We all know the “golden rule” – treat others how you want to be treated. I’m pretty sure we’ve all heard this saying in kindergarten as a guide for us kids to govern ourselves accordingly. However, we didn’t always adhere to the rule. And we probably created some kind of variation to the regulation that suited us better like “treat others how you want to be treated…that are kind to you – all them other folks, rude and the like, can kick rocks.” It’s like how you believe you can stack a +4 on a +2 in UNO, but UNO never created that rule, you did😂. But that’s not the point. The point is, are we actually doing what we say? I know we can’t expect ourselves out of other folks, so when placed in a situation where people treat you like dirt, how do you react? Do you treat’em like how you wanna be treated or do you have a “kick rocks” mentality?
It’s story time. I was leaving Duchess – for ya’ll that don’t know, Duchess is, in my humble opinion, an elite fast food restaurant – after having purchased my breakfast – bacon, egg white and cheese on a soft roll with a medium orange juice (just in case you feel like blessing me one day lol). Anyway, on my way out, I realized way too late that I was leaving the parking lot from the entrance and not the exit, but it was wide enough where two cars could comfortably fit without causing an accident. It was a mistake, but I kept going because I believed reversing would cause more harm than good. As I was leaving, a woman started driving in, and I could see from the inside of her car that she was yelling at me. She even shook her fist! I calmly rolled down my window, and she did the same, and I hollered, “It was a mistake,” to which she responded, “Oh, my bad.” I think she thought I was doing it on purpose, which was foolish because why would I risk my life like that??
Anyways, the interaction reminded me of something I need to do more of even when others don’t, which neatly falls under the umbrella of the “golden rule” – extend some grace. I work part-time as a waitress, and when people come in with a frown or a grimace on their face, my hope and goal is that they leave with a smile by the end of their meal. It’s a small victory for me, but it also reminds me that everyone is dealing with battles, big and small, that they may never share. Because of that, they can react unfavorably towards you. However, I don’t want their demeanor to change the way I act toward them, any other customer or my team members. It reminds me of something my aunt told me, “be the thermostat not the thermometer – you set the temperature/tone in the room, not the other way around.”
As a believer, life and how I perceive it always dials back down to the word of God. Is this saying supported in the Bible? And it is – “love my neighbor as I love myself” (Mark 12:31). So while others might not be so gracious to me, it’s my responsibility to love on them anyway, so they can see Christ working through me. Having a “kick rocks” mentality doesn’t benefit anyone especially me. If anything, that kind of mentality, I believe, could push me to think the worst about people. We all have bad moments, but it doesn’t mean those moments make up who we are. I wanna encourage you to on today to extend some grace. I know it may be hard at first, but the phrase “kill’em with kindness” is very real, and it’ll help you not to internalize how that person(s) is acting towards you. Hey – make it a mission! How can I “extend some grace” today? How can I “treat others how I want to be treated” today? How can I “love my neighbor as I love myself” today? Then do it! Be that blessing to others and watch how it’ll bless you. Selah.
“There’s no door that God opens that man can close, and there’s no door that God closes that man can open.”
I’m not quite sure where I first heard these words, I think one of my auntys’ said this to me, but whenever something starts or ends in my life, I always find myself repeating this statement. It wasn’t until recently that I discovered my personal mantra is actually in the bible, “…These are the words of him who is holy and true, who holds the key of David. What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open,” Revelations 3:7.
Lately, I find myself repeating this statement – they’re etched across my mind. Honestly though, these words are difficult to grapple with because I like to be in control. It’s one of my character flaws. In the past, I’ve dealt with many situations that were out of my control. One of those situations being dealing with a less than present father. My dad wasn’t perfect, he was and is human. He had issues of his own to deal with – personal demons just like everyone else. But when I was a child, none of this mattered. He was my superhero, my Superman. I remember driving around with him to run errands while blasting Buju Banton for the neighborhood to hear. One of his favorite past times was cooking. The kitchen was his sanctuary, and my favorite meal was his piping hot cornmeal porridge served with cocoa bread. No matter what time of day, his porridge truly blessed me as a kid. However, his demons interfered with our relationship, and I couldn’t see him anymore.
As I grew up, he wasn’t in the picture. And it wasn’t until years later that we reconnected, and I realized my Superman was really Clark Kent, just as warped as the rest of us. While we were apart, he battled some beasts, beasts I wish upon no human. And I wish to God that he hadn’t. Maybe if he didn’t, he would have been around more. Every little girl needs her daddy. However, this was out of my control. I hated it then, and I get frustrated now when life spirals out of my control. There are times when I find myself disappointed with situations ending that I thought were supposed to play out successfully. However, instead of battling with the “why” of it, I practice saying, “There’s no door that God opens that man can close, and there’s no door that God closes that man can open.” Essentially, God is in control. I can’t make things happen as much as I want to, he makes it happen.
Let’s put it this way, I can’t heal broken people, only God can. Just because I watch a million hours of Grey’s Anatomy doesn’t make a physician out of me – God is the ultimate physician. If I was able to heal someone, they would end up relying on me instead of God. And if people came to me for all of their issues, eventually they would see that I can’t do it all; I have limitations. However, God is unlimited – he is God of the impossible. And when people learn the characteristics of God, the loving, forgiving and protecting father that he is, they can come to him (instead of me) and form a relationship with him. He saves, sets free and redeems. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Christianity, however, is not for the faint of heart! I think there are individuals who believe that God is like a genie in a bottle, who I can rub and ask for three wishes. However, it’s not like that at all.
This relationship I have with Christ is by choice. No one forced me. I made the decision to rededicate my life to Christ because only he can save me from my sins, so I can live unashamed. Only he can deliver me from my issues, so I can be set free. And only he can redeem me from my past, so I can be made new & whole in him. God desires for me to dedicate my day and activities to him, but this takes practice. It’s not easy, and he never said it would be. However, it’s because of his grace that I am here. It’s because of his grace that I can share my story. And it’s because of his grace that I can share his love with others. With all that I’ve been through, I’m surprised that I haven’t ended my life, and I’ve thought about it. However, accepting Christ into my life gave me hope when I was hopeless. And don’t get me wrong, I do experience these feelings at times, but I am reminded of all that he has brought me through, and this reminder gives me the courage to push forward.
I’ve learned and am still learning to trust his plan for my life. He knows “the end from the beginning” Isaiah 46:10. And because he knows the end, he knows every event that will take place in the middle because he’s the author of my story down to the very detail. While this may be devastatingly frustrating at times to understand that God holds the pen and not me, I also find comfort in knowing that he is working out everything for my good. The plans he has for me are to “prosper [me] and not to harm [me], plans to give [me] hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11).
It’s been 2 months since I’ve been back home, and I’ve lost all hope in fast food. Sleep the big sleep, fast food restaurants except Chick-fil-A, you have not done me wrong…yet. Not to say that fast food is my main source of sustenance, but you know when you’re out, and you think to yourself, “It’s lunch time – I should eat something,” then you see a McDonald’s or a Wendy’s, and it seems like a Godsend, but truth be told, it’s really not!! My stomach will agree.
I’m not saying the lack of precooked food sums up my experience being back home, but the way I developed my skills in the kitchen and ate, prayed and loved my way through Spain’s streets, my palate just had a little bit more faith in the precooked food readily available here at home at Popeye’s and the like. However, I won’t go on and on about the disappointment that is fast food because I wholeheartedly believe that God is telling me to get back in the kitchen – it’s been confirmed by a few folks and my tummy. Stop eating out, girl!
Being home I’ve realized that I’m not the same young woman that left. I thought I was gonna hop off the plane and get my life started right back up. I’d find a job, volunteer somewhere, serve in church, and just live life, but I was wrong. The assumption that I made that things would return to “normal” was off. I mean we’re in a pandemic, what was I thinking?! And that’s due in part to all the faith I had in myself instead of God.
One of the things I learned while I was away was establishing a routine without overwhelming myself. I went to work. I cooked and exercised regularly. I attended guitar and Spanish lessons. I watched church virtually. I studied the bible. And outside of my routine, I enjoyed myself whether by writing, playing guitar and singing, reading, eating out, taking trips to different towns and cities, doing new activities and more. I realized I was slowing down and learning to enjoy the space that God had me in whatever came my way. There was an immense blessing in being still!
However, being home was nothing like this. At first, I was exercising, but then I stopped. I tried to maintain running, but I couldn’t. Trying to find my routine was eating at me! All my life, I always knew what was next whether it was a job, a school or a place. However, because I did not have anything solidified in that way, I felt lost. Everyone and everything was moving so fast and still is, and I felt behind. I know, I know, I just got back, so I should’ve given myself the grace to acclimate to a new pace, but I put an immense amount of pressure on myself to jump back in immediately.
I wanted to be moving and grooving like everyone else was with their routines and schedules in place. However, I’m seeing now that my pace is different from everyone elses’ and that, my friends, is a good thing. I can’t compare my journey to others no matter how slow or fast it may be going – I gotta stay in my own lane. Otherwise, I will miss what God is doing in this new season of my life. And he is doing a new thing. And because he is doing a new thing, he’s also going to go about doing this “new thing” in a new way that I’ve never seen before.
Now that I’m home, I’m regaining confidence in myself. I’m creating a routine that works for me, and saying “no” to the things that I cannot manage, and that’s okay. I’m not superwoman, I need God. I am not meant to set myself on fire to keep others warm. That’s foolishness, and honestly, the enemy at work trying to burn me out. I am meant to be the light of the world, which means to shine in the dark, so others can see God’s work at hand. In me, others will see his truth illuminated. There’s a difference, good people.
I’m grateful for the time I have to set a routine that works best for me. I’m no longer at a place where I am rushing to do this or that. I can’t force the hand of God – I can only go with his flow. I’m thankful that I have the opportunity to take my time. God created a space for me to establish a new pace, and it helped me, so I am moving in that way. And I’m especially appreciative of my family and friends who understand this space I’m in.
I think this is the season of “Adjustment.” I’m adjusting back into this culture. I’m adjusting to a new routine. I’m adjusting to everything, and that’s okay. I have time, and the goal is to use it wisely. God is up to something, and I am more than glad to be a part of his plan. It’s more grand than I will ever understand! His ways and thoughts are higher than mine. What he is doing is to prosper me, not to harm me, but to give me hope and a future, and I am grateful for that.
I am not the same Judaen that left, respectfully. God showed me what it means to love your profession so much so that it doesn’t even feel like working. He showed me how to slow down and enjoy the moment. He showed me how to be flexible. He showed me how to create a routine. He showed me how to be a good steward. He showed me how to remove things if need be. He showed me how to love myself. He showed me how to be vulnerable. He showed me how to advocate for myself. He showed me so many things, and I’m blessed.
Being back home is like learning how to ride a bike all over again. I gotta learn how to hold the handle bars, how to balance, and how to ride and, when I’ve got all that figured out, then I gotta take off the training wheels. However, once I get it, then I’m off to the races. Of course, I’m gonna experience some uneven terrain, some rainy days, and I’ll even fall off a couple times, but it’s about getting back up after the fall! Fall down seven times and get back up eight, honey! Rise again!!
The words of this song are a fervent call to God to open the eyes of my heart, which may seem word, but to me it means, I’m allowing myself to become vulnerable before God. I want, no, I need him to open my heart’s eyes to see who he is in my life. I find this song really uplifting, and I hope this song uplifts you, too!
You ever heard the phrase, “you are not for everyone and everyone is not for you?” It’s true. Sometimes, you’re not meant to be “in the room.” When I say “in the room,” I’m referring to being included – either in a specific place or with a certain group of people.
I consider myself an ambivert. Sometimes, I prefer to be on my own doing my own thing (introvert), and other times, I like to be out and about with folks (extrovert). However, I don’t tip the scale on either end, I balance right in the middle. I can’t always be out (it’s taxing), but I can’t always be on my own either (I’m a people person), so ambivert. However, God has been dealing with me regarding being “in the room” or included.
Did you ever wonder why you were denied a position for a job, but your attitude, resume and references were killer? Or why you weren’t invited to a function with friends but others were? I think it’s because you weren’t supposed to be in the room or included for whatever reason. Only God knows.
My mom shared with me that sometimes you aren’t meant to be in a specific place or with a certain group of people because, plain and simple, you weren’t meant to be there. You weren’t meant to be “in the room.” You weren’t meant to be included. Exclusion was for your own good.
But it hurts. It hurts when you know the qualities you have could light up a whole stadium. It hurts when you see others being included and you aren’t. But hey, did it ever cross your mind that maybe they weren’t meant to feel your glow? Maybe they weren’t meant to see you radiate. Maybe they weren’t meant to feel that heat because if they did, they would burn. They aren’t capable of withstanding the flame, so cliche as it is, they gotta get out of the kitchen. But in this case, God has set you apart. He has placed you in a whole ‘nother kitchen because he knows something you don’t.
I can’t say that it will hurt less when individuals don’t see what you see, but I pray that you grow some tough skin, but still keep a soft heart. I pray that when you enter a room you are seen, heard, and respected. I pray that you are time-honored and not taken for granted. You may not be for everyone – that’s okay. Everyone also may not be for you – that’s better than okay. You deserve to be around those who let your light shine and shine with you. The rooms and the people that you are called to will happen organically – that is where you will be meant to be. You won’t have to put on a mask (pun intended) or be something you’re not. The right ones will be the right ones. You won’t ever feel excluded or question your existence. You are whole just as you are.
“I’ll stay home and rest. Today was a good day, a full day. I did enough!”
I kept repeating this little mantra to myself after taking a day trip to Cordoba to visit my program’s coordinator and her family. We toured the winding cobble-stoney streets, visited the Mezquita, a cathedral-mosque that had been closed for several weeks due to Coronavirus, and had dinner with traditional Spanish dishes, too. The amount of walking we did resulted in blisters along my toes, but they were worth it. I did enough or so I thought.
That evening I spoke to one of my mentors. I had worked and learned from this man for over two years in Real Estate. We talked about my plan once I returned home, and he suggested that I should travel for a week through Europe. Little did he know, I had already devised a plan to do so, but due to Covid-19, I had to put those plans down. My plans to visit Morocca, Paris and London were no longer on the table, but I told him I was making the best out of the situation.
Once we finished our conversation, I got to thinking. Was I really doing all that I could to truly experience Spain? My answer: I could be doing more. How? Stop waiting on others. I had yet to visit a handful of pueblos in my province because I was waiting to go with others. An idea that my mother had echoed in my mind: it’s safer to go in a group, which I totally understand. However, after already moving across the water on my own, I thought I could manage a solo trip.
That night I packed my backpack and made sure the following day I wore sneakers instead of sandals; I didn’t want to add to the little welts I already had on my toes. I was going to take a solo trip to Priego de Cordoba. I didn’t know where I was going other than one recommended location from a teacher at my school: Barrio de la Villa. A Historic-artistic site with “narrow winding whitewashed streets, and is a perfect combination of harmony and beauty, flowers, peace and calm, white and stone” (Andalusia 1). The next morning, I got up at 7:30 a.m., left the house at 8:30 and hustled to the bus station making it in time to buy my ticket and breakfast. When the bus arrived, I hopped on, took my seat near the front and opened Google on my phone. I searched for the “must-see places” in Priego; I made a list of 4 other places I would try to visit other than the Barrio during my time in this pueblo. I felt like I was planning my own field trip!
As the bus drove, I read. And because I didn’t know what stop Priego de Cordoba was, I kept calling out to the bus driver, “Priego?” To which he responded, “No!” By the third time I asked, he was chuckling. I think he could sense my excitement. Here I was venturing out to another pueblo with no concrete plans other than a list: Barrio de la Villa, Parroquia de la Asuncion, Chapel of el Sagrario in the Church of la Asuncion, Priego de Cordoba Castle, and Fuente del Rey Fountain. I reminded myself that there was no pressure. The bus home was at 5 p.m., so if I visited no other place than the Barrio, I would be fine. I could always come back especially with tickets as low as two euros and some change.
When the bus finally arrived in Priego de Cordoba, I approached the bus driver and questioned him about buying a ticket home. He showed me that the bus station was right in front of us, but the station was clearly under construction! I made my way to the door, but was stopped by a bus attendant. She instructed me that at the time of my departure, I could purchase a ticket at the station. I was confused because the station was in rubble, but I trusted there would be a way to purchase the ticket when I returned, and I left the station.
I looked around cautiously, and my first thought was caffeine. I looked to the left and to the right of a small winding street. As I walked, I noticed a cafe on a sidestreet and decided to take a quick left. I approached one of the servers, asked for a table and chose a table under the sun. As the morning’s star beamed down on me, I ordered my coffee. I took a call from a girlfriend of mine, and we debated the pros and cons about renewing our contracts. These lofty ideas of staying with the hope of travelling in the future made us think, we were missing out, but one thing seemed to stick. We wanted more – I wanted more. I wanted more than a yearly contract. I wanted more than being an assistant teacher. I wanted more than 700 euros per month. I wanted more.
I think the hardest thing for me about deciding not to renew my contract were the thoughts that flooded my mind about the work I had put into coming to Spain in the first place, but there is a gravitational pull happening within me. I want the choice of whether or not I will be in Spain. I want the choice of what position I will have and the opportunity to grow. I want the choice of how much money I will make – I don’t want a contract to determine my residence, my position or growth or my finances. I felt limited. While this position is an incredible experience to grow in so many areas, which I did and am doing, it’s because of the growth that I need to go home. The pressing need to go home, the gravitational pull, is “I want more.” God was and is directing my path yet again. And it’s funny to think how this all started – a need, a pull, a call to go to Spain. The place I prayed to be in is preparing me for my next destination.
After a cup of coffee, some sun, and a conversation, I started my expedition. The adventure led to all the places on my list and even more. I stumbled upon the Carnicerías Reales, a slaughterhouse and market from the 16th century, and la Huerta de las Infantas, a romantic garden also from the 16th century. That day I was a kid lost in a candy store! I was running around the streets with no parental guidance, and it felt so good. All I had was a list, and even that could change at any moment. I was going with the flow of the day. I had no concrete plans, and it felt amazing. I was nervous, but excited to leave in the morning, but I allowed God to direct my day. I was so overwhelmed with a sense of content in going home – it was solidified. As I sat down at my final list’s destination, the Fuente del Rey Fountain, God met me. He reassured me that going home was the next step.
As I grew closer and closer to the deadline to renew my contract, I was so conflicted about whether or not I should renew, but that day especially the time I spent with God at the fountain, reassured my decision. My home in Spain was preparing me for more, and he has work for me to do. This experience has taught me that what you pray for cultivates you and prepares you for the future. You are meant to grow as a result of it. This answered prayer has encouraged me to stay aligned with God through prayer, through bible study, through sermons and worship music. When you tune a guitar, your goal is to tighten or loosen the strings, so your strings play the correct notes or chords. I think the same is true with God. When you are in tune with him, the goal is to position your walk with him, so you’re walking on the correct path, the path He has for your life.
I look forward to the next season, but I’m in no rush. God, continue to work on me. I am a work in progress, and I’m grateful for that. I’m a forever student, and I’m always learning. The minute I get too prideful and say I’ve learned it all, check me. Amen.
When I think about myself and the journey that I’m on, there’s not a doubt in my mind that God has been orchestrating all of the details of my life especially when I think of the location I am in, but this wasn’t the first time. During my undergrad, I went from not being focused to battling depression to overcoming both. I went from being a student who didn’t care to use their potential and was on academic probation to graduating with honors. I went from suffering in a dark place to developing a relationship with Christ and seeing His light. I know that was all God.
He saw something in me that I didn’t quite see in myself. When I started developing my own relationship with Him, I began to discover who I was. I discovered that I am made clean in Christ. I discovered that I am preserved in Christ, and I discovered that I am called by Christ (Jude 1:1).
My birthday just passed, and I am officially a great 28. If the 18-year-old me could see all that I went through over the past 10 years, I don’t think she would believe she could make it. Honestly, I don’t think she would want to pursue this path either. I’ve had ups, and I’ve also had my downs that I wouldn’t wish on anyone; however, those down moments remind me to be kind. Those down moments remind me to love others. Those down moments remind me to be the best me that I can be until I know better than I do better – Maya Angelou said that. So I’m proud!
I’m proud of me for pushing through eight years of school. I’m proud of me for seeking, finding and doing (and continuing) therapy. I’m proud of me for developing a relationship with Christ. I’m proud of me for studying and now living abroad. I’m proud of me for pursuing Ergoi Agathoi. I’m proud of me for separating myself from negativity. I’m proud of me for learning how to cook. I’m proud of me for pursuing guitar. I’m proud of me for doing the dang thing! And while 18-year-old me may have said no to this journey, I’m glad that I’m here.
I’m still standing. God is with me, and I have more work to do. I won’t count me out or my next 10 years because if I could overcome so much in the past, I can only imagine how much more I will triumph over in the future.