The Day I visited Kuma, South Africa.

“Not that I am implying that I was in any personal want, for I have learned how to be [content (satisfied to the point where I am not disturbed or disquieted) in whatever state I am.

I know how to be abased and live humbly in straitened circumstances, and I know also how to enjoy plenty and live in abundance. I have learned in any and all circumstances the secret of facing every situation, whether well-fed or going hungry, having a sufficiency and enough to spare or going without and being in want.”
Philippians 4:11-13

One evening in in May 2003, I was Home. Experiencing South Africa. The sun was setting, and we all were on our way back home headed for an almost two-hour trip and I was taking pictures and captured this golden color in the sky. It sort of looked as if there was a slight rainbow in the sky, yet the opposite was true. Some of this color in the sky was the fires burning in the air. I asked my friends why there was so much smoke. They said the people would get rid of garbage that was days old in the shantytowns, and the smoke was the best way to do that. In some neighborhoods, it was really hard to breathe, so we had to leave for fear of breathing in too much smoke that evening.

I recall a few things: the burning smell. The smell of garbage and the suffocating air that made me feel sick to my stomach. I wondered how the people could live in this environment, then I realized they didn’t have much choice. That was the lucky one, I didn’t have to go back home to a polluted environment, and if I did, then maybe I would have the choice to move away.

My self and a family of four, a pastor, his wife and their two teenaged daughters were trying to get out of the neighborhoods before dusk disappeared, and there was no light. There were no garbage men to come and collect trash like we have the pleasures in America. What we have in our own neighborhoods, I realized is a luxury. The dilapidated “shanty homes” that are located in their small villages made me sad. Everything appeared to be so dark, that evening in a small town outside of Johannesburg, South Africa.

I watched the faces of the people I was with, and wondered if they were as sad
about this scene as I was. I saw their noses turned up, sadness? i wondered… or was it disgust? Perhaps t was memories of their past… I would never know.. they were not that open about their pasts. Yet it seemed as if they were remembering something from their pasts, and I felt their pain. The care was a
deafening quiet as we dove out of the area. It was if this area made them sadder they have ever been. I believed I saw some sense of apprehension
that was on their faces. They had much love for the people; however, for when their friend’s faces appeared at the doors – their faces lit up brightly, and they relished in seeing the warm smiles that welcomed them. Their frowns no longer there, and nothing but for the love of the people.

There were bright spots in that day, however. I was able to go by Diane’s house. ( I am so surprised I even recall her name, its been ten years now….) But I will never forget Diane. She lived in a room the size of of a large bathroom in a suburban home. I was embarrassed for her. That she lived with so much lack. Yet the home somehow seemed enough for her, in that moment. She had the brightest smile. And often seemed contemplative. Diane said she would come and spend the day with us, tomorrow. She said she was ‘happy to be alive’ and to have a job, and a very nice car. Her car was burgundy… shiny and new. It appeared it was worth much more than her home. Se said she was b “a diamond polisher”, but when we ended her home, I could see she really didn’t have much to show for this job. There was barely enough room to move around in. Her home was one room. Maybe he side of my living room, in my small apartment. She said she polished diamonds all day. I almost cied for her once I found out her wages. It made me sad to hear se made so little, and she worked at a diamond mine but barely bought home enough to live in a tin shack.

Yet Diane was happy. I felt she deserved so much more. Her personality and her warmth, her smile – even, informed me she was not one who wanted much more. She seemed content. Even in this state.

Driving though a neighborhood like this in S. Africa, you learn to appreciate what you have. You , the fresh air, a sun you can actually “see”, and it isn’t covered by smoke and haze….a smile on the faces of the people in the area, the flowers …in full bloom.

Other than people who I saw walking around in the area that day, I don’t recall seeing anything resembling having life other than people who lived there. This made me really saddened, but the people who HAD life… WOW… did they have it… indeed they did.

Today, …When I think about what I have and I don’t have, I go back to the thought of Diane. And her home, and her smile. And I realize that I cannot complain. God is good and I need to accept that what I have, and what I own… is enough.

I am learning to be content. In every moment and every situation, and perhaps even in every detail of my life. The silly boyish grin my husband gives me when he looks into my face’ the way the sun shine through my morning window… the way my nieces and nephews stare at me when they haven’t seen me in a while…

An so yes… my heart truly ached for the people in that small town outside of South Africa. I recall the laughter. the melodic voices, the singing and the greetings more than anything else from that visit. I enjoy remembering the company I kept with them, the contentment in their souls, and the smiles they kept close to their hearts.

   That’s  Diane to the far left, the next day she came to see us.south africa friends

4 Reasons Not To Live with Regret.

So… I remember a time in my life when I was really  indecisive.

I remember I was trying to please others so much, I forgot about myself.  In that process, I  made  a lot of decisions that  didn’t give much regard to my life, or  emotional safety. What I wanted out of life, was on the back burner.  I basically lived for the enjoyment and delight of someone else, because I thought that was how you  show you love  someone. I was so wrong. I had love all confused. And because of that, I had so much inner conflict, insecurity and so much  doubt inside of myself. Discord was often in my relationships  and I just had no peace with anyone, so I stayed away from people, mostly. As long as they were not talking about my life, then I was okay with them. I didn’t want anyone telling me what to do and if they offered without my asking,  then I was ready to run from them, even my ex.

When you don’t have peace inside, everything you do or don’t do,  feels like a mistake. You second guess yourself all the time, and you cannot trust your instincts. And when you ignore your instincts, man… you are in T-R-O-U-B-L-E!  I operated in this way so often, I didn’t know who I was , or whether I was coming or going. That means I was lost. After a while, I became so hopeless,  I just lost hope altogether. I was just existing. I apologized for everything,   I had many qualms with people  and the places where I was in life. I carried resentments and as a result, I  was  just plain miserable. I was annoyed to the point  that accepting annoyance was how I lived. But I was so blind to this fact, I simply endured it. It became the norm. I was living with regret. When I looked up  the word regret I  found in the thesaurus these words: ”  to prey on the mind…have a weight on the mind; leave an aching void.” That’s what regrets feels like. Sorrow,  pain, hurt – all the time, and  guilt.

Growing up in an alcoholic family, I realized this was the norm for me, ( living with annoyances) which is why I didn’t recognize it when it occurred in a daily basis in my life and relationships. (I know, crazy… right?) But we  do this, because we tend to go with what’s familiar and yet become so comfortable with it, we consider it to be  normal?  How does this happen? You recognize you were annoyed and miserable, yet every single day you find comfort with it? I think deep down inside I knew I was miserable, but I didn’t want to admit it.  I was living with a denial and a numbness that honestly, felt very good, because if I didn’t have to acknowledge it, then  I thought  it was not bothering me. But then, after 11 years of depression, it finally caught up  with me. I was at my wits end.My mental health took a toll on me and I knew I had to change something.

One day my spirit cried out to God, and revealed I was  living with sorrow. I had much so much REGRET about the  situations I found myself in life, the  decisions I had made and  I was suffering from so much sorrow. I was  sad about my life  and I felt trapped. I felt responsible for things I wasn’t even responsible for. The adults in my life blamed me and I took on their issues and their grief to the point, I had no resolve, no contentment and no harmony in my life. It took a lot to admit I was sad. I was really depressed and I had chosen to live like that for  several years. Living in regret.

I remember one morning I spent the entire morning with God in prayer on my back porch.  I was angry, bitter and I was hurting. I was also very stubborn and God used a lot of my grief to help me to recognize  some of the things I held on to were because of pride. I remember  crying out to God with so much pain and  telling God I was  ‘fed up’ and I wanted a new life, and new hope, and a new way of being and doing. As I sat there,  I had a vision in my head of the  image of the woman in the  Bible with whom they  cast stones . (John 8)   These people brought her to Jesus to be condemned. Jesus response  to her accusers was to write on the ground. No one knows what Jesus wrote. But her accusers all left after Jesus  wrote on the ground. He then said : “He who is without sin, cast the first stone.”  I envisioned Jesus as I sat on my porch (with my eyes closed);  write in the ground for me.  As He  wrote, He basically wrote some things  that only I saw, of course.  But what he wrote reminded me of what He desired for me to have.His promises.  I saw that He had much greater intention for me to have good, in my life. I believe it was like that with her accusers, as well. What was important was not what He wrote, but what He said and how what he said, made me feel.  I didn’t feel sorrowful any longer, I was no longer troubled, I was no longer hurting and burdened deeply with regret, and  I  became decisive. I knew instantly that I deserved more, I wanted more and  that I could have more; and I made the decision to do it.

 John 8:7, 10,11 “But when they persisted in asking Him, He straightened up, and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” When they heard it, they began to go out one by one, beginning with the older ones, and He was left alone, and the woman, where she was, in the center of the court. Straightening up, Jesus said to her, “Woman, where are they? Did no one condemn you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “I do not condemn you, either. Go. From now on sin no more.” NASB

Jesus dealt with this woman with such tenderness and grace, that she was in awe.  All the accusers surrounding her also  were also surprised, but they must have understood, because they left too. If we condemn ourselves, with LIVE WITH REGRET.  My relationship with God has taught me I am not worthy of punishment for the  decisions I have made.That’s why he died for us. Once I repent, ask God for help, receive it, then move on. then  comes release. Just like it did for the woman in John 8. This is very important. It’s necessary for living with a clear conscious.

That day on my back porch, I contended with Jesus, in my soul . But I learned three things after my wrangling with God:

1. I had to let go of my past.

2., I couldn’t live in the condemnation, because if I did, I would accept the guilt and regret from my past.

3. I learned I had to move on, because  HE didn’t condemn me, and so I had to stop condemning myself.

4. I had to forgive myself.

When you cannot forgive yourself, you don’t remember to be kind, nurturing and self-loving. You forget to  forgive yourself. It took years for me to forgive myself for  things in my past, even after I made a decision to live a better life and leave those things behind I knew I was worth more, I knew I deserved more, but it didn’t make me leave the situation or change anything. Here’s what made  the difference: accepting  God’s forgiveness and allowing His love for me to redeem me.  For me, this was what unraveled  the love confusionI learned that if I  accepted God’s love first  and  allowed this to be my foundation for loving others and BEING LOVED… then I would be alright.  Once I was certain God has forgiven me and wanted more for me, I began to  move towards freedom, and I never looked back. I fond resolve. But I have to give God my regrets. 

People are often amazed by how much peace I seem to have.  Let me tell you, I am not perfect. I still struggle, even. And although I have peace , now…  It took a very long time to get here. After I  got through the muck and the mess of my own regrets, I was able to stand again on my own two feet.   Of course,  some of the way, God carried me to be honest. But I made it to the other side. Now that I am here, it ‘s pertinent I tell the story of how I made it here, so others could be set free as well.

Amen & Selah.reflection

On Being Content.

 

Philippians 4:11, 12 

Not that I am implying that I was in any personal want, for I have learned how to be [content (satisfied to the point where I am not disturbed or disquieted) in whatever state I am.

I know how to be abased and live humbly in straitened circumstances, and I know also how to enjoy plenty and live in abundance. I have learned in any and all circumstances the secret of facing every situation, whether well-fed or going hungry, having a sufficiency and enough to spare or going without and being in want.”

 

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Myself & two good friends ministering in homes in S. Africa.

One evening in  in May 2003, in South Africa, the sun was setting, and we all were on our way back home headed for an almost two-hour trip and  I captured this  golden color in the sky.   Although it looked as if there is a slight yellowish haze in the sky,  the opposite is true. Some of this color was the fires  in the air they  would use to  rid garbage that was days old in the shantytowns.  In some neighborhoods, it was really hard to breathe, so  we had to leave for fear of breathing in too much smoke.

We were trying to get out of the neighborhoods before dusk disappeared, and there was no light on the streets. They said after a certain time in the evening we had to make certain we were out of the small towns in order to be safe. There were no garbage men to come and collect trash like we have the pleasures in America. What we have in our own neighborhoods is a luxury.

Above,   are the  pictures of the dilapidated  “shanty homes” that are  located in their small villages  In the air were strong smells of smoke and garbage.

I watched the people’s face I was with, and saw their noses turned up, sadness…. as if they were remembering something from the past. As if this area made them sadder they have ever been. and as if dread were on their faces. They had much love for the people; however, for when their faces  came out of the homes, their faces lit up brightly, and they relished in seeing  the smile they were welcomed with  and quickly put away their frowns for the love of the people.

There were bright spots in the day; however. I was able to go by Diane’s house.  ( I am so surprised I even recall her name, its been ten years now….) But I will never forget Diane. she lived in a room the size of  of a large bathroom in a suburban home. I was embarrassed for her. She had the brightest smile. ( Diane is the one to the far right, above). She  was happy to be alive and  to have a job and a nice car. and that she did, but with her job as “a diamond polisher”, she really didn’t have much to show for it. She had sitting outside a nice maroon car, but  barely enough room to move around in. she said she polished diamonds all day. And for her wages, she  barely lived in a home the size of my den. it made me sad. But Diane was happy. I felt she deserved so much more. But her smile informed me she was not one who wanted much more.She was content. Even  in this state.

Driving though a neighborhood like this in S. Africa, you learn to appreciate what you have. fresh air,  a sun you can see, and smile on the faces of the people in the area, the flowers in full bloom. Other than people who I  saw walking around in the area that day, I don’t recall seeing anything  resembling having life other than people who lived there.

This profoundly affected me.

I remember a time living in Syracuse one summer and I was just angry, literally angry because the sun didn’t come out. It was a cold, cloudy summer and it affected my mood. It was then I decided I would not always live in Syracuse, NY. I decided if I needed anything, I needed the Sun.

It made me content. Warm. Made me smile.

Imagine what this felt like for the people in Kuma. Imagine not being able to see the sun. Imagine not being able to feel it’s heat and it’s warmth. Imagine having to breathe through fumes, daily.

When I think about  (today in my life) what I have and I don’t have, I go back to the thought of Diane. And her home,  and her smile. And I realize that I cannot complain. God is good and  I need to accept that and that alone. Selah.

I am learning to be content. every day of my life.  Though my heart aches for the people in Kuma, S. Africa, I enjoy remembering   the company and the warm smiles and hearts.

 

pursue family.

How is this …on my blog about pursuing me?
perhaps because it reflects family.
and i really, really love families.

I love how we create that cultural  magic.

and just shine.

our inner lights  reflecting our joy –

and our  love for one another.

nieces

 

how we groove.

how we move.

how we  find healing

how we  find hope.

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how we search for one another . how we embrace one another.

how we love. it’s all so different and complex.

fam
i love my own family because they are purely in love with each other.
it makes my heart  full to see us interact and love on one another.

being with, and seeing one another fully…

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mom and dad are getting older. I love them so.. hard to imagine a  life without them.

they have always been here.

i will cherish them while I can.

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indeed. cousins that look alike and should be siblings in another life… are just awesome to have around…

Some of My Best Photos & Words….

It’s so odd how…

Some of my best pictures have permanent memories  and ‘records’ in my head… of me being taken out of my environment, into another realm of being and doing, transplanted to another part of the earth and helps me see a greater part and the ‘spiritual’  part  of who I am.

I love to travel. It’s no secret. I can just about tell you I was experiencing life on a serious level, in everyone of these pictures and some type of MAJOR growth was happening in that very moment.

Maybe that’s why I love photography and I get so much out of it. It speaks without opening its mouth. Speaks so loudly and profoundly.

But on the inside. In my heart, my mind and my soul.
I am going to be working a photo task this year, and I am excited about it, although I am expecting that it will challenge me, I am a little nervous that it happens all YEAR LONG. So that means I have to be CONSISTENT.  *  (Mind you …. this WAS  – –gonna be my word, then I  chickened out.. so I will keep it on the sideline and refer to it, when I have “fully embraced” life to the umpteenth degree and you can see I am not hiding any longer…)

If you are gonna be consistent, why not then BE: one who EMBRACES consistency, right?

a big HUGE  HA!

Well, the God’s honest truth is… most of these photos were taken  RIGHT here in  Tulsa  Oklahoma.  And just for the record,  I WAS on a JOURNEY…. I  really BIG one, too.  Smile.

I don’t know how you  feel about the  journeys in life that  wind up taking you “further ” than you may have ever imagined…. but  this girl right here… has decided to work on my ONE WORD   for the past three  years and BOY…!  Have I been  stretched!

 2015 was Endure.

2016 was  Conquer.

 2017 … is Embrace.

All three of these words  take me some place.   To stories in my life journey that mesmerize me ;   stretch me a little more,  cause me to  contemplate,  and  show me who I really am.  … And in these past few years , that has been  almost  inevitable.  See,.. though I am now a very strong advocate of  “choosing words”  that honor and  embrace the journey,  I  don’t believe I pick these words. I believe THEY PICK ME.

And so it is… I should have  wrote down how I had it confirmed…. but I literally heard  the word  EMBRACE over w three hour period… at least it seemed that way…. so I said :YES.

I WILL.  and she stayed here.

 So I guess we are  sort of partna’s for the next  360 days!

Amen & Selah.

Oh.. and you can guarantee ‘the pictures’ will follow in   2017 as well…

 

 

 

 

Caught Up in Silence.

Today I got kinda caught up. I had forgotten about my writing. That space where I seem to love creating.

I was in the middle of a week that was going on six days of pure sickness. I hated it. And right before Christmas! (Forget about shopping!…Okay?) In fact I can’t even recall the last day I even had time to embrace real quiet. I’ve been really keeping track, this time. I was beginning to like what I was experiencing,  …fully. Then,  all of a sudden, out of know where…a silent bomb falling bomb of the sky…out of  nowhere, it just happened.

Silence. 

I really enjoy the Netflix series, The Fosters. It’s really cool. It’s a really good series on television about a foster family trying to make it work. Families are my thing. I have a dream of working with families forever. I want to help a  ‘slew’ of families thrive – and help make them better and stronger, even in their communities. And of course, I always want to check off on my list of how ‘realistic’ the foster family is on this show, because I work with them in real life, of course. c. I find the writers to be pretty adept and realistic in their research. I was sitting there one moment ‘caught up”  in the rapture of the storyline, and then…nothing.

At first, I was like:” I have to finish this series…”and then of course…Silence captured me, between shows. I love that blank pause that offers room for more. I love to fill it with ideas and words and stretch that space with more excitement and overwhelm of good thoughts.

 Who knows what I may create next?

So I take on the challenge, and I rise to the occasion. I listen to silence and what it teaches me and speaks to my heart and how it molds me into this  ‘creative creature’ that I am with a vast imagination.

And so I take time and break for those moments of suspense, and I wrap myself lovingly in its Embrace❤…as I write.

 And by the way, that’s my word for 2017. Embrace.

I guess it’s started, huh? 😉

Nthabiseng is My Name.❤

Nthabiseng  is my African name,. It means: “Make Me Happy”.

I consider it to either be a statement of how I should be, or  demand in that when people call me Nthabiseng, they make a demand of me, to bring happiness. For me, personally, its an infinite reminder that God wants me to be HAPPY. “Oh Lord, he Lord gave me a challenge on that one! ” When I visited South Africa in 2003, I never knew I would return with a new name.. How perfect, I thought, for God saw me.  He used a 17 yr old girl named Ama,  a name for me.  She  named me  a name that helped breathe life into me, again. I was deep in unhappiness at the time trying to make some major decisions about my life and future. And God sends Ama. Blessed be the Name of the Lord , for showing me how names have power and intrigue and depth.

I was so intrigued by the name, as she sputtered it out. her name, Ama. She was seventeen in 2003. We sat in her living room in Sandton, S. Africa and I was trying on a South African dress. She must have seen something in me. A spark, maybe my dream come true To travel overseas. She saw me ignite. My fire, arise.

These days have no problem in letting that fire arise.

It comes naturally… sometimes as a spark, a flame, or even a rushing fire… but it doesn’t burn. Oh no, no burning…

Just purifying.

A cleansing awareness.

So I am thankful for the name, because it catapulted me forward into purpose. makes me realize why I am here on earth. To make others happy, but also “me”, happy.

Happiness became a journey for me. A destination. A venture. And I am so very glad this is my story. It makes  creating meaningful happy moments all  the mote more special.