Unexpectedly Grateful

In a few weeks 2019 will be done and dusted and we will be entering a new decade. When you look back at the last ten years of your life, what marks those years? Were they tough, knocking the wind out of you at each turn? Or was it a decade marked with growth? The last decade of my life was a little bit of both. One event that marks this decade was the loss of my sister. Her death is something that I don’t think I will ever truly recover from, however her death is no longer as debilitating as it was when it first happened. My sister passed away shortly before her 33rd birthday, she passed away in October, we buried her in November and a mere 3 weeks later her first birthday without us occurred. It’s something that will stay with me and my family forever, however when I look back at it, I see how Christ has infused His strength through not just this situation but through every difficult situation that I encountered in a decade that in the thick of it, felt marred by difficulty and struggle.

It was in this decade that the United Kingdom Borders Agency (UKBA) incorrectly detained me. I was given nothing more than an apology and while an experience like that would scar the best of us, somehow I found the strength to rebuild my life after an event that felt as though it had stripped so much of my dignity and worth. The maladministration of the UKBA I believe, is what led to is being closed in 2013. I hope to never forget the desperation so clearly visibly on the faces of so many other women who were in there much longer than the three days that I was detained. When the time and opportunity for it comes, I will find a way to help women who are in detention to ensure that they never forget their beauty, their worth and their dignity. In the midst of what felt like a storm that would spit me out with significant bruises, I didn’t see that resilience was being added to my character. I only saw what I could see, which is normal. When you’re going through something, your mental and emotional state of being can be tested and as well-meaning a Christian that you think you are, so much of what is going on around you can cause you to doubt and wonder whether God is just being so rude, and so nasty, allowing all of this mess to carry on in your life.

At the end of this decade going into the next one, I have realised that I am not always going to understand why certain things happen and why God permits it to be so. For years, I have found solace in the words Jesus uttered in John 13:7 “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.”

I love the explanation of this verse on the ‘Knowing Jesus’ site: ‘When like the apostle Peter, we come face to face with a series of bizarre circumstances that seem to shatter our lives, we may not understand the reason for life’s twists and turns but we can trust Him, knowing that His ways are perfect and His grace is sufficient. Like the disciples on that night before the cross, we may not be comfortable with the shock-horror that we witness or the unjust way that life seem to be unfolding. We may not understand the spiritual significance of all that is happening in our life and the lives of those we care about, but we can trust our heavenly Father for He is still in control. He knows the end from the beginning and all His ways are perfect. Although we may not know the meaning and mystery of all that we are called upon to bear in this world, let us remember that we may not understand what is happening now, but hereafter we shall know as we are known. May we learn as Peter did that what may be shadowed to our understanding today is being used by God to work together for good, to His praise and for our eternal benefit.’

This verse becomes harder to believe when you are on a rollercoaster of unfortunate things happening to you or those you love, but I have concluded that walking with Jesus and going through trials & tribulations (how dramatic sounding), is by far better than not walking with Him. When I was detained by the UKBA, one thing that brought me comfort was the account of Paul and Silas praising God while they were in jail (Acts 16:16-40) and I remember laughing to myself that on that day for some very odd reason, I had taken my Bible with me. In that moment I believe I experienced a taste of what Paul and Silas must have felt; the desperation, the disbelief, the pain, the betrayal that God would have allowed this to happen, and then afterwards the realisation that even still, He remains God. It took me a long time to get over that pain and once I felt that I did, I lost my sister. As I type this I am still in a hazy phase of my relationship with God. There are days when I can easily declare His sovereignty over my life, and then there are days when I wonder how a God so big and so great could have allowed so much to occur not just in my life but in my family’s lives as well. All of these questions always lead me to the same conclusion; God is God and He knows why. I believe God has given us freedom of thought, and is by no way offended by any questions that we may have for Him. How fragile would God be if He was offended by everything we did?

Can you imagine how shaken I was when I realised that God was not offended by me not believing in Him. He loves and pursues relationship with us, but He will never force His way into your life. He’s a gentleman like that. At first this was unsettling but afterwards it brought freedom in my relationship with God, I was no longer scared to bring my raw emotions to Him. Things that I had never spoken to God about (which sounds kinda weird to type, considering He is all knowing…) suddenly came spewing out of my mouth and the pages of my journal. The journey isn’t perfect but it is a lot more authentic.

I close out this decade happier than I thought I would be. I’m married to the most wonderful man, working in a challenging but fulfilling role, and the role I cherish the most: being an aunt to the two most incredible humans. I wonder whether any of this would have been possible had my life not followed the trajectory that it did. I didn’t think I’d be writing this, but I am so grateful that God allowed for my life to play out as it did. As you reflect on the last decade of your life, what are some of the things that you have learnt or have been through that you are unexpectedly grateful for?

You Grow Girl!

We’ve all heard the saying ‘build the kind of life that you don’t need a holiday from.’ There is an aspect of truth to it, however just because I love my job, it doesn’t mean I don’t want another holiday…or two! I am 4 days into what seems to be the longest week ever already dreaming about my next escape! I took my laptop with me on holiday but spending time with the love of my life was a lot more fun than keeping tabs on things that I wouldn’t be able to physically change should an emergency have cropped up. The night before my first day back at work, I had to physically stop myself from checking my emails because what exactly would I be able to achieve at midnight when most people were already sleeping? I got to work on Monday not particularly jazzed about checking my emails, with damn good reason. Ninety-seven emails, TOO MUCH! Do you know what’s never too much? Seaside sunsets!

Luckily in just over a week, I have a mini-escape coming up in the form of the Sanlam Cape Town Marathon. This is my first marathon and to say I’m excited is an understatement. I started training for this marathon while I was in recovery from a terribly injured knee (do not start training for a CrossFit competition 2 days after a 25 kilometre race. IT IS STUPID!!!) The sudden increase in training volume all while I was meant to be recovering after the 25k, was detrimental and too much for my knee to keep up with. Nevertheless I continued training until the final hour when I got to a point where the simple action of bending to tie my shoe lace left me in pure agony. Training when you’re injured applies a considerable amount of pressure to your body and if you’re not careful, this kind of pressure can be detrimental. Did I learn from that? Not really, because a mere four weeks into recovery, I signed up for a marathon…this will go down in history as one of my finer ‘how could I be so stupid?’ moments.

After having many of them, I have since learnt to laugh at my stupid moments.

In the same way, living life with open wounds from pain that you haven’t dealt with or sought help, applies unnecessary and detrimental pressure. In the 29 years that I have been alive, there are a few moments that stick out when I think about wounds that I left to get unnecessarily infected before God and a few loving friends and one hunk of a man, brought me to an awakening. Being sexually abused at the age of 6, the death of my uncle, the death of my nephews that I never got to physically hold in their short time on Earth, the sudden and unexpected death of my sister. It took me a long time to get to a place where I realised that shutting people out or getting angry at the world…at God, didn’t achieve anything. We should never trivialise any painful experience we’ve gone through, but we need to awaken to a new dawn where we want better for ourselves, don’t attach an end date to our healing and don’t allow ourselves to be swayed to and fro by our valid, but also sometimes silly + erratic emotions.

To be someone who is mentally healthy has nothing to do with having a perfect life or in lieu of the world not being perfect, being a perfect human. Perfection is unattainable, and chasing it can leave us feeling inadequate, obsessive and annoying to be around. Excellence is what we should be chasing. Excellence in character, in action. Excellence in dedication to our personal, and oh so beautiful journeys to growth. The smallest increments of improvement in our everyday lives, is what we should be living for. Always do one thing a little bit better than you did previously, that is how growth happens. Growth is not linear. There are days where you will mess up but instead of dwelling on your mistake, acknowledge that it happened, recognize those feelings for what they are and then get your (metaphoric) spade and dig yourself (or get some really great friends to help you) out of the hole you’re in.

Growth is painful but if you embrace it for what it is, a process to strengthen & better you, it can also be the most beautiful journey that you will ever go on!

SOME PERIODS OF OUR GROWTH ARE SO CONFUSING THAT WE DON’T EVEN RECOGNIZE THAT GROWTH IS HAPPENING. WE MAY FEEL HOSTILE OR ANGRY OR WEEPY AND HYSTERICAL, OR WE MAY FEEL DEPRESSED. IT WOULD NEVER OCCUR TO US, UNLESS WE STUMBLED ON A BOOK OR A PERSON WHO EXPLAINED TO US, THAT WE WERE IN FACT IN THE PROCESS OF CHANGE, OF ACTUALLY BECOMING LARGER, SPIRITUALLY, THAN WE WERE BEFORE. WHENEVER WE GROW, WE TEND TO FEEL IT, AS A YOUNG SEED MUST FEEL THE WEIGHT AND INERTIA OF THE EARTH AS IT SEEKS TO BREAK OUT OF ITS SHELL ON ITS WAY TO BECOMING A PLANT. OFTEN THE FEELING IS ANYTHING BUT PLEASANT. BUT WHAT IS MOST UNPLEASANT IS THE NOT KNOWING WHAT IS HAPPENING. THOSE LONG PERIODS WHEN SOMETHING INSIDE OURSELVES SEEMS TO BE WAITING, HOLDING ITS BREATH, UNSURE ABOUT WHAT THE NEXT STEP SHOULD BE, EVENTUALLY BECOME THE PERIODS WE WAIT FOR, FOR IT IS IN THOSE PERIODS THAT WE REALIZE THAT WE ARE BEING PREPARED FOR THE NEXT PHASE OF OUR LIFE AND THAT, IN ALL PROBABILITY, A NEW LEVEL OF THE PERSONALITY IS ABOUT TO BE REVEALED.

Alice Walker

We live in an age fit for heroes. No time has ever offered such perils or prizes. Man can provide a full life for humanity – or he can destroy himself with the problems he has created. The test of this century will be whether man confuses the growth of wealth and power with the growth of spirit and character.

Vince Lombardi

Mental Health Matters

Instead of writing this post, I should be working on the final changes on my slides for my presentation later this week. The changes are not that many, yet I find myself here undeniably stuck, uninspired. Sad without a reason to be sad. There isn’t anything out of the ordinary bothering me, my health is good. My family’s health is good, yet for about a month now, I have been unable to shake this feeling off my spirit. A feeling of indifference, a numbness that I can’t quite put my finger on.

I try to make an effort to tend to my mental health but since the start of the year it is something that I have neglected. The meditation and daily Bible reading that kept me as mentally healthy as I could possibly be, gradually got replaced by deadlines and more deadlines. My physical and mental fatigue is at an all-time high. I do believe that some of this is due to not having taken a break from work during the festive season in order to stay on top of deadlines. Now, it would seem that my mind & body are close to reaching their deadline. I am functioning but I know I could do better. The manifestation of this mental imbalance has led to me experiencing greater anxiety. I’ve felt this on a larger scale at work where I’ve been doubting myself an unhealthy amount and performing for approval. I am the most junior in my office and at times it has led to me feeling inadequate, underqualified and pretty much like a fish out of water. It has led to me reading too much into comments made by my boss and in some ways has been a hindrance to my improvement.

Now that I’ve noticed this, it’s time to get back into a routine where I prioritise my mental and spiritual health. I am in the process of drawing up a routine to ensure that every hour of the day is maximised and used as best as it can be. I downloaded a weekly planner from Savvy Spreadsheets, laminated it and will be writing down the things I will be doing on a daily basis.

  • I have gone back to journaling as I find that this was the best way for me to express my emotions and release them without fear of judgement. My favourite place to get stationary is Typo, they have the cutest items that you didn’t know you needed.
  • Reading. During my time, working as a product & brand trainer at LUSH South Africa, my then trainer Georgie Hopkins gave me a book by Patsy Rodenberg called ‘Presence’. I was a nervous ball of energy when I first met Georgie, one was because watching her train LUSH staff, you could not help but be captivated. She is a ridiculously good trainer. This coupled with the fact that being a trainer kind of thrusts you in a position of leadership, the introvert that I was, could not handle that. I learnt a lot from this book and I’ve realised that it is by reading that I learn the most about myself and how to maximise my personality to get what I want from life in a healthy way. I am going back to this book to rebuild some of the confidence I have lost.
  • I will be meditating for 15 minutes everyday. My favourite meditation app is 10% Happier. I find it to be fuss-free, practical and very applicable and easy to follow. I like to call it the meditation app for intellectuals. No chanting or ohm-ing, just connecting with your thoughts and learning how to manage your emotions and not the other way round.
  • Bin the negative self-talk. This one is probably the hardest to do. For every negative thought that comes in, replace it with a positive thought on something I can do well.
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Yesterday I saw a friend of mine filming her friend up in a coconut tree chopping down coconuts. He was also sawing off a few dead palms and he said something that really got me thinking. – The dead palms draw a ton of resources from deep within the roots in an effort to stay alive. In fact, it can starve the rest of the branches and eventually compromise the whole tree. – But if you prune the dying palms, then the ones still alive and the rest of the tree will flourish. – Our consciousness operates in much of the same way. – If we use up our valuable resources to feed unproductive thoughts that don't get us to our goals, we are wasting valuable energy. – And if those runaway doubts, fears, insecurities, and grievances keep being fed, they suck up all our energy and life force eventually leading to the demise of our dreams and goals. – But just like pruning the trees of the coconut tree, we can lop off the thoughts and feelings that no longer serve us and redirect our vital resources to feeding the thoughts and feelings that put us in direct line with our dreams and goals. – And when we do that long enough with consistent action it bears fruit. – When we've invested literally tens of thousands of hours in patterns of thought and behavior it can be almost impossible to unwind that on our own. – That's why I just opened up a handful of one month laser focused one-to-one coaching spots to help you do just that. It's designed to help you identify whats holding you back, get to the root of your current challenge, and set and attain 3 crystal clear soul goals this month. – If that resonates with you, just DM me and we'll set aside some time to chat. It's priced so those who are committed can easily afford it. – Chat soon 💜🔥🤙🏽

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The next few months will be challenging and I know that the only way I’m going to survive is by prioritising my mental health. My current state of mind has reminded me that we never finish working on our mental health, healing is not linear. It should be something we work on as consistently and frequently as physical exercise…it is probably more important than physical exercise. I refuse to live according to the cycle the world has created of working to the point of burnout, that is not living. I love this post by Kristina of the wildly popular blog ‘Fully Raw Kristina’. Growth happens in waves and maybe that’s just what I’m going through right now.

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Sometimes God breaks your heart to save your soul. 🦋 We all go through tough times, and sometimes it feels completely debilitating and devastating. The truth is: without rain there can be no rainbows. Difficult experiences allow us to truly appreciate what we do have and how far we’ve come. These times build character, integrity, wisdom, and strength. I know it’s not always easy to see the positive when you’re in the core of it, but trust that you are protected and loved. It’s through the notion of learning to pick ourselves back up that we gain not only self-respect, but also compassion, forgiveness, and self-love. Also keep in mind, sometimes the things we want most are not the best for us…or are not meant for us. Perhaps there is BETTER that is yet to come. Growth happens in waves—I say this from personal experience. Faith. Time. Some things haven’t worked out, but still may turn out better than we could have possibly imagined. 🙏🏽💕✨ I send you love today for all the good things coming. I love you. 🦁🐞🐛🦋🐬🍉✨ ✨ 📸 @cashgotwings ✨ ✨ #inspiration #motivation #waimeacanyon #waimea #vegansofig #vegansofinstagram #hawaii #girls #life #health #healthy #vegetarian #confidence #positivevibes #womenempowerment #positivity #happy #rawvegan #mountains #canyon #travelphotography #travelphotography #travel #traveler #sunset #fullyraw #vegan

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I came across the featured image for this post on Pinterest, I hope it helps, I will definitely be using it!