Together. Always

This year I’ve come to understand what it means to be content. Not complacent but being able to look at my life and smile truthfully. It hasn’t been smooth sailing, in fact this has been one of if not the most challenging year of my life. I’ve had to balance multiple commitments with work, church, fellowship and a thesis that may have robbed me of most of my brain cells and self esteem.

What’s responsible for this contentment has honestly been the faith community I’ve found myself in. Not only did I find a women’s fellowship which has taken me leaps and bounds over the limits I had put on myself and my relationship with God, but I’ve found a community of young people where Christ knits us together in love and fellowship. Both groups have lifted my confidence in myself and have helped me address my own insecurities. They’re not the reason I’m writing though.

I watch a lot of faith conference talks, apologetics and sermons on YouTube and on occasion I’ll look into the comments. YouTube comments 80% of the time contain the less attractive traits of humanity but these video are almost always filled with encouraging comments and thought filled discussions. On one such occasion there was a plea from a 13 year old boy who explained how he kept trying to follow Jesus and be good and holy but he felt like he was never good enough for God’s love. My heart broke for him because if you’ve ever been accused of being too hard on yourself this boy was exactly that.

The response was the most honest out pouring of love for this boy who felt so alone and so persecuted in his own heart. I commented as well and afterward he wrote to me in thanks. I told him that I could empathise with his fears and that the response from all those who commented was exactly what family is. The church is a family. Not the building, not the denominations, not the arguments but the individuals who live and love Jesus are a family. God through his love gave us a family we never would have thought to ask for. Brothers and sisters who want to walk with us on the path to holiness and people who genuinely want to see us get to heaven.

I was telling my dad about the youth group I’m part of and when I described it to him these were my words:
“There’s such a genuine atmosphere of love and acceptance. I think this is what it was like for the early Christians. They were a community of believers who loved God and each other.”

I really believe the Holy Spirit gave me that.

It’s because of this experience that I’m so passionate about church. It’s not just time out of your week to sing some songs, say some prayers and listen to a encouraging words. It’s an opportunity to recharge our spiritual batteries and be part of a community that doesn’t pressure us to be anything other than what God made us. It’s friendship, faith and family.

It doesn’t always play this part and no church is perfect, they’re all lacking in something but they are human. If God is the foundation then they will not fall and instead He will raise them up.

We all need to get our churches to that place. As individuals we need to be those people who love, encourage, serve and support all leaders in the faith not just those in our respective churches and denominations.

Family doesn’t begin in the united joys of heaven. It begins in the day to day wanderings of this life. Take from this what you will saints, but all I ask of you is to love. Love like Jesus. Love like a friend who would give everything up for the sake of a neighbour.

Singleness: the ongoing struggle

I’ve been wanting to write a post about singleness and contentment for a while and it’s funny that I’m writing it now when I’m really frustrated by my singleness and contentment is out galavanting somewhere else.

One of my closest friends has disconnected with our network of young women because she’s had enough of hearing about dating and being a ‘Ruth’, that it actually drove her into depression. If she’s pursuing all these things then how come the Hagars of the world are getting all the guys?

I’ve been in a similar place when I see women who choose differently with regard to chastity or modesty and they’re the ones metaphorically ‘bringing all the boys to the yard‘. It can really get a girl down. Plus I’ve had my hopes dashed more times than I dare to count by unrequited affections. In that respect God’s shown me that I still have a lot to improve upon. There are things He needs me to work on while I still have that freedom.

What concerns me though is how in our women’s network there’s constant talk about getting married and finding a husband. There’s plenty of independence in there as well. A lot of encouragement for building yourself up and taking the bull by the horns so you don’t have to start doing that post marriage.

One thing I appreciated about my growth in church was that we knew and were reminded that marriage is a sacred covenant between one man and one woman (Gen 2:24; Matt 19:4-5), but we were also taught that not everyone’s going to get married and that’s okay. Amongst Catholics there’s an understanding that people will either be priests, religious (nuns, brothers, friars, etc), married or single. Three of these vocations will mean a life of celibacy and serving God (1 Corinth 7:7-8) the latter of which is possible in married life but this is why it’s a vocation, it’s a way you’ve been called to by God.

It’s now that I’ve come to network with more Pentecostal, Evangelical, non denominational etc Christians that I’ve been perplexed by the emphasis on people finding a spouse. There’s plenty of spiritual teaching but dang if someone doesn’t mention a spouse at least once during a session there’s something up. It makes me wonder why this is the case. I know other denominations don’t have priests or people serving from a religious order, but why is it so alien to have someone led to a life of singleness?

Not everyone in the Bible got married. A lot of them just dedicated themselves to God until they went to heaven. This is the whole thing about priests and the religious. The 12 Apostles didn’t get married (or if they did it wasn’t recorded in Scripture), they just lived and died for the faith. I’d love that level of being enamoured with the Father so much that it stilled that occasional ache for my other half (wherever he is).

I’m not saying the Catholic way is the way everyone should go, that’s between each person and Jesus, but I do think the other denominations could learn something. We’re all pursuing that same satisfaction in the Lord (Psalm 42), chasing holiness and if we can help each other along the way that would be great. We’d be showing each other a lot of grace.

19/10/16 I’ve since made a Spotify playlist for the days when singleness doesn’t feel like a blessing. If you’re interested here’s the link Content & Beloved

 

I am Satisfied in….?

I am rarely ever completely satisfied with what I have. There’s always someone I can look at and think “Why can’t I do my hair as well as she does? Why can’t my skin be as smooth as hers? Wow look at those legs. If I had those legs I’d be a whole other woman”. It even creeps unapologetically into spiritual life; “Why can’t I pray like that? God, why don’t you ever give me those kinds of blessings? Well, I guess God just didn’t want me to have a solo career as a Christian soul singer/rapper/poet.”

It’s funny because it looks right into one of the basic features of being human; we are rarely ever completely happy with what we have when we are aware of the blessings of others. Now I have to point out, there is a difference between admiring the work of God in someone’s life (for example how he used a friend in teaching an atheist about the truth of the Gospel which leads to them being baptised) and potentially secretly envying them (for example wishing he had used you to take down the whole group of atheists and turn them into a Gospel street-preaching-choir). I mean really, everyone wants to be that person who leads a billion people to God…or maybe that’s just me.

I really enjoy the preaching of Judah Smith. His style speaks to me because even though I’m Catholic and I like that cool, calm and structured way of worshipping, when I go and speak to anyone about anything pertaining to the Bible or Gospel or God, all the characters turn into gangstas. I don’t know, I think in my mind when I describe them in this way I understand what I’m saying a lot better. I’m not quite polished at using that fancy rhetoric, and especially when I’m speaking to someone who has minimal knowledge about anything involving my faith I find it connects better. I’m not trying to make the Bible sound hip and I’m not drowning it in glitter because have you met Jesus? He’s already the coolest guy I know and the Bible’s an awesome read. That’s where I feel Judah and I are similar. We are both wannabe gangstas, he’s just more popular than I am. Anyway, I’ve been reading his latest book ‘Life Is____’ and it’s great. At one point he wonders how happy we would be if we had no information about our friends and neighbours, and I think that has some truth to it.

The other night I went for Bible study and I was feeling good, ready to share my testimony and tell everyone how God had blessed me that week. I was practically buzzing and my heart was singing silent psalms of praise to the Father. As we went around the circle the tone of my heart was pretty solid until we arrived at one person. She told us about how she had been in communion with Jesus during the weekend. She described how she had locked herself in her room and actually forgotten about the outside world because she was just enjoying being with Jesus, talking to him, singing, revelling in his presence. And little me sat up in my seat wondering why God never called me to do that. I wanted that too. It’s happened before with so many other situations where someone wins a prize or brings out the big guns during fellowship bringing everyone in awe of God, and sometimes I think to myself and wonder why my blessings are always so much smaller than everyone else’s. Ironically before I even knew about their blessings I was feeling pretty good about mine. I was feeling invincible. I felt adored by God. Jesus was my anchor and the Spirit was my sail.

My friends and I often acknowledge how humans are rarely ever happy with what they have. We always want someone else’s hair or eyes or complexion or height when God’s already given us a pretty sweet deal if only we looked into ourselves a little more rather than at others.

God is just and after Jesus he really doesn’t have favourites. He is a just and fair God even when we don’t always see or acknowledge it. Besides, no two relationships are identical. The way I relate to God is different from every other people and it mainly consists of an occasional tug-of-war, one-sided arguments, sulking, and lots of smiles and laughter. My day of communing with God may look different to yours because we are different children at different stages of our spiritual development.

Keeping this in mind I’m going to try a bit harder to be thankful in all and every situation he throws my way. When it’s my turn to win a ruler and a friend’s turn to win a bicycle I’ll be happy with my ruler and happy for my friend and their bicycle. It’s just another thing Jesus has to help me sort out; to first be satisfied with him and then be satisfied with everything he gives me. After all he knows best.

Edge of Desire/I Will Wait

What better to bring me back but a matter of the heart!

I’ve never been that kind of girl who’s been planning her wedding since she was a child. I didn’t dream about my Prince Charming, coming in and sweeping me off my feet. I did crave the relationships born out of pure friendships. I did crave the presence of a boy who would give me his football (aka soccer) jersey to wear with pride. I craved having someone to tell all my problems to who wasn’t my mother or my brothers or my father or my dogs.

From a young age however I made the personal decision that I wouldn’t date anyone just to pass the time. When my time to date arrived I’d be looking for a husband. Now when you make this decision before your 16th birthday you’re bound to stumble and end up falling for probably not the best person out there. That’s exactly what happened. I fell for a guy who visited my church often. Eventually he started attending my church for me. I was so happy to have someone pay attention to me that I blinded myself from all the warning signs until it was too late and I was close to ending myself (there were a lot of unaddressed, underlying issues). As with all the events in my life I learnt to return to God, he was there with me through it all and I knew he would be there with me at the end of it all. I found my solace and sanctuary in the Lord God and I felt whole. More complete than I’d ever been before.

When I left home for university I was focused. I knew what I was going for and I was taking my God and my heart with me.

The university environment made it impossible to ignore the coupled groups around me. I was genuinely content with being single and sticking to being coupled with Jesus. He’s the ultimate love and he fills me with joy.

Lately however I’ve been feeling more alone, more isolated from the seemingly coupled majority. I am a virgin and I’ve only kissed one boy in my life and I’m proud of that. Perhaps it’s an attack on my person because I’ve been feeling the pressure lately. I’ve started a Pinterest board where I pin ideas for my wedding. I know what style dress I want at my wedding, I’ve started looking at bridesmaid dresses, and wedding cupcakes. I’ve begun making references to how I will and will not raise my children. I’ve written letters to my future husband…and yet I’m still single.

I don’t hate my singleness and I have no intention to waste it. When my heart hurts I crack open good ol’ Philippians 4 and tell God what’s on my heart. I watch videos like Janette…ikz’s ‘I will Wait’ and Joseph Solomon’s ‘Worth the Wait’. I rejoice at friends who are getting married or are just in happy relationships. I pray for my future husband frequently. My heart was even genuinely glad when my beloved Justin Timberlake got married and now he’s going to be a father!

Yet I feel like I’m still slipping into the desires of my flesh. I’m looking at a dear friend of mine with eyes and a heart filled with expectation even though I know my feelings aren’t reciprocated. I suppose what troubles me most in this situation is the fact that I feel like I’m at risk of giving away my heart to someone who hasn’t asked for it but I’m that desperate that I’m prepared to make him take it. At the same time I’m disappointed in myself because I’m giving my heart to an outline of the man I want, not the whole package.

I vowed years ago that I wouldn’t give my heart to someone who wouldn’t lead me to heaven and didn’t love God/Jesus/HolySpirit more than me. Lord give me strength so I don’t waver in that!

I’m not sad and I don’t regret my decision to wait for the man God made for me. I am genuinely content living my life with my God. At the end of the day marriage is meant to reflect Jesus’ love for the church, so Jesus will be my foundation no matter what path God sets me on. He’s been kind enough to allow me to see heavenly couples who are best friends and support one another on their spiritual and earthly journey. I’m especially grateful for being able to grow up in a household led by a couple exactly like that; my parents.

I have faith in the plans he has for me, and for each one of you who’s ever felt the same as me. Maybe you’ve found your other and you’re happily married or planning to marry. Maybe you’ve gotten frustrated from having to wait and you’ve settled for less than you know God would want you to have. Maybe you’ve been hurt and you’ve turned to other ways of satisfying the desires of your heart. That’s okay, but remind yourself about the Almighty, looking down upon you without judgement. Is what you have right now the sum of the grace he’s gifted us with or are you tired of waiting on the edge of desire?

Dear Heavenly Father,

Thank you for who you are. Thank you for letting us love you but more importantly thank you for your unconditional love for us. Lord, forgive us for the times we stumble and settle for less than you have planned for us. Forgive us for the times we take our lives out of your hands because we’re tired of waiting for what you have in store. Remind us of the grace and peace you have left for us, within us. 

For the couples Lord I pray that you may be the foundation upon which they base their love.

For the singles Lord I pray you may help us guard our hearts and only give them to the people you have destined us to.

And for those who you have called to a life of singleness; I pray that you may fill their hearts with Jesus.

For all Lord, quench our thirst, grant us your peace and patience, and may everything we do be for your glory.We are nothing without you Jesus. You are our everything.

Amen

A Recap, A Lesson, A Drag Queen.

My gosh…You know those moments when you’re in a situation which tests you so much you just don’t know whether God is teaching you or the evil one is trying to break you. That’s pretty much where I’ve just come from. But first let me recap.

I apologise for my time away. It basically parallels how my relationship with God has fluctuated. There were so many times when I was sitting at my laptop begging for inspiration which just wouldn’t come. I accepted that saying it’ll come when it comes.

In the time I’ve been away I’ve been very close to God and I’ve felt completely separated from him. I’ve learnt so much about him. I’ve had to describe why I believe in him and his ways, praying that I was speaking with Heaven’s accent. I’ve felt completely invincible as I was able to feel the swaddling cloth of his protection and the Holy Spirit glowing like the sun within me.

I’ve also felt alone and abandoned. I’ve felt like a hypocrite. I have felt like I rejected his kingdom. I felt like I knew everything and that I made myself invincible. I felt like I barely knew God and I felt as though I was embarrassed to shout Jesus’ name. I fell back into the hooks of the one sin which breaks me every time.

So I gave myself until Thursday 19 June 2014 to clean up my act and get back to where I need to me, and I must say I wish I’d done it sooner but I knew that would be the best day for me. I feel that contentment of when you’re in the Spirit and you know God is smiling at you. I had my Prodigal Son moment and now I’m back and he’s throwing a feast for me.

So that was me today, strong in Spirit, praising God, having that 24hr conversation I love to have with him when my good friend and housemate brought home her friend who says he’s bi-sexual but I sense much heterosexual masculinity in him, and her new friend, a heterosexual cross-dresser. Literally I prayed ‘Lord help me’.

I’ve never met a cross-dresser and he’s so much different from what I’d anticipated. I was apprehensive at the beginning but eventually I found myself sitting very comfortably close to him. He told me the story of his cross-dressing and I just had to remind myself of the 4 words I go by when I approach those with same-sex attractions; Respect, Compassion, Dignity, Love.

We proceeded to watch a comedian and my friend warned me before each instance of blasphemy (as comedians tend to be these days). Whenever I hear comedic blasphemy I withdraw into myself, protecting my God and my faith (as if God needs tiny me to protect him). This time I prayed. I repeated the ‘Our Father’ and ‘Glory Be’ in my head. Initially my first thought was ‘hey, you don’t need to tell them I’m Christian’. I know, I’m so embarrassed for myself. But this time I chastised myself and when she warned me again I kept quiet. I didn’t laugh, and I began to pray.

When it was just me and my new acquaintance sitting together I prayed again, because I thought it was too much of a coincidence for me to meet one of the types of people I’m most adamant to stay away from the day after I resolved to return to God. We sat there, just the two of us watching videos on YouTube and I thought to myself, ‘if someone had told me 2 years ago that I would be sitting alone, very close to a cross-dresser and feeling comfortable’ I would’ve vowed to never leave my parents’ house.

I asked the Father many things and I hope he shows me the answers. I also thought of my strong Christian friends from our little Bible study group. One would have begun on the ‘you must repent’ angle, one would have taken out her subtle Biblical books/companions and the other would have begun a well meaning discussion on…something…she’s unpredictable. The thing with me is I try to approach everyone with love which I feel is good but it may be my downfall one day. We must love unconditionally but we must also live and evangelise. Given the opportunity and the right starting point and I like talking about all the sides of God and the Bible and my beliefs, but in other situations, which unfortunately for me is most of them, I’m truly apprehensive. It’s something I pray to God about. If you have tips please make sure to share them.

So yes, here I am, different from when I left but still relatively the same. God, I believe, is still teaching me things and he has me on a path. I’m not sure where that path will take me or what his plan is but hey, isn’t that what makes it fun?

Dear Heavenly Father,

It’s good to be home. It’s so reassuring to know that you are always ready and waiting to welcome me back when I stray. Thank you for your love, and your light and especially for Jesus. Thank you for giving us a brilliant example of LOVE in human form. I pray that you shine your light upon the path I’m meant to follow and shut every door not meant for me. I put my life in your hands, for you alone are the Holy One, you alone are Lord, you alone are the Most High, and for that I am forever grateful.

In the Blessed name of Jesus Christ,

Amen.

PS I just noticed God is presenting me with a lot of people I never would’ve let myself encounter before. I guess before I would’ve regarded them with negatively and yes, even hatred, but hey, it’s probably still too early to be guessing! Praying for your spiritual journey my brothers and sisters ❤

Lessons from God: For Love and Sushi

Our God never ceases to teach us lessons and I’m grateful for each lesson he throws our way. I’ve been struggling with how to love people in spite of the things I know about them. So my gracious God stepped in.

One of my housemates is Brasilian and she invited me to join her and her friends for homemade sushi. I’m trying to be more social and outgoing so I agreed to go (I mean hey, free sushi!). I was particularly nervous because I would most likely be the embodiment of the language barrier. Unfortunately not that many people speak Shona in comparison to Portuguese. I agreed to go and before we left I prayed for the night to go well and I put it all in God’s hands. The first test was walking through the streets at night in the dark. I continually had to remind myself that I’m protected by the Holy Spirit and nothing can touch me. I think I passed that test…I hope.

When we arrived at her friends house they were all very warm and welcoming to me, even though I was the only one in the house who didn’t understand Portuguese. One of the guys, who’s English was more polished than some of the others, made it a point to speak to me and make me feel welcome, and even once the whole house was filled with foreign tongues I felt good.

As the night progressed I began to observe each member of the group and my mind slowly ticked into realising that all the males were gay.

I’m sorry, it wasn’t until I left my home after 18 years of no exposure, that I actually met and interacted with people who were openly gay. I still remember when I met a lesbian in one of my classes and I panicked. Internally my cells were tensing and all my hormones were going into flight or fight mode. With time I’ve calmed down but loving people who are different to me in this way has been a challenge I haven’t given up on; I’ve struggled and I’ve prayed about it. I still felt uncomfortable when I made that realisation though, but I tossed it aside and reminded myself “they’re just people”.

With time I forgot and became too engrossed in trying to crush everyone at Mortal Kombat and tasting various authentic Brasilian drinks prepared by Brasilians. I felt pretty privileged.

When it was time to leave, it was back to walking through the dark streets.

Just before we left the first guy who had welcomed me looked at me with such intensity and made me promise I’d protect his friend (my housemate). There was no reason for him to be worried for her and he said it in a joking way, but the way he said it and the way he looked at me made me feel that I really wanted to be his friend. I could genuinely come to love him.

Once we were on our way suspicious rustling made me jump and grab on to my housemate until I was sure it wasn’t a person or a dog or a zombie coming to attack us. Further on the glow of a flashlight in one of the on-campus daycare classrooms made me even more panicked. My housemate laughed, calling me a scaredy cat but I wanted to protect her more than myself. Don’t ask me why, that’s just how I am. Again I had to remind myself of the power of God’s Spirit walking with us.

After a severe internal struggle I decided to call the security services and report what I’d seen. One of my mottos in life is ‘Evil prevails when good men keep quiet’ and my heart just wouldn’t let me rest until I had reported what could have been a thief potentially darkening the lives of the children who play in the room almost everyday.

As I lay in bed, reflecting on the night I couldn’t help but smile. I’d been so nervous and God had just gone and protected me, given me a great night and helped me step one step closer in loving all my neighbours. The people I had felt uncomfortable around were the ones who made an effort to assimilate me into their group. My shaky faith had had to grip on to the only one who always protects me. Then I had the audacity to wake up on Sunday morning and tell God that I was waking up so early for him. That night proved how much God doesn’t need me but I run to him every time.

I genuinely think he shakes his head and chuckles at me most of the time.

I’m grateful for every lesson though, and each time he catches me when I stumble. I’m going to continue working on love and I’m going to make sure my mustard seed of faith moves mountains and makes them dance.

All Men Amen

So Lent has ended, Easter is practically here and once again I find myself a ball of emotion. You’ll probably wonder why.

Believe it or not every year I forget or denigrate the sacrifice made for us by Jesus during his Passion, until he was nailed to that cross. That cross which is the ultimate symbol of love for man. His flesh was torn away, his blood shed, all for people who didn’t even care at the time. Every year as the most sacred time for all Christians arrives, my heart breaks.

This Lent was very difficult for me this year, God knows why. To you I will say my sacrifice fluctuated in a depressing way now that I can reflect on it. Last night, Holy Thursday, I couldn’t help but feel so weak and so humbled by everything the Lord does and has done and will do. To think, in that Garden of Gethsemane (it all started in a garden and the end began in a garden) for the first and only time Jesus and God almost didn’t agree on something. From the beginning of time the Trinity were one and they made everything and they made everything good. This one time, fully aware of what was about to come, Jesus didn’t want to (“Father, if thou are willing, remove this cup from me” Luke 22:42) and yet he was willing to do it for us, because to him we are worth it (“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son…not to condemn the world but that the world might be saved through him” John 3:16-17).

I ate my Easter eggs yesterday because for the rest of the weekend I don’t want to think about a fluffy bunny, or hiding eggs or chocolate or hot cross buns. This weekend I want my eyes focused on the Lord. I want to think about that cross and weep and glorify him because I am not worthy, we are not worthy, and he loves us anyway.

Dear Father

Open the eyes of our hearts Lord. May we look at your cross and feel your love. May our souls bless you. May our souls forever thirst for you. All that is within us cries Holy are You God! Holy are you Lord of Hosts! Holy is the King of Kings! You are the beginning of all things. We are not worthy of your love and sacrifice through our own humanity, but through your glory and mercy which you allow us to experience. Forgive us for the times when we forget our value to you and your value to us. Wrap us in your arms and clothe us in your light. You are all we could ever need. We bless you and we glorify you because you are the only one who deserves our love and our glory. We strive to be the children you want us to be. For the times we stumble, please pick us up. For the times we are lost, take our hand and show us the way. Guard us from evil and may all temptation flee from us. You are all we could ever need Lord. You are our beginning and end, for ever and ever.

Everybody say

AMEN