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

Scars and Healing

At the end of May, I got a pretty awful cut on my leg. I fell down on some concrete and from my knee to my ankle was badly beat up. I still have a scar on my knee that is still healing, but my leg looks a lot better than it did.

I remember over the summer though, I wanted my leg to heal quickly. Every time I went out wearing shorts (which is pretty much every day in Mississippi summer weather), you could tell something was wrong with my leg. You could tell I either failed or had gotten injured by some accident.

I think there are a lot of different aspects of scars and healing. Most often, we want the healing process to be quick, and we want the scar to not be noticeable after a while. We sometimes don’t want to remember the accident that even happened, and we want the pain to go away as well.

We all have scars whether they are physically noticeable or kept hidden internally. We’ve all been hurt either by a physical object or another person. And we’ve all hurt someone at some point in our life, with either our words or actions.

“For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body.” – James 3:2

I think we get scars in life for many reasons. A major reason is to grow our character. Scars can shape us, teach us, and bring positive changes to our character. Another reason is to learn the process of healing. What that looks like, how we can heal with God by our side, and how we can move forward. But, I don’t think scars are supposed to be stared at for too long.

Sometimes, when we are hurt or we have sinned, we might think about it over and over again. We might relive the moment or relive the feelings attached to the event. We might also begin to feel guilt, shame, and grief over these scars or actions. I think it is important that we recognize when we have messed up or when we are hurt, but do not let these hurts or mistakes weigh us down too much to where we miss the grace, mercy, and goodness of God.

“For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” – Romans 8:3-4

Jesus already paid the greatest debt that you owe Him with His death on the cross. Yes, we need to ask for His forgiveness of our sins, but we also need to forgive ourselves and forgive others. Maybe some of the scars you had, you caused on your own, either by not paying attention or doing something reckless. Maybe some of the scars came because of what other people did or said to you. Either way, forgiveness is key for healing. Forgiveness doesn’t mean you will forget what happened, but you are choosing to forgive the actions and to move forward with the wisdom you gained from the experience.

For my knee, I still remember what happened and how I got the scar. I just wasn’t paying attention to where I was walking. But, I pay more attention now to where my feet are going and my surroundings.

If you are in the process of healing, either by an illness, a physical injury, or an internal scar, remember that the healing process may not be a quick one. Take it day by day. Get help if you need to from your family, close friends, or professionals who can help. We aren’t meant to live in pain, guilt, or shame forever. It’s only a temporary state, but remember what you learn through the healing process. And remember God’s goodness, mercy, and love towards you as well.     

With love,

Claire

One Word for the Year

If I am ever asked to describe 2020 in one word, I think I would struggle to pick one right off the bat. How do you describe a year that has been unlike anything you’ve ever experienced? How do you describe a year that has been somewhat beautiful but also devastating? How would you describe 2020 in one word?

Just like any year, we’ve all experienced many different seasons and changes within 2020. I think this time around though, we’ve had more time to reflect on the year. When I think back to what my life looked like in January of the year, I remember feeling very anxious, overwhelmed, and somewhat lost. I didn’t know what this year was going to look like. I thought I needed to have a game plan for the year and know exactly how I wanted my life to play out. I thought I needed to fix myself in a lot of ways but didn’t know how or where to start. I felt busy, tensed, and pressurized.

I spent a few moments this morning reflecting on this past year. For me, the way I view this year is in multiple different seasons. Looking back at my journal, I had to break this year up into four different parts. This helps me to understand where I have grown and what areas of my life still need some shifting.

To answer the original question of this post, I think I would describe this year as complex. According to Google, the definition of complex is “consisting of many different and connected parts“.

I think this word could be used to describe many different years in our lives. But, the reason I chose it for 2020, is because I am starting to see how God used all the parts of this year to shift my attention, focus, and mindset back on Him.

When I look back on this year, I can see that many different struggles, months, and seasons contained different parts of my story, my growing, and my becoming. I can also see how the events around the world greatly affected my personal life and how it is related to my story as well. Most of all though, I see how I struggled with things at the beginning of the year that I don’t struggle with anymore, or at least not as much, mainly because God has shifted my view and perspective on things.

Certain things have to happen in your life in a certain way to have a certain outcome that God can later use for His Kingdom.

I’m not sure what ways or outcomes this year has brought you. But, I believe that this year was not wasted time. Some things might not have gone the way you thought. Heck, things might not be going the way you thought as you are reading this. However, God’s love is still evident even here.

And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God. And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. – Romans 8:27-29

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. – Romans 8:37-39

Our Creator has always had a plan. His plan is still in process for this year as well. He is working all things out for your good. Even the things that are tough, hurtful, and difficult to overcome.

The beauty of this life is that we don’t have to have all the answers and know all the ways things will work out. Because our God already knows. He already won the victory when Jesus died on the cross for our sins. We already have freedom and an inheritance waiting in heaven.

Remember this, life can be beautiful. Life can be tough. Life can seem like it will last forever. However, this life is only temporary.

We’re able to take this life day by day. We don’t have to do this life alone either. We can rely on the power of the Holy Spirit to guide us, shape us, and grow us in this lifetime. We can lean on one another and learn from one another as we go through life as well.

I want to challenge you to take some time either today or this week and reflect on this past year. Remember the different parts and challenges it brought. Remember the different emotions you might have been feeling and the different events that took place and those that didn’t happen as you thought they would. Think about how you felt and what you struggle with at the beginning of the year, and if any of those feelings or challenges have changed for you.

I hope this challenge will help you to see the growth you’ve made over the past year. I also hope it will encourage you to set some new goals for the month of December or going into the new year.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. – Romans 15:13

With love,

Claire