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RANDOM THOUGHTS OF A GROWING MIND

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Old Maps Over New Lands

Hey Mike

It’s been a long time since I wrote to you, or about you. Recently I’m finding that I’m treading into new areas of grief, as well as revisiting well walked areas of grief. But I’m not sure it can be as distinctive as that. Because lately life seems to be a like an old map over a new land. A combination of the new and the old, the familiar and the foreign. Like I’m navigating new foreign lands by grasping hold of familiar old knowledge.

I’m in a foreign emotional land releasing parts of my identity to God, channelled through revelations long ago discovered. I’m in a foreign spiritual land discovering who God is, reaching out to truths long ago exposed. And I’m in a foreign physical land, where I’ve been for 3 years, but still relearning how to live life.

And well, there is you.

And where do I put you?

You overflow into so many of my lands Mike, and suitcases for that matter. How do I possibly begin to help someone outside of my heart to fully understand the depth of this? You are one whole of my identity as my brother; like the waters of the earth which are completely connected. One third of my identity as a sibling; the way the stars, dust and dark matter complement each other to create the galaxy. One fifth on my identity as part of the “Knight Family Clan”; the way the world knows of the “Big Five” Animals.

I’m not suggesting any, “we are one with the world” type of thing by saying these things. I’m simply trying to navigate foreign lands, with old knowledge, to illustrate a reality I face in my heart. Once upon a time something that was once “complete”, is now incomplete because the rivers topped running, the stars died, and the Big Five became, “Just Four”.

At so many land marks and sign posts I think about you Mike. When I see other people with their brothers. When I see pictures of you. When I think of something I want to tell you. Sadness is one dimension of grief, but being sad is an incomplete picture of grief. For example, I love talking about you. I would talk about you all the time if I could. The retelling of such precious memories warms my soul and draws me as close to you as possible. In those moments, it’s the underlying reality of separation that makes grief bittersweet… and BEAUTIFUL.

Mike, people here often say I am the glue that drives and hold our community together. It’s something that is incredibly honouring to be told. But Mike, I want to give you credit for that. Because any truth in these statements comes down to you. In your death, you taught me life is fragile; to seize the moments; to make the memories; to live freely and intentionally because we only get one shot. You always said you wanted to lead worship and you did. You, lead me into a different life style. God used your death to change the course of my life. How wonderfully redemptive and tragically broken.

I wish someone told me Mike, that in time the life alternating revelations God gave me through your death would lose its power as I allowed other things to take priority again. Busyness, compartmentalising, superficiality, worrying about what others think, allowing things to rent space in my mind. Your death was so precious, and for a while there I felt the freest I have ever felt.

If I could do it again, I would hold onto to those revelations harder. It’s not about staying in sorrow, it’s about ensuring the life death brings isn’t wasted. The very concept of death bringing life is one of grief’s truest and most beautiful conflicts. Embracing the fullness of life and death; walking fearlessly in the memories, lessons, regrets, revelations; and recycling everything you carry to give purpose to the present day.

Being in South Africa is hard Mike. I’m away from mum, dad and Laura and I’m not around for so many things that are passing by in their lives. I only get one family; and I don’t want to get to the end of their life or mine to find I regret not doing life with them when I had the chance. I struggle with the thought of living anywhere but England. Not because I love England, but because my family are there. I don’t want the separation from them Mikey. It’s already my story with you.

I left home to go to university when you were 15 years old, and I missed out on the three most important years of your life. I missed your 18th which was your last birthday. We missed our last Christmas. I missed your whole adventure of going to the ship for six months. I missed out connecting with you when we were at the age where we could relate to one another. I missed out on every imaginable, boring, special part to your last three years. And then, you were gone. I wasn’t even home for that. I wasn’t home when you left.

The thing of not being home is hard Mike. So flippen hard. Any thoughts I have about not being there for you, I try to use to wisely influence present day decisions; like about community, intentionality, living with open hands, and vulnerability. But when it’s thoughts about not being there for mum, dad and Laura… it breaks me a little sometimes. Every day I’m stepping forward; every day I’m choosing to follow God; every day I’m believing that being in the centre of His will is greater than being home… But that daily decision to step, chose and believe so often feels like I’m dragging an elephant over a mountain size step.

Mike, I honestly don’t know what the future holds, or what it looks like; especially when it comes to family. I have a lot of questions, some fear, and some pain. But at least with pain I can use it to physically push me forward. The fear thing though, it competes exhaustingly with having an open heart.

I’ve been given so much freedom, and an unimaginably honouring privilege, to do vulnerability so openly. However, I often wonder if the people around me have any idea the price said vulnerability came at, or still comes at. The price of choosing to reach down into the depths of the stinging pits and to recycle your very being, in hope that from your vulnerability is birthed hope, freedom and life for someone else. That’s the most intense type of bittersweet.

Death still amazes me. It’s power to shift the entire landscape of one’s life. The way they think. The way they operate. Their decisions. Their behaviour. Their words. Life becomes so unimaginably intentional. Whilst I sometimes feel the shudder of the earth under my feet, whilst I sometimes see the walls of water racing towards me, whilst I don’t always know how to read old maps, and whilst I don’t always know how to draw new maps… I wouldn’t trade these valleys and mountains to not be in a foreign land.

That all being said, I miss you Mike. I really wish we could just chat and I wish you could see me. Not that I want you to sacrifice the fullness of what you have in Heaven; but just so that I knew there was still a connection between us. Because no matter what people say, and people try to say kind words, the reality is death separates. Jesus redeemed the eternal consequence of death, but until He comes again, death still momentarily exists. And in its existence, separates. No matter how short the time is until we’re reunited, the separation is still awful. I wonder if that’s why Jesus cried when Lazarus died, because he knew the reality and power of death on Earth.

Anyways Mikey, I’m going to stop for now. I could write and write and write to you. There’s so much I long to share with you. I love you. And I can’t wait to see you again.

Akila xx

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I Feel Exposed…

It’s been very interesting to watch my life group lately. The deeper into community we get, the more each of us are open and vulnerable with each other. It seems to me that we are all figuring out this thing called “identity”.

A community of people doing rugby matches, movies, meals, drinks, hikes, holidays, dancing and so much more together has been the catalysis for leading each of us individually to a safe place of togetherness, realness and authenticity. I don’t know why or how it happened. I have an idea but I think God is doing something far more special than what I can see or understand at my human surface level.

I’m not sure someone will like what they see if they got to really know me.” “I’m not sure there is someone out there for me.” “I don’t know how to react if someone says they like me.” These are just some of the many things I or others have said in the past couple weeks. These ponderings are and grappling is just the tip of the deeper questions, the deeper needs, the deeper exploring that is happening in our hearts.

I personally have been saying a lot that I need to figure out who God is and who I am in God before I can embrace my true identity. That being said I’ve been feeling a little overwhelmed lately with the enormity of my own deeper questions and my own deeper exploring. But the more I think about it… the more I wonder if it comes down to one ultimate question: “Do I have value?” Every question I have about my identity and my identity in God can, I think, be rooted back to this very question. Packaged differently, but still the same question: “Am I of value?” “Do I have value?” “What value do I bring?

I’ve always said “I just want to do life with others and empower them to be greater versions of who they already are.” This can be done in so many ways but it seems the way I’m wired is for the framework of vulnerability. I love asking questions that make people think. I love understanding how and why someone behaves the way they do. But it can feel incredibly exposing. I do realise that. I also think a lot of people run from vulnerability because feeling like parts of them are being exposed is freaking scary. There’s little control once things are exposed about how someone sees you, or what they think about you. We don’t want anything to rock our fragile sense of value.

So why be vulnerable? Why let parts of your inner being be exposed? I guess it all comes down to growth. Growing in your true identity, growing in truth, growing in freedom, growing in love, growing in grace, growing in understanding value… “Above all love God and love others…” You can only truly love others if you understand what love is. In all its glory. In this case starting with, and maybe even ending with, Love is vulnerability.

BUT, I can’t encourage others to be vulnerable if I don’t do vulnerability myself. In fact, asking someone to be vulnerable always means the person asking needs to be vulnerable first.

Last weekend I nearly didn’t go to church. I wanted to turn my phone off, hide in my bed for the day and not see anyone. I felt tired of being exposed. I felt tired of being vulnerable. I felt tired of showing parts of myself I’d rather hide. I felt tired of bringing to light the fears and lies in my life. I felt tired of the vulnerability hangovers where I’m left thinking “Oh God, what do people think of me, how could anyone want to choose to hang out with me after this.

I wonder if it looks like it comes easily to me because I do speak about my own areas of vulnerability a lot; and if that’s true that people view it like that, then I wonder if sometimes people forget that for me, just like it is for them, it’s a choice. I only make this choice because at age the age of 14 years old God told me, “Akila I made you for people.” My belief in my calling, in breaking power and in people’s greater identity outweighs my fear of judgement and condemnation; but it really truly comes at the personal price of deep vulnerability and exposure for Satan to attack my value and identity.

As Roosevelt wrote in his speech, “… The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly…” Yes I want to hide. Yes I want to stop revealing my heart and mind to others… But to do that means I’m not being faithful to how I am created, to how God wants to use me, and actually it just gives Satan territory in the arena.

The really beautiful thing is, vulnerability isn’t a one man show. Being vulnerable calls others out to be vulnerable. Every time someone choses to be vulnerable to me or in my presence, it paves a way for me to be vulnerable. If Love is vulnerability, and God calls us to Love one another, then I wonder if the act of vulnerability is a community thing. Something that all of us need to be faithful to.

If I’m right on that, then vulnerability needs trust in its community environmental factors. I can only be vulnerable with others because I know I can trust them. Trust is intimate and as one of our pastor’s said, “Intimacy is defined as – Into Me You See.”

We all know treasures are found in dark places so why do we run from vulnerability? Why do we think vulnerability is going to lead to something negative? Why do we associate vulnerability with destroying value? Why don’t we really understand that, if we want and choose, our vulnerability leads to intimacy; which develops trust and growth, and subsequently actually leads to the deep treasures of our true value.

The truth is our value is there, our choice is being willing to find it. Don’t run. Don’t hide. Get into the arena, and together with your community, take back the ground Satan is claiming on your identity and value.

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The Wilderness

Go back the way you came, & go back into the wilderness.” That’s what God told me; & my reaction, “You’re kidding right God?

I’ve been thinking a lot about deserts & the wilderness lately. Places that are hard, harsh, dead, dry, the ground scarred with deep cracks… There is no escaping from the power of the desert. Parallel to this I’ve been so aware of & confronted with areas in my life that make me feel like I’m in a desert.

Especially the whole area of fear. I have so much fear in my life. The more it’s exposed the more I think there must be something seriously wrong with me. Do others have this much fear in their lives or is it just me? But while I’m trying to move out of my metaphorical wilderness, God’s saying stay. God why do you want me to stay in the wilderness?

There is always water. Somewhere underground there is water. Today I was thinking in order for life to exist in the desert the roots need to go down deep & far. Then, once it’s established a strong source of water through deep extensive roots, life bursts forth. Isn’t that like our hearts? My understanding of why God is telling me to stay in the wilderness is because He’s going to bring forth understanding & life in the areas of fear & identity.

One thing I’m also very aware of is when various situations happen it seems to really rock my boat. It doesn’t take a lot for me to feel doubtful & insecure. The most consistent theme is fear of rejection. For example, not producing effective & efficient results at work, not having a place in community, not being good enough for a relationship with a guy.

I find God amusing. I don’t know why, but it seems the guy thing & the community thing matter to God a lot because He’s going all out in my life lately in these areas. He’s working on replacing lies with truth, fear with hope, brokenness with healing, confusion with clarity, walls with freedom… grace, mercy, love, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness, beauty, He’s turning each sad story into treasures of darkness.

Let me tell you some examples of my experience with guys:

Once upon a time I was trapped for a few years by someone with a dark possessive heart. He controlled what I ate, where I went, who I could be with, when I could sleep, whether I could end a phone call to him or not etc. He blackmailed me emotionally so many times with the words, “If you really loved me you would do this.” My naivety played a role in reducing my self worth but he made me feel literally 1 cm tall. He also worked out that I can be very affectionate when I feel vulnerable. So he made a plan & after a long time of acting on it he decided to inform me of his plan. His strategy was he would deliberately pick something to make me cry, & then after a while would choose to “forgive me” so that I would be more affectionate towards him. It still continued, I didn’t have any strength in me to challenge it or to walk away.

There were other guys. Saying no didn’t stop them. Some of them just laughed after the forced their hands on me. Once a basketball was thrown into my face hard; another time it was a heavy backpack smacked over my head; & a different time it was a milk bottle over my head that caused me to tumble down a whole flight of stairs. I’ve been punched, slapped & grabbed on multiple occasions. I’ve been tricked into a fake birthday party & my drink was spiked. Thankfully nothing happened that time because the drug made me aggressive. Once a guy walked me home & assumed something would happen. When I said no he got violent. I stood behind a locked door as he stood on the other side trying to smash the door down. My hearing, my nose, my back, my feet & my face have been ripped apart with cruel words. I’ve been told many times I wasn’t good enough, pretty enough, smart enough & that I didn’t deserve any respect.

My experience of guys in that season of life left me feeling afraid, ashamed, guilty, worthless…  But then, Jesus entered the story.

Ironically my heart can’t wait to be in a relationship. I can’t wait to be married. I’m so excited & hopeful about doing life with someone else & having a family. That’s God’s power for you. It’s the fear in my head that is the issue.

God cares about the details of our hearts & minds; & so whilst He could snap His fingers, He’s choosing to give me my freedom stories as part of a lifelong adventure of unraveling broken chains. It’s in the wilderness where I’m confronted with the fears, lies & misunderstood identity that I find my Savior.

Undoubtedly my past experiences of guys can & does influence fear, & subsequently the way I think or behave today. God is asking me to go back into the wilderness where I’m afraid because He wants to show me things only He can show. Usually the lies & fear comes to me when I’m in community or around guys. Unlike in my past where I tried to address those fears & lies in ways that were not of God, now God & I are in communication.

This is some of what God is saying to me lately:

I can see the future. I know better than you what you need. Trust Me fully. You are not at the mercy of fate, or tossed about at the mercy of others. You are being led in a very definite way. There is not one want of your soul that I do not supply when you ask. Also, I long to be your all. In the spiritual world there is no empty space. As self, fears & worries depart out your life, the things of the Spirit, the things you crave, rush in & take their places. Complete surrender of every moment to Me is the foundation of happiness, the superstructure is the joy of communion with Me. You are in uncharted waters. But I am the Lord of all Seas. I the Controller of all Storms am with you. Learn to shut yourself away in My Presence. & then, without speaking, you have those things you desire of Me: strength, power, joy, peace. A great work requires great & careful training. It is absolutely necessary. Not to everyone is it so. But only to those who ask to serve Me well, & to do much for Me. Believe that I am with you, & controlling all. When my Word has gone forth, all are powerless to stop it.

I could go on & on with what God is saying to me. I don’t have it all figured out. I look at the fear & I’m so overwhelmed at the thought of, “will I ever be in a different place to where I am now?” But I do know four things.

(i) God is faithful. (ii) His Grace is unreal. (iii) All He asks for is my surrender of everything so He can deal with it. (iv) Finally, stories are powerful. They are tangible measurements of God’s Love for us. It’s in the telling & retelling of our testimonies that we can fight fear & lies, & that we fall in Love with our God.

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The Mark He Leaves On Me

Sometimes when I look back on my life I think to myself, “did that really happen?” God has shifted & redeemed so much that when I share some parts of my story, especially in the area of guys, it feels like I’m telling it from the third person perspective.

Whilst my head questions where my chains are, & whilst my heart fills with love and joy for what God has done for me, I do struggle to look people in the eye when I talk. There’s something about vulnerability &looking someone in the eye. I can be vulnerable but most likely I’ll be more honest if I don’t look into the eyes of the person I’m talking to.

Last night I was part of a conversation that led Toes to say to me, “I can’t believe guys have hit you in the past.” Toes was referring back to another conversation we had a couple weeks ago. Chief & Island were also part of the conversation & they were shocked. I shared two stories briefly & they said more than once, “that would never happen here.

It seems God knew what He was doing sending me to South Africa. In the Afrikaans culture guy’s treat women really well. They offer their chairs, they walk girls to their cars, & they let the girls go through the door way first… All stuff that is simple & nothing more than courteous. But actually, all things that are so powerful to a girl with marks all over her. Emotional marks, physical marks & metaphorical marks.

I don’t feel shame anymore. But I do hide behind humor when I talk about many of the incidences that have happened between myself & guys. There might not be shame but there is still a level of sadness. I avoid people’s eyes when I talk about it. Or if I do look I can’t maintain it for long. I prefer to look off to the side or straight ahead, but I don’t really look at anything, just space.

I think there is another reason for that whole looking into the distance. My heart isn’t hard but it’s very guarded. I became very good at compartmentalizing. Pushing all the pain deep down. I was so good at compartmentalizing things that I could do things & have no shame or fear. I was numb. My brain literally shut down & stopped thinking.

Sometimes I cannot remember things in its truest emotional form because I didn’t feel it. Staring into space when I talk kind of makes me feel safe & like I have a chance to really try to reflect on what happened; to allow me to feel things I maybe refused to feel before.

The beautiful things is God’s stories are so interwoven with my story. His stories of love, grace, mercy, kindness, dignity, restoration… sometimes it’s so hard to remember things because He’s removed it. For example I remember the level of guilt & shame I felt. I remember that awful moment a close family friend said in front of a crowd of people, “Akila you are God’s daughter.” I remember that was the moment I felt the most unworthy.

But I don’t remember the emotion itself, I don’t carry that shame & guilt anymore. Whilst I can tell you that was the most unworthy I felt, I don’t have the emotional recall to that moment. I don’t feel it anymore. That’s how I know for myself how powerful God is. That’s how I know how much He’s done in my life.

Also, my ability to compartmentalize has rapidly disintegrated. God in His mercy helped me to make that very conscious decision the moment I got the news that Mike died. He used Mike’s death to teach me how to feel & how to think. It’s still a journey though, I’ve swung the other way & now overthink everything haha. But knowing where I came from, dealing with overthinking to find a healthy balance is a joy filled journey with God.

Some things are tangibly measurable & others are not. Because it’s heart stuff sometimes only God really truly knows how much He’s done in my heart. One thing that is measurable is the change in my heart towards the future. I never wanted to get married or have kids until about 2 years ago. That’s a whole story in itself that I’ll save for another day but the start of story goes simply like this.

One day I was at work, doing something that was mind numbing boring. I had all my walls down because the task required no brain work; & I heard a voice say to me, “Akila you are going to get married.” Because I had no walls up my heart could give a reflex response. I smiled. & I frigging couldn’t stop smiling. No reasoning, no justifying, no doubting, no unworthiness, just smiles of joy.

Smiles of proof of the marks He’s leaving on me.

SPOILER ALERT: The post I intend to blog after this one will be called, “The Marks you Left on Me.” It will be a little x-rated & a little intense as it shares some of my experiences with guys. Sometimes it’s difficult to show just powerful God is but when we share our stories then God’s power speaks for itself.

To Die Or Not To Die

Nearly two weeks ago I went out for dinner with my friends & as we sat around the table I couldn’t help, yet again, thinking how blessed I am to have this amazing community. Unfortunately the moment was slammed with another thought, “The last time I had an amazing community of friends my brother died. Why do I have this community? Who is going to die this time?

Lately I’ve been very aware of fear in my life. It’s like my heart is conflicted in a beautiful tension of feeling paralysed & breaking down walls or lies. Let me give you two battle grounds where this is going on.

Firstly, I love my community of friends here; so much so that I made a decision to be very intentional about not letting anything happen to it. For example, our group has guys in it. The fastest & surest way of division happening is to like someone & they don’t like you back.

So I purposely set out to make sure no guys could pick up a signal of interest from me & misinterpret it. In fact I was so set on doing this that it was a surprise to me last Sunday when one guy said to me, “But I thought you didn’t want to be in a relationship. You keep saying you don’t want anything to compromise this community & family.

I realised then that I can think I’m communicating clearly but what I’m communicating may not be what people hear. I do want to be in a relationship, but I’m afraid. I’m afraid of loss, of rejection, & I’m afraid of losing my best friend (at least you should be BFFs if you’re dating them?! Haha).

After Mike, after my last relationship, after saying goodbye to the UK… I’m not closed to relationships at all, but my heart is fragile to loss & change. This community is my family, I’m scared that too will go away. Yet, if a guy does come along in my life, I do want to be brave enough to jump in.

The second battle ground is this. One of the coolest things about this group of friends is they give me so much permission to be myself… I know what I’m about to say is going to sound like a complete contradiction but bear with me… however, the deeper into community I get, the more this seems to be challenged.

I’m still figuring out who I am. Especially post Mike. A lot changed once he died. Especially the way I see the world, people & life. Certain things became more meaningful & I became a lot more intentional. I like deep conversations, I like encouraging people to be greater versions of who they already are, I like asking people how they are really doing… But in order to do that I first must be vulnerable. Even if my vulnerability is simply asking the question. No matter how great or small the vulnerability, it’s direct contrast is rejection.

The constant threat of rejection is exhausting but lately the consequences of vulnerability seems more intense. Like recently things have happened, or comments have been made to me that were not supposed to be negative but Satan has used it to cut deep into my heart. The thoughts going around in my head subsequently are:

“You drain people Akila”, “People want to laugh & deep stuff doesn’t refresh them”, “Akila people can only handle you in small doses”, “Akila people push you away because you are too intense”, “Akila you are too emotional”, “Akila you think you are trying to treat people the way you want to be treated but really you are just broken.”

I don’t want to be any of those things that are in my head. That wasn’t what was supposed to happen. I didn’t ask for Mike to die. I didn’t ask for me to change. I don’t want to drain people. I don’t want people to only be able to cope with me in small doses. My heart feel so raw, shaken & vulnerable thinking this could be.

Tonight, before church, I was trying to put on mascara without crying it off & I was talking to God about all this. I said to God, “I want to me just me. I want to be real & intentional. I want the deep conversations. I want to genuinely know how someone is doing. I really love & care for people. Even if people can only cope with me in small doses, I don’t want to change because this stuff matters to me, this is how I show people they matter to me.”

As I’m trying to figure all this out with Jesus a thought came to me, “Akila they’re not running from you, they’re running from vulnerability.”

Later after church I shared my fears with my life group leader & she gave a really beautiful illustration of a needle with thread. The needle point of vulnerability is so sharp that it can be painful for me & for others, but the thread that the needle brings is community.

Community is so much bigger than just a group of people hanging out. If God is the heart then community is what He uses to pump life into our souls. Life that fills our being with purpose. Life that He uses to demonstrate His love, His freedom, His truth. Community is life. Messy, beautiful, adventurous, living life. But it’s His life, & He gives it to us. He calls us to be our Brother’s Keepers.

This fear malarkey is hard core to address, but once upon a time when I was 14 years old God told me, “Akila I made you for people.” I want to be faithful to that calling. It’s my heart, it’s how I’m wired. What an incredible joy it is to be called my Brother’s Keeper. I’m not confused about this, but the fears bury this so that everything dumped on top causes confusion & disunity.

I don’t have a conclusion to this blog post as this is still a journey. But I do know that I don’t want these fears to kill me. I don’t want to change the root of who I am. I do want to grow. I do want to walk in freedom rather than fear. & whilst I’m trying to move away from acceptance in other people’s eyes, I really do hope I can be a good friend to people.

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I Said No.

Last week I was walking down Long Street in Cape Town CBD with a group of friends at about 11.30pm when a guy pushed himself against my back and rubbed himself on me. I spun around only to see he was already doing it to another girl who was with us. Then he walked off. It happened so quickly.

Later that evening I was talking about it to the girl’s brother, let’s call him Abs, and to another guy friend, let’s call him Toes. Abs asked me did I say something to the guy and I said, “No, why would I put myself in an intimidating situation? I’ve no idea if calling him out on it will cause him to get aggressive with me.” Abs said, “But Akila, you were with 4 other guys at the time who have your back. What did you think would happen?

I found myself unable to respond but inside thinking to myself, “You have my back? I didn’t even think of you guys.

The next night it was New Year’s Eve. We were on the beach overlooking Cape Town City and once the firework shows ended we decided to go to the restaurant directly behind us because for NYE they had a DJ. Once we got our faces painted by the staff – literally, it was white paint and looked freakin awesome – we hit the dance floor.

I never really realized this until I was going home, but all night I had been looking around me. The whole time I was on the dance floor I did what I always do, observe what others around me are doing. Who is where, who looks shifty, who should I be alert to, do I need to protect someone…

Do I need to protect someone? The number one question I continually ask myself.

Back home when we go out I’m usually the oldest one in the group and/or with my younger sister. Between her and the younger ones in the group I end up stepping into that protector role every time we go out. There is always at least one guy who gets far too close, physical or friendly. Whilst it’s such an honor to be used as a trusted shield by my sister or our friends, I have to switch off my brain, compartmentalize any fear, and address the guy.

The guy’s reaction 99% of the time is either to then hit on me, or to get aggressive. Once a guy punched me three times in the face and busted my lip when I explained the girl wasn’t interested. Another time the guy grabbed my hair so hard I landed head first on the edge of the street curb which caused my head to bleed.

But on the night of NYE something magically strange happened on the dance floor.

I was dancing next to the sister, the same one who was with me on Long Street the night before, and noticed the guy behind her was bumping his backside against her. So I grabbed her hand and spun her into the opposite direction. But then that left me with butt guy and I was thinking, “Oh no?! Where do I go?! His butt is going to bump into me now?!

I think I dived to the other side of our circle of friends but when I turned around Toes had moved into the spot where the sister and I were. I wish I filmed it because it was genuinely the funniest thing – Toes had no shame, he just danced the same way as the guy, backside to backside, and soon enough the guy moved away.

After a while the lights dimmed and the music got better so myself and two other girls moved to the center of the dance floor. And we just went for it dancing. I could see this tall, creepy, older dude dancing near us and sure enough he made a move on one girl. I grabbed her away from him but then the creep started hitting on the other girl. I grabbed her too and held onto them while dancing in hope that creep would get the message that we were not interested. But as I looked over my shoulder all I saw was Toes and Abs leading the other guys in our group across the dance floor straight to us. They gathered around us dancing and Toes made conversation with creep.

P.s. creep doesn’t deserve a capital “C”.

I cannot tell you how much that blew my mind. It was so simple and non-threatening but so effective. It never crossed my mind that I wasn’t the only one observing things on the dance floor. I never thought our guys would have our backs like that. I never thought they would step into that protective brother role. I never thought it because I never saw it before.

I know what happens when I say no. I know what it’s like to be hit repeatedly in the face and on multiple occasions. I know what it’s like for guys to force their hands onto me. I know what happens when a guy 60 years older than me kisses me inappropriately. I know what it’s like to not be able to press charges because there, “isn’t enough evidence to make the case stick in court”. I know so much more than what anyone should ever have to know.

More than anything I know exactly what it’s like to be a woman in a world where men are animals.

I didn’t know, genuinely did not know, that a group of guys, like my friends, could exist. I don’t know what overwhelms my heart more with love and gratitude – that these guys exist or that I have the joy of calling them my brothers.

I shared some of my personal life story with a friend on the way back to Pretoria from Cape Town. And after she asked me do I have someone who can help me work through some of the things I’ve been through. I do have people, but I said to her, “Do you know what, God’s really amazing. The stuff He’s doing in my heart is insane. I can’t escape Him. He’s using so many people and situations to address things in my life and to heal my heart. It’s absolutely incredible. Just like the other night the way the guys responded on the dance floor. That whole event has shifted so much in my heart.

I really wish I could show my South Africa family how much God is using them. I’ve said this before but I can’t help repeating it when I realize how full my heart is when I think of them. I actually kinda get sad at my human limitations in expressing my gratitude to them. But I guess I can only keep encouraging them with words of affirmation; and before God just continually ask that He blesses each of them.

In the mean time, I’m so so so freakin blessed to call them my brothers and sisters. Teddi, thanks for pushing me to write about this.

family

Our Stories…

Once upon a time, a situation happened where I think I accidentally pooped on a policeman… I’ll get to that story in a second. This week has been a big week for me!

For starters I learnt how to ride a motorbike, alone?! Ok so my friend was chasing the bike up and down the road in case I started to tumble but still, I was alone on the bike! Secondly, I hosted my first ever dinner “party” here! For 2 years I’ve been putting it off, mainly due to the size of my flat. But I really really miss having people over so I just decided to make it happen. God was kind, the thunder and lightning was CRAY (down with the lingo) and it rained but not enough for us to move from outside to inside. However what made this a big week was – for the first time in South Africa I told someone my testimony.

It’s been interesting for me coming to South Africa. I came to a place where really no one knew me. Apart from one person who was my cabin mate on the ship. I have no history here. No one I went to school with, did life with… in so many ways it has been kind of freeing. Like a way to start over. No one remembers that one time I may or may not have pooped on a policeman. True story. It’s titled “The Flying Poo Story”. Keep reading, I will get to it.

But what has also been interesting is no one has asked to hear my story until very recently. Each one of us has a life story; stories of powerful journeys that shape us into who we are today. Our hopes, dreams, fears, memories, heartbreaks, failures, winning moments, funny stories, family… our heart and mind is formed from these. So I’ve been wondering a question, do people not ask me, or is asking, “tell me your story”, something we just don’t do?

If my guess is right, and we are just not very good at asking people to share their story, then why is that?

When I was invited to share my life story this week I was a little anxious. Anxious because it has potential to bring up thoughts or even past addictions; and anxious because it does definitely bring up fear. Fear of rejection, fear of judgement. I know in my head the issue lies with that person if they chose to reject or judge but in my heart it’s still painful. I find people sometimes don’t look at me the same way again. I’m so sensitive to loss and change; and that type of relationship shift is next level sucky.

On the flip side, do we actually really want to know people? Sometimes I chose to not ask people to share their stories because I fear being burdened with it. Like somehow I will open Pandora’s Box by asking them to share and I then will have to deal with any life issues they reveal about themselves. Sometimes my relationships existed only for the purpose of having a good time; and there was no reason to break the illusion by bringing authenticity in it. I think I was a little too broken to know how to do real friendship with my old party friends. We only knew how to party. Hard.

In other words, maybe we don’t ask people because we’re afraid of their reaction; the impact it might have on us; the fear of being burdened; or maybe we just don’t want that kind of friendship. Maybe we have relationships where we are actually actively saying, “I chose not to know you.

I know right… #micdrop

I’ve always loved people but I think my attitude to relationships changed after I got sick when I was 19 years old. My body gave up a little and I found myself in hospital for 3 weeks, then a wheelchair for an additional month. It changed even more when I was 20 years old, once I went to the ship for a year. Then when Mike died… shoot, at 21 years old there was no going back for me after that.

I changed, and I’m not the same person anymore. I still struggle with that change. Especially after Mike. It messes a lot with one’s identity. Like for so long I was confused whether I really was an extrovert or if I was actually an introvert. Thankfully I’m still 100% an extrovert?! But I’m deeper, way more sensitive, far more intentional, and the story matters to me. Your story, their story, my story, His story.

Asking someone to share their story is major. Yes, you need wisdom and discernment in doing so. But where possible I really want to encourage you to look for those opportunities to ask someone to tell you their story! It has so so so much potential:to bring healing to the person; to bring fresh revelations of who God is for you and for them; to bring reestablishment of their identity and value; and to basically bring truth, hope, and freedom to their lives.

Unless you really want to choose not know someone, if asking a person to share their story has so much power, why wouldn’t we want to embrace these beautiful opportunities to say to each other, “I see you”.

P.s. Yea, so sorry. I’m totally not ready to blog about the poop story yet haha 😉

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