Grief does a number on you you will never see it coming.
I remember on the day of laying Fathe to rest, many people came up to me saying they had wanted to come but hadn’t because they were busy and now they were out of time. Some knew he had been unwell and were prompted to come but never did. The saddest ones for me were a couple of instances:
Those we had specifically called because we knew they were to receive a mantle to extend from his life and they never came.
Those who heard and in their heart of hearts knew they needed to come but could not or did not make time.
Those who could not deal with the sight of this once virile man, weak, silent, and bedridden so they never came.
As I have sat in this space with different people, i find it very fascinating how grief can change people. I am saddened for those who now carry a deep and crippling sense of guilt because they did not come. I know how that burden can break some. Yet I am critically aware that there is nothing I can do that will take away their guilt. The sadness I saw in their faces was devastating but there was nothing I could do about it. Even when we said it was ok, we could not wipe out the pain and regret there. I saw people stand by the grave and stare as if they needed to have a moment to reconnect…but he was gone for good.
It is easy to hear that someone is unwell and not be able to visit them but when you feel the unction to talk to someone, do it. If your heart longs to see someone, go and see them. Whatever it is you need to do, make sure you do it. Live life without regret and free of wonder.
It’s easy to live life until you journey with someone dealing with health challenges. One of the most challenging ailments to navigate is Alzheimer’s dementia. I won’t look at the technical medical terms because they are overwhelming.
For many years it was just another term that meant forgetting and losing memory and oh well, it didn’t seem that bad until we traveled the journey as a family. What started simply as short-term memory loss gradually became clumsiness and ended in immobility.
It is a harrowing journey that families bear, often in silence because when they try to explain it to others, it seems like normal aging at first. I remember the first day I met someone who had been through the journey I almost cried. For once, someone got me, someone understood my questions, frustration, sadness, and sense of loss. Finally, someone had ideas for me on how to support my mother. That was priceless!!
Recently as we shared the journey with a dear family friend, it struck me just how much we could not and had not shared with the world when she just broke down and cried. You see, about ten years ago, Dad retreated from the public eye when he retired for the third and final time and that is the memory everyone had of him…strong, full of laughter, walking with a limp but walking. Yet over ten years he slowly lost every little bit of that and spent his last days in silence.
A couple of things happen when people retreat from the public eye that we never think about before that. Connections and relationships change, some are lost, some are deepened, and most go into limbo. Limbo in this case is neglect or suspension. Each one is waiting for the other to make the move to connect and many times it is too late before they are restored if at all.
If someone in your circle has gone out of circulation, find them. Even if you have nothing to say, just say hello, share love, hug them close or just sit with them. There is greater friendship in silence but the greatest thing you could do for a family in crisis is the gift of presence.
I took a break at the end of last year to finalise some of my assignments that went into early Jan and that was it. Many things have happened but the biggest one was when my mum fell and broke her hand. Life stopped for a bit because we had to get her care against some incredible odds in the healthcare scene but we persisted.
I am the youngest in our family but the one who gets the hard things done. Some call me pushy, I say I am assertive. I know what needs to be done and so I work to get it done. I also live near my mum so I stepped in as the next of kin with her hospitalisation. It rings different when you are signing off forms the procedure knowing full well that if anything happens you are the one who approved. Something about that makes you think about life.
I remember sitting in her hospital room for hours waiting for her to come back from surgery and when she did…she was so groggy I realised I should have just gone home. For the next round of surgery, I booked her in and stayed around until she was in surgery then realised that it would be very late before she came out of recovery so I went home and advised the family not to go to the hospital.
It is sobering when you know that your loved one is truly in God’s hands and there is nothing you can do. Our greatest blessing was a great surgeon who has not become a family friend and is helping us solve other orthopedic challenges in our ecosystem.
This season has reminded me that God is the one in control. The hand of God is not too short to save nor is his ear deaf to hear (Is 59:1) nor is he blind to see what is happening in our lives. He knows the end from the beginning and his purposes will stand (Is 46:10) so this season was on his radar all along. He knew that 2023 would start with all this pressure and he had already prepared the needed provision for the season.
I remember just hanging out with mum in the hospital and a friend shows up with enough food to feed her whole household for a month without request. He just showed up, paid for a cab, and filled the boot and half of the back seat with shopping. Mum was due to shop that week but we had to focus on getting her sorted. I remember friends showing up and hanging out with me until the surgery was done because they wanted to ensure she was well. My friend’s mother came to see mum and they had such a blast reminiscing after twenty-four years of not seeing each other.
When things are hard and not working as we expect, it is easy to wonder where is God and why he is being unfair but God… He is never late, and neither does he forget us. We are inscribed on His palms and our walls are always before him (Is 49:16).
Will we have hard times? Yes
Will we be alone in these times? Never
Can we be sure of his presence? Definitely
His gift to us is the guarantee that he will never leave us alone and his grace will carry us through. I cannot explain it all but I have known his grace, peace, and personal ministry to me in this season through the people he has sent my way. Some are ten thousand miles away but they have loved on me as if I was in their neighbourhood. Some are next door or a few minutes away and they have watched over me like an eagle her chics.
No matter how hard things get: God is on the throne.
7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. 8 He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. 9 In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. 10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one
1 John 4:7-11
Love may translate into a feeling but it so much more than that. It is a daily choice to get closer to God and then live out our lives as he instructs.
Love is from God
Love is instruction
Love is a Covenant
Love is a supply line
Love is a source of strength
Love is an antidote or cure for fear
Love is a measure for our walk
Love triumphs over darkness
Love is a place of rest
Love is not earned
Love is accepted
Love is intentional
Do you understand who you are?
You are the beloved of God, the apple of His eye, a city on a hill that cannot be hidden, a chosen one, a king, a priest. You are loved by God and that is enough.
In a previous piece, The Essence of Faithfulness, Ruth’s life taught us that we all receive a gift that we must work on faithfully and bear fruit to attain our calling and assignment on earth. Faithfulness is foundational because it attracts the resources needed for the assigned task, weaves in the connections needed to live and thrive, and provides stability to our walk.
We are created for community life thus we thrive through faithfulness to the call and consistent communication. Communication is the impartation or exchange of information through a medium, which can be written, spoken, or in any other form. Effective communication is designed around the needs of the recipients and listeners so that they can truly connect to and interpret what the speaker is saying.
For this conversation, we will explore three levels of essential communication.
God: I used to see God as the guy sitting up there waiting to hit me on the head for everything I did that he did not like. I have since learned that he isn’t like that at all. He is the creator of the universe, Father, and lover of all. He is our source, strong tower, shield, and defence. He loves us and is always speaking words of life to us with the hope that we will listen and then guide us. His words do not return to him void but accomplish all He determined they would (Isaiah 55:11).
He does not withhold from us but provides ways to connect to us. I searched high and low for the perfect way to connect with God. In the search, I found there are several ways to reach him. We connect to God through prayer, the Scripture, the spoken word from his servants, His promises (the ones He has given you as part of your journey), and His blueprint. When God gives us a word, he supports it with a plan and people to bring it to work, His Blueprint. Our conversations with God are a response to his love.
Self: We are all created in God’s image and likeness: his beloved. However, do we understand what that means? Do we see ourselves as worthy of his love and love ourselves fully? Do we accept ourselves as we are? How do we speak to ourselves?
I am reminded of Proverbs 23:7, “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.” This reality is foundational for every person on earth. We all speak to ourselves based on how we perceive ourselves. We respond to the image in the mirror based on our inner truth. However, is it aligned with whom God says we are and are becoming?
If we are negative to ourselves, we will speak negatively and out of line for our calling. To be faithful to God’s call on our lives means we must be true to how we deal without ourselves. Be faithful to the word of God for who you are and speak to yourself in the right tone; full of love.
Others: Scripture tells us to love others as we love ourselves (Matthew 12:31). This means that I cannot be faithful to a friendship with someone else if I am not faithful to my relationship with myself and God. My relationships will be unstable if we are not communicating well with others. How I engage with others is frequently premised on my personal self-awareness and self-confidence levels.
Which of the three levels of communication do you find challenging? Are you in good stead in all of them or is there one that is a struggle? I have learned that I can only work on what I acknowledge. My previous poor self-communication had significantly affected how I spoke to myself and in turn, impacted how I expected people to deal with and treat me. I choose to work on communication in my journey to consistent faithfulness.
Essence means the inherent nature or indispensable quality of something abstract or a concentrated extract. It is the thing that determines character. Faith means trust and devotion while faithful is remaining true to the fact, to be loyal and steadfast. A faithful person is the opposite of a traitor. Faithfulness is an action word and the quality of being faithful and keeping true to your word. It also means following through on your commitment,
One depiction of faithfulness is Ruth in Ruth 1:11-17.
Can you imagine getting married and your spouse passing on then your mother-in-law going back to her home? She asks you to remain but you choose to go with her no matter what. Ruth in the bible really intrigues me because I don’t know if I would have been that way. It is hard enough for many of us to leave things that are familiar but what would it be to uproot yourself completely?
A couple of things catch my attention:
She had and lost: the loss did not taint her sense of life. I imagine she still loved life and particularly her mother-in-law. What kind of relationship did they have? How had they cultivated it? Where did they deepen it? How did she maintain her inner sense of balance?
She chose to remain: Naomi begged her to go back to her family but she said no. I can imagine that as they walked or travelled Naomi would keep asking her to go back but she was steadfast. How did that certainty remain? What did she know that kept her with Naomi? I remember Naomi telling her that she could not give her a husband yet Ruth remained. Ah! This woman.
She listened to and followed instructions: Ruth had no knowledge of how to be a good Israelite woman. How could she, a Moabitess, know? So she listened and followed everything Naomi told her to do. I also imagine that she watched Naomi’s interactions with others, and listened in on conversations and prayer times. She was on track right down to the evening visit to the harvest fields to see Boaz.
How many of us would be so diligent in such challenging situations? Would you even think about it? What I find interesting is the seeming simplicity of her life even with very challenging circumstances. Remember they were two daughters-in-law and Orpah went back. Please note, there is nothing wrong with her going back. It is what made sense to her. Yet Ruth chose a different path because she knew in her hearts of heart that her path was aligned with Naomi and she would not let go.
Each of us has that kind of calling. There are people who are integral to our coming of age and reaching impact. In recent years, I have encountered several of my integral people and it has been transformative. They have spoken over me and challenged me to keep growing but it has also shown me a few things.
I RECEIVED a gift from God: it was inputted into me before my birth and it is designed to make my life journey successful. So do you!
I must WORK on and with the gift: the work includes understanding, using, creating room for others and growing through the process. So must you!
I must BEAR FRUIT: the proof of my life and gift is in the lives transformed; that is my fruit. A tree without fruit is either cut down or ignored so imagine a life that does the same. I must bring forth and so must you.
The only way to do this is to remain faithful to the call of God. I have a choice to remain faithful or not and I have learnt that being faithful to the cause is all that matters to me today. The essence of faithfulness is the CHOICE to remain true to who I am, what I know and who I am called to be.
I previously wrote about being out of line with my spiritual leader. If you missed it, be sure to read about submission or stubbornness. I could console myself that though I was out of line, it was mostly ever so slightly. Yet out of line, no matter how little is out of line and I needed to recalibrate and realign.
Realignment is not as simple as I expected it to be. I thought I would pray and get over it, but alas! It was so much more. God led me on a journey that brought all my pride and self-importance to the surface and then crumbled it one piece at a time. He exposed my sense of self and unveiled the ugliness underneath it. He uncovered the deep hurt and fear that made me build walls and showed it up for what it was: hiding.
How could I hide these things from myself for so long?
The unveiling of myself was somewhat painful but not hard. Realigning was the challenge. I had to acknowledge that distraction had moved me away from my assigned path. I was so used to my leader that I had forgotten how to listen, respect and honour him.
In teaching, Apostle Selman explained that we are all multi-dimensional. We receive grace from people based on the dimensions of their lives we acknowledge and how we interact with them. So if I see my lead as a friend, I only receive friendship and friendly advice. If only a brother or sister, that is what I receive. If I see them as a prophet or priest and engage with that dimension, I will partake in the prophetic and priestly. However, to fully receive all that is mine, I must understand how God views them and their assignment and respond appropriately.
Ah! Indeed I was off track because I had become lax in my dealings.
I expected my lead to understand when I did not show up as if I was showing up for him. I expected him to check on me and pray for me always. I expected others in the team to understand when I did not participate fully. I forgot to pray for him and the work he does. I missed learning opportunities because I had heard him speak so often that I was less engaged when he repeated teachings.
My first port of realignment should have been the knowledge that God assigned me to His servant and work. I needed to reconnect to why God attached me to this particular leader. My behaviour was a great reflection of my relationship with God: a mirror of the importance I had given Him. My inconsistency and flippancy said a lot more about my walk of faith than I could imagine.
The only remedy was total recalibration.
I asked God for sight, healing and restoration, pleaded for mercy and grace; I sought a pathway back to wholeness. God graciously gave them all to me. However, the work was still incomplete without an apology to my leader. It did not matter that I was one of the more consistent ones. It did not matter that he was not upset or frustrated with me. It only mattered that God had shown me my error that I had to correct.
The apology brought me to my knees, head bowed by the weight of my actions. I had a clear picture of my faults and those of the team. I could see how our actions had short-changed many of us. Only God can understand what I saw that day and the weight of it. I understood how important honouring God’s servant appointed to lead us is.
Honour is a door to dimensions we would otherwise not know. It is the foundation of growth in all aspects of life and the key to revelation and insight. Honour cannot be traded or demanded. Honour is purely by the revelation of who the person is and what they represent in God. Honour is about obedience to divine instruction and not manipulation to get a blessing.
Honour bears rich and valuable fruit.
I received a verbal blessing for realigning, a lighter spirit and peace in the depths of my soul. Certain things that weighed me down and confounded me shifted. Major decisions I had made but could not keep became possible. My eyes opened, my ears popped, my mind connected to concepts then my hands produced good work. Now it was clear that the sense of stagnation I had was partly because of where my heart and mind had been. There are dimensions I could not rise into when I had dishonoured or been lax with the servants of God.
Do not be like me and live so flippantly that you miss your divine reality.
My change has come as I have learned to believe the word of God fully. The shift has settled as I have begun to see my leaders for who they are in God’s sight. I have become watchful of the leads I serve and now understand the truth of who they are. I have changed how I interact with my leaders. The measure of grace I receive from them has also changed.
Sometimes we wonder why things are not working. Doors to opportunities remain shut while the promises we are waiting for remain unmet. Has something in this article challenged you? Good! Now have a conversation with God; ask Him to show you the state of your heart, what is off track and how to turn it around.
As I thought about moving from unbelief to belief, I realised that my early life had shaped my perspectives when I learned how to interact with people and what to expect. The shift happened as people decided to go on with their lives and keep growing. It became clear that I could not count on most of them because they had things to do that made me unimportant in their scheme of things.
I had always assumed that everyone wanted me to see myself grow and become better until I learned that I had to take care of myself and my growth. I was perplexed because this did not look or feel authentic to how I wanted to be loved and appreciated.
My ability to believe stuttered because of what I had experienced.
It took a while to understand that I am the total of my thoughts. My convictions and beliefs show in my words because they are inner work. In my reflections, I remembered Joseph, Esther and others in scripture who went through hard times but did not leave the faith. I also thought of people who went through hard times in this life and walked away from the faith.
I understood the dangerous notion that if we walk with God our Father, life should be stress-free and struggle-free but is that true? No, it is not. Show me anyone who did great things for and with God without some hard times in their lives. I have looked around but cannot find a single person whose life spoke to the enormity and goodness of God without going through something difficult.
But guess what; God never leaves us alone, especially in trying seasons.
God always steps in for His people and gives us a way out. We see this when he rescued Israel from Egypt using Moses and his crew and sorted Abraham by making it possible to have a child in his old age. God strengthened Mordecai to support Esther so she could go before the king and sent four unshakable Hebrew boys into captivity together so they would stand and keep each other accountable. He sent Ananias to anoint Paul after the Damascus experience and sent Phillip to interpret scripture for the Ethiopian eunuch.
God never promised us a good and simple life. He promised to be with us and manage things as we lean on him. God declared that he would stand with us and walk the journey no matter what happens, how long, how far or who walks with us. He promised to provide a way out in times of trouble like he did when Paul and Silas were in prison when the people prayed.
Faith is the certainty that God is on the throne and in control.
Belief now means a few different things to me:
I will stand on the word of God because it is reliable.
Nothing will change or shift my position or faith in God.
I will align with people who encourage me and hold me to account for the journey.
I will speak the words of life to my heart and over my life.
I will remind myself of His goodness every day.
I will write a memorial of how He has come through for me.
I will align myself with His purposes for my life.
I will surround myself with people with a deeper understanding of divine principles.
I will remember that God is aware the state of affairs and all is well.
I will stand on the plan for my life as designed in heaven.
Shifting to belief has meant that I must re-wire my mind to our new state and position.
Scripture has become my foundation and strength. It encourages me daily to remain truthful and on course despite the situation.
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28
In the world, you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world. John 16:33
Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaketh. Matthew 12:34,
Faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen (Hebrew 11:1).
Do not despair in your situation, God has a plan for your ultimate good. Shalom.