Because who is perfect?

Mikey“Are you watching videos or working?” said Chris yesterday at 2pm, just after we’d settled back at our computers after lunch. It took him about 15 seconds to realise that might not have been the best timed comment, because, well, I was bawling. And yes I was watching a video – but the five minutes of “Because who is perfect? Get closer” were more than worth it. It was part of a disability awareness campaign where Mannikins modeled after disabled people’s bodies were displayed in mainstream shop windows. It reminded us that we all have dignity, no matter what we look like. Because really, who get’s to decide who is – or perhaps more specifically – who isn’t perfect?

My biggest hero in life is my very brave, very cheerful, very funny nephew Michael. He is 13 and he’s got a rare muscle and bone condition that means he can’t walk or even move very much – but he has an awesome electric wheelchair that he scoots around school with. He’s had more operations than anyone I know, and before the last batch – removing 8 teeth and getting a spinal fusion (!!!) – his remark was “Well let’s just get it over and done with”. Did I say he was brave? Yes I did – but I’ll say it again. And funny. And he hates most vegetables but loves junk food, like any other kid his age. One of my favourite conversations with Michael (then aged about 4) goes like this:

My sister Laura: Michael, what do cows eat?
Michael: grass.
Laura: What do birds eat?
Michael: worms
Laura: (dramatic voice) Annnd, what do CROCODILES eat?
Michael: (realising he doesn’t like crocodiles) ummm… CARROTS!

NeetsandMikeNo, Michael doesn’t like crocodiles and he doesn’t like carrots, and he also hates home work. But he loves playing computer games with his friends and drawing. In fact, he’s made a collection of illustrations for a South African organisation that generates awareness and funds to help otherwise-abled kids called the Chaeli Campaign. I remember Michael, his sister Nina, and all the kids in both of their schools collecting thousands of plastic bread bag tags for an initiative where the plastic was exchanged for wheelchairs for kids from underprivileged areas in Cape Town. I was lucky enough to be there when Michael presented the wheelchair in assembly – he knew how much his cool wheelchair meant to him, and how having one can change a life.

I guess it changes the way you see things when someone in your family would like to walk but can’t, and then seeing that being able to walk or not doesn’t define them anyway. Disability shouldn’t have to be a box that limits or categorises people as different – and neither should things like race, class, or gender, for that matter. But often these imaginary boxes colour the choices we make, like who our friends are, who we sit next to in a train, what jokes we make when we’re surrounded by people who look like us. And what a shame! Choices like that make us lose out. And I guess that’s what I appreciated most about video I watched yesterday. It reminded us that we all have imperfections, struggles, hopes, and dreams to be beautiful or accepted. And everybody should be allowed to get on stage, or in the shop windows, to help us build our picture of “perfection” or “normality”.

When did you feel loved today?

Anita Unnused1_IGWorthwhile thought for the day: What questions do you ask? And more importantly, are you asking the people you love the right questions? Blogger and author Glennon Melton has some hilarious insights (you can read her article here) into how crazy life can get – and the kinds of questions that can save your friendships or marriage. Questions like, when did you feel lonely today? Or, When did you feel special? When did you feel loved? Or, when did I make you feel unnoticed.

Chris and I tried it – it sure is a bit weird, but we’ve found ourselves laughing and aaahing at some unexpected answers to these questions. We even tried it on some friends… it sure makes an interesting alternative to questions like “How’s work” or “So, still jogging?”.

So, everyone, when did you feel loved today? … I felt loved when I came home to flowers ❤

Operation back to the blog… New Year’s fever is over!

I’m sure I’m not the first blogger to open up my dashboard after a busy Christmas and New Year and finally get my writing butt in gear again… or am I?! It’s been 2 months to the day since my last post which means that, according to Michael Hyatt’s very helpful video on launching your blog I just broke a sacred law of blogging… oh well! I just watched it to get some motivation, and thought some of you could use inspiration too int he link above… enjoy!

Life after High School: Getting past your Bullies

Anita bully_IGApart from a lucky few, most people I know are still trying to recover from high school or better yet erase it from their memory altogether. Bad hair, bad skin, bad fashion sense. Need I say more?! For me high school was a nightmare. I grew up as a farm child with a free spirit and love for everything wild, and my new city school didn’t quite appreciate my hairy legs and tie-dye T-shirts. (It also didn’t help that at no one on the farm had told me I needed to have at least 10 boyfriends by age 12 to be considered cool in the city).

Added to the mix, I had a couple of my own personal bullies at school, especially guys who took every opportunity to tell me I was ugly. Then there were those kids who moo-ed and baa-ed me to sleep from the upstairs windows of the hostel where I was a weekly boarder to make me feel like I was back in the barn – even I had to laugh at that, and I definitely also had some great times with some really cool people. But truth is, I got mocked so often that years after high school I still thought people were saying something nasty about me if I heard laughter nearby. I still thought of myself as someone unlikeable, ugly and needing to hide my real thoughts and feelings, else fend for them with my life. I hope most of you don’t know what I’m talking about, but my feeling is a lot of you will.

You see, bullying and trauma teach us personalised versions of fight or flight responses, which are very good for getting us out of dangerous or abusive situations with skin on our backs. If you are being bully stickymanipulated, controlled or abused, it’s important to stand up for yourself and your beliefs, or get out of those situations altogether. But it’s a problem when we use strong fight or flight reactions even years later in situations where we aren’t being bullied but still feel we are. Maybe your colleagues disagree with one of your ideas and suddenly you feel like that cornered teenager; your man says he doesn’t like your lipstick colour and you feel an urge to hide in the bathroom; a friend challenges you and you lash out, only to regret it the next day.

Fighting and flighting are good when we really are in danger, but they wrap our lives in unnecessary emotional drama when the danger is a projection of our past locked in our subconscious. (Who’s feeling me here?). So, post bullying or abuse it’s really important to get the healing you need, and ask God to help you feel safe in your present. After all he’s your father – a strong, loving defender.

Secondly, get to know yourself and your triggers, and ask God to help you practice new, less extreme responses. For me, I know that conflict makes me feel like a trapped rabbit, so I’m learning to count to ten and tell myself that my world is still safe in God’s hands no matter what people say or think. That way I’m less likely to sit in a pool of sweat or get defensive. And as you can imagine, this one trick is doing my relationships and happiness levels the world of good.

We all have triggers – what are yours? And what are your secrets for getting past high school or the bullies from your past?

“But didn’t God say – ?”

We all know that feeling of being totally, 100% convinced that that guy (who hardly seems to know you exist) is ‘the one’. Your personalities are the same, you love the same pets, AND – drumroll – God said so. Only problem is dear sweet Steve or Bob doesn’t seem to be on the same page. I know I had a few experience like that before I finally said ‘I do’.

What do you do when you’re sure you heard God say something, but in reality it’s just not happening? That has to be one of the toughest questions to wrestle through, and I’m sure the queue to have that one answered in heaven is gonna be pretty long. Didn’t you say I’d get that guy, that job, that place at uni, those 5 great kids? Did I really hear from you, God? I’ve been surprised at how often these questions have come up in conversations with women lately, and I’m beginning to think that maybe God is doing something here. For me, I have my fair share of questions about why exactly God has placed me where he has, and I’m sure you do too. Heart questions about your future, your dreams, or love life.

What I’ve realised is there comes a point where overanalysing 90% of the day and in 90% of conversations with God just leaves one feeling stressed and unhappy – either hopeless or desperately trying to make things work on your own. It’s great to have big dreams for the future and believe God for things he promised us, but not at the expense of losing your peace and joy in the present. I am a firm believer in making goals – but I’ve learned they’re often more realistic and successful when we start with maximizing what God has given us, rather than getting tangled in the why’s and didn’t you say’s of a wished for future.

I think that God sometimes tests our hearts by holding back things we want, so that we will place our happiness in him first. In times like these, God wants us to trust Him and hold the very promises he gave us in an open hand. Crazy right? Well, I’ll admit God does come across as crazy sometimes.

But here’s the thing: God is more about the health of our hearts than the desires of our hearts. That’s because he knows that most of us don’t dig down to that place till the things we really want feel out of reach. God wants us to trust him and start asking questions like Jesus, what will make my soul healthy? rather than but didn’t you say – ? And strangely enough, those things we absolutely need seem a lot less important when we hold them in an open hand, and quite often they fall in place on their own when we quit obsessing about them.

Pic credit: Questions by Oberazzi

Kicking Rejection’s nasty Butt

Dee1_IGGuest post by Denise Padayachee

Leading as a woman in a man’s world is not for the faint hearted: it requires great resolve, courage and fortitude. Of all the fights that I fight in this world, one that I must win at all costs is the fight for my heart and the health of my soul. I am an ordained minister, a missionary, single at 34, female and Indian. Quite a lot of fights are involved in each of those defining descriptions.

Added to all of this, I have a heart for justice. This has been my compass and my trustworthy adrenalin provider to get up and fight again. But it has also been a bitter sweet gift as it becomes the metal detector seeking out (even against my will) those uneven scales and rigged balances. And after detecting them, I am left to wrestle them in the dark. Should I fight this one? Or, why is no-one else fighting?

I have learned some things along the way, allow me to share some of these life lessons. Taking care of your soul is crucial. So channel your fight first into guarding or protecting your heart (Prov 4:23), dealing with offense and disappointment (Prov 13:12), and to keep renewing your mind (Rom 12:2). Also, hold onto your dreams. Will you hold onto your dreams no matter how big and incredulous they seem right now, even if no-one else really believes in them?

Dee2Secondly, deal with the rejection you feel, because it is a major soul infector. Many say that rejection is the universal malady, but it comes with a great reward if we can overcome it (Matt 5:10-12). In processing rejection, it’s important to understand that though God uses it as a tool, rejection is not God’s heart toward us. He does not reject us. The acceptance of the Father is our healing balm. Bob Sorge says that “when people reject you, but you are fuelled inside by the profound affections of [God] your Father for you, then you are able to give yourself to your fellow man in love regardless of how he treats you.”

I saw a picture in my spirit recently of great, tall lightning rods. It came with the sense that these lightning rods were people fashioned by God for the purpose of attracting Heaven’s lightnings and drawing it to impact the earth – in a positive way. But I also felt that these lightning rods were made dysfunctional by rejection. Rejection experienced from others as well as self-rejection.

As I shared this word at a service one day I felt strongly that there were women in the room whose bodies were rejecting food, who could not look into the mirror, and some who were experiencing the breakdown of key relationships as an effect of rejection. I was struck by God’s desire to heal, free and re-align women so that they could stand strong and straight, attracting heaven, as lightning rods once more. Rejection doesn’t need to define us. God the father wants to draw us into healing to bring heaven’s lightning on earth. Now isn’t that something worth getting healed for?

Who Do You Think You Are?

Shirley 2Guest post by Shirley Bardone

It’s a favourite game around our dinner table. It started with Simon teasing one of the kids that he couldn’t remember who he was. This sort of thing usually results in wild protestations and many moans and groans, and this occasion was no different.

“I’m Isaac,” proclaims Simon.
Isaac protests, “No! You’re Papa!”
“I’m Evie?”
“I’m Judah?”
“No!!” (This was accompanied with a frustrated little fist-pump) “No, Papa! You’re Papa!”
“No, that’s Papa,” (Simon points at me).
“Arrrghhh! Pa-pa!”
Simon cracks up laughing. Suddenly the penny drops, and Isaac’s face breaks into a grin. He says, slowly, trying it out, “No, that’s not papa, that’s Isaac.” (Pointing at me.)
Simon asks, “Then who are you?”
Isaac thinks. “I’m…I’m…Mama!” (This seems a little too overwhelming) “No – no, I’m Evie.”
Evie screams, “Noooooo!!”
We all have a good laugh.

It’s amazing how intrigued the children are by this game of pretence and false identity. It messes with their heads in the most delightful way. We frequently play this at mealtimes, and now even Evie joins in. “Who am I?” is a very important question to a little person, and I’ve noticed that children seem to be aware from a very early age of this sense of self. I think Evie’s second word after “Mama” was “Mine!” (Probably a typical younger-sibling take on the world.)

Shirley 3The journey towards answering the question of who we are stretches far beyond childhood. And how we answer that question is crucial to our sense of wellbeing and fulfilment. Answered wrongly, we could spend our lives pigeon-holed into a wrong fit, or striving desperately to meet up to a standard that we can never attain.

Often the way society answers it is by looking at the things you have or do. Some of these things can be within our control, like what we spend our money on or choosing a career. But the problem is that none are guaranteed to last. We could get sick, lose our jobs, get robbed, or worse, we could lose the person we love.

This really came home to me when I left the “workplace” to become a stay-at-home mum when Isaac was born. Initially I felt euphoric at being able to spend all my time with my new baby, but soon the novelty wore off, and I found myself in a crisis. Not that I had forgotten who I was, but I didn’t see what I was doing as significant in society’s eyes.

It does seem quite counter-cultural in this highly competitive, capitalistic, ultra-feminist modern world, to step away from pursuing one’s own career and interests to do something which is much less glamorous and definitely does not require a university degree! (I used to joke despairingly to my mother in the early days of parenting that I should have studied Home Economics – a subject I despised at school).

Ironically, it was during this time that I was asked to give a talk on “Identity” at a church weekend-away. The time I spent praying, thinking and researching for the talk really cemented some of these things deep in my heart. In Psalm 139 it says, “I am fearfully and wonderfully made,” and in Romans 8:15, “you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’”

Shirley 1I realised something simple and yet deeply profound: I am a Child of God. When all is stripped away, I am His Daughter. Being God’s daughter means that, no matter what, I am loved. Deeply, unreservedly, fully, passionately. And I am accepted. I am exactly who he has made me to be, and everything about me has intrinsic worth, no matter what I am doing, or how many things I have.

It took me a long time, but slowly I came to a point where I realised the significance of investing my time and energy into raising our children full-time. I realised that the impact on their lives and therefore on the lives of everyone they come into contact with, would probably be the most important and most significant thing I would ever achieve.

At our recent students’ weekend-away Isaac was asked who his favourite super-hero was. He calmly and matter-of-factly stated, “Papa.” I wish we were all like this, because we do have a superhero heavenly Papa, one who is perfect and awesome and totally cool. And guess what? We’re His kids.

The REAL life of Mr and Mrs ‘Right’

Don’t we all dream of meeting that perfect prince charming who respects and understands us, and sends us flowers every other week? Hmmm… of course. But what do we do when we’re married to him, and start to realise he does the darndest things sometimes? Much as you love him, sometimes you have to wonder WHY is Mr. Right doing that WRONG thing – again? And to be honest he’s probably thinking the exact same thing about you too – I know my husband is at least!

For example, there’s a special look of horror I reserve for times when my husband uses my dish washing sponge to deal with a smear of *something* on his shoe… or when he tells me the potatoes he cooked, recently on my plate and now in my stomach, were partly rotten BUT not to worry, they were PROBABLY still edible. It looks something like the expression in the photo above.

Another time I’m tempted to wear that look is when we have the Anita VS Computer duel. No matter whether I’m holding out chocolate and biscuits as bait, or if I’ve put on a cocktail dress and turned the Mr and Mrs Rightlights down low, emails seem to have a mysterious pull on my man. Don’t get me wrong, I usually win in the end – but often only after a fight involving pink nails flashing in front of a stubbly face (ahem thanks for that snapshot of our marriage last week my darling!)

Like all good things in life, relationships take time and work to become truly great. Over the four years that we have been together, two things have helped us navigate the different atmospheres of Mars and Venus, and fall more in love despite our differences.

#1. learn to have a good fight: Bottling things up is a recipe for disaster. The longer things fester, the more permanent the damage, so keep a short tab with your spouse. In other words, talk over the problem rather than letting your anger brew. The Bible is right that if you don’t resolve your fight TODAY, you give the devil a foothold in your marriage – then what could have been a good fight becomes a bad war.

Having a good fight also means listening to the other person, not just hearing them speak. Listening means laying aside your agenda long enough to put yourself in their shoes, and being willing to change the way you have always done things, so that your home is big enough to fit two personalities in under one Neets Chris Mr right_IGroof. And practice saying sorry – that little word can save your marriage.

#2. Spend time together: According to a recent Relevant article, regular date nights reduce divorce rates. It’s not rocket science really – one or two nights a week to have fun and relax with your special someone keeps that fickle flame of love burning. But all too often, we let ‘urgent’ things get in the way, when really, marriage is more important. Urgent things will always remain, but sadly not all marriages. So stay spontaneous – put little notes in your man’s jacket pocket, take a dance class, and go to the movies even if the bank account complains. Your marriage is worth the time and money – it’s your most important investment after a relationship with God. After all, isn’t it worth fighting for a truly great marriage?

How to find a dream girl…

IMG_20131031_164801 Guest post by Chris Goldswain

Hey dudes, listen up. So you’re single and wanting to find that special lady you’re going to be with for the rest of your life? Yes I know, guys – even hardcore “boy’s club” jocks – are looking for real love. Well, some of them at least. If that’s you, I’ve got some tips on how to find that special lady friend …

#1: Be realistic. She’s not going to be a “dream girl”. Perfect skin, perfect you-know-what-else, always agrees with you and likes everything you like? Not gonna happen. Your dream girl is most likely going to love a bunch of stuff you don’t even understand and have emotions you will never wrap your head around. She probably won’t look like Scarlett Johansson, she’ll have bad hair days, bad skin days … and yes, she will even fart every once in a while. So come down from cloud Hollywood and open your eyes.

There are amazing women all around you every day, and I’m talking about the human ones, not the ones on the posters. All women are beautiful. I know it sounds cliché, but just trust me on this. We’ve gotten caught up in such a narrow view of beauty (excuse the pun), that we miss out on the beauty that’s right in front of us, in all its unique and wonderful forms. So guys, please, start living in the real world, because it’s actually got some pretty awesome ladies in it.

#2: It’s the heart that counts. Ok, enough with the clichés already! But I’m serious. Real love is about two souls (not just two bodies) coming together. On some days, it’s truly awesome, but on other days it’s a little less so. And again, this is where guys get too fussy. Souls don’t always connect like Lego blocks. Or iPod docks. Sometimes it’s more like … your face connecting with some sharp pink fingernails. On your bad days, you’re going to fight, argue, and maybe even wrestle. And you might get bored with each other from time to time. But hey, that’s real life. Swings and roundabouts.

To really love someone, you’re going to have to win her heart, and her trust. Again and again. It’s going to take work, and you’ll both get hurt, lots of times. But I can tell you this: It will be one of the most rewarding things you do with your life. Hands down.

Which brings me to my final word of advice …

#3: Show some commitment bro. Too many guys are afraid. Afraid of rejection, afraid of commitment. To be fair, many of our dads didn’t do the greatest job with us, and many of their marriages don’t exactly fill us with confidence for finding true happiness. But we’ve got to deal with that, and not just sit passively by while our wounds ruin our chances at finding real love. I would encourage you to begin a process of inner healing. Find out the real reasons behind your fears. And allow the love of God the Father to make you strong on the inside. If you’ll go to those deep places with God, He’ll turn you into a man who can overcome his fears and properly commit to a lady.

And guys, trust me, that’s the kind of man that every woman is looking for.

All the single ladies put your hands up…

Chris2_IGGuest post by Chris Goldswain

All the single ladies (put your hands up), haven’t you always wanted to know what’s going on in a man’s head? Or better yet, in that man’s head? You know who I’m talking about. That certain someone all your girlfriends already know about, the guy you linger around after church or subtly slip into place next to in the group photo. If you’ve been wondering how you can get him to like you, and I know you have, then today’s your lucky day, because I’d like to give you some pearls of wisdom from “the other team”.

The biggest tip I can share is this: BE SECURE. Be confident in who you are, and know your own worth. You’re a daughter of God, so don’t sell yourself short, and whatever you do, don’t throw yourself on him like some cheap suit from the 90’s.

The truth about good guys is, they like insecure girls about as much as they like visiting a nail salon. They run a mile from both. Now, guys who are dogs are a different story. That kind of guy loves insecure girls, because insecure girls put out. So he’s happy to exploit that insecurity to take as much as he wants from her before moving on to his next object of prey.

But a good guy, someone who’s actually interested in a meaningful relationship, he wants to engage with a confident, self-assured person who doesn’t need him to validate her existence. So if you want to win over a good guy, don’t behave like a doormat around him. If you’re having a disagreement, stick to your guns and risk his disapproval. At a party, talk to other people in the room. Show him that he doesn’t define you, but God does. A good guy won’t like it if you hang on his every word like a love-sick poodle. And you probably wouldn’t either if the shoe were on the other foot.

Chris1_IGThe second pearl of wisdom is, if a guy is saying one thing but doing another, listen to his words and not his actions. If you just had that chat where he told you he sees you as no more than a friend, but afterwards you start picking up “signals “ from him, the truth is he probably has no idea that he’s sending you any kind of signals at all. I know – men are from Mars, so things can get confusing. But in all likelihood he’s just trying to be friendly after having had a difficult conversation with you.

Now I know some guys take this too far and think that having the just-friends-chat means they can safely flirt with you afterwards without backing it up with any real intentions. Ladies, I’m working on those guys. But in the meantime, if he’s flirting with you and not saying anything, take your cue from his silence. In other words, watch his mouth, not his eyebrows.

So ladies, if you can get these two things right then he won’t define you and you won’t be over-analysing every word he says. Which means, your heart is going to be in a safe place. No paranoia, no jealousy, and ultimately, the freedom to be yourself. Now isn’t that what every girl wants?