Earth’s Biggest Problem? People

I awoke this morning to find a text message from a friend asking for prayer for her mom to pass away from her cancer, as her mom is in pain and gasping instead of breathing. So horrible. I replied with a prayer and then sent more for the family.

I couldn’t handle being indoors after that, it felt too claustrophobic, so I took a walk to drop off the DVD I’d hired last night. It was a Pixar DVD where I had no idea that there would be scenes where I would inexplicably cry my heart out. It feels like all the tears that I’d held in for 30 years of my life, because ‘big girls don’t cry’ {and because all crying does is draw attention and sympathy and the feeling like ‘I can’t control myself’ and ‘others are looking down on me’}, have been rushing out over the last 5 years. It Sucks. I’ve absolutely learnt that I am not in control of anything and I hate it. So last night I was in tears without anyone around; and now I’m typing about it with a sense of embarrassment because drawings with voice overs hit my heart so hard. It doesn’t help that I’ve never been so tired before in my life. Moving to teach English has been mental. True stupidity! Minimum of 7 HOURS of marking per weekend! {Hence no more blogging :( } So that’s every one of my Sundays gone, for no overtime or extra pay on my R90 per hour working weekday pay… I couldn’t face the 3 sets piled on my desk waiting to demotivate me, as most learners have listened to NOTHING I have taught them, at 07h30 this morning.

I took the walk to breathe and find something good out there. It was quite something. I found it truly amazing how beautiful a morning is when there are no people involved. No cars with fumes, no drunkards, no-one rushing or pushing or swearing. No-one being irrational. There was space to walk on the pavements, time to wander across main roads, time to take in the trees and flowers and appreciate the sunlight shining on everything. . . Sadly, litter everywhere, urination spots that stink because men urinate wherever they feel like and the homeless loitering as they do because they have nowhere to be. What was destroying the amazing picture? People.

On the Wednesday evening before this Sunday, I went to a public interview with a presenter questioning a guy called Davy du Plessis. Davy survived a shot gun shooting in the Amazon and miraculously lived to tell the tale with a bullet stuck in his heart after 24 hours without medical care. Davy, however, doesn’t view his survival as an ‘Act of God’, he believes it was his own mental power that helped strangers find him in the middle of the Amazon Jungle, that stopped the bullets from being a fraction of a millimetre too high or low from his main heart artery, and he believes it was his mental power that stopped him from bleeding out with regards to his 4 shotgun wounds: face, heart and thigh. I was horrified at his lack of gratitude in surviving, his lack of emotion in surviving and his blasé attitude over the whole thing. Why? Because I view the perfect timing and spacing of everything as a miracle and that is nothing like he believes it, he believes it to be due to his mind power. Now, having survived his ordeal, he is venturing to take a pedal boat from Cape Town to Rio, South America. Why is he doing this? Because humanity is extinguishing 35 species a day on planet earth. Once again, the problem: People. Davy is consumed by the desire to do something to help the planet, so he’s pedaling across the ocean. Once done, I assume he’ll write another book and use paper to print it on. I assume he’ll be getting on flights to spread the word by using petrol, and he’ll be paid for presenting motivational speeches to people who are natural-born consumers… and the cycle (no pun intended) of self-destruction continues as humanity makes flora and fauna extinct without batting an eyelid.

On my walk, I gathered that the people living in cities aren’t aware of the mass extinction that we are the direct cause of. They have vomited in the streets, released feces, urinated, left cans, alcohol bottles, plastic, polystyrene, and numerous other forms of litter everywhere. . . My question is: do such people deserve to continue being stewards of such a beautiful planet? Do we deserve to be here around the luxury of nature as we destroy it?

My answer: No.

The Eve of my 35th birthday – Valentine’s Day, Status: Single.

Wow, who would’ve thought? Here I sit on my last evening of being 34, in the dark both literally and figuratively. Eskom has cut the power again, they chose not to follow the maintenance plan presented to them 20 years ago when everything had to be handed over to the then ‘new’ government and now, here we are: In the dark more than once a week thanks to incompetence and an inability to be proactive and have any foresight whatsoever. . . 20 years ago. I wonder what the me of 20 years ago would think of the me today? Would I match up to what she dreamt of? What she wished for? I’m not sure… Would she have kept herself alive if she’d known what she would have to live through, in all honesty?

I sit here, in my flat, alone, with the song by Parletones: “This song is forever, even if you’re rich, even if you’re poor, every breath you breathe, I’ll be there for you” being played live from the Botanical Gardens. . . absolutely nothing near my truth or experience, but at least someone in the band has had the privilege of experiencing such a place of love, I guess. Yet, if I think back, it seems I created my lost space and aloneness from a very young age. At 11 years old, I distinctly remember having an awesome class teacher and I wanted to be like her, she didn’t wear a ring, so I thought she was a spinster and in my autobiography, where I had to write ‘my plans for the future’, I wrote that I’d like to be a spinster. Here’s the catch though, I found out years later that she wasn’t a spinster at all. So my ignorance signed and sealed my destiny, for I’ve been told that what you write down becomes your truth and future. So, that would make this all aloneness my own fault.

Still, there’s another catch in this story, because I know that even the little girl I was 20 years ago would have told anyone that she wanted to ‘follow God’s plan’ and she knew she would be ok, whatever happened. So that begs the questions: “Is my aloneness God’s plan for me too?” “Was He aware of my mistake so many years ago, did He orchestrate that I would create this fate?”

We had family photographs today and my sisters and their husbands with babies had their new family photos. Cousin and her little ones. Aunt and Uncle. Gran and the other 3 generations… me… I got a profile shot, and ones with sisters and niece and nephew. I wasn’t left out, I had a place: Aunty. Indeed, a special place and an important place, especially as I’m Godmother for both as well. Aunty. Would me 20 years ago ever have put me as Aunty? I don’t think so. I’m not sure a 15 year old’s brain can compute her younger siblings being mothers and herself not, but this is how the story unfolded.

Maybe me 20 years ago would be proud of me for writing a book, acting overseas, travelling to wonderful countries, achieving excellence academically and being closer to God than I ever expected. Or, would I be disappointed that I’ve never been asked on a proper-all-the-trimmings date? Would I feel self-pity and compound my insecurities and unattractiveness even more, without having the proof that I now have? Would being a low-earning teacher disappoint me? Would my inability to fit in with ‘corporates’, with ‘trendy people’, with ‘best friends’, with ‘church-goers’ and ‘all the other stereotypical groups one can think of’, leave me heart-broken that my hope of belonging somewhere and feeling like I belonged was still not the case 20 years down the line, with the evidence in hand? If I had known that following a path of faith and following my inner-knowing would lead me to be so isolated, would I have kept myself alive with the awareness that I would have over 20 years ahead of me filled with more struggles to get up the morning, more use of prayer as my lifeline, more dependency on the belief in a power that would still leave me alone 20 years later?

I have to look at my character here… and that makes the answer: Yes. Yes I’m sure I would have embarked on the journey again anyway, because that’s what God has asked me to do. Yes, I would have carried on, prepared to live through 20 years of trauma, from seeing a man die, hearing a mother screaming at her son’s corpse, being stranded in a country where no-one speaks English with my passport confiscated, in a hospital with no-one speaking English, in a classroom with boys throwing chairs at each other, in family confrontations that ripped my soul out and spat it on the floor, years with chronic fatigue, having my body health reduced to take away my dancing, funerals, nastiness from individuals that my sensitivity reeled in for years after, insecurities that were taught to me and imbedded in me from young… all of it, God called me to all of it. Every tear, every heartache, every illness, silly me would still have said, “I will do it all Lord, if it is Your Will.” So many tears… such isolation and this blasted part of me that continually tells me that there is a purpose to it, that there is a reason for everything, that there is truth in scripture, and truth in following the way of Jesus.

Even though young me would have continued the journey, right now old me is asking her not to. Asking her to take a different route, an easier route… but that is futile, for I know within me, more than anything else that I know, that any route other than God’s is meaningless; that my soul simply would not be able, could never, take a route that has a dead-end in meaninglessness and lack of Soul Upliftment. Soul Upliftment is only achieved through choosing to see the good and do the good, no matter what and no matter how hard: you have to be the goodness, live truth and choose light, otherwise nothing within will grow to be better, stronger and more enlightened…what other meaningful purpose can there be?

So why would I ask young me not to do this? Because it is so hard, and it feels like it is only getting harder. I have learners in my grade 12 group now who are more immature, selfish, inconsiderate, apathetic, self-absorbed, disrespectful and ungrateful than any other learners I have ever encountered overseas or in my South African classrooms over a 7 year span. Two of them are even teenage mothers and they still have not chosen to behave like adults! They have spent over 2 years draining my energy and instilling in me a hate that disturbs me more than anything I have ever experienced before. It is frightening that 2 of said human beings can be so monstrous that they poison everything in their presence. I don’t want young me to grow up and have to live day to day dealing with what I’m dealing with at work, with no escape, with God not opening a window or a way out.

Then there is no release for what that poor girl must live through. She will come home to an empty flat with no-one to tell her frustration to, no-one to pray with her through the hatred she has been poisoned with. No-one to help with shopping, ironing, cleaning, cooking, maintaining vehicles and/or her property. No-one to help or console her when all the nastiness outside of work and in the world drives it’s fist into her stomach; and her battle to stay balanced, find peace and gather energy is by way of daily pleads in every prayer…

That poor girl, I don’t want her to have to live with the knowing that, at 35, she still won’t connect with any other soul, mutually, at a complete level of knowing that knowing is shared, that intrinsic desire to live in love is matched without doubt or insecurity. She will be stuck with tears at her aloneness, and fighting with her own insecurities and irrationalities too, struggling with the self-doubt so many have fed in her for so many years. She will have so much to cope with and deal with and then she’ll get to 35 and be even more lost and without answers to any of her questions, unless she goes deeper within herself, which she is too scared to do, because those trips always ask for more sacrifice and more hurt. She won’t know the whys? She won’t know the what next? What’s left? Why? How she will get out of the rut when God still tells her to “Wait” and she has no idea what she is waiting for or why. She will be living with frustration beyond her worst thoughts, and be stuck in a way that is so inexplicable when she looks at all her talents that she will be sitting in an agony of such drained patience and feelings of God’s cruelty that she will not see the point of living any longer… she will have no sight of any decent future or hope for anything better and still, somehow, someway, she will still have to find a way, pray harder, pray more, to be able to get out of bed the next day… and the next and the next, breathing on hope whilst crying for death.

I wish that little girl would end this story before it begins, but I know she won’t. I know she is a sucker for punishment and even though she knows that when she steps out of her flat into a world FULL of people who, even if they give out a Valentine’s card, have NO IDEA what unconditional love is, have NO IDEA how to practice unconditional-giving, honest-open-conversation, pretences-off-ears-open-listening, faith and all things good; people who are zombies, repeating the same practices over and over and over again… in their lifetime – 100s of rugby games, 100s of quarts of beer, 100s of braais, 100s of trips to shopping malls, 1000s of trips to grocery stores, 100s of passes by beggars… and maybe never ever in their whole lives will they have even one heart to heart conversation with their Creator, or offer themselves in sacrifice to something other than themselves – that little girl will still persevere and serve.

I want to shake her, ask her to find another way, find employment that will provide income that doesn’t involve penny-counting, find a way to make life easier, find a way to get addicted to something to take her mind and self off of the pain and selfishness in the world, the world that she can’t fix…

But, that little girl knows, even at 35, there is no other way, it must be what it must be, even if it involves an aloneness that haunts her soul, tears that wet her pillow and fatigue that makes everything so much more difficult; the days must be lived and something must be achieved, until God says: “Thank-You My Child, you may come home now…”

Happy birthday to me, lost, unsure, stuck, insecure, emotional and menstrual cycled me… reminding myself that today I am one day closer to the turning point, one day closer to going home and that I have one more day behind me that can be put to rest… Happy birthday to me… night night.

What’s your Natural Temperament?

The Four Temperaments of personality have been developed from 3000 odd years ago where Proverbs is noted to say that the wise man saw four kinds of people (30v11-14). Personally, I’m not convinced of the relativity of the verse to the temperaments. Nevertheless, after this, research claims that Hippocrates gave the temperaments their names and then in 200AD Galen, a Greek doctor, wrote a list of strengths and weaknesses to go with each temperament.

After Galen there was Freud and his spin, then the Norwegian theologian Ole Hallesby threw in a different take and then Tim LaHaye developed Hallesby’s concepts to create what he called the ‘blend’s of temperaments. In other words, no-one only fits with one temperament. We all possess varying degrees of 2, 3 or all of the temperaments. Then, of course, there are the effects of ill health, parents, background, upbringing, educational level, varying faith-approaches and the like. In other words, it’s no exact science. It’s merely a way for human beings to understand themselves, each other and why they do things the way they do. The temperament approach works by way of category, because people love categories, they prefer being able to put something in a box. The truth is though, and I don’t expect anyone to believe me, that there are no boxes at all. No one is the same as anyone else, that’s impossible. Overall, it would appear, people seldom seem to be able to accept everyone’s uniqueness; they want boxes, comparatives, reasons, logic, explanation and the like. Yet, in the right light and context, these temperaments work well as a means to help a person discover things about themselves in a society that has taken them away from knowing themselves and the fact that they are amazing human beings made to do great things, no matter their inborn temperament.

Starting with Smilely Sanguine, as I call him/her: warm, lively and fun-loving. Lives in the now and bases decisions on feelings. Has the ability to keep conversation flowing and is an excellent story-teller, which often makes them the light of the party. Sanguines have the ability to make others feel special, whilst in their company that is. A Sanguine is energised by people, though openly sincere, s/he often speaks without thinking. They are erratic and have no interest in detail or being an accountant, for example, as numbers wouldn’t satisfy their cheerful nature, natural charisma and desire to work with people.

Their strength is that they enjoy life and wake-up to the day in a lively mood. They aren’t weighed down by the past and are naturally optimistic. They are also friendly and compassionate. After taking these points into consideration, their weaknesses are understandable. They have a restlessness about them which does not make them very good students, as they can be impractical and disorganised, which echoes their mental restlessness too, which leads on to their weak-wills. Often the façade of a dynamic personality covers the weakness of their character and hidden desire for approval from others. I think of the Death of a Salesman plot and also of how the American footballer with all his charisma and ‘the most likely to succeed’ yearbook quote, doesn’t succeed.

Sanguines are good at starting things, but not at finishing them. They usually cannot be depended upon to keep a time-schedule or meet deadlines. Still ,their egos have been buffed by the reception their charisma gets from others which creates emotional instability and a lack of loyalty in their character. In linking this temperament to love and marriage, Sanguines have the greatest problem with lust. They’re ‘touchers’ with charisma and charm and a lack of will to turn down a temptation. Their ability to live in the present makes them focus on the now and the temptation, and not on their family at home. From youth, in order to gain control of their flaws, they are advised to learn self-control, experience suffering to learn empathy and the damage they could do and step towards faith, peace and goodness.

Then there’s: Commanding Choleric. Cholerics are generally seen as active, quick, practical and strong-willed in temperament. They are self-sufficient and incredibly independent, decisive and opinionated within their keen minds. They will often make other’s decisions for them. A choleric will stimulate his/her environment with plans, ideas and ambitions, as s/he believes that life is activity. Your Cholerics will be the ones crusading against social injustices, with no inkling of fear towards any adversaries; s/he will land on his/her feet all the time. Once the goal is set, it will be accomplished, no matter what. Neatness and details, however, are not their forte. They will assign someone else to take care of the finances.

The emotional aspect of this temperament is the least developed of the four and tears around Cholerics may cause embarrassment and/or disgust. They offer little compassion at all, thus love is not high on their priority list. Hence, one can devise that the strengths of the Cholerics are their strong-wills, their ability to be practical, their natural-born leadership traits, their take charge ability and their dedicated optimism in their adventurous nature and unshakeable confidence.

Following on from this their weakness appear, their hot-tempers, with a great deal of anger, their cruelty at putting others down and simply running over other’s feelings. Cholerics are advised to learn morals from a young age, before their strength of will takes a downward direction towards criminal activity, dictatorship and/or cruel leadership. Their impetuous nature means that even if a project is something they regret they will finish it to save their pride as they maintain their stubbornness. They need to be aware that their cruel, blunt and sarcastic statements are often very hurtful to others; and that their independence may move towards complete self-sufficiency, where: “they don’t need God”, they don’t “need” anyone. With regards to love and marriage, love is not their priority, they do not apologize or show approval and some even beat their spouses into submission. Cholerics give and get ulcers. They carry a grudge and are often revengeful in their “A-type personality”. Parents are advised to develop their Choleric child’s ability to love, find joy, practice peace, gentleness, meekness and goodness, along with suffering, to learn empathy. A challenging temperament indeed.

Thirdly: Moody Melancholies are often referred to as the “dark” temperaments, and are genuinely the ‘richest’ of all four. They are analytical, self-sacrificing, gifted perfectionists with an extremely sensitive emotional nature. Of all the temperaments, they enjoy the arts the most. By nature they are introverted, and due to the predominance of feelings, very moody: from extrovertish to gloomy, depressed, withdrawn and antagonistic. They battle to make friends as they are suspicious of others, but once made, they are loyal, dependable and faithful, their perfectionist nature does not allow them to be otherwise. They possess an intensely strong desire to be loved by others. They often find their greatest meaning in life through great personal sacrifice. They are thorough and persistent and the most likely to accomplish great good with their high IQ’s, high level of creativity and capability to produce high-quality work. Melancholies pay attention to the details; they keep logs and work within their legalistic nature. They are excellent with budgets and balancing books. They are also naturals at growing things and natural at creating things too. Think of Beethoven, Van Gogh, Mozart and Wagner. Great mood creates great art, followed by severe depression.

For their strengths, you can say they are sensitive, creative and naturally gifted. Their standard of excellence usually exceeds any others. They will always want to analyse what was done and do better the next time. They are realistic and see the potential problems in any plan presented to them. They are faithful friends and would lay down their lives if required in their usual self-sacrificial manner. They prefer to be behind the scenes in the tasks of life and have a wonderful capacity to know their limitations and not take on more than they can handle and complete. On the flip-side, their weaknesses show them to be self-centred, which may lead to hypochondria. Constant self-examination paralyses their will and energy which can be harmful to them. This self-centredness can ruin their lives when compounded by their sensitive nature as they are easily insulted and/or offended. Melancholies carry their feelings on their sleeves. This follows on to reinforce their suspicious natures, that those hushed whispers are “about them”. If not observed, then this can lead to a persecution complex.

Melancholics are pessimistic. Their perfectionism and constant state of analysis sets them up for this. They see the end of a project, but also all the problems along the way that will have to be surmounted and the mental, and often magnified, problems outweigh the effort /end product in their minds. They have been ‘disappointed so many times’ that they doubt the end result will be as good as promised anyway. Sadly, Melancholies walk in self-pity with their pessimistic outlook that makes them fearful and indecisive. They don’t want to fall short of their high-standards or be the butt of other’s criticism. They are the most critical of all the temperaments with their unrealistic expectations. They’re also revengeful, if quiet and calm on the surface, the criticisms of others can create anger, hatred and/or animosity in their actions and they may harbour those grudges for years. It is an unforgiving, revengeful spirit that can outweigh their brilliant deductive ability and cause them to make prejudiced decisions.

If we look at the love and marriage context, these are your bachelors and spinsters. Many have ruined good marriages because their partners only matched up to about 92% of their expectations. Melancholies amplify and focus on the bad, not the good. The criticism, if not said, can be expressed through a haughty manner conveying that others do not meet their standards, and they are just as critical of themselves too. Thus, they have little joy in their lives. Melancholies in general battle to take the “fatal plunge” into marriage. Instead they ‘idealise’ from a distance, then, in relationship discover the other to have too many weaknesses. Often they truly love others, but will not enter wedlock, purely because of the other’s weaknesses. I quote Dr Hallesby: “A great many men are unmarried simply because they are Melancholic. They themselves may think that they are Melancholy because they are bachelors.” Yet they are bachelors, because they are melancholy. To quote LaHaye: “Many unmarried women will admit that they’ve had a number of marriage offers; it’s just that “Mr Perfect never came along”.

With regards to Melancholy youth: Work on exercises of love, learning to be joyful and thankful, finding peace, goodness, faith and self-control to get out of those depressions.

The final temperament: Funny Phlegmatic. We’re looking at a calm, cool, slow, easy-going, well-balanced temperament here. No matter what’s going on, Phlegmatics usually won’t react unless they hit boiling point, as their emotions are always kept under control. They are the consistent, unchanging type. They seldom lack friends as they have a naturally dry sense of humour that others enjoy, whilst the Phlegmatic him/herself doesn’t even crack a smile. Their personal joy is to imitate and ridicule others. They are usually annoyed by the restless Sanguine, disgusted by the gloom of Melancholy and throw ice water on Choleric’s plans. They tend to be spectators of life and try not to get involved. They are seldom motivated beyond their daily routine. Yet, if aroused to action, the Phlegmatic can be seen as highly competent and efficient as ‘reluctant’ leaders. They are big on waiting, which means they may often wait their lives away and not go for their desires. They are natural peacemakers and have helped many others fulfill dreams, if not helped themselves achieve their own. They are perfect for activities that need daily routine and meticulous patience. Thus they are accurate bookkeepers and able to keep everything monetary precisely balanced.

As far as strengths are concerned, Phlegmatics are very witty and don’t get involved in other’s business. They seem to have an inborn sense of comic timing that works with their imaginations to make them great stand-up comics. They are dependable, in fact dependability-personified, whilst being cheerful and good-natured; they will always do what is expected of them. Their slow easy-going nature makes them fantastic listeners. They also have the ability to keep from identifying themselves in the person they are listening to, thus not taking on the speaker’s emotions or depressions, which makes them objective counsellors. They work very well under pressure where other temperaments might ‘crack’. They are also efficient, practical, neat and well organised. Phlegmatics, although not perfectionists, have high standards with regards to precision and accuracy, they find this approach saves them time in the long run.

Then, lastly, their weaknesses. Even though they are likable by nature, they have a slow and lazy approach to everything, which is enhanced if they believe they are being stimulated to take action against their will. They are inclined to do as little as necessary. In being annoyed by the other temperaments, the Phlegmatics are prone to tease those who annoy them or threaten to motivate them. They will use their ability to tease to get others angry and stirred up next to their calm. They also have a prominent selfishly stubborn streak. Their selfishness extends through the spheres of money, effort and sometimes emotions too. In another light, they can be seen as stingy. They are also indecisive. With their practical and analytical ability they can usually find a better way to do something, but it happens SLOWLY. The love-marriage challenge here is that even if they love someone, they rarely let the other person know it. They are opposed to work and marriage takes work. They prefer to conserve their energies for what they feel like. Their stubbornness gets worse with age, yet they will never stamp their feet, instead they will smile and graciously not do what has been asked. Even so, they do want to be people pleasers but second guess themselves into believing they will offend if they do or say anything, so they won’t, which suits them, because they don’t like ‘getting involved’.

In guiding a Phlegmatic youth, lessons in love, goodness, meekness, faith and motivational self-control are imperative.

Of course, as per LaHaye, many people are blends of these temperaments. Through self-reflection one would be able to discover their personal blend. Even so, facing and applying these points objectively, even for one temperament, is very difficult for many people as they don’t like to see and know the truth about themselves.

Adapted from the book “Spirit-Controlled Temperament” by Tim LaHaye

What a year! 2014 Adieu!

Good-Bye 2014

As I sit and wait for my last dinner of our human year 2014 to cook itself in the miraculous invention called ‘the oven’, I find myself drawn to my laptop to end the year as a blogger too.

The first thing I need to do is say: “Thank-You”. Thank-You to My God, The Universe and the Powers Almighty that have kept me clothed, fed, housed, employed and provided for in ways that so many of my fellow human beings have had to experience differently. My blessings are truly abundant and may all I have continually be used to support me in glorifying my Father in Heaven… I have no idea who else could be providing for me in such a way that I stare at my year end accounts and have to say “I have NO idea how I made it through the year without going without. Thank-You Lord, Thank-You!”

As my health struggles have persisted, 2014 has continually drilled humility, empathy, trust and faith into me. Living through a year of work stress that I have never experienced in such intensity before, ever, across all 7 of my career paths, I have been learning the difficult lessons of more patience, persistence, faith, trust and dealing with the moment as it is by making the best decision I can with what I have. With family challenges from all sides where my emotions have gone into fatigue with my body, I have fallen in line with more trust, more persistence, more patience, trust, faith and even more so: handing it over to God because I cannot handle it all. Financially, I have continued to budget, continued to trust and allow others to be generous as I have knelt in humility once again. In my home, Body Corporate nonsense has had a fellow owner attack me as “racist, malicious, nasty, evil” and other Spirit attacking words that I have had to hand over to God and learn that some battles are not worth it and lies shouldn’t be fueled with emotions, the truth needs the space to be set free without me trying to help it. Acceptance; has also been a huge lesson for me this year. Accept others are as they are, accept, and be the best you can be without judging, for their walk must be horrible for it to create their words, actions and accusations.

Amidst the stress and strain that took me at angles and upper-cuts that knocked me for sick, God stepped in and still allowed me to achieve dreams. Top 5% of my graduate year of 10 000 people, with my Cum Laude. My poetry recorded at discounted rates in a professional studio to go online with SoundCloud. Two international organisations asked to have my voice on their database. I was donated Adobe Premiere and Photoshop 12 by Adobe America to complete an international course on the software that I now have the privilege of rolling out to my learners in 2015. I became, much to my honour, both an aunt and a God-Mother to two incredibly beautiful children. I have seen my sisters blossom into amazing mothers, who have entrusted me with the prayer and Spiritual Guidance for their children. Add to this that their husbands agreed! I nearly fell over both times! Still, God is good and if I can be important in the lives of these two souls who have eyes and smiles that ignite everyone’s joy with such ease and grace, then I would have truly had a lifelong purpose on this planet.

Two of my plays are now on Kindle and one of my plays was published by “Off The Wall Publishing”. That was wonderful. My Book “Eish! London”, though sales dwindled along with my marketing efforts, continues to surprise me as every now and then Kindle puts a Pound in my account. I laugh! All that time, effort, hard work, perseverance and money for some pennies and Pounds… such is.

I was blessed with a camera and incredible sunrises to photograph, of which 4 prints have been purchased by people who loved them. Such an amazing experience! It was an Artist’s Way inspiration, along with my quest to distribute 100 pass-it-on books around the world, which I did. I received a message from a lass in Australia with connections in New Zealand and had a special request to hand make book 101 for her to pass on to her family in New Zealand, which will therefore put the original distribution as touching every continent, bar the north and south poles, on planet earth.

Every day of this crazy, difficult and taxing year has in some way or other had the stamp of God’s support and never-ending Grace and Love in it. At moments where I thought my wits and health were truly at an end, He showed me that, for Him, in Him, through Him, that is not possible, for He is endless and eternal and my Test truly became a Testimony as His light shone through me in ways I can’t begin to explain, because I couldn’t see it, I was simply trying to breathe and get through each day. He has also sent exactly the right books and quotes at exactly the right times and I have truly loved the positive karma from the TUT.com and Faithwriters.com emails every weekday. God truly is GOOD :-)

Naturally, now at 34, still single and still with a heavy heart at how much I’m missing my other half, how incomplete I am, I become ever so much more different to everyone around me. Divorcees, parents, wealthy, corporate, consumerist-orientated… and here I stand, single, no baggage of the romantic kind and thus no children, earning enough to be blessed, serving teenagers and God-orientated… Each year makes me feel even more separate from the majority and clinging even more to prayer and God in the desperate hope that it isn’t me who has this all wrong and that my journey in faith, perseverance and trust hasn’t been a complete waste, that I haven’t missed my train or the road I was supposed to take, or the man I was supposed to accept… Hoping in faith that all this hard work will be worth something in the end … but then, who is deciding what “worth” is anyway?
In God I trust…

Wishing everyone a 2015 where their trials and hardships of 2014 never need be repeated. Where lessons learnt are held and kept safe so that they need not be lived through again. May your belief in yourself and the knowledge of how much you are loved beyond comprehension settle in your soul and being for 2015 in a joyous, contented and peaceful way that surpasses all human understanding as you live and act in awesome love, without hidden agenda or selfishness. Blessings to you for a 2015 where you see the miraculous in everything and overflow with the gratitude life deserves!

May God Bless, keep and hold you into voluntary reciprocation :-)
BIG CYPBER HUGS!!!
Shannan

P.S. This year I decided not to sit at home alone, one for my sanity and self-love so I don’t dissolve into another bout of depression, and two to keep my family happy who are all rather worried about me. I’ve bought a ridiculously expensive ticket to go and see a show. So there’s hope yet for this recluse to reignite the positive-ness and joy she used to have so much of. Thanks for reading, trusting your celebrations are joyous and safe xx … praying I manage to stay awake through to midnight and then drive home … I’m getting old! ;-)

Food is ready and nails are dry – now for the drop-dead-hot outfit and a gorgeous 2015 for us all :-)

Merry Christmas Everyone, may the Glory of the Day capture your Heart in every way

And God put me in my place… after my last blog, where I admitted to the hell of my last few years and how Christmas has not brought the childhood joy it used to, I went to church the following Sunday evening. Bam, harder than the fist that brought me to loneliness tears, came one to humble me into gratitude and pull myself away from self-absorption.

The evening service was part of a series and I was catching the last episode as my regular church closes for evening services over Christmas. The series was entitled: “In Real Life” and they had walked through the Christmas story from the various perspectives of the characters involved. I’ve seen this done before when a reverend decided to be the storyteller and tell the story to the congregation as if he were the character concerned. This church did it in a different way, although the facts were pretty much the same. This time it was the story of “The Favoured One”, Mary, Jesus’ Mother.

Bit by bit her story was told. She was an unwed, pregnant teenager, who, by law, for those facts should have been stoned to death. She was heavily pregnant and still managed to ride 200km on a donkey (Emirates didn’t exist yet). With her waters near breaking-point, she was sent to sleep with the animals. Then with her new born infant and breastfeeding as a new mother, she had to go into exile in Egypt (a completely different country!) because the king was trying to kill her Son . . . and what does she do in this state? She writes the first Christmas Song (found in Luke) praising her Almighty Father. Alone, a husband who is trying his best, no women to support her, extreme circumstances all around, but an angel told her she was favoured, and she replied she would serve God. So did she serve with foul language and bitterness? No, she sang praises to The One who brought her the suffering because she knew that she was blessed beyond understanding. Going through Hell and she sings, with her first song having the same concepts that Jesus would later echo in his “Sermon on the Mount”. She sings. . . Wow!

Today, 2014 years later, the woman who sang through her suffering, persevered through watching her Son die needlessly in one of the most horrific ways known to man and who lived to serve, is prayed to (through) by Catholics THROUGHOUT THE GLOBE! Mary, female, unwed, Jewish teenager became the Mother of the Man in a Book called “The Bible” that has been printed in dozens of languages and distributed AROUND THE WORLD for DECADES… A lady who sang songs of praise to Her Almighty Father despite everything, because she knew she was blessed and favoured.

Naturally, it stung when God put me in my place and told me to stop moaning and get on with it. I had publically presented my misery and then I knew I’d have to publically reflect on the selfishness of my being… not so cool… so I figured, ja, at least Mary had Joseph, a husband, someone to be with her to take the edge off the loneliness. She also had Jesus as her Son and was completely in tune with God, and had an angel visit her personally… that’s not what I’ve got…

So God closed the Service with an extract from the movie “Passion of the Christ” where the director had taken liberties in how he told the story of Jesus from an “In Real Life” perspective. The extract was of a lonely man, who had no wife, who had no children of his own, who had all his followers desert him, who was falsely accused and sentenced based on nothing substantial whatsoever. The extract was of Jesus carrying his cross up to Calvary and his Mother telling him “I am here” when he fell on that walk (as per the director’s edit), as He had fallen when He was a little boy and Mary was there too. Jesus got up, bleeding, broken, hurting, alone, suffering, and He picked up His cross again and carried on up to the top of that hill to lay the example for Man as to how Great the Power of God is and how Awesome the Love of God is for every single one of us.

My continued selfishness, next to the man who did the ultimate for Love and gave His life, just rang out as completely unjustified, narcissistic, lowly and not worthy of the Lord I serve. As I was shown The Easter Death, I sat with tears streaming down, sad for my humanness and elated for the Power of Grace. Humility: hard to learn and vital to keep Hope alive and Love in practice.

I was reminded of one pastor’s story: that usually when he asks a congregation how they were saved in coming to know Jesus Christ; most hands do not go up for reading the Bible, nor listening to a sermon, but they usually all go up because one person was a light to them, one person stood out in their Christianity and love and presence as someone who was filled with the Holy Spirit. If I go around being my naturally melancholy-self, moaning and being sad, then I am not serving My Lord and Saviour. I am not reflecting what needs to be shown to the world in His generosity, love, patience, kindness, perseverance and faith, hope and truth. Instead, I am showing that I serve a God that I don’t look like I believe in; because when You are a Child of God, there is room for nothing but His Goodness and Hope and our actions must reflect that if we truly believe and want to follow Jesus’ example of Love.

Thus, Christmas is the birth of Hope, the Birth of the first person to be the Son of God in the flesh, the first role model to show us how to live to be free of the craziness of this messed up world. Christmas signifies the birth of Love in a one-on-one, no bars held, no limits over-pouring of Grace, and THAT is INCREDIBLE! That is more than a reason to celebrate. THAT is the miracle of Christmas, each human being having proof that they are loved and God is Good!

I’m wishing everyone a BLESSEDLY content, peaceful and joyous Christmas where the hope of the day overrides all other challenges and the truth that all things are possible and that you are loved unconditionally resounds in your hearts and minds over and over and over again, no matter where you are or who you are with or without, may you know that you are NEVER alone. God Loves You more than beyond the furthest star in the galaxy, around the cosmos and back again a thousand times. May you openly use Christmas to celebrate the Love and Grace gifted to you by no action of your own.

Stay fabulous and have a rockingly, mindblowingly, Jesus-exploding 2015 and beyond xx

Christmas – the hurt and emptiness of being alone.

2 Timothy 1v7 “God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of sound mind.” A different version reads: “…his Spirit fills us with power, love and self-control.”

Artist’s Way Week 3 reads as so: “SHAME – Those of us who get bogged down by fear before action are usually being sabotaged by an older enemy, shame. Shame is a controlling device. Shaming someone is an attempt to prevent the person from behaving in a way that embarrasses us. Making a piece of art may feel a lot like telling a family secret. Secret telling, by its very nature, involves shame and fear. It asks the question “What will they think of me once they know this?” This is a frightening question, particularly if we have ever been made to feel ashamed for our curiosities and explorations… “How dare you?” angry adults often rage at an innocent child who has stumbled onto a family secret… “How dare you go into that dark place where we hide those things we don’t want you to know?”

The act of making art exposes society to itself. Art brings things to light. It illuminates us. It sheds light on our lingering darkness. It casts a beam into the heart of our own darkness and says, “See?”.”

In the light of this; in the light of Ephesians 5v13 “And when all things are brought out into the light, then their true nature is clearly revealed.” I am writing this blog on a different side of Christmas. The entire world writes about love, faith, hope, joy and the wonder of the birth of Jesus’ or just the wonder of getting gifts or charity or other good things that this one day of 365 inspires people towards. This blog is on the hurt, loneliness and darker side of Christmas that I pray few besides me have experienced.

It struck me yesterday, as hard as a fist into my gut, what many throughout the ages may have experienced during the buildup to Christmas and on the day (and maybe even worse for New Year and Valentines). Isolation. Being alone. Realising you have no-one. It hit me after a conversation with my sister as she invited me to spend Christmas with her in-laws. Another dear friend has invited me to spend Christmas with her family too. I am truly blessed to have options for the day and that I will not be physically alone or go hungry. Yet, there are different types of alone. The last 4 years in particular have weeded into my life an aloneness that I have never experienced before. It’s an emptiness, an incompleteness, a purposelessness without tangible explanation. It has been a grotesque battle with many tears and fights with myself as my ego and body feel the desire to share and care and my soul knows no desire but to serve and to give to as many souls as I physically can.

In growing up, I was the one who went to her room to read. The one who painted more than she spoke, sketched more than she conversed, and was behind the camera taking in everything far more than being in front of the camera. Yet, I was never ‘alone’; I was part of the whole, choosing to stand in a different place in the big house, so to type. Today, however, I’m not part of a whole any more.

Preparations for Christmas this year have highlighted this more brightly than any previous year. Coming from a very small family with an aunt and uncle, 2 cousins, 2 sisters and my parents, there really isn’t any secondary family to get used to being with, or apart from. So it was the 5 of us, or 5 plus any of the 5 grandparents (divorces do that) and/or the other 4 in my aunt and uncle and young’uns. Maximum 15 and then through the years the grandparents passed on, but the cousin got married, then divorced. The sisters got married. The next generation began…

Today, for Christmas, what was once my nuclear family and another is no more. Each sister is now a mother with a husband, that’s taken away my nuclear to create theirs. My parents are divorced and one remarried. Instead of accepting the invitation to be with his grandson, whom he barely ever sees, dad has chosen to go with his second wife to a game park for Christmas. He did not have a nuclear family when growing up himself, so maybe that is why he doesn’t want to be part of one now. Maybe he feels that his grandson is not that important. Maybe he feels that Christmas is not that important. Who knows, and he certainly won’t converse about it to let anyone know… but, what I do know is that I go caroling at old age homes on Christmas Eve and those old dears would give their last heartbeat to spend a Christmas with their grandchildren who have immigrated with their parents overseas. My dad: not interested in seizing the opportunity others would die for. My mother, still single, has opted to join her granddaughter in a different city. The cousins and co travel their own paths too…

All this separateness serves to show me that Christmas can also act as a great big neon sign reminding us of our mistakes and hurt, like it’s a billboard that has the gaping holes of our broken lives on display… Of course, and thankfully, every billboard has two sides, and the other side of this board is the reminder of hope, of a new baby, of happy times returning again, and that happy times have existed and that they are truly possible. When moving in Love, with God, all things are possible. Christmas bells are ringing out in hope at this time of year, and that is soothing balm for the hurt; but balm often has its sting before it soothes, and yesterday I was dealing with the sting.

In the course of my last 4 years of hell and separation and soul-searching and God-questioning and fogginess about everything in life, I proceeded to tell my family my dark secrets, tired of keeping burdens within me and living in the pretence and politeness that was eroding me towards cancer on the inside. This resulted in my exclusion from the family picture. I was literally forgotten and left out of the family pic at my niece’s Christening as I was in the ladies at the time. It was the result of my walk into my place of shame for being honest and trying to figure stuff out as the flawed human being I am, and we all are. My family do not talk about such things as feelings. It is shameful and embarrassing to tell the truth and get it out there. “How dare I?” I am a ‘child’ and should not step out of line. Before moving into my open truth, I prayed hard, I read much, I contemplated, I stepped out in faith, in a leap and hope that I was in a family that offered unconditional love. I was wrong. I got burned. Now it is Christmas again. I stand alone. What was once a beautiful picture of hope turned into a shattered reality of hurt, emptiness and being alone.

My God is still absolutely with me. He speaks to me every day. He offers me Grace and Love in ways that often make me cry as He is so Awesome. My soul is content that it has done what it needed too, that it has stepped out in love and honesty and revealed a strength that can only be attributed to God and no other. I haven’t gone near anti-depressant pills; God-willing it will stay so, as so very many people I know are on them. God has counseled me as I couldn’t afford the expensive ‘degreed’ version. Still, even so, being in faith, being in God’s love, and knowing His awesomeness does not take away the earthly hurt of knowing physical loneliness, knowing that no other is there, but God. Yes, that is supposed to be enough. Yes, it is supposed to be accepted that He is all I need, and I try daily to walk that walk of faith, and live a life dedicated and reflective of HIS LOVE, but it is so hard all on your own. It is so hard when what you thought was your foundation, your family, your support, has disintegrated and God says: “No, only Me.” It feels like deprivation. It feels like cruelty. It feels like emptiness and an earthly inadequacy. An earthly space of “this is not fair, this is not easy, this SUCKS.” And once again, my soul and mind box.

Last night, I watched 4 inspirational documentaries on C.S. Lewis, a phenomenal author, Aleksander Solzhenitsyn, another incredible author and survivor of Russian communism, Mother Teresa whose selfless life dedicated to LOVE brought me to tears, and Elie Wiesel, an incredible author as a survivor of the holocaust. All of these people changed the world. All of them dedicated themselves at some point to Our Father Who Art in Heaven. All of them were lonely souls that suffered beyond what any human should have to endure and they did it with Nobel prizes!

God told them to write and they wrote, boy did they write! And still, God pesters me to write and I sit back thinking, but Lord, My Father, what? What am I going to write about? I have no imagination, I have done no work of world-changing value, I don’t hold the ‘earthly qualifications’, I battle with myself, my soul, my ego, and my earthly desires. Being on earth where there is so much killing, completely screwed up priorities, so much self-hate and desire to control, manipulate and hurt others for self-aggrandisement, and so very little love. What can I contribute? And God says write my child, write it all…

The DVD of the biographies was reduced to R35 from R120 when I bought it on sale. 3 of the characters – writers. 3 of the characters – unmarried at death. Mother Teresa left her family, never to see them again, when she 18! Coincidences? I think not. I cry in my heart, because all I have to write is my truth. A sad place, at a time where everyone is singing out: Joy to The World! And I sit and look and think: But they don’t get it, they just don’t get it… and the chances that anyone is actually going to read about the struggles of some single, childless, non-sociable 34 year-old are very very slim… so I still don’t understand why God is yelling at me to write, when all it does is entrench and verbalise how much sadness is in me… I must write for what appears to be no reason whatsoever, the internet is HUGE, most blogs just get lost anyway… ugh…

I will attend church on Christmas morning, the only member of my family who will do so, unless my brother-in-law and sister get my mother to go in Johannesburg; that would be wonderful. I will find out what my last grandparent is up to and ‘fit her in’, and I shall attend the lunch hosted by my sister’s in-laws and her nuclear family, as I feel more alone and out of the photograph than I ever have before.