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.

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.

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!).  

To the Mom who can’t ask for help

To the Mom who can’t ask for help

Maybe this is one of those things that only some people struggle with. Like complaining about bad service or sending food back in a restaurant or wearing flowery patterns. But here’s the thing. I need help…to learn to ask for help! I recently embarked on the most terrifying, anwer-to-prayer passion project of my life, a project that I hope to be the first of many. And in the last 2 months as I have struggled to fit the rest of my overfull life around accomodating this big dream I realised, sadly, terrifyingly, that I needed help. I wish I needed to have a root canal. I wish I needed to have ducks tunnel into my scull with their beaks. I wish I needed to look after a spoilt 2 year old on a sugar high. I would rather have to do any of those things instead of having to ask for help. Is it just me?

So I’ve analysed it and here is what I have so far:

Normally when we don’t want to do something or struggle to bring ourselves to do something it’s because we think it’s going to be bad for us. Here is why we don’t want to ask for help:

Our story: We all have one. Maybe in yours, like in mine, you where praised for being independent and strong as child, or maybe in yours, like in mine, there where seasons where you realised that you needed to be responsible beyond your years because there was no one else to do what needed to be done. Family of origin can influence whether we see letting people in and asking for help as a part of normal life or as a sign of weakness, whether we view not needing anything from anyone as a definition of our value or whether we view needing help from others as being not at all connected to our sense of self. Or we may have been brought up to believe that asking for help is a weakness.

Being told you don’t actually need help: Sometimes when we try to ask for help, the response we get is one  of a reframed perspective. Sometimes what we really need is a reframed perspective so yay! But sometimes what we need is help. Like, actual help. Sometimes the person we ask just ends up telling us why we shouldn’t see this as an actual problem, or telling us to just get over it. Sure, we all need a “put your big girl panties on” kinda talk from time to time, but if you’re anything like me, those panties are kinda the only ones you got and so when you do ask for help it’s usually not because you need to “woman up” to something, or because you need a pep talk, it’s because you do actually need help. But these ironically unhelpful responses to us reaching out for assistance can be the thing that keeps us from doing it again in the future.

Fear of being judged: We want to appear to be self reliant and independent. That is the be all and end all and shame on us if we appear to be dropping some balls am I right?

Fear of rejection: I don’t want to ask because what if they say no.

Pride: Pride is insidious and tricky to spot. My husband likes to call pride the “sin behind the sin”. It hides in all kinds of respectable and justifyable places. So let me save you some time and tell you what I figured out:

If I

  • am covering up my shortcomings = pride
  • feel an offer of help is an insult to my capabilities and it makes me prickly and hard to serve = pride
  • am embarrassed and ashamed at being an inconvenience to someone when they offer to help me = pride

Needing helpforces us to admit to our shortcomings and vulnerability and exposes the lie that we have it all together – one we thought all the while everyone believed. Sure, I can call out to the Lord, He already knows I am weak and wobly. But other people don’t. I would like God on my side as my superpower behind the scenes, all the while hoping everyone thinks I am a super mom. You know like when you take all your Le Creuset dishes over to Olivia’s and they put the ready-made food right in there and you present it as your own to your dinner guests! I secretly love it when people say, I don’t know how she does it, voices tinged with awe, but mostly with envy. I know. I’m bad. But I don’t think I’m the only one!

Fear of reciprocity: I have a sibling who literally has a mortal fear of reciprocity. He can think of nothing worse than “ someone doing him a favour” and so he never asks for any. Isn’t it funny how we often measure our relationship interactions almost in an economic way. I think it’s called transactional interdependence.  Also, IF we generally say yes too easily and regret it afterwards (in other words do not guard our words and motives) we are hyper aware that someone else might be similarly motivated and don’t want them to be put in that position where they can’t say no. Twisted right? And I think it’s kinda sad for us, as a human race.

Because it’s just  hard ok: like I said, maybe not for everyone, but certainly for introverts. It just takes so much energy, all that explaining and answering questions, all that interacting. It seems so overwhelmingly exhausting that I’d just as soon avoid it all together.

We are all adults here, I am not trying to convince you of the benefits of kale or colonoscopies or anything, so let’s just keep this in perspective. What if I told you (and myself) that asking for help is a good thing? What if I told you what you’d be missing out on by refusing to ask for help if you need it?

Here is why it’s good to (learn to/ force yourself to) ask for help:

Because we develop courage: Vulnerability is truly brave and thanks to Brene Brown it’s also the new black. It takes allot of self-awareness and understanding to ask for help. That is not weakness ya’ll. That is courageous. It means we are aware of our strengths and our abilities and where their limits lie. That is why God said to Paul to write this down:

“My grace is always more than enough for you, and my power finds its full expression through your weakness.”

“So I will celebrate my weaknesses, for when I am weak I sense more deeply the might power of Christ living in me.” (2 Cor 12 v 9 TPT)

Because we develop community: Our recognition of the boundary of our strength in asking for help also means our recognition of the skills and strengths of others. When we ask for help we give someone an opportunity to use their strengths, to collaborate and pool resources with us, resulting in a stronger whole. How often do we say we value authenticity but we are not authentic. Because are we not most authentic when we admit to areas where we need help? Could our strong sense of independence and our preference for pretence be the reason why we struggle to develop significant

community? God wired us to need connection, to need each other. Actually refusing to ask for help stifles community. If we are not good at asking for help, we are likely not great at giving it. This is because we see other people not as they really are, but as we really are, and that drives how we relate to them. If we find our own need for help as unacceptable, we will project that same orientation onto someone else, hardening ourselves against their need the way we’ve hardened ourselves against our own.

Because we all need feedback: Feedback is good. We have to let people in. In his book PEAK, K Anders Ericsson explores the process whereby people gain expertise and become excellent. He proposes that the process of deliberate practice is the key to superior performance and one of the building blocks of deliberate practice is feedback.

Because rejection won’t kill you:I’m serious. When we ask for help and the answer is no, we need to remember that the answer is a no to our question, not a no over us as people. We tend to over personalise rejection way too much,  making very”no” a definition of us instead of a response to our request or the outcome of a situation. What if the person we asked didn’t have the resources, whether mental or emotional to assist us? NO is a full sentence and just as much as we need to learn to say it we need to learn to hear it and be ok with it.

Because, reality: I know you are amazing at lots of stuff, in reality you are not  amazing at everything IN. THE. WORLD. None of us know everything about everything. You are not Google. And none of us possess every skill in the world. We don’t expect that from other people, why do we expect it from ourselves.

Because, progress: Progress is good. Needing help and being unable to ask for it leaves us stuck – trapped in our own heads. Sometimes that is the one thing that is the blockage to the flow towards resolution or completion, whether the help you need is with a project or a problem. The relief of realising there is help available frees you up towards progress.

To the Mom who can't ask for helpI know how hard this is Momma, for me it’s almost paralyzing. But we can’t fully realise our potential in any given calling or area if we refuse to draw on the help God offers us through others, just like limbs in the body need each other. He kinda planned it that way I heard! We not only deprive ourselves, but also others of the blessing and the redemptive work that being in service to each other brings about in us.

God is always working. If God is moving you into accepting a new challenge or opportunity and preparing something in you, could He not also be preparing someone else to assist you? Don’t miss God’s goodness and help because you are relying too much on your own!

 

To the mom dealing with envy

To the mom dealing with envy

I have a friend that everything comes easy for. Doesn’t everyone? That one girl who just (looks like she) breezes through life, hair that requires no blowdrying, a figure that doesn’t require calorie restriction, kids who require no bribing or threatening, a confidence that doesn’t require herculean effort and all the things/ opportunities/ experiences/ achievements I wish where a part of my life. Can you relate?

We have never been faced with more temptation to envy others than today! We know we shouldn’t give in to it, that God isn’t cool with it and that entertaining envy does not your best life make. And yet, we are not as on our guard as we should be as we assess (judge?) the lives of others and we harbour and hide thousands of tiny resentments towards others and ultimately towards God about the comparisons we are inevitably drawing. Because that is what envy is, “a feeling of discontentment and resentment aroused by another’s desirable possessions or qualities, accompanied by a strong desire to have them for oneself”. Can anyone say: “I want what she’s having!”?

I struggle with this. So much so that I had to work out some anchor points for my own weary soul that I would easily remember when my green-eyed frenemy rears its head! In those moments I need some basic tools to steady my heart and direct my thoughts.

See more clearly what you hold dearly

When you clicked to open this blog you had a particular person in mind. Someone you experience a funny twinge in your heart over. I know you don’t want to call it envy, but that is straight up what it is. I think sometimes we walk with something below the surface for so long and we never call it into the light, name it and shame it. And that is why it continues to hold sway and privately shame us.

Once we get honest about envy, the upside is that we are taking an opportunity to look with greater honesty at the condition of our hearts. Envy can bring to the surface that which we would’ve otherwise kept hidden from ourselves and God, deep desires, hopes, dreams, wishes, beliefs that maybe we’ve never even been brave enough to verbalise.

What we envy is a revelation of what we covet.
 Ps 37 v 4 God gives a promise, “Make God the utmost delight and pleasure of your life, and he will provide you what you desire most”
When we rest in the promises the rest will follow.
God can give this promise because he knows that if our delight is in the right place (with Him, coveting Him above everything) our desires will be aligned as well. Because when we put Him as the object of our delight, what we desire will no longer be in competition with our affections for Him in our lives, and then “all these things will be added unto us”(Matt 6 v 33). The Bible actually makes amazing promises about what God will gift into the lives of those who make Him their object of delight and desire. Just check out Rom 8v 32/ 1 Cor 3 v 21 – 23.

When envy’s at the table, love is not able

“ Love is large and incredibly patient. Love is gentle and consistently kind to all. It refuses to be jealous when blessing comes to someone else. Love does not brag about one’s achievements nor inflate its own importance. Love does not traffic in shame and disrespect, nor selfishly seek its own honor.” 1 Cor 14 v 4- 5 TPT

Let’s be brutally honest here. You can kind of talk yourself out of envying strangers. It’s a bit removed from your life and you don’t feel directly affected by it. But it’s harder when it’s someone you are journeying with. Because the things you envy about that person is more in your face, the opportunities for comparison more consistent. Plus you care more and feel more personally affected by it as you compare her life to yours.
And when you do that, right then, you are no longer able to rejoice when she is rejoicing (too resentful to rejoice) or empathize when she is sad (because you’re happy that finally, something in her charmed life is less than ideal. Please, don’t look so shocked!).
Right then, you judge whatever you can find to judge so you can feel like at least a tiny bit like you’re a Christian, wife, mom, whatever than her.
Right then, you can no longer be in her life what she needs OR who God called you to be.
If you have a friendship where envy has been given a seat at the table, ultimately love loses and leaves. And pretty soon, if left unchecked, envy will invite malice and slander to join in to poison your heart and your friendship. And then the devil wins. I don’t want that for my friendships, do you?

When we see her as God’s creation, envy can turn to admiration

Because for all our talk of tribe and gathering and sisterhood we are all still really terrible at cheering instead of jeering, we all still battle to support other women wholeheartedly and well and honestly and authentically wishing our sisters success. For all our lipservice to the contrary, we as women remain our own biggest enemy, the self-sabotage of our own collective efforts. We are all those people and isn’t it tragic! Even more tragic for the girls we are raising!
When we envy someone, we will not, cannot acknowledge their significance and the part they are playing in God’s story. Ironically we also lose sight of our significance and our part in the story! But being genuinely happy for someone and invested in them is very freeing. The best way to do that is to
  1. Pray for that person. It’s very hard to harden your heart towards someone you are praying for.
  2. Actively be happy for the women in your tribe. Hand out likes, hugs, compliments and support like there is more than enough to go around, because there is. Do it like it’s your job! Because it is!
  3. Ask God to help you see them the way He sees them. He calls us to “ regard no one in the flesh” (2 Cor 5 v 16). Holding on to God’s picture of her, will help you see her through the lens of grace.

“Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit, let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.” Gal 5 v 25 – 26

God is faithful, focus on being grateful

Ultimately, envy is a faith issue. Because we are looking at what someone else has and we are “believing” that we need that as well in order to be fully satisfied. At the root of envy is unbelief, because as we look at someone else’s life with envy we begin to lose our trust in God, our peace in our circumstances and our contentment. So ultimately it’s an expression of discontent in what we have and where we are at and a distrust that God has a plan for us. Contentment counteracts envy. This is why the Psalmist in Psalm 37 (v3 – 6) maps a path out of envy by encouraging us to:
  • Keep trusting God
  • Ponder His Faithfulness
  • Fix your heart on His Promises
  • Get validation and approval from Him
  • Be honest with Him in prayer (ummm, see point1)

Own your space, run your race

Envy derails us and defiles us (Mark 7 v 20 – 23) warping our perspective and stealing our potential because we are too busy focussing on what is happening in someone else’s life. Life is no longer a journey with others, but a flat-out competition. On the outside, you might still be wearing the mask of friendship, but on the inside, even subconsciously, this person is no longer journeying with you but racing against you. And you are losing. And human nature, when we feel ourselves at the wrong end of the balance of power in a situation, is to try to restore the balance in a twisted attempt to help ourselves feel better. And soon you find yourself in a sick cycle of comparison, envy, bitterness, discontentment. Not focussing on your calling, not pursuing your purpose, not nurturing your passion, not owning where God’s placed you or the race before you. Don’t let envy steal your energy. We are all responsible for where our zeal, our passion, our energy goes. God’s zeal, his passion, is always for bringing about His purposes. Our zeal should be for the fulfillment of our calling, which is to make Him known. When our eyes are on what someone else is doing, it’s not on the work that is in front of us, and our energy leaks away!
“Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you’ve been given and then sink yourself into that (devote yourself to that!). Don’t be impressed with yourself, don’t compare yourself with others. Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life.” Gal 6 v 4 – 5
Devotion to your calling is a weapon against the distraction of envy
Whatever we envy in others we are unfit to carry ourselves, but what we honor and celebrate in others we position ourselves to receive – Lisa Bevere

If you want to be free, bend a knee

Every battle starts in prayer ya’ll. When we confess our sins He is faithful and just. When we confess our true desires that is causing envy in us, He is not surprised and His heart is always tender towards us. Envy enslaves and afflicts – but God is always fighting to keep our lives free. Join the fight by getting on your knees. It’s my prayer for all of us as women to start being the cheerleaders that we all need
Mother Teresa said when we are busy judging people, we don’t have time to love them. Maybe, just maybe, we can all believe together Mommas, that when we are busy (as in actively engaging in) loving one another, maybe we won’t have time to be so judgy?
To the mom who is feeling the pressure

To the mom who is feeling the pressure

It was one of those typical “gym bunny” T-shirts. It read: It doesn’t get easier, you just get stronger.

It made me wonder, am I too old to roll my eyes at her? (often at the gym it takes all my considerable strength of character not to be annoyed with people. And their outfits. I’m sorry. Kind of.) It also made me wonder, ok so I know it’s true about exercise, but is it true about life?

Do you sometimes feel under a lot of pressure? Do you sometimes find the pace of your life straight up dizzying? It’s like there is just so much to do and be and get to, and remember, and on top of that so much pressure to make it seem easy and not at all messy and to serve it all up with a smile that reaches all the way to our eyes! And that’s just everyday life, that’s not even when things go wrong as they so often do. Because in between the “standard” pressures of being and doing and giving and going and providing and achieving and solving and fixing and responding that life seems to be made up of, very often a fun cocktail of circumstances, my sin, the sin of others, people, their expectation, did I mention people, and bad timing all conspire to derail this very fast moving train that is your life.

The Bible has lots to say about “pressure”. The word used in scripture denotes the crushing of grapes or olives to produce something useful, precious and lasting – i.e wine and olive oil. You often find this word in the company of other fun words like trial, affliction, suffering, and trouble. So as one continuing to hold on to the promise that God  is for me, working all things for my good, and one continuing to hold out for meaning in even the most mundane or maddening parts of my life, I decided to look a little deeper, because surely there has to be some method in the madness of all this pressure!

Pressure has a process: I recently watched a reality TV programme with my boys called “The Forge”. Because when you have boys you end up watching some weird stuff on TV! The science of stupid anyone? This particular one was about blade-smiths (people who make swords and knives and stuff. No worries, I didn’t know that either). I watched a guy banging on a piece of metal and heating it up until it was glowing red hot, and then he plunged it into icy cold water, using a scientific method called “drenching”. Under these extreme conditions of temperature and yes, you guessed it, pressure, the metal becomes stronger, unbreakable. Which is what you want if you are making a sword.

The intention of the process is always to strengthen us, and the dichotomy of it all is that we are strengthened only once we understand our own weakness. Because sometimes what feels like the flat out breaking of you, is actually the making of you.

The process has a purpose:

“The crucible is for silver and the furnace is for gold, but the Lord tests the heart” Proverbs 17 v 3

When gold or silver is purified, the heat brings the impurities to the surface. That is the purpose of the process of refining. So let’s get brutally honest here for a minute. Us girls are all willfully independent and for the most part extremely capable. It takes a lot for us to experience pressure. We all, to varying degrees (yes A types I am talking to ya’ll) experience an immense internal pressure to control everything, fix everything, know everything, do everything perfectly, be all things to all people. In other words, the pressure to be God. So in a way, a lot of our perceived pressure is internal. That’s the bad news. The good news is the pressure to be all things to all people is an opportunity to learn who God really is (the one who actually is all things to all people, the who works all things for good) and who we are (not that!). Sometimes we are trying so hard to control things that are not within our control, and the pressure that desire causes is actually for the purpose of helping us realise we are not God and we can’t do His job, or our own without His help.

When we learn to rest in Christ we learn to let go of our vain attempt to be God. So when we experience pressure through different circumstances in our lives the purpose of them is actually to rid us of these divine delusions.

The impurity that must be burned out of me is most of the time my pride. And when the heat is turned up and I experience pressure, that is what bubbles to the surface. Because really, how will I ever learn to trust on, lean on, rely on God without the pressures and trails that crowd me to Him?

The pressure has a product: 

God purifies that which is precious to Him. And incase you’re still not up to speed, that’s you. YOU are precious to Him!

“You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows it’s true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well developed, not defficient in any way. (James 3. v 3-4 MSG)

In the pressures you are experiencing today, be they internal or external, God is bringing forth something new. That’s kind of His jam. Like silver, like gold, like diamonds, these shaping challenges are intended to reveal in you that which was always there. God uses pressure, not as a destructive force like a forest fire, burning up everything and leaving smokey destruction behind. The Refiners fire purifies, burns away the impurities, making that which remains more valuable, durable, precious. Aren’t you glad God doesn’t abandon us in our impurity, that He promises we will go through the fire but not be burnt up (Is 43 v 2), not even have the smell of smoke on us!

So right now, as you face that pressure, that person, that deadline, that demand that threatens to push you over the edge, trust in the purifying mercy of God, don’t doubt His expertise as a refiner. Remember that even if what is happening right now feels like a bad idea, a detour, an unpleasant challenge or unwelcome interruption, if it has the potential to align you with Christ (and it always does), the process is always meaningful. Because not only will a new picture of God emerge as we yield, but the even braver, even stronger, even more authentic us will too.

 

 

What I told my boys about girls

What I told my boys about girls

I can’t wait to talk to my sons about girls, sex, dating – said no mom ever! I know, I get it. But I once heard a parenting expert explain your child’s understanding of these type of topics as files being opened in the filing cabinet of the brain. The file will be opened, named and will start containing information gleaned from what they hear, see and their environment. By being intentional about these awkward topics, we are in essence taking the initiative to “open the file”, thereby having a chance to input shaping information that is in line with our worldview, convictions, and morality. Every other piece of information that then comes into the “file” get’s tested against the truth that we put in first. Should we remove our intention we give way to the alternative, a view on women, dating, sex, shaped by the barrage of messaging, content and images that the world is consistently producing and offering up.
I didn’t want to write this. Newsflash: Being a boy mom is not dissimilar to being a girl dad. You experience the same fierce protective streak and compulsion to grab a shotgun. However gracious and “live and let live” you may appear you still secretly harbor the conviction that no one will ever be good enough for your offspring. Even if he is currently obsessed with slouchy pants and continues to be amused by his own farts.
So you can imagine my reticence when The Elder returned from Holiday Club with a hand full of notes secretly passed (some things never change). He had an expression somewhere between bemused and confused on his face as he read me a note from one girl who asked to wear his beanie, another his jacket. When I asked “what do you think about that son?” and he said “I guess they like my clothes?” Ummm, I realized I had some work to do in helping him work out how he should respond.  Because how he respond doesn’t just affect him, but as he is being shaped by this interaction so are the girls he is interacting with, all of them at an age that is forming the neural pathways and emotional understanding of those interactions for years to come. Yes, we have ticked the boxes on the body and sex conversations. But this blog is about the fuzzy stuff. The stuff I want him to keep in mind as my son, as someones’ future boyfriend, as someone’s future husband. So here is what I told The Elder about girls…so far….
Be honourable – Every night before my boys go to sleep I say to each of them: “You are my treasure”. And so I have told The Elder that he must remember that when he is interacting with a girl, she is also someone’s treasure too, her mom’s, her dad’s, and God’s. And all treasure must be seen as precious and must be handled with care. Every person we encounter is an image bearer.
Be kind – “respond to girls in a way that protects them and protects you”. My son is 11, an age where possibly there is a disconnect between the feelings he has and his ability to express them. So arming him with “scripts” that enables confident responses that are also kind is how we have chosen to help him. For example: “ I am too young to have a romantic relationship, but I would enjoy getting to know you as a friend. “ or “I am too young to have a girlfriend, but I know how to be a good friend so let’s do that instead.”
Be a gentleman – Even as a 40-year-old woman, I can still recall valentines day slights, offhand comments that I shouldn’t have heard, boys being insensitive boys, all of these things I remember from being an insecure pre-teen girl. So if I am going to be the mom of a pre-teen boy, maybe I can spare some girl having similar, shaping, sore memories. My boys don’t have sisters, but they have 3 girl cousins, and a slew of friends who are like family, so when I tell them to treat every girl like she is Lila, Isabel, Jua, Hannah, Sophia or Ava, Pia or Sienna, they get it (please Lord Jesus, I hope they get it!). I take pains to help them make sure the little girls in the class that the boys know might not get anything for Valentine’s day gets something, albeit anonymously. I (try) to keep sexist joking and name calling out of the house and discourage them (strongly) from participating in it at school.
In a world of man-bashing (mostly rightly so) we as boy moms should try to encourage positive masculinity and  chivalrous behaviour that has nothing to do with long-dead ideas about men and women, but has everything to do with very much alive #everybodyalways #kindnessalways thinking and the golden rule of putting others first that helps our boys to shine a light in the world.
Be careful – puberty and its company of feelings and hormones are hard to manage. And in the right (and by that I mean the wrong) situation, it can be like a car rolling down a hill, i. e hard to stop. Encountering attraction and trying to understand it is tricky for boys, so sound advise for this life stage is to stay in a group. “Don’t put yourself in a compromising position!” For now we steer clear of concepts like “dating” or “going out” until a more appropriate age.
Be aware – “Not only are you as a boy going to be dealing with your own growing awareness of the opposite sex, but you will also be dealing with girls who are going through the same thing.” In every person, the outside is most often a reflection of what is going on on the inside. So I told my son than when he encounters a girl who seems like she is overly desperate for male attention (albeit via what she wears or how she acts), give her a wide birth and keep a careful but kind distance. There are possibly things going on in her heart/life that you can’t help her with and that your attention is not the answer to.
Yes, the pre-teen and adolescent path is a messy meander of navigating confusing, overwhelming thoughts and feelings. However unpopular it might be, that’s where we as parents come in.
Make peace with the fact that you are going to be the good guy in your movie and the weird guy in theirs (there will be allot of “Awww Mom ! Gross !  I don’t want to talk about this with you!”), and launch as deeply as you can and as quickly as you can into the “girls” conversation. Yes, if you are a boy mom, leave the sex convo to the father/ father figure in your boys’ life. But when it comes to the emotive stuff, remember what it was like for you when you were a girl and use that as a jump-off point to help your boy be the kind of boy your 10-13-year-old self would’ve wanted to encounter.
To the mom who is feeling lost

To the mom who is feeling lost

Do you sometimes just feel a bit “at sea” spiritually? We might be calling out to God for a particular answer or wisdom in a situation, but the answer or way forward seems hidden or unclear. We might be in a season of waiting where we desire to experience God’s comfort, but we come up empty. We might be desperate to see God move in our lives but our spiritual vision seems dim, our hearts a bit disconnected.  Like a fuzzy spot in our vision, a dirty blemish on the horizon of our faith experience, we just feel like somethings missing.. like we can’t see the full picture…do you know this feeling Momma? It’s like being at the bottom end of the line up in a game of broken telephone.

Last week my morning coffee was interrupted by a whale sighting. “Fetch the binocs” I yelled, and I fumbled with them as I kept my eyes on the exact spot where I had just seen the glorious breach! But as I was peering intently there was a fuzzy bothersome black spot in my eye line. An eyelash? Are these binocs broken? No amount of adjusting that little knobby in the middle (yes, ok, I do not know the names of the parts of a set of binoculars! And if I did I would only confess it to someone with one of those “I brake for birds” stickers on their cars!) brought the precious whale into focus. And just as I decided to make peace with the fact that my vision won’t be clear because I am a binocs idiot, The Elder pointed out (in the tone of voice that you’d expect from an 11-year-old) that one of the lenses still had the lens cap on it. #facepalm

Suddenly it all made sense, the black fuzzy dot was gone, and I feasted on an amazing display of a very playful Southern Right Whale! I felt invigorated, in awe, inspired, like I was just let into God’s inner circle. Something I won’t soon forget.

There are a few things that can “cover the lens cap” of our vision, bringing blurriness and fuzzy lines to our journey with Jesus.

  1. Frustration: Sounds like a small thing? It was big enough for Moses to miss his entire calling and promised land! We have God’s peace and we must guard it and guard against frustration that disables our ability to wait on God, hear from God, see God at work as we walk in step with the Spirit. If you’re wondering if you have frustration in your life try to “hear” if you are complaining more than usual and how often you use your hooter in the traffic. Life is frustrating, so are people. But our peace is precious and we must guard it, even at the end of a long day or in rush hour traffic.
  2. Wrong motives: Acts chapter 8 tells the story of Simon, who desired the things of God for his own benefit. Wisdom to be on display, God’s divine hand on his works to gain popularity. Do I desire the things of God for the sake of my own glory or His? Do I ask for wisdom out of my own poverty or for the sake of my own vanity?
  3. Envy, jealousy, comparison: A vicious distraction of our time, that steals our effectiveness, our calling, and our joy. It sets us against others emotionally, unable to rejoice or weep with them, encourage or comfort them, it disrupts unity and community and our inner peace and rhythm as well. I would go as far as to say this: Our propensity for comparison is a “pattern of this world” that we are unwittingly conforming too,  thereby disabling our ability to discern (see clearly) the will of God. (Rom 12 v 2). How much more clear perspective would you have on yourself, your path, your journey if you stopped comparing it to the girl next to you?
  4. Fear: There is only place in our lives for a reverential fear of the Lord. But sometimes we fear the future, people’s opinions, failure, suffering, uncertainty and it clouds our perspective. In a sense what you fear becomes your god, instead of God. When we live with a holy fear of the Lord, our path and perspective is clarified (Ps 25 v 12- 13)
  5. Unforgiveness: I know this is a no-brainer, but I also know first hand this is by far the hardest. This is what I preach to myself and to others when it comes to forgiveness: Forgiveness is accepting the apology you will never receive. And if God holds nothing against me thanks to Jesus, why should I hold something against someone else?
  6. Bitterness: Stored up anger, resentment about bygone hurts or unjust treatment, once these take root in our hearts it can parasitically strangle all other growth in our lives, crack our foundation, suffocate the Breath of Life meant to oxygenate our fruit-bearing right out of us. Like with any weed the answer it to definitively and decisively pluck it out. Go back to point (5) Learn to let go. Walk (away) towards clarity.

Proverbs 29 v 18 tells us that when there is no vision, no revelation of God or His word, we can quickly find ourselves on a wrong path or a slippery slope. I heard it said once that dissatisfaction and discouragement are not caused by the absence of things but the absence of vision. With impaired vision, we can easily become distracted by short-term, shallow things and ideas and lose sight of God’s call on our lives and the meaningful and purposeful life He has for us. A clear vision helps us understand the purposes of our trials, so the devil wants nothing more than to keep our “spiritual sight” dim so our faith can be diminished instead of strengthened when trials come.

 

If one of these spots have found its way onto your life lense, I pray that you will:

Find time to reflect and look inward so that you can again look out outward with a more accurate perspective

That you would both repent (if you need to) and let go (if you need to) so that you can grasp a new revelation of how much God loves you. Fresh grace comes more fully into hands that are empty

May that once again bring the wide horizon of God’s love into clear view.

 

 

 

 

What I told my kids about the poor among us…

What I told my kids about the poor among us…

Do you give to beggars?
We pass 7 traffic lights between our house and school, and 7 beggars, 8 if you count the toddler accompanying the woman at the entrance to our local mall. Sadly, in South Africa, this is disturbingly commonplace. And just like you are suddenly more aware of how crooked your handwriting is when the teacher is looking over your shoulder, you are suddenly more aware of how crooked your society is when your kids are in the back of the car. Asking you hard questions.
Stats SA’s poverty report shows that 30 million South Africans live in poverty out of a population of approximately 58 million people. If these numbers alone don’t confront our hearts, then the daily confrontation with the poor among us definitely should.
But how do we teach and model to our kids the right way to interact with the socio-economic needs of our nation? Is it really to just randomly hand out money or food at every street corner? I don’t think so.
“She sets her heart upon a nation and takes it as her own, carrying it within her. She labors there to plant the living vines.” (Prov 31 v 16 TPT)
So here is what I’ve told the boys:

We MUST give, and we must give with joy: 

Our privileges and yes, our blessings too, are in our lives for the sake of others, not just for our own sake. We are blessed in order to bless! Our giving is not benevolence for the sake of assuaging our conscience or giving ourselves a (usually public by way of Facebook) pat on the back. According to God’s word, our giving is an act of both obedience (Heb 13 v 16) in response to God’s goodness, but also a joyful opportunity (Rom 12 v 7-8) in response to God’s love.
“God has given us two hands, one to receive with and the other to give with” – Billy Graham.
If we consider where God placed us, and what He placed in our hands, how could we not give? I have written before how I’ve tackled what I call the “burden of privilege” with my boys, so that they can deal rightly, carefully, generously, and intentionally with the privileges that are a part of their lives.

We must be intentional and obedient in our giving: 

As believers, our giving takes 2 forms. As citizens of South Africa, both my husband and I honor God by paying our taxes. A portion of our taxes goes towards social grants.  More than 17 million South Africans receive social grants, which is our governments’ way of bringing to fruition Section 24 through 29 of our country’s impressive Bill of Rights, which focuses on the socio-economic rights of citizens, including the right to social security. The social grant system is a verifiable, standardized system of care, and the grants available include the child support grant, older person’s grant, disability grant, foster child grant, war veterans grant etc. So already, by merely following the laws of this land, (and God’s command Mark 12v17), we are already taking care of the poor. All people may not be able to make all the choices I have the privilege of making, but in a welfare state, they at least have some protection offered by law.
The second way we respond to the poor is by our tithes and offerings, where we commit our first fruits to our church and it’s various ministries, including it’s outreach to the poor. At my church, as I am sure it is the case at yours, our social outreach is by way of focussed, intentional initiatives that take a long-term, holistic view of caring for the poor in both a physical and a spiritual way.

We must give to help, not to hurt: 

According to a study done by Solidariteit, 90% of beggars in the Twane area use the money they obtain exclusively for drugs/ addictive substances. They make an average of R500 a day. The fact is that when we give money to someone on the street, we are often under the wrong impression that this money will go towards really helping, towards actual material needs such as shelter, food or clothing. But for the most part, this is not the case. Even the clothes and food we give gets bartered and sold. And in our thoughtless giving, we seldom realize the damage we do.
In my city women begging with one or 2 kids in tow is also commonplace. Very often, these kids are “on loan” and not even their real children. In the case of these scenarios, the damage we do in our “giving” is actually far worse and far-reaching.  At my local mall there is a woman and a child begging on a daily basis. She keeps showing up with the toddler in tow because suburban housewives with their Woolies packets and their pampered guilt continue to happily part with a few bills on the way home from the mall.
They are under the wrong impression that they are making a difference, but they are in fact just keeping things the same, or making them worse.
By giving in that situation not only are we thoughtlessly enabling an adult to (ab)use a child for monetary gain (there’s a name for that you know! It’s slavery), but we are actually funding the long-term neglect and abuse of the child as a means to make money (and yes, there is a name for that too..it’s human trafficking). We are cooperating in depriving that child of his/ her basic rights as underpinned by our constitution to be educated, protected from exploitation and to be safe,  keeping that innocent out of school and enslaved, likely having a shocking long-term impact on his/her development. The adult has a vested interest in keeping the child on the street, out of any early childhood development centre (of which many free or funded ones are available in poorer areas) or school (where a parent can apply for exception from school fees) because she knows if she is there with the child, motorists and passers-by are more likely to give than if she was there without the child.
So what to do? I have engaged (together with the boys) where it’s been possible especially with women and children in these situations, supplying walk-in centre information for organisations such as MES, which does amazing work especially in inner city environments, and who have the facilities and infrastructure to help with paperwork for Grants, who have Early Childhood Development Centres, Employment programs, Shelters and the like. Instead of arming yourself with small change, arm yourself with information about reputable non-profits or charities that are active in your area. Most soup kitchens and feeding points also have referral and ministry systems in place that go beyond “bread alone” for those in need.
So here is a key question: Does what I give and how I give it keep people enslaved, or provide a way out for them?

 We can’t help everyone, but we can help someone: 

Having worked at an NGO for 4 years, this is a very hard reality for me to stand in. And it’s a struggle to not become overwhelmed by the needs around us. We can’t help everyone. That’s the bad news. The good news is that, especially if you are a South African, you don’t have to go very far for an opportunity to make a difference. In our neighborhood, at our school, in our kitchens, and on our street corners we are every day presented with multiple opportunities to have an impact, be an everyday radical, to leave things and people, better than we found them. And in all of those encounters, we get to reflect Jesus to the world. In all of these encounters God is always asking, “who can I send?”
If we feel like we should change the world, maybe we will be too overwhelmed to do anything. But if we see how we are uniquely placed to change things for one person, maybe we will be inspired enough to do something. As a family, we recently signed up as sponsors for 2 kids via Compassion International. It an amazing opportunity to expose the boys to what it takes to break the cycle of poverty and how we can play a role (however small) what holistic care looks like, and by helping 2 boys not dissimilar to my 2, the journey is both relatable, practical and impactful.
Key question: are the people I encounter/ in my sphere of influence, better off or worse off because of me?

 We must acknowledge the humanity in every person: 

Even though the boys now know that we don’t hand out money to beggars,  I try to model to them that we also make a point to greet every person that we encounter on our travels. Regardless of how far we have all fallen, we remain image bearers, and when we acknowledge a beggar by greeting them and making eye contact with them we are doing more than being polite, we are acknowledging our shared humanity, our shared brokenness, and fallenness. It’s both a restorative act as well as an affirmation of value. Their fall from grace might look different from mine, but fallen is fallen isn’t it? And our need for Jesus is the same. Because the gospel informs us that we are all poor. Of course it’s different types of poverty, physical, emotional, spiritual, but in each of those settings, our need for Jesus is the same. we are all in need of God’s grace and above all His deliverance, salvation, restoration and sanctification. Poverty is not the thing that separates us from the people we aim to help, it is, in fact, the one true leveler and the one thing we have in common.

We must continue to sow small seeds because many “ones” soon become “thousands”:

Acts of kindness are cumulative, and with our actions, we choose what we put out into the world. Whether we will thoughtlessly join the streams of negativity and hopelessness, or courageously resist, not allowing ourselves to become fatigued in doing good (Gal 6 v 9) is a choice. To help the boys choose to be a part of the solution, the good in the world, we use the Game for Humanity cards, the school version (there is an adult version as well). Have you heard of these? Every week the boys take a card with an act of goodness on it, for example:
  • Help with recycling at your school
  • Make a hungry child a sandwich
  • Help someone with their homework
Once they fulfill the action on the card they pass it on to another student, ideally the one they assisted, and so they spread good, one person at a time. It is a great way for them to see that they have control over their ability to infuse their environment with positivity, or the alternative, and to act responsibly within their little circle of influence to build on the cumulative effects of kindness and good deeds.
What I told my kids about the poor among us...
It’s tough out there. Doing good things takes a lot of bravery. But we don’t have to reinvent the wheels of response, opportunities are all around us. We are called to continue to choose empathy, even if it doesn’t come naturally because that is what Jesus did. I hope to raise children who are more deeply aware of the context they grow up in, of where they have been planted and why, certainly more so than I was as a white middle-class kid in South Africa. I don’t know if I will get this right but these types of conversations are a start.

This blog is an except from my talk about being and raising everyday radicals. For more on talks click here