Wednesday, June 24, 2015

A to Z of Lessons Learned in 2014: Solidarity

Just a quick recap for everyone who's new to this series: Because 2014 sucked as a year, I'm making it a mission to write about the A to Z of things I learned from the hard time. It's my way of finding something positive in a difficult time. 

When I picked out words to go with each letter, I knew that Solidarity had to be S. Because in the past eighteen months, I've learned just how blessed I am to have a family and friends who jump right in to fight the good fight with me. 

Times like these are when we see who's really with us, and I'm grateful to say that there were more of these angels in human form than my family and I had expected. Which isn't to say anything bad about the people in our lives. 

It's just that after the events in 2014, we've lost a lot of faith in people. And then there was 2015, with more people seemingly out to prove that humanity just sucks. 

And yet, our friends and family really stepped up even when we'd given up on hoping that anyone was on our side. These people proved to us that good is still out there. That we can't give up because they haven't given up on us. 

They also taught me how much I want to be this friend to other people. Who's there when those people need me most. 

So this is just a thank you. Even if they won't read this post. 

I've thanked them personally too, of course. But the funny thing is that most of them didn't even want to be thanked. 

They inspire me to be better. 

They inspire me to be there. 

Have you also seen solidarity at work in a hard time? Any people surprise you by coming through when you least expected it? 

Monday, June 22, 2015

Just a quick hello

Hi all! Sorry for being so absent lately (and specifically for not visiting any blogs.) Life's been a bit crazy lately. First, there's the fact that I have a month left to submit both my books' final versions for publishing. Then, there's the fact that I have to get the edits etc done while growing my new business. Which means I often have very little time left to do anything else.

I'm hoping to submit both books this weekend, which means I should hopefully be a bit better about blog visits and the like from next week.

In the interests of that, I've recently put out a call for questions for anyone wanting to ask. If you're curious about anything on this blog or about me (that's fit for public consumption), please click here and leave the question in the comments.

That's me for now. I should be back on Wednesday with my A to Z post.

How are you doing?

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

A to Z of Things I Learned in 2014: Reasons

Hi all. Just a heads up that my post will be dealing about my faith. So if you'd rather not read it, maybe you'd like to find out how my writing's going? 

If you are going to read on, I'm going to warn you that this subject is really tricky for me to write about, because I'm wrestling with my thoughts with it as I type. 

2014 and the first three months of 2015 were rough on me and my family. Without going into too much detail, I'm just going to say that those 15 months cost us a lot. And even today, we're having to deal with some of the results of things that happened in this time.

In April, I decided to start writing about the things I'd learned because I wanted something positive to come out of my time. So instead of focusing on all of the things that went wrong. 

Basically, what I'm doing is actively giving everything that's happened a reason. 

I know a lot of people say that "everything has a reason." In a sense, that's true and not quite true at the same time. 

Often, the simple reason behind something happening is really just that someone made a choice that has a terrible effect on other people's lives, unless the people who are affected in fact make a point to take something more from it somehow. 

Sorry. I'm finding this really hard to write today, because so much of today's post involves the way God works. And let's face it. We just don't know. I mean, I can reason that He wouldn't actively do things to hurt His children. But it could also be that sometimes He puts us through difficult times to make us better people. (I know a lot of people believe this.) 

I...think I fall somewhere in the middle of this. I think He does sometimes guide us into difficult places in life to teach us. Sometimes. There are some things that I just can't imagine Him doing, but then it could just be that my understanding is flawed. Most of the time, I just chalk it up as something I'll ask Him one day. 

The point is that regardless of the answer, that even if God wants us to learn from what happened, we won't unless we decide to learn. So if we want to believe that everything happens for a reason, it's up to us to make it true by finding that reason. 


Friday, June 12, 2015

Asking FOR questions

Hi Everyone!

I haven't done this in a while, but enjoyed last time so much that I thought I'd give it another whirl. Basically you (Yes YOU) get to ask me anything. As long as it isn't insulting or rude in some way, I'll answer whatever you ask as best I can.

Then I'll answer them over the next few weeks.

Have a great weekend!


Wednesday, June 10, 2015

A to Z of Things I Learned in 2014: Quiet

Hi all! Just a heads-up that this post loosely relates to my Christian faith. So if you'd rather not read about it, maybe you'd like to read about my writing?

Slowly, but surely, I'm making my way through the lessons learned in 2014. For those of you who missed it, I started this as my A to Z Challenge theme, but then life and the Internet and stuff got in the way.

I think that me writing about all this is a productive, even helpful way to work through a really craptastic year. So I decided to keep posting about it once a week until I get to Z.

Today, I'm writing about Quiet.

I don't know about you, but this is one of those things I struggle with. I can't sit still. Even when I'm doing nothing, I'm actually doing something like crocheting to keep focused on doing nothing. Yeah, I know how funny it sounds. The thing is just that basically, I've gone and taught myself to turn literally everything into words and pictures in my mind.

It's good, in that I can let my mind wander and come up with amazing ideas. It also helps me absorb more and to make links that I can later use in my writing. AND it helps me to write because I can theoretically look at a blank wall and come up with at least a 100 words to say about it (or something related to it).

What's not good is that it's pretty noisy in here, and it's a rare day indeed that I switch it off. Add to that t.v. and radio and social media and news and things just turn into chaos. Generally, I don't mind. I actually like the fact that words come to me with the minimal prodding. I like that ideas are already floating in my head, waiting to be discovered. Or sometimes not (I get story ideas in dreams every-so-often.)

It's just that... sometimes, it feels like everything becomes too loud. And then, it feels like I can't really hear God as well as I should. As I mentioned in my previous post, I believe that prayer should be a continuous, natural conversation with a friend who happens to be with me all the time. Sometimes, it's like trying to talk in a night club.

Night clubs are fun. They're just not good places to build relationships. So sometimes, it's necessary to turn things off and just listen.

The nice thing I discovered last year is that quiet is nice too. It helps me rest. Brings me a sense of peace. Especially in that it makes me more aware of God's presence in my life. Nowadays, life's getting noisy again, but I'm trying to steal moments of quiet. Just so that I can listen.

How about you? Also have noise in your head? How do you turn it off?

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

A to Z of Things Learned in 2014: Prayer

Hi all! Today I'll most certainly be writing about God and my faith, so if you'd rather not read this, maybe you'd prefer to head over to my other blog?

Right? Okay good.

I'm still continuing with my A to Z list of Lessons I learned in 2014 and the few months afterward. It's slow going of course, but I do feel like I'm slowly but surely making progress.

Back when I was picking words to correspond to the letters, prayer immediately came up for P. Because basically, I really don't know where I'd be if I hadn't been praying.

I don't mean this in a strict "praying for the right outcome" sense. In fact, I really spent very little time on those sorts of prayers.

I don't really follow a "Thank You, You're wonderful, now can I please have this?" Format. Nor do I set out a certain amount of time every day to pray. This in particular, I know people find weird. I understand why they would, too.

The thing is, such regimented, methodical approaches to prayer leave me cold. Please don't see it as my knocking it. I honestly believe there's a place and reason for anyone.

It's just that it often seems to me that a lot of people (especially in my church) focus on one type of praying as if it's the only one out there, when in fact it's not.

Anyway. Prayer to me is a focus and awareness on God's presence in my life. Which means it's not something I do every morning at a specific time. It's something I do the moment something brings my attention back to it.

Like say... Right now. Because I know that this is a difficult subject to write about and if the Holy Spirit doesn't give me the right words, this post won't do what it's supposed to. Which is to say: Help someone in some way.

On another level, I'm typing this while listening to the rain against my window, and I'm thankful because I know that God's the one who made sure we got the house just before the weather turned cold.

In these moments, I say "Thank you." Or "Please help me." And if I've ever said to you that "I'm praying for you." It means that right at that moment, I had just finished my prayer for you.

So to me, prayer is a constant reminder that even in the worst of times, God's right there with me. That He was accessible whenever I wanted to rant about my circumstances.

But that's not the best thing about prayer. The best thing was when God answered. When He warmed me and strengthened me so tangibly that I couldn't doubt for a second that He was there. The amazing thing was that this always happened during or after moments when I fought with Him for putting me and my loved ones through this.

In listening to Him, I learned all of the things I've written down so far. All of the things that I'm going to write.

But I wouldn't have learned anything if I hadn't been praying and trying to understand.

Monday, June 1, 2015

There, but for the grace of God, go I...

Although I'm just going to write this post stream-of-conscious-style and I really don't know where it's headed, it's probably going to feature God and Christianity in some way. So if that's not your thing, maybe you'd prefer to visit my writing blog

In my country, we have a rampant unemployment problem. I mean really. It's bad. Add to that the fact that pensions and welfare barely covers the cost of survival... and it gives you an idea of the absolute nightmare it is to be on the wrong side of the bread-line. (Especially when minimum wage comes into play, but I'm not going to debate the pros and cons of minimum wage.) 

The thing is that South Africa is generally seen as a place of opportunity. In a sense, it is. The problem is, however, that sometimes, this point of view leads to this idea that if somehow you're struggling, it's all your fault because opportunity is "ripe for the picking." This from the point of view of a lucky few who actually had access to these opportunities. 

And no, I'm not talking about race, either. This thinking goes everywhere. The result is that often, the suffering of the people around us go unnoticed. Of course, this isn't helped by the fact that there are people who cynically try and rip people off a la Thenardier from Les Mis. They do muddle things up way too much, and make people in general so cynical that they look over the people who are suffering. 

But last year, I've come to realize just how easy it is to lose everything due to things completely beyond our control. We lost last year due to a variety of factors - not limited to breaches of various contracts. We lost HUGE. Which is part of the reason why it's taking me six months to come to terms with last year. 

And yet, I feel so fortunate. 

Because we had those resources to lose. More than that, we're still in a state where we can bounce back.

A lot of people in my country would starve if a few elderly people didn't get their monthly state pensions to $120 per month. (Actually less, depending on the exchange rate.) 

There aren't enough jobs for the untrained. There aren't jobs for the school leavers. There aren't enough resources for most people to bounce back after a bad year. 

And that worries me. Because I've seen how fast and how far I fell this year alone. I've had a mere taste of the misery that cause, and I know that people are experiencing year after year of this. 

Last year truly has opened my eyes to the suffering of others, because I could so easily have ended up in the same place, if not for God's grace. 

The problem is...I don't know how to help anyone else. 

Not yet, anyway. I'm working on it.