Not for Nought

So it’s been a while. A REAL while. Looking back on the last blog, and thinking about all that’s changed in my life since then, it’s a little overwhelming. It’s a lot, so I won’t bore you with details. But this is an overview:

-Josh and I (Flint, meet Spark) are in the finals for an acoustic competition, and hoping to win some incredible prizes

-Flint, meet Spark has been playing around the place

-I’m not full-time at my job anymore

-I’ve started free-lance writing about music events in my city

-I turned 23

So, I initially started this blog because I was planning to move away for the year. Well, I don’t think THIS year is the year for that. Mostly because it’s nearly over, but also because it just seems as if my life is moving in a direction I did not expect.

I love change, and I welcome it. But I also realize that when it comes, it leaves me feeling a little frazzled and unsure. I feel like I’ve been walking around with a constipated look on my face this last month or so (if you’ve seen it, I apologize). Change is uncomfortable for me. I’ve always been that kid that you don’t tell what’s for supper, because if you change your mind and get something else, I’d get so confused and angry I’d not want to eat anymore. Yup.                                                                                                         So realizing and having it settle that this year isn’t panning out the way I thought, has been humbling, to say the least. I’m still in the process of trying not to be bitter or angry about all the things I don’t understand about this year.  Mostly, I’m trying not to lose hope. I’ve realized how easy that is. I’ve always been an extremely motivated person, but there have been times lately when I’ve questioned why I am getting up in the morning. This has NEVER been me. It’s been such a fight to not grumble and groan about my circumstances, and to finish strong. I’ve realized though, that I AM here, and I’m not going anywhere right now. This is the season that has been dealt to me, and even though I don’t understand it, I know that somewhere in my positive and fighter-self, I want to do this season WELL. Whatever it looks like. And so, many a self- pep-talk is to be had. I have to jump out of bed each morning and resist the urge to sleep in. I need to remember to throw myself into my day and take it as it comes.

I’m learning though. So much about myself and how I am built, and about how I need to be re-built. Some of my walls are tumbling down. Some are being fortified. I know that something is being built in me that perhaps would not have been able to stand had I had the year I thought I wanted. It’s uncomfortable, and so awkward. But I know that it’s not all for nought. It never is. There’s a confidence in me that I’ve never seen before, and I’m not looking behind me or waiting for anyone’s permission for anything now. There’s a freedom and an independence I’ve always wanted that I thought I’d find on another continent, that’s meeting me now. I’m willing to risk. I think it’s ‘cos I don’t think I have anything to lose anymore.  I probably never did. So I’m learning to thrive right here, and to see the goodness right in front of me. My plans may not have worked out as I thought, but regardless of that, I plan on owning this season- however long it may last. I feel like I’m getting back up on my feet again.

So if you see me, give me a hug and a hi-5 and some encouragement, please. But don’t let me talk bad about this time in my life, or let me take any of your room to complain. Because it’s garbage. I’m so blessed, it’s ridiculous. And I know it. Sometimes it’s just buried way deep inside of me and all my pride is on top of it. I think God is doing something about that ha ha. I will try to write a bit more, because I’ve missed it.

I think I’m growing up. 🙂

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Goodbye Apathy

I’ve been struggling with apathy lately. You know, sometimes when you feel like you’re surrounded by insurmountable challenges? I see poverty everywhere, inequality. I’m being faced by the challenges of child and human trafficking,  a government that is failing to deliver services to a growing unsettled working-class population. High levels of unemployment; I could go on, really. Just last week 44 people were shot by the police due to their striking for higher wages.

I often just look, and think “Oh God, how does little old me make a difference in all these mountains? There’s always a hill to climb, another challenge to meet. God, I’m tired. I just wanna sit here. And not move for a bit. Is that ok?”

“ It’s breaking ice now to make any movement”.  This is a One Republic lyric with the same name as this blog. I feel like this.  And often, I don’t even know where to begin. So I asked Jesus about it the one day, because I was too tired of thinking and hearing about all this sadness and not knowing what to do with all of it.  And I realized some things (as tends to occur when I listen to Jesus):

  1. If this is how I feel just by looking at some of the things going on in my country, how much more does God feel for these things? How much more are all these issues, and many more-  BURNING on His heart?
  2. If He’s in my heart, then surely it’s RIGHT and GOOD  for me to feel the weight of all that is unjust in the world.  I’m certainly in the right place, if I’m seeing even a little bit of what Jesus sees all the time.
  3. It’s up to me how I RESPOND to these feelings.

I’m starting to realize more and more that my life is pretty much just moments of feeling things I don’t understand (Emotional Intelligence called into question?? Ha ha). I’m also beginning to wonder that maybe it’s within those moments that  the victory is calling out to me.  How I respond to those feelings , and how I let those feelings affect me- therein lies the crossroad between making good life changing decisions, and apathy. Because either I embrace the feelings and point them towards thinking of an innovative solution, finding out more information about the problem, praying for the issue. Or? Shove those feelings down and refuse to listen to the news.

Admittedly, I’ve done the second one way too often.  That didn’t work. So now, I’ve decided on working on the other part.  As for the mountains, yes they’re mountains. But God is bigger. And when I think about it, when God works with me, He chips away at me little bit, by little bit. He doesn’t come at me top down, swooping in like a superhero. HE could. He SO could.  And so maybe there’s a lesson in there for me about tackling all the mountains I see. I’m not big enough all by myself to swoop in like a super hero (the superhero version of me in my head could. She really could), but that’s why He calls us to function like a body. We’re all supposed to do our bit. When I think about it that way- about the strength, potential and the authority given to us, in the Body of Christ, the mountain doesn’t look so big.  But I know it’s time for ME to buck up and take my post in doing my little bit within that body. It IS big for little old me. But the same superhero who could swoop down and change me in an instant, is IN me too, and He’s egging me on and propelling me forward to TRY anyway.

Greater is He that is in me, than he that is in the world. I read that somewhere. I need to start living like that statement is true. Because it is.

Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. 1John 4:4

Oppikoppi 2012- A Sweet Thing indeed!

This past weekend I got to go to my first real, quite legit music festival- Oppikoppi. Since varsity started, I knew I wanted to go- it just feels like one of those things that usher you in to the life of student-dom in Pretoria. So I was 3 years too late, but I thought I would finally fulfil that little milestone.

Dust. Sun. Burgers as large as my face. 2 beautiful friends. Music to inspire. Yeh, it doesn’t get any better, really. I could complain about many things about the weekend- the drugs, the drunk- crazy people, the dust, the smelly toilets. But I realized that THIS, right in the middle of all that noise and chaos- is a piece of life that I got to grasp for a little while. I got to literally be in the DUST of life where it’s a little chaotic and very crazy sometimes, and where people are…well, people. There was such a ‘come as you are’ mentality throughout the whole weekend, and to be quite honest, that place-as much as it has a reputation to be full of the dodgy (sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll)-was more welcoming for me than many of the other places I frequent in my daily life. That’s a bit of a pity. I was reminded again that if you want to- you can really learn something, anywhere.

Admittedly, I doubt I could permanently live on Oppikoppi land if it were a country, but I also wouldn’t change or complain about anything that happened in the last 3 days.  I got the privilege of seeing so much live music- mostly South African, and a few international acts. It made me so proud- my country is brimming full of untapped talent and there are millions of melodies to be found yet. And I can’t wait to maybe be joining in the festival one day with a few of my own.

Either way, sign me up for Oppikoppi 2013.  Dust. Sun. Burgers as large as my face- they’re all calling me back.

 

[a special thank you to Jessica, who found me when I got lost, laughed at me when I did embarrassing things,  let me wear her clothes and who missed out on a few bands because of me-and STILL calls me friend]

 

You’re raising the dead in me.

So, my memories are often connected to music.  Today I pulled out an old switchfoot cd (The Beautiful Letdown) and gave it a listen, and a whole bunch of memories flooded back into my mind about the time when I needed Jon Foreman’s words from this album most. It’s amazing listening to these words again now, and seeing that they’re meeting me again right where I need to hear them. But this is not the same place as before.

The entire album for me clearly deals with living life to the fullest, and not succumbing to the mediocrity suburban living often brings. I wrestle with these thoughts too.

There’s a song on the album called “24”, that Jon Foreman says he wrote on his 24th birthday. I remember listening to this song about 5 years ago. In my head at the time I couldn’t imagine myself being 24, and what life would look like for me then.  As I sit and listen to these words now, I realize that 24 is coming at me in about a year and 3 months, and I finally understand a few things Jon speaks about in the song.

I finally understand what he means when he says “I’m not copping out”.  I’m still 22. But as it stands, I feel the pressure all the time to live an ‘ordinary’ life. Around about this time in my life, there’s a pull: A pull towards security, a pull towards building a life of comfort. I don’t know when it started, but I distinctly feel the pull every now and again. And if I’m not careful I will find myself giving in to that pressure and living in it. It’s up to me to decide.  Jon sings those words “I’m not copping out” like a lament. Like it’s not easy, this not copping out. And he sings it like it’s taking all that he has to not give in to the pull (I say he’s done a pretty good job, but those are just my standards.  I’m biased, ‘cos I’m a fan ;).)

This song has encouraged me to remember again, who I am. Who I’m growing into. It’s making me think back to when I was 18, and remembering all the crazy dreams and things I wanted to achieve.  And even though some would say it’s early days for me, I want to remember: I’m not copping out. Like many people I admire, I want to “live to the hilt every situation that I believe to be the will of God” for me (Jim Elliot).

In the song, Jon Foreman then recounts all the things that he still wants to see, to do, in this life of not copping out:

I want to see miracles, see the world change
Wrestled the angel, for more than a name
For more than a feeling
For more than a cause

And again I can clearly relate. And I know that in order to see these things, it’ll take persistence. Going against the grain is never easy, but I think it bears the most fruit. In my character. And in the quality of life that I experience.  I want stories like Jacob wrestling with the angel. I want to play my part in changing the world. I want to see miracles and to see God actively working in my life and in the lives of others. This is not ordinary. This is extraordinary living. Taking an introspective look at my life now, I see how I’m honestly getting some of these things right, and how I’m missing the mark in some areas. But I suppose this is where we learn. It’s a painful place, but it’s the best place. And again today, because of thoughts and songs like these, I can say:  “and I’m not who I thought I was 24 hours ago”, and know that it’s ok.

I’m reminded of some of my favourite lines in Ulysses, by Lord Alfred Tennyson.

Come, my friends.
‘T is not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die.
It may be that the gulfs will wash us down;
It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles,
And see the great Achilles, whom we knew.
Tho’ much is taken, much abides; and tho’
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are,–
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

They were old when they felt this way. I want to recognize and hold onto this feeling now while I’m 22, so that it’ll stick and stir something inside of me when I feel like copping out in the years to come. Jon foreman describes this feeling so beautifully in 24, making his words my favourite line in the whole song : “ I’m singing, spirit take me up in arms with you: you’re raising the dead in me”. I think this is what that feels like. So next year, when I graciously step onto my 24 year old feet, I want to have learned so much, and lived so much that I can, like Jon, say “and I’m not who I thought I was 24 hours ago”. Because it will be true.

A Little Somethin’ to work with

Brilliant days like this remind me why I’m so thankful that we are not put on this earth to live alone.  Somewhere in the last week or so I became quite frustrated about a number of things going on, and things started closing in on me until I couldn’t see.  A very good friend, just by being the way she is, encouraged me to see the beauty of life again, and I got a fresh sense of perspective.

And I learned a valuable lesson today:  I thought about my life- as I have been doing more of lately, and I realized how most of the great highlights of it have happened by ‘fluke’. Or so it seems. Off course, in my reality I know this is not so and that a greater, more capable hand is at work here. Anyway, I realized that all God has really ever asked of me is to give Him something to work with. All the roles I have come to play and the person I have become is because all He asked me to do was give Him something to work with. That something turns out to be in fact all of me, but in the process, He takes that, and moulds it, and shapes it until all my excuses about my inability to do anything substantial for Him are null and void. Because it is through Him and by Him that I am who I am today. All I did was to give Him the shoddy pieces I had. He really did all the rest. But it’s by my first step- relinquishing the ideas of who I am, giving up trying to figure life out on my own, deciding to decide about Him, and being certain of Him, that He can take my little attempts at building a puzzle, and build a picture much more perfect than the one I set out to complete. I forget this all the time though. I need to stop doing that. But right now, as I think about it, and remember it, I’m oh so thankful. Thankful for good friends too, who remind me of these things. 

Relinquish, decide, be certain of Him. They’re really not so difficult to do when I think of what it is He really gives in return. I’ll gladly exchange what I have for me, for what He has for me. Every day.

My Friend has a really loud watch…

I woke up earlier than I usually do this morning, and as I lay in bed, I could hear the loud ticking of a watch. My friend had left his watch in my bag and I had taken it out for safe keeping. It’s got the loudest tick. A stressful, consistent tick. I couldn’t really sleep after hearing that tick. 

That tick has got me pondering on the aspects of time and timing. It’s apt I think. Lately it’s been a thing for me- the timing of my life, and recognizing the times we’re living in (more on this particular pondering some other time).

I’m a firm believer that there are specific seasons in a person’s life, and that there are things I could do now, that would not be as effective as they could be if  I were to do them 2 or 3  years down the line from now. So how do I know when to do what? I have no idea.

I’m in this strange in-between place right now where it feels as if there are things happening in my life that are making me question (and laugh at) the timing of things. Is father time’s clock out of batteries? Has someone knocked it over and made it skip a beat?

I have this feeling that I’m about to move away. It’s been a consistent thing, an aching thing for nearly a year now. A feeling.  Physical proof? A year later, and it’s still next to none, save an application or two to a South Korean school, and an email from a possible connection in Australia. And yet in the last 2 weeks alone, I have received what to me seem like confirmations of the feeling that’s been stirring in my belly.  In the meanwhile though, I decided I’m not going to sit around (see post 2 about sitting, waiting, wishing) and wait for something to happen. I’m going to LIVE.  

 Living has then consisted of my decision to blog anyway, writing and recording a song for a couple who are about to get married, starting a band, playing a gig, engaging in intriguing life conversations with people much wiser than I, and laughing at every opportunity at the randomness life has to throw at me. And in this living, I’ve seen even more how little I understand good timing. It makes no sense to me that I would start a band now, in this crucial time when I’m aching to LEAVE. It makes no sense that many of the people who have walked a journey with me in the last few years are up and leaving, or getting married- and I’m not able to share in any of those moments with them- because of timing.  Is my timing ticker off its rocker? Has it stopped working altogether?   

I don’t necessarily think I’ve found an answer to these questions, but I’ve definitely found a peace. I’m realizing more and more that my life is in fact as I suspected: a matter of seasons. Things are constantly ending and beginning. And sometimes things are ending and beginning at the same time. Or some things are ending, some are beginning, while some are in the middle. I can try to analyse this to death and figure it out. But it is what it is. It’s the goodness of God in giving me a life that’s full of mystery and surprises, than giving me one where things are set in stone and cut in angles and straight lines. I need to stop forgetting that fact. So I’ve decided I’m going to stop asking questions in the manner of time. The frustration in the lack of answers will kill me. Instead, I’ve decided a few things.  I’ve decided that I don’t think timing is in my hands. Knowing who I am and how crazy things get in my head, I sure as hell hope it isn’t. I’d hook it up to a bomb, and tear things apart. So you should be thankful too. I’ve also decided that this time that I’m here, now, is what is important. It’s the BEST time. It’s THE time. Tomorrow’s not guaranteed.

King Solomon’s words come to me now, and I think of another time, and another friend-where we spoke about these exact things-a time and a bit ago. I think God’s timing in giving those words to us then were so I could remember them now. And let them give me hope.

“Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end. So I concluded there is nothing better than to be happy and enjoy ourselves as long as we can.

And I know that whatever God does is final. Nothing can be added to it or taken from it.”

It greatly comforts me to know that the wisest king grappled with the same thoughts as I do.

A final thought, as it’s time for me to get up and make my way to the kitchen cos my belly knows what time it is: I think about all the goodness I’ve received since I stopped thinking of myself as someone sitting in a waiting room. And I wonder whether God’s timing in giving it all to me now rather than later is so I know in my heart that I’ve got so much to come back to.