Prior to going to Jamaica, one of the things that I looked most forward to was the unplugging. “Heidi unplugged” was what I was calling it! No cell phone, no texting, no returning phones calls, etc. Sounded like heaven to me! I just did not realize how much more God wanted to unplug me!
The second day in Jamaica, my camera died. The battery drained and the difference in electrical currents would not allow my camera to charge. Now anyone who knows me knows that I LOVE pictures! I love taking them, I love looking at them…in fact my family and friends tease me about my obsession. Before I left for Jamaica, my three nieces even guessed how many pictures I would take on my trip. The winner would get a prize. Needless to say, I was very upset. A trip of a lifetime and all I had to capture it was a 5-pixel cell phone camera. But seeing how I was a leader of the trip, I could not show the depth of my sadness or irritation…I needed to set an example. I remember taking a deep breath and thinking “ok, God, You obviously want me to enjoy and experience this trip on the other side of the camera lens.” After that, I was fine.
The next thing to break was my iPod. I used my iPod every night to be able to sleep. We were not the only group using the camp we were staying at. There was another group using it and they were VERY loud! On their last night, they were up until 12:30 having a talent show/banquet. The stage was on the other side of the wall I was sleeping next too. I needed my iPod! I had to charge it to get it to turn on…I managed to get it working.
On our last day in Jamaica, we had a celebration day. We went into Ocho Rios. We shopped for a couple of hours and ate lunch. We then went to Dunn’s River Falls. The Falls were beautiful! You are able to climb up the falls. No place in the US would ever allow this…too dangerous and by dangerous I mean someone would sue for getting hurt. Climbing was a blast (and I even climbed them bare foot because I’m cool like that). As we were climbing up the falls, we came to a part where the falls were strong. We were goofing off underneath the falls…. before I knew it the falls ripped my sunglasses off my head never to be seen again. I was a little annoyed but was having so much fun that I just let it go. We climbed up to the next section of the falls. The falls in this section were the strongest yet. I got right under the falls. And as I turned around, I felt the pressure of the falls take off my ring. The ring I got on vacation 8 years previous…one of the only pieces of jewelry I ever wear…a sterling silver heart with a diamond and sapphire in it…a ring my friend bartered for in Cancun…was ripped from my finger…taken out to the Caribbean. And that’s when it happened. I lost it. Completely. Utterly. Irrevocably lost it. I looked up to see my good friend Revonda standing above me on the deck, taking pictures. I held up my finger to her and yelled, “Ok, God, I get it! You’re stripping me of everything. You can have it all.” I was crying and laughing at the same time. Revonda documented it all on film J I climbed the rest of the falls, balling my eyes out and praying. The culmination of a year of God trying to get my attention happened on a waterfall in Jamaica…
In the middle of 2011, I felt God speak to me to clear my plate. I was on City Council, working at Papa Joes and on staff at the church. I quit Papa Joes and did not run for re-election last fall. I needed the extra money from Papa Joes but I knew what I was supposed to do. It was truly a step of faith. And God honored that obedience. I was able to take on a new role at the church and be in the office more. Women’s Bible study started, the church was and is growing. I was growing in my walk with the Lord in ways I never had before. I had a bit of padding in my savings. It seemed easy. In January, I got sick with pancreatitis and my gall bladder. Savings chipped away. I could make it financially if I tightened my budget up. I just did not want to. I loved my car that I had bought while I could afford it. It was my dream car. I knew before the trip God was telling me to sell it. I was resisting.
In Jamaica, Pastor Devon Williams was our host pastor. He is an amazing man of God worthy of a blog solely dedicated to him. One morning, he and I were talking at breakfast and he shared the loss of his son through a violent crime that he had experienced two years previous. To see his grace and strength was truly inspiring to me. I also asked him questions about ministry. Pastor Devon works 5 or 6 different jobs. He is a pastor, district supervisor, runs his own tour bus in Ocho Rios, has an electronics store, manages some apartments, and one other job I forget. When you answer the call to ministry in Jamaica, you are taking the financial responsibility for your church. In America (for the most part) churches provide for the pastor. In Jamaica, the pastor provides for the church. He pumps money into his church. He helps out his congregation. When you answer the call to ministry in Jamaica, it truly costs you everything. Throughout the week I found myself thinking about his sacrifice and the 70 to 90 hours a week he works to truly shepherd his people. His example led to my melt down in Dunn’s River Falls.
My screaming to God and Revonda was really a cry of surrender. It was me crying “uncle” to the Lord. I had a choice. I could continue to simplify my life so that I could give more to Him (like He was calling me to do) or I could get a second job to continue to pay for a nice car that I really do not need and is bigger than I need. I could drive something smaller. What was important to me? Time or stuff? God or me? I am not poor. I do not feel poor. And I do not want anyone to feel sorry for me because I do not feel sorry for myself. In fact there is a joy and a peace that I have not had in a long time. But there are choices we each make about how we will live our lives. I decided early on that I would work to live, not live to work. I decided that Jesus deserved all of me! What He was asking from me was total, complete, absolute surrender to Him. I would live on less so that I could do more for God. That makes me happy.
This morning while reading the Bible, I came across Psalm 42:7. I actually laughed when I read it. It says “Deep calls unto deep at the noise of Your waterfalls; All Your waves and billows have gone over me. The Lord will command His loving-kindness in the daytime, and in the night His song shall be with me—A prayer to the God of my life.” In that waterfall in Jamaica, something deep within me broke loose. As the sunglasses and ring were stripped away from me and carried into the Caribbean and the tears ran down my face, the frustration and striving was replaced by a peace and a joy and a gratitude that words cannot express. I am blessed beyond measure and grateful that God unplugged me!