What I did when I felt like my life wasn't enough


In April, I quit my job. In May, I quit using social media apps on my phone.

I didn’t expect the anxiety deleting my social media apps would cause.

I wrote about my journey to what I call now digital minimalism on iBelieve.com this week. I want to share something here about it that I didn’t share in the post on iBelieve.

I loved going on Instagram before I deleted the social media apps. If you’d asked, I would have told you it was my favourite social app. I found the pictures soothing and enjoyed quick glimpses into my friends and families lives.

After deleting the apps, I’d go on Instagram from time to time and scroll through the pics. I started to recognise a feeling I hadn’t expected each time I opened it: discontent.

I’d scroll through a few pictures and feel so discontent with my life. I’d see pictures of people travelling and wish it could be me. I’d look at friends spending time together and wonder why I wasn’t there. Photos of meals I’d love to eat, pictures of places I’d love to run through…The list was endless.

I would close the app and sit there feeling like my life isn’t enough.

I didn’t like feeling that way. One day after opening and quickly closing the app after the bubbles of discontent floated up I sat and thought about what was happening. Was I really discontent with my life? Were these feelings real or were they a reaction to using the app?

I thought about how I felt before I went on Instagram.
I felt like I had the best life.
I loved my life.
It felt full.
My life felt enough.
I felt content with my life.

I go on Instagram less and less. Before I quit using social apps on my phone, it was a couple of times a day. After, it was once a week, then once a fortnight and now I can’t remember the last time I went on.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot over the last few months. And I keep coming back to this verse Psalm 16:11 (Voice),
Instead, You direct me on the path that leads to a beautiful life. As I walk with You, the pleasures are never-ending, and I know true joy and contentment. 
Part of me has wondered if choosing to stay off Instagram is the coward’s way of learning to be content in every situation.

This verse helped me realise that we can choose contentment. That is what the “Instead” signifies to me. “Instead” means to do something in preference of something else. It means I can choose going outside over going online.

Instead, has become a powerful word for me as I pursue digital minimalism in my life.

I could feel discontent instead I thank God for everything he has given me.
I could feel alone instead I remember God is Emmanuel (God with us).
I could feel worried instead I look at the Sparrows and wonder at how God takes care of them and me.

I chose this translation of Psalm 16:11 because it reminds me that when I choose to look to God instead of dwelling on my feelings, my actions lead me toward a beautiful life of true contentment.

Some translations write this verse as “In your presence is fullness of joy”. Isn’t that a great description of contentment?

Want to read more of my story about what happened when I deleted all the social media apps from my phone? Click here to read the full story on iBelieve.com

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When you have to tell everyone what God has done (Hint: It's a quick update on Xylon's health)


But the closer I am to You, my God, the better because life with You is good. O Lord, the Eternal, You keep me safe— I will tell everyone what You have done. Psalm 73:28

Xylon and I have grown so tired of hearing, “It looks like the cancer is back.”

It happens like clockwork every time Xylon has a PET scan. This year was no different. 

He flew to Johannesburg for the scan in July. If called me from the airport with the results in his hand and fear in his voice, “I never should have opened them. They say it looks like the cancer is back.”

Usually, fear takes route in my stomach wrestling with my intestines. This time it didn’t. This time I replied to Xylon immediately, “I don’t think it is. The doctors who wrote that report are only looking at a tiny part of the picture. They are looking at one scan. If you look at the big picture, you are healthy.” 

A week later, we sat in the oncologist’s room while we planned out the next steps. An operation to remove the lymph nodes that had grown followed by a biopsy. 

We scheduled the operation for the middle of August. After Xylon would have completed his big cycling goal for the year: a 230 km mountain bike race. 

With his muscles still tender after the race, I kissed Xylon and watched the porters wheel Xylon into surgery. I still felt peace. Usually, by this stage of the process, I am in knots and wondering what will happen to us if the cancer is back for the fourth time. 

The surgery went well and the surgeon tells us he should have the results in about a week. We’re both still calm. Our mustard seed faith is still carrying us through.

The afternoon, before we are meeting the surgeon for the results, the phone rings while Xylon’s in the shower. I answer it. It is the oncologist’s rooms. They ask if we have the results of the biopsy. This time fear makes my stomach drop as I say, “Not yet.”
The nursing sister asks if I’d like her to share the results with me.
I have a split second debate about whether I should wait for Xylon to get out the shower and then think, ‘Let’s just get this over.’ I reply, “Yes, please.”
She says, “It’s not cancer. The doctor’s very happy.”
I’m sure she said something else but I didn’t hear it. I say goodbye and run through to the bathroom. 
I scream at Xylon who is still showering, “It’s not cancer!”

Later, we go out to celebrate at Xylon’s favourite restaurant.

We celebrate because we know that life is a gift, and growing old is a privilege not everyone has. 

We celebrate because we’re so thankful that God has healed Xylon. We don’t know why he healed him when others cries for healing go unanswered. We wrestle with that a lot. 

My mom sent me Psalm 73 shortly after Xylon opened the scans in the airport. It helps me with some of the why doesn't God heal everyone questions I have, and I hope it will encourage you (I’ve included parts of it below, you can read the entire Psalm here): 
Truly God is good to His people, Israel, to those with pure hearts.
Though I know this is true, I almost lost my footing; yes, my steps were on slippery ground.
You see, there was a time when I envied arrogant men and thought, “The wicked look pretty happy to me.”
For they seem to live carefree lives, free of suffering; their bodies are strong and healthy. They don’t know trouble as we do; they are not plagued with problems as the rest of us are.
But look at this: You are still holding my right hand; You have been all along.
Even though I was angry and hard-hearted, You gave me good advice; when it’s all over, You will receive me into Your glory.
For all my wanting, I don’t have anyone but You in heaven. There is nothing on earth that I desire other than You. I admit how broken I am in body and spirit, but God is my strength, and He will be mine forever.
But the closer I am to You, my God, the better because life with You is good. O Lord, the Eternal, You keep me safe— I will tell everyone what You have done. 

I know so many of you follow this blog, and Xylon's story, and have prayed for us, so I wanted to tell everyone what God has done (again). 

I hope that it will encourage some of you who are also living through impossible situations that God is still able.

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Dear people of colour in South Africa


Dear people of colour in South Africa

I am sorry. I should have tried harder. For years I have hidden behind, “I was too young to be part of apartheid. I shouldn’t have to pay for the sins of others. I didn’t do anything wrong. How could I? I was 9 years old when apartheid ended.”

For years, I have failed to recognise how I have received privileges just for being white in this country and that my advantage came at your disadvantage.

I believed I lived in a country where colour didn’t matter. But I failed you, my fellow citizens of colour, I failed you because I didn’t see I only had the luxury of believing that lie because I was white.

Of course, colour matters.

Every single day something happens to remind you how colour matters. I apologise for allowing my naïvety to blind me to the racism you experience every single day.

I am sorry for all the times I haven’t called my white friends and family on racism. {Tweet This!}

Just this week I let a racist comment go. We were talking about a movie called “He even has your eyes” about a black couple who adopt a white baby. I thought it was beautiful. I loved that it challenged all my preconceived ideas about race. My friend who is white said, “That would be so shocking! Imagine a white baby in the loxion.”
I didn’t understand what she said so I replied, “What? Where?”
“In the location”.
I shook my head barely believing what I had heard and quickly paid the bill. As I drove home, I kicked myself for not calling her on it. Black people do not only live in locations. And people raise children in locations every day, and despite often lacking access to quality education many go on to become the kind of people we all should be proud to call a son or daughter. 

I am sorry that I failed you in that conversation and that I perpetuated a system that holds down anyone who is not white. I am sorry this is not the only time I have failed to speak up when white people put people of colour down.

I am 34 years old and I have never learnt to speak an African language. I have expected every person of colour to adapt to my culture, the white culture that I benefit from.

I am sorry that I thought I belonged in a "different" group of white people, that I was somehow special and immune from oppressing you.

I am sorry I thought it was okay to say “some” white people when talking about white supremacists and I admit when #BlackLivesMatter started I fought for #AllLivesMatter.
I. Am. Sorry.
I am sorry that when apartheid ended I did not change my actions. I am sorry that I haven’t loved you like Jesus, that I haven’t stood up for your rights like I would stand up for my child.

I realise now, and I hope it is not too late, that our country’s failure to transform is not your problem. It is a white one. White people have apologised for apartheid but never really repented. We have not done enough to right the wrongs of the past. We have not been angry enough about the circumstances we put you in because we are too scared that speaking up for you might mean losing everything for us.

I will never know what it is like to go through life without privilege. I can’t pretend to own or understand your experience. I want to though. I want to listen, to learn, to hear how my privilege has hurt you, is hurting you.

And I want to learn to act.

I do not want to put the burden of correcting the behaviour of white people on your shoulders anymore. You should not have to call us on our racism anymore.

I promise you I will be brave your ally in the face of racism.

(Brave? Really Wendy? Brave is Ernest Cole a black South African photographing apartheid and exposing it. Brave is Nelson Mandela standing in a courtroom and saying he is willing to die for his beliefs. It is not brave to be a good human, to do the right thing. I don’t need to be brave, I just need to be an ally.)  

I will call other white people on their racism. I will speak up for you when I am in a room. I know it is not enough. It will never be enough.

Thank you for being patient with us. Thank you for giving white people more than twenty years since apartheid to realise how we have failed once again. We do not deserve your kindness.

A recovering white racist

P.S. To the white people reading this: I have always wondered who I would have been if I had lived through apartheid. And I’m realising that this is our chance to be the people we hoped we would be. I am scared. I am not sure how to fix this but I know I want to do something. I see white supremacy rising in America and from all I read about it I'm realizing that if they win in America all white people win and I don't want to live in a world where I am an advantaged at the cost of people of colour. Here are a few resources that have gotten me thinking and acting on this issue. I hope you'll find them helpful too.
Novel: Small Great Things – Jodi Picoult (Affiliate link) Set in America. Picoult tackles racism head on from the viewpoint of how white people have benefited from slavery (in a South African context apartheid) and looks at what a white persons response should be to current racial tensions. I can’t recommend this book enough. She has a great article about how to be an ALLY on her website which you can click here to read.
Non-Fiction:  Born a crime - Trevor Noah (Affiliate link) This book isn’t funny. If anything it’s uncomfortable to read. It will challenge you on so many levels about race.
Movie: He even has your eyes. French with English subtitles. You can find this on Netflix. Watch the trailer here. As a white person, what is your first reaction to the idea of black people raising a white child? Yup. This film will challenge all those preconceived ideas and open the door for real conversations about race.
Podcast: The Liturgists Episode 34 - Black and white in America Very American in history but the truth is universal.
Article: Repenting Systemic Racism, Relevant Magazine. Want to know what to do next? This article on the biblical example of Josiah lays a great foundation.

Unfortunately, many of these resources are American. I would love to read more from South Africans on race so if you have any other resources please share them in the comments.

Photo by Dmitri Popov on Unsplash



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Dear people of colour in South Africa. {Tweet This!}


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A prayer for when you're going through a storm


Lord, it feels silly to pray at a time like this!

It feels like at a time like this prayer should take the form of action, not mere words.

Prayer is opening the doors of my home, making sandwiches for the hungry, holding down the roof on a house so the dust and rain can’t get in.

Right now, all I have is words, so let that be enough, but keep my heart soft and open to any actions I need to live.

Thank you for your promises that when we face stormy seas you will be there with us with endurance and calm; we will not be engulfed in raging rivers.

If it seems like we’re walking through fire with flames licking at our limbs, we can keep going; Because You, the Eternal One, are our God. You are the Holy One of Israel, and You will save us.

I sometimes read your promises (like the one above) and I think, ‘Really God? Tell that to the people who just lost a loved one or whose house just burnt down.’ Help me in my unbelief. Show me your hand in this storm even when all I can see is destruction and suffering.

There are men, women and children affected by the fires and storms raging right now. Lord, I ask that they would know your presence that they can hold on to you while everything else they have is being ripped away.

You know I don’t understand why bad things happen. You know it makes me angry and sad.  

I’m reminded at times like this that you are much bigger than me, much greater than my understanding. You are likened to a consuming fire, a whirlwind. And I need to trust that your ways are not mine and that you can bring beauty out of ashes.

Jesus, we ask that the wind would calm. I think of you standing on a boat in the middle of raging storm and rebuking the wind. Your voice calmed the wind. 

Could you speak to the wind now? Will you calm the storm?

Speak, Lord Jesus, speak.

Open the skies and let the rain fall. 
Come, Lord Jesus, come.
_________

I wrote this prayer this morning specifically with the people of Knysna, South Africa in mind. If you want to follow the story here are some live updates. However, I know that there are storms and fires (real and figurative) that people across the world deal with every day. If you're going through one now I hope that this prayer will help you. 

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