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How to Climb a Mountain in High Heels

27 April 2020

I’m standing inside of myself for the first time in long – and I am scared.

It started with a simple request. My husband asked me to paint a board with blackboard paint so that he could use it for planning and of course, I never like things easy. The board had been left behind by the previous owners and had some writing and a grid on it. I looked at it for a while and asked… “So, what do you want the design to be.”

I knew that he didn’t have anything in mind – he just wanted it black, but I sat down with my phone and started looking for design ideas. As soon as we put our little 1 year old in bed I put on old clothes, started sectioning off the bits with masking tape and switched on some music.

I hadn’t spent any time by myself doing something that freed my mind…allowing it to wander around my unused thoughts. For the last two plus weeks I’d been spending as little time thinking as possible. I’d been drowning the hours I didn’t spend on cooking or cleaning or childcare or relationship maintenance in mindless binge watching.

I have learnt early on that I can be just as efficient at quenching my feelings as I was at indulging them. My head started to thaw out of it’s slumber, drifting towards old memories, missing friends I hadn’t seen in a while. I got up from my contemplative painting and got out an old organiser I started making last year. I had spent a lot of time decorating it but lost steam. I sat down, changing to an old favourite playlist from a different time and started work.

Before I knew it everyone had gone to bed. I was sitting in the dark livingroom staring out at the windy night feeling utterly alone and anxious.

I want to lose control like the wind outside, blowing everything around without fear of consequence. Mourning what I lost like I wasn’t afraid of offending anyone. Crying like I did when they put me on the operating table and it hit home that our baby was really dead.

I cried every day about that lost child. While putting teabags in cups, while putting on shoes, before falling asleep, every time I got a “We’re so sorry” text until a day went by that I didn’t cry. That day I told myself a bedtime story that she was never real and believed it.

As everyone sleeps and the wind rages on my behalf the songs flit past happier memories. Who was I again when I used to listen to this all the time? Where was I when I heard this the first time? In an old Ford Meteora in a worse time than now, but tinted with nostalgia. The music obeys it’s beat, but the light that breaks between the trees bounce across the ceiling and bring me back as I lay alone on my back in the dark.

 

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How to Sleep when the Baby does

I hanged out with my 2 year old toddler at bedtime tonight, to give my husband a break, and to remind him that baby brother hasn’t replaced him. He struggled to settle down and somehow discovered my unshaven legs and he was stroking softly over the stubble with some curiosity and it was the only comforting thing in a bad, dark day. The baby started to cry and all I thought was, “God, please just let me stay here for a moment more”, followed sharply by the guilt of not immediately running to pick up baby brother.

I’m exhausted. It’s the common thread of my days. Dragging all the way through from six am-ish when a tiny little fist knocks on the door of the room where I co-sleep with our newborn. A desperate call for ‘Mama’ usually follows and then a sharp tug at my shredded heart pulls me up from the sheets of my charging device and on to draw a warm little body and face up for a kiss and an awakening snuggle.

These are the glorious days of my aged youth. My baby-mama years. I cherish them with all my heart. I love them desperately. I want to drink them in completely. The exploration, the dreams, the stories, fart jokes, half-dead bug treasures and the dirty feet on clean bedding. I want them. I want to sit beside the tub and dive rainbow-coloured miniature whales in and through the sea of bubbles. I want to throw my arms around their disappointed shoulders after a fall. I love even the bad parts. The late-night feeds, the explosive diapers. The snotty noses and flailing rebellious arms that resist my need to get done and get going when we are clumsily late. For everything.

Then I start to notice the constant headaches, the irritability, the dread of sunrise, the loneliness, the guilt, the fear of night, nightmares and strange aches that don’t go away. This weight that reminds me that I’m never enough. The self-loathing when a moment is handled without the tenderness which fills you entirely for this little person. The relentless disappointment in your own shittyness, of cussing when you’re overwhelmed (all the time), falling short of fully being all that you want to be and give your precious boys. The constant bitterness that overshadows the sweet.

All I want is to cherish it all and not be distracted by this heaviness.

Even with better knowledge – it is so hard to forgive myself. Just enough to settle down and quench the anxious thoughts that come with night when the quiet house promises rest.

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How to be a Christian Superhero

I love the old testament. It is full of people who really failed a lot and only rarely really got it right. Even Abraham fell asleep when he was meant to cut covenant with God. That’s kind of an important appointment… yet we are so slacky with our quiet time. Gideon was a bit of a coward and asked God for a million confirmations, but God called him brave and He calls us new and look at what we do with our faith. Samson has a temper and a soft-spot for the ladies, and ended up throwing away God’s promises. Even Elijah ran away from Jezebel after one of the most spectacular showcases of God’s might. They are people like us.  How soon we desire the world like Samson – even though we have eternal promises? How many times do we doubt? How many times do we question? How quickly we become intimidated.

This psalm really threw me:

Psalm 131New King James Version (NKJV)

Simple Trust in the Lord
A Song of Ascents. Of David.

131 Lord, my heart is not haughty,
Nor my eyes lofty.
Neither do I concern myself with great matters,
Nor with things too profound for me.
2 Surely I have calmed and quieted my soul,
Like a weaned child with his mother;
Like a weaned child is my soul within me.
3 O Israel, hope in the Lord
From this time forth and forever.

I couldn’t understand the image of a weaned child… I mean, we are supposed to be in connection with God. Surely a child at his mother’s breast is a better image to illustrate simple trust. I thought about it and realised that it’s easy for a suckling baby to trust his mother. He is close to her and can hear her heartbeat and feel the warmth of her body. The trust of a weaned child is that of a relationship where the trust has already been established and no longer needs proof. It’s the trust of knowing in the absence of proof. It’s the kind of trust I talk about but I don’t live.

So I’m saving my favourite old testament anti-hero for last:

Jonah 4:5-11New King James Version (NKJV)

5 So Jonah went out of the city and sat on the east side of the city. There he made himself a shelter and sat under it in the shade, till he might see what would become of the city. 6 And the Lord God prepared a plant[a] and made it come up over Jonah, that it might be shade for his head to deliver him from his misery. So Jonah was very grateful for the plant. 7 But as morning dawned the next day God prepared a worm, and it so damaged the plant that it withered. 8 And it happened, when the sun arose, that God prepared a vehement east wind; and the sun beat on Jonah’s head, so that he grew faint. Then he wished death for himself, and said, “It is better for me to die than to live.”

9 Then God said to Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry about the plant?”

And he said, “It is right for me to be angry, even to death!”

10 But the Lord said, “You have had pity on the plant for which you have not labored, nor made it grow, which came up in a night and perished in a night. 11 And should I not pity Nineveh, that great city, in which are more than one hundred and twenty thousand persons who cannot discern between their right hand and their left—and much livestock?”

Notice how huffy Jonah gets with God? I’m so tempted to judge him, but I’ve been there too. In the end, I realise that my heart is loveless too. It can feel my own discomfort quickly and then feel deep unrighteousness, but am I willing to stand up for unrighteousness? No, because it collides with my plans and my desire for comfort and constant reassurance. 

I see the disasters that happen to Jonah as God’s hand scooping him back to God’s plan. So many times the disasters in my life have been the things that saved me. This week we were meant to ponder the names of God and how we experience him in our lives and I recalled that God’s names pertain to Salvation, Blessing and His presence. I have learnt of God’s Salvation, I have seen His Blessing, but I’m so slow to cherish His Presence, which is our exceedingly great reward. How His Salvation and His Blessing serve as ways to scoop us closer. None of the Biblical Heroes achieved anything other than faith and obedience (which God grew in them anyway). God did all the Hero-ing despite their failure and their pain until His Glory bloomed through their and our imperfection and we discover that even the aroma of His Presence or even a glance from his eyes is life itself.

How Marriage isn’t what you Expect

Yoh, being married is a shocker! No jokes. I always imagined my first freshly married post would be about how fulfilling the blissfull culmination of our love is. The truth is, getting married isn’t going to Pampercamp. It’s more like going to bootcamp where the drill sergeant (at least in your head) yells out how selfish you are, because it’s true. We are selfish selfish people.

I always knew I was a just-so kind of person but I didn’t realise how quickly I could go from in love to buck-wild angry about how my delicates get washed. How depressed I would get over having nothing of my own anymore. How I would mourn a loss of privacy. I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that I now have a husband who does the laundry for us, that I now have a precious person in my life who has given all that he has to me and that he wakes me up in the morning with cuddles and love and coffee.

I got a call from a friend who got married a month after us and she was so distressed at how lacklustre her honeymoon and newlywed life was. I felt like I was talking to myself as she explained all the things that had gone wrong and how she wasn’t feeling like herself anymore. I felt such relief as I could answer, “me too” on so many of her concerns.

I can’t even really say what my expectation was. I don’t think my friend could either. Neither of us expected to have a fairytale life or a perfect marriage. We were just excited at the prospect of being able to love and be close to someone in a way we have never known. Both of us waited for marriage before having sex, and I think we imagined, that our bodies would just be cool with all the changes and not also need a little grace, like our hearts.

The truth is, we are all meant to die to ourselves as Christians, but dying to yourself when you are living by yourself and have 100% say over your boundaries and how much you sacrifice at a time is stylish and makes you look like an activist. It’s those pretty “going on missions” and “holding orphans” and “laying a brick in a house” photos we post on facebook after we get back to hot showers and our own beds. Marriage is when you are the person living among the poor, discipling a child who is destructive and letting people you don’t like live with you because they don’t have a home. It’s doing the pretty things like baking cake for old ladies and committing to do the things that need to be done even if it comes at a cost. The beautiful things that are eternal.

I am not that sacrificial person. (I actually really like instagram) I think my husband is teaching me by his example. He puts his head down in the dark moments when I am at my ugliest and least lovable and he surrounds me. I hope and pray that I can be that to him in spite of myself.

So, marriage is not what you expect. You may not even know what to expect. Whatever it is, it’s different and it will challenge and shape you and at some stage you will wake up from yourself and realise you are far richer than you could ever be if you tried to hold on to yourself. Life is funny like that.

 

Image is property of Lizelle Lotter Photography and may not be used without written consent

How to Testify

And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death.

Rev 12:11 (NKJV)

I have the best job. I won’t be convinced otherwise. Not only do I get to tell stories, but I get to listen to and help other people tell theirs. I get to tell God’s stories.  We film them and I have the tremendous privilege of putting them together. Every week we release two testimonies on a youtube channel told by the people in our community.

These stories are not the stories of people who are heroes. They aren’t the stories of people who achieve greatness. They are the stories of people who are being saved. They are the stories of a great God. With every batch of footage I import, I am aware of my inability to finish each edit without God’s input. I am so humbled by this privilege and the favour I have received to complete this task.

I am changed by stories of healing, salvation, provision, marriage and parenthood. Not a single account leaves me unaltered. Last year I realised that while I was working in ministry, I was jaded toward God’s Word in people’s lives. People responding to Jesus became a logistical issue, a number on a runsheet instead of a great miracle worthy of great and lavish celebration. This is not the fault of the ministry I worked for. Like the Ephesian Church in Revelation, I had lost my first love. Like Martha, I was all works and no heart.

I earnestly asked God to change my heart and He is, through each of the regular people I see every week, who open their hearts to me, who often need to recount memories of their suffering or to retell the stories of the lives they lived before He changed them. It requires their vulnerability and it demands mine, but it is a beautiful exchange that means my little faith meets with Christ. He slays my scepticism with real and tangible hope.

How to be a Formidable Risk Taker

A lot of people have asked what my new career move is, and now that it’s starting to terrify me, its probably a good time to write about it and take a break from the whatifImnotgoodenoughtogetmarried spiel. During my last year of bachelors I focused on Film and Video production and fell in love the medium. I lie. I fell in love with film as a little girl, soaking up cop shows, soaking up horror movies, soaking up Afrikaans Drama, soaking up Hitchcock, Jaws, Bladerunner, Neverending Story, Spaghetti Westerns with exaggerated punching noises, Bill Murray movies, Il Postino, Joy Luck Club, Star Wars, Superman, Nightmare before Christmas, Batman, Marvin’s RoomKenneth Branagh’s Shakespeare stint and Baz Luhrman’s frenetic Romeo and Juliet. I think I watched The Birds at age 5 and The Piano at age 12. My mom didn’t believe in censorship as long as the film/book was good. The world of possibility from the inside as a student just extended my love for creating and telling stories in a way that made the impossible possible. To this day, I get genuinely excited as the 20th Century Fox (1994) theme plays.

I have spent the last two years working as a production manager and occasionally directing, but I have always longed to have my hands in the creative process itself. The last time I edited video was at university (a long long long time ago) when we still had to transfer VHS and digital tapes to a workable format for adobe, but I loved it. My biggest frustration as a young theatrical director/scriptwriter was how little control one had over the rhythm and pace of moments. I was infamously hard to work with because I was such a Nazi about getting each moment just right, never allowing script changes for fear of losing the rhythmic thread. Editing allows one to tell 1001 angles of a story by chopping it up and reassembling it. You become both another character, narrator, director, and scriptwriter in one.

I am so infinitely grateful that in 2017 I am granted one of my childhood dreams. I will start training as a junior editor with one of my creative heroes and friends, just 3km’s away from home. I think most people will have a few anxious moments over whether they’ll make it once someone gives them a shot, but I’m not nearly afraid enough to quit. This risk is well worth the potential face-plant.

For someone who struggles with overcoming fear, I have a surprisingly optimistic view of risk-taking, but out of all the risks I’ve taken in my life, I have almost never walked out of them poorer or less than I was going in. Moving to Ulleungdo was a huge risk. For one, the DPRK were firing missiles over our heads, I was living in semi-disputed territory and I was in a very secluded life in a culture that was both different from my western one and also different from mainland Korea. Yet, I never experienced a moment that I was not utterly grateful to be there, and I almost always tear up with homesickness when I recall it now.

There are, obviously, unwise and damaging risks to take, but exiting our comfort provides opportunity where we grab hold of God, as our sole provider, for more than a mere moment. It is the seasons in which we are honest with ourselves about how little we can do for ourselves and we remember what it was like to be a child, where every wobbly step we took presented the risk of falling, but we clung on to Quackie and braved the way excitedly, no matter how treacherous the terrain.

Speaking of Risks, and movies, watch this video from Every Frame a Painting (actually just subscribe and check out ALL their videos) by clicking HERE.

PLAYLIST:

Hans Zimmer Compilation play here

How to do nothing, and still get stuff done

I watch A. cook lunch on a camping stove and I adore watching him chop and slice veggies with a way too small knife. There is such a simple bliss that exists in our ordinary moments together that they by far outweigh the big events. I think my paranoia often looks for changes and instability in social situations and relationships, so I deeply enjoy the normality of co-existence.

This last week has been a lovely break from my incessant worrying. Change is inevitable, and sometimes life will throw you at it, or you can be the instigator of necessary change. I have been assessing my home, throwing out old books I will never read, giving away mugs I don’t like and passing down old favourites to new homes. All the while taking a look at the abstract possessions I have accumulated in my heart, and identifying the things I need to let go of, to make room for the riches of married life, but at what point does one stop?

One of the blessed attributes that have been a source of conflict, both inwardly and outwardly is my constant analysis of everything, which leads to chronic worrying, loss of healthy spontaneity, misunderstandings, loss of sleep, unhealthy bowel movements (yes, I went there), sugar cravings, series binge-ing etc. This week I grabbed that chicken by the head and as I was about to put it on the copping block, I realised that some characteristics, actually make me who I am. It helps me to do a lot of the things I am good at and makes a genuine contribution to relationships and life.

Without an analytical mind, I would be a superficial and bland artist, I would not have cared about social/relational issues, I would not have had this blog, and I would not have learnt as much from life or anything else. I would not have loved people in the same way and I would not have had much determination. I think there is relevance in acknowledging that we have been given certain gifts that need God’s tutelage so that it can serve others. I t reminded me of the little boy with the fish and bread (Matt 14:17-19). I needed to acknowledge that I HAVE fish and bread to bring to God, and stop complaining that I don’t have butter for my lunch, and throw out what I have altogether. We can live small lives if we judge and compare what we have to serve our own tiny dreams or we can acknowledge that God gives according to His riches and uses it to build HIS KINGdom. Am I willing to give what is in my hand, even if it means giving the very hand itself?

The grace in this is that God doesn’t expect us to change the world, if it were, our humble snoek and braaibroodjie (BBQ sandwich) wouldn’t cut it. We would have a reason to feel despondent and defeated if we served such a tiny god. What worth would poor people from broken homes have if this were His expectation? What pitiful worth would I have? Sadly we judge ourselves by these silly standards. I do. Shall I give God what I have in acknowledgement that I am both poor (because of me) and immeasurably rich (because of who I belong to). These juxtapositions baffle non-believers, but for me it’s just confirmation that we are way too small-minded to grasp the mind of God, who distinguishes on scales far more precise than we can comprehend.

Hebrews 4:12 (NKJV)

For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

It is not up to us to judge the things (body, attributes and possessions) we have or what we can or cannot do with it. No wonder the Lord forbids us from comparing ourselves with others (one of my personal favourite sins). I am looking forward to celebrating what God is doing with what I don’t have, and I’m excited to tell you what it is, so watch this space.

Why everyone sometimes needs Solitude (Part II)

I recently started reading Watchman Nee’s “Sit, Walk, Stand”. This little book looks at the growth of the Christian as depicted in Ephesians. The stance taken by Nee is that the Christian must first understand his position in Christ, before he can “walk” life as a Christian, taking out the Good News into the world and “stand” against an adversary.

For Christianity begins not with a big DO, but with a big DONE.

– Watchman Nee, Sit Walk Stand

Every conference I have done production at over the past two and a half years, has left me wondering how effective I have been at ministry (walking) and how much I have grown (standing), but the most concerning thing has been how well I was doing at resting my confidence and trust and entire being in Christ. I didn’t feel like I did any of these things well. I was so preoccupied with my doing that I lost my ability to sit, and worship.

It does not matter what your personal deficiency, or whether it be a hundred and one different things, God has always one sufficient answer, His Son Jesus Christ, and he is the answer to every need.

 – Watchman Nee

I think its so fitting that the Ephesian Church in Revelations is rebuked for losing her first love. I really felt myself so caught up in performing well as a Christian and an employee that I missed God’s heart for relationship and rest. If I can relay anything God invested in me this year with confidence, its His heart for relationship with us. Before I go on, I would just like to make a disclaimer that this was not caused by being in ministry, but this lack in my maturity was highlighted during this season. I have much to be grateful for in this past season. It came from the place I was giving from.

The thing that we really need in solitude is not the absence of company but to be exclusively and primarily available to God. I am still growing in this aspect and its sad that I often need to burn out spiritually and then physically and emotionally before I call a truce with my own faculties and defences and I lie face down by His feet, when I could have just sat down with Him, because Jesus already paid for the end of our separation.

We must not pay attention just to reading and studying; rather, we should ask if we are open before the Lord. If we do not have an unveiled face, the glory of the Lord will not shine on us. If our heart is not open to God, God cannot give us any light.

 – Watchman Nee

The danger of running without sitting for me is that I start to fall back on my orphan heart. I stop believing that I am worth being loved by people, and eventually I question whether God Himself loves me or even wants to love me. My mind runs riot with self-accusation and self-pity. I even wonder if relationship with God is biblical. It is:

Acts 17:27 (NKJV)

so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us;

The word grope here really touched my heart. That desperate, blind seeking for reconnection…and then the hope: “He is not far from each one of us”. I know Ephesians 1 is a doxology, but I invite you to count the prepositions in verses 3-14. What do prepositions do? They indicate relationship. It broke my brain.

To end off, another quote by Watchman Nee. The difference between being in Christ and functioning outside of Christ. May your solitary times be with God and bear the fruit of humble fellowship. Mine doesn’t yet, but I believe God is leading me there.

Outside of Christ, I am only a sinner, but in Christ, I am saved. Outside of Christ, I am empty; in Christ, I am full. Outside of Christ, I am weak; in Christ, I am strong. Outside of Christ, I cannot; in Christ, I am more than able. Outside of Christ, I have been defeated; in Christ, I am already victorious. How meaningful are the words, “in Christ.”

– Watchman Nee

SONG: Flyleaf, All Around Me

Why everyone sometimes needs solitude

As a child, I was a bit on the histrionic scale of expression. I had a flair for the dramatic and experienced every emotion with the intensity of a hungry child eating his favourite food. I felt I had to labour through every grade on the scale of feelings out of fear that I would die, not having eaten everything one’s life has to offer. I remember spending hours out of my early teens lying on my back with earphones on, digesting the full range of musical tastes in our family’s CD collection. From Roger Whitaker to Cat Stevens to Tracy Chapman the Beatles, Bach and Chopin. Everything larger than life, always louder than necessary. All these emotions were relayed to my somewhat unwilling family as I insisted on serenading them while standing on top of the dinner table. My mother complained about my seclusion as much as she did about my socialising

I think. A lot. If I have time, I think too much and become depressed. Sometimes I get anxious if I don’t have enough time to think. It is a precarious thing to manage. I have been tested on a near 50/50 on the intro-extroversion scale and have since realised that balance is key to how I manage my inner world. This is kind of an identity post. If you could have guessed so far. These last few months have been a whirlwind of change and adaption. Since my brother’s wedding in Spain, which was precluded by all the visa arrangements, life has just never stopped to breathe. In the last 5 months I have gone from single thirty something to dreamy girlfriend to aunty-babysitter to new sister-in-law to new sister to production manager to volunteer to fiance to event manager to limbo person to marketer to student editor with a house-move and a job change in between. A lot has happened. A lot of info that needs to be processed and finally, when I come to terms with all of the really great things that have happened, I need to start preparing myself to be a wife, a home maker and hopefully a mother.

A wise Egyptian psychologist once told me (and I think Dr Malek will forgive my paraphrasing) that while psychology tries to understand the human condition by dealing with personality (the expression of ourselves) theological counselling seeks to deal with the person behind the masks of personality. It struck a chord with me this past year. I am not sure that I am the personality I was when I was little and innocent and fearless (I’m certainly not fearless anymore) but I realised these last few days that I needed time to process where I’m at, and figure out which hat I’m wearing at the moment.

I don’t think I am the most easily offended person, and I’d like to believe that I take dealing with offence swiftly, quite seriously. I am too analytical to believe that an initial emotional response to something can be taken at face value, and I make a habit of carefully thinking through responses before communicating, even to unjustified actions, with respect and consideration. The last week, however I have been a mess of emotions. Even the slightest comment or joke from my fiance would cause me to dump all my emotional resources out on the table. In an attempt to quickly sort through the appropriate thoughts and emotions to match them to the situation just caused me to dissociate and shut down. Our busy year-end schedule didn’t help, and with our move we really wanted to spend time with our Stellenbosch friends as much as possible. So, when I woke up on Monday morning like I’d been hit by the Shinkanzen, it became clear that I really needed some down time. I needed to be the only person in the room to do nothing but lie on my bed listening to the Debussy’s Children’s Corner and imagine the goings-on of a family that occasionally chase loose pages in the wind. To do nothing but enjoy the ears and imagination God gave me. I know it sounds frivolous and ungrown-up, but perhaps, before I can embrace the responsibilities of being wife and mother, I need to remember who I am behind the mask. Just a fallible girl who dreams and listens in pictures and who needs God.

I am not magically fixed because I took a bubble bath by myself. I still wonder what my loved-ones see in me. I still feel like an immaculate fraud that pulls off such a good confidence trick that people have such lovely things to say about me. The time off gave me the chance to remember what I love about them and what it feels like to see Olivia’s half-toothed smile, to hug my dad’s full belly, the beauty of his pregnant wife swelling with life (even while she’s feeling sick), the joy of secretly delivering tea and croissants for my “Liefde” on our “alone day”, the beauty and blessing of enjoying the full kaleidoscope of life for real even when it’s intense, and unpredictable, but this time with a dreamt soundtrack in the place of self-doubting noise.

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