Of favourite things

library

I have been reading through some of my old journals. It’s been interesting because I remember exactly where I was when I made some of my entries even though some are at least five years old. It turns out that my favourite places to journal are the beach, the park and the library!!

I remember when I was about six to 10 years old, a mobile library would come to my school every Monday and Wednesday and I would get a new book to read at least every week. My favourite books were from the Junior African Writers’ Series (JAWS). Just thinking of those days makes me smile. We had another public library close to the school so I was spoilt for choice when it came to books.

Now in my “grown up” years I still visit the library. On occasion, I go there to search for a book or read one but most of the time it’s for some peace and quiet and for a chance to recharge. I know!! I totally understand how ridiculous this sounds to some people. All I can say to this is isn’t it amazing how we are all so different!!

We live in a fast paced world. Most things nowadays are quick and easy to get and do. We have instant pictures, instant messaging, we can binge watch a whole series of our favourite programs on TV in a few sittings rather than wait for the whole season to finish (which takes months sometimes). There is increasing pressure to do much more nowadays and frankly because of technology and other innovation we can. I believe the effect of this is that we tend to “empty our tanks” faster, a term that a friend of mine likes to use. Surely our bodies and minds can only handle so much pressure. It’s no wonder our societies nowadays suffer from a lot of burnout issues.

It is for this reason that I believe it’s important for one to take time to “fill up one’s tank.” Doing something that one enjoys could be a way of filling one’s tank. Some people enjoy travelling. I have a friend who enjoys baking so much that it cheers her up when she is sad and another who enjoys cleaning and will gladly do this for fun. I wish I had that gift!!

Going to the library is one of my favourite things to do and often gets me recharged. What about you? What do you normally do to recharge? Do you intentionally engage in activity that will help you avoid burnout? What do you enjoy doing? As my mum often says, “Be kind to yourself.” Take a break every now and then. 

Labels

I don’t know if you have ever noticed but there is something interesting that the angel Gabriel said to Mary (mother of Jesus) in his announcement that she would be Jesus’ mother. The statement was not actually about her but about one of her relatives.

In response  to Mary’s question about how it would be possible for her to bear a son seeing as she was still a virgin, in Luke 1:36-37, the angel responded, “Look, even in her old age, your relative Elizabeth has conceived a son. This woman labelled ‘unable to conceive’ is now six months pregnant. Nothing is impossible for God.” [CEB] (You can explore other versions and see how they articulate Luke 1:36-37).

What caught my attention in those verses was the word labelled. Elizabeth had been labelled barren. It was probably the word that most people used to describe her as it set her apart from many other women. She carried the identity ‘Elizabeth the barren one’ until God stepped in and gave her a new label.

God Himself did the impossible. In her old age, God made it possible for Elizabeth to conceive and give birth to John who would baptise Jesus Christ and be His forerunner. God changed her label from barren to mother of John the baptist. Later on in their lives, Jesus would say of John, “Among those born of women, none is greater than John.”

Most of us have lived with labels for a long time. Some labels we have acquired because of situations beyond our control (like Elizabeth) yet for some, we may have felt we deserved them because perhaps we made some bad choices and before we knew it we were being named after our mistakes. Some have been labelled a lot of things from dumb, to stupid, to lazy, fat, impotent, poor, disorganised and the list goes on and we have accepted those labels because in many cases, there has been a lot of truth in them.

One thing I was assured of after reading Luke 1:36-37 is that God is able to re-arrange and remove those nasty labels in our lives that have hung over us for so long. When we give ourselves to Him, He is able to transform our situations and give us new labels. He only is able to give us a new identity. From Barren to Mother of many children, Dumb to amazingly intelligent.

You know what nasty label you have carried. Perhaps you have even given yourself that label. Why don’t you take that label to God and give it up to Him so that He may give you a brand new name as He did for Elizabeth. Remember, with God nothing is impossible.

 

Hope

Recently my uncle sent me a video compilation of a number of quotations – about 12 altogether. I found all to be quite thought provoking but one really stood out for me and read, “Hope is the voice that says maybe when the whole world says no.” Since then I have been pondering upon this four letter word- HOPE.

We have just started a new year- Happy New Year to you!! It has been a while since I updated this blog and I am happy that today I finally get to do it. I know for some people, starting a new year can be quite daunting especially since an unknown future is right before us.

As I was recounting my 2017 experiences, most of which I believe were super challenging, I felt a bit of sadness as the realisation that I could go through similar experiences again in 2018 set in. Unfortunately because we do not live in a perfect world, it would not be wise to expect a life without trial, hurt or disappointment. But what if I focused on HOPE?

Yes, a few days into this year I thought about the challenges I had faced in 2017 and the thoughts intimidated me a little but thankfully I recounted the words in Isaiah 40:28-31 which reminded me that God would not only give me strength in my weary state but He would also renew my power. I also recounted the words in Hebrews 13:5 which reminded me that God would never leave me nor forsake me. Suddenly there it was, right before my eyes- HOPE.

There is something about HOPE that makes uncertain situations appear more manageable. HOPE opens up the eyes to new possibilities, it enables us to take the next steps with expectancy. HOPE is invigorating. HOPE is contagious.

It is possible to put our hope in people, accomplishment or possessions. It is possibly to find faithful and true companions to invest your hope in but the reality is people will come into our lives and leave for various reasons beyond our control. The HOPE that God provides is unchanging as He is alone is unchanging and it is upon Him alone that our HOPE should be built. 

So, going back to where I started, the new year is upon us. There are great expectations of what this year has to offer for some but for most, this is truly a scary time with an unknown future ahead. However, the beginning offers an opportunity to renew our commitments to God and start afresh with Him as our HOPE. We truly cannot do this year alone.

Psalm 146:5 – Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose HOPE is the Lord their God.

Happy New Year!! May your HOPE be in the Lord.

Lessons from my road trip

Driving is one of my favourite past times.  For me, the longer the drive, the better. Amongst other things, I enjoy the fact that I get to listen to my favourite music and sing along at the top of my voice. I also get to enjoy loud and private conversations with God. It’s awesome.

A few weeks ago, I drove around part of the South Island of New Zealand and looking back I realise the experience was way more than a chance to refresh and unwind. I learnt some good lessons that I will share.

 

Don’t give up

As I was planning for the trip, I went on the internet for some ideas and it was not long before I realised that the roads I would be driving on were quite challenging. On my first day in the South Island, my fears were confirmed – the mountainous terrain meant multiple steep and windy roads. I was intimidated. However, I had no choice but to drive as that worked out cheaper.

One thing though is that though challenging, the roads always led to some of the most amazing scenery I had ever witnessed and in the end it seemed all the trouble to get there was worthwhile.  

Similarly, some things in life may seem difficult from a distance but if we give in to fear and give up, we might miss out on some of the finest gifts that have our names written on them.

 

Stick to your own pace

I was impressed by how some drivers were able to handle high speeds on really windy roads. I, on the other hand was comfortable just sticking to the road limits but realised even that was not good enough so I would often allow the other drivers pass. I found by doing this I had a more pleasurable drive.

This experience reminded me that there are some people in life who will seem to be progress faster than me. That is fine. I just need to keep moving. Our lives are different and our experiences will vary and affect us in different ways. It is important to stay focused and keep our eyes on the road.

 

It’s okay to ask for help

On one of the days we set out to travel to a place called Paradise. The road to Paradise is rocky (literally) as it is partly unsealed. The road signs were infrequent and so we often wondered whether we were headed in the right direction. At one stage my sister and I seriously considered turning back as the road not only grew bumpier, it also grew narrow and dark since it went through a forest

The road to paradise is quite sparsely populated so whenever we saw people, we made sure we asked for directions. “Keep going, you will like it it’s beautiful up there” they would say, and so on we went.

If you are in a difficult situation and things seem to be getting tough – remember; ask for help. Some people may have already encountered situations similar to yours and overcome and so might have some good advice to share.

 

Enjoy the ride.

The views around the South Island were immaculate and we were blessed to witness good weather.  During our drives we occasionally pulled over on the side of the road to take pictures and to just enjoy the moments.

In hindsight, I wish I could have been a little more relaxed. Maybe then I would have enjoyed the rides even more.

We can experience rest and peace in our own lives when we learn to enjoy the little things and begin to count our blessings.

 

No more pity parties

If you are like me you have hosted a pity party before. In fact- many parties!! I don’t know about the parties you have hosted but at mine, I would normally be the only guest attending. Parties are meant to be fun and filled with celebration but not pity parties. They are awful. You just sit there drowning in your negative thoughts, often feeling sorry for yourself and the situation you may be facing. I find it quite strange that pity and party can be used together!! They are definitely not the best parties to admit to hosting or attending especially if like me you claim to believe in an All Powerful, Unchanging, Mighty and Faithful God.

I stumbled onto a passage from the book {Mind Character and Personality- Volume 1} which has challenged me to get back on track in those difficult times when I am tempted to wallow in my worries. The author writes;

“We need to beware of self-pity. Never indulge the feeling that you are not esteemed as you should be, that your efforts are not appreciated, that your work is too difficult. It should not be difficult to remember that the Lord desires you to lay your troubles and perplexities at His feet, and leave them there.”

Go to Him, saying, “Lord, my burdens are too heavy for me to carry. Will You bear them for me?” And He will answer, “I will take them. With everlasting kindness I will have mercy on you. I will take your sins and give you peace.”

It is truly amazing to give it all to God – to lay all our burdens, fears and anxieties down at His feet. Yes, strange as it may sound, pity parties can be a thing of the past even in our own lives. We can learn to trust Him. It is possible. With God all things are possible.

Pity Party

 

 

 

 

 

Treasure

There are some real treasures out there. These treasures know how to genuinely put smiles on other people’s faces and one can always count on them. Their presence simply lights up the atmosphere. They are filled with wisdom, their words bring stability and comfort to a variety of situations. Have you ever met people like that? I call these people treasures which might sound kind of cheesy but just think of it, like treasure, these people are rare and hard to come by and once they are in your life, they bring so much value because of the richness of their contributions. Have you met a “treasure” before?

I imagine Dorcas, also known as Tabitha was one of those treasures. The story of Dorcas is found in the book of Acts 9:36-42. Dorcas was a woman full of good works and she was filled with acts of kindness. Dorcas was greatly loved. She knew people’s needs and met them. No wonder when she died, the widows she had ministered to were greatly distressed. Who would help them the way she had? Where would they find a treasure such as Dorcas? As they looked around them they probably realised people like her were so hard to come by. Thankfully Dorcas was raised back to life so she could continue to be a blessing to others as she had been.

I am really inspired by the fact that Dorcas’ life impacted other women’s lives in the way it did. It makes me think of my own life and what contributions I make in other people’s lives. Right now I can testify that I am not proud. I really can do better.

So what next? How can we be like Dorcas or these treasures that are hard to find?  The answer I believe is found in the word of God. One passage in Romans 12:9-17 particularly stands out for me. It reads;

“Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honouring each other. Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically. Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying. When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality.

Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them.  Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all!!” (NLT)

If you and I would resolve to live out Romans 12:9-17, imagine how this world would glow. I want to be a treasure!!

Birthdays

1 Samuel 7:12
“…. Thus far the Lord has helped us.”

birthday-163362_1280

My little niece turned six last month. She celebrated most of her birthday at school and she seems to have had a fabulous day judging from the pictures and videos that I received. I even tried calling her later that evening to let her know I had been thinking of her but she was so tired from all the day’s excitement that she had gone to bed early. My sister says that before she went to bed she said, “mommy, thank you so much I had the best birthday.” That really warmed my heart. 

Now as I look back at my own life as a little girl I remember I would look forward to every birthday and would be counting down days as soon as a new year started. I could not wait to be older!! Fast forward a number of years later and I can honestly say that I do not always look forward to my birthdays. Certainly not with the same amount of zeal I had when I was my niece’s age. Is there somebody out there who can relate to what I am referring to? 

Why all this talk about birthdays? Well, tomorrow is the anniversary of my birth and on my way back from work this evening, instead of going through a pity party about my growing age I was overcome with so much gratitude as I looked back at what God had done for me throughout the year. I realised that contrary to how I may feel at times, my birthdays are very special blessings. There is so much more to be grateful for as we get older.

Birthdays can be a great opportunity to reflect and ponder upon the victories and the milestones we have encountered in the past. Have you ever looked back at your life and remembered some difficult situations and thought, wow, I got through.. here I am, still standing? As we look back at the past and what God has done for us, we can be strengthened to move ahead in the future even though our current situations may not appear to be favourable.  

Looking back at my past year, I am filled with so much gratitude. There were times in the year where I faced huge challenges and did not know the way forward but God sustained me. Thus far the Lord has brought me. Through the tears and the laughter, the setbacks and indeed the milestones that came when I least expected. Through the lonely moments and the moments I was surrounded by loved ones, through the victories and the disappointments God has kept me and for that I am really thankful. 

“We have nothing to fear for the future, except as we shall forget the way the Lord has led us, and His teaching in our past history..”- Ellen G. White. 

May you find encouragement as you reflect on your past experiences and even so on your birthdays. I pray that that as you reflect you may find strength to go through each day with hope knowing the God who came through for you before is the same God yesterday, today and forever more, Amen.