rice everywhere. The other ladies and I had a bag each. Some were moving considerably faster than others. I used a cup to pour 1 1/2 cup of sugar into a clear bag. I made 118 bags in total which took me roughly 1 hour and 40 minutes. By 12pm, I prepared myself to serve. There were two other ladies who prepared the large pots of rice and peas and stew turkey neck in the meantime. They are the cooks. And today they used the leftover soup from Tuesday. While another lady shared the soup in styrofoam cups, I neatly arranged them on a tray to serve the men and women sitting around tables.

When all was done, we had to clean up, I was in charge of rinsing, another person did the washing and drying.  It was a good day and another excellent week. Looking forward to the weekend!

Day One- First steps

I have a headache. The heat, the pressure and the change of scenery are all contributing to this painful pounding in my head. At least I’m dressed for the weather in a simple floral sundress and flip flops. My hair though, is getting bigger by the minute. The straightness is turning to friz. I suspect its natural and ought to have been expected.

When I arrived at my destination- the Norman Manley International airport, only an hour and a half (1 1/2 hrs) late, I climbed out of the airplane and walked through the ‘tunnel’ that attaches to the plane to the port.  Inside of the airport did not feel like one. Rather, the long hall felt like I was walking through a nice alleyway with signs on the walls. The first thing I had to do was go through customs. The line was long but it was moving rapidly. When it was my turn, I approached a female immigration officer, I said good afternoon in my sickly voice but no response came, except a demanding arm stretched towards my face, expecting my immigration form and then my passport. I complied. She spoke, “6 weeks, this is an extended vacation”. I said, “yes, and very necessary to make up for the 16 years I’ve been away”. An unexpected smile arrived on her face. She handed back my papers and I smiled and walked away immediately.

I stopped at the “cambio” or the money exchange counter, which was another line up. Only two persons in front of me but may as well be ten. The lady was professional and I got my money and went for my luggage at the turning stalls. I see that it was already removed and left standing with other unclaimed luggage. I grabbed it and quickly found the “green” line, the one to use when you’re not carrying anything over $500US. No one was in the line so I asked another immigration officer the procedures. She took my declaration form and off I went. From travelling to different countries, I think that when you see the exit doors to a new country you’re suppose to know by instinct.This one was a little tricky. The narrow exit door was staring me in the face but it was hard to believe that the doors to my journey to rediscovery would be so small.

I followed the finger pointing of a worker whom I had asked directions. He was pointing towards the doors I saw in front of me. I slowly walked with hesitancy towards the doors which automatically opened and allowed me to see a glimpse of Jamaica. Crowds of people were standing outside. I thought it was a market. I started to pan my eyes from the left corner of the marketplace to the right in search of my cousin. I immediately spotted a slim fair skinned man looking the exact same as pictures I had seen on facebook. He looked like he saw me first and was waiting for me to see him. He walked towards me and helped me with my bags.

I waited by the curb for my cousin who went to get his vehicle. I wondered who would be the first to approach me as I stand alone with my luggage. I saw young men sitting around on garden beds and men appearing to be in deep conversations- though the content was not making any sense.

I peered through vehicles searching for my cousin. When I saw him pull up, I brought my luggage to be loaded in the trunk. The drive from the airport was nice and cool, not as I expected. No matter where we drove, I could still see the sea! Wow.

Our first stop was at Tastee’s, this store makes one of the best patties in Jamaica and I have been yearning for this experience for years! I thought it was going to be a walk-in store where you order your Jamaican patty and leave, but quite the opposite. It was a large restaurant. My cousin found us a seat and I enjoyed my beef patty with coco bread and a bottle of water. Walking on Jamaican soil feels completely different from anywhere I’ve been. My brain knows it’s no longer in Canada but is still confused about everything- at this moment, nothing is making any sense. Maybe this is what’s causing the headache! Along with this bright sun! My eyes are not adjusting.

I finally arrived at a beautiful and peaceful community which is going to be my home for the time being. The house I stepped into was something familiar. From the choice of furniture to the flat screen TV to the choice of decor I feel right at home again.

I was worried that my shower experience was going to be a cold one, but this house as choices even in water temperature. I chose to take a cool shower because at this point my skin was experiencing heat and humidity it had not experience since last year August! After the shower, my head was still pounding so I decided to take a nap, but was awoken from a deep sleep by my cousin’s wife. I thought I had slept all night.

Dinner was ackee and saltfish, the Jamaican national dish and one of my favorite meals. Both doors to the house (back and front) stays open and the breeze is ideal. It keeps the house cool. At 9pm the temperature outside was more to my liking. I used a fan at the beginning of the night but turned it off later when I was about to fall in a stupor.  Wow, I can’t believe I’m in Jamaica!

Who do you call for help?

“Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble, and he brought them out of their distress” Psalms 107:19

My biggest fear happened a week ago. The smoke coming from the hood of my car forced me to stop on the highway. I was preoccupied on the phone – not in conversation, but in leaving a detailed voice note on WhatsApp. That was when I saw something out of the ordinary- the hood of my car emitting a tiny puff of smoke almost invisibly. I chalked it up to believe, “that must be coming from the truck in front of me.” You see because I never had those kinds of disasters. So in the midst of my biggest fear, I had to decide what to do.

Photo by Gustavo Fring on Pexels.com

Driving on the highway can be scary, although we often don’t think much about it- not until something happens. Since I drive on the highway for long periods of time daily, it’s hard not to miss the many accidents and the cars that break down. I glance them and without much thought continue in the safety of my own car. Being the proactive person I am, I get my car to the mechanic to have regular checkups. So since I just had one in April, I certainly did not expect to have any issues anytime soon. A year ago, I decided to get CAA membership just in case something were to happen. But, I really didn’t intend on being one of ‘those’ persons on the side of the road. Every so often though, I wonder, what would I do if that happened to me?

Pretending that it wasn’t happening was my first response. But the smoke lifting up ever so clearly, made me stop what I was doing as I looked in confusion. Was this the time to stop? I called a friend- twice! No response. I called a parent, call declined. I called another friend, voicemail. That’s when I called Jesus. “Lord, help me!” I couldn’t pull over where I was. I was merging unto another highway and there was not much curb room. “Lord, what must I do?” “Please let me drive unto the ramp and unto the next highway!” But, when the smoke was heavier now, I had to decide. “Lord, should I stop here?!” The curb space got bigger and I realized I had no other choice. There I was, broken down on the highway all alone.

Time to Leave

Thankfully, the moment I stopped, someone called me back. Turned out that my bestie was not too far from me, although it was an issue to manoeuvre to that specific area on the express highway. It just meant he had to drive further to exit to get to me. In the time, I called CAA and was waiting for my call to be answered. When my friend arrived, he checked under the car hood and rendered it, undriveable. The temperature gauge was sky-high and apparently broken leading to the smoke. I wasn’t the only car out there. Another car had flashing hazard lights up ahead. And an SUV was behind me as well. Was the day too hot for the vehicles? Well, needless to say, I was scared.

With my hazard lights already on, I moved to the comfort of my friend’s car as I waited for CAA. They would arrive in 30 minutes the caller told me. Once CAA towed away my car, we went on our way to my home. I arrived in the arms of love, comfort and support – and where dinner was being prepared for me. “They were glad when it grew calm, and he guided them to their desired haven” Psalms 107:30

I could have never imagined that the thing I had feared would have worked out so seamlessly. Rather than fear, I cried out to God and he answered immediately. There was no delay. He sent the very same people I called to my rescue, and made me know that he was the one who saved me from my distress. I was in the arms of safety, I was surrounded by his comfort and love. And now I know that, He is a God who rescues his children from every trouble.

I know who to call first for help next time (hopefully there won’t be another car trouble though). Who will you call?

Ready, Set, Pause.

Nobody ever sets out to quit or fail at something. When we have the momentum, enthusiasm and energy we soar ahead, excited about what the end will look like when we accomplish the goal. But then what happens half-way through the course, the dieting? the exercise? that new book? We pause.

Photo by Pavel Danilyuk on Pexels.com

Pausing is no good for momentum because it diminishes energy required to keep us going. Just imagine our favourite olympic skier pausing on a slope. He/She will certainly not be taking home any medal! Recently, I went skiing at Hockley Valley Ski Resort with some friends. None of us were by any means great, or even good, at this sport, but we got better the longer we stayed out there. So much better that we decided to try the beginner hill. While I had done this before- 10 years ago, my friend hadn’t. He was better than any beginner I knew. I went down the first slope smoothly…too smooth actually. But my friend didn’t. He had a fall. I stopped at the end of the slope to wait for him. But during this time, the momentum that was built up on the first slope diminished, and I was a little scared to take the second slope. By then, I watched my friend ski ahead of me and I found motivation from him. If he could do it, so could I. I saw him fall again but this time I didn’t stop. Was I mean? Well, that’s the thing about momentum. I didn’t want to pause because I feared that I would be the one to fall or worse, let fear prevent me from making it to the end.

READ MORE: Let’s do a new thing in 2022

I love the way sports teaches us so many realistic lessons. It lets us mentally see where we are in our minds. At the beginning of skiing, I wasn’t that smooth coming down any hill. I told myself two things: (1) I didn’t come skiing to not enjoy myself and actually make it down the hill. (2) I did not intend to fall. Now, this is a lot of positivity for someone who is totally new (because not skiing for a decade still makes me new). I didn’t know it at the time, but I think my mind was at the top of the baby hill rectifying those two beliefs while I stood there. I was trying to figure out the how. How would I go down the hill without falling?

Photo by Volker Meyer on Pexels.com

For 10 minutes I examined the hill, observing the other skiers fall and going again. Until I got too close to the edge and gravity had its way with me. I screamed all the way down and somehow my feet situated themselves correctly. I watched my friends jumped out of my way as I was coming at full speed, and a miracle happened. My feet turned so that I didn’t fall and I kept on going. I slowed down by myself startled and in shock. How did I do that? I looked up the hill and followed the route I had taken. How did I not fall? I can’t believe it.

Lisa Nichols defines mindset as “the knowing.”

The knowing enables you to push past limiting beliefs, take on new opportunities with confidence and succeed in getting what you want. This knowing precedes your ability to succeed and paves the way for you to enjoy abundance in every area of your life. And its this knowing that I want to help you develop now. 

Lisa Nichols & Janet Switzer

What I am saying is that having a positive mindset about skiing took me down the first baby hill. It gave me the courage to get on the ski lift and then try the beginner hill. The more I skied was the more I felt confident and the more I wanted to take bigger risk. Why? Because of momentum. Pausing makes us loose that momentum and it prevents us from sailing ahead with our plans, goals and desires.

**May you continue to build momentum in February as you press forward into your goal. You started it, just don’t stop. Don’t let your pause become a full stop.

Adventuring the outdoors at Thetis Lake

Do you like the outdoors? There are so many conservation parks around Victoria. But, the one I went to was called Thetis Lake Regional Park. I really loved it. I have visited so many conservation parks around Ontario which has there own charm. There was something different about Thetis Lake. I loved that it had a mixture of everything. The best part is that as you walk through the park, the lake was in eyesight. I loved that the sun peered through the massive oak and maple trees, amongst other typical Canadian trees. I loved that there were areas where I felt hidden from the world, surrounded only by the trees. And still parts of the hike, where I could step off the trail and unto a hill overlooking the lake. I took in the beauty from up high; the sun glistening on the water with the colourful trees everywhere. There were other areas that I could stand at the edge of the lake and embraced the stillness. At one point, I began noticing these massive maple leaves laying on the ground. The size of the leaves were bigger than the palm of my hand. I picked one up and carried it with me as I continued.

Many others were hiking as well, some with children, some couples, and some loners like myself. I often find hikers are pleasant. Maybe we each have more in common than we are able to appreciate. And maybe it’s that we subconsciously know what the other really want, that is, time to be left to our own thoughts and imaginations. There is a subconscious respect, that a smile or a simple “hello” is enough. I was filled with a mixture of thoughts; that I was in BC for the first time, that I had never been to this lake before, inspired about what the future holdings, and how deeply content I was at that moment. People say to me all the time, “you are so brave” and “I could never travel alone.” But when I am hiking, I think about how this place could be anywhere. What is brave about flying to another part of the world and doing something new or in my case, doing the same thing I would do at home?

READ MORE: Never Alone

The hike carried me all around the lake. It took me over an hour to get to the middle point. But, that’s because of all the stops I made to enjoy the scenery before the sunset. Instead of walking around the entire lake, I turned around and walk back in the same direction. I think I wanted to see the same views going back (and felt a little uncertain about where I was going if I continued). My favourite way of hiking is when I have no sense of time or schedule. When I arrived at my car, it was already dusk. Hardly anyone was around. To me, there is nothing like coming back to a hotel room after a long, hike on a cold day. The ambiance spells utter relaxation.