If you're starting the week broken, this book might help

One of the first people I "met" when I opened my Twitter account was James Prescott.

He was encouraging and it felt like a friend out there in the big wide social world. 

He guest posted here a few times (here and here) and I guest posted on his site and then last week he released his first book! How awesome is that?

It’s book about Grace. Grace for all of us who don’t have it all together, the one’s are broken and shattered by what life has thrown at us. 

What I love is that James has written a book to meet you right in the middle of your broken places and to show you that those fractured bits might be the most beautiful of all once God is done. 

There’s a story in Chapter 1 (I’m not giving too much of the book away) that I want to share here. It goes: 

In the late 15th century, a man called Ashikaga Yoshimasa sent a damaged Chinese tea bowl to China to be fixed. It returned, held together with ugly metal stapes. This ugly repair launched the Japanese craftsmen on a quest for a new form of mending pottery that could make a broken piece look as good as new - or better. 

The process of repair invented was called Kintsugi. Kintsugi is the art of fixing broken ceramic pieces together with a lacquer resin made to look like solid gold. Kintsugi literally means “golden joinery”, and often the craftsmen used genuine gold powder in the resin. When the broken pieces are placed back together with the gold resin, an amazing intricate design is created within the pottery. 
In another story, a man took clay pots to his friends in Japan, only for the pots to break en route. He threw the broken pots into a garbage bin, thinking nothing more of the pieces. But when the man departed his friends’ home, he was given a gift. Opening the gift, the mand found the once-shattered bowls, not put together with Kintsugi - making the pots even more beautiful than their original form. 

How great is that story? Doesn’t it give you hope that God’s grace can meet you in your broken places? 

I’m very honoured that James asked me to write the foreward to the book. If you want to know what I wrote you’ll have to buy the book which you can do here on Amazon**!

If you’re wondering if you need to read a book on grace then I’d recommend this one to anyone who needs to find hope in the mess of life. 

You can’t encounter the messy, violent, uncomfortable grace that James writes about and stay the same. 
But then again, who would want to stay the same when God is offering you an invitation to let God’s grace love you to wholeness?

** Affiliate links used in this post. (Which basically means if you click through to Amazon from this post and buy something I'll get a small percentage of the purchase which I'll most likely use to buy books). 

5 bible verses that can help when you’re struggling

A few weeks ago I asked you all to help figure out what I should write here and what happened surprised me.

For starters, almost 150 of you replied. I expected much fewer.

Then, when I began to read through what you’d said I was overwhelmed by how kind you all were, how so many of you shared stories of how the struggles I’ve shared here have helped you get through something hard.

And in doing so you’ve helped see the bigger picture here.

I always thought I wrote about “cancer” or about “doubt” or “depression” but what I realised reading your responses is that I write about things I struggle with and many times what I learn helps you to find hope.

I’ll be sharing some new material soon but in the meantime I wanted to say “Thank you” for taking the time to tell me what this online home has meant to you and share 5 bible verses that have helped me through when I’ve been struggling:

The Lord turned to [Gideon] and said, “Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?” Judges 6:14 (NIV)
Read my devotional about this verse here

If we are unfaithful, He remains faithful, For He is not able to deny Himself. 2 Timothy 2:13 (VOICE)
Read my devotional about this verse here

When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them? Psalm 8:2-4 (NIV)
Read my devotional about this verse here

And that’s not all. We also celebrate in seasons of suffering because we know that when we suffer we develop endurance, which shapes our characters. When our characters are refined, we learn what it means to hope and anticipate God’s goodness. Romans 5:3-4 (VOICE)
Read my devotional about this verse here

When life is heavy and hard to take, go off by yourself. Enter the silence. Bow in prayer. Don’t ask questions: Wait for hope to appear. Lamentations 3:28-29 (MSG)

Read my devotional about this verse here

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When you're wondering how to build a bridge between people

A few months ago my husband, Xylon, took 5 or so books that we both read once but aren’t likely to read again to a second hand bookseller. He came back about an hour later and said, “It was a waste of my time. The guy wasn’t interested.”

This surprised me since these were books by bestselling authors or bestselling books. There was no reason for a second-hand bookseller not to want them.

There was only reason I could imagine the bookseller not buying them and that was because the person who bought them to him, my husband, was of a different race.

I’m not the type of person who jumps up and down all the time yelling, “racist!” so I kept my thoughts to myself.

A few weeks ago, Xylon and I were driving in the car and I started to share some of my thoughts on race with him.

I mentioned how the incident with the bookseller made me so angry because I’m pretty sure if I’d walked in with my pale skin and sun-streaked blonde hair and my white-ness that he would have given me the time of day.

I told Xylon, as he drove, how it made me so angry that sometimes he was treated differently because of the colour of his skin we are treated differently because of the colour of our skins. (I left the strike out in because I think it shows how I don’t see people treating me with preference as being treated differently – but it’s just as wrong as Xylon being treated without preference.)

A friend of mine is raising two children with darker skin than hers. When we meet for coffee sometimes I’ll tell her a story about something that happened to Xylon and I. A story about how we were treated differently because we both don’t look the same. I remember the first time, how she said, “It’s because you’re not white anymore. You and I, we’re not white anymore.”

Her theory is that the day she and her husband stood in a court and stated they would love these children with skin the colour of Africa’s soil was the day they lost their whiteness. And that the day I married Xylon is the day I lost mine.

My friend reckons that through tying your life to someone of a different race, culture, country or language you learn to value people for people. Some of their value rubs off on you and vice versa. 

Xylon and I often joke about how his old school friends must think he’s “made it” because he has a white wife or how his family must think we live in a nice house because I’m loaded because I’m white (I’m not). In this case, my perceived white value is rubbing off on him. It annoys both of us because we’re both worth more than our earthsuits.

I didn’t write a lot towards the end of last year and one reason was “white-ness”. It’s my label for “white privilege”. And it’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot but I haven’t been sure if I should write about it here. 
Race, culture, language are charged-issues. 

I think it's one of the reasons my parents resisted Xylon’s and my desire to marry. I think they knew (consciously or subconsciously) that I’d lose my white-ness if I married him. And in many (if not all) cultures today white-ness carries a privilege and opens doors that other races don’t even get to knock on.

This past year I joined a running club that consists of members who mostly have black skin, and who don’t have the same home language as me. 

I did this on purpose because I believe in diversity. 

But it’s been really challenging for me.

It’s the first time in my life that I’ve felt like an outsider because of my skin colour, language and culture. 

To put it into perspective, the club is about 97% black (based on the fact that there are about 100 members, I think, and 3 of us are white). I was the first white female to join the multi-sport club and run in their colours.

I haven’t joined as many club runs as I should have to assimilate. (The major reason being that the rest of the club are all really fast and I’m about 90seconds slower per kilometer than them so even running with them leaves me running on my own.)

Getting back on track, when I have joined club runs I’ve been challenged about how often black people who joined my friends who are mostly white must have felt the way I feel on the runs. It’s really taken the idea of running a mile in someone else’s shoes to a really personal level for me.

I’ve also been reading Trevor Noah’s book “Born a crime” (He’s most recently known as host of The Tonight Show in the US) It’s been challenging me in so many ways I didn’t expect. I thought I was picking up a book that would make me laugh instead it’s made me think.

One of the things Noah challenged me on was the idea of making a difference, of actually doing something to change the experiences of people who aren't like me. He talks about the proverb that says, “Give a man a fish and feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” And then he asks, “Who is going to give the man a fishing rod?”

Xylon and I have been chatting a bit about what to do about this and about how if we’re going to see South Africa become the country it has the potential to be we need to step up.

These are a few small steps I’m going to be taking with Xylon this year:

Learn Xhosa (it’s the African language most widely spoken in the town I live in).

Go to the government school less than a KM from our house and listen to them. Hear what problems they have, what solutions they have and see if we can help them. Basically, find out what fishing rods they might need.

Help a child that Xylon has become friends with in his final year of school hopefully improve his final marks and find direction.

I’ve started a running programme to run faster so I can try run with my running club more and practice some of the Xhosa I’m learning.

Today, on facebook I read a quote I’ve seen a 100 times before: “No matter what you say, actions will always speak louder than words.”

I’d love to hear what your experiences with people of different races, cultures, languages and countries have been and what steps you think you could take to bring reconciliation in your community.

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One thing to remember when life doesn't turn out the way you expect

I guess one of the reasons I stopped writing is because I finally realised that I don't have everything figured out.

By 34, I thought I'd know what I wanted to do with my life.

I imagined I'd have children. Instead I'm not sure if we want children. And if we do if we could have our own or if we'd want to adopt.

I expected that I would found the career that I wanted to do and I’d be loving it or that I’d be stay-at-home mom to a bunch of kids. Instead I’m still trying to figure out what I want to do and I’m not sure I’d want to be a full-time mom even if we could afford it.

I thought I’d know how to clean the oven, or roast potatoes, or that I didn’t have to finish a book if I didn’t love it.

Maybe you thought you'd be married. Or you never thought you'd be divorced or widowed. Or you thought you’d be single and now you’ve got a husband and 4 kids.

Don't get me wrong I have a good life and I wouldn’t change it. It's just that I’m not living the life 15 year old me expected. I wonder how many of us are?

There's a story in the Bible about a woman called Ruth who’s life didn't turn out the way she expected (you can read her story in the book of Ruth - it's only 4 chapters).

Ruth married an immigrant, and then he died shortly afterwards, along with his brother- and father-in-law. After these tragedies, her mother-in-law, Naomi, decides to return to her land of birth. In those times her daughter-in-laws were expected to go with her so they got their belongings together and the three women start walking towards Bethlehem.

A few hours into the journey, Naomi tells Ruth and her other daughter-in-law, Orpah, to go back to their families and the only lives they’ve known. Orpah cries, kisses her mother-in-law and heads back.

Ruth's life wasn't what she expected at that moment and she had to make a choice. I wonder for how long her life hadn’t been what she expected. She lived in a time where she likely didn’t marry for a love but because her marriage made sense to both families. The bible tells us so little of her past that I wonder if she had a home that was worth running back to or if unknown future was better than the past she’d lived through.

Naomi urges her to leave again but Ruth responds:
Stop pushing me away, insisting that I stop following you!
Wherever you go, I will go.
Wherever you live, I will live.
Your people will be my people.
Your God will be my God.
Wherever you die, I will also die and be buried there near you.
May the Eternal One punish me—and even more so—if anything besides death comes between us. (Ruth 1:16-17)

They journey on and arrive in Naomi's hometown. Things are tough for the two widows. Ruth went out each day to beg for food. She bought home scraps that farmers didn't want. Yup, life really wasn't going to plan.

Ruth spent her days following behind harvesters picking up stalks of grains left behind. One of Naomi's relatives recognized her and showed kindness to Ruth allowing her to pick up scraps in his fields. Then Ruth, encouraged by Naomi, sneaks into the barn, where he sleeps, and practically asks him to marry her. Somehow, I don't think she pictured her life turning out that way.

Long story short, Ruth and Boaz marry and they have a child, who has a child, who has a child called David, who the bible describes as a man after God’s heart.

The thing that encourages me is that Ruth would never have known this.

We know how things worked out because we know how the story ends. But Ruth didn't.

When she died she would not have known the role she played in changing the world. She would only have looked back and thought, "Well, my life didn't go the way I expected!"

I think most of us won't know either how twists and turns in our lives have an impact on eternity. But God does. SaveSaveSaveSave

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