The Art of Tuning In

The Art of Tuning In

You don’t always get what you think you will.

Here’s my challenge: truly hearing His voice.

Yes sure, you can sit in church and hear what the pastor is saying through his sermon. And when it hits you right where you need advice, guidance or clarity you’re thankful for how He works in your life. Or a song during worship may expresses exactly what you feel and you have that ‘Aha’ moment of ‘this is where my strength is found’.

But what happens once you get home?

This morning I was praying for someone who I care deeply about. My prayers over the past few weeks have been of empowerment, protection and healing. All the right things. Right?

But I felt it wasn’t getting anywhere. I didn’t see what I thought was necessary in this person’s life.

Do you see that?

There are way too many ‘I’s in that sentence.

Once thing someone told me at church recently was that I will start hearing His voice more clearly. Kind of like tuning in an old-time TV that needed the knob set just right in order to get a clear image. Those words stuck in my mind. I’m praying for real change.

art of tuning in
Photo by Marc Schäfer on Unsplash

I wasn’t sure how the growth will take place. Let’s just say it’s been enlightening.

It Takes Time

Something in me—the Holy Spirit right?—constantly prompts me to listen. But not listen as I used to do. The old Christel loves rushing through things: I want to get as much done as possible in very little time. My husband calls it ‘cramming’…I used to cram our holidays and we just end up exhausted.

And yes, I even rush through my prayers.

Time
Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

That means mentioning clichés: blessing, power, wisdom…They could be powerful but what if these characteristics are not what a person really needs?

What is more powerful than praying cliches? Waiting to hear what He KNOWS they need. For me, that takes a moment of absolute silence in my mind before I start praying. When I stop my own thoughts for a moment His Words form inside my mind.

And that’s when I discover His heart for someone.

What Should Really Change?

When I get to this point He also surprises me in what I end up praying.

For months I was focusing on what divine wisdom this person needed. Surprise surprise! When I at last started tuning that dial, what I discovered wasn’t so much what I needed to pray over this person’s life that mattered to God at that moment. He actually prompted me to look inward; to myself.

My revelation (TV screen with clear image) was that ME changing could help this person get through a situation easier.

you
Photo by Etty Fidele on Unsplash

I was praying for a situation to change elsewhere. Meanwhile, what would have been really helpful to this individual was me simply being a safe space, a soft landing and a calm environment whenever we got together. I’m embarrassed to say I was quite the opposite for a long time; wanting to figure out the problem, find solutions and force everyone in a direction I thought best.

So what ended up changing when I started tuning before praying? I changed. Nothing else. But I think that’s what the person has been praying for all along.

My Will vs His Will

So this morning I’m seeing a new angle of what I can be as His ambassador on earth. I often want to be the force that helps people out of the ruts they find themselves in. And yes, I perceive that as a worthy goal. But it’s not always what people need at that moment.

Seeing His ways more clearly then—tuning in—may be that I stop applying general spiritual applications to all people’s lives. He caters in His Word for comfort, for power, for strength, for healing of sorrow sorrow and so much more. It takes Godly wisdom to determine which of these someone needs in a specific scenario. I often think I know what’s best. But who knows better than the One who made that individual?

me
Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

I surrender.

My will for Yours.

10 Months in Port Elizabeth-10 Best Places to Eat

10 Months in Port Elizabeth-10 Best Places to Eat

Blue Waters

So I thought I would try something different today. We eat out a lot…

The benefit: We VERY QUICKLY got to learn about the best places to eat in Port Elizabeth (our home for only 10 months now).

(Note: it took me a while to publish this, so technically I have now been here for a year, but our list of favourites stay the same. )

Food

Now, this is me paying it forward:

  • For the restaurants that have kept us fed the past almost-year: Thank you and I hope someone else sees your name on this list.
  • For others visiting the area: Don’t miss out on these places. This is first hand knowledge doing the talking.

Without further ado…please follow my taste buds.

  1. Best Restaurant for Cake: Sherwood Gardens Centre

I put this one first because except for my regular work station (see below), this is the place my husband and I visit the most. Why? Because Cake.

We discovered the best baked item you’ll ever find and you can eat it in a stunning environment: Inside the centre your senses are entertained with quaint decor or you can sit outside where the nursery’s plants create a wonderfully refreshing space. As a bonus you can browse the book shop, the dress shop and other stalls.

But back to cake.

cake

It’s called ‘Try it’. And we did. And we were forever thankful that we did.

Layers of cake, meringue, cream, custard…and I don’t know what else (I don’t care) create the perfect dish to brighten any day. My husband doesn’t like cake the way I do and he is ADDICTED to this. It’s sweet, but not to sweet. It’s always fresh because it doesn’t get time to go stale. On a Saturday the last pieces disappear by lunch time.

So you better get there early.

2. Best Place for Pork Belly: Bridge Street Breweries

One thing we learnt in Port Elizabeth is that you should always stay open to new experiences. The thing that was your favorite yesterday may not be on the list anymore tomorrow.

I was 35 before I heard people going on and on about Pork Belly. For some reason, from the moment we arrived in PE, people mentioned it. So, being curious, I tried it. At more than one place. And I was thoroughly disappointed. Places where meat was the ‘specialty’ (I won’t name names) failed to impress me.

And then friends took us to Bridge Street. With a very interesting menu in front of us I was surprised that our friends both ordered the Pork Belly AGAIN. They did mention it more than once already but with so many options, why not try something new?

And then I tasted it.

And then I understood.

OUT OF THIS WORLD.

I loved what was on my plate too, but the PB was something worth returning for again and again. Divine and not too rich.

I get it now guys! Thank you for ruining my ‘favorite things’ list.

3. Best Coffee Shop for Lemon Meringue: Coffee Society

Okay, I will admit I’m biased here. This isn’t only my favorite place for Lemon Meringue but it’s also my favorite place to hang out during the week. Working from home is a blessing but at least twice a week I need to get out of the house. That’s when I head over to Coffee Society where free Wi-Fi, good coffee and friendly faces serve as my office for the day.

lemon meringue

But here’s why you have to go there and why you’ll thank me later: They got it right…the perfect balance between sweet and sour in the Lemon Meringue. I have honestly never tasted this anywhere else.

So do yourself a favour and get one (they’re small so you can order a whole one for YOURSELF) with some artisan coffee.

CS has a lot to offer, but I had to pick one thing for this list.

4. Blue Water Cafe for Sushi

Anyone who has been to Blue Water Cafe will tell you something different they love. The view. The atmosphere. For us: the sushi.

Sushi

Okay, I also love their Foccacia bread, but the Sushi is simply on another level. Always fresh and very original combinations. I can’t believe there was a time I didn’t eat sushi (yes it’s sad I know). I would have missed out on this and that would have been a tragedy.

5. Best Sauce Tasted at a Restaurant – Nanaga Farmstall

This isn’t a dish, but it should be with every dish you eat from now on. At least, that’s how it is in our house. My husband fell in love with Nanaga’s tomato chutney when we had it with our roosterkoek at the farmstall restaurant.

Luckily you can purchase it in the shop across the courtyard from the restaurant. Now we always stop for another bottle of this flavourful condiment if we’re in the area.

Okay, this place isn’t IN Port Elizabeth, but it’s close enough and when you’re exploring the area, driving a few kilometers shouldn’t matter. (Yes I love road trips)

6. Best Restaurant for a View: Sacramento

So this isn’t about a dish, but isn’t atmosphere part of every exceptional food experience? For that, I head over to Sacramento.

It’s near the sea.

It’s cozy inside and there’s a fireplace.

You can see the sea.

They welcome dogs.

You can look at the waves.

There’s some interesting decor relating to old ships and canons (Sacramento was a ship).

It’s right by the sea.

You can see where I’m going with this and they do have some impressive dishes on the menu.

Just go to the sea and thank me later.

7. Best Gin…and Other Things, You’ll Find at Coco Jo’s

So, I love chocolate and this restaurant uses cocoa (and its variants) in most of its dishes. You would think that’s why I recommend it. In the end, that wasn’t what blew me away.

While they have a beautiful setting overlooking a garden and I love that their pasta has flavour in each morsel of every bite (not simply a bit of sauce drizzled over bland carbohydrates), all of that comes second to this:

The most refreshing gin cocktail I have ever had. It tops anything I had in Johannesburg while I lived there.

Thank you to the manager who saw I needed that on a Friday and paired with their chocolate dessert I was in Coco heaven.

8. For Take Aways Just Go to Cassie’s

I think everyone in PE probably knows about this chain of restaurants, right? And rightly so.

It offers everything you expect from a takeaway restaurant. Even the Russian and chips meal is AMAZING. But this place goes one step further with fast food and even has some of the best ribs in town.

For dessert: Cassie’s makes soft serve the way I remembered it’s supposed to taste. That was back in 1989 when I was on holiday in JBay and had the creamiest ice cream near the beach front. Nothing ever came close to that. Until Cassie’s happened. Thank you dear take away outlet for recreating childhood bliss.

And yes, they have chocolate flavoured ice cream!!!

9. More Sushi – John Dory’s

Okay, I’m cheating because I’m mentioning more sushi, but there’s one thing John Dory’s has that has us going back for more. Okay two things:

  • Sushi dessert containing strawberries and chunks of cream cheese (yes CHUNKS).
  • Bean curd pockets filled with prawns and avo

Both of those get drizzled with delectable sauces. Together they make up another favourite meal (especially because it comes at half price on Wednesdays).

10. Fish! At Sunridge Fish Tales

I come to the end of my list and realize I almost forgot the most important thing to be had in any town by the sea: Good old fish and chips. We’ve tasted quite a few vendors’ versions of this famous meal. My neighbours tell me I still have a few places to go, but at the moment our favourite is found at Fish Tales.

A perfect weekend evening (or any evening for that matter) is this fish (fried for me, grilled for hubby) with perfect slap chips and the restaurant’s tartare sauce. Add a good series (Game of Thrones, right?) and a soft couch & I can face anything the next day.

Top 10 Best Food Port Elizabeth

I think that about covers it. This list is bound to change often, depending on where we head to next. But I hope it gives you an idea of where to start.

Please, if you have any more suggestions, leave a comment below. There are many Friday nights that need dinner destinations. Help me make my next 10 months in my new home town be as tasty as the first 10.

Now I’m hungry.

The Revenge of the Lemon Tree

The Revenge of the Lemon Tree

Okay, perhaps that title is a bit dramatic.

Maybe not revenge…definitely the return of the lemon tree. Or the revival of the LT?

Bottom line: My Lemon Tree is showing some guts and teaching me a few lessons. At the risk of seeming very cliche, it’s a metaphor for my life.

Bear with me.

My husband grew the tree from nothing. I mean: He didn’t buy a tree. He put four lemon seeds in the ground. I thought lemon trees are beautiful and so he wanted to give me one. He even bought a lemon but guess what: the ones in the store don’t necessarily have seeds. That’s bio-engineered fruit for you.

Anyway, so we got lemon pieces as garnish with a fish dish we ate at Blue Waters Cafe. He put the seeds in a serviette, brought them home and placed the wad of paper in a pot (left there by the previous tenants) filled with soil. We added some compost and hoped for the best.

Note: We didn’t plan this to the finest detail. We didn’t place the seeds in water and see if they would germinate like you’re taught to do in primary school.

We just winged it.

And it worked.

Stage 1: All’s Well

Here’s our very much loved little Lemon Tree after a few months.

lemon tree

Well, three trees I guess because three green shoots came up from four planted pips. lemon treeBased on the fact that they weren’t cultivated by professionals (neither of us have EVER done gardening…I mean, I’ve had cactuses that simply died due to neglect) we were pretty excited seeing it grow.

And it grew and it grew and it grew.

 

Somewhere it had to hit a snag, right?

Stage 2: Will This End Well?

I asked my neighbour (a passionate gardener with the most gorgeous flowers all around his house) what I can do to help my little tree. But he made it quite clear that even he would never grow citrus trees again. Why? Because they were difficult. In the past he could never get them to flourish.

I guess I should have taken that as a warning. I just kind of believed our LT (at the moment its name is Simon) is supposed to exist. So we kept watering it diligently.

And then the worms happened.

I saw three tiny worms on it one day, but didn’t remove them directly. I’ve had them inside the house on store bought flowers and all they seemed to do was turn into pupae. My flowers never got damaged.

No so with Simon.

A few days later I passed the tree, saw multiple leaves destroyed (I mean OBLITERATED) and two FAT worms looking very pleased with themselves.

I was horrified and felt kind of stupid that I let it happen.

(And even then I didn’t even want to kill them…because nature.)

I flicked them off, got a home remedy against bugs from a friend of a friend (FYI: Epsom salts work for anything apparently) and apologised to the tree.

But damage was done. Terrible damage. Most of the thin, top branches and leaves were gone. In the days that followed (unlike the previous six months) there was no change. Simon has stopped growing.

I was really afraid that I spoiled our chances of ever owning a gorgeous little lemon tree. I knew: what happens with a tree while it ‘grows up’ affects how it grows in future. What if it was damaged so much that it can’t recover?

I kept watched and watered and Epsom salted.

Stage 3: The Return!

First there were three tiny green shoots.

And then there were more. And they grew.

And then they GREW!

It felt like they tripled in height within a week!

lemon treeAnd oh, it was the most gorgeous green. Almost like a crown on top of the older leaves that came out before the worms, the new section was a strikingly beautiful hue.

It came back with a vengeance…and now I check daily to destroy any teeny weeny worm.

My lemon tree will live!

 

 

Stage 4: The Lesson

lemon treeSo, what does this matter?

Here we get to how this is a very apt representation of life. I’m not going to draw this out. I’m simply stating what I felt when I looked at my Simon after his battle.

So many times I have allowed wrong decisions (ignoring the worms) to break down aspects of my life:

  • Allowing people’s opinions to guide my decisions
  • Not moving when I know God is prompting me to do something
  • Feeling hurt after relationships of situations affect me emotionally

In the aftermath, I often wonder how I will ever get back on track again.

lemon treeBut from where I’m sitting now, with the Epsom salts of His grace, wisdom and ‘new mercies every morning‘ I’m in a better place than I’ve ever been. I love the hue of my life.

No matter how many leaves you lost this past year. Take courage. New Life is coming.

I’m waiting in anticipation of what Simon will become one day…and what He’s doing with my life.

It’s Not Too Late – 3 Things You can Still Do for This Country

It’s Not Too Late – 3 Things You can Still Do for This Country

On Wednesday we vote.

For all my fellow South Africans, you know what I’m talking about. It’s election time and over the past few months I’ve often heard these words: “We’ll see what happens after the elections”.

That means people have put their career choices on hold or waited before buying a property. We’re all waiting. For what?

For many the crime rates, racial conflict and corruption in the country have become too much. Large numbers of people are heading out of the country. I’ll be honest and say: that’s us. We would love to emigrate if the right door opens.

But at the moment we’re here. And for many, it feels as if the pressure is rising.

For me, the question is: ‘What am I supposed to do as His ambassador?’ That should be my first thought before making any decision. I won’t proclaim that I always get it right, but I want to get it right this time.

So here are my thoughts.

Pray

It’s not too late to pray. I realise I haven’t spent enough hours praying for this country. Instead of becoming immobile because of guilt, (which so often happens, right?) I simply started.

But what would prayer consist of?

In God’s ever-perfect timing I recently discovered a book on prayer (The Happy Intercessor) while unpacking our guest room because my sister in law is coming to stay. What does Beni Johnson talk about in the first few pages? Praying for a city/region/situation.

There’s a hill behind our house and from the top I can see most of our city.  I simply started praying for our area. THINKING about the plight of our country and city can leave me seeing only darkness and hopelessness. But those moments of praying for life, praying for the leadership and proclaiming Him as the God of the city left me with a different picture. Without even thinking I started asking Him to show me MY path in the future of the city. .

Here’s what happens when we PRAY instead of THINK (or COMPLAIN while gathered around the braai with friends): you tap into His thoughts.

Before, thinking of how I’m supposed to change my city simply left me feeling drained and depressed. But in conversation with Him you start seeing the divine way out of the situation.

Hope

Following close on the heels of this prayer and revelation you’ll find something else: hope.

South Africa hope

Let’s be honest and say our country is in a pretty dire situation. There’s no saying when the power problems of Eskom will be sorted out. How will the country recover after so much corruption and money wasted? But that doesn’t mean that we’ll never thrive again. That doesn’t mean we can’t find a way of living together in peace (which is more important than being a rich country in my books anyway).

Yes it may take some time. But we’re already living the miracle of leaving apartheid behind. I will say it again: every time I start losing faith in the fact that God has a plan for South Africa, He encourages.

Note: Maybe His plan is different than what we imagine…so instead of hoping for riches, perhaps we should simply focus on getting along?

We came together in 1994 and we didn’t go down. We can do anything. No matter how long it takes. But we have to keep on hoping. Not hope based on our plans, but on His.

All for His glory. (That’s another new thought which I will write about sometime in future)

Fight

So, I’ve mentioned that my husband and I would love to emigrate. For me: I would love to simply travel the world and experience different parts of it. And yes, sometimes I think another country may offer my children a better future than what they’ll find here in SA.

These are thoughts many of us have.

But I’m aware that we may live right here at the southern part of Africa for the rest of our lives. And if that happens, it means He has a purpose for it.

I believe life is valuable because of His goals for our lives. If He places me in a country He wants me to play a role there.

South Africa

Simply because I’m a believer doesn’t mean that I’m guaranteed an easy life. My prayers and my discussions with Him could lead to going overseas where life seems safer and there’s a better chance of finding work and good education…or I could find He has a purpose for me right here, to fight for His cause in SA:

  • Fighting for justice in a country where many people & cultures are oppressed by their leaders or where they oppress each other
  • Fighting for love between different cultures by living without prejudice or hate
  • Fighting people’s negative talks by showing others how it can be done His way, not our way
  • Fighting depression and hate by teaching others about the miracle of His healing, His type of forgiveness and the joy of serving Him

If that is His purpose for me, it would be an honorable purpose to pursue. And yes, I know I may even suffer as part of that journey. But where He’s taken me in the past has always been good (often hard, but with amazing outcomes), so once again I will submit to His bidding.

Yes, I’ve learnt that I can also make my own decisions and that He blesses where I decide to go. But in the big decisions of life, His prompts are always the best to adhere to instead of thinking MY way is the best way.

So, join me. Fight with your vote by picking someone worthy. Also fight where you are: Climb your own hills and mountains. Talk to Him about our cities, people and leaders. Let’s find our purposes in the communities around us, because it’s obvious that we can’t leave it up to our leaders to fix this country.

But we can make it better than it is now.

Will you fight with me?

It Didn’t Happen All at Once

It Didn’t Happen All at Once

It didn’t happen all at once.

I just finished my third glass of water for the day and for me that’s a lot. Until a few months ago that wasn’t near the top of my priority list. But we get older…wiser…and realise these bodies we say we put in service of God should preferably last for a few more decades if we want to do something worthwhile while alive.

And so I changed.

But it happened slowly.

The Idea

Here’s what I knew: I wanted a healthy lifestyle. I wanted to do it all…it didn’t have to be perfect…it just had to be good. But I was so out of balance one would think selfhelp books and blogs didn’t exist.

I saw others getting it right. And I don’t mean the ones posting fake pictures on Instagram. I mean people I KNEW who managed to live optimally in one, many or at least a few areas of life:

  • Faith
  • Family
  • Relationships
  • Health
  • Career
  • Passion
  • Goal setting

Comparing oneself to others is definitely not the way to live, but seeing proof that you can do better is sometimes the motivation I need…to create a goal…to realise your excuses for not even SETTING goals (nevermind reaching them) are really lame.

The Process-The Fight

So I realised what I wanted. Not what society says I should have. What I knew to align with MY purpose on earth. I had the picture and then it came to fighing for it.

Wow – fighting. I didn’t realise it was a fight until I typed it just now.

I had to fight with myself a lot of times:

  • Getting up early to spend time with Him or go for a jog (I don’t gym…hate the places…sorry peeps.)
  • Stopping myself from believing the lies that have been simmering in my mind for years. The lie of not being good enough at something has often been my reason for not attempting a new project…only to feel guilty later on for not pursuing His dream for me. And then fearing that I will simply fail at the next thing. Fear-Inactivity-Guilt: A vicious cycle I had to IDENTIFY and then STOP. Stopping it called for searching for His truths and reminding myself of them whenever I faced a challenging situation. For some this may seem a bit ‘airy fairy’ but for me, the only thing that was stronger than the lies I became accustomed to was what He thought of me. But to get to His truths…I had to do that ‘get up early in the morning’ thing.
  • Fighting to focus on what’s in front of me, instead of what is far away. I have huge, challenging dreams (and promises of what He wants to do in and through my life). But that won’t happen if I can’t have the right mindset in what I’m doing now. This blog…that’s me being obedient. I would like to preach to the nations about His healing power and wisdom…but CONTINUALLY He had to pull me back to what He placed in front of me NOW. Will the big dreams happen? I realise it doesn’t matter. He cares about my intentions, character and actions NOW. And if I lift my eyes from what He’s guiding me to do I’m going to miss the boat completely. Breathe, refocus, diligence. Every day.
Photo by Steve Johnson on Unsplash
  • Trying my best to make peace with everything I knew I messed up and letting go of the guilt I felt. A huge victory: Realising that He often bring second chances because He’s aware of my total ineptitude and He’s okay with giving it another try. And if He has faith in me…perhaps I should have too?
  • Lying on the bed and hating myself for how tired, weak, stressed and confused I’m feeling…and hearing His voice whisper: This isn’t who I made you. He saw something different…and I wanted to search and find what He saw.

The Challenge

What got to me was how frustrating it was to be in a rut of bad habits, unhealthy routines, lack of wise choices. I KNEW all the right things to do, but I wasn’t DOING them.

Like a business that needed to use all its resources to function optimally, I need to use all He has given me (time, wisdom, food, His Word, people) to live a life worth the label “Daughter of God”. I wasn’t even close.

The Switch

But somewhere a switch started to flip. Was it what He shared with me? The people and information He sent across my path that influenced me? Frustration that turned into desperation to see change?

All of it I think. But one thing definitely kept me going: Being reminded that He wants to take me somewhere. So if you haven’t heard that lately…I pray He whispers it in your ear.

My Third Glass of Water

So now it has been months. I have REALLY tried sculpting a better lifestyle, closer to what I know He wants for me.

Here’s my biggest revelation and realisation I am intensely grateful for. Somewhere during this journey of changing habits, listening to His voice, finding MY purpose NOW instead of jealously looking at other people’s lives and achievements…I realised I don’t have to feel GUILTY for not reaching this milestone earlier.

And living without guilt is…peaceful. And for that I want to cry. Because He came and soothed my soul and bit by bit He put me back together, giving me wisdom to fix many areas in my life:

  • Drinking more water
  • Eating differently to ensure health to one day hopefully carry a child He blesses us with…why? Because He wants the BEST for my child one day and that starts with me being my best.
  • Talking to Him more so His wisdom can shine through
  • Rearranging my schedule so there’s time for Him, my hobbies, my passions, my purpose
  • Being less busy but more productive

Best of all: some of these have become effortless, such as choosing water above coffee or reading insightful literature, rather than silly thrillers. (Please note: I am not bashing ANY reading material. At THIS moment in MY life, I know He’s calling me to change what I read…and so I do.)

Here’s a powerful lie I lived with for a long time: I believed my work always comes first. In a way that was used against me in keeping me so busy that I didn’t make time for other tasks I KNEW He wanted me to focus on. The lies we believe are used by the enemy to keep us off track and even something that sounds good could be the one thing keeping you away from contentment and fulfilling your purpose.

So I just drank my third glass of water.

Somehow He led me to fitting into my daily schedule almost everything I dreamed of a few months ago.

I’m not where I want to be yet. But I’m better. For today, that’s enough. No guilt.

And all glory to Him…as always.

What Mangoes Teach You About Life

What Mangoes Teach You About Life

I just peeled my second mango in as many days with the peel ending up in one piece.

mangoWhat I Used to Do

I’m 36 but that perfection is a first for me. I used to marvel at my dad’s deftly clearing any fruit of its clothing in one go. How the heck did he do that?

Here’s my usual method: Just push through the task as quickly as possible. It took too much concentration to keep the peel in one piece so I just hacked at it.

mango peelIn the end: 20 (to 50) short pieces landing in the dustbin or compost heap (yes I do try to save the environment).

The Difference-Slowing Down

Today was a victory.

Why? Because I learned to slow down. At last.

My dad once made a comment about always being in a rush. I thought it was something to be proud of because it proved how busy I was. In truth? It was simply me being late, rushed, disorganised, stressed for no reason, avoiding situations (arriving late for a family gathering meant I may miss out on discussing a few tense topics.)

Let’s get back to my mango.

How He Did it

I found peeling a fruit challenging and an unnecessary bump in my road. Did I take the time to simply sit down and get used to that skill? No. Why?

Here’s one bad consequence of doing well at school: You don’t learn how to deal with challenges. Everything comes easy: Math, Languages, Remembering facts, Pleasing teachers, Winning the prize.

That doesn’t serve you so well later in life. Life is not that easy to handle.

For me: It took years to feel comfortable facing a challenge. (Even peeling a slippery fruit properly.)

I avoid conflict and challenges as much as I can. I realize I pray and then hope/expect God to simply make it easy. That’s MY perfect answer to prayers.

But He knows best.

The Challenge

This past year I learned a few different things. And my mango proves it.

I stress about everything.

Will I impress my boss?

Will this client be happy?

Does my leaving out the milk irritate my husband?

Will the dog be okay if I leave her alone for a few hours?

Is God disappointed in me that I don’t do everything He prompts me to?

Will my parents be proud of the life I live?

How will I deal with differences of opinion with loved ones?

Will I be able to handle the latest work project? I simply don’t think I’m good enough.

What if no one likes my writing?

I really should be more organised or get a healthy daily schedule…why am I so bad at this thing called life?

Many of these my fears relate to overcoming a challenge, something difficult:

  • Learning a new skill
  • Doing a lot of research
  • Having complicated and tense discussions
  • Living in faith

My Weak Point

I am so scared at failing at these, that I simply rush through life. I do what I can (that which I find easy) and kind of put the rest on the back burner. I know it’s possible to live in faith…I just do it in areas that are easier. I know I’m good at my job, but I avoid pushing myself to be better. Because that will be challenging.

What I end up with are 20 (or 50) small things I did every day…but I miss out on creating that beautiful long strip of colorful skin. It’s the accomplishment I really want, but I don’t face the fears that keep me from doing it.

For me it’s fear of failure. For others it could be hurt, past disappointments or not knowing Him well enough yet.

How He Fixed It

For the past 12 months I had to practice at peeling my mango in real life:

  • Instead of changing jobs I had to learn to take my fears & insecurities to Him. And slowly but surely He transformed my mind about how I see myself. Now I can breeeeathe during the day: No longer flustered from 9 to 5 because I doubt every single task I do.
  • Instead of giving me everything I wished for so I can believe He’s on my side, I learnt to see His hand in small things, having to trust Him that He sees the end even while I don’t. I always knew that surrendering my emotions and wishes to Him is the ideal way to live. Difference: Now I’m closer to DOING it instead of only KNOWING it.
  • Instead of wishing for quick fixes (rushing through peeling fruit) I realise, accept and now embrace the fact that good things, good lives, good relationships…take time. He is in the business of long term effects, not instant gratification or even instant results. But is He at work? Always.
  • Here’s a big one: I used to be afraid of not living the above average life that He created me for. I wanted to prove on a grand scale that I am an effective tool in His hand. Prove to who? We get it so wrong sometimes. Now…now I see how He wants me to live His character daily – and that’s a better option than any grand ministry I can start up. Without learning His fundamentals, my attempt at saving the world (or some people) would crumble.

I hate that it took so long to learn these lessons. But that’s what happens when you have it easy I guess.

mango leafI’m Better…and Thankful

Let’s be clear: These are still challenges. But I’m better. And when I struggle (with stress, insecurities, work) I remind myself: I’m not where I was yesterday or a few months ago.

I’m so much better that I can relax while making a fruit salad instead of blasting through that task too. Blasting through simply to avoid the fact that I’m not very good at something.

mango life

Can I become a culinary chef yet? No. And I probably never will.

But I can be proud and above all thankful that He took the time to calm me down about life…to become more adept at facing challenges. Now, when I attempt anything in this life it may take longer, but it will be better. And I don’t run away anymore

He does have mysterious ways.

Be general or THE general

Be general or THE general

I see a photo this week and it’s haunting. This time it wasn’t someone hurting. It was lambs: A few sheep on a farm in South Africa desperate for water, food…relief.

General lamb
Photo by Bonnie Kittle on Unsplash

And I guess that’s the trend in our country today. We dream of relief.

 

Our Wish

No matter on which side of the political fight (because all we seem to do is fight these days) you’re at, you crave release.

Release from poverty.

Release from oppression…no matter what race you are.

Release from abuse…

Release from addictions.

Release from jobs we hate.

Release from heartbreak.

Release from drought.

 

I Plead

The list goes on and I pray. No, I plead. Lord, why can’t You…PLEEEASE Lord will you bring hope for these people. All of us in all these situations.

My wish is that our country’s problems get solved instantly: That He helps us forgive, He brings rain and He gives us wisdom to work together. Instantly.

I start a conversation. At the end I had goosebumps…but not because I got the answer I was hoping for.

 

He Created a Plan – We Made it a Problem

We (not just South Africa but the world at large I guess) are suffering in part because of sin.

I want to clarify my definition of sin: Sin as in ‘missing the mark’. He designed us for specific purposes: To love, to flourish, to be wise. When we don’t live that way…we miss the mark…that’s sin. We all sin.

So the consequences are not because God WANTS us to suffer or because He’s directly punishing us.

It’s natural consequences for our refusal to listen to His guidance.

He created rules. He set guidelines. He said ‘Rule the earth’. And humanity did a very poor job of that.

Now, because of centuries of sin (missing the mark, not listening to His voice, feeding our cravings for power, lust and pleasure) we’ve brought suffering to earth. Just look at the percentage of broken families and the amount of plastic washing up on our shores. Yes, in all aspects, humans are pretty much missing the mark.

We can’t blame Him for that.

So what now?

 

Enter…De La Rey

A few weeks ago I was at a concert. Bok van Blerk. I’m not a regular…but a few of his songs I will admit: They bring me to tears. The passion for this country, the land and its people – it’s impossible to ignore.

And then he sang that song: De La Rey.

Let’s be clear: I’m not writing any of this because we’re all supposed to choose sides or to bring up the past. There’s enough of that and it’s not doing us any good.

But the song calls someone to lead.

And this is what I saw: A crowd being drawn by a single man with a single song. Multiple people in the audience drifted towards the stage. They flocked towards…their general.

In that moment, Bok was their De La Rey.

And this is what our country needs: A great many De La Reys.

What did he fight for over a century ago? Reading his story I believe this general’s convictions and motivations were based on a wish for peace, fairness and the best for the country; Not a political ideology, power or racism.

That’s the kind of general this world needs.

 

If Only We Would…

The song is being sung and you see the people’s yearning. A solution for their situations. We CRAVE for someone to show us the way.

And we’re all blind to what’s right in front of us.

Do we not realize WE are the generals the country is hoping for? Do we not see we can’t leave it up to the corrupt leaders?

A different kind of leader – the good general – needs to help people find their relief.

And that…that’s all of us.

general
Photo by Elijah O’Donnell on Unsplash
  • What do we as generals do around a braai? Do we speak truth and positivity or only complain?
  • Instead of repeating fake news and bad news about our country and the world, why aren’t we praying for His opinion on the matter and sharing that? That would make us generals.
  • Being kind to the people who work for you, instead of breaking them down as others do – that’s being a general.
  • Breaking down barriers between white and black simply by respecting the waiter, your colleague or a shop assistant – that’s taking the lead.
  • Taking your family to church, not out of guilt, but because you know you need Him – you’re being THE RIGHT KIND OF general.
  • Fighting for what’s RIGHT, not what seems the best for your culture, race or gender – you’re being a general.
  • Praying about a situation instead of complaining about it – that’s you being a general.
  • Being fair and kind when you’re getting the opposite in return – that’s a general’s design.
  • Artists, pastors, businessmen, celebrities – you’re all generals (which direction are you taking your people?)

Let’s be clear: I don’t want to be naive and not realise how terrible some situations are. But do we want to be led out of the problem or simply wallow in it?

And we’ve all heard this speech before. But as Bok was singing I saw in people a hunger for a leader. If we stand up – others will follow.

Some challenges may seem impossible to overcome, but I’m not prepared to not try. Across the globe people see change because someone decided to be a general and stand up for something. I’m not about to miss out on good results simply because others are too lazy to do the right thing.

Words have power. Actions have consequences. If we want more of a life…we have to initiate it.

lamb general
Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

I’m praying for relief. For that lamb…and for each one in this country, even the world.

It’s not going to happen if I don’t do my share and be the general for my family, neighborhood, colleagues and friends.

 

And each day that I do take up the challenge to listen to Him…He astounds me with situations where love, peace, Godly power and results shine through. But only if I decide to be a general that day.