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How to Climb a Mountain in High Heels

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.

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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.

How to say goodbye to Floridonians

I’ve been taking a little break from Wedding Things for the past week to move house. It’s been an unexpectedly emotional time. I’ve been living in a commune with a crazy bunch of amazing people and though being the oldest person in the house with the biggest boundary issues, it wasn’t always a party… or rather it was, but I was trying to sleep. I think to some extent I was the mom in the house and often the complaining one who would refuse to cook dinner and serve take-out on my turn, because the kitchen was  too messy. I wish I could be classified as the “neat one”but my room was by far the most disorganised.

Alas, the good-byes came with a lot of choked-back tears as we sat down for our final shared dinner. We each spent time affirming each other, speaking words of gratitude and sharing happy memories which quickly escalated into us throwing Tosca’s long-suffering coffee table in the fire-pit before setting it alight. We all stood around the 3m flames in our garden staring into the light as the extended colony of frogs squawked and clicked in symphony somewhere in the dark night…It was the coffee table we played Risk on, the coffee table that held snacks, cups of coffee and feet as we watched movies on apple TV, the coffee table that was often decked in pages of worship songs when the house would pray together. This poor wonky pallet table was the centre-piece of our community.

I am so grateful for the sadness. I know I really fell in love with each of the specially chosen people I shared 2016 with. On our last night in the house it was somehow eerily quiet. It felt unnatural as I packed up my room through the night, until I was surprised at midnight with cake for my birthday…and that is how I was loved this year. In my darkest  and ugliest moments someone would pop a note under my door or leave me a care package when I was sick. Tosca would spoil us with cupcakes if she left for the weekend. We all got a little chubbier round winter and Stephan took me geocaching the day my grandfather died. James, if he wasn’t egging me on to be on his online channel, would leave mystery Kitkats on my bed and it took me months to learn who my benefactor was. Jaco, in his eternally wise way, would always have a testimony to share whenever I needed it most, and we all know he  was praying for each of us without ever broadcasting it. These people who saw so many of my worsts loved me so consistently, even if they were also imperfect.

I was told, by a wise friend, that God would achieve more with me in a shorter time if I lived in community, and I can put money on that after this year. I am a richer, fuller and more whole person through the breaking of my persistent pride. It honestly sucked the last time we drove away from Florida 7. I will miss you, my comrades. In all of your parts  with no regrets apart from the times I wouldn’t open up to you. Long live the DPRF.

Song: New Horizons – Flyleaf ft.Lacey Sturm

 

How to be Dressed for your Wedding

Last week ate dirt. It really did. My head was awash with negativity and feeling not good enough and fearful and stubborn. All the while realising how foolish it is and worrying over not enjoying being engaged more. Friday, finally I chose life in my thoughts and found breakthrough… I’m not going into that now, but it made me realise that I needed to focus on the gift I have right now. That is not to say obsess over it but to remind myself of its beauty and therefore to practice being grateful instead of getting bogged down on the practical distractions of moving and changing jobs and organising a wedding.

So, some quick context to help you make sense of my rambling: A dear friend, who is also a phenomenal designer, is making and gifting my dress, and she has been spending selfless hours with me on fittings, fabric excursions, design ideas and sugar-free coffee. We were housemates a few years ago and share a lot of common history. Really, she is more like an older sister than just a friend.

Back to me musing on gratitude: I imagined a wedding dress. Looking over the details on the dress in my minds eye, I recalled how meticulously my friend used to place the rouging with literally pin-sized pleats. I imagined her spending hours hand-sewing the beads on the bodice, and then I remembered how easy it was for me to dismiss all the dresses I’ve seen with a cacophony of embellishments in an over-stimulated blur of apparently “non”white wedding gowns, bling and tulle.

This jadedness made me imagine myself somewhere in the past where buying a dress off the rail/hanger didn’t exist. When there was no wedding industry. When a wedding was a simple, but lavish celebration put together by the bride’s family. Some aunties and gran would have ended up doing the cooking, the whole town was probably in attendance and I’m convinced a talented cousin or mom or auntie would have spent hours hand-sewing the most beautiful and significant dress of your life. It exists for the simple reason that you are walking out of an old life into a new one. To adorn the bride as a celebration of herself and a precious gift between families.

Now imagine the morning the bride prepares herself. How her mother lovingly sends her into her new identity as a wife. Clothing her daughter in honour. What a venerable moment. That dress is not hidden among thousands of others. That dress does not compete or compare.

My friend has also been my accountability partner since I started falling in love with my now fiance, since long before we were together and I count it so precious that she will be the woman to clothe me in this celebratory and precious garment. What a privilege! As I sat daydreaming these things I remember the scripture I read on the morning we started dating:

Isaiah 52:1

Awake, awake!
Put on your strength, O Zion;
Put on your beautiful garments,
O Jerusalem, the holy city!

Not endorsing bible-bingo here, and this is certainly not a theological reading but I thought it significant to the new season I was stepping into. I’m so excited to see how we change in preparation of our new life (though sometimes I struggle). How we help each other recognise the lies we believe and to celebrate, in remembrance of the greatest gift: That we serve a God who wants to be with us.

Song: Kye Kye “Honest Affection”

How to Accept your Flaws (for slow learners)

Part of the wedding business is figuring out what to wear as this commitment amounts to a rather princessly sum of money for a dress you will wear only once. Hang on: I’m not done with the cliches yet. EVERY girl dreams about her wedding. I swore that I wasn’t one of those girls and then a ring was put on my finger. A gorgeous emerald cut diamond set in rose gold…and as soon as the family knew I became one of those EVERY girls.

The key word in wedding planning is “princess”. Remember that word. The only thing about my body image that’s flawless is my constant inability to look past it. I have had nightmares of being the world’s ugliest, fattest bride since the development of my twenties. Every perfect silhouette, every defined and slightly bony shoulder taunts me as I flip through hundreds of Pinterest gown suggestions until the day of my bridal consultation pulled up and I bravely made my way into a luxuriously decorated lounge of wedding gown bliss. Rows upon rows of buoyant dresses hanging on rails.

I hopefully filled out a form only to be shown 5 dresses out of the entire collection that were apparently the only dresses in my size. I’m a 36. Don’t medium sized people get married as well? Off I went into the dressing room to strip down to my ugly spanks and face myself in very large mirrors, feeling very unpretty. The consultant helped me into dresses (the ones in my size) that, to add insult to injury, wouldn’t zip over the whole of my back and pinched my back-fat together in a very unflattering crease.

There was no princess moment. I never looked in the mirror and felt like I discovered the dress of my dreams. Instead I felt like I was too fat and to old to get married. Like I didn’t deserve a pretty dress.

I realise its foolish of me to expect our wedding to be my personal beauty edification and I am so lucky to have someone who stands next to me in the supermarket when I’m “diet shopping” and says: “Please don’t change yourself for a dress”. Surely to say that his acceptance is enough is a gross understatement. Who am I wearing this dress for anyways? A wedding dress should celebrate my intention to honour my husband, but I’m afraid it’s become a vehicle for my selfish desire to be worshipped.

 I don’t want to get distracted from the fact that I am marrying someone I am head over heels in love with. That I am promising myself to a godly, upright man who is both intensely deep and warmly silly. Someone who was willing to become my best friend, before pursuing my heart. Isn’t this what we do to God, though? Even as Christians, we become obsessed with what we look like and how successful we are at saving the world and  how great people will think we are. We forget our first Love. The one who gave His life for our sake.

I still want to be looked at like I escaped from a cloud of perfect golden magical Unicorn sneeze when I walk down that aisle but I also really want to learn to rest in the love that comes with split ends, varicose veins, slimy baby kisses and life-life. That is what warrants a wedding celebration. The beauty of life, love and a kept promise.

How to Embrace your Flaws

I started 2016 like someone who walked into a wind-tunnel. I moved out of my dream apartment where I lived and slept alone. I was a happy single thirty-something. I took “instagrammies” of all my perfectly curated spaces, special pretty dinner bowls for one (crumbed artichokes with home-made allioli). It was the perfect space to hide my flaws and embellish my life as I celebrated conflict-free independence. Now, at the bookend of the year, after 11 months with four early-twenty-something extroverts, I have fewer crockery, my special spatula has been lost on a mission somewhere but I am also engaged and have made the first sensible career move of my life.

The problem with independence is that its such a convenience to be able to shut the door on your bad days, your period pain days, your anti-fungal footcream, the spots on your left butt-cheek and your not-so-feminine hairiness, but what good is an escape if it means your adversary is still there waiting for you outside. I started the year on anti-depressants after a visit to the doctor for burn-out and made quick enemies in the house. It took a while for me to stop being a selfish control-freak. I think I’m still not righteous, but I am grateful for what I have gained this past year. I am grateful for the loving grace of my housemates. I am grateful for being teased and challenged. I am grateful for the space of preparation it was for me to fall in love with my now fiancee.

New relationships bring with it all the joy epitomised in couple selfies, but again it brought with it challenges to my constant vigilance for independence. Even more so now that I am engaged! I am so confronted with my flaws. So much so that I have flatly refused to let my fiancee see my feet. Such ridiculous measures to keep my flaws hidden. My excuse? “I don’t like them”. To which my very wise future husband replied that we don’t get to choose what we like and what we don’t like about our bodies, that it’s like choosing to love one child over another. Although I think his argument is extreme (I am quite obstinate, in his defence) there is certainly truth in it. Some flaws can be worked on, I’m not saying we should opt for entropy, but our bodies, our histories and our circumstances are often what God has given us according to His good pleasure. So too, our perceived flaws.

In my case, learning to embrace the feet, these legs, my unsuitably-sized chest… things God has created me with. In this season perhaps to learn to stop desiring the world’s standards, but instead to look to God’s standards of inner beauty, godly character, humility and love. The things that last when the body dies. The legacy I will leave behind. The effect my life will have on those around me that will by far outlive whether I give myself “flawlessly” to my husband when we get married.

For now the fruit of my flaw-fixation serves only to separate me from others, and so, this morning I rubbed up my feet with oils and spoke over them, “Beautiful are the feet of him who brings good news. Beautiful was Jesus’ feet because of how they served, not because of how they looked.”

Has my fiancee seen my feet yet? No. Will I keep avoiding those infernal Christian foot washing rituals? Probably. But I am working towards swimming with him at the beach this summer with my bare-naked toes…and enjoying the fact that I am completely accepted. Just as I am.

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