Thank you for your smile

It has always been said that giving a smile away leaves one richer. Indeed it does. There are many benefits to smiling, the importance of sharing some happiness through a smile can never be overstated. However, over the last few days I have come to discover being on the receiving end of a smile can also be life changing.

I spent the weekend with a few close friends of mine, days filled with fun and laughter. At some point, we wound up near what some would call a less fortunate neighbourhood. A cluster of houses made of iron sheets stood together with a common area in the middle for cooking and cleaning. At first, this was a depressing sight, leaving us wishing that we could make the lives of the residents living there a bit easier. Then we saw the children.

Right next to this little shanty town, there was a big pile of dirt, probably left there by contractors working on the high-rise buildings coming up next door. The most amazing thing was that these children made this dirt pile their playground. The mound of red volcanic soil was to these children a little paradise, providing them and their little pets an area to frolic. For all of twenty minutes, we watched the children play with their pet cats, chickens and even the occasional lamb, flinging the dirt around like it was snow on a warm winters day. The shrieks of pure joy were enough to remind us that if we see the world through the lenses of childlike innocence, wonder and amazement, we can be truly joyful regardless of the circumstances.

Just as we were about to leave, one of the children came up to us and offered us his little cat to play with. I will never forget the smile on that youthful face as my friend played with the cat and the rest of us looked on. There is truly something about a smile that warms the soul.

So I wrote this note to say thank you. Thank you to that little boy who blessed us with his radiant smile, thank you to the young person who smiles at strangers on the street, thank you to the parents who smile at their children and remind them every day that they are treasured and loved, and most importantly, thank you to you my dear reader. Thank you for all the times you smile even though life is tough. Thank you for being an encouragement to others and reminding strangers like me that indeed, life is beautiful.

Success in detail

I’m borrowing this from my pastor, who recently spelt out some of the key areas that define success for a Christian. I hope it encourages you to keep on keeping on as much as it did for me:
S – Sense of direction
Without a vision and knowing where you are going, then success will be an elusive target. Most people do not succeed because they do not know what they really want. As you decide what direction you are taking in life, consider the special passion God has given you – what you love to do, the talents that you have, your personality and the experiences you have had. Looking at all these areas will help you define who you are, where you want to get to and why.
U – Understanding
Success only comes when you have the big picture in mind. By understanding what the end will be, one gains strength to endure the difficulties that come along the way. If one understands that they were created to be a world class musician, then they will endure the endless hours of practice to become a maestro. Understanding will help you to keep moving forward. Don’t give up on your dream!
C – Commitment
Commitment gives rise to consistency and faithfulness. When you are faithful with little, you will receive much. Be committed to doing the best you can with the little you have now, and the big things will find their way to you in time.
C – Compassion
Without love for people, success is empty. Compassion makes you want to do something to make a person’s life better. Often, deeply passionate people who excel in life are driven by the fact that they want to make the world a better place.
E – Enthusiastic faith
Be optimistic. If God is for you, who can be against you? When you attempt great things for God, then you can expect great things from God. When you give, God will give back. All things are possible if you believe. Step out and take the challenge, power from heaven is backing you up!
S – Service to others
When we serve others, we share God’s love, grace, hope and mercy. Some of the most meaningful moments in life are created when they are shared with others. A compassionate person cannot help but serve others in their own little way.
Touching people’s lives adds on fulfilment to success.
S – Staying power
Before every triumph, there are moments where one has to look at themselves and the mirror and say , ‘I will not give up!” Believe in your dream, pursue it with your whole heart and keep going even when times get tough and it seems like the boat is sinking. The storm that comes your way will not destroy you. Lean on the advice of those who have been there before, learn from the mistakes you make, take a break if you must, but do not quit. Move through the tough times, one step at a time, and you will emerge successful!

Facing fear

We all have those days. Those hours in the middle of the night when it feels like we have fallen off the bandwagon and lost our sense of direction. Those moments when it feels like we are so far gone that nothing can bring us back. When that little voice in our head tells us, “It’s over my friend. You will never pass that test; You will never live up to the expectations; You will never make it”.

Sometimes life gets really tough. When situations play out in a way that is the exact opposite of what we expected, we find ourselves asking many questions and doubt starts creeping in. I have found that where doubt is, fear is not very far behind. It often comes naturally to fear the unknown but as christians, we are called to be the pacesetters, living victoriously and attracting the world. A life full of fear robs us of victory and joy, and is not attractive to the world. How then, do we practically face our fears and conquer that little voice planting fear and doubt in our minds?

As we grow from level to level there are always new fears to conquer and new milestones to achieve. To keep growing, we must step out of our comfort zones and conquer our fears. Over the years, I have embraced a three-step approach to dealing with my fears that I like to call it the FEM way: Face it, Embrace it and Move.

  1. Face it

The first step is often the hardest. Facing fear can seem like an impossible task because sometimes our fears are veiled behind other outward manifestations and it takes a bit of digging to connect the two. Let me explain using a few examples – the student who deliberately misses classes and fails to study for the exam may be acting out his fear of not being smart enough to pass the exam and therefore subconsciously chooses not to try anyway. Such a fear can become so heavily masked in the student that all he knows is that he does not like school and would rather do something else with his time. The same applies to the single woman who constantly finds herself dating men who do not value and respect her, yet she knows that she deserves better and cannot understand why she never finds a better man. It could be that she has never acknowledged and faced her fear of being alone.

It goes without saying that different people can do the same thing for different reasons, so one cannot offer blanket solutions and say that the student who does not take school seriously is afraid to fail and the woman in a bad relationship is afraid to be alone. To understand the underlying fear driving your actions, deeper self-analysis is needed. When I find myself afraid of something or doing things I would not normally do, I sit down and ask myself why. It really helps to write the issue down and prayerfully ponder what is going on in your life. The best thing about being a christian is that you do not have to do it alone – we have a helper, the Holy Spirit who will help you understand what you are going through and why. Looking up bible verses related to your fear also sheds light on where the real issue lies.

2. Embrace it

It sounds odd to say that we should embrace fear. A wise man once said that fear is all in your head. I agree. Please understand that there is a world of difference between fear and danger. Danger is real – you could get hurt, you could fail the exam, you could lose your job. There will always be danger and threats in our lives, but that does not mean that we have to live our lives fearing possibilities that might never come to pass. The fact is, the Bible says we should not fear. We have a father who surrounds us with his protection and love, a saviour who calls us his friends and a Holy spirit to guide us as we navigate through life, so whom shall we fear? If our God is for us (and he always is, no matter where you are or what you have done), then who can be against us? No one, so we have nothing to fear.

With that knowledge, it becomes important to come to terms with what we are afraid of. If we do not accept that we are afraid, then we cannot deal with the fear. Sometimes it is as easy as looking yourself in the mirror and saying, ” I am afraid of xxx”.

3. Move

Finally, after facing the fear and embracing it, to complete the process one must move. Sometimes this means moving on from something or moving forward and looking at things differently. The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Often we know what we need to do but are too afraid to do it. Take that first little step. Dare to do it anyway. It is the most effective way to conquer that fear. You are more than a conqueror in Jesus Christ, so don’t let fear hold you back anymore.

My perfect soulmate?

I met The One – my Mr Perfect, my Prince, the knight in shining armor. Or at least I thought I had. Now don’t get me wrong, this guy is pretty amazing. He is handsome, funny, smart and completely down to earth despite having a great career that puts him in the limelight. When I first saw him, he took my breath away. He was the embodiment of everything I was looking for in a man. It seemed like destiny, we were meant to be.
As we got to know each other more the more I liked this man. Even so, difficult questions began to creep up. I have been taught from a young age that a life partner has to align to purpose and so I had to ask myself, are we walking in the same direction? My Bible tells me that two cannot walk together unless they agree. If I am pursuing greatness then my partner has to be on the same path. I slowly began to realize that I did not know the answer to that question, and without that answer, there was no way I could tell if he was the one.
We are all unique beings, created with specific assignments. Sometimes as we grow older there is a lot of pressure to stop being so fussy and choosy, and just ‘settle down’ with any decent guy. If you are a Christian like me, they say, “find a nice young man from the church and you will be okay.” I say yes, I will find a nice young man from the church, but more importantly, I will find a man who is in sync with who I am, and what God created me to be. It might take a while, I have been waiting a bit and will probably wait a bit longer, but I know that the man I get in the end will be worth it.
So back to my Mr perfect. I still really like what I see and know. He just might be my soul mate. But I know that good things take time and a man’s character must be tested and proven. I set high standards because I know who I am, and I know that I deserve the best because I will give nothing but my best. If this man gets to spend the rest of his life with me, he will be one lucky guy. This story has just began, with time all will be revealed.

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