destined for…something

destiny 2What did you want to be as a child?  My brother used to tease me because my interests ranged from dolphin trainer to missionary, rock star to teacher.  At one point I distinctly remember wanting to be a “musicianary” (it’s a musician/missionary) who rode her horse through Uzbekistan while playing on her grand piano and singing about God.  I have no idea how that piano got onto that poor horse, or how the poor creature carried it, and I certainly don’t know why in the world I would want to go to Uzbekistan, but that was my dream.

Most of us, at some point after this, then realise that we need to come up with something feasible and secure – hence the primary school ideas of fire-fighting, teaching, nursing, or flying to the moon.  All of these are actual jobs!

And so we progress… getting more realistic… getting more boring!  And we lose those fantastic childish dreams!  What’s so terrible about being childish anyway?  Ask almost any adult where they’d like to be on their age timeline, and the likely response will be somewhere in the category where dreams were more than whimsies and farce.  At some lethal point, our dreams die and we are dragged into “reality”, and all too often we don’t go kicking and screaming.

So now I have to ask, what happened to our dreams?  True to myself, I must mention those dear Disney Princesses I am so fond of – Belle with her great “I want adventure in the great wide somewhere”, Kayley (Quest for Camelot) with her “How am I ever going to do great things if I’m stuck here with these silly chickens?”, or Pocahontas’ “Why do all my dreams extend just around the riverbend?”

In destiny 3our childish exuberance, we built dreams on clouds and wished for what might be.  And then it got hammered out of us. And I don’t see why…

Up until now, this post has been quite useless – it’s just a silly rant, really.  But I do have something to say – if you want the serious stuff, read on!

Here is my opinion: we need to embrace our dreams.  Sure, be realistic, but keep your head in far enough in the clouds that you can see your feet, and still reach for the stars.  When we expect our lives to amount to nothing, they inevitably do, but what makes the greatest people great is that they dared to dream – to do the extraordinary!  Alexander Bell dreamed up a way of talking to others over a distance!  People must have thought he had lost it…  Zuckerberg dreamed up a social networking site – and now we have facebook!  Noah built an ark, Esther became queen, David became king, Solomon was one of the greatest men to ever live.  The list goes on and on.  And maybe you’re arguing that not all these people dreamed – maybe you’re right… but maybe, just maybe, that’s because they let God do the dreaming for them.

Had Esther gone for “realistic” there would have been a poor girl sitting at home darning socks and a nation destroyed.  Had Solomon decided to go for “practical”, there would have been a mediocre kingdom and a bored, useless king.  What sets greatness apart from mediocrity is the insatiable desire to be more than what the world expects!  Those who dare to try – knowing that they might fail horribly – are the ones who make it.

I believe that each and every one of us believes we are destined for something.  We don’t necessarily know what, but we know there is something.  We spend years – sometimes our entire lives – looking for our purpose.  We discard our dreams for something expected and follow the status quo down a road that leads to boredom and dead ends.  Wouldn’t it be nice if we could go back to believing in happy endings?

I decided some time ago that I would believe that I am made for something greater than this world allows.  People seem to think that optimists are born that way – I beg to differ.  I chose to be this way.  I may have no clue where my life is going, or what I’m doing with my life, but I know that it’s going to be good and I know it because I never stopped dreaming.

…And this Disney Princess has already found her Prince.

Dreams do come true!  We just need to allow them to be shaped by the one who put them there instead of pushing them, and Him, away.  Believe in fairytales and have faith in God and you will see miracles you never even dreamed possible.

Child of God, you are destined for something great!

destiny 1

The Spirit of the control freak

control freak 1

We are the ones with anxiety disorders
The ones with five year plans
We take ourselves very seriously
We are peacemakers, do-gooders, givers, savers…
We are on time
We are overly prepared, well read, and witty
We pride ourselves on getting as little sleep as possible
And thrive on self-deprivation
We are relentless
Judgmental with ourselves
And forgiving to others
We are the daughters of the feminists who said:
“You can be anything”
And we heard:
“You have to be everything”

My best friend sent this to me recently and I could identify with all of it.  I smiled and nodded and laughed in that weird awkward way we do when we know something so accurately describes us that it’s just scary.  And then I read it again and felt my heart sink to my stomach.  This just makes me sad now.  In this simple description of an unnamed people I see positive, powerful ideals that I want to attain to.  But I also see a shaded vulnerability and a fear of never being enough.

I am control freak.  I claimed the title long ago and I’m ok with it.  I know that I lead because I want to know the process and outcome.  I plan ten years ahead.  I get frustrated when a new idea or plan is sprung on me.  I don’t do spontaneous.  I do control.  To me, the end justifies the means, and so I plan the end in order to arrange the means perfectly.  I don’t do unplanned – it throws me!control freak 2

Which is why, when I read 1 Corinthians the other day, I felt so much relief.  See, as a control freak, mysteries are annoying.  Yes, I like gifts and the mystery of what’s inside, but I hate events or circumstances that are a mystery.  This is one reason I can’t understand people who don’t believe in God – how do they survive not knowing why or how or when or who…  Life is HUGE mystery to most, but it’s made quite clear to us that God has revealed the mystery.  We’re not in the dark anymore!  Hallelujah!  And how do we know what we know?  Well, take a look for yourself at 1 Corinthians 2:10 (and you can be in control of this discussion for a while): “But God has revealed it to us by His Spirit…”

It really is wonderful to me to know that what I need to know is all there – it’s all laid out in front of me if I just let the Spirit of God open my eyes.  I wonder how often I miss stuff because I’m squinting so hard my world goes blurry.  I guess in that regard, the Spirit is like glasses – suddenly everything is a whole lot clearer!

But on top of the comfort of knowing that not only has God got it under control, but he’s also allowed me to have some control and to see the bigger plan, there is also the comfort of knowing that I am enough.

Remember how I spoke about being freakishly controlling as being secretly insecure? Well, God deals with that too.  1 Corinthians 2:15 says “The Spiritual man makes judgements about all things, but he himself is not subject to any man’s judgement…”  That whole insecurity thing comes from trying to seem enough to other people.  We’re so desperate for the affirmation of those around us that we forget that God affirmed us long ago – when he MADE us!

And I totally understand that when people are looking at you like last months tuna mayo sandwich, it’s kind of hard to remember that God is looking at you with love.  But again, maybe it’s time we insecure control freaks took hold of the gift of the Spirit and used some discernment in our thoughts.

The whole passage ends with “But we have the mind of Christ”.  I could sit and read that line for ages!  We are so incredibly undeserving.  It’s actually insane!  I’m being serious, if you’ve made it this far through this post, take a moment to stop and consider the immensity of what those seven words are saying.

Did you stop?

No!

I said stop.

Ok… I guess I can’t really make you, but I tried.

All I’m really saying here, I guess, is that it’s ok to be a little controlling.  It’s ok to be me and to want to know what’s happening and to control certain areas of life (after all, when I bake a cake, I need to control a whole lot of aspects!)  But I’m also saying that it’s about time I give that control over to God and trust the Holy Spirit to control and to comfort.  This world is not enough.  God is.

Sorry this one turned into more of a Bible Study, but that’s what was on my heart.

Can Christians feel?

Erin O’Donnell sings this awesome song called wide wide world and it has a single lyric that has stuck with me since I first heard it back in 2006.  It goes like this “Did Moses want to turn back after crossing the red sea?  I bet that he got nervous, I wish that I could see.  ‘Cause I got the shakes all over and I want to turn around, but I’m twice as scared of missing the good that can be found.” In all fairness, I only really remembered up unto “red sea” then I had to refresh myself of the rest, but regardless, this song (or line) has offered incredible comfort!

The thing is, we always read about heroes in the Bible – Abraham had so much faith he was willing to kill his son, the disciples gave up everything to follow Jesus, Ruth left her home, Rahab risked her life… and on and on it goes.  And these are people we look at and try to imitate.  We want to have the faith of each and every one of them and the raw confidence and boldness that allows them to risk their lives.  Honestly, I think we all have it tucked away somewhere, but what we don’t really think about is how they were feeling.  I always felt like the Bible kind of left that out… Oh, there’s plenty in the Psalms, some stuff in Job, and the prophets get pretty emotional too!  But in narratives?  Well, the most we seem to get is “he was scared”, “he was angered”, “he believed”.  My concern is that we’re so used to novels and movies where every feeling is etched out with absolute clarity, that now we look at the Bible and overlook feeling entirely because it’s not written in the style we know.  We try to be Moses and cross the red sea… and then doubt ourselves when we get nervous or feel anything other than bold faith.

We always talk about blind faith, but we never talk about paralysing fear or pain.  I want to consider Moses for a moment.  We look at his life and marvel at God and Moses’ strength of character and how, even when he was scared to go and needed a mouthpiece (Aaron), he was still brave and strong.  That’s great, but I wonder if Moses wasn’t scared.  Did Moses ever cry over what he had to leave behind?  He was raised in a palace – his family was there – and he left.  He found comfort with a new family in a new place, and left it all to go back to a place where he knew he would face the threat of death.  And from there he led thousands into a desert!  Don’t you think maybe Moses – though he knew his commission from God – got really heart-sore and confused from time to time?

I am facing the dilemma at the moment of knowing I’m where God put me… but wondering why he put me here and why he asked me to give up something that I adored to be here.  And I’ve heard so many times that I must have faith, that I mustn’t be scared, and that God will sort it out.  All of it is true. None of it is easy. And sometimes I feel like I am the only one who is frank enough to say it straight:

I miss what God asked me to give up.

It really is that simple.  Is it failing to trust? No.  Is it disrespectful or blasphemous? No.  The truth is, God gave us emotions.  He gave us our passions and gifts and desires, and He isn’t vindictive – He simply knows better.  Moses may have rocked at herding sheep and absolutely loved it!  But God saw that he could lead people even better.  Did Moses ever miss the sheep?  Probably.  Sheep aren’t nearly as annoying as people – mostly because they can’t talk…  But ultimately, God saw what was better.

I am deeply concerned at the number of Christians who are willing to do things blindly.  Yes, we need faith, and yes, we often don’t know the next step, but God gave us reasoning minds for a reason.

Change scares me completely!  Looking at what’s lost causes pain.  Looking ahead causes doubt.  And only thinking about today causes stress.  Eery single one of those emotions is human. I am not alone in feeling any one of them.  Maybe it’s time we allow ourselves to feel!  Let’s be real people with enough faith to walk – not blindly, though maybe blinded by tears.  Let’s be human and show that God didn’t pick the robots.  My heart aches, still I trust.  I am afraid, but I will follow.

I’m pretty sure Moses was nervous when he crossed the Red Sea.  I’m fairly certain there was some panic and terror coursing through him. But he stayed faithful, and so did God.

I started with lyrics, let me end with some too.  This is from Laura Story’s Blessings:

What if Your blessing come through raindrops?
What if Your healing comes through tears?
And what if a thousand sleepless nights is what it takes to know You’re near?

…And what if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise?

The dreaded *curse* word

I’ve managed to get myself into numerous conversations regarding swearing.  This seems to be a topic that follows me about like my dog when I have food.  So I decided to put up a blog about it- after all, I have plenty to say on the matter.swearing 2

I do not swear. (Hmmmm, maybe I have less to say than I thought.)  That pretty much sums it up.  But I inevitably ask my friends not to swear and purposefully avoid listening to too much of it.  I don’t listen to the radio because of the language in 70% of the songs (not to mention to presenters), and I tend to stick to movies that I know and love – for instance, Disney animations and musicals.

At this point I expect half of you are judging me bitterly and the other half is just completely perplexed.  In my defense, at least I don’t flinch anymore when someone swears.

But the other day I started wondering what a good answer would be if someone asked why I don’t swear, after all, “swearing makes you feel better – it’s scientifically proven.”  Actually, it’s scientifically proven that a sudden exclamation of any kind will make you feel better.  If I scream “apples” when I stub my toe, it will have the same effect.  But – and here I must wonder at my own sanity – the first thing that popped into my head when I asked myself that question was not an ethical debate or a scientific answer.  No, Cayley’s brain simply said: “because I am a Disney Princess, and Princesses don’t swear.”

Wait what?

That was my brain and even I think it’s nuts!

swearing 1Then again, is it?  Ok, yes it is, but hear me out!  Disney Princesses are built on a foundation of good vs evil.  They are created to epitomise good and set a standard for little girls – one that says you can be a princess even if you’re not royal (how else did Mulan, Megara, Alice, and Giselle get into the princess line-up?)  And if Disney Princesses epitomise good and neither swear nor blaspheme, then I would say it’s a pretty good thing that I want to be a Princess.  It means that I want to stand up for good too.  It means that I won’t stick to the status quo because I’ve chosen ideals of yesteryear that are still child-friendly.

I decided long ago not to look down on swearing.  But I also learned long ago that just because I don’t condemn it doesn’t mean I have to condone it.  I see myself as classy (well, you know, it’s a work in progress) and I see myself as a princess, and simply put – princesses don’t swear.

You don’t find a girl like that every dynasty

Anastasia (Mulan)Growing up, I could never decide on my favourite “Disney Princess”.  I put it in inverted commas because one of three isn’t a princess, and another isn’t even Disney.  The toss up was between the three I deemed feistiest – Belle, Anastasia, and Mulan.  I used to dream of being a princess, but I wanted to be a princess who fought for what she believed in, one who protected what was important to her, and one who won the respect of others not by being a princess, but by being worthy of respect.Belle (Mulan)

I watched Mulan again recently and it brought a surge of memories.  Mulan gets us girls.  There’s something that just connects in almost every little girl’s brain when she watches Mulan, and I think it boils down to one statement: “Look, this one’s late, but I’ll bet when it blooms it will be the most beautiful of them all.”

Growing up is vicious!  Hormones wreak havoc on friendships and schools teach you to be yourself while forcing a curriculum and enforcing a universal system that allows little leeway for the non-conformist.  Then there’s the trial of trying to figure out not just what you want to be “when you grow up”, but also who you are – and that’s a much bigger task!  Growing up isn’t easy, and at some point everyone feels a little behind.  Everyone faces those insecurities that scream “you’re not good enough!”  And that’s why Mulan hit a spot in every little girl’s heart.Mulan2

But re-watching it, I also saw a value system that’s worth looking at more deeply.  Mulan can’t be considered Christian by any stretch of the imagination – there’s ancestral worship and a demigod lizard – Sorry!  Dragon! (He doesn’t do that tongue thing…)  But despite it’s dubious foundation, there are definite Christian values etched into the makeup of that film.

Let’s take a look at, for example, the idea of honour in who you are over what you do. The movie opens with Mulan trying her absolute best to fit into a world that she simply doesn’t match with.  She’s not their idea of beauty (despite being made by Disney to obviously look gorgeous), she’s not what they term strong or lucky, and anything about her mind is completely overlooked.  But the movie ends with her father throwing down all of her achievements and stating that the greatest honour is having Mulan for a daughter.  Why? Because of the person she has become.  Who she is has become more important than what she has done.  Even saving China is less important than showing she has within herself loyalty, courage, love, commitment, and strength.

Then there’s the whole non-conformist vibe. This is probably my favourite part of it of the whole story – the fact that fitting in isn’t the only thing that matters. I would sing along with heartfelt abandon while Mulan sang “..I will never pass for a perfect bride, or a perfect daughter… when will my reflection show who I am inside?” Mulan, quite simply, didn’t fit in.  She tried so hard to be something she wasn’t and yet she failed so very miserably!  Think “you may look like a bride, but you will never bring your family honour!” But when Mulan went against everything that was acceptable and became the hero she wanted to be – that was when she shone.  Mulan proved to all of us that looking and acting the part isn’t as important as society will make us believe.  Obedience is one thing, conformity is another.  Mulan helped me get through every time I felt like I didn’t stand up to standards or I didn’t fit in.

And finally, we have one of my favourite quotes: “the flower born in adversity is the rarest and most beautiful of them all.”  Seriously, this one could be a Disney paraphrase of James 1:2-4 – “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.  And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”

MulanFor a child whose tiff with a friend feels like her world is falling apart, the thought that this pain will bring her out more beautiful is a powerful message.  I believe the Bible is complete and perfect, but I also think a lot of the wording is really hard for kids to get. What Mulan managed to do was take a truth and put into pictures and words that translated into a philosophy that thousands of little girls adopted and developed as their parents built into them a biblical foundation.

Now I’m not saying that Mulan has a gospel message, or that it has brought children to Christ…unfortunately… but what it has done is teach valuable lessons.

I’m twenty-one and I still want to be a Disney Princess.  Mulan is one “princess” who shows me I am one.

Golden moments

One day I lay in the soft winter sun beside my best friend.  We had eaten well, we were surrounded by friends, and we were comfortable on a blanket on the grass and soaking in the sun. It was at this point that she dropped a phrase that I will never forget – she sighed and in a content and breathy whisper declared that we were in the midst of a “golden moment.”

That idea stayed with me after that and ever since then I’ve been storing up moments in my mind that I see as golden – having a braai with one of my best friends on a public holiday, holding my boyfriend’s hand as we stroll under the stars, enjoying the simplicity of a swing and a summer dress… Each moment, with so many different faces and places and variables, contains a memory and a feeling.  Each one takes me to a moment that, for that second, was perfect.

They’re like those Polaroids that are so popular on facebook at the moment.  A single moment, bleached by the sun and worn with fond ware, that is encapsulated in a single piece of paper and ink.

Yesterday, as I sat on a picnic blanket surrounded by friends, I had another golden moment.  And this time I promised myself that I would immortalise this moment.  It was nothing special – a picnic with friends.  But it was something majestic – a picnic with friends.  And as I thought about this simple yet striking moment I had a realisation: sometimes, the most simple is the most spectacular.Golden Moments

I guess it’s a little like the “less is more” concept, but instead of seeing it as a total “less”, it’s more of a material “less”.  All we had there was a blanket, food, and each other but what was there in the abstract was almost more tangible than the blanket we sat on. The air swarmed with love and fondness, happiness and care-free ease.  Golden moments are moments when there is no gold, but the moment is worth more than any precious gem ever could be.

I can’t imagine anyone being bereft of a golden moment.  Even now, I’m hoping that you are thinking of one – of the people you treasure, the place you made the memory, the tastes and the sights and the sounds.  That memory can never be taken from you!  That moment is yours forever.  On the days when love seems so very elusive, that moment is still there.  On the days when friends are distant, that moment is there.  At times when hope seems gone, that moment is there.

Maybe it’s time we stop storing up our gold – our money and “precious” things – start saving up our golden moments.  When things go awry, I would much rather turn to a friend than a fund.

It’s time to start looking for golden moments and seeing just how much worth there is going free.  Just because countries are in economic crisis doesn’t mean our hearts should be too!

All growed up

Do you have any family traditions?  I’m not talking things like special turkey or spring cleaning… I’m talking about those things that just happen in your nuclear family.  I realised tonight that I have something incredibly special – my family.

I came home from band practice expecting to head to my room and get studying.  Instead, an inconspicuous whatsapp message lured me to my parents room where I lay on the bed with my mom and chatted for two hours. And I suddenly realised that it’s something I miss.

I used to sit for hours on that bed. We would talk and giggle and I’d snuggle and my mom would kick me out if I tried to tickle her; that is where she would give me advice or simply sit with me. 

Lying there tonight, all of that came rushing back and I was safe in my mommy’s arms again.  I was little again.  At some point I guess I grew up and started turning to other people and places. I grew up and moved to a new church, made new friends and started new relationships.  I’m not the little girl who could forever run to mommy’s side, but that side will always have a special place in my heart.

My dad came through a little later and we all attacked each other with tickles.  We laughed and giggled and had a good time as a family.  Growing up seems to have come with busyness and I’ve lost little jewels of time like that one.  But tonight I got to go back and be the eight year old in her parents big bed again.

Don’t get me wrong!  Growing up is fantastic!  And there’s so much life going on around you that you need to be in the moment to take it all in.  But growing up brings changes – small things that change or disappear, sometimes without us even knowing. 

Don’t be afraid to grow up!  There is so much to look forward to in every stage of life.  Just don’t forget the moments like tickling on the bed.  I have treasured my parents.  I could probably do so better.  But as I live in the now and plan for the future, I make sure that I never grow up without remembering my past, because the people in my past have all become part of my future

I urge you: don’t grow up and forget! Growing up does not need to mean growing apart.