Dear Daddy

Dear Daddy

My eyes light up as you walk through the door

You’re my ‘hero’ and so much more

I don’t understand much about ‘work’ or having a ‘hard day’

Honestly, I just want to play

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In my ideal world you would drop the bag and grab a ball,

Teach me how to kick and throw

Always ready to catch me if I fall

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There is so much left to learn

And these little eyes don’t miss a thing

With little hands, feet and mouth

 Ready to copy everything

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For you will always be my first teacher,

My first pastor, leader, mentor and preacher

And if you want me to have the best education in life

Remember, my most forming years will always be years 1-5.

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If you want me to have ‘everything you never had’

Do not count the things money can buy…

Rather pull me close and whisper in my ear,

All those words you still long to hear.

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Remember, I’m still figuring out all these emotions

And there is so much I don’t understand,

I need you to guide me through these little years,

Will you please take my hand?

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Teach me how to walk in faith,

Teach me how to pray

Teach me how to lead in love

And be grateful for the little things each day

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And one day when I’ve learned all the words

There would be so much more to say.

But for now a clumsy hug and a sloppy kiss will have to do.

And a simple ‘good night’ be translated as ‘I love you.’

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How to fall in 'like' with your own life.

Falling in Like with Your own Life

  1. Slow down

Or, in the wise words of Dallas Willard: “Ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.”  

There is no quick fix to falling in like with your own life. If you don’t like your life that much at the moment it’s probably because you are already too busy, too overwhelmed and desperately in need of sleep.

Taste cannot be savored while food is being gulped down, and no mind can embrace a revelation or idea while spinning in a thousand directions.    

You have to slow down and really pay attention to notice the sights, smells and sounds around you. You have to take notice of the people who make up your little world.  Do you see the lines deepening on your father’s brow?  Have you seen the wrinkles increase around your mother’s eyes? Do you hear the joyful chatter of birds outside your window in the morning.  It requires focus to block out all of the static, interference, and noise from the word to be able to hear the still, small voice of  God.

  1. Choose the best part:. Martha or Mary?

I was reading through John 11 recently when my eyes fell on the words: “Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.” Jesus loved Martha. Somehow, I always just assumed that Mary was Jesus’s favorite.  However, I failed to realize that Jesus loved Martha just as much as Mary, and nothing she did could make him love her less or more.  Jesus did not choose Mary; Mary simply chose Jesus. Likewise, we have the opportunity to choose the best.

But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.”  – Luke 10:42

  1. Scratch the lists

I’m not referring to your grocery list – we all need those.  I’m talking about all the lists in your head of all the things you need to do or own or be before you would even consider “liking” your own life.

To illustrate my point, I’m scratching the rest of this list!  In fact, the perfect recipe for liking your life has not yet been concocted. Nevertheless, all the ingredients you need are readily available. Some of them have been chosen for you and others are the leftovers of decisions you made in the past.  Most are circumstantial and seasonal, and few come wrapped up in a package with instructions.   

The main reason you have to scratch the lists is because each life is an experiment in its own right. Sometimes we try new things and they flop. Other times, the ingredients for the perfect recipe according to someone else (i.e. self-help books) are simply not available and don’t work for us.

Speaking of recipes, the other night, I was busy making dinner.  I am not particularly fond of cooking, but I realized that I might as well learn to enjoy it since I’m going to have to come up with something to eat for my family practically every night for the REST OF MY LIFE.  So, I might as well (a) start enjoying it (b) at least learn to do it well or (c) both of the above.

Like most normal people, I’m also not crazy about washing the dishes or doing the laundry and scrubbing toilets.  I do, however, want to take care of the ones I love, so, why not enjoy doing those things out of love for my family?  I want to serve them from a place of knowing I am loved and not in order to earn love.

So this is my experiment.  I am taking the ingredients of my unique life, including Thai spices, piles of laundry, and dirty dishes to express it all in words and stories of hope and encouragement. And I’m using my experiences and situations to find new ways to fall in like with my own life.

I’m challenging you to do the same.

So far, I’ve found that if all fails it always helps to simply turn the worship music louder, listen to an audio book or one of my favorite podcasts. To make another cup of coffee or imported ‘red bush’ tea, to remind me of ‘home’ in all its various meanings. To take a moment between hanging the laundry to watch the squirrels play in the jungle trees nearby or to look up at the clouds in the sky. Because for me these moments are filled with His presence – all I have to do is pay attention.  

What unique ingredients do you have in front of you? Have you figured out some flavor combinations that work for you?

I figure that no matter how unlikable our lives may seem at any given moment. If we do not fall in ‘like’ with it – then no one else will.

So I hope you will ‘smell the roses’ today and truly savor the taste of your favorite treat. May you be reminded of all the reasons you fell in love or the memories you’ve made with special friends.

And I pray that you will hear the sweet sound of ‘amazing grace’ landing on the soft places of your heart, because even if it is sometimes hard fall in ‘like’ with your life. Always remember! You are more than liked – you are loved.

Thirty something

Thirty Something

Dear Friend,

Being thirty-something could imply anything from traveling solo around the world to being a stay-at- home mom with more than three children;  so, I’ll start with the things we all have in common.

 – Social pressure

You know what I’m talking about. All the spoken (and unspoken) questions:. When will you get a boyfriend/engaged/married/a baby/another baby/ a job/a better job?  It never ends, and not only does it have the potential to drive us crazy, it often makes us miss-out on the season we’re in.

What if we could realize that we may never be single again or engaged or married without children?  What if we could embrace the fact that now is the only time we can be doing what we’re called to do in this season?

-Peer pressure

I’d hoped I would have outgrown it by now, but the truth is that peer-pressure never really ends – it just gets greater.  And to add a whole new dimension to it, somewhere in the second half of my lifetime, “social media” was added into the mix.  We still want to be the “cool kids”,  only the “cool kids” are not the ones getting all the guys or playing for the first team anymore. The “cool kids” are the ones posting the best facebook profiles, driving the nicest cars, going on exotic holidays, and living in the best neighborhoods.

Do we really have to wait fifteen more years to realize that the people we’re trying so hard to impress don’t really care about who we are?  What does it cost us in the long run to strive to measure up to the world’s standards and expectations? And when will we finally realize that true love accepts us just as we are and don’t really care about all the other stuff?

 -Internal pressure

We live in a world where competition is a part of daily life.  In sports, a team may lose or win. Only the best players get trophies and medals. Some healthy competition in life never hurt anyone.  I can only speak for myself, but it certainly taught me to work harder and made me strive to do my best.

However, I cannot help but wonder if we’re taking this competition thing a little too far.  Maybe we’re not intentionally comparing our babies, spouses, or lifestyles with each other, but we do. Maybe that is why we go to extremes trying to outdo each other at two-year-old birthday parties, reunions, and other celebrations.

 – Craving deep connections

Before returning to South Africa for a visit, I spent a few months feeling really sorry for myself for being so lonely and isolated.  Since I’m married and also have a “mini-companion” toddler twenty -four-seven, it might sound silly.  But the truth is, I missed living close to my friends and family.  Then I went home only to realize that one can live right next to someone and still be miles apart or live miles apart and be closely connected at heart.

Do we feel lonely and isolated because of where we live?  Or does it have more to do with the walls we build around our hearts? Or, is it because of  anger and resentment that causes us to shut others out?  Is it the fear of being rejected – again?  Are we perhaps too busy to make time for what is really important? Too wrapped up in our own lives to invite others in?

-History

In spite of our individual differences and diverse roads in life’s journey, we’ve all established a history in everything from relationships to school records. We’re all able to look back and take notes of some proud moments and regrets. However, we know that we cannot change anything about the past, so we can only hope to learn from it and apply what we have learned to make better decisions in the future.

What have we learned from our own history and observing others?

-Choices

Perhaps we have too many choices. The more options and opportunities we have, the more difficult it is to choose the “right” one.  Conflicting messages from society – and from the Internet – don’t help.  The fact that your mind and heart don’t always agree doesn’t help.  Knowing that some decisions can affect the rest of your life only adds to the pressure.

Do we realize that no matter how complicated our choices may be, it always comes down to a simple yes or no?  However, saying yes to one thing always implies saying no to something (or someone) else? In the end, we will have to weigh our priorities.  The only question we really need to ask  and answer is “How do we choose to live our lives and what do we value the most?”

-Habits

Habits evolve from past choices – good or bad –  and how they have shaped us. The great thing is that it’s not too late to quit bad habits or to pick up good ones.

The only question here is, “Do we really want to change?” By now, we all have come to realize that no amount of pleading, preaching, or even threatening will bring results in others if the motivation doesn’t come from within and the strength from above.

-Issues

Rejection, hurt, disappointment, heartbreak, trauma… we’ve all been there. Probably on both sides of it, in one way or another. We have issues, and instead of trying to resolve them, we often become experts at avoidance.

It really hit me when I realized that our children will grow up in a world much harder to live in than it was when we were children.  My generation enjoyed a sense of safety when playing outside as children, without the danger of pollution and fear of evil.  We actually enjoyed playing outside with real playmates and real interaction without the distractions of social media or mobile devices.  Even so, we ended up having issues.

Perhaps the best thing we can do for our children is to take the time to sort out our own issues and resolve our own conflicts so they don’t spill over to negatively affect our kids.  Otherwise, our homes might lose their potential to be the place of solace and rest from the war zone outside.  Then, where on earth could they feel safe?

 -Faith

I don’t recall ever attending a funeral where the possibility of the deceased being at a “better place or at home in heaven” was not mentioned, regardless of how the person may have lived.  Although we are not appointed Judges over eternity, we know  in our hearts that the fruit of one’s life will determine whether he will inherit eternal life or death.  So, we should not get too comfortable with the idea that we’ll all meet up in heaven no matter how we live our lives.

Most of us grew up inchurch or with some form of religious system. Some of us even decided to “leave church” as we grew older or made a decision not to believe in anything. We began to feel too old to blindly accept the religion of our ancestors and too young and uninformed to avoid it altogether.  However, the process of searching will lead us to a decision, and faith grows into something greater when we make a personal choice.

And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” – Joshua 24:15

I’m sure we have a lot more in common and I hope that I’m not the only one thinking about these things and asking these questions (if not, I would love to hear some of your thoughts and observations). Friends, no matter how many differences we may have, if we have shared life on this earth for the past thirty or more years, I do not want any of us to miss out on finding our way home to our loving Father.

I hope that we will find the courage not to conform to this world and become part of the statistics marking how much have changed for the worse in our lifetime.  Let us avoid joining the rat race which causes us to out-run instead of embracing this little time we have and each other.

May we spend our lives being grateful for what we have, making the most of the unique lives and gifts we have received.  May we use our time, money, energy, and resources wisely to invest in everything with eternal value.  May our relationships be filled with love, forgiveness and kindness to others, and may our lives be Spirit-filled and full of good fruit.

And finally, may we truly be a generation that will not be swallowed up by all the changes around us;  but rather, may we ever be learning to embrace life and change to leave a legacy to the next generation.

Image Credit: Pixabay

The Art of Gratitude

The Art of Gratitude

We tend to get stuck
in the middle of our situations,
our problems, shortcomings
and frustrations..
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When we’re angry,
feel confused,
our hearts broken,
our bodies bruised.
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It’s often hard to see,
even one reason to be:
Grateful
instead of hateful.
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To feel grateful
instead of stressed,
lonely, discouraged
or depressed.
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Being grateful is an art,
mastered by few,
and yet it is so simple
if we only knew:
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It’s not always a feeling,
it’s a choice to see;
what lies hidden behind the surface
of ‘ordinary’.
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The tired eyes.
the messy house,
the crying baby
and imperfect spouse
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Eyes able to see,
a place to stay,
someone to love,
a thousand reasons to pray
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Comparison is the enemy
of learning this art.
Longing to live someone else’s life –
potent poison to a grateful heart.
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From gratitude
contentment flows,
relationships flourish
and faith grows
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One thank you at a time
can slowly help us see;
it is never too late for
an ordinary life
to be extraordinary!

Dear mommy - a Letter of Hope

Dear Mommy – A Letter of Hope

Dear Mommy

It is my day off, and I’m supposed to be cleaning the house; but the water-pump broke down, and there isn’t a drop of water in the house.  I also know it’s going to be a crazy hot day because it’s the middle of summer in a country where summer is the only season.

So, I cleaned up as much as I could without water, ignored the overflowing laundry bin, packed a beach bag, put the little one in a sling, waited at the bus stop for over an hour for the public transport, and now I’m sitting in the back of a tuk-tuk with the little one asleep on my lap on the way to a small coastal town… and I’m thinking of you.

The mommy who has just been through the crazy experience of giving birth, the overwhelming emotions, the swollen breasts, and the realization that life as she knew it will never be the same.

I think of all the mommies of newborns and toddlers who are counting the minutes until daddy comes home so she can hand over the baby and finally go to the bathroom in peace for ten minutes.

I think of the mommy who slept on a chair in a hospital room next to her sick baby, exhausted, but not willing to leave her baby’s side to go home.

I think of all the second and third-time mommies – experiencing all of the above – only this time, while also caring for a toddler or two.

I think of the special mommies of children with disabilities I’ve met in the years I worked in hospital and pediatrics.  They always impressed me that God really picked them out from the best of the mommy bunch.

And finally, I think of the mommies who have gone through it all and watched their little ones grow up to become mommies (and daddies) themselves.  I also think of those who have endured the sorrow of outliving their children.

Sometimes, it feels like the very same thing that makes us all mothers also isolates us from each other. It is ironic that the past year felt like the loneliest season of my life, even though I probably never had more in common with other woman across the globe:

  • Feelings of pride and joy
  • The discouraging realization of our personal selfishness
  • Extreme exhaustion that goes bone deep

So much about ourselves can be revealed by such tiny human beings.

When I finally reached the beach, I saw my little one throw his hands up in the air in pure delight, running fearlessly toward the water as if he knew he could swim.  I grabbed him to coat him with layers of sun block and put his hat on before picking him up.  Then, wrapping my arms around him, I carried him into the deep water to enjoy it with him.

Then, it hit me.  I heard the whisper of my Heavenly Father saying, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”

And somehow I knew that the reason this season has been so hard is because I’ve been trying to do it myself.  Like a stubborn toddler, I was trying, but simply not capable, to do everything on my own.

The thing about growing up in faith is that instead of becoming more independent you simply become more aware of how much you need God.

I may be a mommy now, but I will always be His child. The only way to be restored is to find my rest in Him, to be nurtured by His Word, and to draw close enough so that I can hear His heartbeat.

The only way I can run fearlessly into the unknown and live abundantly in the moment is if I know that He is right there next to me. He will pick me up when I fall, and He will hold me up even when the waves come crashing down all around me.

He will also take delight in my attempts to do things that other people might view as foolishness, because He knows my heart, and He loves to watch me learn.

And yet, sometimes, it feels like the only reason I’m aware of His presence is because I hear the same firm “no” I repeat so often to my child each day. Little did I realize that it was a warning to also stop me from doing something that would end up hurting me if I did not learn to listen and obey.

He rebukes us because He loves us and cares for us, though we prefer to avoid his displeasure and welcome grace. We often forget how much we need correction if we are truly His children.

”For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.

If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons. Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live? For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness. Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.” – Hebrews 12

He rebukes, but He also guides, protects, and carries us in so many ways we take for granted or are completely unaware of.  Just like my little one who has no idea why I put sun block on him and keep carrying him away from the water and into the shade, we fail to understand God’s goodness in all that He does for us.

I pray that in the middle of whatever season of motherhood you may find yourself in, you will know you are not alone. I pray that you will run into His open arms and find your rest in Him, fully knowing that you are loved far more than you will ever be able to love your own children.

Love

Another child and mommy