No Reason to Perform – He Loves You Anyway

No Reason to Perform – He Loves You Anyway

I was walking down the street today – one of the small joys I now appreciate more than ever, thanks to Covid-19 and countrywide lockdowns. I was thinking about all I needed to do…and all I wanted to do.

There’s a big difference between those two. When I NEED to do something, I can often feel guilty for not ticking it off my to do list. But when I WANT to do something, it happens so effortlessly. And doing it brings joy. Get what I mean?

In that moment I realised that some of my items on my two to do lists (NEEDED TO and WANTED TO) have changed. Or rather, they moved. Thankfully.

For years – ever since I’ve found God as the love of my life – I’ve been involved with his work. His work can be being good to your neighbours, building a character that aligns with His values or it can be leading a major ministry that makes global impact. It’s all part of answering His call.

But here’s a faulty mindset I’ve lived with during many seasons in my life: I HAVE TO.

What I Got Wrong

Years ago I felt exhausted, burnt out and unmotivated. I was also fearful – extremely so. Even though I had an idea of what I thought God’s calling on my life was, for some reason, I couldn’t go into action. I was frozen by fear. Fear of failure, fear of conflict, fear of taking on a responsibility.

Photo by Doğukan Şahin on Unsplash

All of that should disappear when I realise how present God is in everything I do. Even though He shows me what to do, it’s not that I have to do it on my own. He simply wants to pursue a project with me. But my picture of my life was that I was supposed to deliver this perfect present to Him about what I’ve done for Him on earth.

Oh, how I got it wrong!!

He was there – always has been – with the desire to walk a certain path WITH me. He would have carried me through each trial to get to this goal that we were chasing. I missed it completely, never pursued it, simply because I imagined attempting that journey on my own. He was offering me an opportunity, and I took it up as an order.

I remember that part of my frustration was seeing so many people – some my age, some older, some younger – doing extraordinary things for Him. They saved people from human trafficking, they built safe havens for the abused, they fought for justice. They really made a difference! They didn’t only TALK about His kingdom. They lived it and made it happen.

Why couldn’t I do the same?

Surely God must think less of me because I’m not performing at that level.

He must be so frustrated with me who can’t get her ducks in a row and do something big for Him.

In that season, I remember noticing how so many things signaled that it’s a good time to pursue that dream: people I met that would have benefited this goal He had for me. A property that would have been the perfect place to start it all. It could have happened.

But I just couldn’t do it. It was a burden…No…I MADE it a burden…a ‘I HAVE TO’.

It was not a joy. I never went into action.

And I felt like a failure.

The Advice I Wish I Understood Earlier

So, I remember, more than once, reaching out to Joanne Ramos, whom I respect as a leader, a believer and so much more. Wow! She wrote me back all the way from the US! I wrote to her for a bunch of reasons and she actually took the time to read my long letters where I tried to explain my confused thoughts. There was a lot of turmoil inside me.

Photo by Adam Solomon on Unsplash

And I got great encouragement from her. What stuck with me is the ‘why’ she did what she did…

Her words:

‘Wanting to know Jesus…. to understand who He is and be close to Him.’

This is quite in contrast to my skewed perception that it’s ONLY about fulfilling a mission.

Unfortunately, it took me YEARS to figure out what that really meant.

I have done so much in my life because I thought it was the ‘right’ thing to do. I pursued projects, because I believed it’s all about ‘purpose’. I have these dreams pounding in my heart about writing books, helping the lost and fighting for justice. And the moment a dream drops in my heart, for some reason, I turn it into a ‘HAVE TO’. I turn it into a performance. I ruin it. I ruin it for myself. And I exchange joy for guilt. Guilt for not making the dream a reality yet. Guilt for not getting it perfect. Guilt for being too afraid.

If ONLY I could turn around, look into His face…discover how He is always by my side wanting to help me make those dreams the blessings He wants on earth…and all the while actually just passionate about revealing more of Himself to me.

Yesterday a friend told me ‘God loves a desperate spirit’.

I asked her why she thinks that is.

She said something along the lines of desperation causing us to press in to Him. In my own words, desperation forcing us to consult Him after we’ve tried all our own ways and seen they don’t work.

This could apply to anything: wanting a baby…wanting to start a ministry because you love doing good…wanting better for a friend or family member…struggling with finances.

In my old perspective, I wanted to bring the perfect result to Him as proof of my faith, my diligence, my commitment to Him, my love for people. I didn’t get much done with that mindset.

So, eventually I did reach moments of desperation. I started asking Him His opinion on the matter. About how I’m supposed to go about things. At last, instead of running away with the idea, hoping to return to Him to show what I’ve done with it, I faced Him WITH it. I faced Him with the shriveled idea that looked quite crooked, with no promise of making much impact. And that was what I was supposed to do from the start.

Bit by bit, he broke down my mindset of ‘I HAVE TO’. Now, it’s more like ‘Let US do this’.

I will also admit: I had to deal with a whole pride aspect. I had to realise it’s not about being the best or making the most impact. It’s about knowing Him.

I’m getting there. Slowly, but surely. (This in itself is a challenge, since I prefer getting things done quickly…but His way is better…and slow & steady apparently doesn’t mean I’m a failure. What a revelation!).

Why do We Feel we ‘HAVE TO’?

I think there are many reasons you may feel to perform in His eyes:

  • For some, it’s personality.
  • Faulty teachings.
  • Wanting to be like the respected church leaders, thinking that’s ‘success as a believer’.
  • Working to obtain people’s recognition.
  • Thinking His blessing only comes based on our deeds.

All of these can easily replace the motivation that should be behind all we do: our love for Him. And when we don’t do something based on the right foundation, we give the enemy an opportunity to enter with fear, pride, sin and so much more.

Photo by Fuu J on Unsplash

Living in Freedom Without ‘I HAVE TO’

Why am I writing this?

I’m kinda figuring out this chunk of a lesson as I’m writing these words.

What I know is this:

To live with a sense of ‘HAVE TO’ prevents me from ever going into action to do His wonderful work on earth. For me, the overwhelming obstacle is usually fear. The ‘HAVE TO’ results in fear of failure, whether it’s in my family responsibilities, my ministry, or my work. For you, the obstacle may be something different. But to forget that He is part of those dreams can spoil the process and even stop it altogether.

It has taken me months to get to this point. Now, my mind does recognise the freedom found in His grace, rather than feeling a weight on my shoulders because I take on a mission and ‘schedule a performance’. Now, many of the items on my to do list falls under ‘I WANT TO’ because I do want to see what happens if I pursue an idea WITH HIM. And since I don’t feel I have to impress Him with the outcome, the results matter less…there’s less fear…and joy once again enters the game.

I don’t want you to miss out on having journeys with Him because the enemy gets you to believe the lie that you HAVE TO do this, or you won’t be good enough. Or that you HAVE TO pursue a project to get the adoration of people.

Please turn and seek His face, sooner than I did.

There is so much freedom in partnering with Him, instead of perform for Him.

Matthew 11
28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Way Maker – My Story & the Lesson I Learnt in Exactly 1 Month During COVID-19

Way Maker – My Story & the Lesson I Learnt in Exactly 1 Month During COVID-19

So, I simply want to share my COVID-19 story with you guys.

I do think that God reveals Himself in the simplest, most beautiful ways sometimes. The subtleness is often exactly what you need to be reminded how gentle, caring and PRESENT our God is.

This story has a lot to do about South Africa’s lockdown chapter during the Corona pandemic, but the principles stay the same no matter what’s going on around you: my God cares enough to make it known that He is ever-present.

So, here goes.

Setting the Stage

Exactly one month ago, on 27 March 2020, I was not at my best. It was the start of lockdown, but as an introvert myself this fact in itself did not upset me as much as it did many others. So what was bugging me?

There was this sense of foreboding which I admit I allowed to take hold of me. What would the future hold? As someone stated very aptly, there was a sense of grief for the fact that life as we knew it was changing. Was that what got to me? Perhaps.

Also, even though I’m blessed to work in an industry that could continue operating during the worldwide pandemic, we weren’t completely unaffected. Clients were a little harder to come by, rates had to be lowered to accommodate customers. So, of course, there was the question – the fear – of whether we would survive throughout the crisis.

All of this DID lead me down the path of feeling somewhat depressed. I did NOT have my usual reservoir of joy supporting my emotions or enabling me to help those around me. I really felt down in the dumps.

But God knew what I needed.

The Way Maker Journey

Introducing Way Maker

Now let me make this clear: I know the song, but it’s not that I’ve heard it countless times. I don’t sing it in church every Sunday, because I admit I don’t get to church every Sunday. I don’t listen to gospel radio stations all day, because I work from home where I listen to instrumentals to keep focus.

But into my brain that Friday morning popped the word ‘Way Maker’. I knew about the song, so I Googled it. (For those who don’t know the song: read the beautiful lyrics by Sinach here)

And I found Way Maker on YouTube.

And I put in my earphones.

And I pushed ‘Play’.

And every word soaked into my being. Every word sung about depression…about Him being the Light in my dark moments…about working miracles when our humanly ways will definitely not be enough.

So, in those 8 minutes, God gave me back my hope. The hope I’ve held onto ever since I was a teenager and I grabbed hold of a belief that He has a plan with me, our country and His people. And His plans are always ongoing, no matter what.

So, I breathed again, listened to those videos ALL day…and saw how He provided each day over the coming weeks. For example, work may have not been in abundance as I was used to, but He provided enough for EACH DAY! He NEVER let me down.

And I thought that was my lesson.

But God was not finished.

Way Maker Across the World

So, you all have seen posts and videos from across the globe about how humanity has decided to stand together during this very trying time. Many people say that humanity is corrupted at our core, but in one of the most trying times in human history:

  •  It’s GOODNESS that is coming to the fore.
  • People SACRIFICE so much to help one another.
  • Communities are driven to SUPPORT each other.

Tough times bring out our TRUE selves, right?…and the world has proven that that which God has made us to be – people who live His values – is STILL at the centre of our beings.

But, back to Way Maker.

Have you taken note of some of the details of the positive stories people are sharing? Did you notice how many of them mention people singing ‘Way Maker’ to each other and frontline workers? This was happening in:

Was God simply trying to show ME that He is in control, or is this His beautiful golden thread making a path across the globe?

And STILL my God wasn’t done with showing me His beautiful hand at work.

Way Maker in Port Elizabeth (my home town)

So, as a country, South Africa has gotten through most of the lockdown period, but of course there is still a long time of challenges ahead. We have to rebuild our economy, small businesses are suffering and many people lost their jobs.

I look around me and have to force myself not to be overcome with sadness and worry for some of my friends’ current predicaments.

And then God sends me this.

I see it in my Facebook feed. I live in PE, so of course I watch it. It’s good news: a COVID patient is released!!!

But listen closely.

What song is playing in the background at the beginning of the video (try to listen in between the voices)?

Yes. The song that has become my anthem…the world’s anthem?

Way Maker.

God Makes a Way – Always

I can’t but see His beautiful golden thread that has been traveling with me SINCE DAY 1. And it’s only a confirmation of what He has done for me my whole life.

He is ALWAYS present.

He is ALWAYS helping.

I know all of you may not feel, hear or see it at the moment; but I pray that one day you will look back and the picture will become clear for you.

For now, this is my COVID-19 miracle.

I pray for each one of you out there that needs your own type of miracle.

I know my Way Maker is ready and able to show you the way. And please share your own lockdown stories so we can encourage each other.

Blessings to all of you.

A Call to Keep on Going

A Call to Keep on Going

I have never been more proud of this country than I’ve been these past few weeks.

Correction – over two decades ago we transitioned into a free democracy in a manner that many across the world thought would be impossible. It was then that I knew – this is a country to be proud of…and also a country kept in the palm of God’s hands. So many people are praying for this country – have been for decades – and these times of crises prove that there’s a Power at work that is carrying us through.

So, let’s face it: it’s in our blood (ALL of our blood) to survive, to do the unimaginable…to live above the standard the rest of the world often sets.

And now we face COVID-19.

COVID-19: The Challenge

For so many of us it meant a change of lifestyle, income, family dynamics and so much more. It has called our frontline workers to go beyond the call of duty. I commend you all: each citizen, for doing your part. And if you didn’t #stayathome…I forgive you 😉 #flattenthecurve people!!!

The New Challenge

But now we face another battle: negativity.

For weeks we’ve seen positive Facebook posts, inspiring stories and online challenges, enough to bolster people’s spirits.

But over the past few days I’ve started seeing the ‘vibe’ change online. Messages have gone from support to criticism. Complaints and stories about ungrateful communities are starting to make their way up the Facebook feeds, instead of the reports about the ones giving their time and resources to help those who are in need.

I’m not going to give those stories any airtime here. I simply want to come and remind us, South Africans, what we’re made of so we can keep on acting the way we should.

What Type of South African Will You be?

Let’s Work WITH, not AGAINST

Am I asking you to stick your head in the ground and not acknowledge that there are problems? No.

But it’s all about the attitude we do it with. Writing snide remarks about harsh regulations won’t really help anyone will it? All it sparks is negativity. Will you look for ways to better situations in your local community or simply have a rant on Facebook because you think it will make you feel better. BTW: It won’t!

Political parties are there to challenge each other, but once again I don’t appreciate sarcastic comments and criticism of a government who has done an amazing job at keeping us safe. There’s no one perfect way of managing this. There’s no handbook. But I KNOW our leaders are doing the best they can and praying for them in this time is vital. Politicians – if you can’t be constructive, please find another job.

Where do You Get Your Mindset from?

Of course you’re watching news at the moment. Whether you’re watching out of curiosity or the need for knowledge about the global situation, voices from around the world enter your consciousness via your phone and TV.

Now, what are those voices doing to your mind?

Certain first world countries have been all over the news with leadership not being able to agree on the best way forward. Presidents face off against their own local leaders and use childish ploys like Twitter to instigate conflict between citizens and authorities.

I am deeply thankful that I’m a citizen of THIS country. But now we all have to guard against taking on those countries’ mindsets. What you SEE and HEAR affects how you feel. Many of us are likely to pick up that ‘vibe’ of discontent and frustration even if it’s happening thousands of kilometres away.

So, will you allow another country to determine how you feel here and break the trust & sense of community that have sustained South Africans for weeks?

In this time, trust is vital if we as a country want to finish this race in the best way possible.

Keep the Faith…Until the END

When the South African lockdown started I was overcome – literally in tears at times – to see how we as a country came together. We supported our president’s decision, we promised to help each other through this and we were all the voice of reason & positivity for one another.

Photo by Clark Tibbs on Unsplash

That in itself was a miracle as big as what our country saw happen in 1994 (but that’s a whole article for another day).

And now we’re almost four weeks down the line.

Here’s my challenge to you: are you going to help us finish the way we started? Are we going to keep the faith – in Him and each other – until the day we can all venture outside again?

The alternative is to allow frustration – normal after being cooped up for 4 weeks – and other countries’ bad attitudes to ruin this whole experience for us.

I know you’re tired. I know you worry about your business, your family and the future. But we will not get through this properly if we start grumbling now.

We are STILL the South Africans of a few weeks ago.

If you have an idea, let’s work on it.

If you see a story – decide whether sharing it will have good or bad consequences for the scenario at large.

If you have an opinion, dissect it – which parts of that opinion will help us as a country flourish and which parts will simply be spreading negativity with no good results at all?

If you know about something that’s simply not right – ask assistance about what way forward instead of telling everyone how horrible this country is.

It’s not all fun and games, but we’re better off than many others in the world at the moment.

AND FOR GOODNESS’ SAKE PEOPLE – DON’T TAKE ANYTHING FOR GRANTED!

The Long Walk Ahead

It’s all about HOW we go about living these last few days in lockdown.

And then the big rebuild begins.

I don’t know about you, but I want to be in a positive mindset when that starts because we’re going to need all the physical AND emotional energy we can muster to work through the next few months.

But then there’s God.

2 Tim 1:7

We were not given a spirit of fear – we’ve faced the worst a country can face and survived

We were given a spirit of power – we will rebuild what was lost during the pandemic

We were given a spirit of love – let’s keep on showing this to each other

We were given a spirit of a SOUND MIND – let’s CHOOSE the mindset and attitude we will take on during the last days of lockdown and the months ahead, instead of following the chaos we see in other countries.

 

I Didn’t Want a Dog That Sheds

I will be honest. I did not always LOVE dogs.

[Funny fact: Loving dogs was a prerequisite for anyone who wanted to date my husband…somehow he still agreed to our first date. And the rest as they say, is history.]

Not that I didn’t like dogs at all. I just preferred them keeping their distance. I did not want them in my face…I grew up with the notion that a dog must know its place, and that’s NOT on the couch! I also hated the sorrow I felt whenever I saw one suffer. Better to keep them all far away to protect my clothes from stray hairs and my heart from breaking.

[Much like human relationships for some people?…I don’t know.]

Thankfully, along the line I DID fall in love with dogs all over again. It was perhaps due to meeting just the right kind of dog (the Italian Greyhound, Kiwi, to whom my husband belonged) at the right time. One that steals your heart because she knew just when to cuddle alongside you when you’re in the most tense hour of your life and in need of some sign from God that all is going to be okay.

greyhound with blue blanket
Kiwi snuggling up.

Yes, I believe He uses four legged friends in our lives. He has done so with me time and time again.

But back to the dogs and I.

So, I fell in love with dogs, wanting to save all of them, adopting another Italian Greyhound, Skooby, crying in exasperation when she was a puppy and chewed everything and refused to listen. I knew nothing about teaching her manners. I DO NOT like being out of control and with Skooby I seldom was.

brown dog on grey couch
Skooby being…Skooby

Here’s where you can start seeing how He used dogs in my life: I só had to learn to let go of wanting to control everything in life. I had to realise days will not always go according to plan. And that it’s okay. I won’t combust.

Fast forward a few years and I’ve come to love our dogs – and most others – with all my heart. I would kill for them. I admit I often organise my life around them. I used to laugh at others who call their dogs their children, but now I know I’m in denial if I don’t fall somewhat into that group. We call ours our Oomans…not quite human, but close, right?

But I still have limits!!! I still want control!

brown dog
Skooby…my Ooman

We knew at some stage our old Kiwi – the one who originally softened my heart towards her species – would pass away, because she was at least 14 years old (it’s hard to know age of rescue animals you don’t adopt as puppies). We also knew we would have to get another pooch as a friend for Skooby.

My words about the new adoption: ‘I just don’t want a dog that sheds!‘.

That was basically my only – passionately expressed – condition.

Note: if you didn’t know, greyhounds are the most fabulous dogs with great characters and they don’t shed much. No hair on clothes, people! Awesome!

And so Kiwi’s last days came. We had to make the heart wrenching decision to let her go after a stroke that left her not quite herself anymore. We had no idea if she was suffering, so we decided her passing on is the most merciful for her.

Grey dog
We shall never forget you, Kiwi.

It was tough. That dog was therapy for both my husband and I in various stages of our lives.

So, which Ooman next?

Enter: Bonnie.

Now let me be clear, we had our list of specifications. We first wanted another greyhound, but they’re scarce and we wanted a rescue animal, not a puppy from a breeder.

So, what other type of dog will work?

We had size limitations, because our doggy-door is only that big.

And we wanted a playful one to help stimulate Skooby, our 3-year old hyper-active woof, while we work.

I wanted a softhearted dog – even though Kiwi can’t be replaced, I knew the value of having an intuitive dog that helps you through the tough days.

And then there’s the hair. That’s a no-brainer.

Right?

No.

We entered the last kennel at Save-a-pet to have a look at her friend who was a small mixed-breed, (who didn’t really shed much). Bonnie showed her timidness and almost fear just for seeing new people in her space.

Hubby went to sit and play with the friend and this gave Bonnie a chance to relax. And when she relaxed, she played. And then she placed her beautiful brown face in my husband’s hands and looked into his eyes. This sounds so cliche…but it’s so true! Yup, dogs steal our hearts.

She was bigger than we wanted, but not TOO huge.

Did we have a winner?

I won’t bore you with the details. We did consider taking the other one. And we had to have a meet-and-greet with Skooby…bla bla bla.

But yes, a few hours later Bonnie came home with us.

Beagle in car
Bonnie…in the car before she was named

Guess what…SHE SHEDS.

two dogs in car
Skooby doesn’t know what to make of Bonnie yet.

Am I still alive? Yes

Did I combust finding hair on the couch? No

Did I have to rearrange my life again, doing more grooming than I ever thought I would with a dog? Yes

Do I mind? Strangely, NO.

Life is more important than me wanting an effortless life.

Giving shelter to a lost soul – even a dog – has more purpose than making life easy for myself.

Finding a dog that is an answer to my very earnest prayers in all except for one area, is still a miracle.

dog
Bonnie crawling onto your lap…stealth mode…one moment you’re petting her, the next moment you’re holding her. ‘Just a little more love, please…’

She has the sweetest nature that steals anyone’s heart the moment you meet her. She settled in so quickly. (another answer to prayer after being traumatised by raising a puppy haha…yes, I’m a little dramatic, but there’s truth in that statement.)

And oh, how she and Skooby can play! It took a few days, but I think they call each other friends now.

man, woman, two dogs
At the shelter…another pooch found a home.

And she’s OUR Ooman.

But here’s what I also realised: my immense need to be in control and make perfect decisions in life, needed some honing. My desire to have perfect situations that lead to the best outcomes in life, is a bit unrealistic. My fear of failing in situations if I’m not properly prepared, is now unfounded.

two dogs on couch
She quickly made herself at home.

I thought I would be much more irritated and upset with a shedding dog. Remember, this is the girl who didn’t want anything to do with dogs for years, because of various practical and emotional reasons. I protected myself from all those possibilities.

I think God uses many ways to break down our walls and make us more ‘whole’ individuals; He shows us what we’re capable of, so we fear the future less.

Some may think me daft for making so much of simply getting another dog. But I had a few issues…and now, if I can live with – and LOVE – a dog that sheds, I feel more confident about facing other trials and tribulations…other situations I’ve comfortably avoided in life…

He did not give us a spirit of fear.

He’s slowly but surely showing me the truth of that; and as a bonus I got the best Ooman ever.

dog on couch
Sweet little Bonnie

Thanks Hubby, for introducing me to dogs. You, God and Oomans make a great team in turning me into the human I’m supposed to be in this world.