Today, I'm grateful to be able to FACE FEAR.
So I moved to an island, one prone to flooding and hurricanes and that also has the most beautiful beaches I've ever seen. I know many people here that drive out to the beach every Sunday to relax and rejuvenate themselves for the week ahead. When asked to go, I usually decline and offer that I'm not really a "beach person" - which is true. But the reasoning behind it is because I don't know how to swim and am therefore afraid of water. I remember being sent to the Y for lessons as a kid and when, on the first day, the instructor told me to jump into 12 feet, I turned and left. She tried to console me by telling me that I would "float right back to the top". That didn't work. No thank you, and goodbye.
Fast forward to my move here. As apart of the program I'm in, I'm asked self evaluate every few weeks - thinking through and rating where I am emotionally, physically, spirituality, etc. and then talk through ways in which I can improve. In my first few evaluations when I rated how I was doing physically, it did not look good. I was doing yoga from time to time but that just wasn't enough. When thinking through a full body workout that did not require me to be in the heat, I thought of swimming! Perfect. Oh, but wait. I don't know how. Did I really want the stress of learning to swim stacked on top of the already weighty transition to the DR? Not really, but I thought "If not now, then when?" and signed up.
I'm literally in the slow lane. Swimming - no attempting to swim. If you saw me you would not say that I'm swimming. You'd be utterly confused by the flailing arms, and sounds of choking and coughing. You'd probably also think, "Why is she always standing up?" To my right, you'll notice the 6-year-old gliding past me as she practices her backstroke. She occasionally glances at me with sympathetic eyes and at that moment, I'm so glad for the way that her parents raised her. I'm 33 and learning to swim for the first time. Did I also mention that I have zero coordination skills? No one told me that swimming required so much work! I have move my arms, legs, and breathe at the same time? Have you ever seen me on the dance floor? If not, here's a idea:
This is real, people.
In the next 2 lanes over are the more advanced swimmers. 2 teenagers are in the next lane and 3 adults clearly much older than me are in the next lane racing and doing drills. There is a man that is clearly a "seasoned saint" killing it. Meanwhile, I'm just trying to learn how to float on my back without freaking out! Water is in my ears and it feels weird. I still squeeze my eyes closed even though I'm wearing goggles. Each day, I swallow water, choke, water goes up my nose, my breathing is off, my goggles slide off, anything and everything that can go wrong, goes wrong.
One of the other students mother sits alongside the pool closest to my lane. She occasionally looks at me and says with her eyes, It's okay. Keep trying. Thank you random woman. I love you just for that. Occasionally, a porter or landscaper will pass by and give me the same look. I don't know you man but your mama raised you well and I love you too!
I've learned that much like learning to swim, life is hard. There's now way around it. Sometimes you feel like you're just stuck. Arms flailing, completely drowning, or just when you think you have the drill down and you're kicking your feet as hard as possible, you realize you haven't moved an inch. Or if you're like me, you've made the wrong move and your arm goes careening into the concrete wall of the pool. How do explain yet another bruise?
But, the only way to get better is to keep trying. Yes, it takes me FOREVER to do one lap. Yes I choke on water every class. Yes my throat burns. And my nose. Yes I want to get out of the pool, drive home and cry. Yes, I think the other students are talking about me, but I don’t speak German. Dangit. Yes, I'd rather not have to do the work of washing and twisting my hair 3 nights a week. It's all just so inconvenient. I can think of a million OTHER things to do 3 hours a week but then I'd still be in the same place. Afraid.
Last week, two new girls joined our class. My instructor excitedly said to me "Apriel, these two girls are at the same level as you!" How nice of him to choose those words. Ha! (I thought: and exactly what level is that sir?) But honestly, I was so happy to have them with me. The three of us were in the same (slow) lane together. Between broken Spanish and encouraging smiles we pushed each other through class that day and it was great. At the end of class, they even taught me a new technique (the dolphin kick). It felt good having someone alongside me. They haven't returned to class since (Did I scare them away?) but I was so grateful for the company and having learned something new. I killed it on the dolphin kick by the way.
Today, I'm grateful to be able to FACE FEAR. Regardless of the details of the process - easy, hard, alone, with others, painful, carefree, frustrated or full of joy, I'm just happy to be facing fear and learning something new, because in the process I'm learning more about me. Why? Because growth never gets old.
Today, I am most grateful for RAIN.
There are two things that I always disliked as child, things that still come into play today. One of them was the sun going down. It signaled that it was not only time to come inside from playing but that also that the day was over (duh, I know) It meant that whatever I was experiencing at the moment was about to end and simply become a memory. Being the control freak that I was, I hated that this was something that I could not stop from happening. Along those same lines was the second thing I disliked and still did into my adulthood - rain. Impending or present rain meant a number of things: no outdoor activities, cancelled plans, or worse my hair was going to get wet (haha). I don’t like driving in the rain, I don’t like being wet, or having to do my hair over. Rain has just always been SUCH a huge inconvenience.
Fast forward to July 2016, when I arrive on the island, not realizing that it is one of the hottest months of the year here. I knew that it was going to be hot, but I had NO. IDEA. Being from Houston, Texas, I know all about heat and humidity, but I didn’t realize just how hot it would actually be. I quickly realized that while Houston is in fact hot, we still live, work, drive, etc. in air conditioning the majority of the time. Here in the DR, not so much.
So, we are currently in the “rainy season” here and surprisingly, I love it! It rains a few times a day for short periods. Afterwards, the air is “fresh” (as many Dominicans say), there is a nice breeze that I appreciate SO much! I never thanked God so much just for the breeze. I think when I consider His creation, I generally think of the earth, sun, moon and stars, but now I see so much more. He created the rain, cool air, heat, wind, thunder, lightning, clouds, etc. and He controls them all just as he pleases. Being more aware of this now, I’m glad to have the current weather remind me daily of Him not only as our creator, but in light of the current state of the world or my personal circumstances, I’m also reminded that He is the controller of all things. As the song says: He’s got the whole world in his hands.
Today, I am most grateful for rain, because it brings such sweet relief and comfort as it reminds me of just how BIG God is.
When I look at the night sky and see the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars you set in place, what are mere mortals that you should think about them, human beings that you should care for them?
Psalm 8:3-4 (NLT)
You are worthy, O Lord our God, to receive glory and honor and power. For you created all things, and they exist because you created what you pleased.
Revelation 4:11 (NLT)
Since everything God created is good, we should not reject any of it but receive it with thanks.
1 Timothy 4:4 (NLT)
Today, I am most grateful for DIRECTION.
I’ve been driving here in the Dominican Republic for just about 2 months now, and the first time that I was driving in Sosua (near where I attend language school), I saw a sign that said Una Via but didn’t really pay much attention to it. A few minutes later, I realized that I was driving the wrong way down the street and that Una Via means One Way… The process of making mistakes here (driving, and in many other areas) has really humbled and helped me accept that I am allowed to be human. I now know what the sign means, lesson learned. Knowing this, I’m grateful just to HAVE direction. Often, I want the Lord to give me full and complete directions for my life. I say “Lord tell me! Give me the info - top to bottom, A to Z, 1 to 10. Just tell me the what, when, where, how and why - bam, I’ll run full speed ahead and do it!” But that’s not usually how it works because one, He doesn’t always make it that plain and two, I don’t always run full speed ahead in obedience anyway. I see direction as such a gift, because even though He may not lay out the specific steps for me, when I just have general direction - small pieces and insights into the life that the He wants me to live - and as I strive to discover more about Him, he makes clear to me not only what I’m supposed to be doing, but He also makes really, really clear what I’m NOT supposed to be doing.
Discovering this has been really, really good because for so much of my life, people have suggested things for me. I’m tall and have long legs, so I was always told to that I should play basketball, or run track, when in fact, both of those were terrible ideas. But people often say to us, “You’re really good at _____, or we can really use your skills in _____ ministry or _____ job, so you should do _____, or you should go back to school and get your masters in _____” and on and on. In the past, I was easily swayed (and confused) by those suggestions and opportunities because I had zero direction and insight into what He would have me to do because I was listening to them and not God. (That is not to say that people do not have a place to see things in me and encourage me forward, but I now know to better discern who I allow to do that) In doing so, I not only learned discernment but I learned to be confident enough to sit in the process with the Lord, ask for direction and then once I got it, to learn to believe it and take steps to walk in it. It is literally a PROCESS of asking and waiting (before taking steps!) I had to do this while preparing to move here and let me tell you, people misunderstood both me and my decisions all throughout the entire process, but I knew with FULL confidence what I was and what I was not supposed to do.
Having a general sense of direction in life also determines how I handle things that come my way on a daily basis. These are not the huge, momentous decisions, or moments but in the good and the not so good things, the comfortable and the uncomfortable things, and especially the things that I don’t have answers to. Earlier today, I was talking with a friend about a few things that are concerning me and after I shared the most concerning one, he said “Oh wow, that’s a big deal, what are you going to do about it?”, and all I could say was “I don’t know” and we moved on. But I said “I don’t know” in such a way that I’d never heard myself say that phrase before. When I think back to when I did not have a true, intimate relationship with the Lord, I could say “I don’t know” and act as if I didn’t care, but inside I would truly be scared and stressed. But now? Now I now I can say it and literally not know, be okay not knowing and still, no stress can come my way. Now, regardless of the unknown, the deadline, the timeline, the expectation, the requirement, or the concern in general, I can say “I don’t know” or “I have no idea” and truly be okay with it. It’s not always easy. At times, I do have to push past my own desire to sound like I have it all together. We finished chatting and moved on, but what I realized later is that what I really needed to say was “I don’t know, but God does.”
Today, I am most grateful for DIRECTION because I, Apriel, literally have no idea what the answer are, and that’s okay, because if I did I would not have the opportunity to see God’s hands at work, and watching His hands at work never gets old.
And so, Lord, where do I put my hope? My only hope is in you.
Psalm 39:7 (NLT)
Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.
James 1:2-4 (NLT)
And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.
Romans 8:28 (NLT)
Each year I am always so encouraged by reading #gratefulness posts that I’ve decided to challenge myself to do the same. Specifically, in light of the fact that the coming days are leading up to my first Thanksgiving away from my family and friends. Not because it’s a “sad” thing, but because it is happening, it’s a GROWING thing (because it is a first). I'm already grateful for it.
So, I am challenging myself to daily carve out time to sit and truly think and meditate on the things that I am most grateful for and share them on this blog page that I never actually blog on...
*By the way, all of my posts will not focus on my current missionary service. They’ll center around my gratitude for the things that I am learning (and unlearning) and ALL of the areas in which I am growing.