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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

5 questions to help you choose your Word for the Year

5 questions to help you choose your Word for the Year

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friendship Breakups

And how to walk away with grace and peace

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

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

Don’t miss the opportunity for introspection

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

Don’t over-explain yourself:

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

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

 Don’t desire closure over forgiveness:

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

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

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

Don’t rally for support:

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

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

Don’t force things:

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

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

Pray for them:

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

Grieve them and forgive them:

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

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

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

What I told my kids about Farm Attacks

What I told my kids about Farm Attacks

A guest blog by Lydia Pienaar

I wanted to write about this but I couldn’t. I do not live on a farm. I go into Woolworths and put the lamb and the mielies in my trolley without a thought to where that food came from. I look at the rain and consider the ways it’s ruining my social plans, not with consideration for the life and livelihood that it carries for my family and my future. But as you know from The Mommy Diaries, I believe that the way we make the Word of God real and relevant to our kids, equipping them to be the salt and the light our world needs, is to engage them on the things that happen to them and around them. We do not exercise our faith in a bubble. And with #farmattacks and #farmmurders at the forefront of everyone’s minds now, I asked my sister to tell us how they are leading their family in seeing things the way God sees them out on their farm in the Eastern Cape. It’s a privilege to have her guest blog for us today:

When I first started dating my now husband, a farmer, this is a phrase I heard all too often: “ You need to be careful of farm attacks”. I was already a widow at this point. I had known heartbreak and trauma. But I wasn’t about to let fear rob me of a future as it loves to do. A brief 6 month courtship later, I was the wife of a farmer. Deliriously happy and working harder than I ever thought possible (how many rusks should one woman actually have to bake?)I slowly made the adjustment to living on the farm. But the one thing I kept struggling to adjust to was people’s reaction when they found out I lived on a farm. 

Sometimes people outright asked me “ aren’t you scared?” other times I could read it in people’s eyes. Farm attacks have been increasing from 2011 onwards. For the 2019 calendar year, 552 farm attacks were reported and confirmed, which is, 27% more farm attacks than the previous year. and I guess, until I actually lived on a farm, I was naïve about this. Living on a farm in South Africa – I have come to understand – is the one place where you can on one hand feel more fully alive but also on the other be more fully aware of your mortality.

Now, two years down the line , hose questions haunt me daily, no hourly. Our internet on the farm works just fine (although some days I wish it didn’t). A barrage of unfiltered and uncensored information will find you even if you live in middle of nowhere. All of this in the name of creating awareness , more like “scared-ness” (I know that is not even a word but bare with me). It is a daily struggle for me.  Farm attacks and farm murders is now a topic, a hashtag, a political tennis ball, batted around for clickbait in the media and by parties on either side. The media, instead of looking at the deep seated issues surrounding this phenomenon, would rather give a mouthpiece to those with vengeful and violent agendas. 

And as a Christian and a parent, there now lurks another haunting question, scratching at me like a pebble in my shoe. What will I tell my kids about this? How will I answer their questions around the issue when the time comes? Can I wrestle out, even within myself, and answer that truly reflects what I believe, in Whom I believe? An answer that strengthens them without fuelling fear and without making light of something that is now at the forefront of our daily lives? 

So when I was asked to guest blog on this topic by my sister, there was now, once and for all, no place to hide. Time to dig deep on one of the most loaded topics in our country at the moment. The idea scared me. By no means do I want to add to the noise out there because most of us are already full up on information, opinion and Prozen . I pray that my journey in this painful subject might bring you to a better understanding of who God is and that peace is possible despite our circumstances, albeit in the suburbs or on a farm.

1 Peter  3 verse 15: But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do it with gentleness and respect.

Always keep your heart aligned with God’s heart

Farm murders has become part of a culture of murder and lawlessness that permeates the South African landscape and has irrevocably changed the lives of so many South Africans. Our political background being what it is, there has been bloodshed over many generations and tribes.  Personally I believe this is a driving force behind the perpetuated cycle of brutality. 

The Bible is very clear that God hates murder. As followers of Christ we have to have the same mind as Him regarding all matters that affect His children (1 Cor 2:16). Should we then single out one type of murder over another in a country so ravaged by this terrible sin? I think we can all agree it is not as simple as that.

But before I digress from the subject at hand, as a farm dweller myself , I want to unequivocally state that the attacks on farms is a sin in the eyes of God. It remains horrendous and whatever the motives are, it CANNOT be justified on any level. It should be strongly condemned by all of God’s children and so should murder against every group in our country. 

 The blood shed on our farms, in an abortion clinic, the stray bullets in the Cape flats, violent and fatal home invasions in the suburbs and  squatter camps abhors God equally.  There is no difference in the eyes of God. There will be an orphan on a farm and an orphan in the location. As His children this should break our hearts , because it breaks His.

I wish I could say that I have prayed against all of these things, or shown up to their cause in solidarity( in the non emoji and thumbs up kinda way)  but alas to my shame I have not. My concept of the sanctity of life has been skewed by my own selfishness and need for self preservation, most of the time it has been about me and not about God. 

This is the attitude our family is prayerfully trying to move away from and rather  seeking out  God’s truth in all these matters. What He says before what any lobby group, petition or  you tube video says.  As parents and as Christians we have to look at our motives every time we speak, act, forward a message, commit to a position. Is it self-preservation or a reverential fear of God in His holiness? Are we calling to God because this matter is now too close for comfort or because we know we need to face the poor attitudes of our heart?

Having the word of God as the plumb line on this matter will make it easier to guide our children on this tough topic and many others. However, if we make Facebook, our newsfeed or our emotions the authority on the subject, firm faith and stability will elude us and because kids learn by example they will inevitably follow suit. When we face any challenge we should always do a heart check first, because the heart deceives quickly and easily and does not automatically see things the way God sees them. 

Always allow the blood of Christ to speak the loudest

We all know the story of Cain and Abel. Jealousy, hatred and basically human nature caused senseless bloodshed.

Genesis 4:10 :The LORD said, “ what have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground.

If we look around us in South Africa this has never been more true. Blood seems to call out for more blood, hate breeds more hate. Each one screaming for justice and truth louder than the next one. It is hard to discern the truth from the lie. I want to teach my boys to listen to the right blood. (stay with me).

Hebrews 12 :24 says: to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel. 

In the old covenant blood called out for vengeance and wrath much like today. However we are children of a new covenant through Jesus. His blood speaks restoration and peace that is possible through forgiveness. The only truth that can break the cycle of vengeance we now find ourselves in again.

Jesus’ blood was the only blood that could satisfy the wrath of God, the only blood that does not call out for more. If we do not bring this gospel truth into every bloodstained South African reality we will continue to see the cycle of vengeance without truth play itself out in our society and on social media.  Now more than ever before what we believe about the blood of Christ is on display for the world to see. Are we speaking a better word in the way we post, share or speak around the braai? Do we fuel fear? Do we edify? Our kids needs to know that there is a blood that speaks a better word over every situation they face.

The sooner they learn that wrath and vengeance only brings more wrath and vengeance the sooner they can focus prayerfully on living, being and praying the powerful truth of the cross into this situation.

Always choose righteousness over rights

In a society that is all about rights and standing on them, we as Christians often forget Jesus was more about righteousness than rights. He had ample opportunity to stand on those rights and ‘smite’ those who stood in His way so that people could know that He was here on an exceptional errand but He did not.  

2 Corinthians 5: 21 He became sin who knew no sin that we might become the righteousness of God.

 Jesus could not have said it clearer in Matthew 16: 24 “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me”

We all know that taking up your cross means being willing to die to follow Jesus. This can also be called ‘dying to self’.  A call to absolute surrender. It means I must, in every circumstances, including this one,ask myself this hard questions: Am I a slave to my rights in this situation or to the freeing gospel of Christ? When I face a very real threat of life and livelihood, can I die to my justifiable indignation – I mean do THEY realise that without US, THEY cannot eat! Can I pretend that I don’t know or maybe skipped over that part in scripture where Jesus meant that denying myself includes denying myself the right to explain this side of the story, to be offended, to hold on to what is mine. This has never been harder for me than right now on this farm.

CS Lewis Quotation

Jesus knows how damaging these feelings and attitudes are, regardless of how valid and true they might be. He know that my un submitted heart will eventually become so calloused, unable to hear His voice over my own pain and indignation that I could find myself quite literally outside of His perfect will. 

We read in Philippians 2 v 6 – 8 that Jesus left the comfort of his rights and reputation and position to become a slave to righteousness. If I want to be His follower, should I not then be willing to be a slave to righteousness instead of being a slave to my rights, to my reputation, my opinion or my position. Those things can never make me a servant of the gospel. And in this situation, in Senekal today, in every conversation about this very hard thing, being a servant to the gospel means what it always means: Forgiveness, reconciliation, peace.  And this brings me to my next point…

Always choose your identity in Christ first. 

I want my boys to know that even before they are the sons of a farmer, or Afrikaans, or anything else, the truth of Col 3:3:

For  you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.

That is the only identity worth holding on to. If they are firmly established in that knowledge it will not be a total crises when some certainties are shaken. If they firmly grasp this truth it will speak louder about who they are and where they are from than the color of their skin or the language they speak. 

Don’t get me wrong. I love and cherish my heritage, language and culture but that is not who I am foremost. I am His. I am not my church denomination, the land I own or even the language I speak. All those things are good, but so often I have found the good stands in the way of the Godly. If the good of our culture or heritage, for example, stands before the truth of our Godly identity, it not only distracts us our true purpose in the here and now, but, it brings division, even among believers, and it puts our confidence, our peace and our hope on shaky ground because we have placed our confidence, our peace and our hope in the wrong thing. 

There is something that I’ve noticed in my culture, maybe you’ve noticed it in yours? Culture, heritage, even race, can become something we build our identity around. But as believers, we see in Ephesians 2 v 11 – 22 that we are given a new, primary identity and this is not just so we can be reconciled to God, but also so the reconciliation between people of different backgrounds can be accomplished through the gospel. That is why it is both tragic, divisive and dangerous when we make a golden calf (umphh and I’m trying to tread lightly here) out of our heritage, culture or race and as believers we should be vocal about it as we see it happening in volatile situations not just here but everywhere. Something like that can so easily become an idol. 

Why do I say that? Well what are the markers of an idol ? We throw all our time and money at it, even vow our whole life to defend it , and (because idols require a blood sacrifice) when someone threatens it, we become willing to fight for it even unto death. We are quick to say we will kneel only before God, but us clinging to an identity that is not first and foremost our identity in Christ makes us hypocrites, it makes us the same as the world – like people who don’t have anything else to identify with. This scares me and breaks my heart.

 The reality for me as an Afrikaans speaking woman in SA is that everything can be taken from me and my children at any time. I want them to be so aware that they already have a home, and unmovable identity  and that they are so deeply loved that should these things happen they will not be completely shaken. That there is only one thing worth fighting and dying for.

In conclusion.  Please don’t think I am so Godly minded that I am no earthly good.  We of course have done all we could to remain safe on the farm and to remain informed using the right channels. But all these things are done proactively, reasonably and not in reaction to fear. Nothing good can ever come from decisions made out of fear. But before any of these things had become necessary we had already been fighting the good fight in our thoughts and hearts, and we hope to continue to do that. So this blog (sermon?) I am preaching to myself as much as anyone! We strive only to protecting the peace that was brutally paid for in blood by our Saviour. 

You will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, Because he trusts in you” Isaiah 26:3

This has been a daily battle for me and putting these thoughts down was so so hard. I hope that you do not see my thoughts and feelings reflected on the page. I pray that you read them through the everlasting lens of His love for us. And that His blood will speak a better Word to where you find yourself struggling today.

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

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

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

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

Create predictability

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

Learn to Pivot

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

Provide Perspective

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

God did not cause this pandemic:

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

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

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

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

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

Process Disappointment

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

Validate their experiences

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

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

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

Practice Gratitude

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

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

Lean into Prayer

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

Protect them from the Media

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

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

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

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

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

4 Ways to keep choosing Fierce Faith

4 Ways to keep choosing Fierce Faith

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

4 Ways to keep choosing Fierce Faith

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4 Ways to keep choosing Fierce Faith

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kona Brown

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

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

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

How to Cope with Uncertainty

How to Cope with Uncertainty

Fostering a Hope worth Having

I had high hopes for 2020, didn’t you? You know, #20plenty and all that. How bitterly we can laugh at all that arrogant folly now! I had high hopes for my son’s start at High School. I had hopes for a giant leap forward in my career that included meeting with publishers in the US. Even when the Covid19 Pandemic hit, I had hoped that at least my dayjob would survive it. And in the very midst of it my husband had hoped that, after 2 months of having his business’ doors shut during lockdown he would be able to open them again in May. Our hopes thus far have not amounted to much and it seems like hope, just like patience, sanity and money, is hard to hold on to in times of uncertainty. I know many of you are in the exact same place. Hope is hard right now. 

How do you deal with uncertainty? Me, I try to distract myself with jellybeans and coffee, and I try to pacify myself by trying to figure things out, running future scenarios in my head so I can feel better, feel like I am “doing” something. Searching desperately in every source of information I can find for some kind of reassurance that things are going to work out, like trying to shore up a river that’s threatening to break its banks.  But all of it is actually just a frantic grasp for comfort and control. For something to put my hope in. Because without hope, the torture of uncertainty will eat you alive.  

The problem is that my “strategies” present a fickle hope at best. Small hopeful snippets in today’s news cycle are quickly obliterated in the next, proving my hope false. Some days I wake up feeling like I can handle it, but that feeling soon get’s hit with the reality of our situation with the finesse of a wrecking ball. 

Hope is not hope if it’s:

  • Based on my circumstances or feelings
  • Hinged on my ability to control outcomes (which I continue to be deluded and overconfident about)
  • Or dependent on the actions and decisions of others

So I had to ask myself, do I even understand what real hope is, and where to find it?

Hope is a word we use loosely. And even now, in this season, we as believers might be making ourselves guilty of peddling half-truths about “hoping in God” when in truth we have no idea what that means and how to actually get there, with our Christianese platitudes about as useful as a jam sandwich to a drowning rabbit. So here’s  is another fun truth bomb for ya:

But how? David, who lived through a lot of uncertainty, seemed to always return to an unshakeable hope. In Psalm 27, which he wrote in the midst of war and persecution, he said that what he had been going through would have made him lose hope, had he not believed that he would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living (v 13). See, his hope was not a “one day pie in the skie when you die” kinda hope. He had confidence in the goodness of God in the “here and now”.  He knew this:  that when your everyday life feels like a battle, you need this kind of hope in the worst way

How to Cope with Uncertainty

That’s where biblical hope is different and if I’m honest, this does not come naturally to me. I never expect something good to happen. I kinda live in the “worst-case scenario” space.  So how did David find this kind of hope? Because that is the kind of hope I want to have! No, that is the hope I NEED right now? How did he get there? Take out Psalm 27 and let’s take a look:

Confidence in the right place:

David’s confidence was not in his own strength, in his ability to plan and strategies his way out of his present difficulty or just white-knuckle it through. David did not seek out hope in the news reports of the day, in the outcomes he could predict or control. He said of the character of God “in this I will be confident” (v3). David’s hope in God was not a hope the way we sometimes express it, when we hope that something would happen but we are not sure if it will. For example: “I hope my sons can learn to get along/ put the toilet seat down/ not use the floor as a closet”.His hope was based on certainty because it was based on the character of God. The One who doesn’t change (Num 23 v 19). The One who loves us with an everlasting love (Jer 31 v 3) There is a certainty that comes with knowing the character of a person. David’s hope in God is not a crossing of the fingers, not a “hope for the best but expect the worst” attitude which is what I so often have. It was more a “Expect great things from God” as in the words of William Carey. 

Devotion over despair:

How did he get to this place of firm confidence in God? It’s hard to have confidence in someone we don’t know. And if we relied on second hand faith on social media or the opinions of a friend with the theology degree or our experiences in the world to form for us a picture of God’s true character, we would be on shaky ground indeed. God instructed his kings to have their own copy of His word and to read it all the days of their lives (Deut 17 v18) so that in times of doubt, in times of war, in times of struggle, in times of uncertainty they would not rely on their own wisdom but on His, not rely on their own abilities, but on His. There is only one place where we can find a true revelation of God’s character and that is through His word. So this is what David did:

“When You said “Seek My Face”, my heart said to you, “Your face, Lord, I will seek” (Psalm 27 v 8)

God directed David towards devotion. Away from his feelings, away from theories and opinions, and straight into the Word. For the purpose of revealing His face, His likeness, His character. Where we often go wrong as believers is that our searching of God’s word is about us, to know more about who we are, how He sees us, what He promises us, what He says about us. But if we want unshakeable confidence, a firm hope, what we need to be looking for first and foremost, is what God says about Himself.

This is the pursuit David devoted himself to even in the midst of “enemies and foes” (v2), and I am so convicted by this when I consider the things I’ve been pursuing just to “feel better” in this time. That is why David can so confidently say “I sought the Lord and He delivered me from all my fears” (Ps 34 v 4), because it’s in the seeking and the finding that our confidence in God is established. 

Undeviating instead of uncertain

I find lately I deviate, between being ok with the levels of uncertainty, and then being beset with sheer panic. My grip on hope seems to hover somewhere in the margins, like those tiny spots in your peripheral vision that move every time you turn to look at them. It’s because there was actually so many “false things” I used to set my hope on – my presumptuous certainty about the future (work, plans, strategies) being 1st on the list. I was certain of it…relied on it. But David sets for me a different example; his reliance on God was even deeper and more secure than his reliance on a father or mother (v10)! In the face of uncertainty, David renounces reliance on even such certainties and rather finds certainty in what God is teaching him in his trial. And what he learns puts him on a firmer footing – a smooth, stable undeviating path through the uncertainty (v11).

God does not rescue us from uncertainty by just laying out everything that’s going to happen so we don’t have to be scared. God rescues us from uncertainty by teaching us, and that is a daily process and turning to Him for todays bread, todays light, todays grace, todays wisdom. The word in the bible for “teach” is the word YARAH, which means to point, to shoot, to direct the flow or cast something in a straight line. It is God’s word that guides us through uncertainty, with enough of whatever we need just for today. Every. Single. Day.

Through devotion and discipline a hope was fostered inside of David, not the ‘cross your fingers’ kind, but the kind that is based on a high confidence in God, a God whose love declares the best possible outcome for our circumstances, even if we can’t see it right now. And when he found that hope, he also found courage and strength respond to uncertainty so that he could preach to himself when his soul was downcast and unsettled (like mine is, and I’m sure like yours is too!), “HOPE IN GOD!” (Psalm 42 v 5)

God knows it’s scary to be us right now. He doesn’t take our tears, fears or suffering lightly. That is why He lights a path for us to find a solid hope, hope that has certainty in it.  Pray for me. I am praying for you.

What I told my kid about getting a smartphone

What I told my kid about getting a smartphone

(This is post 1 in a 2 part series about smartphones. The next post will be about what I told my kids about owning a smartphone. You can’t call it a “before” and “after” if you like)

Like all other parenting decisions, the choice to give a child a smartphone or tablet is a personal one. My son, God bless him, is the only GR7 in his class who doesn’t have a phone or tablet, a fact that he reminds me of with irrational frequency. But that is about to change. Soon he turns 13 and the winds of change, which smell suspiciously and strongly of Axe deodorant, are blowing through our house. 

In this blog, I will be sharing with you why we decided to wait this long to give my son a phone. In the follow-on blog I will share with you what we shared with him things he needs to know regarding actually owning one. Our agreement with our eldest is that there are certain rules and responsibilities, attitudes and characteristics that need to be present by the age of 13 if he wants to have a phone by then. If you want this list, it’s available as a free printable to subscribers, so be sure to subscribe to the blog

DISCLAIMER: This is not my judgment on parents whose kids have phones. Far from it! Spend one day with me or interview my kids and you will realise in about 5 minutes flat I am in no position to judge any other parent. Seriously, you do you! The reason I wrote this blog is because 1) People ask me all the time how we’ve handled the smartphone issue and 2) This blog arose from a series of actual convo’s I had with my actual stroppy and frustrated 12 yo in the car on the way to school. Use it don’t use it, like with everything else on this site! 

This is what I told my kid about getting a smartphone:

You are still learning about relationships:

One of the most important skills to have is the ability to build relationships. As I mention in my book in the chapter on popularity, there is a distinct correlation between our general well being and our ability to build and maintain strong, lasting friendships with peers. I don’t believe having a cellphone helps kids with this. In fact, I think in kids, who are still learning about being around others, it actually hinders their ability to be socially comfortable. 

Technology at its best connects us, but at its worst, it disconnects us and desensitizes us to the world. 

Picking up social ques, looking people in the eye, discerning tone and timing, empathy, genuine connection, you can’t develop one of these skills if your only interaction with others is via a screen. Connection via a screen cannot, should not, ever be considered the same as actual connection with actual people and learning from those interactions. 

You are still learning about responsibility:

Here are the facts: learning to be responsible is exactly that, something you learn. And you don’t start that learning by being responsible for a R3000 piece of equipment that gives you access to the internet. You just don’t. As your mom I will not be doing you a favor by starting to teach you responsibility at that level. You learn responsibility by starting smaller. Much, much smaller. You learn it by being responsible for the R60 swimming cap you keep losing. You learn it by taking seriously the small tasks entrusted to you. Here is what Jesus said:

“The one who manages the little he has been given with faithfulness and integrity will be promoted and trusted with greater responsibilities. But those who cheat with the little they have been given will not be considered trustworthy to receive more.” 

Luke 16 v 10 TPT

So if you can’t keep track of the R60 swimming cap or remember that it’s your “responsibility” to take the recycling out on a Thursday without your mom telling you, well, then you are not yet responsible enough to own a smartphone. It really is just as simple as that. 

You have to earn your privileges:

Privileges are earned. This is true for every single person in the world, in every job and sphere we operate in. And the fact is, a smartphone is exactly that. A privilege. Not a human right. Not a necessity for someone who doesn’t have a job or any of the complicated logistics of adulting to manage. And by delaying giving you something you desperately want, we as your parents are actually making you a better person. Some of the most awful people you will ever encounter are the entitled kind. You are not entitled to a phone. There is a tangible list of achievable things (remember to subscribe for this list as a free printable!) by which you can earn this privilege, meaning you are 100% empowered to do so. 

You should still reap the benefits of being a kid:

Experts are now able to prove the negative impact smartphones and access to the internet has on the mental health of children. In the ever rising child suicide numbers and cyber bully headline we as parents are seeing the fruit of the access we have granted to humans who are simply not ready or equipped to cope with it. 

Having a phone also makes you physically vulnerable. Just recently I read about a school in Cape Town where there was a robbery during school hours. Yes, a robbery. At a school. Why? Smartphones is why. In every decision we as your parents have to count the cost and if I have to choose between you being unhappy about not having a smartphone or you having compromised mental health, or being traumatized by a cyberbully or a robber well, I’m sorry, but the choice is obvious.

I am not made of steel. I want a happy child who feels like he fits in just as much as the next parent. Saying no to my kids is hard, even when I have all the wisdom and reasons why. But NO is not bad for you. Most wise no’s are for the sake of a bigger yes. I want my son to know there are values that far supersede the value of fitting in or getting what you want when you want it. I want my son to learn and know the secret to really living, and living well. I want him to know what it means to be free. But those lessons are not normally present in an environment where you 1) always get what you want and 2) get things you are not ready for 3) you do exactly the same thing everyone else is doing. And I trust that my son will eventually see the wisdom in this, if not today then hopefully some day.  My job, my calling as mom, is not to give my son everything he wants and guard his happiness. My job is to equip him with what he needs to live a good life. To love and lead him into the Kingdom so that life might have a purpose, and to guide and guard his body, mind and spirit as I carry out that calling.  Go with God mommas, I know this is a tough one!