Lights. Camera. Action.

I fell in love with film when I was about four years old. I loved how a story could transport you to another world, even if it was just for a little while. For all of 90 minutes you could be anything from a lion cub to a warrior princess. You could go on crazy adventures, discover new worlds and play a significant part that changed the world forever. A welcome escape from a broken world. Every time I walked out of a cinema, I would re-enact my favourite scenes and try to cling to this wonder world as long as I possibly could.

As I grew older, the love affair continued to grow. It became quite addictive. As I grew, so did the characters. They became more complex. More real. Closer to home. Something happens to a creative mind when it grows up. It loses the ability to fully immerse itself in another world. I think it’s because it becomes too painful to return to the present reality. You start raising walls to protect yourself from ever fully experiencing that childish wonder ever again. It’s just not worth it.

Instead of traveling to the 1920×1080 dimension, I chose to analyse. I would analyse the camera angles, the colour, the character’s growth. You name it. I would obsess and dig until I figured out exactly what the director and screenwriter tried to convey. An expert critic. After all, everything had to mean something. Why would you waste a perfectly great platform to communicate absolutely nothing?

I still watch films like this today, but a penny dropped in my spirit a few weeks ago. Don’t get me wrong, films that communicate absolutely nothing still frustrate me and push all my buttons at once. I guess some things never change. I have my reasons. Good ones. Promise.

Anyway, back to the penny. There is an age gap of 20 years between me and my youngest cousin. This little girl has taught me so much about life and God’s Father heart. I adore her. Little humans have a way of bringing deep restoration and healing to the little humans in our hearts. Sometimes I can just shake my head in awe… This little girl, just like me, has a deep love for stories.

She came to visit my sister and I one Friday evening for a movie night. I tried my best not to emanate my disapproval as she picked out “Trolls” from the rack. I already ran through the plot line, just by looking at the cover. A singing, dancing, glitter-poohing princess, who was kidnapped and had to be rescued from an evil thingamabob by prince sparkle-puff. Bloody good show, I’d say.

My cousins eyes grew twice as big, as she instantly turned into a human bouncy ball.

“Yay! Yay! This one! This one!”, she yelled.

Side-note: When you are this cute and tiny, you instinctively know that you have to repeat everything you say, just so everyone can keep up while trying their best to resist the urge of dunking you in their coffee. Thoughtful.

Reluctantly, I agreed that I would sit and watch this one with her. We nestled in with some popcorn, and buckled up for the crazy sing-a-long ride.

Plot twist. Princess Poppy, an overly-enthusiastic colourful burst of happiness, ventures to rescue her friends from the dreaded Bergens. Half-way through I found myself smiling like an idiot and humming along to all the songs. As I peeked over to the little girl next to me, she didn’t look so little any more. Her eyes were filled with the same wonder as mine, and the same grin was glued to her face. For those 92 minutes we were the same age.

As I waved her good-bye, my eyes began to swim. I realised that I spent so much time over-analysing and building walls, that I silenced the little girl in my heart. I sent her to the corner, with no explanation and no warning.

Jesus said in Luke 18:16 – 17: “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.”

Like a child. Uncomplicated. Unhindered. Lost in wonder.

The reality is that bills, chores, responsibilities and disappointments suffocate the children within us. It’s almost like they don’t stand a chance. I believe there’s a Voice within all of us. A Voice that inspires us to dream outrageous dreams, to see beyond walls, to go where no one has gone before; but as we grow up this Voice is reduced to nothing but a whisper. We’ve forgotten how to listen. We’ve forgotten how to dream.

Our lives become one big show. Lights. Camera. Action. Keep within the lines. Walk, talk and act as expected. There’s no room for childish games, vulnerability, fun or ambitions. Life is serious. Get with the script.

As I wiped the tears, I walked over to the corner and embraced the shamed little girl. We sat together on a bench with our Father in the garden of my heart. She giggled and danced through long-forgotten dreams. I could feel my spirit being lifted and parts of my identity being restored. It dawned on me that dreaming was deeply woven into our design. We often judge childlike faith and childlikeness as a weakness in character, as living with your head in the clouds… This is our mistake, and sadly our loss.

It’s time we allow ourselves to be lost in childlike wonder. To féél again. To dream again. The bigger and bolder, the better.

It’s a risk. I know. But it’ll be so worth it.

Letting grow

Gardening has always fascinated me. Not because I’m any good at it. Quite the contrary. I have the impeccable talent of letting even a succulent die. I mean, a succulent. A plant that by definition is drought resistant. I’m just going to let that simmer for a while…

Yep. Good times.

I think the thing that draws me to gardening, is the very thing that makes me shy away from it. You have to get your hands dirty. You have to plan, prune, plant and water your little piece of Eden. It takes time. Determination. You have to be willing to dig down, and endure a few scratches on the way. Some seedlings will grow into great trees. Some won’t. Some flowers will blossom in season. Others won’t. And you have to accept that. You have to accept that although you toil and sweat, growth is not in your control.

Luckily, I don’t have control issues…

Oh. Wait.

I wish it was as easy as sprinkling a little fairy dust on the ground, spinning around three times while repeating “I do believe in fairies”. But it’s not. Gardening is not a picnic. And I have to admit that if it was easy, it would take the childish wonder and admiration right out of the whole process.

My grandmother used to love gardening. She could make anything grow. Seriously. She was like a magical gardening unicorn. If I close my eyes, I can still hear her humming an inaudible tune whilst wandering through her little piece of heaven. She made it look so simple. Her garden was always filled with abundant life and beauty.

Life shared the ultimate gardening secret with my grandmother. A penny, if you will. Letting go. She just had an unshakeable faith that every seed would grow in its own time. I am absolutely convinced that her lush garden was not a result of following a recipe for success. It was the result of a lifetime spent learning that you can only steward growth, not control it.

Control suffocates growth. It eats away your roots, deprives you of water and always keeps you in the shade. The past few weeks I’ve been struggling to get this blogpost out. Not because I didn’t want to write or share it. Just because sharing it would mean admitting that everything is not okay, and that I’ve stumbled down the well-treaded pathway of control again. Pride is such a sneaky, invasive plant.

The bottom line is that I’ve been allowing weeds to sprout up in the garden of my heart, because of my obsession with keeping myself in check. There was a moment of divine clarity in the past few days. You know those moments where everything just makes perfect sense? Those “I can see clearly now the rain is gone” moments.

I was not created to control. I was created to surrender. Penny drop.

I broke down, and ugly cried. In a cool way. Complete vulnerability in the safest possible Arms. Jesus smiled, and reminded me that the cross already dealt with these weeds.

“Let go, My love… You’re safe. I’ll take it from here, but you need to let go now.”

Dearest, what a wonderfully complex garden lies within your heart. It’s unique. Captivating. Beyond compare. I don’t know what your story is. I don’t know what you’ve needed to endure. But I know that you were created to grow, in beautiful surrender, closer and closer to Father’s heart.

Be still. Breathe. Let it grow.

Be Still.

I grew up in a musical family. That sounds weird… Kind of like we all just broke into random song and dance in the middle of our Saturday mall outing. Rehearsed and pitch perfect. A lovely thought, but no. I mean my mom and dad both come from families where music is pretty much woven into every day life. My gran (on mom’s side) studied music, my gramps was a tenor. They started an acapella choir in the 70’s that traveled South Africa, Europe and Israel. My mom pursued a career in music before she went into psychology. My dad sings. My aunts and uncles sing. My cousins sing. My sister and I sing. We’re basically the Trolls. Without the sparkles, felt and rainbow hair.

You know those crazy, loud, emotional families depicted in films. Yeah, that’s us. I’ve grown to be a master in the art of following several conversations at once. I love my family. We’re brilliant at a lot of things. Being quiet just isn’t one of those things.

I think we can all relate, in some way. Being still is not something that comes naturally to human beings. If you ask me, it’s part of the human condition. Even when our lips aren’t moving, our thoughts most certainly are. Being a woman also doesn’t help. Checklists. Overthinking every minute detail of conversations. Analysing body language. Pondering the complexity and simplicity of life. Connecting the dots. If my body was only half as active as my mind, my epic jean battle every morning would turn into a very civilized nod and hand shake.

(By the way, thank you Winter for making it nearly impossible to lose weight. My fat cells salute you.)

The older I get, the more I find myself turning the volume down. Suddenly I can relate to those people who are familiar with “the middle of nowhere”. You know, those little primitive mountain settlements and ghost towns people break away to, where you can hear your own cells divide at night. We are constantly enveloped in an ever growing wave of noise. There’s always so much to do, so much to see, so much to hear, so much to say. We’ve completely forgotten how to quiet down. To be fully present. To be still.

If you’ve ever faced burnout, you know how it feels to feel completely alone in a room full of people. To feel irreversibly disconnected. Sinking deeper into a numbness that’s comforting in a way… At least you don’t have to feel anymore. Right? It’s just too much, and too little at the same time. Limbo.

I’ve been in a season of burnout many times throughout my life. Most of the time it was the result of allowing an overwhelming amount of noise into my heart. I forgot one of the most fundamental rules of the music that has been my companion throughout my life, and that is: For every beat, there’s a rest. Balance. The rests within a musical score create anticipation. Breaths, if you will. The stillness in a melody gives more meaning to the notes that are played. Those are the scores that move us.

Sometimes life’s most significant penny drops happen when we quiet down. When we take a minute. Climb onto Father’s lap.

Reflect. Breathe. Rest.

Be still, dearest. Your penny awaits.

The Apple and the Tree

I love everything about this time of the year. Icy mornings. Snuggly blankets. Grande cups of coffee goodness. The winter winds warm my heart. I know, it’s weird. I’m complex. You’ll get use to me. Winter in South Africa also means pink lady apples. A crunchy, yummy, bite size vitamin booster. My snack of choice. Obviously. It just feels like every bite of a pink lady apple makes up for last night’s Oreos and Milo. The Oreos were completely involuntary. I plead not guilty. Just putting it out there. Oreos are mean.

I always nibble away at my pink lady apple as a mental break during a work day. So there I was, crunching away when my colleague interrupted me mid-bite. “You know you can eat an apple upside down, right.” As per usual, I replied with a very ladylike “HUH?”. According to him you can eat an apple upside down, core and all, without tasting the core… And all. That way you get in all the nutritious fibres, and don’t waste a perfectly good apple core. My thoughts? Nope.

He continued excitedly. Apparently when you peel an apple pip, it tastes exactly like a raspberry. Fascinating. My thoughts, yet again… Nope. You should know my face has a way of letting me down in the art of hiding feelings. I’ve often said it needs deliverance. When you’re terminally honest, it kind of comes with the territory.

I had no interest in eating an apple core, nor peeling a rasberry-ish-apple pip. As I was about to shake my head, he added “Just try it, it’ll change the way you eat an apple forever.”

There it was. Penny drop.

All too often we’re so content with just eating all around the core. It’s juicy and easy to swallow, but we miss out on all the nutritious goodness of the core and pips.

A good leader once asked me what the main purpose of an apple tree was. The answer? Not to just produce apples, but to produce apple trees. Within every apple core, lies a potential tree. How can we willingly miss out on those trees? How can we pass up the opportunity to chew away at the core, enduring the discomfort and pieces of bitterness, so that a tree can be planted in our hearts?

See, life is much like a pink lady apple. It’s easy to stick to what we know. To not face the deeper, uncomfortable, and sometimes offensive truths. Jesus said He came to give us life, and life in abundance. That’s the ultimate truth. An abundant life is not complete without the core parts. Those parts plant seeds for future trees.

So,  I want to challenge you to eat the apple upside down. It’ll change your life forever.

Cruffins and Coffee

I am a coffee snob. There. I said it. I can’t help it. There are times I wish I could go back to the simpler me. The me who was okay with dissolving a spoonful of instant coffee into boiling water. Allas! I’ve tried. Seriously. But there’s something about the complexity of a single origin or blended aroma that keeps me coming back for more.

This week I waltzed into one of my favourite coffee spots in my hometown, and as I sipped away at my upsize cap, I spotted the most amazing creation. You should know, pastries are my absolute downfall. Just putting it out there. Back to the story: The owner informed me that this was called “The Cruffin”. A Croissant-Muffin hybrid. Done. I know. Where have I been all these years, right? It was destiny. Cruffin and I connected in a most spectacular way, and he has now taken up full residency on my hips. So worth it.

Over the years I’ve heard countless arguments about how single origin coffee trumps blends, and vice versa. (Ha! Trumps… budum tss. Too soon.) I’ve found myself identifying more and more with the cup in my hands. The complexity of a blend. The fact that the beans from single origins were combined in perfect balance. The coffee roaster knew that the density and consistency of beans differ and adjusted the blend accordingly. I felt a nudge. And the ever clever penny made its way into my Spirit.

This is me. A unique, odd-looking, sweet, layered concoction, combined with a creamy, roasted, bitter, blended aroma. Created to add a specific flavour to this world. Roasted to unleash a pleasing aroma, a fragrant piece of the Father’s heart.

Let’s be honest. It begins with you. With identity. The sooner you realise that you are a unique blend, beyond compare, the sooner you’ll be able to pin point your purpose and calling in this world. I’ve found that coffee is less about the coffee and more about the Roaster. The cruffin is less about the cruffin, and more about the Chef.

My life for His purpose. My blend for His Kingdom. And that’s more than enough.

Deer Reader…

We all know the feeling. That moment of complete clarity. All at once the world comes to a complete stand still, waiting in silence for the rumoured penny to drop. This is what this blog is all about. A penny.

I’ve always loved creative writing. I love how the written word can transport you to undiscovered worlds, and reveal parts of your spirit you never even knew existed. I live an extraordinary life. Not because of who I am, but because of who my Father is. I’ve experienced many a penny drop because of His grace, and would like to share these pennies with you. You should know that every penny carries a story. Stories of love found, love lost. Stories of victory, of defeat. These stories are real. These stories are mine.

My prayer is that if you’re reading this, you’ll join me on this journey. If there’s something I’ve learnt over the years, it’s that we reside in a poverty stricken world. Not just poverty of the heart, but poverty of the Spirit. And what better means of enriching this world, than one penny at a time.