Live Intentionally

One thing I have learned in Ghana is that time is not as big of a deal as we make it out to be in the United States. Back home, we are always trying to get everything done in a day, trying to rush through tasks and do the bare minimum. Trying to go through the motions and tick everything off of the checklist.

However, in Ghana, people are so focused on relationships rather than tasks. People allow others space and time to share thoughts and ideas. They also allow them the time to sit in silence and think too. It’s mainly a form of respect, but it’s also just a way of life.

God created us to live in a community with one another. He created us to love one another. I think a major way to show love to someone is to give them your time of day. To be intentional and fully give someone your undivided attention. Listen to them. Learn from them. Grow with them in this wild and messy life.

I think we try to respect people by making time for everyone. Fitting everyone in the schedule. However, wouldn’t it be better to do excellent jobs in a week rather than average jobs in a day. Shouldn’t we be intentional with how we manage our time in a way that is beneficial for the well-being of everyone?

I remember back to times where I just tried to get the bare minimum of information because I needed to check it off the list and be done. But I missed out on the opportunity to ask deeper questions. To really get to know someone. To really understand what that person might be going through or what was truly on their mind.

I get that time is important for structure. But it is also important for relationships and community. I think with COVID we have seen how difficult it can be to form relationships over phone/text instead of in person. Or how challenging it is to take classes online rather than in person. I think this is just another personal and relational thing.

The Bible talks a lot about Jesus’ time on Earth. It talks about the way He healed those around Him. The way He spoke to others. The way He spent His time with His close friends. Yet, it does not share much about the timing of His life. It doesn’t say that He only spoke to the women at the well for 15 minutes because He was late on meeting someone else.

Jesus was intentional and patient with those around Him. He gives us all the time in the day to speak with Him. He listens to us even when He already knows what we will tell Him. He gives us space to think. He gives us time to learn on our own, even though He wants us to learn with Him. All because He loves us.

“Therefore, I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore, do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore, do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” – Matthew 6:25-34

God created the earth in a timely manner. He didn’t just do it all in a day to say, “okay done”. He was intentional about creating the earth. The same way He is intentional about taking care of His creation. He takes care of the plants, the animals, and us. If we are to love others well, we need to be intentional in taking care of His creation too.

But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead, He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. – 2 Peter 3:8-9

The Lord is patient with us. He wants it all to be done in His timing, and sometimes, things take a lot of time. And that’s okay.

It’s important to make the most of every opportunity. Think about when you plan a trip. You want to do a bunch of different things, like visit the beach, go shopping, eat good food, etc. Well, that all takes time and planning. Yet, when we meet someone, we just ask the basics to be nice.

But what if we dove deeper into all the different aspects. “How is your family doing? How is your job going? What did you do over the weekend?”

I feel like to some degree we are hurting people by not giving them enough time or rushing them. And I get not enough time is in a day but there will never be enough time in a day. The same way that I am not fulfilled by any amount of money. There will always be some flaw cause that’s just life. It’s flawed.

Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore, do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. – Ephesians 5:15-17

We don’t know when our last day will be on Earth. We don’t know what the future holds. We don’t know the last time we might see someone.

I don’t know about you, but I want to spend my life intentionally listening, learning, and speaking with others. I want people to feel cared for because they are. I want people to feel important because they are. I want people to feel loved because they are. I want people to see Jesus through me.

And no. I won’t be perfect at it. I will still fall short, but I can live and make the most out of every opportunity for His glory.

With love,

Claire

Each One is a Work of Art

A couple of weeks ago, I went to an art gallery in Osu. The place was three stories and had all kinds of different pieces of art. Paintings, statues, beads, fabrics, etc. After I had made my way through all the floors, I went back to the bottom floor again. I was walking through some of the paintings that I saw when I first walked in, and a lady asked me about one of the paintings in particular. She said that something about the piece really stood out to her and asked, “What do you think of it?”

Now, I am no art master, nor do I really know much about art haha. But I thought it was so interesting that she asked me about this specific painting. It had probably about 200 women painted on it, working in a market, selling and carrying different items, in all kinds of colors. My response to the woman was, “I think it really captures the fact that we are all uniquely created and different, even though we are all similar in some ways too. All these people are women, and they are sellers, but they are painted in different colors, holding different objects, painted with different strokes. Not one of them is exactly the same as the one.”

Thinking back on it, I was really in awe of that moment. Out of all the paintings in the place, this was the one that He wanted me to pay attention to. And He wanted me to learn that it stood out to someone else too.

I think with media and technology these days, we are able to share our voices a lot more than we used to be able to do. It’s a great thing in a lot of ways honestly. People can help others, learn from others, teach others, and listen to others online very well now. However, I think we also live in a world where we tend to generalize people, places, and things very often. Sometimes without even realizing it.

I have learned from some of the locals that Ghanaians tend to treat Americans very differently than their own people. At restaurants or in a car, the person working will want to serve you better than a local. Part of the reason because they want to impress you and part of the reason because they might want something from you.

Ghanaian men also treat American women completely differently than Ghanaian women. Some are actually genuine, but some are just looking for whatever you can give them.

However, this isn’t just a Ghanaian thing. Even back home in America, we generalize people or things. We tend to have an implied mindset when talking or reading about someone who belongs to a political party, ethnic group, religious affiliation, nationality, socioeconomic status, etc. And that mindset can shift the ways we treat those individuals too.

Maybe by already going into the conversation with a negative view of what the person is going to say because you don’t agree with their political opinion. Or treating those with a higher socioeconomic status than you with way more respect than the person serving you at a restaurant.

But at the end of the day, we are all different in so many ways. However, we are all created in the image of God, created by God, and created to love others. And loving others can also be to go into conversations without a judgmental view of someone else because they are different from you.

“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” – Ephesians 2:10

God is still working on each of us. He is still painting the picture for us, and He is still designing His masterpiece. God views us as His sons and daughters. He wants us to be able to see that we each are important to Him, and He wants us to live in peace with one another as well.

We will fall short in life. We will have our highs and our lows. And we won’t always get along with everyone. But, we need to try and treat the people in our hometowns the same way we would treat those who are foreign to us. And vice versa.

We need to stop every once and a while and realize that our lives may not be where we want them to be at the moment, but it’s not nothing. By focusing on what we each do have, we can learn to appreciate God’s grace and goodness much more than comparing what we have to someone else. Or how their life looks to mine.

We are all unworthy of the grace that God gives us, but He still loves us unconditionally. And if the Creator of the world thinks that this person should be on Earth, we should still treat them with dignity and respect, no matter their status, fame, or origin.

“If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” – Romans 12:18

With love,

Claire

Finding Rest

Before I left in January to come to Ghana, I had a few things to check on regarding my health. First, I had to get a few of the required vaccinations done promptly. I also needed to get a physical done (more for my own peace of mind), as well as get medications and resources that were not going to be easily accessible in Ghana.

While I expected my body to have some difficulty adjusting the first few weeks in Ghana, I did not expect my body to still be having issues by week six.

This past Monday, I made it home after work and was very dehydrated. I drank three bottles of water, took a cool shower, and cooled off under the fan for a few hours. However, as time went on, I still didn’t feel great. I was very feverish, felt achy, had a horrible headache, and was super tired. I thought it was best to go get a malaria test done, so I went to a 24-hour pharmacy nearby my house. Sadly, they were not able to test me at the time, but I did get the medication needed if I started to feel worse later in the night.

The next morning, I went to get malaria tested and a full blood count done as well. I still didn’t feel great, but I also didn’t feel any worse. My symptoms in the morning were actually completely different.

Thankfully, the malaria test and the typhoid test both came back negative. My labs looked okay except my white blood cell count was lower than normal. This worried me a little because those bad boys are supposed to help you fight infections, like COVID. I decided to go home for the rest of the day and tried to get some rest.

Later that night, my host family and I decided that I should get COVID tested to make sure that was not the case either. I made plans to go to Accra on Wednesday and get a test done. I went the next morning, and thankfully, the COVID test came back negative as well. I took the rest of Wednesday and Thursday off from work so that I could try to get back to normal and not make anything worse.

With all the adjustments to the weather, food, transportation, walking, and sweating, I was not being mindful of the fact that my body might have difficulty adjusting to it all, especially all at once. I’m also the type of person that doesn’t know I have reached my limit until I have gone over my limit. And while I did not have anything too severe like malaria or COVID, I’m also not invincible either. It’s important to always take care of your health and take the necessary steps of getting well again before stretching yourself too thin.

I appeal to you, therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. – Romans 12:1-2

Our bodies are very significant. If they weren’t, God wouldn’t have created medications, doctors, vaccines, or health care facilities for us to stay healthy throughout our lives.

Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for me, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. – Colossians 3:23-24

While God wants us to trust Him always, He also wants us to use common sense and good judgment so that we take care of ourselves in the ways that we need to.

To be honest, on the days where I was just at home resting, I was a little disappointed. I felt like a wimp for not being able to go to work and for “needing” the days off. I thought that it didn’t do me any good to be at home.

Maybe, I wasn’t being very productive at home other than resting, but I was getting my body ready for what is to come. I was refueling and refreshing myself to serve God much more in the future. Those days of rest were important and much needed.

And on the seventh day, God finished His work that He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work that He had done. So, God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it, God rested from all His work that He had done in creation. – Genesis 2:2-3

Even God needed a day of rest. He could have created the Earth in less than a week and not taken a day off at all. However, He purposely set aside a day of rest because He knew it was important. And, that day was considered holy. It was not any less or any greater than the other days.

Find rest when you need to. Stay safe. Stay healthy.

With love,

Claire

His Faithfulness Walks Beside Me

At the beginning of my fall semester of graduate school, I knew I was interested in completing my field placement internationally. I felt like it was something that God had placed on my heart for a while, and the opportunity presented itself as well with my university. However, COVID made the decision-making and planning process quite lengthy.

In a non-COVID world, we would have gotten the final decision about the placement around October and prepared everything right then and there. With the uncertainty of COVID and how it is affecting every country differently, I didn’t get the final approval to go until the middle of December. And even then, I still didn’t believe it was going to happen. I remember thinking “It’s not going to be a real thing until we land and get to our house in Ghana.”

Even though I still had that kind of feeling, I could see the affirmation and the Lord’s fulfillment in the process. I spent my fall semester living in Tuscaloosa, and with COVID, I did not really get out much. I got very comfortable with living on my own and being socially distant from others. However, there were many times where I wanted to be surrounded by a community in person, instead of online.

During the semester, I saw how God was preparing me for this internship and also just growing me for future purposes to come. Every obstacle that was thrown at me with preparing for this trip, God said, “I am greater than those small worries”. He fulfilled everything that needed to be done for me to go.

Throughout my time here so far, I have seen the evidence of God around me. Not only has God continuously protected me and guided me through this journey, but He has placed kind-hearted people around me to navigate my way as well. In most of the cars and vans I have been in, Ghanaians have Christian worship music or a sermon playing. I have also had some conversations about the gospel with others so far.

In life, I think we tend to question God’s power and comfort. If we aren’t seeing any answers or clarity, we doubt that God is with us. However, His Spirit is always with us. You can’t always see it, but we have a promise that it lives in us as Christians.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. – Proverbs 3:5-6

Proverbs 3:5-6 has always meant a lot to me. I haven’t always been able to see the path that God wanted me to take in life. I also haven’t always fully trusted Him when taking those steps on the path. Sometimes, I even went with my own path, but I have tried to learn over the years how to just follow and trust the steps that are placed before me.

I used to have this mindset that when I went to a different country to work, I had to do all these great things to be useful. I thought I had to fix peoples’ issues and give back to them in a major way. But, I think being a servant can also mean to just be a light to others in the ordinary. Like just having a conversation with someone and learning about their lifestyle. Or learning what your similarities and differences are.

I know for me, I put a lot of pressure on myself when it comes to serving. I picture my impact in a very different way than the Lord does. However, I think the things that look little to us are still very significant to God. He doesn’t care so much about what kind of work you are doing, just your willingness to actually do it when He asks and provides for you. That goes for life in Ghana, life in the United States, and life anywhere else on this earth.

I think God takes us on many different journeys in life, to some unfamiliar areas physically and mentally. No matter where He has you placed physically, it is neither lesser nor greater than the person next to you. I used to think differently about that, but I am learning that we all have different journeys, purposes, and points in our lives. And no matter what those different moments look like to a societal standard, doing the work, putting the effort in, and having the willingness to keep going every day is significant and purposeful. He cares about your heart, not your paycheck, your rating, or your accomplishments.

Focus your attention more on the way you love than on your accomplishments in life. We love because He first loved us. Without love, life would look very different. We also wouldn’t have the gift of eternal life offered to us. Let love lead you and guide you as you take the steps that God has placed before you.

With love,

Claire