Overcoming Impostor Syndrome

Overcoming Impostor Syndrome

What if we’ve been getting it wrong all along?

I spent most of my professional career living in constant anxiety, waiting for the other shoe to drop. Performance reviews filled me with fear that “this time they were finally gonna realize, I don’t even belong here!” I lived in constant dread that the gig was about to be up. But it wasn’t. I never got fired. In fact, I consistently got promoted, awarded, and advanced. This is not a carefully crafted humblebrag. I am telling you this to illustrate something you, that – if you are reading this right now – you probably already know very well: There is a rigid dichotomy between the internal and external realities of someone who suffers from impostor syndrome. You’ve felt it. Otherwise, you would not be reading this blog, right? People with impostor syndrome are driven to perform, people pleasers, and perfectionists. And they live in a constant state of fear all. the. time!

Pop Psychology has given us a lot of input on overcoming impostor syndrome, and it goes something like this:

Overcoming through achieving:

According to one South African celeb, your ability to banish impostor syndrome is directly related to your ability to achieve success. According to her, what you need is to achieve and perform your way out of that crippling self-doubt.

Convince them. Or is it you?

She continues to advise that impostor syndrome can be overcome simply by proving other people wrong. Because apparently either “they” (I don’t know who they are but I think from this article it’s men?) are trying to snuff out your light, or you are “afraid of being great”. So in other words problem is either you, or them, or maybe both? But either way, prove them wrong.

Rehearse your past achievements to boost your confidence:

Another well-known author who has sadly become popular among believers despite her wonky self-help theology and anti-gospel teachings, you need to remind yourself what you have already accomplished and convince yourself that you can do anything you set your mind to. Write a letter to yourself, from yourself, to boost confidence. Not kidding. This is the actual advice.

Have faith in yourself:

She goes on to say that all the knowledge and the truth you need is already in you. Her advice highlights what, at the core, makes the self-help gospel bogus: That you can find the answers to what is wrong with you, in you. That you can be the problem and the solution, at the same time. Apparently, you don’t need any other kind of faith other than faith in yourself. But here is what is diabolical about this advice: Asking me to have faith in myself when a lack of faith in myself and my ability is exactly the reason I have impostor syndrome makes no sense. It sounds very Nike-ad-slogan-y, but it doesn’t actually change anything.

Most of what I’ve read about impostor syndrome has been about as fulfilling as eating donuts for breakfast. It offers an impressive rush of sugar that tastes (sounds) good, but does not deliver enough for a race run well.

  • If my succeeding is the only thing that will prove that I am not an impostor, then surely failing will prove that I am one? If the list of victories is supposed to bolster me, then what am I supposed to do with the list of failures and losses, which are unavoidable? How am I supposed to look at them (and myself) if all of my wellbeing balances on the precipice of my successes? Is it any wonder people with Impostor Syndrome never try new things, because we are so desperately dependent on successes to keep proving us wrong about ourselves that the thought of failing at something paralyzes us so we would rather not even try!
  • Overcoming impostor syndrome by proving ourselves to others puts the control of how we see ourselves squarely in their hands. Our boss, our colleagues, that group of moms that hang out in the carpark at school. When my whole aim is to prove myself to others, my work, my effort, my excellence all becomes fueled by what other people think. But the opinion of another is an uncontrollable, fickle, changeable thing that can never satisfy the soul-deep craving for acceptance we all carry.

What if it’s not our impostor syndrome that drives us to crave acceptance from others and from our achievements. What if our yearning for outside affirmation and acceptance is actually at the core of the issue and impostor syndrome is only it’s manifestation? What if we keep getting the wrong prescription because we keep making the wrong diagnoses about what is at the core of our condition?

  • The core issue is not that we feel like a fraud, it’s that we don’t feel accepted and we are looking for that acceptance in the wrong place. All of our work and effort becomes about cultivating an image and manipulating acceptance because the fact is that we are deeply and intimately dependant on it.
  • The core issue is not that we don’t have enough confidence, it’s that we are hoping to gain confidence from our competence. And don’t get me wrong, we should always strive for competence and excellence in whatever we do, but if we are doing that in order to just feel ok with ourselves our striving is born of wrong motivation. Not from faithfulness with our talents and gifts, but from a desire to construct for ourselves indestructible confidence. And because we are human, because we will make mistakes, because we don’t know everything, some days our competence will fall short and then our confidence will fail, again.
  • The core issue is not that we are not able, the core issue is that we would rather rely on our ability over God’s. Because self-reliance is easier than faith, and control is easier than surrender. Popular advice on impostor syndrome puts us in a position where we need to boast in our strengths to have an identity when Paul says he boasts in his weakness in order to create space for God’s power (2 Cor 12 v 19). Why do you think Paul said that he counted every single accomplishment he had as a loss (Phil 3 v 4-7)? Because he knew that rehearsing our list of accomplishments as Rachel Hollis encourages us to do, will keep us from understanding where true worth is found.
  • The core issue is not that we don’t belong, the core issue is that we have mistaken belonging for beloved-ness and given the determining power to decide on both to other people or worse yet, to our ourselves.

Imposter syndrome is a lie relating to our truest source of acceptance. Read that again.

As a Christian suffering with impostor syndrome, here is the question that I have had to face as I started understanding what was at the core of this struggle:

Am I truly convinced by Christ? Because at the heart of impostor syndrome lies my lukewarm conviction regarding the soul-deep acceptance I actually already have in Him.

Overcoming Impostor Syndrome by believing the gospel

The truth is that we parade out our trite lipservice-level grasp of the gospel right next the claims of the self-help gospel that we are enough (but at the same time we need to hustle harder) and that we should not worry about what others think (but on the other hand unless others don’t confirm that I am not a fraud I will continue to believe I am one). We live life with a bit of Jesus sauce over it – saying that Jesus is enough but spending our lives trying to prove that we are. These things cannot all be true at the same time. Is it any wonder we make no headway with our overcoming impostor syndrome?

Until we get real about what we really believe about what Jesus has done for us and what that means for every part of our lives, we will never overcome impostor syndrome. The self-help gospel has found in us the fertile soil of people who are always hoping that some person, thing, some system of success, some event or fixed future point will finally settle in us the age-old question of our acceptance and worth, will finally represent to us that point of arrival where striving seizes.

“But as long as you are waiting for the mysterious moment you will go on running helter-skelter, always anxious and restless, always lustful and angry, never fully satisfied. You know that this is the compulsiveness that keeps us going and busy, but at the same time makes us wonder whether we are getting anywhere in the long run? This is the way to spiritual exhaustion and burnout. This is the way to spiritual death.Well, you and I don’t have to kill ourselves. We are the beloved. That is the truth of our lives. “

(Henri J. M Nouwen – Life of the Beloved)

Our beloved-ness is the message of the gospel. Christ’s declaration through His death and resurrection is that we are loved perfectly and it is out of that truth that we are called to live, work, act. Are you convinced of this? Are you convinced of it daily?

“The gospel is this: We are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe, yet at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope” (Timothy Keller)

There is a reservoir of love at the center of our lives, streaming out of the One who calls us out of the darkness of putting our hope in other people and our achievements, into the light of a life lived as one loved perfectly and accepted fully – not because we earned it but because He paid for it, and that was enough.

What I told my kids about LGBTQ+

What I told my kids about LGBTQ+

 A Biblical Guide for Christian parents.

This blog is aimed at Christian parents and kids who 1) find themselves on the back foot in terms of current culture and popular opinion and wish to equip their kids and themselves with both love and truth, and 2) have a deep awareness that this is only the beginning and a very real sense that the conservation of biblical truth, especially in terms of scriptural sexual ethic, will be the next battleground of Christian persecution. If this is not you, don’t bother reading this. Also, you know this is not going to be a short blog post, right?

Reading time approx:  17 minutes.

I cannot discuss every angle of this in this blog. Lots of people have written about this more and better than me, plus they are all cleverer than I am (the fact that I am not even sure if “cleverer” is a word serves to prove this point! Ha!), So here are some helpful articles if:

Someone said to you that homosexuality is not actually in the Bible, and if you have the appetite for a theology lesson: here are 2 articles that might help you further understand the revisionist/ affirming position.

I was in no mood to write this blog. A lot of my blogs start off this way. I had to write this blog for myself AND for my son, who came home from school recently after his Math teacher wanted to teach them about fractions in class by dividing up the girls and boys and one little girl refused to participate because she doesn’t “identify as either”. My son is 12. It’s already a minefield out there for our kids! We are past the time of pat answers, about God and about culture. We are as parents as always called to lay a foundation, something we can’t do if we ourselves don’t even know the truth we stand on in terms of all the cultural narratives swirling around us and our kids. So I leant in, to the point where I can now, hopefully, through this little bit of writing, at least give you a view steps of light, a few bricks for your foundation.

This is not a black and white issue. I mean, biblically it is. But socially and conversationally and relationally it calls for immense grace in the grey, it calls for huge sensitivity that I pray I can bring to this writing.  You can’t always draw straight lines across a crooked world, and I am not about to try. Here is what I will try to do:

Be as tender and nuanced as possible here as I

  • understand that this is close to home to many, raising kids in an environment where gay or lesbian is not just the parents of a friend at school but a loved one or close family member, or a class or teammate
  • understand that our kids as young as 7 are having to navigate social settings with puzzling pronouns and a social contract where the rules of friendship (and everything else) seem fluid, and all values and beliefs are not always considered as equally worthy of respect, and certainly not biblical ones.
  • Share with you what I shared with my sons, to equip them with understanding so they can navigate relationships – NOT POLITICS. Let’s leave that to someone else.

Considering that our kids are already being confronted with the LGBTQ+ issue, from the classroom to the Disney Channel, I want my kids to

  1. Be informed
  2. Be Tender
  3. Be Truthful
  4. Be prepared

So here is what I told my kids:

Be Informed:

It has never been more vital for all of us to understand what the Bible says, about God, about people and about sin. Any thorough reading of the whole of scripture will confirm that the premise and practice of the LGBTQ position is incompatible with the Bible. It is important for us and our kids to 1) know what the Bible says and 2) know that we can trust what the Bible says.

The way we deal with Scripture in our homes should attest to our kids that our definition of truth does not get set by the world but by the Word.

So begin by talking with your kids about God’s good design, set out for us from the beginning of scripture and why this design is good for families and communities and our world. And talk with them about sin, which is the deviations, temptations and desires that move us (yes, all of us!) away from God’s design. That is what all sin is, a departure from God’s plan. This is something we are all always tempted with, in what we do and say, how we think and reason, what we desire and long for. We can have compassion for the way in which LGBTQ people struggle with sin, because we all struggle with sin. Sin is not God’s best and it’s not His plan or intention.

If you’ve read anything I’ve written you will know that God’s word is always my jumping off point. We have a saying in our house: “Truth is God’s opinion about everything”.

In light of that, this is what I told my kids:

  • I read Romans 1 with them. This is a great starting point. We are all born sinners. Paul points out that we all have this 1 big problem, which lies at the root of every problem in our heads, our hearts, our bodies and our communities: that we exchange God’s truth for a lie. This is not just a problem the LGBTQ community has. This is a problem we all have. All humans everywhere. This is also a helpful starting point because often what our kids are hearing are people saying they where “born this way”, but the truth is, we were all born this way. Born into sin because of the fall of man. And we all have natural tendencies that are contrary to God’s design. One person might struggle with same sex attraction, but another might struggle more than others with greed, with selfish ambition, with lying. We all have areas in our lives where we feel tempted to sin more than someone else might struggle in that same area. It is the nature of fallen man.
  • We need to be clear with our kids that this is a problem we all have. Not just some people. But then we need to be clear about why the LGBTQ conversation differs in the following ways:
    • What God’s word calls sin is now being normalized. In fact, if you just look about what Hollywood and the media present to us, our current culture is not just trying to normalize what God has called sinful, it’s trying to promote it. In this way the world is trying to define for us what is and isn’t sin, and that definition does not line up with what God says.
    • Yes, we are all sinners, but the Bible tells us that sexual sin is different from other sins and here is why:
      • It corrupts God’s representation of his full character in the world. Both male and female represent the image of God (Gen 1 v 27).
      • It corrupts God’s intention: God’s model of male and female matters. God’s sexual ethic as revealed in Scripture is 2 sexes, male and female, created in God’s image, for the sake of family, for the sake of community, and ultimately for the sake of a fulfilled representation of the loving, sacrificial relationship between Him and us, His bride, the church. God is against anything that disrupts this sexual ethic because it’s a disruption of His intention, plan, and purpose with and for us.  The way God creates, the way He does things, always has a purpose!
      • It corrupts us on every level, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. It defiles more than just our bodies because we are sinning against ourselves, our nature, our design, and that is why Paul says in 1 Cor 6 v 18  that it stands apart from other sins.
  • Even though homosexuality is one of the most vivid representations of this breakdown, any disorder of God in our hearts leads to disorder in our lives and in our communities. We were all born sinners, with desires and longings contrary to God’s design, because of the fall of man. We all stand condemned (Ps 14 v 1 – 3). It is not about having less of a desire for what is wrong, it is about having more of a desire for God. We all have to deal with sin when we come to Christ, and not just some sin, all sin, because all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Rom 3 v 23). That is why the healing of someone struggling with same sex attraction is the same as the healing of any other soul, in repentant returning of God to His rightful place in our affection.
  • As Christians, we believe that God tells us who we are, because He created us – not the other way around. We read about how we were made in Genesis 1 v 27. Biblically, sex and gender are one and the same. What is now referred to as “Gender Identity” is not a biblical or even biological concept. Some people might tell you that gender is a social construct, meaning people came up with it. Now, of course, some ideas about how men and women “should behave” have been socially and culturally constructed over time – like for example saying all boys like the colour blue and all girls like the colour pink. But the biological categories of male and female is not a social construct. It is not a feeling. It is not fluid. People cannot claim an internal identity that trumps their external reality, that man decides himself who and what he is, is simply people playing God and that is a sign of our times. But that doesn’t mean it’s true or accurate.
  • Eventhough we may live in a world where, in the name of “love” anything goes, and we are expected to change our truth in line with what is popular, God doesn’t change. The first words of the Bible is “God created”. That means He is in charge of it all. That means He gets to say what is right and wrong, true and false, and what is male and female too. Read these scriptures with your kids about the unchanging nature of God: Heb 13 v 8, Malachi 3 v 6, James 1 v 17, Numbers 23 v 19, Is 40 v 8.
  • Many today reject biblical authority by saying that certain texts in scripture have either been misinterpreted or need to be revised. People will base these arguments on for example the fact that Leviticus forbids homosexuality (Lev 18 v 22) but it also forbids eating shellfish (Lev 11 v 9 – 12), yet, how many Christians do you know who don’t love a plate of prawns! But this view does not consider the full counsel of Scripture. , The perfect life of Christ fulfilled all the ceremonial laws (i.e intended to make us physically clean) of Moses around the sacrificial system and ritual purity, which were in place in the Old Testament to facilitate the relationship between a Holy God and a sinful man. We know from verses like Heb 10 v 16, that the moral laws (i.e to govern our spiritual, mental and emotional cleanliness) of the old testament are now written on our hearts (i.e still in force), even though Hebrews also tells us that we are no longer bound by the ceremonial laws. But the prohibitions against homosexuality is  re confirmed in the new testament (Romans 1, 1 Cor 6, 1 Tim 1). PS, the prevalence of this message across the entire canon also puts to bed any argument that specifically the references to God’s sexual ethic, across both Old and New Testament, could have been mistranslated in Romans 1.
  • Lastly we must always be honest with our kids about the counter cultural nature of our faith. The ways in which our position on this and so many other issues alienate us should not be surprising to us (Matt 10 v 34 – 36), because the counter cultural way we are called to live affects everything from how we spend our money and our time, to how we vote, to what we watch on TV (and what we don’t watch!) and to what we believe is the best way for society to function. Just because there is something in the Bible that makes us feel uncomfortable or sound unpopular doesn’t mean it’s not true. This is the tension every believer is called to live in until The Day that all is set right and this is something we need to be honest about with every single person who comes to faith, including our kids. Jesus was honest about it in Matt 16 v 24.

“Forever O Lord, your word is firmly fixed in the heavens” Ps 119 v 89

Be Tender:

We need to help our kids understand both tolerance as it is required of them to live along with others, but also to understand what I believe is a higher value than tolerance, which is kindness. Because tolerance as a word, can feel a little bit loaded, right? And with the compromise of Christian beliefs in many countries including the US now being set into law (and soon with the PEPUDA act here in SA too!), where standing on what you believe and value now is something you can be prosecuted for (not to mention culturally persecuted for), what is set before believers is a difficult road that must be walked with wisdom, the kind of wisdom that most of us grown ups can scarcely manage!

Even if this is something we as adults still struggle with, here is something I think we would be wise to help our kids understand:

It is possible to love someone without agreeing with them. It is possible to disagree with someone without hating them.

Yeah! Read that again!

So in terms of tender responses, this is what I told my kids:

  • God calls us to look at people the way He looks at them (2 Cor 5 v 16). This is why Jesus was never mean or unkind to people. But He was firm. He was uncompromising. He could do that because He was perfect, representing both love and truth at once.
  • Jesus’s example of compassion towards the woman at the well should be our template for engaging with people in sexual sin of any kind. Jesus saw people through a lense of love and truth, he didn’t see her through the labels others had for her, or that she had for herself. Understanding this, and having a deep awareness that we are all sinners and image bearers at the same time, will help us be more tender with people. When we see ourselves and others as God sees us it means we can have empathy for anyone else deceived by sin, stuck in sin, struggling with sin (even if they/ society does not name it as such and rather calls it a choice or an identity) because we have been there. This is where grace comes in. It is only possible to be gracious out of the position that we are all sick and in need of healing, that we are all sinners in need of saving.
  • So seeing people the way God sees them means being gracious. But it also means seeing their need for Him and responding. That is truly loving. God has a missional heart and so should we. It’s what we are all called to – to share the gospel. The gospel displays the kind of love people really do need, not the watered-down lipservice kind of the World.
  • But we cannot share the gospel in a vacuum. The Gospel is God’s message of love, and so we cannot share it void of love for the person we are sharing it with. Otherwise the gospel becomes a weapon or a stick, something it was never meant to be. So tender compassion is the only valuable starting point. We need to be kind in our conversations, and tender in our telling of the truth, because what people need before they need to understand what the Bible says about their lifestyle choices is the gospel. We cannot lead people to God’s greatest act of love by leading with a theological argument. Before people need a lesson on doctrine, biblical literacy or the inerrancy of Scripture (ps, tell you kids what the inerrancy of scripture means!!), they need the Gospel. Not the other way around. It is a person’s relationship with Jesus that will help them see what He says in His word and start applying it. Without the gospel, none of us can change. My teenager can’t stop being disrespectful, the bully on the playground can’t stop being aggressive, that bachelor can’t stop looking at porn, that neighbor can’t stop gossiping, and someone struggling with same-sex attraction or stuck in sexual sin has no means for change without the gospel. (if you need help talking to the kids about the Gospel’s relevance to our hearts and lives, please consider getting a copy of THE MOMMY DIARIES to foster Gospel-driven change conversations with your kids!)
  • Always remember that how we act is as important as what we believe. We are, for Christ, both messengers and witnesses. If we want to be messengers of His truth, we have to be witnesses of His love.

God’s love doesn’t mean we accept ideologies and ideas contrary to scripture because that seems “more loving”. It’s actually the opposite. The world tells us that to be truly loving is to “love people just the way they are”. But that is not loving. God loved us so much He died so we wouldn’t be stuck “just the way we are” (Rom 5 v 6-8), relegated to a life separate from Him, His peace and His purposes.

“What separates Christianity from other faiths is found in the scandal of grace. It is when we acknowledge our brokenness and inability to live as God wants us to that we begin to experience inner transformation.”

Sean McDonnel

Be Truthful:

In Jesus we saw the example of how love and truth must always go together. He showed us in the way He lived his life that they cannot be separated.

Bring truth in love, and do not sacrifice either, because only truth in love is the fullness of Christ.

Mila Venter

And to His followers, Jesus said: “If you love me keep my commandments” – Jesus said (John 14 v 15). But truthfulness gets tricky when the LGBTQ issue or any other type of lifestyle sin hits close to home. Like when it’s someone we know and love. And we are tempted to tell our kids, when they ask why “so and so” has chosen to do “such and such”, that it’s “it’s ok for him but it’s not ok for us”. What we don’t realise is that this definition categorises truth as 100% subjective, exactly in the “your truth is your truth, my truth is mine” way the world presents it. If you’re truth is your truth and my truth is my truth then what we are talking about is not truth, but opinion. Rather say “it’s not ok for anyone, but he/ she does not believe that. That doesn’t mean we don’t love him/ her. It just means we make different choices.”  In a post-truth culture, we need to be clear with our kids about understanding the nature of truth.

And one of the things we need to be the most truthful about, is love, because this is what our culture tells our kids about what love looks like:

Loving our neighbor = affirming every narrative our neighbor holds to. Every latest sitcom normalises alternative lifestyles and shows our teens that real friendship means saying “You are so brave, I support you no matter what!” But what if that is what God had done for us? What if He had said to us – “you do you! I support you no matter what!”. That is not merciful, loving or gracious. And brazen sin is not brave. And being supportive of it is not loving. We live in a world that tells us that hurting someone’s feelings is what we should truly fear, not the ultimate spiritual position and the health of their eternal souls. It is indeed a most unloving approach to love and as those set apart we have become really terrible at loving people enough to tell them the truth.

“Our culture has wrongly equated loving everyone with approving everything”

Lisa Bevere

So how then do we bring the truth to conversations about love and tolerance, identity and gender, biology and feelings, choice and freedom? What will be their foundation in current culture’s arguments against truth?

This is what I told my kids:

  • Soulish love and spiritual love are not the same thing. Love covering all cannot be used as an excuse for the acceptance of sin. One theologian said “better bad theology with love than any theology without love” but these things cannot be mutually exclusive. It can’t be love at the price of truth or vice versa, well it can, but then we can’t call it Christlike. We can’t call it “what Jesus did”. Jesus is 100% love and 100% truth, that is the fullness of who He is (Eph 4 v 13-16). So without that what we are preaching, what we are representing, is simply not Christ.
  • In a world obsessed with “freedom” which means the absence of restriction, the Bible calls us to a new kind of freedom. Tim Keller puts it this way:

“A fish is designed for water. It is meant to breathe and move in water. Only in water is it free to realize all its inner potentials. But if it is not confined to the water, it cannot realize this freedom. If it is “free” from any restrictions—free to go up on land—then it will die.”

Tim Keller

  • True freedom, then, is not the absence of constraints or restrictions. It is finding and complying with the right restrictions, the ones that fit the givens of our nature and being. Who better to tell us what those are than the One who called into existence our very selves? History is a wasteland of people who pursued the worldly freedom to dispose of the “yoke” of morality and Christian values, to their own destruction. Being left to ourselves has not worked out well for any of us. That is why Jesus came!
  • We live in a world where people believe that how you feel dictates who you are. That it’s our desires that define us. The very nature of the LGBTQ argument affirms this. But the Bible says that Jesus came to restore us from the desires that are at war within us (Gal 5 v 17). The world says those desires define us, but Jesus came to truly set us free!
  • We are all broken, every last one of us, even if our brokenness is expressed in different ways. Brokenness = sin. Sin = the distortion and depravity that is part of every person. Paul states so clearly in 1 Cor 6 v 9 – 11 how we are all sinners, justified only by faith (Rom 5 v 1), battling all our different genetic, hormonal, environmental, and contextual difficulties and disorders that constantly incline us towards sin. It is important for our kids to understand this because the distortion of our affection is justified everywhere around us, the loudest voices in the crowd is calling us to love ourselves first, put ourselves first and be true to ourselves first, because, according to the world, that is what freedom is and that is what is the truest truth and the highest love. But that is not the truth of Scripture.
  • The world and its Instavangelists tell us to just trust ourselves, to follow our hearts, but you just have to be around people for a second to realise that we don’t have to be taught to lie, cheat, steal, be selfish. Original sin is a reality, and that is what has made the heart deceitful above all things (Jer 17 v9) – certainly NOT worth following, until you can – through faith receive a new heart, and a new spirit (Heb 8 v 10). In a world where gender-confused individuals believe their desires reveal their “true self”, it really only reveals the sin nature that is true for all of us. The Bible doesn’t speak of the “true self”. It speaks only of the old self (dead to sin) and the new self (alive to Christ). So the best thing we can do is not to become more like ourselves (whatever that means in terms of feelings/ desires) but to rather become more like Jesus. Putt off the old self, and be constantly renewed (Eph 4 v 22 – 24). All of us need this.
  • That is why the gospel is good news for every single person.
  • But the Gospel is hard, that is a fact. Why? Because it represents a dying to self (Gal 5 v 24), it represents a cross to carry (Matt 16 v 24 – 26), it represents repentance of everything that is contrary to His order and ordinances. The cross will always make us choose. An old way of life, or a new one as I’ve already mentioned. And secondly, when God calls us He doesn’t just call us out of some sins. He calls us to repent of all sin. God does not call us out of these things to be a party-pooper, His biggest driver is always love. And so He calls us out of these things because He knows, they can never bring about our ultimate, eternal good and thriving.

“To carry a cross means you are walking away, and you are never coming back.” A. W. Tozer.

Be Prepared:

Especially in the teenage years and going into young adulthood, our kids are going to be confronted with these things and drawn into conversations about them, whether in person or online.

“You need a thick skin and a soft heart to stay faithful in this world”

Jackie Hill Perry

Here are some things that are good to know for them (and us) to be prepared in these conversations:

  • Not everyone is going to want to hear what you think about this. And that is ok. If you are a kind person, you will in your life have many opportunities to walk with people, and they may even ask for your help or guidance. Always be ready to share what you believe. Also always be ready to defend what you believe. That’s 1 Pet 3 v 13! But never confuse these 2 things. God is a relational God, and it’s not your job to go out and crusade for truth in the absence of relationship and love. Especially in this space and in these conversations, we need to have soft hearts for people who are hurting.
  • Our kids live in a way more volatile world than us, the internet brings aggression, anger, and hate right into our hands, our homes, our hearts. So we need to be sure they know: Yes, your convictions can be expressed, but be sure to express them with compassion. That whole sticks and stones thing is “malarkey” as my dad would say, words ignite, words explode. And we will get it wrong, all of us, all the time. Sadly, what has happened in the church around this issue is an example of this. So remember to be gracious. There is only ONE Word that is infallible, the One that became flesh (John1v14).
  • Walk in step with the Spirit and always practice discernment. 1 Cor 2 v 14 tells us that not everyone is open to the things of the Spirit of God, that to some, it’s foolishness. Seeds cannot be planted in soil like that.
  • Remember that love and compassion should not demand agreement. But, and this is a pretty big but, the rights of one group should not be used as a weapon against the beliefs of another. And that is what we now see happen in the US and it will start to happen everywhere. Disagreement is not the same as discrimination, but there are many agendas today that will try to make it seem such. We need to be aware of this and do what He told us to do when the love of many start to grow cold, which is to endure, with His help (Matt 24 v 11 – 12).
  • We don’t have to honor someone’s lifestyle or choices. We do have to honor their humanity because we have to honor God. We do have to love much because we have been forgiven much (Luke 7 v 47). Remember God looks at our hearts.

“Theological zeal must be subject to the test of love. Not all zeal is from God. Even when the error we oppose is clearly heresy, our aim must be to heal, not to disgrace”

Gavin Ortlund.

If you want to engage with me on this, I would love to hear from you, so please connect with me where I am most of the time, which is here.

I will try my best to respond. Know that every single one of my readers and subscribers are in my prayers.

SATURATED, INTIMIDATED,UNDERESTIMATED

SATURATED, INTIMIDATED,UNDERESTIMATED

Why we don’t prioritize time with God and what we can do about it.

I detest blogs that sound like they want to inform me about something that would be to my benefit, but then all they do is make me feel guilty… like I fall short in some way…make me feel like there is yet another thing that I should be doing that I’m just not getting to. That’s why I often avoid parenting books (don’t we already have enough mommy guilt!) and why the one I wrote was written specifically NOT to make you feel that way, because the minute you become a parent, you become instantly and regularly familiar with all the ways you fall short, am I right? So let me assure you, this blog is not like that

Friends share the good news, the great recipes, the tidbit about that child friendly restaurant or that cheap travel deal, right? When you care about someone you want to be generous with the very best information. And that is why I wrote this blog. Not because I want to add something to your list that you already know you should be doing (you know, like finally cleaning out the garage) but just can’t get to,  but because spending time in God’s word is one of the most fascinating, nourishing and deeply impactful activities I’ve ever engaged in, and I want that for you!

Here are some of the reasons I think we don’t spend time with God:

We are Saturated

I have 2 teenage boys in my house. They are never not hungry! When you are a mom of boys you are only ever busy with 3 things: Making meals, planning meals or shopping for meals. Ask anyone! My boys approach the dinner table with enthusiasm, because they are, in their words, “starving”. One of the reasons we do not prioritize time in God’s word is because we are not starving. We are saturated. We have many teachers regurgitating for us pre digested morsels. A verse of the day here, a pretty Instagram quote there, a page a day devotional or a 15 minute podcast while driving. What we are choosing to consume takes very little effort from our side, but also little discernment. Kind of like eating processed foods instead of a from-scratch-made-with-love meal. You would not keep yourself or your family fed on processed fast foods indefinitely. But many of us keep going on that kind of spirit diet.  And when you are full of candy floss and cupcakes, do you know what you don’t feel like eating? Real food. And that works fine, until things get hectic. Until a trial, a race, a war erupts in our lives.

We have forgotten that we are in a race so we don’t eat like athletes. We have forgotten that we are in a war so we don’t fill up or dress up like soldiers.

And then, when it comes time for perseverance, when it comes time for testing of our faith, mostly through suffering and trial, but also through temptation, that the bible warns us is an inevitability, our tanks are empty, we’ve long ago used up the low GI fuel supplied to us by our light crudité style snacking.

Jesus wants to be our sustenance in the time of uncertainty, trial and difficulty.

He says that in John 6 v 35. He himself was in the wilderness and what sustained Him is the thing that will also sustain us. God’s word (Matt 4 v 4). God doesn’t want to give us certainty instead of our uncertainty, he wants to give us a certain grip on him. And He does that faithfully when we prioritise His word.

The Christian life thrives with the bible, just like the body thrives with good nourishment, exercise and hydration. Jesus said I am the bread of life, He said “come to me for living water”, so when we come to the word of God we are attending to the health of our soul and our spirit, we are feeding our greatest and truest hunger.

We are Intimidated

I often hear people say that they wish to hear from God. That they hope to know His will. Then I always ask them what they read that morning. Because to this day, the primary way God speaks is through His Word. And you don’t need a theology degree to hear Him. Jesus himself said that His revelation is more often hidden from the wise and revealed to the childlike and simple (Matt 11 v 15). We read a lot of things every day, without the need of translation, but for some reason when we come to God’s word our expectation of ourselves is usually too high and our expectation of God is usually too low. He promises us in His word when we draw near to Him He will draw near to us (James 4 v 8). James also tells us that when we ask for wisdom He will give it to us without reviling us (James 1 v 5 – 6) if we ask in faith. Faith is asking knowing that God wants to give us wisdom, not asking hoping that He will but fearing that maybe, just maybe, He doesn’t really want to or He won’t,  which is often the attitude with which we come to the word of God. Is it any wonder we treat God’s word as something we have to “fit in”? We treat it like a chore because we think we have to work on it, we do not come with the expectation that it will work on us, which is what the Word was made to do! God himself watches over it to ensure that it will accomplish what He pleases (Is 55 v 11). You don’t have to worry about that. But what you do have to worry about is what kind of expectation you have as you approach your time in God’s word.

Often our problem is that we have forgotten that reading God’s word is an act of love not an action on a to do list, that our time with God is a relationship to build not a box to tick, that it is the daily momentum we need to move towards meaning and maturity.

We have underestimated our true state

When I feel lukewarm towards spending time with God, I always remind myself of the story in Luke 7 of the sinful woman who came to kiss Jesus’ feet and anointed Him with oil. And Jesus said those who have been forgiven much love much. The reason we don’t prioritise time with God is because we forget that we have a deep need. That, our deep need, much more than an obligation or a “should”,  must be our “reason why”. Our love wanes and our devotion lapses because we lose sight of who we really are and what we really need.  We are so distracted and entertained that we forget about our own spiritual state. We are so over saturated with candy floss Christianity that we forget how much we need God’s grace, God’s involvement, God’s direction in our daily lives.  When we become disconnected and distracted from the essence of the gospel in our lives we quickly and easily start underestimating our need for God, because the gospel remains compelling only to someone aware of the truth of their spiritual state.

Many of us live lukewarm lives, no different from the world around us because we do not consistently connect ourselves with the transformative and victorious, which is only found in God’s Word. And just like time in God’s word will manifest as faith, joy, hope, growth, maturity, direction, focus and blessing in our lives, so lack of time in God’s word will also manifest in different ways:

  • Persistent struggles with fear, worry and anxiety, and having your inner peace and joy dependent on your circumstances;
  • Not being able to discern the truth and being ensnared by deceptive teaching and heresy which places you outside of the will of God and the blessings of righteousness;
  • Lack of direction, which not only has personal consequences, but it also means you are ill-equipped to equip your children for a hard and difficult world;
  • Lack of fruit and thriving;
  • Lack of victory over areas of stubborn sin;
  • Lack of meaning, leading us to idolatry as we try to create meaning for ourselves;
  • Defenseless against spiritual attacks without the Sword of the Word;
  • An inability to respond when people question your faith, which diminishes your witness and influence for the Kingdom.

These are just some of what we suffer when our lives are devoid of connection with God via His word and prayer.  If your faith feels powerless and empty, consider how you view the Bible, which is your primary exposure to the truth

GK Chesterton said “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult and left untried.” And it’s true. I think we live in a time where we have thought because we have Bibles and we say we love them we have truly seen what the Word can do in people, in us. But I don’t think we have.

The Bible only becomes a sword when we become it’s soldiers. The Bible only becomes a kiln when we become it’s clay, the Word only becomes our standard when we become it’s students.

If this is something you desire for yourself, for your family and for your life, why not sign up for my 5 day Biblestudy Course, called DWELL, aimed at equipping you with the basic steps and tools to truly engage with the Word of God. Sign up here – it’s free!

Dear Grade 1 Mom, these 10 things will help you through that first year…

Dear Grade 1 Mom, these 10 things will help you through that first year…

Sending your kid off to “big school” is hard, even if it wasn’t during a pandemic! If you have a new Gr1 in your home this is a uniquely challenging year, and I get it. I was the mom in the oversized sunnies weeping haplessly in the car on the way home on that first day. Like trying to hold water in a cup made of toiletpaper. That was me trying to hold back tears on my eldest’ first day of school. He’s 14 now and won’t read this so I am not embarrassed to say it (or to post a picture of just how adorable he was mind you!). 

As I recently mentioned over on www.wifemomtravel.com, being a boy mom is like someone breaking up with you very very slowly. But regardless of whether you are sending your boy or girl off to school, that walk away from the school gate feels like a tear in the fabric of your heart, here are 10 things I learned that I hope will help you through that first year (and all the ones to follow!)

  1. Remember that anxiety is contagious. Kids are like dogs in that way, it’s like they just know when there is fear, panic or anxiety around. What has really helped me is to shroud this day, this event, and me and my child in it, in prayer. Need help with this? 5 Ways to pray for your child in the new school year
  2. Expect more from God and less from yourself. Remember, parenting will test the fiber of your faith. Your biggest battles will not and should not be fought in the principal’s office or at the parent/teacher meeting, but on your knees before the Lord. That is where you will make the most progress and see the greatest results in the life of your child. 
  3. And speaking of expectations, right now, going in, set your hope in the right place. Especially among some spheres of our society, the school convo is a big one. But the majority of our countrymen do not have a choice about where their kids go to school. This one thing I know for sure: My child’s future is not in the hands of a school – regardless of how fancy, a principle – regardless of how well regarded, a set of strategically executed moves – regardless of how well reasoned. It is in God’s hands. We should not rely on things, people, countries, institutions or relationships to deliver in the lives of our children what only God can deliver – a secure future and an eternal destiny. 
  4. You cannot control what is about to happen. But I couldn’t say it better than Lysa Terkeurst when she said: “One of the best things you could do as a mom is recognize that God is good at being God.” 
  5. Get clever with the time in the car. Whether it’s a 10 minute trip or whether you have to get up early to trek across the city, the opportunity of having your child as your captive audience for that time is precious. Use it wisely. My book, the mommy diaries, evolved out of conversations I had with my kids in the car. Conversations about winning, losing, about things that happened to them at school, among their friends. on the news, and it’s a great tool to help you transfer your values so you can raise kids with courage and character, simply by using their everyday experiences and your everyday opportunities. 
  6. Be prepared. You are inevitably going to arrive at school when it’s raining. Or wish you had change for the tuck-shop cause he forgot his lunch on the counter. Again. Or you’re going to arrive at 7 and it will already be scorching and no one thought to pack sunscreen. Here is what I keep in the car for the 433 hours a year I spend between home and school . Also be prepared with some clever questions so you can draw out more than a “fine”/ “nothing” to your “How was your day?”/ “What did you learn?” questions on the trip home after school. Be sure to check out my stories on Instagram this week OR check the Mom of Boys highlight on my profile here! 
  7. Get involved at school. And no, I don’t mean be one of those parents who are forever complaining about things. Go ask anyone, it’s always the parents who complain the most who do the least! Don’t be that mom! Research reveals that there is a direct link between your involvement at your child’s school and your child’s performance. No matter their income or background, kids with involved parents are more likely to have higher marks in class, attend school regularly, have better social skills, show improved behavior, and adapt well to school. And your involvement will not just bless your child. If you are in a racially and economically diverse school, your involvement will bless the kids  whose parents are not able to be involved, bless the teachers and the school as a whole. 
  8. Embrace this transition in your child’s life as an opportunity to foster independence. For example prepping/ packing their own schoolbag/ using a planner/ diary, setting up a study space or desk and using an alarm clock in the mornings. Why not make a list of skills you want your child to learn by the end of the first school year and put it on the fridge so you can track his/ her progress together. 
  9. Have the big discussions early. I heard Hettie Brits speak about it this way once. When we are intentional about discussing certain things with our kids, for example sex and other tricky things, it’s like we open a file in the filing cabinet that is their brains. If we open the file first, giving them God’s truth about that topic first, every other thing they hear and see into the future needs to line up with that truth. But if we lack the courage or intentionality to have that discussion with them, someone else might open the file and place information in it that does not agree with your values or world view. Do not underestimate the spirit and insight of your child, have the hard talks. And do not underestimate what of the world your child will be encountering in the first year of school. It is both your job and your calling to prepare him/ her. 
  10. Be nice to the teachers. Not because you are trying to get into anyone’s good graces, but because, well, they deserve it! Teachers have a tough job at the best of times, and the last year has taken a toll on our teachers as they had to adapt to changing conditions, as they had to continue to try to serve our kids under challenging circumstances, as they risked their health to be with our kids and as some of them unfairly bore the brunt of many parents’ unwillingness to continue to pay school fees. We can honor teachers by not complaining about them in front of our kids, and we can serve them by recognizing the challenges of their job, doing something kind for them and by staying involved with our own child’s educational development. Check out this great gift idea for the beginning of term!

You are going to be tempted to worry about a lot of things. You are going to find yourself outside the school gate with other worried moms, with concern over this teacher/ that news bulletin/ the fact that your kid keeps losing his jersey gathering like a storm in your heart. Breath, remember Who is really in charge of it all, and then parent like that’s true.

5 questions to help you choose your Word for the Year

5 questions to help you choose your Word for the Year

Now let me just confess this upfront. I’m a list maker by nature. I love the idea of ordering my thoughts and hopes and dreams into the most beautiful outline, most creative presentation, as though simply the act of putting pen to paper and making it look instapretty can provide the impetus required to push through on every lofty ideal for the new year. And when the 31st of December rolls around I am just about giddy with the”blank page, second chance, do-over” 1 January presents. But here is the problem with New Years Resolutions:

The truth is that we are all actually plagued by this one question: “How best should I live my life?” In recent years this has changed to “How do I live my best life?”… like it’s some kind of external construction that a vision board and a protein shake with kale will bring us. But deep down we know, our life flows from the inside out (Luke 6 v 45), not the other way around. Whatever we might want to change on the outside (exercise more/ spend less/ eat healthier/ be more patient) must first change on the inside (understand why I don’t exercise/ understand why I overspend/ understand why I comfort eat/ understand why I yell in the traffic), and there is only one way to change on the inside. Transformation doesn’t happen with goals or lists or plans. New Years Resolutions bring with them the allure of “This year I will “do” differently, when what we all really need is to “be” different before we can “do” differently. What we really need is an inner work. And so I have struggled and written many times about how best to approach a new year that doesn’t call us to fall into a more/more/more or a do/do/do trap that has no lasting impact.

The only thing I’ve ever seen cause true change in people’s lives is a deep and overwhelming understanding of the Gospel. And the only thing I have seen cause that change to be lasting and enduring is the work of the Holy Spirit through God’s word in the life of a believer. God’s word is penetrating (Heb 4 v 12) and more effective (2 Tim 3 v 16 – 17) than any insta slogan or vision board or hustle culture book with a relatable catchy title on the front and a lot of self-help covered in Christian-ese sauce on the inside.

And so at the start of every year, I ask God to give me a word for the year. I pray for it, and it starts to take shape during my devotional time, as I read and meditate, where a theme or word just keeps popping up or just deeply resonates and drives me in my reading. This word then serves to inspire me to live a life of faith, serves as a daily reminder of His truth and can become a prophetic marker in making decisions and moving ahead.

As you read and pray over the next few days, here are some questions you can ask yourself to help you identify your word for 2021:

  1. What area in your spiritual development has your conscience, the Holy Spirit been directing you to pay attention to?
  2. What do you most need that only God can give that will help you take the next step in your calling?
  3. What familiar themes are you noticing in your reading of God’s Word that seems to come up repeatedly? Remember His word is the first place He speaks. Whatever else we “hear” in the world must first line up with what we see in the Word.
  4. If you could ask God to accomplish one thing in your heart this year, what would it be?
  5. If you came to the end of 2021 and you looked back, what would you be praising God for accomplishing in you?

Hustle culture and its proponents have, by and large, ignored the fact that the call on the life of a believer is primarily about 2 things: Others and God’s Kingdom. Not self. In fact, to follow in Jesus’s footsteps is not merely less of self but the death of self. Not our vision for our life but His. Not our benefit but the benefit of those around us and the advancement of His Kingdom. If we say we believe the Bible we cannot separate ourselves from these truths.

So, whether you choose a word of whether you are a new years resolution or goals type girl, the best way to stay aligned with God in the way we enter into a new season is to choose goals/ words/ verses or markers that will:

  • Glorify God and Grow us
  • Give God space to move and guide us
  • Grounds us in His love more and more so we can be truly, deeply, internally transformed more and more.
Friendship Breakups

Friendship Breakups

And how to walk away with grace and peace

Any good equestrian will tell you that the best way to measure how good someone is at riding horses is not by how many ribbons they’ve won, but by how many times they’ve fallen off and gotten back on the horse again. If one can be qualified on the topic of friendship by that same measurement then I am supremely qualified, ‘cause I have messed this up, like, a lot! I am not writing this blog because I think I am an expert, but because I think I have a bit of insight on how to navigate this with at least a measure of grace and peace. And because, well, we never talk about this, and maybe we should.

Whether it be a change of season, a change of location, a change of circumstance or a change of opinion, facing the end of a friendship is an inevitable part of life. Maybe there was a break in trust. Maybe the friendship has started affecting your calling, your spiritual potential or your relationship with God or others. Whatever the reason, friendship breakups are hard and they can be messy. So how can we deal with this difficult thing with grace and peace? Here are a few do’s and dont’s:

Don’t miss the opportunity for introspection

There are 2 sides to every story, that is for sure, and whether you are the one exiting the friendship or not, these painful yet significant life moments are important times for taking stock. Usually it’s someones junk, their issues, or your junk and your issues, that affect one’s ability to engage in meaningful healthy friendship. In female friendships – and I will just come straight out and say this now because it’s true and you are already thinking it – this often looks like envy, jealousy, comparison or fear that is dealt with in the wrong way and affecting the relationship to the point where it becomes toxic or there is a break in trust or both. There are 5 things that I believe help friendships stand the test of time and help them thrive. Read about that here. These elements represent a great litmus test for the health of any friendship, so as you pause to take stock,why not re-envisage what you value most in friendship and what you hope to commit yourself to and look for in your friendships in the future?

Don’t over-explain yourself:

Give the other party the curtesy of a clear explanation and apologise where you need to. But don’t over explain. Some of us are relentless over explainers and as much as we think we are making things better, we could be making them worse, cluttering the conversation and clouding the clarity that we knew existed when we resolved to end the friendship. Here is something I learned the hard way: Sometimes people are committed to misunderstanding you, and trying to explain yourself to people who have already made up their mind about you is both harmful and wasteful. Sometimes people need to make you the bad guy in the story, and you over-explaining yourself will not move them from that position. Be ok with that.

Binding and loosing (Matt 18 v 18) are both spiritual principles so we must deal with them carefully especially as it pertains to who we walk through life with, and so the end of a friendship is not just an emotional occurrence but also a spiritual one. Often the more you talk and rehash and confront, the more pain and hurt can be caused. Be as clear, kind, and concise as you can be without inviting further drama, we are all grown-ups after all. The other party is bound to come to some sort of insight as to your position eventually, and vice versa. With a little bit of common sense and self-awareness people usually get to a place of insight and understanding as they regard in hindsight where things went wrong. And that is often where the grace lies.

 Don’t desire closure over forgiveness:

We often say we desire closure when what we really want is:

  • to have our say. But if we are honest, we will know, that is just the ego talking.
  • to put a neat little full stop after an emotional event. But if we are honest we only desire that so we can better cope with what happened.

Even though we understand cerebrally that relationships can be messy because people are messy, we like this idea that we can have things wrapped up in a neat little bow. Be ok with that not always being possible.  Most of the time our deepest need is not for closure, but for forgiveness. To recieve God’s forgiveness for our contribution to the demise of a relationship. And to have His forgiveness clear the way for us to forgive the person who hurt us.  If God has extended grace to you, would you not extend it to yourself and to someone else? Forgiveness is accepting the apology you may never receive. Forgiveness is also the first step towards healing, which is so much more life-giving, with the spiritual and emotional power to re-allign you. Closure cannot and does not accomplish this, only forgiveness can.

Don’t rally for support:

I know you want to! It’s natural! Especially if you are feeling wronged. Especially if you may be the one walking away with the more than just this relationship being caught in the fray. I feel you! I’ve been there! But don’t be tempted to rally support. It’s not only ungraceous but it does not make for peace.

That means you cover over the transgressions of the person that might have been the very reasons you left. Do this especially if that person is in ministry/ a fellow believer – God specifically tells us not to speak against His anointed (Psalm 105 v 15). Hear me here: of course, I am not talking about covering over abuse of any kind, I am talking about the context of the friendship and whatever hurts, slights or sins caused toxicity and disruption leading to the end of the relationship. Very often (and I have first hand experience in this) we have to protect someone’s reputation by not telling our side of the story. That can be costly. It can cost you your reputation and other relationships that were a part of a specific friendship circle or season in your life. God knows that and He sees you doing the right thing even when it’s hard and seems unfair. Being in right standing before God is worth way more than appearing to be right before others. Go ahead and read that again.

Don’t force things:

Sometimes we hold on for longer than we should. It might be that we feel like we would be “losing” our history with this person, even-though our attempts to hold on to that past might be skewing our perspective of the present day state of the relationship. We hold on because we can’t bear this idea that people are sometimes supposed to exit our lives. We hold on because we have this concept that being a Christian means always sticking it out with people, although that is not the example we see in scripture. Sometimes walking in step with the spirit means walking away. We have this idea that loving people like Jesus did means hanging in there at all costs. The Word does not set this example for us. Samuel knew when it was time to leave a longstanding relationship for the sake of his calling (1 Sam 15 v 27) and Jesus himself set a boundary to ensure He could do what He was called to do (Matt 16 v 23). We all want our relationships to be more and more grounded in the character of Christ and what we saw reflected in the way He managed all of His relationships. I think if we were to look at the the entire Word as a directive we will be less plagued by guilt and shame when friendships end for the right reasons.

Do not stay where your entire authentic self is not welcome or where your calling, gifting or healthy boundaries are under constant threat. There is a season for everything, even friendships. Friendships are not guaranteed to be lifelong relationships. In fact most aren’t and that is ok. There can be reconsiliation, but there doesn’t have to be relationship. You don’t have to reconstruct friendship with those you have forgiven. Those are 2 seperate things.

Pray for them:

The end of a friendship can be nothing short of dramatic. Don’t give resentment and bitterness time to fester and grow. Prayer is one of the best ways we can combat this. Read this if you want to know how.

Grieve them and forgive them:

Even if the friendship simply ended because the person moved on/ away, if we are honest with ourselves we may have disappointments and unmet expectations to deal with surrounding the friendship. It hurt because it mattered! It’s healthy to acknowledge this. I think some of the self focussed narrative of cancel culture etc exists because we don’t want to acknowledge the hurt in a situation, we think we are tougher, more evolved, more mature when we just make a “clean break”, walk away and never look back. It might be harder to acknowledge that something truly hurt, but it’s also better. It gives the relationship the acknowledgment within a certain time and space, that it probably deserves. Maybe say a private good-bye, giving full vent to your hurts and owning your parts. Journalling is a great way to do this. Above all, get your conscience clear before the Lord, do the work of grieving and forgiving so even this difficult event can bring you closer to God and His purposes for you.

And then lastly trust God in this process. I have experienced in my own life that man’s rejection is often God’s redirection. Grow from what you know and understand. Make ammends where you can. Hold on to your peace. And trust that nothing escapes purpose in the life of a believer, and even our missteps and mistakes have redemptive potential if our hearts are soft towards God. Dealing well with these things mean we can walk on, not just walk away.

PS: Friendship breakups are just one part of the complexities surrounding human relationships. Especially moms of girls have a difficult time helping their kids navigate the often stormy climate of female relationships. My book can help with this so check that out if you like! And hopefully, we can share some friendship lessons with our kids, so they can better navigate the reality of this in their lives.

What I told my kids about Covid19 – 7 Keys to help them cope

What I told my kids about Covid19 – 7 Keys to help them cope

How can we help our kids cope with COVID19? Do you also feel like at the moment we are making a gazillion dreadful decisions every day, go to work/ stay home, go to school/ school at home, eat out/ eat-in, visit/ don’t visit? All the regular things of life have been upgraded to monumental declarations of position, opinion and faith. And our kids have a front-row seat to the whole thing, to the anxiety, the struggle of work, finances, “home” school and the constant flux in context and every other impossible challenge this pandemic has thrown at us, with their own little lives, not to mention futures, currently residing under a giant question mark. These are hard days. 

The undercurrent of anxiety that is now part of our homes affects all of us in different ways, even our kids. Their stress might not look like ours does, like too much coffee and too little sleep, or too many hours escaping in Netflix, but that doesn’t mean it’s not there. Kids become unmotivated, discouraged and younger kids even regress due to stress. Have you seen any of that happen at home? Here are some helpful focus points in shepherding our kids through this season:

Create predictability

Stress is most often a product of uncertainty, and so in this our kids have the same needs we have when we are stressed –  predictability, security, and practical tools!  These must include regular exercise, and a daily routine that takes at least some of the uncertainty out of a very uncertain time and helps them know what to expect in a time of a lot of unexpected things. One of the things that kids stress about the most is not knowing what’s going to happen next. And even if the one minute they can go to school and the next minute they can’t (which is one of many uncertainties we as parents can’t control), there is a lot of comfort in creating a little bit of predictability in their day in order to better cope with the unpredictability of life. Doing this for them (even if it doesn’t come naturally) and for ourselves is one of the best ways to deal with the stress of this season. If you are suddenly juggling work/home/school a flexible but predictable routine will be your saving grace. 

Learn to Pivot

No, this point does not oppose the first one! If you’ve been around here for any length of time you will know that I believe flexibility is like a superpower. And by flexibility I don’t mean chopping and changing, I mean creating structures and routines that are more task bound than time-bound. That means our routines can adapt to changes in our circumstances, like someone getting sick or a car breaking down (or some new and unexpected news from the President’s command council let’s say). It’s about knowing what you want to get done but being flexible about the when and how. A goal-driven routine (as opposed to a time-driven one) will help you accomplish that and allow you to pivot when you need to. Keep an eye on the blog for a course on this coming soon. 

Provide Perspective

In my book I used some of the many names of God to teach my kids about His character. As AW Tozer rightly says, what comes into our mind when we think about God is the most important thing about us. In the face of a global tragedy, what do we tell our kids about God? Did God cause this to happen to us? What does this tragedy reveal about His character? Our faith remains the lens that we view all of life through, so we need to help our kids (and maybe even ourselves) to have the right perspective on this pandemic. Our older kids might have questions, and our younger kids are at the perfect age for us to deliberately bring biblical understanding to this confusing context. I will just briefly highlight some helpful discussion points. 

God did not cause this pandemic:

Like other natural disasters and pandemics, it’s a product of living in a fallen world, where there exists natural evil and moral evil, sometimes acting separately and sometimes converging to cause disaster. The pandemic once again evidences to us that there is brokenness between us and creation and us and our Creator and in a broken world, human sin, suffering, and pain are simply inevitable. If we did not want to recognize this fact before we have to recognize it now because it cannot be ignored and it’s a wonderful waypoint to discuss the gospel with our kids and what it means for us today and into eternity. God didn’t cause this pandemic, but He can use it in the lives of people. 

We live in scary times but we don’t need to be scared:

What did Jesus want us to know about being here on earth before He left? In his “farewell discourse”, in the 13th to 17th chapters of the Gospel of John, Jesus clearly displayed the truth that his death and resurrection had both temporal (for today) and prophetic (for eternity) application, and these are great words to go over with our kids. Some of His final words to us include tellings us to “take heart”, in Greek the word means to take courage. How can we be courageous? By remembering that Jesus took the sting out of death and the teeth out of suffering, both of which we will face on earth but neither of which have the final say over us. This truth means we face the realities of COVID 19 differently. It has to! 

(I know sometimes the gospel/ biblical concepts can be hard to explain to kids, and as adults sometimes we understand something in our heads/ hearts but we don’t have the words for it. My book helps with this. Just saying.). 

<What I told my kids about Covid19 - 7 Keys to help them cope

Process Disappointment

Disappointment. It’s become a staple of this season for grown-ups and kids alike. On some level, we are all mourning losses, canceled plans, even the death of loved ones, all the “could’ve been’s and shoud’ve been’s” of school tours and galas and matric dances and hopes and dreams and plans and goals. 

Validate their experiences

One of the best ways to help our kids deal with their disappointment is to validate its existence. To acknowledge that it’s terrible that he won’t be going on hockey tour/ she can’t have a birthday party/ we can’t go to granny’s house. It’s sad and sore and unfair. One of the most precious things we learned as a church this year has been the value of lament (Thank you Pastor Richard!). 

The examples of lament in scripture is of people allowing themselves to come before God with their heartbrokenness, their disappointments, not with complaining as the end goal, but for the sake of drawing them near to a God who hears, sees and understands. Why not use this opportunity to teach your kids to mourn and then release their disappointing experiences to God? There are almost 42 Psalms of lament that you can use to help you. 

What I told my kids about Covid19 - 7 Keys to help them cope

Practice Gratitude

In lament, we mourn the loss of something good, and in that sense, it is also an acknowledgment of all that has been good in our lives. That we have things/ people that are worth mourning is a wonderful privilege! Is your son sad about not going on a hockey tour? Why not talk about what he would’ve enjoyed about it most? Frustrated at not being able to visit her favorite places? What makes it a place she loves and misses? In the context of loss and disappointment, we can highlight for our kids how much good we truly have in our lives, and in doing so shift the focus to what remains good instead of what is less than ideal right now. 

I think we talk way more now about what we can’t do and don’t have, much more now about what we lost than what we’ve gained. But this is not the example set for us in scripture. Asaph in Psalm 77, in the context of his difficulty and disappointment, after a heartfelt lament, pivots, makes a diligent search, and comes up with a list that reflects God’s faithfulness. And then he goes one step further, he talks about it

Lean into Prayer

I honestly don’t know how people are getting through this season without Jesus. With so many burdens and concerns, within our own homes and outside our walls, understanding the power of prayer has never been more important. Prayer is also our (and our kids’) first line of defense in helping them bear up, process and cope with so many emotionally and mentally challenging truths of this time, such as increasing poverty and fearful situations and unpredictability. This is what I taught my boys about prayer.

Protect them from the Media

TBH I use to listen to the news a lot more. One of the reasons I started writing the blogs that ended up turning into The Mommy Diaries was because my kids starting asking me about things they heard reported on in the news, such as #FeesMustFall and #metoo

But the old adage, don’t believe everything you read, remains true, especially in South Africa where we do not have a well-regulated and appropriately accountable news media. I learned first-hand this year that even the most “reputable” (and I use this word VERY loosely) news outlet will do anything for clicks and shares even if it means exploiting children and their trauma or blatantly reporting in an unbalanced way. This is what we need to know when we engage with the news: the side of the story that wins every time is the side that induces the most fear, anger and morbid fascination because that will keep us clicking. If we don’t tell our kids this they will also haplessly follow every trend or news story down the rabbit hole of half-truths and sacrifice their very peace in the process!

And now, our kids have phones and WhatsApp and they hear and see everything. And it is 100% up to us to teach them how to walk the line between being watchful and informed on what is necessary to know on one hand, and unaffected, unoffended and unafraid on the other. I don’t get this right all the time, I don’t know many people who do. But in this season where we are constantly being overloaded with information that provides no solutions and burdened by bad news we can do nothing about our discerning consumption is a vital act of safeguarding our kids and our own soul- and spirit-wellness. 

This blog is focused mostly on kids between the ages of 8 and 15, but if you’re kids are younger and you are looking to spark a conversation or simply give them a tool to help them process the mixed emotions of a global pandemic, I can highly recommend you visit https://www.stronganchor.co.za for some very helpful resources. 1 New subscriber to this blog will win their books, Monster in my neighborhood and Monster in my School! 

As parents, it’s up to us to equip our kids to contextualize, understand, and engage with what is happening around them on a basis of truth, compassion and hopefulness. But that’s not always easy. But in an era-defining pandemic, if we do not concern ourselves with our and our kids’ worldview, both our approach and perspective and even our faith and hope will be on shaky ground. The Mommy Diaries was written to help you with this and you can get it here!

4 Ways to keep choosing Fierce Faith

4 Ways to keep choosing Fierce Faith

What word would you use to describe your faith in this season? In our online prayer meeting at church a few weeks ago (yes, cause that’s a thing now), a live poll indicated that more than 70% of people felt that their faith had grown during lockdown! Yay for them, but if I am honest I know that I have struggled to stay within that 70%. I wanted to. But it felt like a fight. A fight for faith. A fight I refuse to walk away from because I know what a life apart from Christ is like and to me that is just not an option. But that doesn’t mean it hasn’t been hard. Most of the time I felt like I was faltering. To be fierce means to show heartfelt and passionate intensity. I want to be a fierce woman of faith, who intently and intensely displays faith.

4 Ways to keep choosing Fierce Faith

But what does the fight for fierce faith look like in this season? I don’t know about you but it feels like there are blows coming at me from all sorts of directions! How can we keep choosing the walk of faith when the journey is this hard? Faith is more than a spiritual position. Sometimes, no often, it’s also a response. And a response is always a choice! Job gave us that example, so did many others in the Bible. So how do we keep choosing fierce faith when we feel like we’re faltering?

We choose fierce faith when we stay fully convinced of God’s intention to perform what He promised:

If anyone needed ferocious faith it was Abraham and Sarah! Am I right? I mean talk about unlikely people in the kind of circumstances that made what they hope for flat out impossible nevermind what your God promised! But even as the years ticked by and the promise remained just a highlighted set of verses in his bible, Abraham remained fully convinced (Rom 4 v 21) that God was able to perform what He had promised. How did he remain convinced? In him and Sarah’s waiting, they continued to “judge God faithful” (Rom 11 v 11) They fixed their eyes not on the impossibility of their situation, not even on the set of highlighted verses of promise, but on the intention of God to do what He said ((Is 14 v 24). They assessed His track record and became fully convinced that yes, He is able, and in His time also ready to perform His word (Jer 1 v 12).

We choose fierce faith when we acknowledge God’s ability in the face of impossible circumstances:

If Abraham was taking our Corona Poll at Rosebank Union Church, he would have been firmly in the 70%, because rather than growing weak, his faith in God grew stronger while he waited. We read in Rom 4 v 20 that Abraham did not allow himself to waver through unbelief – he did not falter  – which just blows my mind by the way! And through the act of simply holding on, his faith was strengthened. Wow, right?

Faith is not as some people might think, a denial of impossible circumstances. It’s not tattooing “with God all things are possible” on your arm and not watching the news so you are more able to maintain a “positive attitude”. Yes, I’m using inverted commas. And yes, with all the snark you’ve come to expect from yours truly. That is not faith. Faith is not a denial of the problem, it’s believing God’s word in the face of the problem. Biblical faith does not deny the problem or circumstances but holds fast that God remains greater than the problem or the circumstances. Is that the God you know? Because it’s hard to trust someone you don’t know, as I discovered in my fight for hope through the uncertainty Coronavirus.

We choose fierce faith when we choose to believe God has the final word over our circumstances:

Not our words. Not our feelings. God’s final word is yes! Because faith is taking God at His word, not taking our feelings so seriously that we can’t see past them. 

4 Ways to keep choosing Fierce Faith

You see a guarantee, the one we’ve received,  is not a feeling, it’s a contract. What we have been given in the Holy Spirit is not about good vibes (which obviously don’t last long in bad situations), but a guarantee, a pledge. It’s God’s commitment to complete His work in us (Eph 5 v 5, Rom 8 v 23), thereby confirming the Yes that is Jesus, the complete portion, the fulfillment of every promise God ever made! But how does that help me? By His Holy Spirit, we are enabled to live God’s perfection in imperfect situations. God’s perfection is Jesus, who lives in us, making us more and more able to respond perfectly in the difficult and challenging circumstances of our lives, oh and bonus, offering us grace when we don’t!

We choose fierce faith when we choose what we know over what we feel:

Here is the thing that I am realizing. Pastor Dave one of our pastor’s said on Sunday during online church (cause yeah, that’s a thing now too) that our faith in suffering is really our biggest testimony. We are all, right now, becoming what we declare. How scary is that? Right now, all over the world, believers are wrestling, and it’s because our doctrine, what we truly believe about God and what we believe about the world in relation to God is never more apparent than when we are in crisis.

The fact is that our doctrine is our everyday companion, it is coming out of our mouths and our fingertips, rolling around in our thoughts and manifesting itself in our homes all the time, maybe without us even being conscious of it. What we believe about God and the world is evident in how we work, how we entertain ourselves (jip, in the TV series we pick!),  how we speak and eat, and yes, in how we suffer and struggle. One of the reasons I wrote The Mommy Diaries is because of this fact, that our fundamental beliefs are not some random mental state we engage from time to time, but it actually shows itself in every action and situation. And that it’s ultimately our children’s beliefs that drive their behaviors, as is the case with us, whether we like it or not. So addressing the beliefs rather than the behaviors if you’re a parent, is critical.  

All of my life is the outworking of my beliefs. If so many of us are experiencing a crisis of faith, what we should be doing is working back from that intense worry, anxiety, need for escape, emotional low to the core belief that drives it and measuring that against the doctrine we profess to subscribe to so it can reveal itself as either true, or a lie. So as we go through whatever we’re going through, I hope what we are asking ourselves more is: what do I believe – i.e what is my doctrine? About God…the world…all of this. And hopefully what we are listening to a bit less is: How do I feel? Faith is not a feeling.

Jesus calls us to do the “work of believing” (John  6 v 29). That work is this: consistently lining up your convictions and your action. And for that work to be aligned, correct, built on truth, not a house that will falter and fall when shaken, Jesus should be the plum-line, the ultimate reference point. That’s what a cornerstone is!

Kona Brown

So how can I have this kind of faith? Paul said he could suffer while remaining full of faith because he knew WHOM he had believed and was persuaded beyond any doubt in His ability (2 Tim 1 v 12). The focus of his faith was more than just what he believed, it was in knowing WHOM he had believed. His faith was about more than merely holding on to a set of promises, it was about holding on to the Person behind the promises, so that even if the promises are not fulfilled, then he would remain convinced that even that would be, MUST be, for his good because of the character of Whom he believed, the one who works ALL for our good (Rom 8 v 28), even something that looks like a broken promise or disappointment. Fierce faith rests IN Him (1 Cor 2 v 5), abides in Him (John 15 v 4, 7) and cannot be separated from the loving personhood of God in the Lord Jesus (Rom 8 v 38, 39)


Choosing faith may not eliminate our present pain or difficulty. It probably won’t even stop the many questions we still have. It will not “explain away” our present circumstances. But it will remind us of Who is really in control and produce in us endurance (James 1 v 2 – 5), and yield in us even greater fruit (Heb 12 v 11). I know I want that, even if it’s hard!


 This is all I’ve got. I know how hard it is right now. Remember I am praying for you. 

What I told my kids about prayer

What I told my kids about prayer

Teaching kids about prayer in times of uncertainty

In this year we have faced trauma at school, family members threatened by a dire drought, and now, Covid 19, it’s effects reaching into every corner of everything we do, have, own, trust in. Never before has it been more important to be able to pray. And I was confronted through all of this with this question: Do my kids really know how to pray? Do they know why we pray? Do they truly have access to the power of prayer in times of loss, uncertainty, worry, fear and trial, or do they just know how to pray before they eat or before they sleep?

So here is what I told my kids about prayer:

We should pray because it’s a conversation with God:

Imagine living in your house with your parents and your siblings, and never talking to them. Imagine going to school and flat out ignoring your friends. That would be so weird. It would make you feel awkward and it would make your friends and family feel awkward too. Talking is one of the things we do to maintain, foster and build relationships. And prayer is talking. With God. That is why prayer must be honest, just like any conversation between you and someone you love whom you know loves you back. Just like  when you talk to that person, prayer doesn’t have to be full of fancy words, not flowery or over the top. Prayer is a conversation, not a sermon, a monologue or an eisteddfod performance. And just like talking to someone who you know fully accepts and loves you, prayer can change the way you feel, the way you see things and even the way you act. And that is why prayer must go both ways and include talking AND listening, just like any conversation. Otherwise, you are just making a speech. The problem is that we are all better talkers than listeners for the most part, and that is true when we are around people we can see and hear! So listening to God, whom we can’t see and whose voice is not audible, is even harder. But it’s not impossible, and prayer can be a time of talking and listening if we do exactly what we would do if we had a friend we wanted to listen to, which is to intentionally keep quiet. 

Set aside the time and create an opportunity for God to speak to you. Yes, you can pray any time and anywhere, but setting aside disciplined prayer time where you are not just venting to God means you are creating space for Him to speak to you. 

We should pray because it’s a command from God:

And just like all other types of commands, God insists on them because he knows they are good for us. God through prayer wants us to keep the channel of communication open between us, because He knows that without communication, relationships don’t survive and thrive. And if prayer is a command, that means when we pray we are being obedient, right? And before you think obedience is boring, think about it this way: Another word for obedience is trust. So every time we obey God, we are also trusting Him, and when we trust someone, we share our hearts with them, everything about our lives, the good and the bad. And that is what prayer is, and act of obedience and an act of trust. And that is why prayer is so powerful

We should pray because Jesus did it:

Which shows us that it must be a very important thing. And when we start copying Jesus, the more we will become like him. And the great thing is that Jesus, in the way He himself prayed with and for His disciples, shows us exactly how we should pray

  • Faithfully (Rom 12 v 12)
  • Even for our enemies (Matt 5 v 44)
  • In watchfulness about what we notice and gratitude for what we have (Col 4 v 2)
  • With the help of the Holy Spirit (Eph 6 v 18)

We should pray because prayer is the most important part of the thankfulness God requires of us. And also because God gives His grace and Holy Spirit only to those who pray continually and groan inwardly, asking God for these gifts and thanking Him for them.

Heidelberg Catechism

We should pray because it’s powerful and releases God’s power into our lives and the lives of others:

The Bible tells us that the prayer of the prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective (James 5 v 16), and thanks to Jesus dying for us, we all are “righteous” because we have Jesus’s righteousness. God uses prayer in the lives of us and of others because His desire is always for a relationship, to partner with us in bringing about His will on earth. 

What I told my kids about prayer

 

The Bible we read about many instances where the power of prayer overcame enemies (Ps 6 v 9 – 10), brought about healing (James 5 v 14 – 15), conquered death(2 Kings 4 v 3 – 36) and defeated the power of the demons (Mark 9 v 29). God uses prayer to bring healing and restoration, to give us wisdom and to open our eyes. It is a way to draw on the infinite resource of power that is the God of the universe!

Note to parents:

Prayer is a posture, it’s a conversation, it’s correcting and it’s a contribution to the work of the Kingdom, and in The Mommy Diaries I expound on how to journey with our kids on this and also how to teach them to pray. All orders of The Mommy Diaries during lockdown will come with an amazing free resource by Rev Leigh Robinson called “A solid foundation: Biblical Truths our children must know by heart before the age of 12”. Perfect for discipling your kids and using all the time at home to sow eternal seeds! 

For blog subscribers, there is also a handy infographic with an easy rhyme that teaches kids about praying anytime about anything, some quick crib notes to help you answer those tough questions on prayer (if God knows everything why should we pray?) and how to use the ACTS acronym to teach your kids how to pray. 

Subscribe today if you want that!  

 

5 Ways to pray for your child in the new school year

5 Ways to pray for your child in the new school year

The sobering news about having kids is in the realization that you are not as in control as you thought you were. And few seasons in life attune us to this reality like sending our kid off to school. There our child encounters a thousand situations, relations, temptations that we will not even be present for, won’t even know about, cannot choose or control.  In that, prayer is not just a comfort but a call. It is the admission, the submission, that there are things our kids need that we can’t provide, situations they will be in we can’t control and that there is a God who is God over it all. How humbling to be a parent!

5 Ways to pray for your child in the new school year

But has this ever happened to you: You sit down to pray and you have nothing to say? By your conviction of the power and importance of prayer you come to pray for your children only to find you have dull words, mundane requests and circumstantial insights that don’t make a dent in the eternal, true needs of your child and do not spiritually connect you to God’s vision for them. I have felt like this many times. In these moments I have found God’s word to be a great tool to direct my prayers to be more powerful and effective. 

Pray Expectantly

I have written a lot about expectation, and that we, especially as moms, often have a very high expectation of ourselves and a low expectation of God. Moms are the “do-ers” in the lives of their children, and we often mistakenly get into a mode of “if I don’t it won’t” when it comes to parenting by faith. I know, I’ve been there. But what if we placed all our expectations on the promises of God instead of our own abilities in the life of our kids? 

 

“If you believe in prayer at all, expect God to hear you. If you do not expect, you will not have. God will not hear you unless you believe He will hear you; but if you believe He will, He will be as good as your faith.”

Charles Spurgeon

Pray Persistently

Luke 18 v 1- 8 must’ve been written especially for the parents of teens! It’s the parable about the persistent widow. When prayer becomes a practice, it encourages persistence that actually guards our hearts against discouragement. And let’s face it, parenting can be discouraging at times. An attitude of persistence &perseverance in prayer springs from a heart that acknowledges that God’s love for us is a fact that exists above and often despite what we see in our circumstances. That’s faith. Our steadfastness in praying for our children declares that we know God loves them. Set an alarm of your phone if you want to, pick a day of the week, find a way to make persistent prayer a habit. 

“The one concern of the devil is to keep Christians from praying. He fears nothing from prayerless studies, prayerless work, and prayerless religion. He laughs at our toil, mocks at our wisdom, but trembles when we pray.” 

Samuel Chadwick

Pray Insightfully

Some of the most touching and beautiful prayers in the Bible where written by Paul, but here’s one thing I’ve noticed. In all his prayers for those he loved, he never requested a change in their circumstances. Now as parents we all want the same things for our kids, for them to be well adjusted, you know, not sociopaths. For them to be kind, happy and hardworking. But more than that I want them to encounter Christ in a real and relevant way, follow him with passion and perseverance, see the world through the eyes of His word so they can face their personal challenges and the challenges of their day with courage and character. That is why I wrote The Mommy Diaries. And that is why when I pray for my kids my prayers focus on these areas:

  • Their faith
  • Their character
  • Their hearts
  • And their future. 

By subscribing to the blog today, you will receive a free printable one week prayer calendar along with a template to make your own. Print it out, pop it on the fridge or in your journal or planner. It focuses on praying God’s word over these areas of your children’s lives!

Pray Thoroughly

I keep what I call a “Warrior woman’s book of prayers” – I know, what an ambitious name! It’s actually just a little ring bound notebook. But in it I have written down scriptures and prayers for all of my loved ones, including my kids, my family members, my friends. And as I sit down to pray for them, my heart and my prayers are guided by God’s word and that way I know they are guided by His will. I do it this way most of the time not because I’m such a clever excellent Christian, but actually because of the opposite. I am a doubtful, worrying, wondering, perpetually distracted ants-in-my-pants Christian with a desperate desire to be a faithful prayer. This way really helps me. 

And let me tell you the truth, I have seen more accomplished in the lives of my loved ones through prayer than I have ever seen accomplished through my own efforts, cleverness or ability to turn situations around. 

Why do I use God’s Word to help me pray?

  • So much of what is written in the bible match our circumstances. It gives us words when we don’t have any. Even Jesus used the Word to pray  – for example when he prayed from Psalm 22 in Matt 27 and Mark 15. 
  • It helps me focus. Often I find my worries, anxieties, my concerns and my “lists” become the highlights of my prayer time with God. They take up so much space that aligning with His will in prayer, reordering my priorities and desires to line up with scripture, praising and worshipping Him get crowded. Praying God’s word is an intentional way of making those things a more weighty part of my conversations with God. 
  • It helps me pray with confidence – especially in situations where I don’t know what to pray. It contains God’s will, reveals his character, explicitly lays out His promises. 
  • It instructs my heart – actually praying through the Word changes the desires of my heart as His Spirit ministers to my spirit. 
  • It helps me fight earthly battles with heavenly weapons. God calls us to pull down strongholds (2 Cor 10 v 3 – 5) and for that, we need a spiritual arsenal. That is what the Bible is. 

Pray Together

Praying God’s word with our kids, lays for them a foundation of understanding about what truly matters in life. God’s word is applicable to every area of challenge our kids face, from bullies, to worries, to friendships and everything in between. In the next blog I will share some insights from my book about how to talk to your kids about prayer and teach them how to pray. 

Most recently we have prayed persistently for rain in the Eastern and Northern Cape. It showed my kids not only that God cares about the everyday challenges we face and is deeply invested in the lives of those He loves, but after a time, it showed them how powerful prayer can be and how amazing it is to see your prayers answered. Thank you Lord for the rain in those drought-stricken areas!

Be encouraged mom, your prayers are heard by God himself (Psalm 4 v 3), and your words of supplication move the heart of the King of the Universe (Matt 21 v 22) . Prayer connects you to the strength of God – and which mom could not use more of that! And prayer prepares us to be met by his blessing (Matt 7 v 11)

Do you need help explaining prayer to your child and teaching him/ her about it without all the “christianeze”? Check out the chapter on prayer in The Mommy Diaries – ideal for kids between age 7 and 15!

Why you should forget about work/life balance in 2020, and what to do instead

Why you should forget about work/life balance in 2020, and what to do instead

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]I’ve have written about new years resolutions a couple of times. A new year is a great time to reassess and re- envision, and so we all enjoy making a list of things we think we should do, even of things we think we should stop doing.  As a working mom with a side hustle, I was recently asked to write about work-life balance. And you know what. I couldn’t. Because there is no such thing!  It’s all nonsense. Work-life balance is stupid. I think it was possibly invented by men. Not because I think they are stupid, but because, for example, a man invented the turducken, another thing that sounds much better than it actually is in real life. Work-life balance is pie in the sky, and it’s a concept that makes people (especially women) feel frazzled and unhappy and that they are invariable letting someone down (can I get a heck yeah?). And here’s why:

Balance is a static state, and I don’t know what your life is like but I can tell you right now my life is THE.OPPOSITE.OF.STATIC. Schedules, realities, priorities, energy levels and people are constantly in flux, they are not fixed. That is why it’s the very idea of “balance” as an expected or desired state that is making us feel stressed out and constantly guilty about all the things we are not doing.  Aiming to have it all in balance is aiming for something that is not achievable. I advise we all ad it to the list of things we need to let go of, like fitting into those white jeans we wore in our 20s. Please, I beg of you, do not make this one of your new year’s resolutions. Here’s what I think we should aim for instead:

Work from a place of peace, not towards it…

Unwittingly, we all divide up our life between work and non work – “getting through” the one to “get too” the other. All of our life is in compartments, work in the one, play in the other, toil in the one, comfort in the other. We think, and work, and believe and prioritize like our peace will be found in peaceful circumstances and surroundings. But God calls us to relate to peace as something we already have, not something we have to “get to” or “work towards” or “bring about” by controlling/ changing our circumstances. His Word tells us that Peace is a Person, Peace is a Promise, Peace is a precious Gift. So in every task we do, in everything we engage in, we are called to do so from a place of Peace, from that Source of peace, from a Position of peace, not towards it. When we see our life like this, all the strands of work and play and difficult and easy, successes and failures start forming one single tapestry. It changes our perspective and infuses all aspects of life with more meaning. Not just the bush-break/ beach-holiday parts. And peace as something we already own, as something inside us, empowers us to withstand the pressures and strain that is evident and unavoidable in every season of life. We think of peace as a place we need to arrive at where it really should be a departure point. That perspective can change everything.

Make flexibility a fitness worth mastering…

Now, let me be honest here, I love me a diary. I love a to-do list, a schedule, a planner, a nice crammed-to-the-brink-with-colorful-blocks google calendar. But nothing, and I mean nothing will give you a little productivity and planning reality check like a sick child. Or the school holidays. Or load shedding. Or a dead car battery. Sometimes things happen, things we don’t control, and when we have rigidly structured all of our time and focus because we believe that will give us balance, that will give us peace, those “life happens” moments really mess with our attitude, our perspective and our sense of accomplishment. In my dancing days, we learned that strength and flexibility are inextricably linked. For one muscle to flex, another must give and release. I used to believe white-knuckling it through my days, obliterating obstacles in the way of my sacred to-do list, was a show of strength, but sister, strength without wisdom is just brute force and it will flatten you because here’s the truth:  when the wind blows, the grass must bend.

Your level of peace when calamity/ uncertainty/the unplanned strikes  is directly related to where your faith lies and who (or WHO) you believe is in control. If that’s you, you will be anxious and overwhelmed. If its God you will have peace.

Murray Brown

When we embrace flexibility, when we learn to “roll with it “ (yes, I know, the Enneagram 1 in you is literally wanting to run away right now, I feel you honey!) we are in fact surrendering our agenda to God’s plan, opening ourselves up to embrace the realization that yes, even the bumps in the road are a part of our live before God, Coram Deo. We are submitting to the One that has already called us to do everything, even the unexpected, and NOT just the things we planned to do that was on today’s list, as though we are doing it for Him (Col 3 v 23).

Flexibility helps us live from a place of surrender, not striving.  If you can learn to be flexible when things don’t work out, then it’s just a “change of plan”, not a “disastrous disappointments”. And if we let them – those very disappointments can become divine appointments with God

Choose rhythm over routine…

This is the best way to practice your flexibility “fitness”. As moms, we are drilled about routine early on. It’s the holy grail of parenting when your kids are between 0 and 5. I think we are all in that mindset that if we could just be more rigid with our routine maybe we’d get more done. But it inevitably leads to disappointment when we’ve had 2 weeks of great workouts/ study times/ work or whatever and then suddenly our kids are writing exams or it’s the school holidays or Jesus help us Christmas time. Then we feel frazzled and upset because we had it all worked out and now we feel like we need to start from 0. Then even the call to respond to a person in need becomes something we have to “fit in” to our routine, which to be frank is just a terrible place from which to serve someone.

What if you chose rhythm over routine? The idea of rhythm is a flexible approach that is cognizant of the fact that you do not live in a bubble, but that your days and routines are influenced by the rhythms of your people and your context, the seasons of your journey and your city and ahem your kids. Sometimes there is intense, productive activity, sometimes there are periods where your focus must shift, and sometimes there is a need to respond to where you have an opportunity to serve others with Christ’s love.

Even Jesus’s life attested to this. When he was called on to turn water into wine, to serve and respond to a need, he wasn’t upset because he actually came to “party” and now he had to “work”. He didn’t say “hey ya’ll are interfering with my downtime here!” or “this was not on my schedule for today”. He was simply engaging with the very next thing, the very next good work that God had prepared in advance for Him to do. Rhythms help us to respond, routines keep us rigid. In a rigid routine, we sacrifice our peace and we deny that a sovereign God ordains meaning in all our moments, even the ones we didn’t plan (Psalm 139 – like all of it!)

Choose fruit over fear and meaning over more….

There is a guy who juggles at the corner of Republic and William Nicol Drive. Now, incase you didn’t know, here is the thing with juggling: every time you add a ball, you have to throw the balls you have HIGHER to give yourself more time to catch all of them. It’s almost diabolical. Doesn’t matter what type of mom you are, how many jobs you do in or outside of your home, or even how many kids you have and how many extramurals they do, we can all identify with how much the whole thing feels like juggling. Porcelain plates. Or hand grenades. And everytime we ad another goal, activity, to do or must do, another expectation, another yes, we have to throw the balls we already have higher and higher. Take more risks. Fit more in. Take more vitamins. Get up earlier and go to sleep later. But here’s the truth:

More does not equal meaning. Multitasking and doing/ adding more can never ever deliver on the meaning that you are hoping your life will have/ your kids’ lives will have. There is no fruit without focus and there is no focus if you have to do everything fast. But if you’re schedule is too full, fast is your only option. Focus is one singular thing, it cannot be divided into many things because then, ultimately, it’s not focus. Then it’s just dissipated, distracted, dividided attention that literally serves no one.

I know, I know, us moms wear many hats, we hustle that split shift of work/ wife-ing/ mothering/ all the other things like real hardcore mom bosses, but sometimes it just feels like we did a whole lot of stuff not very well. Something that helped me was to see my day as having various pivot points, each presenting an opportunity to be present. To sow focus so that those moments can bear fruit. Because if I am trying to serve my kids lunch but I keep checking the emails piling up, not only will my laptop be full of peanut butter (this is not good) but nor the emails nor my kids get my full attention. And in the end the precious time with my kids does not bear the fruit of connection it had the potential for and the work does not reflect the excellence I was aiming for and I am exhausted and I feel like a fruitless failure. This is a quote that challenged me this year and that I want to challenge you with:

“Never is a woman so fulfilled as when she chooses to underwhelm her schedule so she can let God overwhelm her soul”

Lysa TerKeurst

Often we add more and more to our life and our schedule out of fear. Fear that we (or our kids) are going to fall behind, fear of not enough, but fear cannot produce anything of value. Fear is not fruitful. But faith is. It’s the only thing I’ve seen that produces anything of value in our life.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

How to survive Christmas with “the family”

How to survive Christmas with “the family”

Holidays with family always sound nicer on paper than they are in real life. There, I said it! It’s all fun and games when it’s winter and you’re desperate for a change of scenery and that family WhatsApp group brings all the feels and all the ideas. But come December, once you’ve had to deal with a thousand more WhatsApp’s on dietary requirements, gotten offended at your aunts’ refusal to get on board with the “no gifts for the kids over R100” idea, and rolled your eyes at you’re a-type sisters’ insistence on capturing it all (yes all of it!) in Excel, it’s all about as fun as a visit to the dentist (no offence dentists!). And your daydreams of bonding with your sibs and your resolve to not allow that one disruptive personality to ruin.absolutely.everything seeps out of you like your confidence on the eve of your 20 year high school reunion.

Oh, and did I mention no one is every happy about where they are sleeping, the dustbin is always too small and every “look at our perfect huge extended family Christmas” post you read on Facebook (and there will be many) is going to make you feel like a failure. Maybe you can identify with this? Or maybe you’re thinking “Family holiday? Don’t be crazy! I don’t know if I’ll survive Christmas lunch!” I see you girl!  There’s no judgement here. But here are my tips on how to survive Christmas with “the family”:

Keep your expectations in check:

This is a HUGE one. Expectations ruin relationships. Let me repeat that again for those of you in the back:

Expectations ruin relationships

I’ve seen and experienced this time and time again, and never more so than with family. Expectations set you up to be offended because if you are going to for example expect everyone to happily spend each day together and 1 or 2 people would rather do their own thing, you are going to be offended. Not because it’s wrong for people to want to do their own thing, but because your unmet expectations lead you to feel hurts and offended. When we build up a future scenario in our heads that looks like a very specific thing and we arrive and get something that is even just slightly different often the experience loses all possibility, meaning and joy. Blame that on your expectations! You are better off going with an open heart and mind and letting the time together be what it is. 

How to survive Christmas with "the family"Keep it short:

You can get through anything if you know it’s going to end. Most of us have jobs and our time off is precious, so yes, make time to see your family but make sure you don’t get stuck in a situation where you get robbed of your rest. Family visiting is like fish in the fridge, it’s fine for about 3 days, after that it starts to stink. Don’t hurt your family by deciding halfway through the holiday that you can’t do it anymore. Commit to a time that seems reasonable and realistic to you and make that commitment count. Three days of being willing, present, connected and available are better than 7 days where you can’t wait for it to be over.  

Keep it to yourself:

Maybe your nephew only eats white bread and tomato sauce and spend most of his time playing Minecraft and your sister seems totally fine with it – to your absolute shock and dismay. Maybe your aunt would be a great object lesson if you had to explain the phrase “Mutton dressed as lamb” to your 10yo. Maybe your oldest nephew arrives with his new girlfriend without telling anyone (millennials am I right?) and you spend the whole afternoon scrambling to reorganize the Christmas table so she has a place setting to enjoy some Karoo lamb when she loudly (and with no shortage of pride) announces that she’s vegan. Of course she is.

Yes, these are inane examples, I realise that. But I bet you have a whole list of examples and situations from the last holiday you spent with your family that shocked or surprised you, that even hurt and concerned you. And because it’s family, we think we automatically have permission to speak some “helpful truths” into the situation. But unless someone has asked you to speak into their life and situation, i.e have actually given you permission, you really, really shouldn’t. Keep it to yourself.

Let me share a tip with you that has really helped me: People make decisions based on their values. And yes, even in one family, values can differ. Once we grasp that even the most simple decision was born out of a value that person holds dear, the decision might still hurt us, shock us, annoy us, but it can no longer offend us, because we simply don’t get to be offended by the values around which another structures their life and decisions. If you’re hurt or shocked, you need to let it go. 

Keep the kids in mind:

This might sound strange, but there is great value in allowing our kids to develop their own relationships with their aunts and uncles. Because mark my words, there will come a time when your kid might need to hear a voice of reason, but they may have stopped listening to yours. They might need some strong wisdom from a grownup and he/ she WILL NOT want to hear it from you. Allow people you trust in the lives of your kids is priceless and your investment in the lives of your nieces and nephews is bound to be priceless for them (and for their parents!). Be intentional about investing in those relationships!

The other reason to keep the kids in mind is of course because our children are listening to us and understanding from us how family should be treated, spoken of, valued. And since we are all raising someone’s future wife, daughter in law, husband and son in law this is something we should not lose sight of. How do I want my kids to think about family? Because their beliefs will be based on my own actions, because my actions reflect what I value. 

Always, always value people. This is never ever something you will regret.

Keep leaning into grace:

People are disappointing sometimes. Mostly because people are selfish. But you know what that means? It means you and I are disappointing and selfish. 

So, what we all need is grace, grace and more grace. An anecdote to expectation, more than effort or planning or intentionality, grace will hold your family relationships together. Grace with grumpiness, differences, indifference and difficulty. Because grace is accepting when you could reject, serving when you could instead demand selfishly, forgiving when you could stand on your rights. Grace, more than blood, more than shared values, more than anything, is the glue that holds relationships together. You CAN choose grace over judgement and if you’re on holiday with your family, you SHOULD!

Don’t let God’s grace to you through Christ be wasted on you, rather let it be reflected in your most challenging situations and relationships.

Keep opportunities in mind:

Jesus’s example shows us that the path down is the path up. That it is in serving others, in being inconvenienced, in giving up agendas or positions, that we are truly learning to love. Because in all of that it stops being about us – and that is what love looks like. That is what love actually is. But how often in a family get together scenario do we do that? Do we willingly set aside our comfort, our agendas, or positions in order to love and serve? I can tell you truthfully and shamefully that I have seldom done that, and certainly didn’t do it when I should’ve.

But our time with family, with others, is not just an opportunity to learn to love others well, the way Jesus did, through service and sacrifice, but actually that same opportunity benefits us as well. Life in community makes us better people. The more isolated you live, the harder you are to be around. Other people, especially family, are there to knock the edges off us. Don’t avoid that growth opportunity! These couple of days (or hours) could be something you have to white knuckle through, or it could be the very thing God is presenting you with to help you become the mature, loving person you actually really want to be. 

You might be reading this and thanking the Good Lord that you love spending time with your family and patting yourself on the back about what an exception to the rule ya’ll are. Good for you. You should thank Him! I am pretty sure you might be the exception! Maybe your people make a gorgeous “House & Home worthy” Christmas card, or maybe they put the fun into dysfunctional. Either way family can be hard, complicated, and time together often brings up many more hurt and frustration than it should. I feel ya! And I hope this will help you grow in love for your people while you are with your people, whether it be for 3 hours or 3 days (or 3 weeks for those brave souls out there who insist on embracing the triumph of hope over experience!).