Thursday, 23 August 2012

Ruffled Feathers and whatnot

Hi Family and Friends!

It’s hard to believe we’re approaching our first-year anniversary of our move to Jamaica.  Time has certainly flown by!  Here’s a peek into some of our morning coffee conversation, as we reflect on the ways the past year has changed us: 

Life in a third world country has grown us into more adaptable people.  We’re reevaluating our wants and needs, and understanding what a difference a culture makes between the two.   For example, I want a second vehicle.  When I lived in Houston, it was a need.  I needed a car…to get to work, to run errands, to be independent of my dear husband and not have to worry about coordinating his schedule with my own.  Now, I realize that a second vehicle does not qualify as a need in most of the world.  Kevin and I share a car.  And we are surviving (gasp!)   We could have survived in Houston.  We would have adapted and figured out how to make it work.  I venture to say that most Americans—particularly our generation – aren’t keen on adapting.  Especially if it means any sort of inconvenience or personal sacrifice.

If anything, the past year has taught us to adapt—to make the most of whatever situation comes our way, even if it’s less than optimal.  We’re realizing how most of our problems are “first world problems.”  We grew up in a high functioning, progressive, first world country where all our needs (and most of our wants) were abundantly met.  Most Jamaicans are not so lucky.  The country is poor, the government corrupt, the economy tanked, and the future bleak.  Yet the people adapt.  They find ways to survive.  They make the most with what they’ve got.  And they take care of each other along the way. 

We have learned a lot from them.  When we count our blessings, the list is twice as long.  So many things we used to need are now merely wants.  So when they appear, we’re so much more aware and so much more grateful.  And when they disappear, for a brief moment or an indefinite period, we adapt and forge ahead.  The list ranges from big to small:  Equal opportunity without regard to race, law-abiding citizens, honest policemen, punctual airport transportation, hot water, air conditioning, fat free creamer, a good steak…all things we’re thankful for, but no longer expect.  Perhaps it’s a matter of reevaluating expectation.  We hope the process is making us more grateful, more patient, more flexible people.

Not that it’s always easy!  But, it’s easier than it was nine months ago.  And I happily pour an ample amount of fat-filled creamer into my coffee each morning, knowing fat free creamer is a first world problem.  All in all, my feathers aren’t as ruffled as they used to be.  I suppose that’s progress, because ruffled feathers do nothing for the body, mind or soul.

With love,
Kevin and Cass

Sunday, 12 August 2012

His Heart Goes Out to Us

August announced itself with gusto in the Murphy household.  We returned from Alaska and settled into a semi-normal routine, only to pack our bags and head out again for another week’s travel.  Kevin had business in St. Thomas and San Juan, and thanks to an airline voucher I received a month prior, I joined him for the trip.  We arrived home Thursday with enough time to do a load of laundry and catch a few hours of sleep before Kevin flew out again to Texas, to serve as a groomsman in his best friend’s wedding.  I’m starting to accept the fact that “normal routine” may not be part of this season for us.  An exciting realization on one hand, as there aren’t many times in life you have the opportunities we have here.  On the other hand, the flexibility required to navigate a season like this has been a character builder for a girl who loves the simplicity and predictability of routine! 

Because international flights aren’t exactly budget-friendly, Kevin attended the wedding alone and I stayed in Kingston.  I’ve been home alone all weekend, thoroughly enjoying the silence and lack of agenda.  Silence breeds reflection, and I’ve spent the last two days doing a lot of reading, journaling, thinking and praying.  To be honest, there have been several bumps in our personal lives the past few months that I wanted to hash out with God—grief that’s hit too close to home, ailing loved ones, trying relationships that we never anticipated would be trying.  The simple reality of living in a fallen world and doing life as an imperfect person with other imperfect people can be exhausting.

I was reading my Bible yesterday morning, seeking solace for an overwhelmed heart, when I came across a story that brought great encouragement.  The story is short—just a few paragraphs long told only once in the Bible.  Jesus and his disciples are entering a town called Nain.  As Jesus approaches the town gates, a funeral procession is going out.  The only son of a widow had died, which is basically a death sentence for the widow herself.  Her son was her last means of support, and with him gone, the widow is penniless and alone—a bleak and hopeless future.  The commentary says she would likely be reduced to begging for food.

Luke tells us that when Jesus saw the widow, “His heart went out to her.”  He saw her pain, was filled with compassion and responded.  He touched the coffin, commanded the dead son to get up, and the man sat up and began talking!  (Can you imagine the widow?  In my mind she surely faints.  I’d want to be the one with the smelling salts and witness the look on her face as she realized her son was alive.  Unspeakable joy no doubt.)

I love that Luke tells us nothing of the widow’s spiritual condition.  We don’t know if she was a spiritually devout woman.  We don’t know if she spent hours in prayer, or gave lots of time and money to serving God.  We don’t even know if she believed in Jesus.  For all we know, she was a mean, selfish woman who deserved a hopeless future.  It wasn’t any merits earned by the widow that caused Jesus to respond.  It was the compassion in His heart.    

“His heart went out to her.”  This statement is so beautiful to me.  I picture Jesus taking His heart—full of endless mercy, compassion and love—and handing it the widow.  He turns her tragedy into triumph and her tears of sorrow into tears of joy.  As I read the story, I realized that Jesus does the same for us.  Whatever our circumstances, whatever our pain, His heart goes out to us.  He doesn’t respond with apathy or harsh judgment.  He doesn’t leave us to figure it out on our own.  He responds with compassion and the power to rescue.

God’s heart goes out to us.  Even if our lives our amuck and we’ve played a part in the mess we’re in (as we likely have).  Even if our pain is great and our faith is small. Even if we haven’t prayed for months or more.  Even if we’re not even sure what we think about God.  His heart goes out to us.  What great encouragement for whatever your story and wherever you are.

With love,