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The Avocardo Tree

There is so much division between skin colour here. I can’t really tell you real situations that are happening or my thoughts… But I can tell you what I see in the form of stories.

The Story of The Avocardo Tree

Once a upon a time there was an avocado tree that grew so many avos that it was nearly impossible to eat them all. When it was really windy avos would drop into garden & the owner, Mr. Avo, liked that because he didn’t need to get a ladder to pick them!

Mr Avo was kind. When it was windy not only did avos fall in his garden but also into Mrs. Neighbour’s garden next door & Mr. Avo was pleased Mrs. Neighbour could also enjoy then. Mrs Neighbour of course didn’t complain about avos falling all over her garden because she could eat them for free instead of buying them!

One day Mrs. Neighbour saw Mr. Gardener going behind the tool shed & then coming back round to enter the shed a couple times. She wondered what he was doing so when she could she went to have a look. Mrs. Neighbour was very angry to discover Mr. Gardener had collected the avos from behind the shed & piled them up.

As soon as Mr. Neighbour, her husband, came home that day she complained to him that Mr. Gardener was stealing her avos. Mr. Neighbour told Mrs. Neighbour he told Mr. Gardener to take the ones that fell behind the shed. Mrs. Neighbour was quite displeased with this.

The Story of the Toilet Paper

Mrs. Braai & her friends were discussing how much they pay their help & gardeners. Mrs. Braai told them she pays her help & gardener R100 (£5) a day because any more encourages them to waste it on alcohol & drugs.

A little further into the conversation  Mrs. Braai complained that she often found little things like toilet paper, salt & paper went missing.

Mrs. Braai said to her friends, “If they (her help & gardener) were taking bigger things I would say something. But they are just little things & so I just turn a blind eye because they obviously need it.

The Story of the Shack

This past winter Mrs. Warm complained a lot about it being cold in her house. Every day she would have a fire & every night her would turn on the electric blanket on her bed.

Mrs. Warm’s help & gardener lived in her garden in a wooden shack that had holes in the roof & walls.

The Story of the Shop Keeper, the Fair Maiden & the Chimney Sweeper

There once was a Shop Keeper who hired a Fair Maiden to help around his shop. It wasn’t longer before this Fair Maiden fell in love with the Chimney Sweeper. The shop owner advised the Fair Maiden & the Chimney Sweeper to become friends before pursuing a deeper friendship.

Sadly the Shop Owner shortly died & his Brother took over the shop. The Brother was deeply unhappy with the arrangement the between the Fair Maiden & the Chimney Sweeper. However even though the Shop Owner died the Fair Maiden & Chimney Sweeper held onto his advice.

Time passed soon it became time for the Fair Maiden & Chimney Sweeper to ask the village for permission to marry. Upon hearing the request, the Brother decided he simply could not sit by & watch this go ahead. He took the Fair Maiden aside & told her, “Fair Maiden please do not go ahead with this is marriage. Those who come from a Chimney Sweeper background are the kind to find other Fair Maidens & marry them also.

Note: These stories are not to fuel fire. These are simply stories to help a white girl from the UK, who studied Social Work, process situations that culturally are so different to her own.

The Prince & The Toad

I’ve been wanting to blog again for so long however every time I think about it I follow the thought with excuses. Either I don’t have anything to say or I have too much incriminating evidence about myself. That’s right, “Miss Lay It All Out” has secrets.

Let me tell you a secret that isn’t actually a secret, alongside being a missionary in South Africa serving God, every day I daylight as the lead actress in a story called The Prince & The Toad.

I actually called someone a toad today without meaning too. Thankfully she – OMG I called a girl a toad – knows me well enought to know my jokes sometimes get all muddled up in meaning.

But that isn’t the story for today.

Today I won. Today I yet again got accused of something. I’m so tired of it. I’m tired of the accusations. I’m tired that in my one sided limited understanding it seems others don’t do their jobs & I get blamed for it. I’m tired of the lack of questions. I’m tired of the ignorance. I’m tired. Tired. Tired.

So I pulled out the emails from our previous conversations. I pointed out HIS mistakes. I showed him HE failed. I refused to back down. Because this time I’m clearing my name & will do whatever it takes to PROVE what he was saying to me was ignorant, unjust & inaccurate. I got the outcome I wanted. I showed him.

But… but… he goes & admits to me & others he made a mistake. He apologised. He acknowledged what could have been done differently. Damn it he even humbled himself.

I may have got the outcome I wanted but now I feel like a toad.

I knew I could respond in love, kindness, gentleness, patience & with grace. But I didn’t want to. I didn’t want to believe those things have power. They’re too slow. I want to change things now. Immediately. Even if I risk relationships…. actually no. I didn’t let my thinking go there, thinking about risking relationships, because I just wanted to be right. It wasn’t about wanting to clear my name – I could have done that with no words but simply just forward our previous emails. Nope, it would seem I just wanted to selfishly win a battle. I wanted to be Queen of the pond.

The only upside to all this is whilst I’m kissing other toads – meet my toad friends: anger toad, selfishness toad, pride toad & fear toad – Jesus is loving my heart.

I Just Don’t Trust God…

Back in April I was on a week-long “Missions Mobilizing Training” program. One evening the team and I took part in a world poverty simulation.

There were 4 groups, and each group represented a true portion of wealth around the world. The first group was the smallest and they were given an amazing 3 course meal. The second group was the largest and they were given a meat and rice dish. The third group was the second largest and they were given just plain rice. Finally fourth group, the third largest, wasn’t given anything at all to eat.

In real life many of us fit into the smallest and most wealthy group. It’s nearly impossible to capture the true essence of real poverty when we live above the poverty line and therefore it cannot be claimed that this simulation turns us into experts. But it does create awareness and it does give our western minds context.

There was a lot of playful behaviour throughout the simulation. Groups two and three kept stealing off each other. But as I watched them, it stirred up something in me, Frustration. I was in the last group, the one without any food at all. These groups had food. So why were they not content with what they had? Why did they feel it was their right to take more?

It made me think of all the times I opened my own fridge and thought, “There is a lot of food in here, but nothing looks appealing, I will go to the shop and buy something else.” It made me think of all the times I consequently wasted food just because I didn’t want it at the time. It made me think of the times I chose to be selfish, greedy and dissatisfied with what I had.

Eventually, people from groups two and three started to bring food to us. At first I was grateful as I was hungry! But then I got, Angry. They were sharing their left overs with me. Left overs. Stuff that they had literally dug about in with their hands, took all they wanted, and gave me the remainder. I wasn’t good enough for anything more than “left overs”.

God calls us to tithe 10% of what we have but the more I thought about it, the more I realised, “I don’t miss that 10%, I barely notice it’s gone, it’s just my left overs.” It is bold of me to speak on behalf of those other than myself but I feel confident in saying that I see myself and so many others giving our left overs to people.

We give our left overs to others when it comes to our time, our money, our attention, our clothing, our belongings… We take what we want, what we think we need and then offer the remainder to those around us. Or we offer what is of least cost to us. Is that not insulting? Why do we act so sacrificial, righteous and as though we have done something pleasant? Have we really truly? Or did we give left overs?

I would never treat my sister like that. If she needed something, I wouldn’t give her my left overs. I would literally give her my kidney before letting her live below the poverty line. So why does it stop there? Why do I not have the same attitude towards others? God calls us to LOVE one another, He didn’t call us to LIKE one another. So why am I willing to give my sister everything and not someone else?

Pride? Greed? I earned this money. I worked for this opportunity. I saved for this item of clothing. I take nothing to the grave so why then do I go about life saying “this is mine”. In England I was brought up in a cultural, social and economic society that said told me if I wanted something I had to work for it and/or do it myself. So it’s hard for me to change my mentality to reflect actually what is true: everything I have is a gift from God. As for our time, God calls us to be in relationship with one another. Why then do I give less than 10% of my time to quality relationships with others?

We talk so much about being a body of Christ, being family, we are all God’s people… why does there seem to be such a struggle extend that into our finances? Into our processions? Into our time? What then is community? What then is God calling us to do when He says, “Give”. Do I really see you as family if I withhold myself and anything in my procession?

My own argument was, “Yes, we need to give but we need wisdom because we have responsibilities.” But the more I examined my own heart on that the more I realised, “No, I just don’t trust God.” I don’t fully trust God that He will provide for me. I don’t fully trust God that if I see someone in need and give them what I have, that God will make sure I am not without and will bless me for it. I don’t fully trust God that if I bless someone He will bless me for it. I don’t fully trust God that if I spend time with someone He will bless me with rest elsewhere. I chose to not live and see God’s blessings, I chose to not be a part of God’s greater story, and I chose to rob God of opportunities. God has proved over and over again that I cannot out give Him. And yet I still don’t trust Him.

God forgive me for my total lack of trust in You. Thank you so showing me over and over again that You are GOD. Give me wisdom and the ability to offer You so much more of my time, being and what I have. Continue to speak truth to me that with You, I cannot go wrong.

“Taste & see that the Lord is Good. The joys of those who trust in Him! Let the Lord’s people show Him reverence. For those who honour Him will have all they need. Even strong young lions sometimes go hungry, but those who trust in the Lord will never lack any good thing.” – Psalm 34:8-10

Durban, Sharks & The Serial Killer

In the past few days so many people have asked me, “So how are you settling in?” It’s insane to think I have only been here 26 days… 2 days shy of 4 weeks. I feel like I’ve been here a life time already. I’m really enjoying it here.

Let’s start with an update on working in Personnel. It’s actually hard to explain what I do because it can be SO varied. Personnel is absolutely overlapping with recruitment, finance, immigration and member care. And I could be doing any or all of those at any given time depending on a person’s situation.

We get a lot of people enquiring about OM and so we have a small team of people called “mobilizers” that filter out those who are just asking questions to those who are genuinely looking to volunteer with us. From there, the mobilizers send Personnel the information of these potential recruits and we go through the application process. Depending on what area of OM they want to volunteer I could be talking to any one of 100+ OM bases around the world. If they want to volunteer for something in South Africa then I just work alongside that particular base. Then, while a recruit is volunteering with us I help to look after them and recently the OM South Africa leadership team were looking for someone to oversee the exit interviews and so I asked to be that person.

Basically when someone is leaving OM they’ll have a final interview with me assessing their experience with OM. This is after they have all their formal leaving interviews and appraisals. The exit interview is more looking at where we as OM can grow and develop in supporting our volunteers.

It seems along with my daily jobs I have some bigger projects on the side. Last week one of those projects was to compile information regarding visas from about 100 recruits. This past week I’ve been sorting out our file room and this week I hope to shred everything that is over 5 years old. One of the core underlining things my job entails is working with a computer database system that hold everyone’s information. Thankfully it seems things are going well with learning this database and I seem to pick up on it all quite fast. I knew all those hours spent using Facebook would come in handy!

On the side, I’m aiming for one day a week, I’m doing hands on ministry. So far I’ve got to spend a little bit of time with Aids Hope and last weekend I went to Durban for partnership functions. Durban is on the East coast of South Africa and about an 8 hour drive from Pretoria. It was cool to drive through and to see more of the country. Partnership functions and connecting with churches is definitely the more glamorous side of what OM does.

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On the Saturday morning we had a partnership brunch whereby business men and women were invited to attend. Whilst they enjoy a spectacular meal we put on a program sharing what OM does and why we would like them to partner with us. Usually these said business people will give financial donations but sometimes they are able to give more specifically. For example, if someone owns a factory that makes stationary then they may give a donation of stationary for our Aids Hope school kids.

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On the Sunday our team split up and went to 3 different churches and shared at a total of 5 different services or meetings. We share about missions, what we do in OM and why the world needs more missionaries. This is a great time to share specifically about the programs OM South Africa does and to encourage people to get involved.

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Our weekend was exhausting and so Ema, Deborah, Josh and I decided to go Shark Diving at the aquarium next to where we were having one of our functions. Jonathan took pictures from the viewing floor. It was so much fun. I laughed so much I’m sure I would have drowned. P.S. I think I need to elaborate on the enormity of me getting in the water – I have a serious phobia of FISH! True story! In fact I was so scared of them touching my toes I kept my feet moving at all times… And accidently kicked Josh a lot. Including in the head haha. OOPS!  The drive back from Durban was rather entertaining! I saw 10 tornados, monkeys, an out of control bush fire and ostrich.

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I think this is a good spot to share about some of the people I’ve made friends with here. You know, I started writing their names and nationalities down for you but there are actually too many people to list for you. There is a girl here called Chanri and she was actually one of my cabin mates 5 and a half years ago when we were on the ship. Now her desk is the one next to mine. It’s cool how our paths have crossed again like this.

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So there are a couple pieces of news for you. Firstly, the visa situation. After a lot of prayer and discussion I’ve decided I’m coming back to England at the end of November. There is nothing I can do about the visa here. Dad and I will go down to London and visit the embassy in person in order to sort out my visa. My chest X-Ray will be out of date and so I may need to get that redone however we will still go to the embassy without it in hope they can just accept my current X-Ray.

It will take a minimum of 30 days to process the visa and should I need an x-ray I’m intending to give a leeway of an additional 30 days. So bizarrely enough, it looks like I’ll be home for Christmas, Laura’s 21st and a friend’s wedding. Work wise there will be lots for me to do but I can do it all from England which means I will continue to work with OM South Africa whilst I’m back.

The car situation also continued to be a bit of a drama haha. Last week we decided the best way forward is to wait until the person I’m buying the car from is back in South Africa. There’s just too much red tape involved trying to sort out the tax for the car when it’s not in my name.

So, so this means I’m quite limited in how I do things as I’m so dependent on transport (public transport and walking are not options) but that’s OK. I do enjoy my down time on an evening because I’m with people from about 7.30am until 6pm. Plus I live on the property of my boss and her family so I get to spend time with them outside of work hours. Weekends are quite busy! :)My first weekend here in Pretoria I did a lot of chilling out; my second weekend was sports fanatic weekend whereby I watched a 3 hour cricket match, a 5 hour swimming gala and then a football match on TV; last weekend I was in Durban (if we’re friends on FB you need to check out my album called “Remember Who You Are.”); and today I was at Aids Hope in Mamelodi for a braai.

It’s such a sad situation in Mamelodi at the moment as there’s a serial killer who is raping and killing young women. The police are on it but it’s not like England. Mamelodi is one giant township of around 1 million people… where and how do you even start looking for a killer? So it’s been additionally hard for the Aids Hope Team who live and work in Mamelodi with all this extra turmoil going on. The community keep taking things into their own hands which makes things so much worse. There have been many “suspects” who have fallen victim of revenge beatings and even one person was killed. Sadly they killed the wrong person and so the serial killings continue.

Speaking of safety, the car I hoped to get is operated by a standard key and an immobilizer. And it has a hijack button that sets off a crazy alarm should I need to press it in such a situation. Surreal.

I know I have so much more to share with you all but it seems all memory has left me at it inches closer to 9pm. I’ll save anything else to share for another time! 🙂

Hooters, Biltong, Mamelodi… My First 48 Hours In Pretoria

So here I am!

I’ve been trying to figure out how to start this blog and starting with my entry into South Africa seems logical – I tried to make it glamorous. I really did. I searched my brain for great phrases to step off the plane and into the country with. You know, something to carry with me through thick and thin. Maybe not even a phrase or word but a profound conviction. But I think tiredness was suppressing every in my brain and as I stood at the baggage carousal I did the whole “What have I done, I don’t want to be here” conversation with myself. Thankfully I did have enough wisdom floating through the haze to recognize the transition signs. So in that moment of panic and even now when I have a little “Oh no what have I done moment” I actually try to not dwell on any of the thoughts that could potentially send me off the edge. That, and I’ve just been trying to walk life with Jesus. I attempted to watch a movie in bed last night with Him but if we were to judge how that was going by my waking at 3am this morning with my glasses still on and no memory of falling asleep then I would say, I’m still finding my feet with this concept of living intimately with God haha.

What is Pretoria like? Well leaving Johannesburg Airport and driving to Pretoria was slightly bizarre. It reminded me a lot of home. Miles of just… land. Like the Lake District. Except, the ground is orange, red and brown; the grass is dried out green; the wildlife consists of giraffes (I’ve yet to actually see them); the second day of spring consisted of blue skies and a high of around 27 degrees C… It’s hard to see how I drew the connection to the Lake District but somehow I did. Go figure. I think it was more to do with the way that for miles there is nothing but land and roads and then all of a sudden there is what I can only describe as “random islands of community”. I say this because it’s like there are literally islands of densely populated areas surrounded by enough land to think “Why don’t they just spread out more to give everyone more space?”

My flat is pretty cute. It’s like 3 rooms all joined together in a line. When you open the sliding door you step into the kitchen and living area; the next room is my room and attached to the bedroom is a bathroom. My flat is where the domestic maids would once upon a time live. The mini kitchen/living space was added on in the past 5 years. Over the past 2 days I spent most of my time unpacking, cleaning and making the flat more my own. Actually on that note, let me tell you about my community.

I live in a gated community. There are maybe 50 houses in this community surrounded by walls and electric fences. You drive up there are security guards. But then each house has walls, electric fences, signs saying “Armed response”… I’m not sure you’d believe me but the neighborhood it’s quite beautiful, safe and peaceful all things considering. I asked some of the long term people and people from Pretoria about safety and it’s not as bad as the horror stories everyone seems to be telling me. Thank God. Outside my community is a mini shopping complex and get this… It has a Hooters. The first thing you are greeted with as you come and go from my community is this Hooters. Which I just think is so comical. And Dad, I hate to tell you but apparently it’s a “conservative Hooters”. The girls wear tights under their shorts and vest tops instead of tops that resemble bras. It’s the most random mini shopping complex too. It does have normal stuff like a McDonalds and a supermarket but along with Hooters it also has a business called “Play Time Café”. Put it like this, it has neon lighting and about a meter past its open doors it has a wall preventing you from seeing actually IN the “café”. Somehow I don’t think this is a café.

It all feels a bit surreal here in South Africa so far. Here they have people to fill up your petrol at the petrol station; when I say hello to the maids standing on our street taking a break from their work they call me “Ma’am”; there are signs for an “internet monitored baby care service” (creepy); the Woolworths looks like it’s either associated to M&S or someone went to England, checked out M&S and stole ALL the designs and layout… I’ll have to add to this list as I continue to experience South Africa. In amongst all of this I was also talking with my manager and saying that there is a lot of respect here in Pretoria. Like those maids, I am WAY younger than them and therefore my Western ideology tells me respect should be the other way around. But as it is, that’s not what the deal is here. I’m definitely sensing the skin colour ranking here. I dunno, I’m still trying to understand. It’s a bit surreal.

Speaking of differences between England and South Africa. OMG the driving?! Roundabouts just got more confusing and I fear greatly for the day I drive again back home. So the deal with roundabouts is: mini roundabouts, if you’re turning right then you don’t have to go around them you can just go anticlockwise; if you’re all approaching a mini roundabout from the same exit some will go clockwise, others will go anticlockwise immediately after, and both vehicles just hope they won’t crash into each other when they reach their exit at the same time; and at all roundabouts you don’t give way to the right you go according to who reached the roundabout first. SAY WHAAAAT. So if there are several cars all at the roundabout before you reach there, no matter what the entry point is, you wait until they all go before you. My head hurts just thinking about is.

Yesterday morning I went to Mamelodi. And that was a pretty awesome experience. One of the OM South Africa projects is Aids Hope and they have been working alongside a primary school educating the final year group on Aids, HIV and Sexual Health. Here in South Africa primary school finishes at the age of 13. The class had around 60 kids and statistically speaking 1 in 5 of those 12-13 year olds will have Aids. Which means 12 of them. It’s quite a lot to take in and I couldn’t help but look at their faces and which of them would one day die from Aids. There’s a lot of sigma and ignorance surrounding Aids here in South Africa and so a lot of what Aids Hope does is correct these beliefs (i.e. sex with a virgin will cure you) and break down those barriers (i.e. we are all loved and equal regardless as to whether one has Aids or not). Tradition, witchcraft and culture makes it really hard to challenge and correct attitude towards Aids. Once I get more settled in my role I’ll also take up a ministry day which will most likely be working with Aids Hope. I can’t wait.

I should tell you what Mamelodi is like. Imagine an “island” of an estimated 1 million people living in makeshift one room shacks. Shacks that are smaller than the shed at my parent’s house. Surrounding the entire place is rubbish. I kept seeing rubbish being burnt and I asked my manager if they were burning the rubbish off – thinking they were trying to rid of it. But she told me no. They burn the rubbish to keep warm and to fend off evil spirits. I don’t think there is any real way for me to explain what these places are like except to take photos. However these are not really places I would dare to get my camera out.

I have been in South Africa for 58 hours, less than 2 and a half days and I feel like I’ve been here for a life time already. Stuff even happened today that I can’t share except to say it was literally a “Paul style jail break”. If you wanna see the bible stories in the 21st century you gotta leave the western world to see them for real. Absolutely crazy. I also had my first day at work today! It was fun! I think I’m going to really enjoy my job…

That’s it for now!

P.S. I was asked what I’ve been eating since I got here. So far I have been eating a lot of peanut butter on bread; bananas here are 40p a kilo so I foresee a lot of them in my future; and the only weird stuff I’ve tried so far was raw beef called Biltong. Eak!

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Why I Paid Off My Student Loan And How I Did It

Hey All!

So as most of you know, I paid off my student loan?! “Good grief why would you decide to do something so radical and how on Earth did you do it?!” Good questions. Since I’m genuinely serious about helping out my fellow student peers I’ll be completely honest. And part of that honesty is to speak ONLY from my own experience. Each student, whether post, current or prospective, has their own life circumstances and those without a doubt need to be taken into consideration when discussing finances. Many will say I got lucky, and to many I will say “You’re the one who has control over your debt.” But ultimately, it comes down to what are your values.

So why did I pay off my student loan.

Personally I believe there are rights and responsibilities. I have a right to education but a responsibility to my government and country to pay what I owe. I live in a country where the government thinks it’s great we have opportunities to learn but they have said it doesn’t come free. I took out my loans, ticked all the boxes and signed the contracts saying I want the money and yes I understand the conditions. From the minute I even contemplated university at the age of 14 years old I know this would be the way I would be able to receive my education and what was expected of me.

Over the course of my life I have probably spent more time moaning about taxes, lack of jobs, limited housing, elderly care, health care systems, benefit cheats and goodness knows what else than any other subject. Maybe not… but daily I have commented or had lengthy discussions about how I don’t have what I want in life. Every 4 weeks I see nearly a 1/3 of wages disappear. Doesn’t seem fair really. I worked so freaking hard for it.

But then here’s the other way for me to look at it. Why should I take thousands of pounds from the government, contribute to the country’s national debt and then complain when they can’t give me what I want. Actually, it’s not about what I want. Why should I demand all my life for this and that, and then expect YOU to pick up the pieces. In fact, demanding what I believe is my “right” and not being humble enough to accept my rights in life comes with responsibilities makes me a no more than a hypercritic.

On top of all that, my loans impact my savings, my mortgage, it adds 20 plus years of stress… Why in my right mind would I want to do that to myself? When it comes to a mortgage, yes, it is affected by my loans. My parents looked at getting simple £80,000 house as an investment. They looked at putting the mortgage in their name, and then in my name. My monthly mortgage repayments would be nearly double what they were expected to pay simply because I had a loan in my name. But please, don’t take my word for it… Go down to your bank and look into it all yourself.

Others told me I should put money aside as savings, earn interest on my savings, which would in theory give me more money and in theory pay off my student loan faster. I did my research on that too. I went into Nationwide, RBS, HSBC and NatWest branches to discuss the many different ways I could save. The options are limited at best. The highest interest rates on accounts only allowed you to put a certain amount of money in it and only at limited times. E.g. £150 once a month. I wanted more flexibility. Even then, the best interest rates were only around 3%. The same as what my loans were accumulating. But what people have never mentioned to me is 3% interest on a £150 payment is very little in comparison to 3% on a £15,000 loan. My savings will never catch up to my growing loans. Let me put it very simply: £150 over 12 months is £1800 in savings. Let’s say for argument’s sake the 3% interest is added at the end of 12 months, I have earned £54. Now, add 3% interest on to my £15,000 loan, my loan is now £450 more. 9 times more than I earned. Like I said, I will never ever catch up doing that.

Now here’s the other thing. “Why pay your loan off Akila when you could just wait 20 years and it’ll be wiped off?” Let me ask something, when have you ever said “I believe what the government tells me?” You may then say “But both you and those loaning you the money have signed contracts”… Yes we have. Does anyone absolutely 100% know what they’ve signed up for? With all due respect, the government is NOT going to loan out millions and millions of pounds and simply wipe it off. In fact I heard student loans have put the country in nearly a trillion pounds of debt. Even those earning over the wage threshold won’t have paid back much of what they owe. Would you allow that to happen if you loaned out all this money? No, I’m 99% sure you wouldn’t. 6 months ago it even hit headlines recently that student loans will be sold off to loan repayment companies.

There is absolutely nothing certain in life except death. It is mathematically, scientifically and economically impossible for anyone to guarantee “here’s your student loan, good luck paying it off and after X amount of years we’ll wipe it.” If our economy collapses, what’s stopping the “contract” from being revoked with “sorry guys, we’re desperate, you owe us, cough it up”? Retirement changed, taxes changed… You can’t even have an empty bedroom in your home anymore. The government is always threatening and finding ways to stop giving us money and take more money away from us. Of course, I agree this might all be speculation but like I said, why in my right mind would I want to put myself through the stress of uncertainty?

So here is how I did it.

Half way through my final year at university my loans stood at around £15,000. At its peak the interest my loan was earning was over £39 a month. When my final loan instalments came in I realised I didn’t actually need it and so paid that and some more back. That was £3000 which dropped my loan to around £12,000. My interest was still £15 a month. Over the next year I was on 0% interest and so didn’t pay anything off. Then January 2012 I decided that whatever came into my bank account I would use 10% to pay off my loan. For 7 months I was unemployed and on Job Seekers, £5 a week doesn’t sound like a lot but it added up. As of August 2012 I started working for a supermarket and still every month when I got my pay slip I took 10% and paid off my loan. Again it doesn’t sound like a lot but again, it does add up.

All this time while I was taking 10% and paying off my student loan, I also had 6 other savings funds. After I paid my parents for the rent, took £100 for myself to live off for 4 weeks (food, petrol, entertainment, clothes, hair, make up etc), and took 10% to pay off my loan I then put 10% in each of these funds. Why did I do this? Well for example, one of my funds was for a car. Eventually I was able to pay nearly £2000 for a car, insurance and tax without batting an eye lid. For me I chose to do things like that so that I always had the money there when I needed it rather than panic about when I needed it. And you know what, I lived a full life for how “little” I lived on. I went on holidays, I bought clothing, I went to the cinema, I had takeaways, I had nights out… I was never without because, in my opinion, I played it smart. So in November 2013 I looked at my savings and looked at my wages and decided to go all out. Like a game of Poker, I put all my chips in. But unlike Poker knew I couldn’t lose. I took any money I had in those funds and used the entire lot to pay off all I could of my loan. And then over the next months I paid rent, took my £100 and put all my wages towards my loan. By April 2014 I paid off the entire loan.

Like I said, each person has their own circumstances. I paid rent but for the first year it was very little. It increased by 100% the following year. I live in an area where it’s possible to have a car and I’m not paying for sky-high travel costs. My job at the supermarket was fantastic in that I worked hard and got myself opportunities to go from 16 hours at £6.34 to 39 hours at £8.30. Yes I was very blessed and very lucky. But don’t forget at one point I was unemployed and had a lot of debt. I don’t believe for one minute that taking control of ones finances is limited to those with money. Whether it’s student loans, mortgage loans, money lending loans… I believe it comes down to values.

I know that is, for many, provocative but I genuinely believe if you really want to get out of debt you will do what is necessary. But it’ll only happen if it’s a real value to you to do so. Your desire to be debt free will trump whether you have a take away once a week or once a fortnight. It will trump buying a move when it first comes out to waiting a couple of months. It will trump whether you spend £20 on clothing each month or £100. I never ever thought I could do this but I did. And so can you. The 10% rule can be applied to any loan and any saving! I may literally have “zero” in my bank account, but I sure as hell have zero debt in my name also 😀

If you want advice or help with your finances there is a lot of support out there!

CAP (Christians Against Poverty) – https://www.capuk.org/

HM Revenue & Customs – http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/payinghmrc/problems/debt-help.htm

StepChange – http://www.stepchange.org/

 

Over The Finish Line!

Over The Finish Line!

The Truth that Smashed the Lie.

Hey!

So something really cool happened on Sunday morning but before I tell you what, I have to give you the background story first 🙂

When Mike died I felt really close to God. I needed Him so much to get me through Mike’s death that I felt inseparable from Him. We talked together, walked together, lay in bed crying together, laughed together, grew together, healed together, explored life’s mysteries together, learnt about His heart together… I have never been that close to God. I loved it. I thought that feeling of being so connected to Him would never change.

But in amongst it all I believed a lie. I believed that our walks with God are like a hierarchy and I finally reached THAT place everyone wants to be in but is preserved for only the most vulnerable, or the most wise, or the most special, or the most spiritual. I thought I was in the first category, and I thought that once you were in that particular realm with God you couldn’t go back. How and why would you? Once you’ve experienced it why would you want anything different?

But then something happened. The further I got from Mike’s death, the more distant I felt from God. My life turned more and more back into “normality“. That deep connection to God felt less and less. And I panicked. I panicked because I thought I did something wrong. I went through all my mistakes that happened post Mike and questioned, “God was it this one? What about that one? Must of been that other there because that’s a bit of a stinker of a sin...” Post Mike I started to freak out because I didn’t know who I was anymore. What were my dreams? Am I an introvert or an extrovert? What about my life? My friendships? My relationships?

Before I knew it I ended up in a place where everything I thought in my mind was a lie. I allowed negative things people spoke over me to define me. I allowed panic and fear to shape my walk with God. I allowed guilt to follow me and judge me. And the thing that really stood out to me about it all is… I had NO freaking idea any of this was happening. It was only maybe 2-3 months ago did I realise all these lies. Lies are sneaky, subtle and shaped in such away that they look like the truth. I couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t believe I listened to it all, that I didn’t realise all those thoughts were lies.

But still I felt like I had failed. Something went wrong between me and God. I just couldn’t work out why or what happened. I felt like I was back at square one. Because doubting my self worth, listening to lies about myself, struggling with the things I struggle with… they’re all things that I’ve struggled with for a very long time. All through my teen years. I thought they were gone when Mike died. But they’re back. They’re been back for a couple years. And I thought all these struggles I have was proof that I wasn’t a good follower of Jesus after all.

Sunday morning I had my daily script running through my head. Asking myself what went wrong, asking myself why I felt distant from God, telling myself I failed, telling myself I needed to do more… But this time God stepped in and told me something.

“Akila, you’ve struggled with these things nearly all your life. Even leading up to Mike’s death. You just didn’t always recognise it. When Mike died you were in no position to deal with any of the struggles you faced prior to August 1st 2009. So I loved you the way you needed to be loved. I hugged you all night and helped you gain your strength back during the day. All your struggles that you’re talking about I took from you so you didn’t have to face them in your vulnerability. You grew Akila, you grew stronger. And in time I slowly revealed your struggles to you again because we need to deal with them. In the past you dealt with those struggles in ways that didn’t set you free from them. So this time we’re going to walk together, just like we did with Mike. We’re going to explore the lies you face about yourself and we’re going to deal with them together. I need to show you the truth. I need to show you how to speak the truth into those struggles and into those lies. I need to show you the lies so you can stamp all over them and say no. You are not a bad person and I am not showing you these lies to point out your struggles. I am showing you in order to give you power to destroy Satan.”

For the first time in a long time, something shifted inside me. I started seeing truth and a realisation settled over me. A realisation of God is in control and none of this is in vain. My eyes and my head physically felt cool like I’d come into the shade after standing in the blistering sun. I’m on a journey. I’ll be on this journey of finding truth for a while. Satan will attack from every side just as he has been. But each revelation of truth from God is one more weapon.

The Kitchen Knife, the Chopping Board & The Policeman

Hey!

Three days into the new year already?! Laura and I are off to London tomorrow which is so exciting. We’ve already had our first major debate: which suitcase to take. Apparently me hogging both sides of the suitcase meant we needed a bigger one so she could have at least one side to herself. Haha. Oops. I suppose that’s the disadvantage to self catering, packing the toilet paper can be a good idea… But there are serious compromises to be made else where. Having said that: one coat, a rain coat, two pairs of shoes… Dang this girl is doing good. I was thinking about packing a sharp kitchen knife into my bag but I’m not entirely sure what the laws are in the UK for knives. I’m aware knives on the street are a “no-no” but a kitchen knife with a chopping board? Where do you stand with that Mr Policeman? ! In all fairness, when you buy knives the majority of people walk out from the shop onto the street with them… Maybe I can blag this. But I’ll save that adventure for a rainy day.

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Some cool things have happened over the past few days. I was able to shine light into darkness a couple times; I had a really great catch up with a friend; my hearing aid split last night at work but was able to literally walk into audiology today and walk straight back out with it fixed; I was able to sleep when needed, wake when needed and get all my jobs done; it held of raining until I completed all my jobs in town… Sometimes it really is the most basic of things that can make such a difference in life 🙂

And So It Continues…

Hey All!

It’s been months since I last updates my blog. Yes, I’m still alive. My reason for not writing as been quite simple really: it’s not exactly been appropriate to share my life’s journey lately. So much of my life evolves around my job and so a lot of my adventures, personal development and daily randomness involves work. I’m not sure what the company policy is for talking about things that are work related and so I’ve just avoided writing. That, and the fact that I’ve been so tired I just haven’t had the mental capacity to deal with blogging.

So, is this my new year’s resolution? To start-up blogging again? No. We sat around the table last night talking about new years resolutions and actually… I don’t believe in them. Why wait a whole year before putting determination and dedication into play? I do appreciate the start of a new year can be symbolic for people in various circumstances. However I can’t help but feel that whilst we preach it so much that “every day is a new day“… I don’t believe people really embrace it the same way they do when the dates hit January 1st. And then, when people fail… I think it’s safe to say the feeling of disappointment felt by those people is so much greater.

Life is a continuum. There isn’t a start or a stop date for us to get things right. Whatever your hopes and goals for 2014, take it day by day. Moment by moment. Push yourself to meet your goals and bring reality to your hopes in such a way that when you look back over the year on December 31st 2014 you can say with confidence: “I pushed, I fought, I got up, I continued…” The achievement for so many of us is not the number of days we stopped something or did something… Our greatest achievement is that moment you refuse to believe you failed. Your journey through life and the demonstration of strength, determination and dedication speaks so much louder than any achievement of any goal. So power on friends. Make sure you always have at least one person walking life with you who can encourage you!

On that note, Jewels, my cat has been in a funny mood over the past few days. He’s had a funny eating pattern and last night he slept 14 hours on my bed and basically didn’t move. I started panicking that his behaviour was a reflection of him getting old. He is 14 and a half… And apparently that makes him approximately 75 years old in cat years?! But still I gave him a mental lecture that he is to power on and keep living. But on a more exciting note than my cat dying… January 1st has been pretty awesome. An old family friend got in touch this morning to bless my sister and I with dinner in London and West End tickets to see “Mojo” next week (OMG I’m so excited!!!); Nicole came to visit and it was lovely catching up with her; I was able to find and buy a portable sound system 25% cheaper than what I thought I’d have to pay; my sister kindly dyed my hair for me; I also was able to find and buy a good size satchel bag for our London trip… Finally, my oldest bestest friend text to update me on our plans for Saturday which will be her making Laura and I a homemade dinner, cracking open some bubbly, getting a cake in for Laura’s birthday and just spending quality time together! Life doesn’t get better than having great friendships 🙂

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It’s Coming…

“You never leave someone behind, you take a part of them with you and leave a part of yourself behind.”

Unknown.

 

This is what I wrote as my Facebook status yesterday. You see, it was July 11th. Which meant it was the anniversary of the last time I saw Mike. This year, 2013, marked the 4th year that has passed by. When I mentioned this to someone earlier in the week they were confused and said: “I thought he died August 1st?” He did… But my journey leading up to the anniversary of his death begins in the weeks leading up to July 11th.

To many this may seem completely irrational; and that’s OK. When I said goodbye to Mike on this particular day I was saying goodbye for the reason that I was travelling to the Caribbean to work over the next 3 months. It was temporal. Completely temporal with the intention of keeping in contact via email and MSN. Little did I know that exactly 3 weeks later he would die. I couldn’t prevent his death. No one could… If you die in your sleep at the age of 18 and the coroner concluded there was absolutely no reason for his death… Then the only one who could have prevented his death was God. But that doesn’t stop me from feeling sad that I couldn’t prevent it from happening. The weeks leading up to July 11th comes with feelings of “It’s coming.” A journey with an outcome that I know is inevitable. I find parts of my life are being mentally relived from 4 years ago. Mike isn’t going to die every year. It’s done. He’s not going to die anymore. But it doesn’t stop me from having these feelings. Finally that moment comes where we say goodbye. Unlike in 2009… I know what’s going to happen. In three weeks time there is a date in history that will confirm he is gone. You would think these three weeks would be the hardest, rather than the weeks leading up to July 11th. But truth be told there’s almost relief in something being out your control. However, prior to this, I feel like I had every opportunity in the world to change the course of history before 11/7. After it… we were physically out of each others lives. I guess what I really mean by changing the course of history isn’t so much about preventing his death but more all the things I should or shouldn’t have done.

There is so much that I failed him on. And there’s so much heartache that we couldn’t grow old together and have the opportunities to make mature memories. Not all those childhood ones. I look back and see an argument here, a fight there… I remember so many things I wish I did differently. I wish I got him a present for his last birthday. I wish we did more together. And I feel so hopeless when I look back on all this because there is nothing I can do to change it. Nothing I can do to put any of it right. I can’t help but wonder if my passion for people’s birthdays (creating cool birthday parties) and gift giving (birthdays, Christmas, general etc) is rooted in the fact that I failed to do this for Mike and feel guilty about it. I was recently speaking to a friend about how our loved ones go on ahead to heaven and help build our heavenly homes for us to arrive to. It’s biblical… Check it out! And I was thinking, “Man, that’s like so unreal when you think about it! Mike’s up there building me this home and I’m sure he’ll do an amazing job at it!!” But then after a day of thinking this I started thinking: “I don’t deserve that sort of honour and love from Mike. It should have been me who went before him so I could serve him.”

I do realise the truth and I do know that so much is based on irrationalities. But that doesn’t change the dynamics of grief. It’s all still stuff that’s got to be processed. Even 4 years later.

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