There is lots of emphasis on being authentic and steady but is that helpful?
We have so many conversations about being real but too many of us are not. We do everything in our power to remain the same but nothing in life is that steady. No one remains static all their lives. No one ever remains the same all their lives. We change as we transit through the different phases of life but so often, we are so fixated on remaining the same that we miss the best parts of life.
Remember how hard it was to deal with not getting your way as a child that your threw every tantrum in the book to get your way? Remember how you rolled your eyes at your folks when you were mad or irritated as a teenager? Remember the flutter in your stomach when you saw that guy across the room or that girl walking and you knew you just had to be with them? Remember how you changed your behaviour to bag that relationship and keep your date happy? Remember settling into the marriage and wondering who or what you married because this wasn’t that person?
Remember how she had the little ones and just changed as if in a blink or how he became aloof with the arrival of the children? Remember the insurity about that deal or job or layoff yet you tried to keep face no matter what? Remember how the folks sickness shifted your life but you had to be strong for everyone else?
There is an endless list of general life things that have affected you deeply.
We are raised to be strong, reliable, successful, with deep faith and engaged yet more than half the time we don’t have the capacity to be anything close to that. Life happens and we respond then people say, ah, you were never like that…what has happened? Or we call our folks and friends to say so and so has changed. Or the staff in the office or co-workers say they have never seen you like this.
There is a lot of pressure from those around us to remain reliable in the state they have always known us with the same intensity no matter what. We set ourselves on a path of improbability because the challenges, joys and sorrows of life work on us daily to shift how we see it and how we respond to it. Every smile, fight, disappointment, joy, success, failure, struggle etc. takes its toll on us and changes our responses even as we don’t always realise it.
The truth is…life changes us daily.
The changes we experience daily are often irreversibly, but we work diligently to cover it up and appear the same. We are so wired to be the same old same old that we do everything in our power to keep it so. Rest assured…you are not the same person you were yesterday because your experienced have altered something within you.
Every conversation should be a challenge to be different. Every tear shed should teach you something. Every thought and belief system challenged should lead to growth, therefore you cannot be the same person today that you were ten years ago, let alone yesterday. The intention in life is to transform with every situation to consistently become who God sees you as and that is rarely our focus.
We must accept daily change.
I look back to who I was in campus and who I am now. There are fundamental things that are the same (maybe about 20%), but is I am honest, I am nothing like the twenty year old who entered university all those years ago. There are people I fought with and detested then who have become an integral part of my life today. There are people who were my pillars of strength as few as four years ago who are nowhere on my radar now. There are clothes I loves, colours I wore, designs I cherished that I cannot stand today.
The changes only come to life when we actively assess life looking for our challenges and successes to see our responses and how we have changed. I can clearly see how I have changed in the last eighteen years including what drives to anger and affects my moods to what drives me for work. I have to be honest that some people no longer appeal to me as people to hang around with because we have grown and changed then let go of the relationship.
Separation and change are an important part of growth.
As I stand aside and look within, I see things that need to change so I focus on that. As I focus on growing those who do not want to will either complain, walk away, or cheer me on. Some will deliberately try to make me mad or make a scene as they leave to see how much ‘love’ them. Everyone is entitled to their opinion.
Lets be clear that I will not stop growing for you; neither will I expect you to stop growing for me. My only expectation of our connection is mutual growth and support that we may become the best version of ourselves. I am far from perfect so I will mess up and I will apologise, but I will keep walking no matter who or what does not like it. Do not be fooled by my calm demeanour or seeming inertia…it is the pool of my refreshment and growth. Do not be confused by the current ‘struggle’ that is my life; it is part of the process. Never doubt that I am committed to becoming more than I am today and tomorrow will be the foundation for the next day.
You know how a single maize seed planted and waters brings many cobs on the stalk and many more seeds? That is what I was thinking about. One small thing lets go of its life and brings forth many more lives and feeds even more. Is that all? Not by a long shot; if you have read my writing for a while you know there are always multiple perspectives. If you are new here, welcome aboard!
I remember many years ago, standing by the grave of my grandmother (Susu), a little, big woman, wondering if this was the end. She was little, only four feet eleven inches tall, but big in her inner strength and ability to raise nine children, run a fifteen-acre farm, support her family and love on others. I remember her purposeful steps, occasionally twinkling eyes, a beautiful smile, her laugh, her steely eyes, her strength of character and her tenacity. Could that really be the end of her? I surely hope not.
It took a while to deal with her death but in time, things began to surface for me, and I wondered how I had never seen them. I have talked about it before how she was harder than me than the rest, how she believed in me even when I did not. On the other hand, she was a sweetheart to me sending for a quarter kilo of meat from 5k away as soon as we arrived so we could have a few special pieces of slow cooked meat with her just before we leave the village. Or how she would send for arrowroot and sugar cane from the farm by the river as soon as I arrived because she knew I loved them.
Losing her was big because the macadamia trees seemed to realise, she was gone and production went down. The mango trees never produced the same, the terraces in the farm seemed lonely and the air of warmth and festivity in homestead dimmed over time. there was no more maize and pigeon peas in a pot in the smoky kitchen or arrowroot and sugar can waiting for me. Even though it took me a long time to really understand, I missed her steely eyes and determination more than anything else.
Sometimes it takes the loss of a loved one to really connect with life and growth.
Going back to the thought of the maize seed, Susu was a seed for my growth. She was the epitome of resilience and the example of grace. Yet I did not understand this until recently; long after she was gone. She planted a seed of self-sacrifice and visible effort. Her seed also included open faith and trust with no excuses living. She was deliberate about who she pushed intuitively knowing who to push and to be softer on. She knew if she just put out the right challenge things would fall into place.
I remember standing by her graveside at her burial dry eyed and strong because that was how I saw her. She had chosen a DNR over a life with health challenges. How could one little lady be so strong and confident to move on to eternity? She knew she had run her race, kept the faith and planted all the seeds her life needed her to put out. She was done and ready to go out strong. She was a seed ready to produce more in its season.
The analogy of seed buried in the ground ready to sprout and produce more than it could above ground rose again recently. The seed may not know it will bring forth previously unknown fruit, in quantities no one ever anticipates but it willingly lays its life down to produce more than itself. Additionally, the side of the seed does not determine the side of new life; consider the size of the mustard seed and the mustard tree. It got me thinking, can every challenge I go through become the fertile ground to build me up?
I did not realise how deeply losing Susu would impact my life until later. I remember times when I could not see the road ahead, I remembered her resilience and I was able to keep going. I remember days when I wanted out of very difficult home and work circumstances when changing my mind about the situation totally altered the situations. I remember days of food shortages or limitations and recalled simple foods she cooked for us in her home.
She was not perfect, but I learnt the pattern of seed and harvest from her.
I must push the thought further to make my life full. I must see more, know more, understand more, and live more. In the search I realised that the other side of the seed is the habits, patterns, and behaviours in my life. They could be making room for me or holding me back.
Might I need to die to procrastination to reach my fullness? Could I attain that business goal by dying to my sleep, or TV or something else? Might my faith walk grown deeper when I plant sacrifice, devotion, and accountability in it? Could I reach my fitness goal by watching what I eat, how I exercise and how much water I drink? Am I being deliberate about my choice and walk?
Something in me must die so that I might find or attain the next level. I must let go of the things that hold me back so that I can rise. Some of the things that hold me back are fear, uncertainty, negative emotions, laziness, negative vibes, experience, past success and strengths. The seed for my future is the fruit of my present. I can no longer hold onto today’s success because it stands in the way of tomorrow’s accomplishments.
Today is the seed I plant for tomorrow’s rising. Tomorrow is the seed for the next day’s rising. Every day, challenge, joy, success, challenge, hope and dream, if the seed for the next place, assignment, place of impact etc.
Don’t fear dying to today, rather fear having no seed for tomorrow.
Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain. John 12:24
I received the sweetest call recently. It was my sister but the voice on the other end were two of my favourite little people…her little ones. We understand each other pretty well with a translation from my sister. We talk often enough as girls but this call was interesting because it is the little people who orchestrated it.
Little Missy walked up to mummy and said, ‘Call a friend.’ My number was called and of course they recognised my picture and said ‘That is aunty,’ a little confused that she called me and not a friend in their perspective. ‘But she is my friend,’ Mummy replied and they smiled…it made sense to them in that moment and off they went chatting away.
So who are your friends?
I am not talking about people you barely know but are found in common circles. Neither am I talking about workmates or people in your neighbourhood you wave at. Nor drinking or coffee buddies. I am talking about people who will come to your rescue or cry and laugh with you. People who know your roots, paths and destination. You are working to become better and more influential in life.
You respect one another’s faith and ensure it is built. You challenge each other to walk into your ultimate fullness. You dream together, work towards the dream, attain it and dream again. You cheer each other, comfort each other and just have a drink or meal in silence when needed.
How easy is friendship?
True friendship is a work of art like the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. It took Michael Angelo four years of painstaking work to finish this work. Until then, Michael Angelo was better known a sculptor and he was set up at the instigation of two of his artistic rivals, the painter Raphael and the architect Bramante, who totally expected him to fail. He built a scaffolding and started with a painting of Noah and incorporated many stories from the old testament.
What captures my attention is the attention to detail and the commitment to do something he had never done to perfection no matter how long it took. He used the skills he had of bringing inanimate objects to life through sculpture bringing depth, character and emotions to the fore on the ceiling. He adjusted sizes as he went along until he got the right size that still captivates the masses today.
Can we build a work of art?
The simple answer is yes, the long answer is that it takes time. A recent series of conversation has me rethinking friendship. In one, it became clear that we often confuse friends and acquaintances. You cannot call me a friend before you know where I live, what I do for a living, what I believe in and for how long. If you don’t know any of these things about me, you are an acquaintance…no more.
The work of art and cultivation of a relationship is what takes us from acquaintances to friends. It takes time, effort and belief. Time because we hardly share everything about us at once and only do so because of trust. Effort because we will have to commit to conversation, dispute resolution, forgiveness, grace, sharing and much more. Belief because it is foundational that if I don’t have faith that our relationship is worth it then it wont be and I won’t invest in it.
Friendship is rather simple but needs work.
Very often in this age, we are online more than we are in face-to-face conversation and we assume that because we chat and comment on each other’s photos we are friends…hardly. You don’t have to be in the same town or country to build a friendship if you are deliberate and committed. Some of my closest friends are in other counties and time zones and the proof of our friendship continues to be the mutual commitment to make time for each other and to keep the lines of communication open no matter what. Our schedules are different so we have to be deliberate about making time for each other either by text, phone or other means of conversation.
It is about building bridges when one gets hurt and delving deep into our past to find and deal with root of our behaviour. If I have trust issues or fear or rage etc., I must dig deep to uncover the root cause, the real trigger, the foundation that has been built to allow that idea to thrive and control my life. If I am scared of being hurt, I must find the root and deal with it decisively. If I don’t deal with these things, it could scatter our relationship for good.
The clarity of a little one brought me deeper clarity.
Little Missy’s instruction to call a friend had us thinking through what it means to be real friends and truly love each other. It had us thinking about the meaning of friendship and its depth. It brought the depth of the commitment needed, to the surface and allowed us to re-calibrate our friendship.
I am clear who my people are and how much I am willing to give to them.
I am clear that my friends don’t have to look like me
I am clear that I must classify the different people in my life and deal with each one accordingly.
I am clear that common biology or genes do not make us automatic friends…it is built carefully.
I am clear that I will do my part and build my important friendships and live free
I am clear that I am building the foundation of my life one word, conversation, hug, smile and connection at a time
I am clear that every good relationship is worth the effort it takes to build it
When was the last time you asked someone how they are, and they said good, yet you could see it wasn’t so? I can bet it was very recent. What did you do about it? Did you ask again, or did you leave it at that? Did you ask someone else about it or just walk away? Did you pray for them?
I admit it is very easy to say it is well because someone else says they are good but is it all? Is that good enough? Should we just walk away? Should we prod? Should we keep pushing? Should we ask others? What should we do and why is it like this?
I dare say it is because it is above our pay grade.
Pay grade in ordinary life is the system of compensation for employment that determines how much people are paid. It determines how much on is paid and therefore how much one has to spend and what they can do. It opens and closes doors for many, creating limits for many.
In my context, pay grade is determined by the closeness of the relationship and the levels of honesty therein. A close relationship has a higher pay grade and deeper levels of connection and community than one with an acquaintance. Why? Work and time have been put into it that has built relationship. Deep connections are formed from long conversations, disagreements, forgiveness and restoration.
Pay grades rise with commitment.
As we get close and build deeper relationships we learn the value of unity and support. We understand that we are as strong as our deepest relationships and weak in the absence of them. We are as stable as our commitments and as weak as our laxity. Pay grade in relationship allows us to ask the hard questions, hold one another to account and comfort our tribe.
Pay grade is important because it tells us who can and cannot ask for things and expect accountability from. It also tells us what to share and what to keep inside as well as how to deal one to another. They are liberating because they are a clear indicator of safe spaces, neutral spaces and no go areas.
Pay grades are about balance.
Balance to keep growing and changing, shifting and making room for others. It is about understanding where you and your tribe are and how far you want to go together. We are the sum total of our closest friends and mentors so choosing the right people and building the connections are super important.
It is difficult to be open and close to everyone that is why there is need to identify the ones you are walking with and how closely. Many have told me it is hard to vulnerable these days and that could be true for some. Why? Past experiences have proven that you can be exposed or shamed because of what you have shared with others or they have been deserted because they did not fit in.
Vulnerability is truly an incredible gift.
The heart of our lives and the depth therein, is really a function of vulnerability and understanding the intricacies of relationships. I have a tribe who can ask any question and get an answer either immediately or when ready. Conversations are tagged and packed awaiting resolution and are never final until truly finalised. There is no judgement no matter what is done or said and there is deep accountability.
Who is in your pay system and who is not? Be sure to choose your partners well and grow together.