Is the Apex gang taking over our streets?

I took this photograph on my run this morning after seeing my third or fourth one, sadly right near a children’s playground. This ‘South Sudanese’ gang seems to be everywhere. In the parks, lighting up our news headlines, holding up our cars, breaking into and entering our homes. Most Sudanese people probably have associations with them. Right?

Without researching, would you say that the Apex gang are pretty big? Earlier today I would have answered huge, but after doing some research I found that most of my assumptions were wrong. Big shocker there.

Most news sources manage to agree that at its peak the Apex gang contained around 130 members. Melbourne is currently home to 6007 Sudanese people. Which means that the Apex gang make up just 1.85% of the total Sudanese population. With statistics that low, it is ignorant to assume that ‘any African out there’ could be a member of Apex. You also might be interested to know that of the 2000 teenagers committing crimes in Victoria between October 2015 to September 2016, 1700 of them were born in Australia. So why aren’t we running scared from them?

One of the worst parts for me is that if I’m walking on a street at night and I see a group of young men walking towards me, sometimes I feel a twinge of fear if they are African looking. Because the thought that goes through my mind is, “Well, what if they are part of that violent minority?” Just my luck.

It is assumptions like these that can lead us to discriminate against perfectly innocent Sudanese people in the community, particularly young males. Where do we get our facts from? Do we even have any actual statistics? I know that before this week I haven’t even read one single article about the Apex gang and the way they’re ‘terrorising Melbourne’. All of my information was word of mouth, probably by people who themselves have already felt the cold fingers of anxiety creep over their shoulders and shiver down their back.

I’ve always known that the minority ruin it for the majority, but what I didn’t know until I actually read some articles is that the Apex gang contains several nationalities, including Australian, which the media largely ignores.

Other information that has reached me by word of mouth is the tough situations that Sudanese friends of mine have encountered just because of their ethnicity. If you think basic racial slurs in the schoolyard are all they’ve got to worry about, you’d be wrong. From being told to ‘get out of here’ while attempting to enter a workplace to start a shift, to being run away from when you needed help after locking your keys in your car, to assault in broad daylight on the way out of the school gates.

Several schools across the western suburbs of Melbourne have banned any ‘African looking’ people from gathering in groups of more than three because it ‘intimidates’ the other students. This is the kind of racial profiling that leads people to become even more prejudiced, and African young people to feel increasingly ostracised.

The Sunday Morning Herald referred to the Apex gang as a ‘lightning rod’ for racial violence (Michael Koziol) and The Saturday Paper claim that, “When not covered responsibly, hot topics such as race and immigration encourage discrimination against groups of people that are already marginalised” (Santilla Chingaipe).

Can you imagine what it’s like living in Melbourne as a South Sudanese young person with the shadow of the Apex gang looming over your shoulder? Sudanese all across our city are experiencing fear, suspicion and sometimes even outright rejection or hatred because of their ethnicity or fears that they may be violent, based on the actions of strangers, not their own. That shouldn’t sit alright with us.

Just to be clear, I am in no way downplaying the pain that victims of the Apex gang have suffered, merely trying to shed some light on the pain of another group of innocent victims.

Probably most of us when asked if we harbour racial prejudice would say no, but what does fearing a whole people group just because of a 1.8% gang say about us?

So when you come across people from any kind of ethnicity different to you, if their behaviour is normal and peaceful, give them the benefit of the doubt and assume that they’re just a great person like you, trying to navigate life’s struggles and hoping that the world can see them for who they really are, not just the colour of their skin.

Sincerely
Lil

 

 

Sources (all found 15 June 2017):
http://profile.id.com.au/s_greater-melbourne/sudanese-population

https://www.thesaturdaypaper.com.au/news/media/2017/02/25/race-stereotyping-and-melbournes-apex-gang/14879412004275

http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/victoria/south-sudanese-students-banned-from-congregating-in-groups-at-several-melbourne-schools/news-story/88e7d820d1714beb59cb6bdb7722fd1f

http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/apex-gang-most-youth-crimes-committed-by-australianborn-police-say-20170412-gvj964.html

Caring for your sensitive

 

Are you sometimes wondering why all one of your friends seems to do is cry? A sad movie will get them, a book, even a commercial or a cute baby animal sometimes. This sounds familiar to you, right? How they like to be hugged every time you see them? The way you feel like you’ve wronged them when you forget something so seemingly trivial (to you) as the date of their birthday–not even on their birthday! How you live in constant fear of offending them or hurting them? Or some days: like you just can’t say anything to them?

This may be frustrating to you. You may want to just tell them to build a bridge and get over it. You may want to tell them to grow some thicker skin. And you may want to tell them to just go jump. What you’re dealing with is a sensitive person. And there are certain things you need to know.

 

Why are they like this?

Like introverts, the world tends to sometimes bash on sensitive people. Especially sensitive males. Why can’t you man up like everyone else? Why does this hurt you? And to girls: why do you have to cry so much? Tough people want everyone else to be tough like them, because they are insensitive in many ways and want to be able to say what they like and not have to deal with someone crying at their “honest opinion.” And don’t get me wrong, I love those tougher people. I live with one, and she has helped me learn many things. But she has also had to learn—and I think is still learning—how to take care of me. Because the criteria for sensitive people is different.

 

What do you need to know? Part One:

Although I may have scared you (or you might have been scared long before this) there is a flip side to everything I’ve just said—a good side. While they are sensitive on one end of the spectrum (as receivers), they are also sensitive on the other end (as givers). Some people would say that either way you look at it, sensitive people are at a risk. Sensitive people have a lot to lose. A positive, sensitive person, like me, would also say that we have a lot to gain, but the risk is never eliminated (nor can it be). We are sensitive to other people’s moods, energy levels and needs. We are so affected by the people around us, and because our hearts can be penetrated by almost anything, we feel a lot of empathy toward others. We would be willing to do anything for the people closest to us—even people not so close. Because our hearts go out to people. We see suffering and it kills us. I know for myself, I cry when my friends cry before I even know the reason.

 

What do you need to know (and never forget)? Part Two:

In this world there are givers and takers. Sensitive people are almost always givers. However, because we so often are, you need to learn not to use this to your own gain. If you take advantage, these people will let you, so don’t. Because in my books that makes you a bad person. When someone offers you everything and you just take it all and run. That is not fair, and it is not acceptable.

 

So how do you deal with this “overly emotional, touchy-feely” person?

I know that I as a person, whether I like it or not, need to be taken care of. I always have been. My male friends in high school used to pat me on the head and call me delicate. And I’ve lost count of the number of people who have told me that they live in constant fear of hurting me, and that they would hate themselves if they did. All that sensitive people need from you, is a little extra thought. Do they look like they’ve had a rough day? Could they use a hug? Is it important to them whether I keep my appointment with them? Do they care whether I remember their birthday? Some small amounts of taking a little more care, and a little less for granted, would go a long way—and leave you with less crying messes on your hands!

A little more thought so that everyone wins.

 

Sincerely,
Lil

 

Image: https://www.pinterest.com/explore/sensitive-quotes/?lp=true

The Tourist or the Traveller


The tourist or the traveller. The onlooker or the connecter. Touring is seeing things from the outside. A big double decker red bus to take you past Big Ben and the London Bridge. Take a picture, tick another thing off the list. Sometimes even underwhelmed because of all the hype. A portrait of you (and 35 other people) in front of Buckingham Palace. 
Travelling is experiential. 

While touring is really fun, what I’d trade it for in a heart beat is relationship. In order to get “inside” a country you need to connect with its people. People are what make me come alive, and who would have thought that a family I hadn’t seen for nine years (and had only known five days before being apart almost a decade) would touch my heart so much in the span of an afternoon. 

If all you’ve ever done is see the sights, and not taken the time to engage with the people, you’re missing out on the best part of travel. 

Because people take a little piece of you, and they give a piece in return. Not even the top attraction can do that. It’s amazing to find that sitting on the train back to London I’m thinking more about the contents of a poem written and published by a little girl in Grade 4 than all the sights I saw yesterday. 

It doesn’t take long, but extraordinary people can touch your heart in the briefest time together. Whether it’s having tea and cake at a strawberry cafe or having to go to the bathroom in the forest on the way to visit Roald Dahl’s grave (England, what do you have against bathrooms?) or strolling along a village street in the rain with a dripping dog that currently looks like a (cute) rat and smells wet, it all counts. 

There’s nothing wrong with double decker buses, or walking tours or theme parks. They’re all lovely. But tomorrow, next month, they are gone. People crowd into your heart, in ones and twos, to stay, and to keep it warm. They line the walls to make us strong, and soft, just as we should be. 

Novels for Kids

 

If you’re looking for some books for your kids to read, have a look at 8 recommendations that I absolutely loved as a kid (sorry if there is a girly bias).

45 + 47 Stella St

  1. 45 + 47 Stella Street
    Author: Elizabeth Honey
    Ages 8-12 years

Reading this as a kid and not fully understand the line between an author and a narrator, I got a little confused for the first few chapters as to who actually wrote the book, Elizabeth or Henni. You can imagine a kid sitting there at the kitchen table scribbling it out because the voice is so authentic. The storyline, quirky dialogue and overuse of punctuation like the exclamation mark makes this one of my most fun reads to date. Henni and her group of friends spy on their new neighbours whom they nickname the Phonies and the childlike portrayal of the situation is so relatable, despite how ridiculous it is. You can read it in a couple of days (or one day if you have absolutely nothing else to do).

Peter Pan

  1. Peter Pan
    Author: J.M. Barrie
    Age 8 +

According to several websites as well as personal experience, this classic works best as a book to be read aloud. I read this to my youngest sister a while back. It’s a story of an incredible journey that had both of us in literal tears on the last page. Prepare for more emotion than the Disney movie gives you, and for more layers to the characters and themes, which is why Peter Pan is so brilliant. The language and style of writing you don’t see very often anymore, and it combines aesthetic qualities with humour. Peter is probably my favourite fictional character because of the complexity of his desires and the myths surrounding his origins. While a child will understand the basic storyline, modern children might need certain things explained to them.

anne of green gables

  1. Anne of Green Gables
    Author: L. M. Montgomery
    Ages 8 +

Reading Anne of Green Gables is in some ways like reading about myself, sans the carrot-red hair. Her passion for life, her creativity, independence as well as fierce loyalty and temper are all part of her charm. But probably the most inspiring thing about her is her ability to affect positive change in people and situations around her. She can turn the dullest person in the room into the life of the party (besides herself) and befriend the toughest, harshest person. To this day, Gilbert Blythe is my favourite male lead in a novel (sorry Mr Darcy) because of his schoolboy charm and his singlemindedness in pursuing Anne.

hodder-the-naughtiest-girl-in-the-school

  1. The Naughtiest Girl in the School
    Author: Enid Blyton (part of series)
    Ages 6 +

Let’s be honest, anything by Enid Blyton is brilliant. The woman was a genius (although does anyone else wonder how she had the time to write as many books as she did?). From the Secret Seven, to the Famous Five, to the adventure series, 5 Find-outers and Dog, Mallory Towers, St. Claires, Mr Twiddle and Mr Pink Whistle and not forgetting Naughty Amelia Jane, Blyton had some pretty famous hits stored in her imagination. Enid Blyton is the author who got me into the genre of mystery and formed the basis of my love for reading. Her books are easy to read, and you could begin at 6 years old for her simple ones, or even younger if you’re being read to.

diary-young-girl-anne-frank

  1. Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl
    Author: Anne Frank
    Ages 10 +

Where to begin? This text is unique in many ways. It is an irreplaceable snapshot of history through the eyes of one of its victims, like a still photograph in a moment of time. This diary is written entirely without hindsight or the hindrance of adult editing. Anne’s raw reflections and discoveries as she lives in a secret annex above an office in Amsterdam during World War II is informative, as well as heart-warming (and breaking). Be prepared to be attached to this little girl as you view the effects of the Nazi regime on its primary targets. Another way this text is unique is the way that Anne often side-lines major historical events in favour of recounting her latest interaction with the hunky Peter Van Daan. Her innocence is contrasted with what you know must be coming and this diary allows you to see feel the injustice of so many lives cut short. I feel like reading this was a rite of passage for me.

little house

  1. Little House on the Prairie
    Author: Laura Ingalls Wilder (part of series)
    Age 8 + (to read alone)

My mum read the whole series to my sister and I when we were younger and I loved learning about the American pioneers through the eyes of a child (with the hindsight and detail of an adult). The three of us rode the emotional roller coaster of the Ingalls family and learnt things like how to make a football out a pig’s bladder, smoke meat and deal with a bear that you happen upon in the woods. I grew up with Laura Ingalls as one of my role models, and the story of the Ingalls can teach you a lot about family relationships, as well as independence.

the twits cover

  1. The Twits
    Author: Roald Dahl
    Age 6+

This is a short, funny read showcasing why Roald Dahl is such a genius. This book has the ingredients for a classic Dahl read: a strange or mean character, some great sketched illustrations, a gross-you-out aspect or two that kids love, and of course a moral (one of which is shown below). What more could you want?

The Twits

The_Bad_Beginning

  1. A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Bad Beginning
    Author: Lemony Snicket (part of series)
    Age 9 +

The reverse psychology on the back cover is enough to get you sucked in (well played, Mr Snicket) but as it warns, these books are not for the faint of heart. However, if you like learning crazy new words, about crazy new inventions and some seriously unlucky orphans, then this serious will interest you. The writing style is different to most of what you read today, and Lemony Snicket comes up with extremely creative ways to get his point across. Some of the themes in the series are a bit serious, so just be careful if your child is very sensitive or under the recommended age.

mandie.jpg

BONUS:

The Mandie Series by Lois Gladys Leopard. If you love a good mystery (and want your kids to read Christian-influenced books) this series is the one for you.

Happy reading!

Sincerely,
Lil

Images (all sourced 23 August 2016):
1. https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/51T9246WNTL.jpg
2. https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/236x/00/ea/05/00ea059736280bb14648b78bf8bc614e.jpg
3. http://vignette2.wikia.nocookie.net/anneofgreengables/images/3/3d/Greengables26.jpeg/revision/latest?cb=20121202062002
4. http://www.enidblytonsociety.co.uk/author/covers/hodder-the-naughtiest-girl-in-the-school.jpg
5. http://judyoz.com/media/ecom/prodlg/diary-young-girl-anne-frank.jpg
6. http://www.anglophilebooks.net/shop_image/product/7021.jpg
7. https://d20eq91zdmkqd.cloudfront.net/assets/images/book/large/9780/1413/9780141322759.jpg
8. https://clubs-kids.scholastic.co.uk/products/The-Twits-Roald-Dahl-9780141322759
9. http://vignette2.wikia.nocookie.net/snicket/images/1/1d/The_Bad_Beginning.jpg/revision/latest?cb=20120428195154
10. https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/51QZ6YB2ECL.jpg

Four things that young women don’t need to be told

Working in a bra shop, I get to interact with a somewhat skewed demographic of the population, I admit. Add to that the fact that most of the people I know in my current city are mums or at least married ladies, and it might be fair to say that I’m getting a bigger dose of these comments than the average person.

However, it is often true that when you’re a young adult, older people like to project things on to you and tell you what your life’s going to be like. Good, bad or ugly. True, or not. I’ll never forget the first time it happened. I was thirteen and what might not seem a big deal to a lot of people really bugged me. I told someone I don’t drink coffee and they replied, “Just wait till you get to my age and you’ll definitely be addicted.” What my friend Gen calls a spirit of rebellion rose up in me and I came straight back with, “How dare you speak that over my life? I reject that completely.” Guess who is now determined to never give in to the coffee addiction?

Listed below are some things that older women/people really need to stop saying to younger people, because in doing so they are actually speaking death, rather than life over young women like me. Before the list I would like to say that of course this is not everyone, and I really appreciate the ladies in my life who have encouraged me after I’ve been deflated and rocked by these other comments. You are an example worth following, for sure. Also, I am not here to offend anyone, just to remind people of the effect they can have on others, and whether it’s positive or negative is up to them.

  1. “I used to really want to get married but it’s when you stop looking, then your spouse will come along.”
    The problem with that is that it’s like saying, not only do you want a relationship, but it’s a sick system where only by not wanting what you want, will you get what you want. Good luck with that.
    Do we think we can somehow manipulate God’s timeline?
  2. “You may like to wear pretty things now, but wait till you get to my age and you’re married, you’ll stick to ‘these kind of clothes’.”
    The concept that once you’ve ‘got a guy’, you now have a licence to stop putting in any form of effort is heartbreaking, to say the least. And why do pretty things have to have an age limit? Ladies, don’t give up on yourselves, and don’t make the younger women in your life give up on their future.
    This attitude of being resigned and making young women feel like they have no choice over their mindsets, their marriages and their lives in the future is poisoning, and also false. My mum, known for pulling out the wise words when needed, pointed out the other day that pretty much everything is a choice. We can choose to give up on ourselves (this can be in many different ways at many different ages), claiming that we don’t have a choice, but we always do. If you don’t like the way things are, change it.
  3. “Enjoy being skinny because you won’t have a body like that forever. Once you have kids it’s all down hill from there. And don’t expect your boobs to stick around.” (Did I ask for your opinion on my body, random stranger?)
    This one is usually uncalled for, unasked and downright depressing. Yes, I know everyone’s body changes throughout life, especially women having babies etc, but women who are calling the 30 kilos they still have on three years after their last child was born “baby weight” and telling young women that this is what happens to all women when they have kids, is misleading. Everyone who knows me knows how much I adore kids, but I am not kidding (pun intended) when I say that for about a month had decided I was better off not having kids naturally, because I was so afraid of what it would do to my body (luckily I got over that after noticing some amazing women I know who still have incredible figures even after several children).
    Ladies, this is not helpful, and neither is your resentment. It says in the bible for the older women to teach the younger women but that should be equipping them, not scaring them. At work I am sometimes openly resented or scorned for my figure but I have to realise that people are often speaking out their own insecurities and issues. I step back and remind myself: their issues are not your issues, and their body does not have to become your body.
    Also, the way some parents talk about their kids (take all your money and time, interrupt your sleep and bathroom visits/showers, ruin your body, change your marriage, drain your energy, stop you from doing x,y and z) it makes you wonder, “What do you like about them?” You yourself know the joys of having kids, and so do other parents, but people without kids don’t, so sometimes it’s good for you to share those aspects with the young people in your life, so that you don’t put them off or have them thinking that you’re living with regret.
  4. “What do single people even do all day? I can’t remember what I used to do before I had kids.”
    I don’t understand how people don’t perceive this as flat out rude to say to a single person’s face. It carries the message, “You are not valuable, nor is your contribution, until you are married with children.”
    While caring for children is obviously a full on job and mums are without doubt a lot like superheroes, making girls feel like their contribution because they’re not a mum is some how lesser is far from encouraging. And you may be poking at some raw wounds without realising it.

I am a firm believer in the power of words. For example, a few weeks ago I was at my friends’ house having dinner. I am very close to their six year old daughter but didn’t think she was listening when I said to her mum, “I hate kidney beans.” Two seconds later I overheard her declaring to her brothers, “If Louis (her nickname for me) hates beans then I refuse to eat them!” I quickly turned to her and said, “Just kidding! I love all kinds of beans.” She just looked at me as if to say, ‘Nice try.’

Now I’ve got to think about the words I’m speaking over girls younger than myself too. Are they life giving? We want to present our stage of life well, and gently usher younger ones into it, not scare them into thinking they’re headed into the next stage, ill-equipped to handle it and believing that it’s too depressing to bear (how I’ve been feeling lately).

It all comes down to choice. Everything is a choice. The way we live, eat, behave, dress, and the words we choose to speak. From one woman to another, please, please choose life.

Sincerely,

Lil

 

_______________________________________________________________

Image: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-kanegis/motherdaughter-battles-ov_b_5656830.html, sourced 11 June 2016.

Having trouble hearing God’s voice?

This Wednesday my bible study group spent some “soak” time, just being in God’s presence. We put some music on, got comfy/closed our eyes/whatever, and just waited. Not something a lot of us do too regularly.

Instead of bringing out our big shopping list for God and not letting Him get a word in edgewise, we created space for Him to do some talking, to reveal Himself. I was reminded, like I am every time I do this, that the less I talk, the better it tends to be.

God loves a thankful, adoring heart that is simply seeking to bask in His presence. We’ve somehow gotten the notion that our relationships must be firstly functional, even if we don’t admit it to ourselves. What does this relationship help me to achieve? If you really think about it, the best relationships aren’t the ones filled with gold stars but intimacy.

Consider a child. They are not efficient, functional, practical, but are in practically every way delightful. The bible tells us to be like children if we want to enter the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 18:3) and God refers to us as His children (Galatians 3:26).

Sometimes we make the mistake of thinking that God is not an emotional God. If you want a refresher, read some of the Old Testament. If there’s one thing we can be sure God is, it’s passionate.

In John 17:24 Jesus, when praying, says, “Father, I want these whom you have given me to be with me where I am. Then they can see all the glory you gave me because you loved me even before the world began!” (NLT)

Jesus wants us to be with Him and see His glory. During the quiet time on Wednesday I felt God say to create space for Him at youth group on Friday.

All of the boys (generally the louder ones) in our youth couldn’t make it that night and I was tempted to change the plan, especially when a brand new girl walked in, but in order to be obedient I had to stick to it.

Almost immediately I got us in a small circle, explained to the girls that tonight was a practical application of seeing Jesus (the discussion from last week) and learning to hear the Father’s voice. The time was so sweet. It is such a privilege to be involved in ministering to people, and there’s a special place in my heart for young girls.

Learning to hear God is a process, and He can speak in many different ways (dreams, words, pictures, His written logos Word (the bible), prophets, songs, donkeys (Numbers 22:28-35), to name a few). But my encouragement is don’t be afraid to practice; that’s how you grow. The more you create space the more you will hear God’s voice, and the more you hear God’s voice the clearer/easier it will become. Then comes the tougher part: obedience. But that’s another article in itself.

When you’re waiting for His voice, listen for the whisper, because the Lord was not in the wind, fire or the earthquake, when it came to Elijah (1 Kings 19:12). There’s a reason for that: God wants us to come closer.

Happy seeking!

Sincerely,
Lil

 


Image: http://thecrackeddoor.com/Main/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/God-Voice.png, sourced 15 May 2016.

Date While You Wait

This video is just one of the ways we can connect with people. It’s simple, asks for nothing back and puts a smile on people’s face. These days it’s hard to do something for nothing, because people are always wondering, “What’s the catch?” I am too, because there usually is a catch. I’m one of those people who cringes when a stranger approaches me on the street and the hawkers (for want of a better word) in the shopping centre that I work give me serious anxiety (a lot of fake phone calls and very intense text messages to write as I walk past them).

I’ve tried to get into the habit of opening my eyes a little more when I’m out in public. A lot of people are in a rush, but there are some who aren’t. Some who might be lingering that extra five minutes in the hopes of some human interaction. But that someone is often someone that, if we’re honest, we would overlook. How often do you stop to talk to elderly people, or a homeless person?

In the last couple of months and particularly today at church I’ve been challenged to think of the group(s) of people I hesitate to interact with. Who do you draw back from or avoid associating with?

I challenge you this week to look at them with new eyes, the eyes of the Father, and move toward them, rather than away. I promise to as well.

(Thanks to Thomas C. Knox and Huffington Post for the video.)

Sincerely,
Lil

 

Sources: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NqY4y1TrXFc, accessed 15 May 2016.

A Man Named Bill

   
Recently at work one of my girls and I met this wonderful customer named Bev. Seventy-four, she was still kicking on as cheeky as ever and absolutely made my day. She was still 21 on the inside, which is probably why I connected with her so much.
She reminded me of one simple fact: who you choose to spend the rest of your life with is extremely important.
After finalising her sale she stayed for at least another 20 minutes, sharing with us about life with her husband Bill, gone now for 11 years.
She told us about how until the day he could no longer get out of bed, he would race home from work to beat her to the washing line so he could take all the clothes down. Anything to make her life easier. 
He would wash the dishes and make her breakfast and tell her she was beautiful. 
“I shouldn’t be telling you this,” she leaned in and said, “but sometimes when we we out at the shopping centre he would grab my backside and make me jump.” She giggled. “I screamed and told him, ‘Not in public, Bill! You can’t do that!'”
Bill, in his 60’s, would smirk and say, “You’re my wife and I’ll do what I want!” He’d point to her ring, look around and say, “It’s okay, everyone knows your mine.”
People asked if she was going to get remarried. She can’t believe those people who remarry less than two years later. Eleven years later she still won’t even consider someone else. “He was the only one for me,” she said. “Who in their life ever thinks they’re going to get that lucky? Who could even compare to Bill?”
Eleanor and I were choking back tears (trying not to cry in our workplace) as we listened to one lady tell about her life with one man. 
All the little things seem small at the time, but a lifetime of little things lead to a bond so strong that 11 years of separation has done nothing to change. 
In his last year, when Bill could see the end coming, he insisted on having a granny flat built out in the backyard for Bev. For after he was gone. 
“He couldn’t rest until he’d made sure I was going to be taken care of. I think he was holding on, just making sure. Bill was like that.”
Bev laughed and almost cried as she told us about her memories with such a special man. A man named Bill.
The kind of man we all long for, the kind we should look out for, hold out for. 
Sincerely,

Lil
Ps. On the way out Bev slapped me on the butt as I leaned over to grab something for another customer. When I turned around in shock she was walking out of the shop giggling.

Reminder: you’re only as old as you feel. 

Dear 8 year old me: the things I wish I’d known

So last week I wrote an article primarily to encourage parents to speak life over their kids. I’ve decided to do a series of letters to myself at different ages, from 2016 me, giving some sisterly-type advice for kids that age to read. If you feel like it would help or encourage your kids in any way, please feel free to give it to them. Sometimes the message needs to come from a different angle for people to receive it, and I feel this might be a key God has given me, using creativity and letters to speak directly to the heart of things we face in our younger years.

 

Dear 8 Year Old Me,

So you’re in Grade 3. How’s that going for you? I’m sure you’re aware of the word ‘peer pressure’ by now.

I know the easy thing to do is just go along with the crowd, but learn to think independently. In case that word hasn’t been in your vocabulary tests yet, it means ‘for yourself’. God gave you an amazing brain. Think about what you’re doing. If the only reason you’re doing it is because everybody else is, ask yourself if that is a good enough reason.

I know you may have heard this a few times before from mum or dad but what’s popular is not always right and what’s right is not always popular. If you see other kids doing the wrong thing, it doesn’t mean you have to.

If you see other people, even if it’s your best friend, being mean to someone, think: would I like someone else treating me this way? It’s called bullying and if you develop a habit of it, it will lead your life in a direction that you don’t want it going in. Trust me. Wouldn’t you rather be known as the person who’s kind to everyone? So when the other girls start teasing that girl for having curly, wiry black hair in eight braids all over her head, don’t join in. Even if it does remind you of a spider. Seven years later, you will have to eat your words and apologise to that girl, who later left the school.

If you have older sisters and brothers, don’t listen to everything they say. Listen to some of it, but don’t make the mistake of assuming all of it is true. If they tell you you’re weak, or stupid, or fat, or any of those things, assume those are lies. While we’re on the topic of siblings, just because they don’t say they love you, doesn’t mean they don’t. They do; they might just not have learnt how to show it yet. The good news is you can teach them by being an amazing example.

The bible says not to let anyone think less of you because you’re young, but to be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity (1 Tim 4:12).

Before I sign off, one last thing. If you have something that you love to do—reading, playing sport, music . . . don’t let anyone’s comments or loud opinions stop you from doing that. God gave you gifts and talents and He wants you to use them, not just sit them on the shelf like an old toy left to gather dust.

Have a great day, and try not to make the mistakes I did.

Sincerely,
22 Year Old You

 

Image: http://www.kairoshsp.com/letters.htm (sourced 20 March 2016).