The Benefit of Suffering

While driving my kids to school this morning, I stopped at a red light and saw a woman walking her small son to daycare in the 8 degree sub temperature. My heart instantly felt for them, so without hesitation, I rolled my window down and offered them a ride.

It was a small deed, but it felt good to give that woman and her son a ride, offering them a temporary escape from the frigid air. I’m very familiar with the feeling of walking in the cold with small children. I’ve done it for many years, sometimes while hauling heavy grocery bags.

I began to wonder would I have readily given that woman a ride, or would I have just driven past them without giving it a second thought, if I hadn’t been acquainted with the struggles of not having a vehicle. Although I despised not having a car, walking, and catching the bus during that period of struggle, I realize having experienced the pain and burden myself, allowed me to immediately empathize with another person facing the same difficulties I once faced.

Yes, at times we will all face our share of struggles and challenges. This is inevitable. But the suffering can serve a beneficial purpose in allowing us to connect with those who are facing what we’ve endured and overcome. It places us in the position to feel that person’s pain and provide a means of comfort, assistance, and support. When we have faced a great deal of adversity, our hearts become sensitive to the heartache and trials of others.

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Letting God Clean Our Dirty Messes

Sometimes I feel as if a third of my day is spent cleaning my house. No matter how much I mop, sweep, and scrub dirty dishes, it seems as if my house cannot stay clean for more than a few hours. I’m sure this is a common scenario for most of us who have children.

There are days when I’m so temped to ignore the mess due to fatigue, but I know it’s best to get it over with and clean the mess or else it will only become worse. As I stare at the huge pile of dirty clothes that need to be washed; the kitchen sink that’s spilling  over with dirty dishes; and disheveled beds that need to be made, I can’t help imagining how hard it’s going to be to clean all of the mess. Sometimes I feel as if having a clean house again will be an impossible feat.

Even though I dread doing the hard work, the thought of how wonderful my house will look and smell once it’s clean, motivates me to pull out my mop, vacuum, and broom.

Although the work takes a lot of physical effort, once my house is clean, the effort and hard work becomes worth it. My house is in such an immaculate state that there isn’t any indication that it was a huge mess just a couple hours ago. If a neighbor or relative had stopped by to visit, they wouldn’t have a clue that the house had just looked as if a cyclone had hit it.

That’s the beauty of how God operates in our lives. Our lives might be in terrible shape at this moment. Our marriages could be in disarray; our financial situation could be a mess; or our family could be chaotic. It’s easy to look at the messes in our lives and become negative and feel defeat. We might be tempted to give up or not believe that things could ever get better. But just as we can clean our dirty houses and bring them back into a state of order, God can clean the messes in our lives and bring them back into a place of order.

God’s Word promises that He will give us beauty for our ashes:

“To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He might be glorified.” Isaiah 61:2 KJV

Instead of the disappointment and shame we might be facing, God promises to turn it around. He promises to take away the ashes and give us beauty instead. He promises to remove the depression and give us the oil of joy and the garment of praise.

It may look like we will never have anything to be joyful about. Maybe we’re suffering from an illness or might’ve lost a loved one. Yes, the trials  we’re suffering are hard, but God says to rejoice in our suffering for it strengthens us and brings about patience in us:

“Consider it wholly joyful, my brethren, whenever you are enveloped in or encounter trials of any sort or fall into various temptations. Be assured and understand that the trial and proving of your faith bring out endurance and steadfastness and patience.” James 1:2-3 AMP

When we are facing difficult situations, we might become tempted to be sad and depressed or become angry and bitter, but the Word says we should remain filled with joy insead of giving in to those temptations. The trials we are facing today could help us acquire the fruit and character that God desires us to have while also giving us the ability to help others overcome the obstacles we’ve faced and endured.

So the next time we’re facing a problem and become tempted to dwell on the negativity of our circumstances, we should instead release our burdens to God and focus on how much more amazing our lives will be and how much better we’ll be once the season has passed.

 

 

 

 

 

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Why I Dislike First Dates.

Hello, I’d like to take a moment to introduce myself and make something perfectly clear. I’m Quamia, and I dislike first dates. I mean I seriously loathe them. For the past 4 years I’ve been fortunate enough to avoid first dates like the bubonic plague, but then a ludicrous idea creeped its way into my mind. I suddenly had the desire to go on a first date.

I really wish someone would’ve slapped some sense into my head at that very moment. It would’ve saved me the humiliation and torture that so often accompanies first dates.

I guess God felt like having himself a bit of entertainment on my behalf because I found myself in one of the most awkward and embarrassing predicaments ever.

First, my date didn’t show up on time (do they ever). After literally changing my shirt 6 times before finally deciding to wear the first one I tried on, I glanced at the clock and noticed it was time for my date to arrive. Hmm, the clock is ticking and my prospective “Mr. Right” is nowhere in sight. Now I’m starting to become a little disappointed as the thought of being stood up crosses my mind.

Of course no one wants to get stood up. It’s the absolute worst scenario that could happen in a situation like this.

To my relief, my date does show up (nearly twenty minutes late). He asks if I mind that we’re late for the movie that I previously told him that I didn’t want to be late for. Of course I tell him that I don’t mind when in fact I’m irritated because I missed the first 5 minutes of the movie and now I have to guess what’s going on.

Now we’re sitting in a dark theatre, and of course my date has to hog up both arm rests. Um, excuse me. Would you mind leaving some room for me? I don’t actually say this. Instead I politely move to the next seat. Now there’s this awkward space between us and my date is now giving me this strange stare as he wonders to himself why I moved over a seat.

As we’re watching the movie, which is not that enthralling, I can’t help pulling my cell phone out every 5 minutes as I count down the minutes to the end of this torturous experience with anticipated glee.

After what feels like an eternity, the end credits begin rolling across the screen. I can’t hop out of my seat fast enough. Of course my date wants to discuss the movie which I barely paid any attention to. I make an abrupt exit to the ladies room to avoid further conversation.

While in the bathroom, I notice my wig is out of place, so I take it off and start adjusting it. It takes me nearly 15 minutes to finally get my wig into correct place. That’s what I get for taking the easy way out. I should’ve just styled my hair instead of opting to wear a wig.

Once I depart the restroom, my date gives me a weird look. I know he thinks I was in the bathroom so long because I was taking a number 2, but at this point I really don’t care what he thinks. I’m just ready to get out of there and go home.

Once my date drops me off, we sit in awkward silence as both of us ponder how to acquire the courage to either ask for a second date or politely brush the other person off.

In my mind I’m thinking this date was an utter disaster. He’s thinking the date went pretty well and he definitely has a shot for another one.

This is why I dislike first dates. We go through all of this extra trouble just to spend time with someone we barely know. Often times, instead of the night ending with fireworks and a guaranteed second date, it ends with unfulfilled expectations and “change my number” added to our to do lists; however, first dates are inevitable if we desire to meet that special someone who will knock us off our feet and have us comitting the rest of our lives to them.

I guess first dates aren’t that bad. I just prefer having them with the person I love. This way I get to wake up each day to my significant other and relive our first moments each day: our first date, our first kiss, the first time we said ‘I love you’ to each other, the first time we said ‘I do’, and the first time we made love.

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Enjoying the Ordinary While Striving for the Extraordinary

As a writer, I’ve experienced the conundrum that accompanies the inability to have my desires for becoming a renowned author fulfilled. The incessant drive to accomplish some monumental feat clenching me with a vigorous thirst that’s seemingly unable to be quenched.

I’ve dreamed about it; fantasized about it; and even lusted after it. The chance to become a famous writer, beholding my accolades proudly as all vestige of obscurity is obliterated. My obsession with the extraordinary caused me to despise the ordinary. Although, I had been blessed with the ability to write and share my gift, I had begun to despise my small achievements. They seemed meaningless and dull in comparison to my ultimate endeavors.

My innate need to be a “huge” success had overshadowed and somewhat diminished the joy I received from doing something that I loved: writing.

Often times we miss out on the wonderful opportunities that we’re provided by becoming sidetracked by what we feel is better. I call this the “grass is greener” syndrome. Sometimes we forfeit the happiness found in simple things while attempting to find it in what we perceive is better. Does having more of something necessarily equate to better?

We don’t like the pay at our jobs, so we search for a “better” job that pays more money, but we now feel overwhelmed by the added responsibilities that complement our new job.

We want a bigger and better house, so we get rid of our quaint home just to move in our dream house and realize that the larger payments are putting quite a strain on our budget. Did it matter that our previous home had many fond memories of the special times we enjoyed with our family? Maybe we enjoyed the people in our old neighborhood a lot more than our new one.

Sometimes while striving for bigger and better things, we miss out on the best life has to offer.

Of course there is nothing wrong with improving ourselves and moving to the next level, but we must ensure we’re prepared to handle the responsibilities that await when we reach that desired level. Also, we should be grateful for the opportunities we’ve been afforded, no matter how small and unimportant they may seem. Sometimes our smallest feats can be our biggest victories.

So, as I prepare to conclude another post, I’m able to bask in the simple and ordinary bliss of my life as a writer.

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Pools of Faces

I lay awake after tossing and turning to no avail. My slumber had beenfaces-in-the-crowd_5-600a interrupted in the

middle of the night with about five precious hours waiting for me to seize before morning. Exasperated at the thought of not being able to fall back asleep, my mind began to wander as my thoughts became deep and pensive. Suddenly, faces from my past began to penetrate my mind. Pools of faces of many people that I’d come across during my existence on this earth.

Some of them were from my childhood and adolescent days while attending school. Others I’d seen from time to time while at work or passing while on the street or in a grocery store. There was something each of these people had in common. I’d never taken the time to really get to know them. Although we had crossed paths on more than one occasion, our encounters led to nothing more than a mere nod of the head; a mumbled and soft spoken hello; or a quick glance before suddenly averting our eyes.

It was at this pinnacle moment that I realized how many people I had allowed to fade from my existence almost as abruptly as sand gliding through the small openings between a child’s fingers.

How many relationships and bonds could’ve been formed if I’d taken the time to engage in a conversation with those individuals?

How many lives could’ve been positively impacted if I had just taken the time to offer a compliment or word of encouragement to either one of them who could’ve been in dire need?

How often do many of us go about our days passing pools of faces, never once attempting to acknowledge another one of God’s creations, often taking for granted something that He holds in high regard and cares more for than anything?

In today’s society where it is considered an anomaly to show an interest in and care for someone we don’t necessarily know, it becomes difficult to embrace strangers. Instead it is more accepting to present them with simple gestures and disingenuous smiles or greetings.

We fail to break through the barrier and connect with the soul underneath the surface. Instead it feels safer and more comfortable to stay above the surface where we don’t have to risk rejection, disappointment, or pain. Out of our own fears, insecurities, and selfishness, we fail to make the most of our everyday encounters with other human beings.

I believe that each person crosses our paths for a reason. It isn’t just a coincidence that we live next door to our neighbor. We don’t just happen to pass the cashier, with freckles wearing the huge bifocals, every time we go to our local grocery store, without a reason.

There is an ultimate purpose behind each of these encounters, and only our Creator knows the purpose. It is up to us to take the pertinent steps in discovering what those purposes are.

Sometimes I sit and think about how many people are truly lonely. It could be our coworker, the one who comes to work with a smile each day and generates the best reports and marketing pitches. She might appear to have it all together, but maybe on the inside she’s terribly distraught and falling apart. We’d never know unless we took the time to utter a few meaningful words.

It could be our “jerk” of a neighbor who really just wants someone to listen as he vents his problems. The popular cheerleader in school could be terribly insecure on the inside and just wants someone to reach out to her.

My point is this, we never know how dark a person’s life might be, and maybe we could shine some light in their world if we just make an effort. In a pool of many faces, one could be drowning, and we just might be the one who is capable of pulling them out of the water before they’re submerged completely.

Photo courtesy of James Homer Brown Studios http://james-homer-brown.com/

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Little Girl, God’s Not Through with You.

Little girl, I see you crying, masking and trying to disguise your tears. The intense despair you feel at the injustice of many years. You were raised without a father in the home. Your mother was all alone. You spread yourself in promiscuity to overcome your obscurity.

“Daddy, never loved me. He didn’t give a damn.” Well God is saying,

‘Here I am. I’ve been here all along. You haven’t faced your shame and disappointment on your own. I’ve protected you and watched you, and helped you through. You see, little girl, I’m not through with you. I have great things for you to do. I’m a God of justice, and I’m here to avenge your pain. No more mourning from discourage or disdain. I will turn back the clock on every missed opportunity. Just have faith and trust in me, and your Savior will set you free. Your God provides abundantly. He’s here to set the captives free. The chains of bondage and lost dreams. Hopelessness, frustration, drowning in a sea of misery. Christ’s death has broken the veil of enmity. Grasp hold of your father relentlessly, and a virtuous woman I’ll make you to be.’

Little girl, God’s not through with you. . .

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