Need Help? 3 Phrases that Sound Cliche but Aren’t

Need Help? 3 Phrases that Sound Cliche but Aren’t

Fact: life is hard.

No matter what situation you’re in, there’s bound to be a challenge coming your way. And that’s not being pessimistic. That’s just life.

How often do you feel you need help? Please read on for in case here’s something you need to hear today.

The Possibility of Hope

I’m not professing to have the answer to all situations. However, what I share today are a few hopeful moments that came across my path in the past few weeks.

For me, the challenge at the moment is being in the midst of a pregnancy. That’s one amazing privilege and adventure! But as the due date crawls closer I find myself overcome by a range of emotions…fears…situations. I battle to keep balance and I soooo want to do this right for this girl-baby’s benefit.

So, it feels like I’m facing a different challenge every other day. Not as big as some challenges in life…but when your actions affect a little soul coming into the world – and me being a new mom who usually likes being in control -…the challenges feel overwhelming.

However, when I look back over the past few weeks, as much as I can identify the challenges, I recognise Him. The Godly advice that came across my path was always there. IF I’m wise enough to open my mind to it.

Because I’m a word person, I think His guidance sticks in my head in the form of words…phrases. So here goes…a few of His words to me. Hopefully, they can bring a little light to one of your challenging days.

3 Phrases

Calm Down

Perhaps you think this is one phrase no one should ever say to you. In movies they joke about husbands who dare to say ‘calm down’ when a woman reacts. But when it’s God that places these words in your mind…you kind of listen.

For me, a personal struggle has been to keep balance between working and being pregnant. I aim to please and hate to disappoint. But when you’re pregnant, things must change. I simply couldn’t go on as I used to. It was affecting me and there was the risk of my work worries affecting my baby.

It took one scare of early contractions at 33 weeks to make me realise that I needed to adjust my mindset. 4 days in hospital and I was different. I had to be. Mrs In Control even cried with the nurse about how I didn’t know how to do it all right. But the promise of a new life growing inside you forces you to change.

But change isn’t always permanent. Each week I have to remind myself what my priority is. And perhaps God also knew I needed regular reminders.

For example, one morning during my quiet time, all that came to mind was ‘calm down’. And I knew. Calm down about the people I’m worried about…calm down about work…calm down about keeping housework up to date. It doesn’t help to worry and it definitely doesn’t help little Lucy when I’m tense all the time.

And then, when my husband left for work that day and out of the blue he said ‘relax…take it easy…‘, you know it’s God confirming the message for the day.

Do those words make life less stressful? No.

But:

  • It changes how I respond to the stress that wants to enter my life.
  • It helps me focus on simply getting the next thing done, instead of trying to handle everything at once.
  • They help me enjoy a meeting with a colleague, instead of only worrying about clients.
  • The advice makes me take 5 minutes just for myself in the still-empty babyroom, because I will never have those 5 minutes again.
  • And it makes me enjoy an evening on the couch to rest, even if I couldn’t get everything done, knowing that rest will empower me to face the next day’s workload.

Calm down. It has more positive outcomes than you may think.

He Didn’t Give Us a Spirit of Fear

My other panic I had to deal with over the past few weeks was the idea of giving birth. Despite amazing prenatal classes – which helped resolve some fears – I became a little paranoid. What was going to happen with me and Baby-Lucy in just a few weeks?

Even the thought that it could happen at any time was overwhelming. How can I be prepared if I don’t know when it’s coming?

And what if something went wrong? What if everything went wrong?

Once again, taking those few minutes of quiet and searching for His view on the topic – rather than my own – was the ONLY thing that changed my mindset about this. Not people, not books, not knowledge…but His Spirit showing me the TRUTH of the situation. Then, I could look at THE TRUTH instead of the enemy’s LIE that I should fear what was coming.

So, what was the truth in this case?

Sitting in my chair, I was overcome with the image of Him WATCHING over her. Also, a few weeks ago I looked up at the babyroom roof and noticed that there were exactly three down lights installed. Father, Son, Holy Spirit. 3 Sources of Light will be LOOKING over her daily. And a friend who was sharing with me what was on her heart gave me one simple word…WATCH. And I knew…God, the trinity was WATCHING over Lucy. THAT was the truth.

I didn’t have to worry…He was taking care of her. There in her room in future, but also while she was still in my womb. And instantly, that realisation removed the intense worry I carried with me during that week.

Will it be easy? Probably not. Will it hurt? Yes. Is there risk involved? Yes. But He is with her and I can simply do my part. He will do the rest.

Of course, the challenge is to live with that new-found realisation the next day and the next. This is where I do believe the Word is powerful, because the phrase that stuck in my head was ‘He did not give us a Spirit of fear, but of….a sound mind’. 2 Tim 1:7

SOUND MIND. As His child I did not have to buy into the chaos of stress. I can choose to take up His truth and promise and advice. But it IS a choice. And I try to choose that every day.

But fear can return…

A few days later my fear was that I wouldn’t cope when the moment arrived. How will I handle my water breaking or the pain of labour? What if I freaked out? Once again I had to return to the TRUTH of the matter, not the fear that comes so naturally. The truth that God designed me specifically for a situation like this. He made me woman. He created me for this purpose. And gave me a SOUND MIND to choose His peace and believe His promise if being there for us…but it’s my choice to take up that sound mind or surrender to panic.

The Price of Pride

Here, I simply wish I could thank all of the wonderful women God placed in my life over the past few years. There are new friends in the city we moved to, old friends who came back into my life, neighbours, family…the list is endless.

What I realised recently however is that I have robbed myself of so many blessings, because, like I said, I like being in control. Being pregnant at 39 was a huge new journey for me, but I didn’t want to admit to some of my younger friends the mental challenges I was facing.

Some of them have already had their children and were more than willing to give me the love and care and proper advice I needed. But it took me months to realise their value and discover the magic of sometimes being vulnerable.

And it’s pride that does that.

Pride, which I thought I’ve dealt with in my life.

When a young mom who simply loves helping other moms showed up on my doorstep with a gift (book on motherhood) and I saw all the book club friends’ names inside the card…I realised how dumb I’ve been. These women have been on my doorstep for over 2 years. And although I made friends with a few of them, I could have embraced them more and shared my worries, instead of trying to always save face.

They cared unconditionally. They understood the challenges I was going through. These women would have shared their stories without expecting anything in return, without laughing at my questions and without judging my opinions.

I know this is because I always want to be the one who helps. But wanting to ALWAYS be the rescuer is fuelled by unnecessary pride, not just love for others.

May I be wiser in future and stop missing out on the blessing of people.

Now What?

I don’t know what tomorrow will bring. You don’t know what you’ll face in future.

I’m just holding on to these few words, because if He helped me learn lessons and find hope in the past few weeks…He’ll do it again in my tomorrows.

What’s your biggest challenge? What phrase helps you through the day? What advice do you have for me on my mom-journey?

Thank you for reading.

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.