Purpose.

“When you find your definitions in God, you find the very purpose for which you were created. Put your hand into God’s hand, know His absolutes, demonstrate His love, present His truth, and the message of redemption and transformation will take hold”- Ravi Zacharias

 

When you go on a journey with God, the first thing He seems to do is erase the man made ideas of purpose within you so that He can bring back to remembrance the truths of your purpose He spoke over you long before the world even began. To do things with no purpose is empty and it leaves us feeling empty and we just kinda spiral from one purposeless thing to the next constantly searching. See, purpose is what fulfills us.

But I’ve come to learn that from birth we are taught the man made idea of purpose far more than we are reminded of the God given purpose. Man’s view of purpose involves wealth & success above all things and somehow the two are exclusively linked to each other. Man has taught me that my true purpose should yes make me happy but that it should also make me successful and success is measured in wealth. Well, at least that’s what I have observed in my own life and from those around me, in order to prove that you are blessed, you need to show material things otherwise you’re not really blessed.

Now this was something that I realised God needed to break in me. Since answering His call to go and do my Master’s in Theology & Education, He has progressively broken every “norm” idea I had in my mind. I went through a phase of not thinking I was living out any purpose because at my age I should have more to show for it, I should have all the material things that so many others my age have…you know, the nice house, the cool car, the well paying job, at my age, geez I’m “meant” to have the husband and kids already too because those things are part of my purpose.

But slowly, painfully but oh so beautifully, God broke and continues to break every man made idea of my purpose I had within me. He sometimes gently, sometimes bluntly reminded me that I am the righteousness of Christ (2 Corin 5:12) and have been predestined according to God who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of His will (Eph 1:11). He’d explain to me and show me how His will was far better than what I thought would be a good plan for my life (Jer 29:11). He’d also let me experience the overwhelming feeling of fulfillment when I would do something that is apart of my purpose. God stopped me from comparing myself to others, because we were all made with a unique plan for our lives so how could we go around comparing? I read a quote from Jefferson Bethke that said “Identity first, activity second” and have come to realise how true those words are. In order to do what God has called me to do, I first need to know who I am in Him.

And what is my purpose right now? Well that’s easy, it is to reflect all of Him, to show love the way Jesus shows me love daily, to give forgiveness freely in the same way I receive it. To hold on to humility in all situations, to manifest the Kingdom of God on earth everywhere I go. To walk boldly into any and every situation He calls me into and to trust that He will make everything work out for my good (Rom 8:28). My purpose is found in Christ, not in wealth, in material things or even in people….only in Christ. And once I embraced that, joy overflowed in everything I did and continue to do even the difficult things. I might not know what’s coming next but I do know who goes before me, and that….that makes everything okay. FB_IMG_1454009389526

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All I had was a verse

I successfully got through 3 weeks of block classes at seminary, it was a roller coaster of new information, work overload and a testing of so many things within me. I quickly realized that I was ‘in training’ from the minute I set foot in the building. My exact stream is MA in Theology, majoring in Education which basically means its a two in one mix which feeds my passion for teaching perfectly but is more work than you can imagine especially since I have my lecturer position at the college again.

Anyway, so I somehow got through those 3 weeks and in the last week, the Wednesday evening, I got a message from a friend asking if I could fill in for him at a small event at a Children’s home in 2 days time. He said I would need to share/preach a short message relating to Youth day we had just celebrated. My immediate thought: No thank you! I don’t know what I’d say and to a group of people as well? Nooooo. And that’s when I heard God say “How will you ever learn if you never try?”

So I dived in, acted all cool, calm and collected about the whole thing as I agreed to it when in actual fact I was freaking out! I basically had a day and a half to prepare which in hindsight was brilliant timing on God’s part because had I had any more time, I definitely would have backed out. It also turns out that one of my assignments required me to share a short message relating to what I had learnt in the subject so this opportunity was perfect for me to complete the assignment as well. I thought, thanks Jesus for having my back on this assignment, I thought that was what this was all about, God was giving me a chance to do one of many assignments. Well, He was helping me do that but it was so much more than that at the same time.

Friday came and I had my scripture (and its supporting scripture- I listened in Biblical Interpretation classes). But scripture was all I had, further than that I had no clue what I was going to say! My main scripture was:

 Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.- 1Timothy 4:12

I love that scripture, I relate to it so much and I knew it was the perfect one, yet I still had no clue what I was going t say about it. Five to ten minutes can be a really long time in front of a crowd when all you have to say is a verse. I kept asking God what it is He wants me to tell the kids, His word was about to be shared and I needed to do it in a manner worthy of Him. I needed to get His message across, whatever that was for that moment. All I heard Him say was “Tell them that they matter.”

Now that is definitely something children who live in Children’s home needs to hear daily but I couldn’t just quote a scripture, say that sentence and then sit down. So I sat at my desk, trying to go through what I was going to say and you know what happened? Every time I spoke out loud, I’d end up jumbling up words and get tongue tied! I got so frustrated and eventually just gave up and resided in the fact that this wasn’t about me, it wasn’t about how well I could prepare or how well I could speak. It was about what God wanted to say and what He wanted to do and all I needed to do was wait on Him, He’s never failed me and He wouldn’t start now.

So off I went with just a verse, I arrived there to a small hall of between 40-50 people, majority were kids. Inside, I was freaking out again, all I had was a verse! One of my friends came to support and he was a literal Godsend, he kept reassuring me and cheering me on. I would have been more of a wreck had he not been there to keep me calm. The time came where they called me up, I picked up my Bible and as I walked to the front, I prayed “This is ALL you now God, I’ve got the verse, you’ve got the message. Do what ever you want to.”

I ended up preaching a message I had never thought of delivering in that way before. The thoughts came as the words left my mouth, I was the most surprised person in that hall by everything I was saying and how much sense it was making. I shared my verse and then explained each part of it to the kids and reinforced how much they matter. As I spoke, I looked into eyes of children I’ve come to know and love, children who are facing harder battles than you can imagine. As I spoke, I saw the connection to my words, I saw them take it in. That feeling…..the feeling of knowing this is going in. It’s indescribable.

One of the girls had prayed earlier in the night at the start of their little talent show and this was part of her prayer,

Thank you Lord for giving us a chance to be happy and laugh and have fun tonight and forget our worries for a little while. Thank you for the people who came out to watch us and support us.

My heart squeezed a little as I heard her say that, this little talent show meant so much to them, they absolutely loved being center of attention and having everyone clap for them. They loved feeling like they mattered, even for one evening. Afterwards some of the childcare workers told me how much they enjoyed my message and how good it was. I laughed. I couldn’t take the credit for something I know was all God. God completely blew me away that night, not only in how necessary His message was but in the way He orchestrated everything down to the words I needed to say. Then, the scariest realization came after the night had ended……this is only the beginning. My freak out session over something so small is nothing compared to when God sets it up on a bigger scale. Can you imagine my freak out session then?! haha As scary as that realization was, I’m so grateful that God is giving me the nudge whilst starting small so my brain and my emotions have time to get to grips with it all.

The main point of this entire post though? Well it’s simple really (in hindsight):

A verse might be all you have….but it’s also all you need. God does the rest 🙂

Growing Pains

I am quickly realizing that being out of your comfort zone does not necessarily mean being out your normal comfort physically, be it comfort of your own room or food.etc. No, the kind of comfort zone I’m referring to is the one which stretches your faith far beyond where you ever thought it could be stretched. “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen,” Hebrews 11:11, this is such a well known scripture which many quote often, even I have quoted it and heard it so many times before.

When you are truly taken out of your comfort zone, the comfort which runs deeper than the physical things like surroundings and luxuries of life, the deeper zone where your faith lies, when that zone is stretched, it is in that place that your true intentions, nature and strength lies. It’s in that place of stretching that being assured of things hoped for and having a conviction of the things you cannot see becomes one of thr most difficult things to hold onto.

That place is where I am currently living, how long will I be living here? Well that is up to God but each day I feel myself growing, it’s an uncomfortable growth. A growth I would not have chosen but one that is absolutely necessary. Let’s just say I’m experiencing ‘growing pains’.

Since I began doing my Master’s degree at seminary there are situations I have no control over, ones that I wish I had control over. One of the most difficult things has been to rest in Him in those situations. To rest in the fact that He will work things for the good of those He has called by name (Romans 8:28).

Rest. That is something I’ve found especially hard. Physical rest, I can do that, naps are one of my favourite things! But to rest in Him, in His promises and in His word has been far harder than I thought it would be. I’ve since decided to focus on what I can control & leave the rest to Him.

Amazing things have happened since that decision. Let me just explain that I have not been a naturally intelligent person, I’ve always had to study hard to achieve. So Master’s is a big adjustment and I’ve been exhausted everyday of class this last week. Every morning I ask God to help me get through the day especially in grasping the new concepts and doing well. So far I’ve gotten 90% for the first assignment and 100% for the next two after that.

Those results leave me speechless because I know what my capabilities have always been and I can clearly see the difference when I let God come in and help. I’m in awe of the way He guides me through every moment. My faith may still be in the process of being stretched but it’s definitely being built at the same time.

These are difficult days but God is forever faithful♡

And then God called……

It came out of no where, it hit me by surprise yet when I think it all through now, everything was perfectly lined up to reach this point. In a way only the God of the universe, the God of all, The Alpha & Omega could orchestrate….

I had progressively begun getting frustrated, with what it is I am meant to do, as expressed in my previous blog post “Where to from here?”. I wanted more, I didn’t want normal or average and oh man God is answering that request in a way I NEVER anticipated. BE mindful of what you ask for, be sure of it for when it is given to you, you best be prepared to accept it.

Suddenly over about 3 weeks, my master’s thesis hit a brick wall & was not moving anywhere, my supervisor suddenly wasn’t responding to my emails which was really strange considering how good our communication had always been. I felt as if my life was frozen, nothing was moving forward, nothing was moving at all! My frustration had hit an all time high, it caused me to press in even harder and eventually ended up with a 3 hour meeting/brainstorming session with one of my Pastor’s at my church. I remember him looking at me after I’d stated my case and all my frustrations, my wants, my passion and said very simply and confidently,

“Usually I’m a bit worried about saying this to people but I know that this is what God is telling me to say to you so I say it with full confidence…you need to go to Bible school.”

My initial response? “uhm no I don’t think it’s that. I have no desire to go do another undergraduate degree. God told me to do my Master’s, that’s what I need to do and want to do.” We continued to talk and talk , the more we did, the more things started making sense and the more the picture began becoming clearer to me. And then I found out the game changing information….. I could enroll for a Master’s in Theology at Bible school without having a related undergraduate degree and the qualification is recognized at all South African universities as well as in the USA as the institution is an accredited American institution as well. I could still lecture at university level with the qualification as I’ve wanted to and I could still go into PhD study in my field regardless of what I did my Master’s degree on. Mind blown.

I left that meeting with a clearer view but a very daunting instruction. Bible school? Really? Never in my wildest imagination have I ever thought of doing that, it has never been a goal of mine or even a consideration and suddenly here it is right in front of me. I decided that I needed confirmation before I would make any definite decisions as wisdom needed to be exercised even more now. My confirmations came within the following 3 days, it was insane. My parents supported whatever I would choose to do, and then I got 2 emails from my university saying 1. That I had not received a bursary for my MSc degree and 2. I needed to submit my proposal by the end of the month in order to still be able to finish by the end of the year. That was impossible seeing as my supervisor is yet to respond to any of my emails. Doors at university were literally being shut without my control.

Whilst researching the Bible School, I saw that their closing date for applications was March 15th. I was a month too late for applications! I’ll admit, I hit a slight panic, how could God turn my life upside down like this only to have me wait another year before I could answer His call. I emailed them asking if there would be any possibility of me still being able to apply and register for this current year (They advise applicants to apply a year in advance as placement is limited). After I sent that email, I just knew I was in. I knew I’d be doing this now and not later because God’s timing is perfect even when it seems like ‘too slow’ or ‘too late’, God comes in and reminds us that only He is the author of time.

Two days later I got an email saying that they will make a exception for me, and would like me to send through my application asap. What?!! An exception for someone they do not know anything about, just like that? An exception?! Well yes, because that’s called Favour 😉 So I immediately got onto my 6 page application essay and all necessary paperwork.

I realised that, that was the easy part. Do you know what’s been the harder part? The look of disapproval I’ve gotten from some people when I’ve told them what I’m doing. The change from a look of pride as they ask me how my thesis is coming along to a look of confusion and questions which insinuate that I’m being stupid in making this change as I explain it to them. It’s been tough, it’s made me not want to tell people because I quickly got tired of having to explain myself or justify my decision until God did this…..

1. He showed me how many people I have in my life who support me no matter what, who believe in me and trust me to make the right choices. People who encourage me to pray and pray for me and who are completely content with my response of “it’s what God wants me to do and it’s what I want to do for Him now”. He sent the people who got so excited as I told them that they hi-fived me and told me how amazing it is and how proud they are of my obedience and reminded me of how much they believe in me. Those people built me up.

2. God then reminded me of the story of Moses. How He gave Moses the instruction that he would lead the Israelite’s out of slavery. Moses said to God, what is meant to tell the people when he goes back down the mountain? They won’t believe him, he’s just an average man, what is he meant to say? And God said, Moses, all you need to say is this.. I AM has sent me.  And then it hit me, the God of everything, the Great I AM the healer,protector, father, guide, shield and so much much more had spoken and that was all Moses needed to know. He needed to know who it is he was listening to.

So as I go through the process of registering for a new degree, a decision that I know I have not fully grasped the weight of just yet, I can confidently, yet humbly say,

The Great I AM has sent me into this new season & journey and I wait expectantly for what it will produce.

Never for even one second feel ashamed of that which God has placed in your hand no matter how big or small . For the Great I AM has seen you fit to be trusted with His message 🙂

Dear Younger Me…..

Oh sweet girl, there’s so much you don’t know yet, there’s so much more for you to learn, you think you’ve got it all set out but you really have no idea yet.

The most important thing you need to truely and fully understand, for it is the basis for everything you will go through, is this…..

God loves you beyond your wildest imagination, beyond your faults and shortcomings. He loves you.

So,  that song you always used to sing at Sunday school, the one you sing with your little cousins still “Jesus loves me this I know…”. Yeah, that one, you should listen to what you’re saying and really let it sink in. He loves you and you should really know that, always. You’ll need to know it when your heart gets broken for the first time and you start questioning everything about yourself. That will be the time you need to know that God loves you, that you are beautifully and wonderfully made and that he has so many greater things instore for you still.

Then when you suffer your first academic failure and all the emotions that come along with that, you’ll need to know that God loves you and he knows the plans he has for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you (Jer 29:11). That He will help pick you back up, dust you off and set you back on the path you need to walk, all the while constantly adapting things to accommodate your shortcomings. You’ll need to know that despite your mistakes and failures He never stops loving you, He doesn’t change his thoughts about you and He still wants the best for you.

Even when people try to tell you that you’re not smart enough, good enough or that you won’t reach the goals you set and heads up when you reach those goals, people will try tell you that you don’t deserve it. Ignore them. And know that with God all things are possible and He is the reason you will achieve far more than anyone thought possible for you.

Sweet girl, just be who you are. Don’t settle to make those around you comfortable, it’s okay to want to work hard and not go out and party as much as your friends do, it’s ok to be smart and want to learn more.

Honey, you’re an amazing swimmer, you’ve got talent, don’t stop working at it just because no one else is training as hard you are and just so you can fit in with all those out having social lives.

Be you. God loves you the way you are, you need to know that. God knew what he was doing when he gave you certain talents and characteristics and they will serve you well in the years to come, your experiences will allow you enter places and opportunities you never thought possible.

Ignore those people who criticise you for talking too much or for being ‘too friendly”…. all those people you meet along the way with your friendliness will remember your kindness and they will help you in many ways in the years that follow. I’ll let you in on a secret, your friendliness and talkative nature will serve a great role in finding a new loving family and opening various doors in education for 2 foster kids you’ll fall inlove with. You’ll be left speechless every time you look at them and remember how God did it. So chin up, there’s a bigger picture here.

Sweetheart,  those boys notice you. It’s you who hasn’t yet noticed yourself. You haven’t yet realised your power, your beauty, your strength,  your worth. But you will soon my dear, and when you do, everything will start making so much more sense. I promise.

You don’t need to compromise who you are to make others more comfortable with who they’re trying to be. But even when you do compromise,  know that God still loves you the same, He still protects you the same and he will wait for you to realise it and he’ll never stop showing you.

Sweet girl, you’re destined to change people’s lives. Who you are will allow people to see God….to experience Him and that will change their lives. I know you’ll struggle to accept that fact because its not even easy for you to accept compliments let alone such a strong vision for your life. But its yours whether you understand it or not. You are loved. You are called. You are highly favoured. Because you are a child of God.

With love,
Older, wiser but still learning,Me

xxx

Where to from here?

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Lately I’ve found myself in a strange place, I’ve been working on my Master’s thesis as frustrating as that has been and everything has been going “according to plan” except my idea of ‘the plan’ has completely changed in the mean time. Does that even make sense? If not, I’m sorry but at least you’re getting an idea of the strange place I find myself in these days. Okay let me try and explain this…..I want more. I don’t want mediocre, normal or average, I want more.

For the past 3 months I’ve been on the most amazing journey of my life helping foster kids, connecting with children’s home kids and just kids in general. It has been a roller coaster ride but never in my wildest dreams would I ever have guessed that God would work through me as much as he has these last few months, to the point of using me as a connection point for my 2 amazing boys to be fostered by my awesome friends and create through us, one big family. Literally, we’re a family, I think my official title these days is ‘God mother’ to those beautiful young men 🙂 In these past months, I’ve done the job of a social worker, unofficially obviously, I’ve attended drug rehab support group meetings with a teenager, I’ve dealt with the education department and sat in countless meetings with principals and supervisors, you name it, I’ve been there. I’ve tutored, I’ve played hand tennis in front yards, cried with kids and laughed with kids. I’ve seen lives change in front of my eyes, I’ve seen hope ignite within children who had given up, I’ve experienced genuine kindness from strangers after hearing the various situations, I’ve experienced love in all forms.

I mean, one of the boys first day at school after us freaking out a bit at how much school supplies are costing, arrives at his desk which is covered in ALL his stationary and books, everything! The principal gave it to him, can you imagine how we cried?! Then people giving school uniforms for FREE even having an amazing friend of mine offering free swimming lessons. People’s kindness has honestly blown me away. This has become my ‘normal’, God supernaturally coming through everyday via amazing people in every way has become my ‘normal’ and I cannot go back to anything less.

So here I sit, not wanting to ‘just’ work a normal job, yes I’m getting my Master’s degree but that’s not all I want for this year or for my life. I want more. I want to do more things that not only matter but that changes situations, changes lives and shows God in a real way. I want to do whatever it is that God would have me do because if its anything like it’s been for the last few months then it can only be nothing short of mind blowing. I have no idea where to from here but I wait….I wait for the next instruction, the next door to open, the next move. It isn’t easy to wait but I hold on to Proverbs 3:5-6 and pray it comes quickly 🙂 :

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight.”

I never expected it to flow this fast

So I’d….well we’d been waiting on God to do a miracle,  we knew it was going to come soon. We thought the best thing to happen to my two new brothers would be to get into the Children’s Home we applied to and then back into school. But God’s plans are far bigger than we could ever anticipate.

On Sunday, I got told that the boys need to find a new place to live. I had no idea where I would take them, I prayed telling God that we could not wait any longer and he had to move immediately. An hour later I got a message from friends of mine, a married couple, they asked to meet with me right away. A half an hour later I sat down for coffee with them, and the proceeded to tell me that God had spoken and they are obeying in faith, they told me they would take the boys immediately and they promised to love them, care for them, get them into school and do anything they needed to do to help the boys.

I cried.

Sunday was a whirlwind of emotions. I told the boys what had happened,  they IMMEDIATELY said “When can we move?!”. By Monday afternoon,  I was moving the boys to their new home and into their new family. It was amazing, the boys highlights for the day were
1. “Alison, they took us to KFC and asked us what we wanted to eat! And then they bought it for us!! No one has ever done that for us before!!”.
2. They got to go to a shopping mall for the first time.
3. “Alison, we going to get pocket money for doing chores! Thats so cool!”.

By Tuesday a lady who the family knows came over and told us that she got the boys accepted into a school, a private school. They wouldn’t need to pay school fees and were getting their uniforms given to them.

I cried.

In one week God has completely transformed their lives in the most amazing way. They are in the most amazing family and they are happier than they’ve ever been before.

My heart is full. God is amazing. And He is only just beginning with these boys♡