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.

 

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.

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 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.