Be the Change

Hey guys, follow the link below to check out an article I wrote this week for Channel 31’s Teen Talk Production ….

http://www.teentalkproduction.com.au/be-the-change/

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Giving God Permission

humility _ CS Lewis.jpg

 

“For the Lord takes delight in his people; he crowns the humble with victory.”
Psalm 149:4

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

 

Sincerely
Lil

 

Image: https://mirayagroot.wordpress.com/2014/04/09/quote-of-the-month-april/, sourced 12 November 2017.

 

Tell Them I’m Sorry

foot prints in snow

[ 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.”

“Lucas.”

“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.

Crap!

A sensor light came on above my head. I froze, trying to make myself melt into the fence.

No reaction.

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.

I’m screwed.

The big man stepped around the corner, the light from two directions still only showing part of his face. “Son?”

Sincerely
Lil
____________________________________________________________________________________________

Image: https://www.123rf.com/photo_7109508_ski-and-foot-prints-trought-the-snowy-forest-in-vail-colorado.html, sourced 5 November 2017.

Second Sight

and then i met you

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.

Regards,
Jacques.

____________________________________________________________________________________________

Image: https://favim.com/image/617547/, sourced 28 October 2017.

First Sight

Jacques Lil Chair

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.

Sincerely
Lil

The Man of Peace

Ever heard people talk about inner peace, or finding their bliss? To some people this sounds cool; to others it might sound like a load of new age mumbo jumbo. People try self-help books, crash diets, inspirational seminars, meditating, various religions and practices. The question is why does none of it last?

The reason is that peace is not a feeling to conjure up, or a philosophy to follow. Peace is a person.

The person of Jesus Christ.

“For he himself is our peace.”
– Ephesians 2:14-18

His title, one of many, is the Prince of Peace. My pastor often quotes the saying, “No Jesus, no peace. Know Jesus, know peace.” If the peace you experience doesn’t really seem to last, it is because it’s like separating a coal from a fireplace and throwing it out onto the concrete hearth. Slowly it cools, leaving you wondering why you now feel cold and alone. And where you can get your next fix.

Jesus is the fire.

You can find lasting peace in Jesus because he is in control of everything and unchanging. The man spoken about in the bible died but he rose again and is still alive and well today, and he hasn’t updated himself to keep up with the times. Remember that song, “He’s got the whole world in his hands…”? It is as true today as when God created the universe “through, and for and by” Jesus (Col 1:16). The same passage says, “He is before all things and in him all things hold together” (Col 1:17). Consider the fact that the only thing holding all your atoms together, or all the droplets of water in the world’s biggest ocean, is Jesus. So when he says he doesn’t change, we can trust it.

God has always been a God of peace, and Jesus is the “exact representation of his being” (Heb 1:3).

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
– Isaiah 9:6

The bible makes it clear that God’s peace through Jesus is available to us through faith in him. Philippians 4:4-7 says, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Peace comes from knowing that once you believe in Jesus and ask him to come into your life that all of your striving can cease. How many of us actually take that on board? Sometimes I feel like I should have it as a poster on my wall. “Hey Lil, now that Jesus is here all of your striving can cease.”

Religion says, “Try really hard your whole life and maybe, just maybe, you might be good enough to scrape into heaven as a servant in the back shed at the end of it all.” God says, “As soon as you believe in my Son I adopt you into my family. You are a child of God, seated in heavenly places and co-heirs with Christ. Forget the back shed, I am preparing a bedroom for you inside my house. Because Jesus already paid what you couldn’t pay, you now have access to forgiveness and a restored relationship with me. All you have to do is believe, repent and receive.”

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
– Romans 5:1

What a relief. Our eternity doesn’t depend on us. Religion makes it about us, but God makes it about Jesus, the Prince of Peace.

In Matthew 3 when the Holy Spirit appears as a dove and lands on Jesus after his baptism, we learn something else about God’s character.  It was recently pointed out by our pastor Russ that a dove won’t land on someone who is moving around or panicking. It will land on a still and peaceful person. Psalm 46:10 says, “Be still and know that I am God.” This is talking about the peace that comes from trusting that God is in control and is working for our good.

One of the ways people will be able to recognise us as children of God is our peacefulness, even in difficult situations or tragedy. As one example, Paul and Silas were singing worship songs to God while in prison (Acts 16). As another, in 1873 when a man named Horatio G. Spafford wrote the famous hymn It is Well With My Soul, it was right after his four daughters had just died in a shipwreck.

Jesus can bring peace to a troubled and anxious mind. In the gospels he delivers many people tormented by demons.

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”
– John 14:27

Peace to relationships in turmoil.
The most obvious being the human race separated from God by our sin, but Jesus’ blood paid the price to restore shalom, peace, to that relationship too. God also has the power to restore marriages and bring estranged families back together. He can bring relationships back into harmony and he wants to partner with us to do it.

Rom 12:18 “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”

Peace in the midst of illness.

God allowed Satan to take Job’s wealth, children and health from him in a very short space of time to test his heart. Job’s faith in God was real, because his response was not filled with curses and anger, but submission and trust.

“Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.” – Job 1:21

Peace during financial insecurity.

Is 54:10 “Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,” says the Lord, who has compassion on you.”

I will leave you with this one last scripture.

John 16:33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

 

Sincerely,
Lil

 

Further scriptures about peace:
Psalm 119:165 “Great peace have those who love your law, and nothing can make them stumble.”

Is 55:12 “You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace.”

Isaiah 57:2 “Those who walk uprightly enter into peace; they find rest as they lie in death.”

Zech 8:19 “Love truth and peace.”

Zech 9:10 “He will proclaim peace to the nations.”

Peace is a fruit of the Holy Spirit (Gal 5:22-23). While a gift is given in an instant, fruit is grown over months of sun, watering and tending.

Col 3:15 says, “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace.”

 

Sources:
http://staugustine.com/living/religion/2014-10-16/story-behind-song-it-well-my-soul, sourced 14 October 2017.

All bible verses are from the NIV translation.

What’s in a choice?

 

“Life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it.”
– Charles R. Swindoll

I see this quote pop up on the TV screen every time I go to the gym and it gets me thinking. There are a million things in this world that I can’t control, but one that I always can: my attitude. In management we always say that the one thing we are not equipped to change is attitude. If you bring the will, we can train the skill.

Human nature says that it is easier to cast blame than to take responsibility. It is easier to blame our past, our circumstance, our lack of resources or time, or even the people around us for our lack of happiness or success.

In this video about white privilege, we see how two people can come from the same tough background and end up with two very different lives years later, because of the way they chose to react.

Working in female-dominated retail environments for the past 8 years, I’ve definitely heard kids and husbands blamed for a thing or two. We can blame our other halves for why we don’t do the things we dream of, then 10+ years down the track hate them for it, even though they didn’t necessarily stop us. We can blame our kids for the fact that we have no money, or energy, or aren’t able to travel. We can blame our teachers for our bad marks, the fact that we can’t afford a gym membership for our lack of fitness. Our kids for our body. The list is endless.

We can say that we just don’t have time for ____*insert dream here*____. As one of my friends pointed out recently, “Who doesn’t have five minutes a day to spend pursuing their dream?” That was so profound to me because yes, maybe you don’t have six hours a day to devote to your goal, but it’s a lie to say that you don’t have five minutes.

Life is all about choices. Every day we make plenty of them, and those choices make us who we are. The choice between right or wrong, hard work or laziness, negativity or positivity, love or hate, the choice to pursue or just give up, to grow or stagnate.

Take exercise as an example. Although it has obvious physical elements, it is at its core a mental game. You don’t find the mentally weak at the Olympics. Well, at least not competing. Training to be a professional athlete is waking up every morning and choosing to exercise and eat and rest the way you need in order to reach your goal. Fitness is so difficult to build up and so quick and easy to lose. If we’re not moving forward we usually start moving backwards.

A lot of people seem to be discontent but not doing anything about it. One of my friends always says, “Don’t like your life? Change it.” While there are some things we can’t change, there are a lot that we can.

Pursuing a dream takes discipline—a word that’s not very popular these days. It has been replaced by the word convenience, a god with a widespread following in the Western world. If it’s not easy, why even bother?

However, consider this statement: nothing truly worthwhile in life comes instantly or without effort. Getting a degree, having a satisfying career, maintaining a vibrant marriage, building healthy friendships, raising kind and considerate children, discovering a cure for a disease. These things are hard; they require time, commitment, focus and perseverance. But who could say that they have no value?

So like I’ve been saying this whole time, it comes down to a choice. Do you want to accomplish something easy, or valuable?

Sincerely
Lil

Sources (accessed 5 September 2017):
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sz27XVrPi_I
Image: http://allsystemsgrow.co/blog/P136020598

11 Common Writing Mistakes (and how to avoid them)

Old vintage typewriter

Below are some common things I’ve come across in people’s writing that can really slow it down. We’ve probably all made these mistakes and this is not an article to judge, merely a tool to help people communicate more effectively through the written word. It is by no means an exhaustive list but I hope that it is in some way helpful.

  1. Waffling 

    Using filler words means you’re writing without really saying anything. We need to say more in less words. One of my university professors said that each word needs to fight for a place on the page. Can it defend its spot? If not, you should axe it. To practice keeping it short and sharp, do some sentence condensing exercises. You could either Google some or find a crazy-long sentence in your own work and try to halve the word limit without losing any of the meaning (you can change the actual words and sentence construction as much as you like).

 

  1. Vague writing 

    One of the first questions I ask the students that I tutor is: Do you ever use words in your essays that you don’t know the meaning of? If the answer is yes, you need to break that habit right now. Using fancy-sounding words or big sentences just to sound smart actually has the opposite effect. A good writer is clear and concise—don’t make the reader work hard for no reason. Don’t be mysterious in lieu of an actual plot. Don’t be vague to compensate for the fact that you don’t know your content well enough. Suspense has to be building towards something and your writing has to say something.

 

  1. Incomplete sentences

Every sentence needs a subject and a predicate. Without these two things you have a phrase, or a fragment.

For example: “The horse jumped over the fence,” is a sentence while, “Then jumped over the fence,” is a fragment.

The subject is what (or whom) the sentence is about; the predicate tells something about the subject. The best question to ask yourself if you’re unsure if it is a sentence is: can it stand alone?

 

  1. Slipping between tenses and perspectives 

    If you start off with “she said” and end up with “I say” you have committed both a tense change and perspective change. If you are going to change either during your writing, make sure that it is for a reason, and to have an effect on the story. Consistency is key and you can’t just cut back and forth from one to the other at random. If it doesn’t have a point, pick a tense and perspective and stick with them. As with a lot of writing mistakes, the remedy for this is attentive proof reading (spellcheck is not advanced enough to pick that up).

 

  1. Incorrect spelling

This one is pretty simple. We have dictionaries, autocorrect and spellcheck. Spelling things correctly should be easy to get right. The best way to spell correctly in the first place is to read like a librarian (I assume they read a ton). Beware of homophones (words that sound similar/the same but have different meanings and/or spellings). Common ones are: right and wright, lead/led, seam/seem and my personal favourite … there/their/they’re.

 

  1. Confusing similar words

    People commonly misspell words that are similar, or use the wrong word when two words (like ‘then’ and ‘than’) seem similar. If you know either the meaning of the word or type of word they are, it is easy to logically figure out which one to use where. For example, ‘then’ is measuring time while ‘than’ is comparing size. Other common pairs of words to mix up are ‘brought’ and ‘bought’, as well as ‘its’ and ‘it’s’.

 

  1. Repetition 

    Over-explaining is a big trap to fall into when writing. We think we need to flesh a paragraph out so we repeat ourselves, not to any purpose, but because we’ve got nothing else to say. Repetition can be used very effectively but if it is not intentional it can easily make your writing appear clumsy, or like you don’t really know what you’re talking about.

 

  1. Grammar mistakes 

    Grammar mistakes are everywhere—nowhere funnier than a business’s billboard where the mistake changes the meaning of the words. You’ve probably all had a teacher tell you that grammar can save lives and then use the example of the two following similar sentences, differing only by one comma.

Let’s eat, Grandma!
Let’s eat Grandma! (the cannibal version)

A few very common grammar mistakes:
-Comma splices (a comma is not strong enough to link two different ideas without a ‘joining’ word—you should instead use a semi-colon or just split it into two sentences with a full stop)
-Unnecessary commas and apostrophes (i.e. a plural does not need an apostrophe)
-Punctuation on the outside of quotation marks
-Using quotation marks to add emphasis

  1. Telling rather than showing 

    How many times has your teacher emphasised, “Show, don’t tell!”? It is so stressed by teachers because it is rife throughout writing. Why keep readers out of the action with second hand accounts of stories? You are writing so that you can place them smack bang in the middle of the scene. Showing is the best way to make readers feel engaged and want to keep reading. They don’t like being kept at arm’s length.

 

  1. Active vs. passive 

    Explained simply, active voice is when the subject of a sentence performs the action, as opposed to passive voice when the action happens to the subject. Take these two similar sentences.

Passive: The car was driven by Sally yesterday and a fence was crashed into.

Active: Yesterday Sally drove her car and crashed into a fence.

Which one flows faster and is more exciting? While there are times when passive writing is appropriate, active is generally more exciting, involving and fast-paced. Are you keen for your writing to be all of these things?

 

  1. Abstract vs. Concrete

Abstract language confuses the reader while concrete language paints a vivid mental picture. Take the words ‘love’ and ‘table’. I help my students define abstract versus concrete by asking things like, “Can you sit on it? Can you pick it up? Can you throw it at your classmate?” If the answer is no, then you are most likely using abstract language. Consider these two sentences.

In many cases the authorities that be consider it highly advantageous to know the outcomes of predicted studies, therefore it is recommended with high probability that we study the content with vigour.

Yesterday as I walked across my living room floor I tripped over the pink rag rug and got carpet burn on my knee, ripping a hole in my light blue jeans.

Which one is easier to visualise?

 

That’s it from me today. There are many things that can improve your writing but I hope these 11 keys helped. Keep practising and I’m sure you will see improvement!

Sincerely
Lil

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References (sourced 30 August 2017)

Image (sourced 3 September 2017): https://www.writing.com/

https://www.google.com.au/search?rlz=1C1AVNE_enUS613US613&q=subject+and+a+predicate&oq=subject+and+a+predicate&gs_l=psy-ab.3..0l2j0i22i30k1l2.126201.129086.0.129877.15.12.0.0.0.0.353.1659.0j1j2j3.6.0….0…1.1.64.psy-ab..10.5.1455…35i39k1.9Nx8e7Ovkwc

https://www.helpingwritersbecomeauthors.com/most-common-writing-mistakes/

https://www.inc.com/melanie-curtin/11-common-writing-mistakes-to-avoid.html

http://my.ilstu.edu/~jhkahn/writing.html

http://www.albany.edu/eas/104/topten.htm