Thursday, December 15, 2011

Merry Christmas from Jamaica....

It is 80 degrees today. The sky is very, very blue. The Christmas breeze is blowing my clothes dry on the line. The birdies are chirping. I hear the sounds of a normal day outside with cars buzzing by, workers working, and taxi's beeping their horns!

And yet it is Christmas time. The plaza downtown has some Christmas lights up. I walked in one store that had some Christmas decorations down one aisle, but nothing more. I shopped in the grocery store this morning and there was nothing that would indicate it is Christmas.

We hear much about commercialism in the USA, but not here. We hear much about happy holidays versus Merry Christmas, not here. I haven't heard anyone in a store utter any of those choices.

I remember being very embarrassed our first Christmas here. When our college students returned from holiday break, I excitedly asked what did you get for Christmas? The response was blank, silent, they said uuuummmmm nothing. It is simply another day for a special 6 a.m. service with a Sunday dinner menu for lunch.

This year I sent the students a questionnaire and asked specifically about their Christmas day. We have 2 Haitian students and their responses were quite similar. I thought you would find it interesting to hear about Christmas from our students.

Grand Market is THE event for Christmas Eve. It is a block party in the streets. All the vendors are in the streets late into the night when they usually leave late afternoon since it gets dark. There is lots of noise, music, the smells of cooking in the street. Interestingly the items for sale are pretty much those that you would see anytime of the year. You purchase clothes or shoes and your food for the next day. Lots of drinking and partying happen. You may spend the whole night in the town square.

Christmas morning begins with a 6 a.m. service. It is not abbreviated but the normal length of time for a service. Some churches will share fruit cake and sorrel. It is a service to honor the Christ child.

Then everyone goes home to a big meal. The usual chicken and rice and peas but more than just that! Curried Goat, pork, ham, jerked meats,fish, sorrel, Christmas cake. One of our students said that for Christmas dinner most will use a knife and fork. I took this to mean that it is a more involved meal with everyone seated around a pretty table.

I found it interesting that a couple of the students mentioned that the grandparents are the ones that make the Christmas cake. Some also mentioned that on Boxing Day, December 26, the families travel to the family members that couldn't come on Christmas day to share more food. Some of the students called Boxing day family reunion.

Everyone of the students talked about how the home is cleaned thoroughly for Christmas and the front is painted. They change out bedspreads and curtains. It sounded to me like a spring cleaning.

Not one student mentioned the giving of gifts, however one student mentioned that they exchange cards.

The jist of Jamaican Christmas is family. It is all about the ones they love. On New Years the same and there is also a church service for New Years no matter which day of the week it falls on.

I know that Christmas trees are sold in Kingston, I haven't seen any where we live. I haven't seen any Christmas decorations or wreaths realizing that anything that is outside will be stolen, maybe that is why. Denny has a beautiful collection of Nativities from around the world. I haven't found a Jamaican one yet. When it comes to Christmas decos you just don't see many.

Christmas is Jesus' birth. That's it and isn't that what it's all about anyway?

No matter where you live, Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

in the cleft of the rock....

Electricity is a luxury in Jamaica. Homes are not built for dishwashers, washers/dryers, air conditioners and the like. The sun dries the clothes, the breeze cools the room, mommy washes the dishes in cold water. People everywhere illegally tap into the electrical lines for bare necessities. So much so that legal action is rarely taken. Every once in a while we will see a billboard go up that talks about stealing electricity and that you shouldn't do it.

This mommy has hung out alot of clothes to dry in these past almost four years. Just the other day a little plant spoke volumes to me.

How in the world did a little plant seed lodge itself in the V of the clothesline pole? And better yet, how did it grow without being in the dirt of the ground? Life grows in the strangest of places. Today I came back from taking Renee to school and saw the most beautiful flower growing out of the rock wall out front. This too amazed me.

I began to think about the correlation of these plants to my spirit. Life is hard, harder for some than others. Each person has their element of "hard stuff" and it has gotten me thinking about how my spirit grows even in the depths of "hard stuff." Even in the hardest of times, I need to be aware that God is growing my spirit. There are times that one imagines that all joy, life, peace, calmness is gone. How can I see the treasure in the hard times? How many times can the situation look desperate and yet still realize that He is nurturing me with the light of His word, the water from His fountain, the soil (foundation) and depth of His love.

It just takes a little breath to be alive! One heartbeat and you are still alive. I don't know how long these plants will live in their conditions but for now their beauty amazes me....growing in the cleft of the rock and the metal pole!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

....the Christmas breeze is blowing..

A beautiful thing happens at this time of year in Jamaica. Not a beauty to behold but rather a beauty to feel.It is called the Christmas breeze. In November the breeze wafts its way down the Gulf of Mexico and across the Greater Antilles. It cools the ragged chain of islands that grow out of the ocean from the Florida Keys to the brow of South America. Because they blow every year during the Christmas season these trade winds are known as the Christmas breeze. They are fabulous.

Along with taming the temperatures they get you ready for the holiday! The rainy, hurricane season is ended and dry summer weather is on the way. What a beautiful thing!

There is really something psychological about living in an island and enjoying the warmth all year long. At times I have to stop and wonder, what month is this? I never realized how much my internal clock was programed to the climate until living in Jamaica.

When the weather changes in the states the wardrobe changes and the holidays match the season! Here I wear the same thing all year and since Jamaica doesn't celebrate the same holidays, my internal clock is off! However when the breezes start to blow, I do remember that it is Christmas!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

tell your heart to beat again....

I listen to television preachers on Sunday mornings before we go to church. I am so glad for cable...keeps us connected to the American way. This morning a story from Joel Osteen blessed me so much I want to blog it just so I remember it.

He told the story of a doctor who operated on a lady's heart. When the surgery is performed the machine does the work for the heart. While the surgery is happening, the machine is pumping the blood, after the surgery the heart is connected and should respond and function normally. In this case the heart didn't respond, so the doctor did the next thing and used drugs to get the heart functioning normally, that didn't work. The doctor proceeded to do what he would do next in this kind of case and that was to take the heart into his hands and massage it to function again. That didn't work. The doctor didn't have another plan, he leaned into the patients ear and said, "Mary, tell your heart to beat again." And thankfully when he did that, her heart began to beat.

The point of the illustration was to say, sometimes we are knocked down so badly, given a bad break, disillusioned, etc. One can be living but not alive. Sometimes we have to literally speak to ourselves and tell the heart to forgive again, we have to tell our heart to love again, we have to tell our heart to beat again.

I've been there, maybe I still am at times. So disappointed and disheartened at life's happenings. The questions and bewilderment can be so strong that you wonder if God even remembers that your heart isn't functioning normally. Today I am encouraged and though the pulse is weak at love and dedication is strong and that keeps me remembering that He knows, He records, He is there....or should I say....Here!