I’ve been meditating on the perfect ways of God recently. My fiancé and I are going through our toughest test of faith to date, waiting for a visa that will allow us to live in the same country and get married. The website says the processing time can be anywhere up to 17 months. We are currently one month down. We can’t start planning our wedding because we don’t have a date, which everything hinges on. We watch as many of our Facebook friends get married and post about a wedding date countdown for 2018 and we don’t know if we will be able to do the same.
But instead of fixating on the time (the when, when WHEN?! will drive you insane) I am learning to fixate on the God of the timing.
“As for God, his way is perfect. The word of the Lord is flawless. He is a shield for all who take refuge in him.” – 2 Samuel 22:31 (NIV)
I remember being arrested by this chapter in the Bible five years ago in a college laundry room, reading it over and over until it became one of my favourite passages.
Perfect. Who of us has perfect ways? Who can claim to be a person without error or folly, someone who has never made a mistake and has nothing to be embarrassed by? The idea is actually difficult for the human brain to comprehend.
I have neatly packaged timelines in my head that I would love God to adhere to, especially when it comes to the date of my wedding. If you had asked me when I was 18, I wanted to get married at 18. As the years changed, so did the ideal age. But looking back now, I was so immature and ill-prepared at 18, and my choice at the time would have led to devastation.
God in his goodness said no to my prayers. Said, “Not yet. Wait.”
That word we all hate, but as I looked through the Bible in this time of waiting for Jacques, I have realised (much to my disappointment) that waiting is indeed a very biblical thing. Many people in the Bible waited many years for God’s promises to be fulfilled (at least I don’t expect to be waiting 400 years to marry Jacques).
Because waiting builds character. And God loves to build character in his kids. It occurred to me some time ago that patience is not a lesson that can be learned quickly.
“’For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are my ways your ways,’ declares the Lord. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.” – Isaiah 55:8-9 (NIV)
I was stressing out and becoming so negative about our situation, feeling like everybody had it easier than us (of course focussing on the couples around me who live in the same town) and felt that I couldn’t handle the maximum waiting time for the visa, like I would explode.
It’s funny how people can talk to you for hours and then God can say one or two sentences and it completely transforms your mind.
“I am not making you wait for nothing.”
Immediately a peace rushed into my heart. Ahh. There’s a point to it all. One of the things that was getting me the most worked up was that it felt like an arbitrary wait time from the government and that they had the final say on our wedding date, but God reminded me that he is in control.
“It is God who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect.” – 2 Samuel 22:33 (NIV)
He already knows the date of Jacques landing in Australia and our wedding. No government can thwart any plans of his. God also revealed that we were benefitting from the waiting, and I started to see all the changes that we as individuals, and as a couple, were experiencing monthly and even weekly.
I stopped focussing so much on the exact timing and the seeming unfairness of long distance, but the blessing in the wait, and the goodness and faithfulness of God. A friend encouraged me to prepare myself for the maximum processing time so that anything shorter felt like a bonus. God revealed to me that the question wasn’t whether I was strong enough to tough it out for 18 months, but did I trust that his grace was sufficient for me to wait 18 months if that was what he had ordained? It took the pressure off me and put it back on God, who can more than handle it.
“The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.”
– Proverbs 18:21
My mum encouraged me to start speaking out positive words about our visa situation every time someone asked (which is often), even if I didn’t feel positive, and see how that changed my mind set. My thoughts began to change and I stopped crying so much about the visa. I now feel entirely different than I did even three weeks ago because of declaring God’s goodness over the situation instead of giving in to self-pity and defeat.
The thing about God having perfect ways is that when we trust in him, as opposed to leaning on our own weak understanding, he makes our way perfect too. Not that everything in your life is suddenly roses (we still don’t have the faintest inkling of our wedding date) but that walking with Christ, clothed securely in Christ, spending time with him and trusting, is the definition of godly perfection.
“Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” – Matthew 5:48
An interesting insight into anxiety and depression from my sister-in-law to be.
It’s that time of the year again – Christmas.
Don’t get me wrong, I love Christmas and what it represents but what I really battle with are the crowds in the malls. The hustle and bustle of the malls, people just about running over each other, is a bit overbearing.
I was shopping for Christmas gifts with my parents yesterday and oh boy, was the mall busy. People everywhere with their trollies full of gifts and children running around all excited, yet I just can’t find it within me to have the excitement that everyone else feels and has. While walking in the mall, I kept rubbing my fingers in my palms and kept saying “It’s okay, you’ll be fine. Just breath and think of a song to calm you down” For some reason and I just can’t wrap my head around it.
I battle with crowds and its only really…
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I just wanted to spread some encouragement to some amazing women I know and don’t know. You do not have to be they’ve said that you are.
“You are never too much,and you are always enough.” The sentence that still brings a tear to my eye when I hear it, over 5 years later.
All credit to Carroll Gamboa, published on YouTube on 31 August 2017.
7 things they didn’t tell me during an arts degree, or maybe I wasn’t listening…
If you haven’t been listening either, maybe it’s time to start. Or maybe no one’s telling you these things that I had to figure out on my own.
During uni I never spent one minute worrying about finding a job once I was finished my degree. At the start of the course they gave us the impression that hundreds of companies were out there, just waiting to snuffle up graduates like us. Of course, a university would say that. At the beginning. How else do they lock in your fees?
And then at the end of my three years I found myself with a bachelor degree and no job. And no likelihood of getting one, if the first six months were any indication. I felt like Deakin had pulled one over on me. “You know all those jobs we told you were available at the start of your degree? Psych! There are none. Thanks for all the cash! Cheers, bye xx.”
I felt like there was no follow up, no nurturing or preparing for the real world once the training wheels of university were removed. (In high school, they refer to uni as the ‘real world’—it’s not.) I looked on in envy at nurses and teachers who all got ‘placed’ in graduate jobs or internships. While it had seemed easy at the time that my degree didn’t contain a mandatory placement, now all of a sudden I felt ripped off. Where was my head start, my foot in the door?
And three years later I am still trying to get a foot, a pinky, in any arts door. I have applied for over 100 jobs by now, broadening my search further and further, and received two interviews.
What is wrong with me? Where did I go wrong? My sister used to joke about my arts degree, calling it the ‘Bachelor of Unemployment’. Boy, do I feel bad about teasing those philosophy majors now.
I spent a long time feeling like a failure, and still do some days. I have dreams of being a writer but instead I work in retail, the industry I started in when I was 16, never imagining I would still be here.
I chalk my first mistake up to naively turning down an internship that my journalism teacher offered to put me forward for. “No thanks, journalism isn’t really my thing” was my reply. Oh, silly girl.
That brings me to my first point.
1) Take any advantage or opportunity presented to you, even if it’s not your ideal job or expertise
Looking back now, I would jump at the opportunity to have interned for the Geelong Advertiser, especially before I had even completed my degree. At the end of the day, experience is experience. Nobody starts out in their dream job and I really regret turning down an opportunity to kick start my arts resume and make some worthy connections. You can have all the experience in the world (like I do in retail) but relevant industry experience is really all employers seem to look at.
2) If there is an option to do a placement or internship, always take it
I saw on the course guide in third year that we could do a placement. It sounded like fun until I saw that the university didn’t help you at all. You had to organise the placement by yourself. I had just come back from a six month exchange in the United States. Organising somewhere to live at such late notice was hard enough, let alone this. It seemed like too much effort, so I let the opportunity slide. I would advise any arts student to go to the effort of organising their own placement. If it’s not a course elective, organise one and ask for approval of credit from your faculty. Those contacts forged would be invaluable now. The phrase “it’s who you know” is truer today than ever before (in more industries than just the creative ones, but that’s another issue). I find it interesting that the only people from my course that now have writing related jobs are through family, friends, or previous volunteer experience.
3) Keep in contact with your classmates and professors
Actively seek advice from your professors and follow what you can. If someone on the inside is going to be on your side, it’s your teacher. They may be able to make an introduction, put in a good word for you, or just give you some good tips on breaking into the industry. If they don’t offer it outright (let’s be honest, they have a lot on their plates), make an appointment to speak with them and pick their brains. Ask their tips and advice, also if they can put you in contact with anyone who might eventually be able to offer you an internship or job.
I remember asking the teacher of my Shakespeare class in third year whether it was worth doing an honours year after my bachelor degree. His response was, “Honestly, you’ll end up a year later with another piece of paper, a bigger HECS debt and still no job. The best advice I can give you is to get out there and gain industry experience. Get any job you can in your field and work your way up.”
And here I am still trying.
4) Be proactive and start early
Maybe you found a job straight out of uni. Congratulations. This article is not for you.
It is only after years of unsuccessful job hunting has made me so desperate that I am now seeking advice from all avenues. I wish so much that I could have started volunteering for companies during university. The problem was I didn’t realise how tough the job market is out there. There are scores of graduates for every one job being advertised. We are faced with the horrible catch-22 of needing experience to get your first job, but no one giving you a chance in order for you to gain experience. It is one of the more frustrating paradoxes that I have experienced.
Don’t wait to see first-hand if your field is tough. Start being proactive now. You’re only going to thank yourself later.
Get your work out there. If you’re a writer and don’t have a blog, start one. It is crucial in this day and age to have an online presence (more than your social media accounts, although those are crucial too). I currently have a personal blog, and am also writing a novel. An editor can’t publish your manuscript if you don’t have one ready to show them. There is no wrong time to spend time working on your craft and building up your portfolio. Write every day. Spend time journaling, responding to creative prompts, drafting scripts and stories and essays.
On social media, clean up your profiles. It’s naïve to think that employers these days don’t Google people. Make sure that your online profile presents you as a person that they would want to employ. Create connections with people and companies that you admire, and see where it could lead, particularly with LinkedIn.
Read like crazy. Anything and everything you can get your hands on. If you think learning stops once you’ve got that graduation certificate, you’ve got another thing coming. Read books and articles on the publishing industry, or whatever arts industry you are interested in. Knowledge is power.
Submit your work to places like magazines or online journals, but make sure you do your homework and read up on the kind of submissions they are currently looking for, otherwise you will be wasting your time.
While a part-time job in your industry during your degree is ideal (and you should definitely try this first), it’s not always realistic. I know it may not seem very glamorous, but working for free is a great way for a company to take a risk-free chance on you. Being willing to work for free also shows how much you want to be there. It also gets you that really valuable experience that seems to be necessary for any paying job these days. I volunteered for a food and lifestyle blog The World Loves Melbourne for just over a year and am currently doing the blog, Instagram and newsletter for a program on Channel 31. It’s great, but I could have done more.
Yes, it is exhausting to volunteer while working a full time job but at the end of the day, it might be the only pathway to someone giving you a full time job in your field. Unfortunately, us arts kids often have to take the scenic route. Don’t let it get you too down. I had originally thought that volunteering was not an option open to me once I started full time work (I am currently in retail management) but one of my friends in the TV industry pointed out that I could volunteer one afternoon a week, or fortnight. I hadn’t thought about it like that before, assuming it was all or nothing, but anything is better than nothing.
6) Use your connections
Networking. Half the time the word sends shivers down my spine because frankly, the whole concept makes me kind of uncomfortable. To some people like my fiancé Jacques, networking seems to come naturally. I’ve already mentioned lecturers and tutors, but think about the other people you have in your life who could connect you with a potential employer.
Research some networking events in your city and attend them. I recommend going with a friend as I admit that they can start out somewhat awkward, but they can be really worthwhile. If you know anyone successful in your field, ask to make a time to sit down with them and pick their brains. They’re obviously doing something right.
7) Don’t be proud
I know it’s not the millennial way of thinking, but in most careers, people have worked their way up from the bottom. This requires patience, perseverance, perhaps a salary cut, hard work and humility. If you’re looking to jump the queue, so to speak, and step straight into a senior role, you need to wake up. You might have to take a lower paying job that you intended, but you have to start somewhere. Don’t be too good for any job. Any job in your industry should be a good enough starting point.
I know it’s hard out there. Believe me, I know. And I don’t have a writing job yet, so you might be justified if you don’t take any of my advice. But I’m sure that I’m closer now than I’ve ever been.
Best of luck! May you land a job quicker than I did.
Sources (accessed 30 November 2017):
Hey guys, follow the link below to check out an article I wrote this week for Channel 31’s Teen Talk Production ….
“For the Lord takes delight in his people; he crowns the humble with victory.”
I’ve been meditating on humility lately, and the amount of control we want over our lives, or think that we have. As I was praying the other day, my aim was to humble myself and submit to God’s will in a certain situation.
My boyfriend Jacques and I are currently waiting on a visa that enables him to move to Australia and us to marry. It would come as no surprise that I have been praying for it to get approved quickly. I want to get married and I’m not being very patient about it (although I am trying). I was submitting it to God and was about to pray, “Lord, even if it takes a year, that’s all right” but I stopped.
A year? Almost like I didn’t want to pray the prayer out loud and give God ideas about some super human test of endurance. I realised that when I say things like that to God, I think that I am giving him ‘permission’ to bring a trial my way, like we somehow have any kind of authority over him.
Submitting yourself to God’s timing is not giving him permission to dawdle or give you the longest wait time possible. We cannot twist God’s arm, and we don’t have the right to tell him what to do. He doesn’t need anyone’s permission, least of all mine. But I do have a choice as to whether I am content with his choices or I fight against them and become impatient, angry and bitter.
The circumstances may not change when we submit ourselves to him and his plan, but we will change if we humble ourselves and choose to have a good attitude, and ask God to change our heart. Your experience of a situation will transform. You can choose to thank God that he is working things out for your good, even if it doesn’t feel good in the moment.
One day God told me that if I could see with his eagle eye, his 20/20 vision, I would choose the same timing as him every single time. What a comfort. We just have to trust that his ways are perfect and that things will happen on the exact day, the exact hour that they need to.
He does the choosing.
“In you, Lord my God, I put my trust … Show me your ways, Lord, teach me your paths. Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Saviour, and my hope is in you all day long.”
Psalm 25:1, 4-5
Image: https://mirayagroot.wordpress.com/2014/04/09/quote-of-the-month-april/, sourced 12 November 2017.
[ a s h o r t s t o r y ]
The snow crunched under my boots. It was two days after the accident. The tire tracks disappeared into the distance in front of me; the dirty, hard-packed snow forming two swaying lines. My shoulder brushed the lower branches of a tall fir tree and snow slipped to the ground as I thought of my little brother. All my thoughts were about him lately. An eagle roamed overhead, soaring on the wind currents, and I fought the urge to shoot it down. My finger itched for the trigger. The rifle lay against my side.
~ ~ ~
I remembered the night that my brother died. I knelt beside him and tried to scream, but the cold air took my breath away. There was no blood. Just a slightly still-warm body rapidly turning to stiff ice beneath my hands. I couldn’t bring the warmth back, and the snow had continued to fall on my face, my eyelashes, while the party continued inside.
They had probably all been drinking. You know how kids are. The car sped off and I wondered if I would ever see the driver again. Heaven knows how badly I wanted to.
~ ~ ~
My dad approached the house from the opposite direction. The pain was all over him like a heavy blanket resting on his shoulders. His face had aged ten years in a couple of days. My dad is a little man. I’m not sure he can stand up properly underneath the blanket. And I worry. Like I have many times since it happened. No matter what anybody says, my dad’s a good man. He’d never say he liked my brother better. That he’d prefer if it had been me in the accident.
“You’re my real son in all the ways that count,” he would always say to me. He always treated Hunter and I the same. Fair’s fair; that’s what I like about my dad. He’s a good man, my dad.
My dad looked up, and stared straight through me. “Boy,” he said. He usually called me son. He flipped the shovel off his shoulder and laid it against the house.
Once inside the house, my mom chided me. “Baby, get those things off. You’re putting snow all over my carpet.”
“Okay, Mama.” I hung up my coat and snow hat by the door, gently sliding my finger along the coat next to mine. In so many ways, practically speaking, it was like he had never left.
I leaned down and wrapped an arm around my mom’s thin shoulders, worn down to the bone, as she stirred the venison stew. “Hey, Mama. You like that deer I got you?” Mama smelled like a combination of all the foods she had cooked for a myriad of strangers in the last eighteen hours. She still had her frilly work apron on. I wondered if she had to go back to work tonight, or had just been too tired when she’d come home to take the apron off.
I sat on the couch, waiting for dinner to be ready, but then glanced over to see my mom yawn while she stood over the pot. I got up to set the table for her. It’s funny the things you try to remember, and the unimportant details that just stick in your brain like someone’s crazy glued them there. While I struggled to remember which order Mama liked the cutlery in, my mind jumped back to one day at school right before winter break when my brother and I were being hassled. Chase McKindreck, a guy who made my skin crawl with hatred every time I saw him, was off on one of his beat downs. He always picked on me—because of my size, because of my race, because he could. It’s not that I was a small kid—on the contrary—but with my height came a certain chubbiness that my mom liked to call . . . solidness. Chase liked to call it straight up fat. He liked to call me elephant man. He liked to call me black panther, like panther alone wasn’t explanation enough. He liked to call me bulldozer. He asked me if I could see all the way down to Texas from up there. Mama used to say that he was just jealous of me and my height. And being on the same football team didn’t change things one bit. In my mind, I liked to call him straight up racist. Somehow, even though I was about a good three inches taller than him, he still managed to always make me feel all tongue tied. My coach always said I was a heavy duty piece of machinery with not much of an engine. Whatever that meant.
This particular day, Chase stopped mid-rant for a second, then looked back at me and Hunter and said, as if seeing us for the first time, “Why’s he white and you’re black, anyway? I thought you were brothers.”
Little, blonde Hunter, who had known Chase for less than an hour, was still able to come up with a response before I could. “He is my brother, he is my brother,” Hunter repeated, in a sing-song voice. He paused for a moment, as if thinking of another argument. “He’s just my brother.” He tugged on my hand, telling me that he was anxious to get to class. To him there was no distinction between us—biological or adopted. “Lucas, let’s go.” He looked off in another direction, already bored. To him, the issue had been settled. “First graders go this way,” he informed me, ignoring Chase completely now. “I don’t wanna be late on my first day of school.” I let him drag me away, smug at the thought of Chase being shut down by a first grader.
At the dinner table, the three remaining members of our family sat side by side, but we were so emotionally distant from each other that we might as well have been on different continents. We were all thinking about the same thing—or the same person. I was thinking about the time when my dad had taken Hunter and me to the driving range at the golf course two towns away. Hunter had actually been better than I was and both of them had laughed at me as I missed ball after ball, swinging like a mad man. We’d had lunch at the club afterward and Hunter had spilled orange juice all over his new beige pants.
I was also thinking about the driver of that car, and imagining ways to kill him. I pulled myself up when the plans in my head started to become too detailed. I’d had my anger issues in the past, like everyone has, but I’d never really had to go after anyone before because, at five years old, my brother hadn’t really made many enemies. My father, on the other hand, well . . . he was a good man. He was looking away, staring at nothing, as my mom tried yet again to draw him into conversation. I attempted to concentrate for her sake, but my thoughts kept wandering down a track that I couldn’t see the end of. What I’ve noticed is that when women feel bad, they can’t eat. But my father and I were feeling just as bad, and we had three helpings of stew each.
The next two days passed slowly. Each day at school I kept my ears open and asked around for information. A name, an address, a licence plate—anything. The weird thing is that even though I go to a big school—huge because it’s first graders right through to seniors for all the surrounding towns—I still wasn’t finding anything. People were acting really nonchalant around me, and I got the feeling they were trying to hide something from me. Well, if they weren’t telling me, the cops certainly didn’t know yet. I was keeping an eye on the news too. But I felt pretty confident that I’d get wind of it before they did. When I came home from school both nights, I was raking through Facebook with a fine toothcomb, but everything was strangely quiet on the social media front. I didn’t have a Twitter. My mind was consumed by him.
One night, after hours of staring at the only computer screen in the house, clicking away and stalking my hardest, I pushed back in the old, three-legged office chair and bumped into my bed. I let out a big, frustrated sigh. According to the crappy computer’s tool bar it was already 2:36 A.M. Still nothing. I cracked my knuckles, agitated, and pounded my pillow with my fist. Wandering out to the kitchen in my socks, I got a glass and filled it slowly, trying not to wake the house. I stood there sipping the water and looking out the window above the sink at the snow falling. Did it ever stop in Montana? The fire was dying. One day I would go somewhere warm, out of this Godforsaken, podunk little town. Unexpectedly, I heard noises coming from my parents’ bedroom. I hadn’t intended to eavesdrop, exactly, but our walls were thin and I didn’t exactly move away as I heard their voices rise.
“Alex, talk to your son. You can’t avoid him forever. I think you both need this.”
“I ain’t got nothing to say to him,” I heard my dad’s deeper voice reply. “He should’ve been watching the house. He should’ve been watching my son.”
My son. Like he’d only ever had one son. What was I—just a glorified babysitter? Come to think of it, I wasn’t even supposed to be babysitting that night. It was a big party. How was I to know? We heard the scream before anyone had even realised he was gone.
The next night, Mama asked us if we could go hunting again. “Baby, I’m clear out,” she said to me with a straight face. “The stuff you bring home tastes so good, and you know how hard up we are right now. It’s just a rough patch. Won’t be long ‘til we can buy all our meat again.”
On the way out of the house, I checked our industrial freezer that sat against the back wall of our double garage. To my surprise, it was almost full. Okay, so Mama was trying to get us to bond again, to ‘reconnect emotionally.’ Father-son quality time together. You know, all that stuff that moms like to talk about. We’ll see how that goes seeing as apparently the only son he had already got hit by a drunk driver. Was all that stuff he said to me growing up really just a big bunch of lies? I couldn’t believe it yet.
We drove to our favourite spot and headed out into the trees. We usually laughed and joked while we were hunting, but tonight I couldn’t think of a thing to say. He only said things like, “To your left there, a little deeper in the woods,” or “Good shot.” Never once did he call me son. Before the accident, I couldn’t remember the last time he’d called me Lucas.
After about an hour and a half, when we would usually only be half way through, he turned to me and looked past my shoulder, saying, “I’m about done for the night. You wanna call it quits or keeping on lookin’?”
“I don’t care, Alex,” I said.
“Now wait just a minute,” my dad began in a disgruntled voice, coming around to stand in front of me. I glanced up to see his knees as I knelt tying the feet of a young deer carcass together. “No matter how bad things might be right now, I’m still your father.” So he was trying to pull rank. Playing the dad card.
Well, hell. Two could play at that game.
“Still my father?” I snarled. “Is that why you haven’t looked at me all week? Ever since—” I swallowed hard, biting back a mix of vomit and saliva. “Ever since then, you’ve totally ignored me. It’s like I’m dead to you or something!”
“Lucas, it’s not like that.” My dad’s voice rose. “This is a hard time for everyone . . .”
“I heard you. I heard you last night,” I spat. “I should’ve been taking care of your son.”
“Don’t even call me that.” I cut him off. “I know what that really means. It’s code for substitute.”
“No, son,” he pushed the words out like there was a pocket knife lodged in his throat. “I don’t know what I’m saying right now. I can barely even function. I wish I hadn’t said that.”
“You mean you wish I hadn’t heard it. Just say it now. I know you’re thinking it. You wish it had been me.”
I know I was pushing him right now, hard. I was feeling kind of crazy myself, and I knew what it felt like to live without Hunter, but something in me just wanted to make my dad crack.
“No, no . . .” he mumbled, looking at the ground, his face bereft. It was like his mind was already somewhere else. He looked . . . vulnerable.
I hefted the baby deer up and over my shoulder with a grunt. He was still mumbling “No, no” when I started trekking back to the truck. Sitting in the cab, I imagined myself driving off and leaving him to walk home. But I waited in the driver’s seat for him to get his seatbelt on, like a good son. The drive back home was quiet.
The next night after dinner I was sitting at my computer again, Facebook open on three tabs. The door opened without warning and my mom strode in wearing her frilly apron.
“Lucas, I’ve got to go back to work, so the left overs are in the fridge if you or your dad get hungry again,” she said, and came to kiss the top of my head. She barely even had to lean down an inch or two, but as she did, her eyes lit on the computer screen before I could minimise it. “Honey,” she warned in her usually high-pitched voice, “think about what you’re doing. That’s a bad cycle you’ll get yourself into. It’ll ruin you more than anyone else. Leave it to the Lord, baby. He knows best. Maybe that boy’s feeling just as guilty as you are angry.” Whatever, Mom. But what else was she supposed to say?
I didn’t say anything, but clicked the red cross at the corner of the screen, trying to make her believe that I was taking her words to heart. “I love you, Mama,” I said, trying to avoid making any promise in regards to getting even. I probably wasn’t going to do it, but if I did, I didn’t want a broken promise also on my list. “Now you better get along now.” I repeated her own words to me on many occasions in a joking tone. “You don’t wanna be late.”
The next day I was walking to my biology lab after lunch when I saw a group of people talking quietly, their heads bent toward each other. Something about it sent off an alarm bell. A few of them glanced over their shoulders as one of the guys pointed at me. I realised the guy pointing was Angelo, and he was frowning. I changed course and walked over to them, trying not to make it look like I was marching. Despite my best efforts to not look aggressive, most of the group scattered as soon as they saw me approaching. Angelo was left talking to one guy, whose eyes widened as he stole another glance at me. Oops. I guess I forgot to my make my face non-aggressive. He scampered away before I got within fifteen feet of him.
“Hey, Lucas.” Angelo put on a small smile, polite enough to stay and talk to me even though I could tell he wanted to run away too.
“Hey, what were you guys talking about?” When Angelo hesitated, I said, “Because I got the feeling it was about me.” Non-aggressive. Non-aggressive. I tried to smile but had a feeling it came out wrong. Angelo cringed at how obvious he had been with the pointing.
“I’m sorry, man.” His black eyebrows drew together. “About your brother.” I remembered with regret how close we used to be. “It was a terrible accident.”
“Accident? You know something?” He stayed quiet. “Angelo, I know you do. Everybody knows. I can feel how they’ve been trying to keep it from me. I ain’t stupid, you know.”
“I know,” he rushed to say in a sincere voice. I tried hard to remember why we weren’t still good friends.
“Then give it up. Don’t I deserve to know my own business?”
“Fine.” He sighed. “They told me not to tell you but man, I’m with you—I get it. This whole thing’s pretty rough. And I agree you have a right to know, especially seeing as everybody else does.” He exhaled slowly, at the same time I did, and then spit it out. “His name’s Tyler Elliot.”
“Junior?” I interjected.
“Yeah, a junior.” The name sounded familiar. “He was out drinking.”
“With Chase and those guys?”
“Yeah.” A face was starting to form in my head. Tyler Elliot. I’d seen him around a few times. He was a little guy, I think. With a mop of brown hair. Or was it dark blonde? Angelo continued. “It wasn’t s’posed to happen. He panicked and then took off. They’re telling the cops tomorrow.”
“Where’s he live?” I asked, and tried to make my face less intense than I knew it was right now.
“Lucas . . .” Angelo said in a worried tone, and I remembered my mom.
“It’s not like that,” I said in a defensive voice, even though it was. “I just wanna talk to him.” Angelo looked doubtful. “No, really,” I said in a serious tone. “I just need some closure, you know. I can’t stop thinking about Hunter . . .” I trailed off, knowing this would crack him.
Angelo leaned in with a reluctant, pained face and spoke his address quietly to my shoulder. Returning to his normal volume, he said in explanation. “He lives over in my town. I’ve seen him get off the bus before. He’s not in the main house though. He lives in a bungalow in the backyard.” He studied me. “But maybe on second thoughts you should wait to go see him until they take him into custody. To be honest, you look a little . . . crazy.”
I didn’t feel offended. Partly because I knew Angelo had no bad intentions and partly because I knew it was true. “Nah, man. I’m fine. I promise. I ain’t gonna hurt him.”
“Okay . . .” Angelo said doubtfully, giving my shoulder a kind squeeze. “Stay safe, man. Make good choices.” I’d heard him say that before, but this time I knew he wasn’t just saying it for the sake of it.
I felt bad manipulating—and lying to—Angelo, because he really was a good guy, but I just couldn’t satisfy that beast inside of me, and no matter how much anyone, including a part of myself, warned me against it, this was what I had to do. And tonight. After all, they were going to the cops tomorrow. Did Angelo mean that Tyler was going himself? Or that other people were? Oh, well. That part at least wasn’t my concern.
After school, I sat in my truck until the parking lot emptied, wrestling with myself. The days are short in winter, and I watched the cold air drain the light out of the sky. When almost all of it had disappeared, I turned my key in the ignition. I had made my decision.
The air felt lighter and heavier at the same time. Tyler Elliot, hold on a bit longer. I’m coming for you. After making a quick stop in my garage, I was back in the truck. It was strange how now that I’d found out, the ache had been replaced with a numbness. I flexed my cold fingers at the wheel and closed the truck door, ready to leave my house again. I flicked on my headlights. My stomach felt like it had a little motor in it, whirring away, stirring up the butterflies, but leaving my emotions intact. It was like my brain and my body were disconnected. I forced myself to barely consider what I was doing as I took a turn out of my driveway onto the long road that led to Tyler Elliot’s house. The gun sat across my lap.
After driving through his neighbourhood for a few minutes, I pulled up a couple of houses away from number nine, on the other side of the Canter Road, and decided just to wait. Whether it was doubt or smarts, I couldn’t tell you. Just that rushing on in didn’t seem like a really bright idea. After cutting the engine, I turned the interior lights off too. I shuffled down in my seat and squinted at the street lamps, wishing that the windows of my old truck were more heavily tinted. I considered going back home.
The most important thing here was discretion. To get in and out without anyone seeing me. I frowned, thinking how hard it would be to look nonchalant with a rifle by my side. Then again, there was no one on the street. Once the gunshot sounded, I would have to book it out of there and drive as far as I could. Maybe I’d go south. Somewhere down to the likes of Arizona. Maybe Pheonix. A big city where it was easy to hide. Some warmer weather sure wouldn’t do me any harm. The houses around here were pretty small and rundown. I guess this was a poor area. Did Tyler’s mom have to work double shifts as a waitress too? They couldn’t be all that poor though, if Tyler got to live in a bungalow out back. At least he didn’t have to share a four room cabin. At least he could get a bit of space. This certainly suited my purposes.
The anger that flooded me every time I thought of Hunter—blonde, blue-eyed, smiling, cold, stiff, unmoving—grew as I sat there in the car and let it fester.
Thou shalt not kill. I’d heard it before many times. But he did, so I would. Mama didn’t understand. It was a man’s job to protect the house. It was my job to protect my little brother. Even if that meant avenging him. I know how dramatic that sounds. And I could hear all the voices of disapproval in my head, but I pushed them aside and let my emotions consume me.
The rage tore at my heart and I imagined myself doing all kinds of terrible things. Still balancing the gun carefully across my knees, I slowly cracked my knuckles one by one. It was now or never.
I stepped out of the cab and into a small drift of snow at the edge of the sidewalk. Shaking my boots, I hoped that Mama had put on a warm jacket as she was leaving for work tonight. Hunter hadn’t that night when he ran out of the house. I don’t even know what he was planning on doing. What had made him run across the road so suddenly? I only remember hearing the scream. Was Mama wondering where I was right now? I immediately felt guilty for making her anxious. Was my dad wondering?
Shaking these thoughts, I crossed the road. I slinked along the fence line toward number nine, holding the gun tight to my body. This was what I had been waiting for. The moment that all this anger and searching and festering had been leading up to. The chance to prove myself. The chance to make things right.
Thanks to trusting, too-kind Angelo, Tyler was finally getting what he deserved. What kind of sick person does a hit and run on a kid? Accident or no, how in the hell can you not feel guilty about something like that? Straight up murder, that’s what it was.
Number nine had no fence, so I stole around the side of the house and immediately spotted the bungalow.
A sensor light came on above my head. I froze, trying to make myself melt into the fence.
I waited twenty more seconds and the light flicked off. I still couldn’t hear any sounds from the rest of the family, so I starting walking louder. Let him hear that I was coming. Let him have time to get scared. Let him imagine how I was going to do it. Let him walk out the door to meet me.
I saw the lights on in the bungalow, even though the drapes were closed. I marched right up to the door and for some reason I knocked. I don’t know why, but my polite upbringing still somehow stopped me from just walking straight in—at first. He didn’t come to the door but I knew he was inside because I could hear muffled movement. I stood still and listened, and for a minute everything was silent. I don’t know what I was waiting for. Was he deaf, or what? I knocked again and still no answer. I could smell smoke from a wood fire and a pine scent from the trees behind the bungalow. I stood there shaking and then I heard a noise. It was the scraping of a chair or a stool across a wooden floor. I waited for a little longer, my chest in serious pain by now, and heard a grunt and a gurgle.
I pushed open the door and stepped inside all in one large movement, bringing the rifle to my shoulder. Before my eyes even registered what was happening, I was face to face with Tyler Elliot. Through the crosshairs of the gun I saw him, the rope around his neck. His body still swinging slightly.
My throat released a guttural sound like some kind of animal and the gun clattered to the floor. My ears were pulsing with blood. I imagined I could already smell him. A piece of paper lay on the bed next to a photo.
Tell them I’m sorry.
I stared at a picture of my family that I’d posted on my Facebook page a year ago.
A car pulled up in front of the house, its headlights racing down the side fence line, sweeping one corner of the backyard as it turned to park. One door opened and then closed with considerable force. Boots slapped the concrete driveway then crunched on the gravel leading to the back of the house. A sensor light turned on, illuminating the shadow of a very big man approaching, his shape moving along the fence.
My stomach felt like all those butterflies had turned into giant moths, and were throwing themselves up against the walls. I stood illuminated in the doorway of the bungalow. The light was on. The door was open. He would know. He would know what I came to do. What was I thinking? Killing someone because I hated them for killing my brother? How was that logical? How was it justice? I felt just as guilty as if I had done it. I wondered if he knew that his son was the one to kill my brother. Were they close? Maybe his dad took him out hunting too, while his mom was working double shifts. Maybe we weren’t that different. The footsteps got closer. Maybe I was worse. The idea of my own cold-bloodedness sent a chill through me, each footstep feeling like a blow to the temple. I thought I’d come here to finish this, but I would never leave here. I would carry Tyler Elliot around with me forever. His dad was seconds away.
I still had the photo in my hand. I couldn’t move. Where would I go anyway? He was too close now.
The big man stepped around the corner, the light from two directions still only showing part of his face. “Son?”
Image: https://www.123rf.com/photo_7109508_ski-and-foot-prints-trought-the-snowy-forest-in-vail-colorado.html, sourced 5 November 2017.
My hope for this blog post is for it to encourage brothers that are single and struggling, and shed some light and the truth on being single. I pray God is glorified through this written piece of my journey pursuing Lil.
Are there any suitable ladies out there? I’d often ask myself the question: is there something wrong with me? Am I too sensitive? Do I care too much?
After falling short of finding a relationship throughout first year of university and the end of high school, I had come to what I’d say was my wit’s end: an intense night of prayer began which had me humbled in the study of my best friend’s house, leading to a hopeful prayer, asking God if I could just know my wife as a friend. How do I remember? Oh, my best friend will tell you of the passion I had prayed with; he heard every bit of it in the room next to the study.
As much as a mother worries about her son finding someone that is suitable for him, I think it’s only fitting that a son worries the same amount. Growing up in the church and in a Christian home, I was always exposed to fairy tales of what love looked like. My parents modelled it every day, and I craved that same love. I remember desiring so much to just appreciate a woman, to show her true value, to care for her and look out for her. I was always a soft and caring person; it makes sense why I’d desire to care for someone so much.
The evening of intense prayer was followed by the first day of World Equip, and I was trusting that I’d meet my wife there, as a friend. When selecting seats, I always make sure I get an aisle seat. I can’t stand having to barge through people to get to the loo mid-session. And so, a group of friends and I found the perfects seats. They were willing to forfeit the aisle seat and I was willing to sit in a row they wanted to.
Coincidentally, I saw this incredibly beautiful girl walking with the brightest and most joyful smile. The first thing I noticed was her gorgeous rosy cheeks and her sea-blue eyes that I couldn’t stop staring at. She continued to walk in the direction I was seated, my heart started throbbing, I was so confused. She sat in the row in front of my friends, and as she sat down, she almost immediately turned and introduced herself. Could it be this easy? I had been planning on how I’d approach her as she was walking towards me. Swoosh!
Endless pursuing throughout the week (with lots of rejection) landed me the all-important date, where I told her how I really felt. Knowing she was leaving the next day, I had to get it out – I didn’t want her to leave confused, and I didn’t want to hide it. I felt something deep for her. Graeme still refers to that evening as the day Lil told him that I’m insane. He enjoys the memory.
I feel like ladies always get the easy job. The next few months were followed by a whole lot of confusion; it was difficult. I had planned on seeing her again, because I knew I had to, but that trip would turn out to be one of the most heart-breaking trips I had ever been on. Odd to think so, knowing that I had my best friend with me the whole time.
I saw Lil in June/July 2016 after being separated for around 9 months. I had come fully expecting to gain clarity on where our relationship stood. This trip only led to more uncertainty, and it was heart-breaking from my side. I remember the one day, even though most of the trip was super confusing, Graeme and I were speaking about our relevant ladies and we both, almost at the same time, agreed that they were the ones for us.
Lil and I shared a few significant evenings, and heart-to-hearts, and even though I went home being more confused, for some reason I just couldn’t stop pursuing her, and that’s what we believe to be the Holy Spirit playing a role in both of our lives. Where she was still confused, and I wasn’t, the Holy Spirit thought we both had things we needed to work on, before we could take the responsibility of being in a relationship. Even through the heart-ache, I look back and know that I was not able to lead a woman at that stage in my life, and it is by God’s great love that he kept us apart.
Although there is still far more to the story, I’m going to land it. I got back from Australia, and for some reason, Lil and I had decided that we weren’t truly pursuing a friendship, so we decided to put some rules into place. We scheduled our calls, and limited our talking time to weekends only. This was probably the most difficult thing I have ever had to enforce in my life, knowing truly in my heart that the woman I was deeply in love with needed a bit of space, and I needed to be known as a friend before I could know her as a partner.
I seemed incredibly strong to her in this time, but I was dying on the inside. I tried to view other ladies through the same lens, but just couldn’t – there would always be a caution in my Spirit, I almost felt as if I was cheating, even though I wasn’t in a relationship. To escape the pain, I spent a lot of time playing squash and hanging with friends. God revealed to me that there was still a lot that I needed to work on, and that I had to pursue him before I pursued Lil.
‘’Sorrow is better than laughter, for by sadness of face the heart is made glad. The heart of the wise is the house of mourning, but the heart of the fools is in the house of mirth.’’
– Eccl 7:3-4
I look back on that time, and this scripture speaks volumes, I had never been so dependent on God and I crave to be in that space again.
Single men, I’ll encourage you, it’s not shameful to admit the hardship of being single and lonely.
‘’He who finds a wife finds a good thing, and obtains favour from the Lord.’’
– Proverbs 18:22
There is a reason why we desire this, and there is a reason why it hurts to be single. But I will encourage you, never has a man been led astray by pursuing the will of God for his life.
I will leave you with this.
‘’So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgement, because as he is so also are we in this world’’.
– 1 John 4:16-17
God is love, and does all things out of love. Being single is not a curse. Pursue God and let him be your absolute and complete satisfaction, even when you have found your suitable helper.
Image: https://favim.com/image/617547/, sourced 28 October 2017.
Where to sit? The auditorium held over a thousand people and was still filling up. My friends and I wandered through the rows of seats, glancing around at the stage and the exit lights, weighing up the pros and cons of each section. Too close to the speakers, too far from the loos, too strange a position for my neck.
We figured off to the side of the stage was still close but not ostentatious. I sat on the aisle, about eight rows from the stage, at least six seats away from Joel. Six seats away from him was his wife Tracey. In a crowded room it was beyond talking distance. I stared blindly at my phone for a moment or two, but remembered that this was South Africa, and I didn’t have any service here.
Swivelling in my seat with the thought of being social, there were a group of guys sitting in the row behind me. I introduced myself and the strawberry blonde guy immediately stood out as the loud one, exclaiming over my Aussie accent. The guys and I quickly got chatting, about crop tops, of all things and a couple of my friends from Australia joined us. They were all really friendly, but one guy stood out for some reason. Maybe it’s because he was a little more reserved. Maybe it was because he had dark features and olive skin (hey, we all have a type), but somehow my subconscious flagged him.
Jacques. Last name too hard to pronounce (and immediately forgotten).
God reminded me of his name in the middle of the worship that followed. You see, that morning as I’d been praying God had given me three prophetic words. After telling me who the first two words were for, I asked, “Who is the last one for?” God said, “You’ll meet them this week.” As I was singing he told me, “It’s for the guy in the seat behind you, Jacques.”
Little did I know that when I shared that prophetic word with him, God was also adding another bit that I would not be informed of for at least another year: Oh by the way, this girl is your future wife.
I was coming to the end of what was possibly the worst year of my life. I had moved a few times in my 22 years, but this was the first time I had done it indefinitely. God had swept away my plans of being an Au Pair nanny in Europe for a ‘gap year’ after my uni degree and had told me to go to Werribee, or as the people in my home town call it, ‘the poo farm’ (it is known there as the home of a sewage plant).
Moving up to Melbourne, I had found a job quickly, but was barely making enough money as a casual to get by, and Mum and Dad had not been able to support me. I had moved house 5 times already that year, with another move scheduled for the week following my return from South Africa. I had broken up with a guy in May and felt like I was saying goodbye to my last hope at finding love. There were barely any single people at my church. I was surrounded by married couples and young families that I had to fight hard not to be jealous of. I thought it would be another 10 years before any other guy would look my way, but God was doing a big work in my heart. The most painful work to date. And he showed me that I needed to allow him to if I wanted to stop going round the mountain. At long last, I did.
At the same Christian conference in Melbourne called AusEquip that God had told me to move to Werribee for a local church there, he had also showed me that I had to be at the World Equip in Johannesburg, a year and 10 months later. For the first time ever, I truly submitted my whole life and will to Jesus. I said, “I’m yours. Wherever you lead me, I’ll go.” So I cancelled all my plans and my only goal for over a year was this conference.
The day I booked my flight (having had to borrow some of the money from my parents) the booking company called me an hour after I received ‘confirmation’ that they had somehow lost my seat on the flight. Having not had the best couple of months, I was raging, to put it mildly. I was scared of being left in a foreign country by myself but was a little placated when I realised the return flight that I had been re-booked on was the same one that my second family, the Kay-Hards, were travelling on.
I was more than a little upset and I said to God, “Okay, this has obviously happened for a reason. Something good better happen on that extra day that I’m staying there.”
That something good was my first proper date with my future husband, the 19-year-old young man who had sat in the seat behind me, who God had asked me to prophecy over before we even met. It wouldn’t be 10 years for another guy to notice me, but 5 months. Oh how glad I am now that I obeyed God in that moment months before the conference, when I had no idea how long I was going to have to wait.
Has it all been smooth sailing? Ask Jacques. He’ll tell you no. Just like I told him for the first nine months. He had to ask four times even just to get a group date out of me. I put him though some tests, curious about whether he was interested in me, or in just having a little romance at a conference filled with so many young single girls.
When I came back to Australia and first told my dad about him, Dad said, “If he’s the right one, he’ll be unstoppable.” Jacques has been the definition of that, pursuing me single-mindedly for two years now.
I finally said yes, and even though I thought my wish list for a husband was big, God has given me far more in Jacques than I ever dared to ask, or even hope for. One day in the car a few months back as I was driving to work the song Good, Good Father came on and I just started bawling my eyes out, realising how generous God has been with me.
And he wants to be that generous with you too.
But he doesn’t need your help in supplying you a spouse.
“There aren’t many guys at your church.”
“You’ve just got to put yourself out there more.”
“Maybe you should move to an area/church with at least some potential husbands/wives.”
“How does hanging out with all these young families help you?”
“When you finally stop looking and are content to just be single, then you’ll find the one.”
These ideas are often frustrating and sometimes tempting to buy into in those lonely moments, but what does that say about our faith?
At the end of the day my heart would always ask:
How many guys do I need? A whole crowd of them, or just one?
How big is my God again? Oh wait, He holds the entire universe in his hand. Is the same God who spoke galaxies into being not powerful enough to bring me one man? Do I have to help him out because he’s tired, forgetful, or just struggling to get it all done?
Lift your eyes again, or for the first time, to the one who has promised to be faithful, to never leave you, to always work for your good. If you let go of striving for things like a spouse, he is not going to leave you hanging. Not this good, good Father of ours.
“So do not worry about your life, what you will eat … what you will wear, [who you will marry] … But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”
– Matthew 6:25,33
If anyone reading this would like to share their story or struggle with me, please feel free to contact me in a comment below. I’d love to pray with you.