Monday, 26 June 2017

Take Five

Busy, busy, busy.  We are all so busy, we are like bees swarming around all day and have no time spare for anything or anybody, and even less time for ourselves.  So, since we are so busy, I thought I would like to take five minutes of your time to share five B's with you.  I want you to take these five little B's and try to implement one into each day of this week.

Here goes:


When you wake up, I want you to first of all take a deep breath.  Let it fill your chest, let it fill every space within your body, hold it... hold it... and breathe out.  Empty your lungs and with it also exhale all your worries, that tension in your shoulders and all the stress that has accumulated in your thoughts.  Again, breathe in, let fresh oxygen fill your lungs, allow it to flow into your body and let the morning light follow it into your eyes, your mind and your thoughts.  Hold it... hold it... then slowly let it out.  Let all the negativity flow out with the carbon dioxide.  Do this a few times during the day when you have a quiet moment, whether it is between calls, or answering e-mails or before going into a stressful meeting.  We think of breathing as automatic and we hardly spare it a thought, but the truth is that we hardly ever take deep breaths.  Breathing deeply helps to improve blood flow and reduces blood pressure and it can help to clear our minds.

Be Gentle.

Life is demanding.  We are constantly under pressure to perform better, deliver more and act faster.  In the process, we also demand more of ourselves and there is no harsher critic than the one within.  Be gentle with yourself, give yourself credit for what you have done.  Stop focussing on your mistakes and shortcomings.  Stop comparing yourself with others around you, but celebrate your uniqueness.  Be gentle, also with other people who share your space.  Stop looking at their imperfections, but look for ways to encourage and inspire them.

Be Aware.

We rush through our days at such a speed that life becomes a blur along the way.  At the end of a hectic day we can hardly recall what the weather was like, what we had for lunch or whether that new guy in the office were even at work today.  We never noticed the sad look in our child's eyes.  Slow down and take time to walk through life in the present.  Get off the speeding bus and pay attention to what is happening around you and within you.  Become aware of your heartbeat, your intuition and the space around you.  Be alive in the moment.

Be Open.

We are so occupied with the daily grind and chasing deadlines that we have little time to explore new avenues and we are often too tired to give any thought to new ideas. Do you remember a time when you were filled with enthusiasm and the thought of trying something new filled you with excitement.  Time and the pressures of living have a way of dulling our zest, and we become rigid in our ways.Our lives become stagnant.  It is important to challenge ourselves daily o become more open-minded.  Having an open mind can open up new horizons and give us new outcomes to old problems.  An open mind is invigorating. Being open-minded sets us free from a life of boredom.

Be still.

Life can be demanding and very, very loud.  It can drown out our own voice, the call of our own hearts.  We run the risk of becoming deaf to the voices of our loved ones, and even the voice of our own dreams.  We have to actively step outside and close the door to the demands daily living screams at us.  We have to take a moment to be still, to once again hear our own heartbeat, to listen to the whispers of our hopes and dreams and hear the song buried within our heart. Be still and re-connect with yourself.

Just five little things, but they are sure to make your week just a little more pleasant, a little more focussed on those things that truly matter.  Be blessed this week.

Friday, 23 June 2017

Grab That Crown!

Yes, we all know a person or two like that.  We have all felt that twinge of envy when we look at those people.  You know what I am talking about.  That person who seems to just magically get everything right which he/she ever attempts.  Without even seeming to expend a lot of effort they ace it.  We call them lucky or we refer to them as extraordinarily blessed.  They have it all.  They have been born with a silver spoon in their mouths.  We admire and resent them at the same time.  They appear to have been crowned with victory in all areas of their lives.

When we observe them we easily get despondent.  They manage to achieve success so easily, while we have to struggle to just keep our heads above the water.  We often face obstacles and even failure in our pursuits.  Sometimes it feels as if we are  engaged in a losing battle.  When we compare our attempts to their achievements we often give up in despair, believing that maybe we are just not meant to be successful.

I want to tell you that you are wrong.  It is a lie which we tell ourselves that is so easy to believe.  It gives us a "good" reason to quit.  Often the success, that those "lucky" people seem to achieve so easily, is preceded by hard work and determination.  As Gary Player is know for saying : " The more I practise, the luckier I get."  We usually just see the final result and do not know the hours they have spent on following their dreams, we do not see the pain or difficulties which they might have had to endure to gain the victory.

The wonderful news I want to share with you today is that you too are meant for great things.  Why?  Because you have been born to be awesome!  Stop looking at everyone around you, but look inside.  Look at yourself.  You are unique, there is nobody else like you.  Very often what we experience as failure started with our own thoughts about ourselves and our abilities.  We are our own worst critics.  We sabotage our attempts by negative self-talk and our results follow our own predictions.

Most of us have felt useless and lost at some point in our lives.  We can all identify with that feeling of hopelessness that comes from lacking direction in life.  Thus it is very important to find your own passion in life, that one thing that makes you feel alive and seems to make your heart beat a fraction faster.  The interesting thing is that often when we find our passion, we also find our purpose.  These two combined gives meaning to our lives.

Now, it is time to take action.  When you have stopped looking around at others and comparing your life to theirs, and you have discovered your passion, it is time to put every effort into following your heart.  No more excuses, or negative talk.  Remember the power is in your hands. You are more than good enough - you are awesome.  Go on, grab your crown of success!

Thursday, 22 June 2017

Plea for Peace

Recently there have been many requests for the people of the nation to unite in prayer for some or other cause.  Sometimes we are asked to wear a certain colour to show our support, for example to wear white for peace or black for a political cause to name a couple.

Personally, although I think it is a wonderful idea,  I am very skeptical of such days.  We have hundreds of days like that - AIDS day, Women's Day, Anti-Abuse Day etc.  I understand the concept of such days, but the problem is that 9 out of 10 times, that is exactly where it stays.  For one day a year we become ultra aware of the problem, we focus our energies on celebrating the day, make pledges, but the very next day it fades away again, and only occasionally I'll find myself fleetingly (and guiltily) thinking about the plight of the thousands of AIDS orphans, the countries at war, the local unrest and my neighbour across the street's swollen and black eye.

I am not saying we must not have such days, but I am saying that maybe we must not rely on such days to bring about the change we are hoping for, we must each one take the burden on ourselves to make the change happen.  Peace is not something only for super powers to negotiate, it is not the signing of peace treaties or hippies to chant about.  No, Peace is very personal.  It starts with me.  Talking about peace is beautiful, it falls comfortably on the ear, but it is time to stop talking about it, and time to actively start living peace.

From the earliest times people have been in search of peace, chasing after happiness, hoping that by finding it their lives would be changed.  Yet despite peace treaties and the hoisting of white flags, peace stays ever elusive.  The simple answer is that peace will never be found elsewhere, but in the human heart itself.  Before we can negotiate world peace we have to first of all be at peace with ourselves and at peace with our Maker.  When I am at peace within, then it is easy to pass it on to those around me.  Inner peace cannot be contained, it becomes like a fountain bubbling out through my words, my actions and even my smile.

My whole life will become a testimony of the peace I have within my heart.  A person at peace with himself and God will also live in peace with others.  Such a person will spread peace wherever he goes, and become an instrument of peace.

Am I such a person?  Do I silence those who incite others to aggression, or do I keep quiet, or even talk along?  Is my idea of peace to keep quiet when I hear others instigating dissent?  To live a life of peace does not mean sitting back and not doing anything. To live peace is to actively DO peace, to be an instrument of peace.  To quote St Francis of Assisi : "Lord, make me an instrument of your peace:  Where there is hatred let me sow love."

Monday, 19 June 2017

Run Like A Butterfly

Good Morning to all the followers/readers of my blog.  First of all I have to apologize for neglecting you all for a while, but as you will read in a minute or so I have a reason why I have been so scarce of late.  Some of you may remember a post I placed on the 5th of May 2014.  I quote:

"I am not, I repeat, NOT an athlete.  Although I love walking, and can even walk at quite a pace, I am not athletic at all.  We are not an athletic family.  We love art.  We are regulars on the culture scene.  My idea of running is that the engine is here to stay!  Yet I have a dream, one that I have kept quite well hidden, well that is until now.  Deep down, in the very darkest recesses of my heart there is this desire to run at least a 5 k. There I have said it, now I want to hide!  
So, that is how I find myself at this point in my life where I have bought the shoes and actually donned them.  Now it is time to set out on the journey.  Time for the unwilling athlete to step up!"

and on the 5th of January 2015 I wrote:

"So, how did it go with this resolution?  Well, I did it.  Not only did I do it, I went on to the 1ok and the 15k!  "

I was so excited by this.  My daughter and I went on to run many more 10k's, and quite a few 21k's as well.  Fifteen months later my daughter gave birth to her first child and after being in labour for 33 hours proclaimed that she could now conquer anything.  Thus a new dream was born: to run the Ultimate Human Race!  What a goal for "non-athletes" like ourselves!  It is a race of approximately 87 km known as the Comrades.  I was excited yet apprehensive.  I had no idea how I would ever be able to do it, but we both agreed to give ourselves two years to train for it.  Eight weeks after her daughter's birth, we started our training program.

Our single focus was to constantly improve our running and to religiously stick to our training program.  Several 21k's became 32k's and the prospect of doing the Comrades in two years time got pushed forward to six months!

On the 4th of June 2017 our dream finally became reality.  We ran the Comrades from Durban to Pietermaritzburg in a time of 11:47.  Unbelievable!  We had to pinch ourselves, it felt like a dream!

How did we do it, I can hear some of you ask.

First of all: Faith.  No, not faith in ourselves, but faith in God.  We would not have been able to do it without Him.  Every training run was an opportunity to spend time in his presence.

Philippians 4:13 (NIV)

13 I can do all this through Him who gives me strength.
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission
Secondly: A singleness of thought.  We had to exclude all reasons why we should not be doing this.  We refused to pay any attention to any of the excuses we thought up as to why we could not do it.

Thirdly: we refused to listen to negative talk.  Very few people really want a person to succeed.  Most people feel it is their duty to point out the reasons one should not attempt to do something, they feel obliged to point out the dangers and the futility of your quest.  They mean well and they are concerned, but very few people are there to just encourage somebody in their "foolhardiness". Some people had tried to discourage us with horror stories, others openly laughed when they heard about it.  Many thought we would eventually come to our senses and quit.

This brings me to the fourth point:  Enter real friends and family...
They are the ones who get up while it is still dark outside, and sane people are all snug in bed, and drive behind you while you put on long and lonely kilometers.  They are the ones who join you on your run just to encourage you even though they have no race to prepare for themselves! They are the ones who encourage you, but keep their doubts to themselves.  They are the ones who wait for you to come past to give you the sandwiches they have prepared for you the night before the race.  They are the ones who follow you every step of the race via live-tracking and carry you with their prayers.  Without them we would not have been able to achieve this.

Lastly, but certainly not the least: we did it together.  We encouraged each other.  We did it as a team, as one organism.  We did it as Comrades in the spirit of the Ultimate Human Race.  We did it as mom and daughter.  This song says it all...

It was without a doubt one of the most amazing experiences of my life, and I thank the Lord, my daughter, my husband, my children, family and friends who helped to make my dream a reality.

To my girl: with you by my side, I ran like a butterfly...I love you.

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Sunlight Along My Way

What a privilege it is to be alive today.  We live in a world filled with wonder.  Many more opportunities than ever before present themselves to us and we have a wealth of information and knowledge at our fingertips.  Technology and science are developing at a rapid rate.  We are constantly bombarded by new ideas, options and opinions.

Not only do we have an abundance of information and technology at our disposal, we are also free to explore and discover without any boundaries.  We are free to pursue and examine any topic, idea or ideology we want to.  There are no limits as to where we may examine or investigate.  We are greedy for more and more knowledge.  It is interesting to note that with all the knowledge mankind is gaining about the natural, as well as the technological world,  the more we start searching for spiritual answers and enlightenment as well.  Mankind is hungry to understand more about the origin, the psyche and the soul of man as well.

Of course there is nothing wrong with learning and expanding our knowledge.  In order to progress it is important to open our minds and vision to broader insights, to look and search beyond what we know now.  However, with all the information, theories and perceptions out there, it is important that we keep our moral compasses in check.  It is very easy to be confused by all the information and different dogmas we encounter.  

Faith is a very personal concept and very precious.  It is worth protecting and preserving.  To me faith is the sunlight falling through the trees lighting up the forest, guiding me along life's path.  Without it I would be lost.  Therefore it is important that I safeguard my heart against the forces that may want to lead me astray, wanting to guide me along a different way of enlightenment.  Whatever belief system you adhere to, it is important to listen to the voice of your faith in order to stay on the path.  Often different religions come to us in the guise of our own beliefs, wearing a similar cloak, saying familiar words and it is easy to be led astray, therefore it is important to test their words and ideas against your own system of faith, to compare it with discernment.  If we fail to do so we could soon find ourselves without a compass, lost in the forest.

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Take a Little Bit

As most of us are aware, February is the month of love.  The shops are filled with chocolate hearts, cuddly teddy bears and red roses.  There is a lot of talk about what love is and how to spoil your better half.  However I want to look at love from another side.  I want to ask you if you have shown yourself a little bit of self love?

Most of us have been brought up to think of others first before we consider our own needs.  We have been taught that it is selfish to put ourselves first.  Love is to supply in the needs of others.  Yet the truth is that when we are so busy in meeting the need of others, of our children and husband or wife, we end up neglecting ourselves and we deplete our reserves.  Eventually we have spent all our time, energy and resources on others and we have nothing left to give ourselves and the result is that we have nothing more to give to other people either.

Therefore I want to look at what we can do to restore our reserves in order to be able to give to others as well.  It is time to give ourselves a little bit of love as well.

Firstly, face who you are.  Take a good look at yourself.  You have been created perfectly even if you might think you are not.  Love yourself for who you are, and love your faults too.  Give yourself credit for your talents, your abilities, your achievements and your dreams.  We are so quick to break ourselves down, because we have been conditioned that it is conceited to acknowledge our own successes.  We demand perfectionism from ourselves, and when we fail to make our own impossibly high grade we severely berate ourselves.

Secondly, be kind to yourself.  We are our own worst critic. We punish ourselves for every little mistake. Chances are that if you are not kind to yourself no-one else will be either.  Forgive yourself for the mistakes you feel you may have made.  Laugh at yourself.  Allow yourself to dream.  Give yourself time, and acknowledge yourself.

Next, take a stand.  Your opinion matters.  Believe in yourself and trust your instincts.  Be bold and confident in your decision making.  Speak up for what you believe in, and stand your ground.  

Learn to listen to yourself.  We all have an inner voice guiding us, yet many of us doubt our own voice.  We disregard our instincts and conscience.  Instead of listening to ourselves we convince ourselves that other people know better and we follow them, we allow them to guide us against our own better judgement.  Learn to say no to the voices from outside, but to rather heed our inner voice.  When we start listening to ourselves we start being authentic.

Lastly: spoil yourself.  It is okay to spend so time on ourselves by ourselves.  Give yourself a day off and do what pleases you.  Treat yourself to a pamper session, or a new dress.  Take yourself on an adventure, or curl up with a good book.  Recharge your batteries.  Allow yourself a little bit of self-love.  It is amazing how much you have to give to others if you have taken the time to refill your own emotional, physical and spiritual well.

Monday, 13 February 2017

Tear Down The Wall

For the past few months we have been very busy at our house revamping and rebuilding.  Walls have been broken down and other walls have been built.  This morning I woke up and wondered when my husband was planning to erect the next wall of our revamp project.  This sent my thoughts along another pathway.  I started thinking about the concept of walls.  There has been a lot of talk in recent months about erecting walls as a barrier between countries.

The oldest walls in the world discovered thus far are the walls of the temple of Gobekli Tepe in Southeast Turkey.  The longest wall in the world is the great Wall of China which is 8850 km in total with its mainline length measured at 3460 km long.  It is also the largest man-made barrier.  Excalibur in Holland is the tallest free-standing rock-climbing wall in the world.  Walls have a variety of purposes.  Traditionally they have been built to protect a city or demarcated area from dangers and attacks from other tribes or countries.  Walls are an important part of a people's defense systems.  Walls also provide privacy and regulates entry into an area.  Walls can have an impact on the safety of a country as well as on its economics.  

However, more important than physical walls are the walls we as individuals build.  Most people have some or other figurative wall around themselves.  The walls we erect are usually in direct correlation to our upbringing, our life experiences and our fears and expectations.  Every time we are hurt or disappointed we add some bricks to our wall, it is a natural defense mechanism. 
Children usually have very low walls around themselves, and they usually care little for the walls of other people, easily clambering all over them.  They have not yet been conditioned by hurt or pre-conceived ideas.  They look at the world with wide-open, expecting-miracle eyes.  As they grow older, however, they start to build a shelter one brick, one tear at a time.

Building a wall is not necessarily a bad idea.  In fact, in the world we live in today it is important to know our boundaries and to let other people know our boundaries as well.  It gives us a safe place and protects us from the dangers of the world.  We have to be careful, however, how we build our walls.  If our walls becomes an impregnable fortress it could do more harm in the long run.  Walls can isolate us from the world and its beauty, it can cut us off from progress and stifle our growth.  Walls can impede our freedom and eventually we can become prisoners behind our own walls.  We could loose out on friendship and love, and we may become lonely and embittered.  Emotionally we will starve and even miss out on our life's purpose.

Just as we get different types of bricks in the building trade, we get different emotional bricks as well.  There are the bricks we have built to protect us against rejection, betrayal, abuse, disappointment, heartache, grief and low self-esteem to name a few.  

Rejection can often hurt as much as physical pain, therefore we tend to build very strong walls to protect ourselves against feelings of rejection.  The bricks we use to erect this wall consist of convincing ourselves that we are worthless and that we are outsiders, thus we withdraw from the people around us and conversation with others.  We refrain from taking part in group activities and shy away from meeting new people.

Betrayal creates a sense of loss.  We do not only loose trust in the person who betrayed us, but we start to view other people with suspicion too.  We build our wall with bricks of distrust.  Our faith in justice is shattered.

Abuse leads to anxiety and depression.  We often react with anger towards people who want to reach out to us.  We lock our hearts away behind a wall of hostility often believing attack is the best form of defense.

All of us experience disappointment at some stage of our lives.  However, many people cannot deal with the effects of disappointment.  Sometimes a person has been disappointed so often that building a wall against those feelings seems like a good option.  We hide behind a wall of apathy and indifference, pretending not to care.  We become passive observers in life.  We deny having expectations and we give up on our goals and dreams.  We build our wall with bricks of fear, and we withdraw to the land of 'I-Don't-Care'.

Heartache can make us physically ill.  It can bring on depression and we can even start doubting ourselves.  The walls we build to protect us against heartache is often the strongest walls of them all.  We fortify them by lashing out, aggression, revenge and withdrawal from the people who love us and who want to help us.

A loss of anything important can lead to feelings of grief and we build walls around ourselves in an effort to hide our sadness from the world.  We withdraw into a cocoon of grief.  We believe that being alone will help us heal, sometimes we even deny our feeling to ourselves.  Often we lash out in anger to anyone who wants to come too close.  We build walls of around us to such an extent that people believe we are coping when in fact everything is falling apart behind the walls.

Another wall we build is the one which hides a low self-esteem.  Having a good self-image is important to our overall happiness, values and goals.  It impacts every area of our lives.  However, many people suffer from a poor self-image due to various factors.  We instinctively know that it is vital for survival to hide our own low self-esteem from the outside world and thus proceed to build walls to keep prying eyes out.  We often hide our poor self-image behind sarcasm or bullying others.  We hide it behind hurtful words.  Those with a low self-esteem often neglect themselves and make poor life-choices.  They withdraw from people and shy away from anything new.  They constantly fear that other people might discover their weakness and expose their vulnerability.

Whatever wall it is you are hiding behind, it is up to you to break it down.  Physical walls can be bulldozed, the walls of Jericho came down with faith and music and the Berlin wall tumbled because people stepped up and took a stance, but the wall we build around our hearts can only be demolished by self-will.  Take a moment and evaluate your fortress.  Ask yourself if it is really protecting you, keeping you safe or are you actually a prisoner behind it?  If the answer is the latter, then take it down, one brick at a time.  You'll be amazed to see the sunlight falling over the beautiful valley stretching out into your future.

Monday, 30 January 2017

Sowing Seeds

After a lovely breakfast of warm toast with strawberry jam and cheese, I sat in the shade of the veranda and contemplated the origins of the bread I have just had. Bread is made most often using wheat flour.  The bread we eat is a witness to the faith of a farmer somewhere.  When a farmer buys seed, the seed does not come with a guarantee that it will grow, or that it will give a good crop.  He takes care to buy good seeds, he even researches the different types of seeds available and makes an educated choice, but there is no promise from the seller that the seed will produce a good harvest.  The farmer buys the seed believing that it will be good.  He trusts that when he sows it, it will bear a successful crop.  He plants the seed in faith.

In a sense we are farmers too.  Every word we say and every deed we do are seeds we sow in the lives of the people we encounter along the path of life.  Unlike the farmer though, we seldom consider the crop these seeds we sow will bring forth.  We rarely spare our words and deeds any thoughts.  We never wonder what plant would germinate from the seeds we have scattered.  We are often quite careless with our words and deeds.

Words and deeds contain creative force.  Like a seed that is sown in a field, our words and actions are absorbed by the listener or observer, and it germinates and grows.  It becomes a life force and bears fruit.  It can be good for sustenance and growth or it can poison depending on what the seed was that had been sown.  It is our responsibility to take care what we say and do.  The most important consumers of the seeds we sow are our families.  Our children feed on the seedlings we plant in their lives.  They in turn become the product of what they ingest, and they again become farmers sowing seeds in the lives of their own children and the lives of the people they encounter throughout their lives.  The big circle of life, growing ever wider, generation after generation.

The seeds we sow are in fact our greatest legacy.  It is our children's inheritance, and in these seeds we find our elixir of life, we continue living on in the words and deed we left behind.  The question I ask of myself and that I want to leave you with is this:  what seed am I sowing along the way?

I love this quote by Ella Wheeler Wilcox:
"With every deed you are sowing a seed, though the harvest you may not see."

Thursday, 26 January 2017

Words of Wisdom

I love words.
I love the way they feel in my mouth, on my tongue, the weight they carry.  The way they can be sweet, or heavy or sometimes just a gossamer whisper slipping over my lips.

Words can heal, but also hurt.  Words can bring despair or inspire people.  Every word we utter has a consequence.  They have wings.  Once they leave your mouth, they fly away, never to return unspent.  We can easily mop up spilled milk and we can replace a shattered window.  We can glue a broken vase and we can reset a fractured arm, but we can never catch a word once it is set free.  It gets carried from my mouth directly to the listener's ear.  It cannot be unsaid or unheard. 

Our constitution protects our right to freedom of speech, but with this freedom comes the responsibility to use it wisely. Words have to be used carefully.  God created by means of a word.  He IS a word.  Words are to be treasured.As a child my father taught me that cussing or swearing was proof of a poor and inadequate vocabulary, and my sister told me to always choose my words the same way that I would pick flowers for a friend, just the most beautiful.  I have passed these truths on to my children.

A single word can be a poem by itself, it is loaded with suggestion and meaning.  It can calm the storm or ignite a fire.  It is reckless to speak before giving a thought to our words.  To say the first thing which comes to our mind often leads to disaster and hurt feelings, therefore we must consider our words wisely.  Words may be audible for only a split second, but their echoes can last a lifetime.

This year I want to be aware of the words I speak, I want them to be words of affirmation and hope.  Words that reverberate with enthusiasm and encouragement.  Words of kindness and empathy. Words that spread life and beauty.

Please note: The image I used for this post is from the BraveGirlsClub.  It is an awesome, inspiring blog well worth a visit.  Here is the link