It starts with a thought

It starts with a thought

Recently I went for an annual post cancer check-up with my oncologist.
Unfortunately, for the first time in four and half years, my blood tests came back abnormal. Didn’t see that coming!

I blinked back tears as my oncologist handed me the referral for a PET scan. I walked out of his office bewildered and drove to a nearby park and sobbed. It was not what I had expected to hear after being in remission for four and half years.

Pet scanWhen the nurse called me to confirm my appointment, I could feel the tension in my body rise as she gave me instructions over the phone for the PET scan. PET stands for positron emission tomography, a nuclear medicine imaging test in which a small amount of liquid radioactive material is injected into the body and used to diagnose a variety of diseases.
In other words: a thorough examination to see if there are any more cancer cells in my body. Which was now the doctor’s concern.

The nurse’s instructions were to fast from food for six hours prior to the scan (only water allowed) and I was discouraged from doing any vigorous exercises before the appointment. I rolled my eyes as she finished and hung up the phone frustrated. I could feel knots in my stomach as I fought back more tears.

The next morning, I drove for nearly an hour to where I had to get the scan done; thankfully it was school holidays, so the traffic was light heading into the city. I managed to find a car park two blocks away from the hospital, but I had to trudge up a hill which made me breathless. My energy levels were low because I hadn’t eaten. My stomach reminded me of the fact as it growled in protest.

A stylish, mature woman with a coiffure and wearing retro glasses greeted me with a smile and kindly held the lift for me. Her sweet floral fragrance filled the elevator and so did her warm personality. She asked what level I needed, but I was a bit vague. She waited patiently as I gathered my thoughts and finally remembered where it was I was going.

As the doors of the lift opened on my floor, the wafting smell of coffee and the noise of people chatting in the café were all too familiar. The hospital environment triggered memories of the last ten years, a place etched in my mind forever since I’d been diagnosed in 2008. I often recognised a familiar face of a doctor, nurse or a patient I would stop and chat to and then weave my way through the hospital corridors.
Psalm 66;10-12

I walked past a picture of a scripture hanging under a set of stairs that used to grab my attention and still does, Psalm 66. This was a scripture God gave Az and I when we were going through cancer the first time. I quickly peered at it and reassured myself that despite what I was feeling God was faithful.

I arrived for my appointment, a two-hour procedure, on time. A female nurse ushered me through a room to change into a hospital gown.

She then inserted a cannula into my arm. A sharp pain from the needle made my arm jolt from discomfort. I rolled my eyes as she turned her back to me to get something else. My stomach growled again and all I could think about was gorging on food.

I was shifted to another room with just a single bed. An urban male nurse with a perfect haircut brought me a lime coloured liquid that I had to drink. He explained the glucose drink is like Gatorade. As I took a sip I almost gagged.

After he left, I checked my phone to focus elsewhere but another male nurse walked in and advised me to lie still on the bed and try not to exert any energy. He discouraged me from reading or talking on my phone before I entered the donut-shaped machine room.
‘Great,’ I thought, ‘I have to look at the stark white walls.’

I started to feel overwhelmed all over again. As I peered up to the ceiling I noticed the security cameras and my thoughts started to wander….why doesn’t God intervene so I can live a normal life?!

I wrestled with the thoughts which were like arrows piercing my heart:
Did God really heal me?
Are God’s promises true or is it all in my head?
Maybe this is my lot in life….

I knew entertaining negative thoughts would lead me down a dark hole of despair.
I looked around the sanitised room and noticed the cleanliness. It dawned on me that my doctor was making a fuss to ensure that I was being looked after, and that God had orchestrated my path that day when I met the friendly stylish lady and the nurses who had prepped me. I was reminded of how blessed I was to live in Australia with a top medical system compared to other countries.

Sometimes it’s difficult to focus on the good when all hell is breaking out. Some days I crumple up in a heap or sob in my car and that too is ok but I have learnt that in dark times drowning in discouraging thoughts is not beneficial. It starts with a thought.

interupt anxiety with gratitude
Instead of allowing the memories of what I had been through with cancer to dominate how I felt, I started to utter thanksgiving to God in that stark white room.

I recalled the very first time I was diagnosed with cancer, when the doctor said that having a family was not an option, but yet when the odds were against me God supernaturally blessed Az and I with a baby.

The angst in my heart shifted and the spirit of heaviness over my mind dispersed. I felt the tangible peace of the Father overwhelm me and bring reassurance.

A couple of weeks later, which felt like an eternity when waiting for test results, after I had dropped William off at school and Az had left for work, I received a phone call from my oncologist. I was nervous until I heard the words: “Good news, your results are all clear. I don’t need to see you for another year.” They were music to my ears.

I let out a deep sigh of relief. “Thank goodness!”

And thank you Jesus!!

IMG_20180524_125417_951

So keep your thoughts continually fixed on all that is authentic and real, honourable and admirable, beautiful and respectful, pure and holy, merciful and kind. And fasten your thoughts on every glorious work of God, praising him always.

Philippians 4:8

Keeping things in perspective

Keeping things in perspective

It was just after 7am on New Year’s day when Az, William and I headed to our favourite hangout, a rock pool in Avalon nestled at the south end of the beach for a morning swim.

There was a calmness that enveloped us as we neared the ocean: the smell of the salty air, the crashing of the waves, the mesmerizing colours of the water – indigo and turquoise – against the back drop of the aqua sky. We never grow tired of the beauty where we reside near the beach.

I was inspired and needed to take a picture of the first day of the year. I had my beach bag on one shoulder with phone in my right hand ready to capture the day. #Newyears2018

My hubby and seven-year-old son, dressed in swimmers and flip-flops, walked ahead of me. They both turned around as if they knew what I was about to do, and shook their heads.

“No phones today!” they chorused.

Guilty. I slipped my phone back into my beach bag, feeling like a child that had been caught out doing something naughty.

No phones on Sundays is a family ritual we experimented with last year and have continued with ever since. The only exception to this ‘rule’ is if Az has to work.

As the day unfolded, I was aware of my fingers itching to reach for my phone, of my mind wanting to check for messages, emails, missed calls and comments on social media. I fought the temptation and left my phone in my bag.

When I started my blog, I reactivated my social media accounts. I went from having no social media to constantly writing and updating posts on different platforms. At the time, I didn’t realise how consumed I had become.

Anyone with a regular online presence—blog, business—knows it requires a lot of passion, time and effort to write content and to engage with online communities and readers. It’s exciting and inspiring and I’ve really enjoyed connecting with people, both old and new.

However, I found after six months of blogging I couldn’t switch off mentally and be present when I was with my family, especially on the weekends when it was “us” time. My boys disapproved of my ongoing distractions, whenever I reached for my phone as it chimed or burred or vibrated seeking my attention. But I was oblivious.

Often what I do at the start of every year is to seek the Lord in prayer for a word of direction and encouragement. The boys had gone out to the park to play soccer and I was home alone in my bedroom praying, my hands lifted up in worship. As I started to lean into prayer, with an expectancy of prophetic promises, these words came from left field,

“lay low from social media for a month”

Ouch! My heart sank, my hands dropped down by my side. I was bewildered… ‘Oh, really Jesus, that bad huh?!’

The very next morning I had an appointment with my GP. While I sat in the waiting room, glancing at my phone, I became distracted by what was on the TV screen mounted on the opposite wall.

It was tuned into the Morning Show. Kylie and Larry were interviewing a young lady, in her mid 30s, from Melbourne. She was a psychologist and spoke about the negative effects of social media, namely anxiety and depression.

The words from the psychologist resonated with me. Every spare moment I was on my phone on social media it was the reason I found it hard to mentally switch off.

Right there in the waiting room the Holy Spirit revealed truth to my heart and confirmed His word he’d given me the day before to lay low.

Don’t get me wrong. Social media platforms have loads of positive effects: connecting people, creative expression, flexibility in running a business, for reaching a wider audience for social justice causes.

But when socials are regularly consumed, and as I discovered, if there’s an unhealthy motivation to consume, there’s a possibility that we lose ourselves and start to base our lives, our identities, on ‘likes’ and followers.

The instant gratification of being ‘seen’ and receiving comments can lead to an unhealthy obsession.

When we become wrapped up in being ’liked’ and followed, of being validated by others more than trusting whom God says we are, it will bring despair. Soon our lives become governed by what people think about us more than what we believe about ourselves. We fall into the trap of comparison when we see others succeed, going places. We become dissatisfied with our lives and get down on ourselves for not being where we wanted to be, or where we thought we would be by now. Suddenly, the door of discontent, of envy, has swung wide open.

what consumes your mind controls your life

So, as well as no phones on Sundays, I detoxed from social media for the month of January. Did I struggle?! You bettcha, for the first two days!! I had cold sweats, fevers and withdrawals like any addict LOL.

After I got over my withdrawal symptoms I acknowledged before Jesus my issue with social media and repented from putting it before Him. Because anything that consumes our hearts and minds before our relationship with Jesus is idolatry.

It was only by the grace of God that I rarely looked at my phone; even my boys noticed. I didn’t feel a strong urge in my mind (like I usually did) to look every ten minutes, and I had no FOMO—fear of missing out.

The noise in my head quietened down and I felt overwhelmed with peace. I could think with clarity because fewer distractions were vying for my attention. I felt Jesus had pushed the reset button in my mind. He was helping me reset my priorities.

After my month of fasting from social media, I learnt the invaluable wisdom of keeping things in perspective: quality time with loved ones, my usage on social media and to watch my agenda as to why I blog.

What’s your perspective this year?

We are all in love with our own opinions, convinced they’re correct. But the Lord is in the midst of us, testing and probing our every motive. 

Proverbs 16:2

 

 

 

Restoration

Restoration

Years ago a friend of mine wrote a letter to encourage me during a grievous season of my life. It was unexpected but the words of her letter and the scripture she gave were timely, they brought hope and comfort when I could not see….

Though you have made me see troubles, many and bitter, you will restore my life again; from the depths of the earth you will bring me up. You will increase my honor and comfort me once more. Psalm 71:20-21 NIV

In 1997, I was living in Auckland, NZ, and I’d met a guy who became a close friend. We were young and enthusiastic (read: naïve). After a year of friendship we started dating and got married after six weeks.

I know, I know. Typical 20-somethings. No clue. We didn’t even know who we were as individuals, yet there we were, hearts and passions ablaze, jumping into one another’s lives.

After a rough start to the first year of marriage, we decided to seek out counselling to try and make it work. But our relationship didn’t get better, it got worse. We ‘kept busy’ to avoid the inevitable. We eventually lived separate lives under the same roof. That kind of arrangement breeds un-happiness and can lead people to seek other options.

So, after four years, the marriage ended.

When my ex-husband walked out, I was devastated. I knelt on my kitchen floor and cried out to God. I was heartbroken and confused. I felt betrayed. I felt I couldn’t forgive him for what he had done, that I could never trust him again.

I prayed: God, I trust You with my life. I give You my heart. Please help me to forgive. I need your intervention!

As soon as I released forgiveness to my ex-husband there was no denying God’s blanket of peace permeating every part of my being. My whole body tingled with goose bumps as God’s comforting presence brought reassurance.

I knew I had to reach for faith and not lose hope for my future, to believe that God would turn this around. This encounter with God helped me to keep releasing forgiveness because some days I would be ok and other times I struggled as I was reminded of the betrayal, I didn’t want to forgive and the malice would surface….. but God’s word is faithful.

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; and rescues those whose spirits are crushed.

Psalm 34:18 NLT

Newly divorced, I moved to Sydney in 2001 to start a new chapter in my life.

I had every opportunity to take advantage of my single status and to party hard, and to live a care free life once more. And oh my gosh, it was tempting! I had landed a great job, met some quality people who were a God send, and I lived right next to Sydney’s infamous Kings Cross. Deep down, though, I knew indulging in that scene wasn’t for me. My brother even asked how I managed to keep away from all the temptation on my doorstep.

It’s because of when I had made a commitment to trust God to get me through the disappointment, rejection, and betrayal I felt from a broken marriage.

Reminded of this commitment, I felt liberated to be on a new path of self-discovery! I was determined to pursue my dreams and desires. No one was going to stop me anymore!

But believe me, there were many times when I felt lonely. I remember catching the bus home from work one night. I felt so alone that I wanted to burst into tears. It was an ironic moment. There I was in a crowded bus and yet on the inside I was so alone. I thought, how did my life come to this? Was something wrong with me? Then the worst thought came: no one wants me!!

I could have numbed the pain. But taking drugs, sleeping around, drowning my sorrows with alcohol was not the answer. Don’t get me wrong. It would’ve been easy to turn to those vices. It would’ve felt good for a fleeting moment! But when the buzz wore off, the loneliness and rejection and pain would still be there, waiting patiently for me. My deep wounds needed something more than a band aid solution.

I needed God, only He could heal my pain of what I had endured, I had to trust God to restore and bring hope when I didn’t know what to do.

After the first couple of years living in Sydney I had a goal to work in one of the leading salons as a hairstylist. I immersed myself in my job and I prayed for opportunities. God answered my prayers and the doors opened up working alongside innovative artists and even for one of the top agencies in Australia doing editorial, fashion shows, music videos, t.v, advertising etc. I was consumed with my career that I didn’t have much head space for a relationship.

Until Az came along.

For two and a half years he persisted in getting my attention, getting to know me, and capturing my heart, Az mentioned that I was like a vault when he first met me lol but he was patient. He knew how to draw out the shy and introverted island girl who had lacked confidence. He wasn’t just after one thing and that is an important quality for a girl especially when my heart had been broken.

In November 2005, Az and I started dating after we had hung out at a friend’s party. He caught my attention on the dance floor to Beyonce’s Crazy in love lol. It was random and unexpected but we had something in common: we loved to dance.

IMG_20170810_124709

September 15, 2007 Az and I got married at Balmoral beach, Sydney. It is coming up to our 10th year anniversary next month. Hallelujah!!!

When I sought God first, when I chose to turn to Him rather than to a lifestyle that would never have healed my broken heart or loneliness of spirit I knew I had made the best decision. God not only restored my heart to trust again but He exceeded my expectations….

You shall no longer be termed Forsaken, nor shall your land any more be termed Desolate; But you shall be called Hephzibah (My delight is in her) and your land Beulah (Married); For the LORD delights in you, And your land shall be married.

Isaiah 62:4 NKJV

Count it all joy

Count it all joy

IMG_20170630_165940 (1)We have recently moved back to Sydney after living in Noosa, Queensland for two and half years. In the process of relocating I had forgotten to register our car back to New South Wales. No dramas, I thought, it’s going to be easy.

But I soon discovered there was a convoluted process to get our car registered: a mechanical service, blue slip, green slip, changing plates, licenses etc. Each service added up and the cost of a car rego was more than two weeks wage for us—five times more than what we had budgeted living in Queensland

(Ouch! Welcome back to Sydney).

I felt a bit distressed when I heard the figures over the phone knowing we couldn’t afford to register our car! I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry, because for Az and I it’s been an ongoing season of keeping our heads above water financially.

I also didn’t realize how much I had become dependent on being mobile, the convenience of jumping in the car to go to the shops, doing the school run, or catching up with a friend. Without a car, I would have to consider alternative transport. I hadn’t caught public transport in years!

But, what was the point of crying over not having money when it wouldn’t change anything. What was the point of praying out of fear? So, I just laughed—at our circumstances. My son wears second hand school uniform, we op shop and have managed to furnish our two bedroom unit with used furniture from the side of the road.  The positive side we are recycling.

IMG_20170630_170223

The more I laughed, the more I couldn’t care less about the bills that were adding up, and I started giving thanks to God for all He had done. Sometimes in the tough times we easily forget all the miracles and provisions that have come to pass. I was determined not to be robbed of my joy! Funnily enough, I felt completely at peace—not a normal response for me. It was supernatural!

When Az and I have had no money, I would start to panic, stressing about paying our bills on time—this was my normal response—and sometimes it added pressure to our marriage. I would be too ashamed to tell people about our financial state because I thought they would judge us, but that was a wrong mindset, one that I had grown up with. I know, now, most people empathize with where we were, and are, at.

This has helped me to believe that true happiness isn’t in our financial security, the figures in our bank accounts, but more about what’s going on inside the heart. What am I putting my trust in?

Consequently, I have learnt not to worry as much. It’s not the end of the world to not pay bills on time. There are far worse situations. I’m reminded of the poverty my own parents faced. And, what I regard as our bare minimum living in Sydney, could provide clean water and food to feed a village for a month.

totally dependent on God

We all think our lives are hard until we hear of someone else living in a far worse situation.

Another thing I learned…when our son was born, I yearned for our own sanctum. I would often dream of our own home and William’s room beautifully decorated, but unfortunately, after my diagnosis with breast cancer in 2011, I was unable to live out this dream. (my testimony is on praise precedes the victory).

 

God spoke to me in the cancer trial: ‘Hemmed in’. This vision came to me of Az, William and I standing in a confined space that had a divine purpose. I didn’t want to hear the words being ‘hemmed in’. The thought of being in a restrictive place made me want to run. Independent Jo didn’t want to have to rely on people. I wanted my own space to journey out the cancer. But God is not always about convenience. He orchestrated my little family and I to live with friends at my weakest and most vulnerable. It was uncomfortable.

William was nine months old by this time. We ended up moving around four to five times staying with different friends for almost a 12-month period. It was very challenging for our young family. I don’t know how we did it, but God’s grace was upon us, hallelujah!

Sometimes when things don’t go as planned, it is best to surrender—the process of death to self!

promotion in difficulties

Our time staying with friends became a blessing in disguise; a tremendous support during a terminal illness. And despite what I wanted, God blessed me with what I needed and that was a spiritual community, agreeing for God’s healing over me. And I can testify of that today!

After I had finished four rounds of chemo and two surgeries in 2011, my body was not the same. I couldn’t return to full time work as a freelance hairstylist—even now after 6 years. I have found it physically restrictive to work and to find the right work that fits around William’s school hours.

We have had to live off one wage, relying on Az to work, and live an essential lifestyle—just the basics of roof over our heads, food in our stomachs, clothes on our back. For me, not being able to work, has been a battle; not being able to function physically has been disheartening. I have had to trust God whole heartedly in my discomfort.

Sometimes it is easy to focus on all the things that are not happening or the breakthrough we are still waiting for, that we miss what God might be teaching in the midst of a trial.  Our character matters to God and learning how to persevere when things don’t go according to plan.

He will never leave us nor forsakes us! Hebrews 13:5. That’s His promise.

It’s been a journey of endurance to arrive at a place of becoming content in Christ and not allow the circumstances of living frugal or being in hardship to dictate my emotional wellbeing. Because this I know:

Consider it nothing but joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you fall in to various trials.

Be assured that the testing of your faith (through experience) produces endurance (leading to spiritual maturity and inner peace).

And let endurance have its perfect result and do a thorough work, so that you may be perfect and completely developed (in your faith) lacking in nothing.           

James 1:2-4 AMP

 

Know your worth

Know your worth

my folks

My dearest cousin had recently re-posted a quote via Instagram from my last blog – “God doesn’t call the qualified God qualifies the called”….and tagged  #knowyourworth (Thanks Fuli!)

This stirred up a few thoughts and coincided with what I had been pondering for a while, something I knew I would eventually blog about it.

When William was a baby less than six months old, and my husband Az would come home from work, William’s face would light up but what I observed was William would always look around to see if he had his father’s full attention.  He was looking to his father for validation.

Sometimes we think it should be the significant moments that matter—his first steps, starting school or playing his first soccer game. And that is all true. But what I discovered it’s the consistency of spending quality time with him and speaking words of affirmation, rather than showering him with the latest gadgets or toys to keep him entertained. Because William is our only child and our main priority, I believe the time we spend with him contributes to his identity and self-worth.

A few years ago William and I went back home to Nz for a holiday to see my family. It is always a great opportunity for my son to reconnect with my side as we rarely get to see them. I love spending time with my family; sometimes I find it hard to leave. This particular trip was a bit different.

We were staying at my folk’s house and I had made plans with one of my brother’s to catch up at his place in the afternoon. William and I arrived at his house at the agreed time but no one was home yet. The door was locked so we waited outside and we had no mobile phone to contact him to see how far away he was.

We started playing in the yard with a soccer ball thinking my brother should be home soon.

I didn’t realize how long we were there until it started to get cold. I peered through the window inside the house to look at the clock—we had been waiting for almost half an hour!

I was thinking, this is not like my brother. Then I thought, maybe something happened—maybe an accident?? So William and I waited a little bit longer. I didn’t want to go home in case my brother turned up.

In the meantime, I am trying to keep William entertained. He is getting impatient when he asks again for the 100th time…. ‘where are my cousins mummy?’

I dismissed every thought that something had happened to my brother; my parents would’ve turned up by now to let us know if there was something serious going on. I started to get agitated, slowly getting angry.

By the time I returned to my parents’ house I was livid! My brother had stood us up for almost 45 mins!!! This triggered memories from my childhood, of moments when I felt dishonored, being the youngest of five.

I am Insignificant.

I am Overlooked.

I am Unwelcomed.

I am Put aside like trash.

I am Abandoned.

I never felt included and I always had a sense of being “unwanted”.

Let’s be clear, I don’t react like this every time someone is late for an appointment! (obviously). Being back home, around family in a familiar environment was a set up from God’s end. He had already begun to do a deep work in my heart about finding my identity and affirmation “in Him”.

my worth is not in what others have done

So, I’m standing in my parents’ kitchen when a knot in my throat starts to form. I am trying to fight back the tears when suddenly…….whoosh!  The flood gates open up and tears stream down my face. Thank God no one was home except me and my son.

I thought, what is wrong with me?!? I’m crying like someone close to me had died. Then suddenly……I am sobbing and heaving and deep breathing…. sniffing and spluttering. I was a wreck!!

What begins to surface in my heart was a malice that I was unaware of. I started to get more upset and I began to think of something vile to tell my brother, what I really thought of him….every name I could think of—a reaction to feeling abandoned.

When I finally calmed down, I paused before I rang my brother, knowing I would speak to him with all my anger otherwise.

This wisdom came down to prayer and asking God first before I did something irrational that I would later regret.

I felt led to ask God this question…. what lie have I been believing about myself?!

Straight away God replied “unworthy”

Unworthy: not deserving respect or attention, not worthy, lacking worth or excellence. Not good enough, no value.

God began to reveal the first memory of when I felt unworthy growing up, never deserving respect or attention which then led me to believe I was never good enough. When I felt never good enough I would strive to please others so I could find my validation. It was unhealthy because pleasing people is hard work.

The fear of man brings a snare, whoever trusts in the Lord shall be safe or secure. Proverbs 29:25 NKJV

I sobbed at this revelation. The Holy Spirit had my full attention. He revealed that the feeling of being unworthy was something that I had believed because of other people’s actions.

He led me to forgive and release all who had ever hurt me or abandoned me from when I was little. As soon as I made this first step towards forgiving those who had wronged me, I felt the burden lift off my shoulders and a distinct presence and peace of God enveloped me.

forgiveness nelson mandela

That evening after I had prayed, my brother phoned and apologized for what he did. He could’ve just laughed it off and thought nothing of it, but that was not his heart; he was genuinely sorry.

The simple act of waiting and praying first before I vented my anger was probably the wisest decision I made.  I learnt it was important to deal with things in God first, rather than let anger govern, which would have been worse.

An angry person stirs up conflict, and a hot-tempered person commits many sins. Proverbs 29:22 NIV

God was healing something much deeper in my heart than being stood up by my brother, the unexpected situation that occurred became a catalyst for restoration in knowing I am valued.

When we don’t know who we really are we will strive to find our worth even in things that have no real purpose. Years ago I tried to find my value in my vocation, my wardrobe, my image or the people I attracted. These things reflected on how I saw myself.

I thank God for the continual work of the Holy Spirit to direct me in the right path and to keep choosing God’s promises that enable me to believe in myself and know my worth is in Christ.

identity

Obstacles don’t block the path, they are the path

Obstacles don’t block the path, they are the path

overcoming fear and comparisonAfter my last blog post, I felt overwhelmed and humbled by the positive feedback. It was a HUGE step of faith to share a personal season of my life. I wasn’t quite sure how people would respond.

I want to thank everyone for their comments and those who opened up about their own story. We all have a story, and sometimes reading or listening to someone else’s, can bring hope and reassurance, that we are not alone and we can draw courage from one another.

When I first thought about blogging, I had wrestled with it because I was crippled with fear and self-doubt.

Why would anyone want to read my story??

Most people don’t know this about me, but this fear stemmed from my childhood. I was a victim of bullying, and as a result of that bullying, I was robbed—of my voice and of any confidence. Over time, this spilled into other areas of my life—and my adult life.

what the enemy uses to hurt me

I always used to feel incompetent to communicate in front of a large group of people. My voice would start to shake and my heart would race, then I would turn red with embarrassment because I was afraid that people would notice how nervous I was. I know this happens to others, too, however, the bully from my childhood would echo in my head.

From the outside no one knew how much I struggled with this, with my confidence.

When God spoke to me to start writing years ago, I was scared shitless—excuse the French! I couldn’t believe He would even consider that I could. But God kept prompting me. And prompting me. And prompting me. You get the picture. So, I obeyed.

When I started, my writing sounded like my six-year-old son had written it. No joke! That’s how I saw my first attempts. Because after all these years of fear saying: ‘you can’t do that!’, ‘who do you think you are?’, I didn’t think I could put my life into words and out into the world.

And yet, I can, and I have.

obstacles do not block the pathIt’s been difficult, I’m not going to lie. Just because God impressed on me to do it, doesn’t mean it’s easy. I haven’t just whipped up my last post out of the blue in a couple of hours. For some people it might be that easy. For me, writing is a constant discipline like fitness the more you do something the better you become, writing has been mentally and emotionally challenging, a fight to get over my nerves, to change my mindset of what I had believed about myself: that I sounded stupid and people would laugh at me.

This has been my inner battle: to believe the truth of what God has spoken to me versus listening to the lies of how incapable I was and what I had experienced in the past.

So I continually speak out the promises God has given me especially in times of doubt. I ponder on words that have been prophesied over me as a reminder of all that God can do through me.

God's word vrs lies

Another thing that held me back was comparing myself to others because comparison will always rob us from stepping out!

I read other people’s blogs and theirs sound ten times better than mine. I would start to role play in my mind “I can’t do it”

I’m also married to a very gifted communicator, so I would compare my writing to my husband’s, which made me feel worse. I felt more unqualified because I was not at his level. I kept putting it off to write until a friend of mine spoke these words:

“Jo what you have to say is different to Az you have a story of your own.”

That shifted my mindset from nah to yes! I have my own story to tell and my own unique way of communicating it.

Stop comparing!

never compare your journey with someone elses

My previous two posts I probably had over 50 or more drafts. Thank God for supportive friends who have kept me accountable and honest.

Some days I wanted to cry because I felt inadequate, but two of my close friends kept encouraging me, pushing me to write.  Don’t give up!

It’s been a good reminder—a vital one—to surround myself with good company, people who have believed in me more than I have believed in myself; people who cheer me on.

I still have a looooong way to go with my writing but it’s a start that counts and stepping out of my comfort zone.  It is rewarding when an act of obedience bears fruit.

So, my encouragement is: If you have been feeling a nudge from God to do something that is extraordinary, trust your instincts and step out in faith even if it means to do it afraid. I was scared as hell—still am, some days!

God sees our potential in what we can become, rather than who we are not.

God doesnt call the qualified

Praise precedes the victory

Praise precedes the victory

It’s easy to give praise to God when everything is going your way: a promotion at work, a baby, meeting and marrying the love of your life, a new car, and a dream home. It’s good to praise God when we are succeeding in life.

But how does one praise God when all hell breaks out and nothing goes your way? Or worse, your chances of being a mother is at risk, even your very life?

In January 2008, I was diagnosed with advanced breast cancer. Because I’d have to undergo chemotherapy and radiotherapy, I was also told I wouldn’t be able to have children.

The diagnosis felt surreal. Me? Cancer? I was shocked and devastated.

As I processed the diagnosis—what to do and what direction to take—the Lord spoke to me to praise Him for healing. As you can imagine, praising God was the last thing on my mind. It seemed random, because we often praise God after the breakthrough comes.

So, after prayerfully considering it with my husband, Az, and committing to praise God, we immediately felt a shift.

cropped-ill-praise-you-in-this-storm.jpg

The cancer no longer occupied our thoughts, we no longer assumed the worse, but rather, our thoughts were fixated on the good of what God was going to do and He would be glorified.

Praise became the stake in the ground when we prayed. Praise shifted the atmosphere of heaviness. Praise became our weapon of choice when we were in the middle of a storm.

Six weeks later after being diagnosed, friends invited me to a healing meeting with Todd Bentley as the main speaker.

On the second night, Todd Bentley gives a word of knowledge, “there’s a woman in her early 30s with breast cancer. Jesus is touching you right now, come to the front….” my heart starts racing, I immediately respond almost running to the altar call and I feel a sensation going through my body. I fall backwards ‘bang’ without anyone laying hands. I am lying on the floor trembling.

My natural response was to check where the cancer was and sure enough it had shrunk to half the size!!!

I couldn’t believe it, I had to double, triple check. It was exhilarating and I couldn’t stop trembling. As much as I wanted to jump up and down like everyone else who had received a miracle that night I couldn’t stand up I felt pinned to the ground by a weighty presence.

After receiving my miracle, I went back to my oncologist to tell him the wonderful news unfortunately he dismissed it. Then I sought out a second opinion and had another scan it was confirmed the cancer had shrunk.

Then three to four months later would you believe it, the cancer was shrinking—without any medical intervention. Towards the end of 2008 I went back to my oncologist for a follow up and the lump was gone there was nothing to biopsy. I was miraculously healed.

PRAISE GOD FOR HEALING

Two years later, Az and I received another miracle. We were ecstatic to welcome our bundle of joy.

FB_IMG_1492774369264

William Seymour was born healthy and strong on 29th September 2010.

 

But soon after breastfeeding William at six months old, I found a lump the size of a pea and to my dismay the breast cancer returned on the same side. I burst into tears as my doctor confirmed the news.

What should’ve been a time of joy and adventure navigating motherhood for the first time became a year of hell.

Az had to quit his job as a full-time Pastor to care for me and our son because I was unable to physically do anything. We found ourselves homeless and ended up staying with friends who were an incredible support.

September 2011, I was told the breast cancer was at stage 4—a size of a grapefruit—AND I had secondary cancer in my lungs. I was terminal and given a prognosis of twelve months to live. As the words came out of the doctor’s mouth I felt the air get sucked out of the room. I could barely breathe!

All I could think of was my son that I may not be around for his 2nd birthday.

During the turbulent season, Az and I won’t forget some of the most powerful, faith inspired prayer times with friends who prayed and persevered with Az and me trusting God’s word for a miracle. I had sought healing in various ministries even flew across to Bethel Church, USA but despite all of that the growing lump remained in my chest I was not getting better but slowly deteriorating.

The medical route was my only option. I wanted to see my son’s next birthday—all his future birthdays! I wanted to be present for his first day of school, attend his sports events and even meet the love of his life.

my life is in you Lord

The oncologist had recommended chemotherapy first to shrink the cancer then a mastectomy. After having had my first round of chemo, I started to go downhill rapidly. With time against me, I was scheduled for three more treatments of chemo. But unfortunately the cancer didn’t shrink, therefore I was required a mastectomy and a second surgery; a skin graft to cover the large hole in my chest from the mastectomy.

After two surgeries and four rounds of chemotherapy I was informed the cancer was still present in my body.

I was depleted of hope and became despondent. I had lost all my hair, I could barely keep my weight on and I felt like death. How do I get back up? I was exhausted emotionally, physically and mentally from fighting this losing battle against cancer. It felt like the end. I was confused and disappointed. Where was God?? Maybe seeking God for healing was all in my head.

But I couldn’t deny the miracle of when the cancer had shrunk the first time and William was a sign of God’s promise.

But contrary to how I felt, the thoughts of defeat circulating my head and the war in my heart to almost want to give up, I did something I hadn’t done before since my second diagnosis.

I was at my friend’s house with no one around I played worship music and started to raise my hands towards heaven, even though it felt like I was lifting 1000kgs. I couldn’t sing or pray because there were no words left in me, but with a heavy heart and my head hung low. I swayed to the music with tears rolling down my face, I danced.

I began to feel lighter, a sense of relief that this was the right thing to do. I danced and twirled around the room with tears and snot running down. I felt strangely invigorated, bursting with joy and hope for the future.

dance in praise

Eventually, the heaviness in my heart dispelled, and I understood the importance of letting go of reason and letting go the need to understand why all this was happening.

I gave up the right to question God, and instead, I praised Him and felt the tangible peace enveloped me.

This was the most memorable breakthrough I’ve had because of God. The revelation unfolded to me God not only wanted my praises but above all else He wanted my heart, to trust Him.

On July 22, 2013, eighteen months post-surgery, I received wonderful news from my oncologist: the cancer was no longer present in my lungs and chest wall and my blood cells were back to normal. And I have been in full remission ever since.

PRAISE GOD.

To console those who mourn in Zion, To give them beauty for ashes, The oil of joy for mourning, “The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness;” That they may be called trees of righteousness, The planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified

Isaiah 61:3 NKJV

FullSizeRender

 

 

6th January 2012. William and me after my surgery and chemo.

Prayer, a worthy investment

Prayer, a worthy investment

praying as a couple

 

A friend asked Az and I how we began to pray as a couple?

If there’s any advice I would give couples it’s this: Prioritize prayer in your daily schedule. It’s an investment into your marriage. Don’t wait until the challenges come and then pray.  A consistent prayer life will keep you during the storms.

Prayer has been a major theme in our relationship since we started dating 12 years ago. The Holy Spirit prompted us to start praying together as we transitioned from dating to being a married couple.  Even though we had our individual prayer life, God was establishing a sense of unity between us, of one heart and one vision that would be significant for when we were husband and wife. Therefore, we made a commitment that God would be Lord over our marriage and our future.

Prayer has become our devotional time irrespective of the season, irrespective of what we face in life. Our marriage is far from perfect but we have learned to stand together in agreement, even when we don’t feel like it. My husband and I are very strong minded and opinionated, but we’ve discovered that banging our heads together until one explodes is not the answer. God is faithful. He helps us navigate difficulties when we choose His wisdom over ours and when we declare His truth rather than rely on our own thoughts.

Blessed is the man who finds wisdom, and the man who gains understanding.

Proverbs 3:13

When I was confronted with breast cancer, I wasn’t the only one affected by it—Az was, too. I knew prayer was essentially, but it was hard, sometimes, to pray. Thankfully, Az was fighting right beside me. He stood believing and praying for a miracle when I felt weary.  He was determined to see me pull through, even when I wanted to give up. And despite what the doctors would say, Az knew God would heal me.  He kept proclaiming God’s word for my life.  He didn’t give up hope!

That was a defining moment for me, for us. It’s not only when everything is great and you’re living the dream. It’s when you know someone’s got your back, when you see someone stand in the gap for you no matter the size of the storm.

Our prayer life kept us from falling into dismay and was invaluable when in the eye of the cancer storm. We could not deny the tangible peace and hope when we prayed together. God’s presence was close to us during that dark time.

Az and I never underestimate the power of prayer because we know it unlocks the promises of God over our lives, our family, our home. We know that the enemy will not overcome when two stand in agreement with Heaven.

Assuredly I say to you whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.

Again I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask it will be done for them by my Father in heaven.  For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.

Matthew 18:18-19

Az and Me pic