Lessons from 15 years of marriage

lifeinfullbloom

A fortnightly column on marriage, family and relationships.

Recently we celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary. As always when one celebrates an anniversary there are moments of looking back at your journey as a couple. This milestone was no different for us as we went down memory lane remembering the good and the bad.

We say vows every year and in this year’s vows we committed to doing more of the things that bless our spouse and to working on those areas in which we irritate each other. We can all do with this kind of stocktaking once in a while. I had my own time of reflection as I reflected on the last 15 years.

These are the lessons that I have learnt in the last 15years and principles that have worked in our relationship. I write them to share what you can also implement in your own marriage. Pick the ones that would be applicable to your relationship, keeping in mind that no two marriages are the same. What might have worked with my marriage might not necessarily work for you. Here they are:

God-centered
1. Keep God at the centre of your relationship. God is the One who should be the foundation of marriage. Marriage is His idea and when He is not at the centre and given complete access  you will find that you begin to go amiss. God is the glue that holds a marriage and prevents it from tearing apart. It is not our good looks; how smart we are and how argumentative we are. It is His grace that keeps us constantly drawn to each other. Do not let Him be a stranger in your home. He must be an integral part of your family.

2. Do not despise small beginnings. God has certainly taken us through many challenges and has provided for us through our journey. I remember in our first month of marriage when we had nothing except the kitchen and bedroom gifts we received at our wedding. No furniture; no fridge; no couches and no bed. We truly have many stories to tell our children about our humble beginnings. I have always wanted to marry a man who I would build a life with. I wanted to own each part of the story and not come when things were rosy. We can now laugh at our humble past but there was a time when all we could afford was to buy a loaf of bread. We did not even have money for a taxi. God has certainly blessed us during the years and taught us many lessons in giving and receiving.

3. Have fun together. I noticed while growing up that married couples were far too serious. Because society started calling them Mr and Mrs so-and-so the couple felt the need to live out these labels even with each other. I have seen how outgoing young couples lose their spark and fun element when married. Keep the fun and laughter in your marriage.

4. Fight your battles together, not each other. You will fight many battles in life…other people trying to break you apart; financial troubles; challenges in business and in ministry; health troubles; parenting…the list is endless. Remember that you are a unit; a team and you will accomplish so much more if you approach life together.

5. Do ministry together. There is nothing in your walk with the Lord as fulfilling as knowing that you are walking this path with your spouse. Have a project that you do together that you are both passionate about and see how as you give to others; as you serve the people of God, see how He multiplies love for each other.

Be a united force when parenting
6. Parent together. Children are good observers. They can see who they can easily manipulate and they will play you against each other if you let them. Your children should know that if they get one answer from one parent they don’t need to ask the other because it will be the same. Unnecessary conflicts can happen if you agree to something that your spouse has said no to. Be a united force when parenting.

7. Pray together. It has been said that…families who pray together stay together. We have found this to be true. Yes, each of us has their personal relationship with the Lord but there is something special when we approach the Father together. There is something more special when we cry together to God to intervene. Pray together especially during those challenging times when you do not know what to do. He will carry you through.

8. Make time. Time has become such a precious commodity. In this fast paced world we live in with all its deadlines your marriage can become the sacrificial lamb on the altar of success. Guard against not spending time with your beloved. Do not be one who constantly says: “I just don’t have the time.” You make the time for the important things in your life such as handing in that proposal; working tirelessly on that project. Make time for your spouse. They are the most important gift that Abba has given you second to a relationship with Jesus.

9. Embrace Growth, welcome change. During your marriage you and your spouse will change. You will want many different things. You might find that thing that used to excite them in the past doesn’t anymore. Do not accuse them of changing but welcome the change. It is part of growing older. They are not the same person you married. Years; circumstances and experiences have changed their outlook on life. Celebrate the fact that the two of you are growing older together.

10. Design Your Own Marriage. There will be many people speaking about how to be married. Many will offer advice and discourage you from doing certain things. Even this article offers advice about what can work in your marriage if you apply these principles. In all of this please know though that a marriage is really between two people. Design the kind of marriage that will be fulfilling to both of you.

Support each other’s dreams
11. Support Each Other. Your spouse will want to pursue different dreams during your time together. You will be a very important part in their journey. You have the power to make those dreams happen or to speak death to them. Of all people that will support your spouse your voice is the one that they will treasure and cherish the most. Support your spouse. Recently as a family we were celebrating my mother in law graduating from Bible School. She is 64. Baba was the proudest of all of us especially because they achieved that goal together. He was there to support her during times of great discouragement when she almost gave up. He was there to encourage her to write her assignments and to allow her time to do research. He was there for her and his support meant the world to her.

12. Be Transparent. Be truly naked to each other. Do not have secret meetings that your partner does not know about. You would know when you are about to do something wrong. There is nothing that puts a crack in a marriage to a point of it collapsing more than infidelity. Guard against the enemy using anything to come between you. When you meet a member of the opposite sex it is best to let your spouse know. This inspires confidence and a sense of security.

13. Never forget to go through life hand in hand. Be one in your goals and in how you approach your married life.

14. Cherish your vows. When life happens it is sometimes hard to stick to your vows but make a commitment that whatever life throws at you, that you will uphold the sacredness of your vows. During the financial crisis that hit the world many abandoned their marriages as they could not cope with downgrading. They forgot to be there for better or for worse; for richer and for poorer. Let us be committed to be there through all the storms of life and then to be there when life seems to give us “peaceful seas”.

I was told when I got marriage to endure. They said, “Uzunyamezele ke mntanam” (You must endure my child). I do believe that marriage will present those times to you when you must stand your ground; endure and fight for your marriage but that is not what marriage is about; a constant struggle. Marriage can be beautiful; fun and enjoyable if you let it. Your spouse should be your best friend. May our Lord help all of us invest time and effort in making our marriages abundant and full of life.

God bless your marriage and family.

SHALOM!!!!




Love has no limits…or does it?

lifeinfullbloom

A fortnightly column on marriage, family and relationships.

Every time I hear of a couple divorcing my first thought is “What happened?” I have had this conversation with many married people as I ponder on what happens to two people who really love each other. What happens to the love that they felt towards each other prior to and during their wedding ceremony? At the wedding they vow to honour and cherish each other. They vow to be there for better or for worse; in sickness and in health; for richer or for poorer. They beam with pride at the mere mention of their beloved’s name.

Fast forward to months after the wedding or the first few years of marriage and we hear that the two people cannot stand each other. They do not want to be in the same room together. What happened to the beaming, radiant smiles? What happened to the tender voices, the gentle touches, the embraces? Where there was once laughter there is intentional hurt. What happened? People who file for divorce normally list “irreconcilable differences” as factors that have contributed to the marriage dissolving. What are these differences that are so powerful that they separate and break up vows made before God and man?

No longer patient
When I asked my mother in law this question “What happens to a couple…?”She said simply that people are no longer patient. Isn’t it interesting that in the famous Biblical love passage the writer starts with saying “Love is patient. love is kind’ 

As I thought about what my mother in law said I realised how loaded that statement is. In this busy, fast paced life that we live we have somehow adopted that kind of impatient mentality to even our marriage. If the spouse does not get it right and seems to be struggling there is always a better one to take her place. It is no longer love that endures all things. Instead of love enduring all things, it is love tolerates all things to a point. If one is no longer served by this relationship, if one is uncomfortable and there is a level of discomfort then he is out. “Ï didn’t sign up for this” they say. It is not uncommon these days to hear of people divorcing within a year.

Life is full of twists and turns. There are many mountains to climb. It might feel like you are sailing beautifully with everything falling into place one minute and then you find yourself being swallowed by life the next. You might be cruising beautifully with your beloved, living the fairytale and then life happens. When we plan our life, indeed when we dream of how we want our life to be, none of us imagine sickness, lack, disability, constantly fighting with your spouse.

What if…
We imagine a beautiful life with everything going smoothly. Most of us get married hoping for a fairy tale. We say our vows really thinking that life will be for the better. We do not think of the worse. We say we will love in sickness and in health. For most of us we do not imagine the sickness; we do not see the bad times. We look at life with rose coloured glasses. But what if the clear skies in your journey turn to cloudy? What if the one that you vowed your all to falls ill; what if the one who provided the life you dreamed off loses his wealth. What if the girl of your dreams loses her looks — would you still be committed? Does your love have limits?

It is safe to say with the divorce rate the way it is all over the world many people choose to leave when the going gets tough. Marriage is not easy. It needs two committed people for it to work. You cannot afford to be lazy in marriage and expect it to prosper. It needs to be nurtured because anything that is not nurtured eventually dies.

We need to ask ourselves if we truly love unconditionally. When the looks fade, when the money is no more, when the body gets frail, when life throws its curve balls would we still be committed to the vows that we made. Would we continue to love and cherish or would we abandon the ones we love. I am reminded of the story of Suzyo Muzuri, 28 and Diniwe Bowa, 27.  Suyo was involved in a car accident two weeks before his wedding to Diniwe. He lost his right leg but instead of postponing or cancelling the wedding, the couple chose to go ahead with the wedding at the hospital. Against all odds they exchanged their vows in front of their family and friends. What would you have done? What makes a person commit no matter what and another to walk away? I also know a man who chose not to go ahead with the wedding after he found out that his fiancé was HIV positive a week before their wedding. Was he wrong? Did he not love her enough? Only he can answer that.

Love loves!
There are many scenarios that would cause one to say enough is enough!!! Is there a limit to your love? What about betrayal? Would you forgive a betrayal, an infidelity? These are questions that you and I need to ask ourselves if our marriages are to stand the test of time. A couple of weeks ago the country woke up to the news that ProVerb’s wife cheated on him. Instead of leaving her ProVerb forgave his wife and they are working out the challenges in their marriage. Would you have stayed? Love in its purest form has no limits. It has no conditions. Love loves! Love believes all things. Love does not keep a record of wrongs. None of us are perfect and we would do well to extend grace to others when they sin against us because we will need that grace extended to us when (not if) we sin against them.

Christ loved us when we were still sinners. He did not wait until we were clean for Him to embrace us but He loved us. Let us learn from the unconditional love of our Lord Jesus Christ. Love has no limits. There is no destination in the journey of love. It is continuous.

Love can indeed conquer all. There is absolutely no limit to what love can conquer.

Shalom!




A chat with leading marriage mentor, Barb Rosberg

lifeinfullbloom

A fortnightly column on marriage, family and relationships.

rosbergs

Dr Gary and Barb Rosberg.

Dr Gary and Barb Rosberg are co-founders of the international ministry America’s Family Coaches, respected marriage conference speakers, executive life and marriage coaches, award-winning authors and radio hosts. Together, they have written over a dozen prominent marriage and family resources and DVD series with almost 1 million total copies in print worldwide. Their books include ‘6 Secrets to a Lasting Love’ (Gold Medallion winner under the title Divorce Proof Your Marriage) and ‘The 5 Love Needs of Men and Women’, a Gold Medallion finalist. Selected books are available in more than 12 languages. Gary and Barb met at Drake University where Barb earned her BFA and Gary earned his doctorate in counseling (Ed D). Following graduation, Gary conducted over 25 000 hours of marriage and family counseling. Today they are Board Certified Life and Marriage Coaches through Light University and coach executive couples through The Rosberg Group. Married since 1975, Gary and Barb have two adult daughters and eight grandchildren.

kissandmakeupThey have fallen inlove with South Africa and have been coming here for the past five years to minister healing and restoration to marriages. This, their sixth year, also marks their 40th wedding anniversary. The Rosbergs are very passionate about strengthening marriages and seeing them grow. This vision they share with their local partner Focus on the Family Africa. On Tuesday (October 13) they hosted in Cape Town their new project, Kiss and Make Up, which was well attended. They will also be hosting Kiss and Make Up events in Durban and Johannesburg.

I wanted to find out about their marriage and family ministry, their South African tour and some lessons they can share with us on their 40 years of marriage. Barb spoke on behalf of her and her husband as he was in a training session:

Neziswa Kanju:  Barb Rosberg welcome to South Africa. You launched your new project/campaign Kiss and Make Up in Cape Town on Tuesday. What is the motivation behind your Kiss and Make up project?

Barb Rosberg: Every marriage needs refreshment and a renewed glow! We wrote Kiss and Make Up in order for couples to have FUN and learn how to take their marriage to the next level! We have been thrilled with the response throughout Cape Town — people are loving it! We are presenting strong tools which give personal insight, brand-new, and refreshing for couples. (they can take it home and easily apply them!). We believe that as the marriage goes so goes the family. It feature principles parents can easily teach their children to better communicate, understand one another and really connect as a family. It’s a great evening with lots of laughter and is a feel-good date night but it’s combined with deep and rich tools that couples can safely takie home and use to begin anew in their marriage.

Neziswa Kanju: You are coming to South Africa for the 6th time (not that we are complaining)!! What keeps you coming back?

Barb Rosberg: We came the first year thinking it would be a one time trip. As we were here we heard the call of God to return yearly and help strengthen marriages throughout South Africa. When we heard the voice of God He gave us the courage to follow.

Neziswa Kanju: Tell us about your partnership with Focus on the Family Africa.

Barb Rosberg: We are 100% behind and supportive of Focus on the Family Africa. This is an excellent, outstanding ministry that strengthens family in a multitude of ways providing many kinds of events and seminars for marriages, parent, teen programmes and taking care of community needs that extend even to caregivers of orphans and guardians. We love and treasure them deeply. We strongly support Focus on the Family.

Neziswa Kanju: Tell us about your organisation America’s Family Coaches. When was it started and what is the vision behind it?

Barb Rosberg: America’s Family Coaches has a vision to strengthen marriages and families. It is a ministry that is 25 years old and we have spoken, written over a dozen books and videos and continue our work through radio and podcasts throughout the United States and beyond.

Neziswa Kanju:  You have a number of books on marriage and family that you have written. If a couple is on the verge of a divorce which book would you recommend to them?

Barb Rosberg: There are two books that we would HIGHLY recommend.  The first is “Healing the Hurt in Your Marriage” and the second book is “6 Secrets to a Lasting Love”. “6 Secrets to a Lasting Love” is our hallmark book on showing couples how to get home when they have felt alone in their marriage. There are stories, techniques, even a map where you can find yourself in your marriage and it shows you how to find your way back home. The biggest question I would ask is “are you teachable?” If you have a broken and teachable heart and have gone to God and asked him for help, then this book is for you. God will take you by the hand and move you into a place of coming home to your spouse. It is a book for every married couple no matter where you’re at from a dream marriage to that of being broken and at the place of emotional divorce and beyond. We are very thankful to God who gave us these rich principles in order to share with couples worldwide.

Neziswa Kanju: If you were to sum up your marriage in 5 words Barb how would you describe the last 40 years?

Barb Rosberg: God’s greatest gift to me!

Neziswa Kanju: What is the one thing that has sustained your marriage these 40 years?

Barb Rosberg: Our commitment to God. Also a commitment to be willing to make the changes we need in order to take our marriage to the next level. Marriage is the classroom for us to love one another but it’s also a place where we can learn the grace of God when we hurt, let our mates down and grow beyond our circumstances and become more of who God called us to be! It’s supposed to be hard at times so that you allow yourself to let God take over and make you better than you are!  And usually that comes through being humbled.

Neziswa Kanju: During times of “intense” conflict what drew you back to each other?

Barb Rosberg: When you commit your life to Christ even in the midst of difficulty you need to examine yourself and surrender. In times of deepest conflict it’s a surrendered heart that’s willing to admit pride, and every kind of issue that can get in the way and find your way back to Him first and then find your way back to your spouse.

Neziswa Kanju: What was your most trying time in these 40 years and how did you pull through?

Barb Rosberg: We had a season where we watched our child live through a disease, my husband had cancer, my father was dying, and my mother had Alzheimer’s. There’s no perfect way to pull it off. As we live we live reaching out for God. Other times we know that there are words we cannot speak but He is reaching out to us continually. It is during those times that it’s the prayers of friends the prayers of the body of Christ that is getting you through. Some days you just do the next thing and that’s enough to get you through. But ultimately it’s the love of family that keeps you on the path in step and keeping going. As I look back I can only see that it was God who carried me through it.

Neziswa Kanju: What practical steps can a couple take to make their marriage great?

Barb Rosberg:  In our book  “6 Secrets to a Lasting Love” we share very openly about a map for couples. When you are surrendered to Christ and are willing to grow with a teachable heart you can identify these principles that will make a lasting change: forgiving freely, serving humbly, persevering courageously, guarding vigilantly, celebrating joyfully, and renewing daily. All of these are based upon a relationship that we have with Jesus Christ; it’s foundational for every couple and every marriage to work. Spend time reading Philippians Chapter 2, and Chapter 4. Though it’s not a marriage verse it is all relationship.

Neziswa Kanju:  So many people endure marriage instead of enjoy marriage. How can we make our marriages more enjoyable?

Barb Rosberg: Let it begin with you. You be the one that goes to God and ask him to fill your heart with Him. To make your marriage go to the next level don’t wait for your spouse. No human can do that. Many times God will use our marriage and hurts and the struggles we go through to do a greater work within us and as we are renewed we have something brand-new to give to our marriage. Your spouse will see you and your children will observe it and everyone will observe it. So don’t wait; go to God — let Him take your marriage at whatever level it’s at and let Him show you how to make it a great marriage.

Neziswa Kanju: What words of advice can you give a couple who are about to get married on how to make it to 40 years?

Barb Rosberg: Begin your marriage in prayer. Take time daily to connect to one another. Don’t give your spouse the leftovers from today but leave enough room to be excited at the end of the day to share what you’ve learned, what you’ve done , what you have accomplished. Openly take the time to give to one another, even 20 minutes a day. Marriage researchers report that can make a good marriage great. Take the time to build openness and safety in your marriage.

Neziswa Kanju: When and where will you be ministering in South Africa?

Barb Rosberg:

16 OCTOBER at DURBAN CHRISTIAN CENTRE
39 GARTH RD DURBAN
DATE NIGHT at 6:30pm for 7:00pm – 9:30pm

17 OCTOBER at DURBAN CHRISTIAN CENTRE
MARRIAGE CONFERENCE at 8:30am for 9:00am – 12:30am

22 OCTOBER at DOXA DEO MIDSTREAM
10 CHORGES STREET, MIDSTREAM ESTATE
DATE NIGHT at 6:30pm for 7:00pm – 9:30pm

23 OCTOBER at DOXA DEO
MIDSTREAM 10 CHORGES STREET, MIDSTREAM ESTATE
MENTOR TRAINING at 8:30am for 9:00am – 12:30pm

Neziswa Kanju: Thank you Mrs Rosberg for your time. All the best with the rest of your South African tour.

Barb Rosberg: Thank you so much for this opportunity. You have been so kind to us to ask us these question




Your marriage can blossom again!

lifeinfullbloom

A fortnightly column on marriage, family and relationships.

There is no marriage that starts with divorce in mind. Even the most educated, modern couple, they want their marriage to work. Yes they know about the high divorce rate but they believe that their marriage will be among those that make it. They believe in being together for life. A couple on their wedding day believe in the strength of their love to sustain them. They truly believe that: “This is the one I want to spend the rest of my life with. This is the one I want to give my all to. This is the one who will be with me and I with him until the end of our days.” They do not think of the reality or possibility of separation because they are so “ïnlove”.

Fast forward to two, five or 10 years down the line and that certainty, that sparkle in their eyes, that joy radiating from their faces, is not there. What you see are signs of stress, a tired look, worn out peope who do not want to drag themselves out of bed. All they find themselves doing is watching endless soapies or general interest television shows. Life outside the home is virtually non-existent except when overseeing the responsibilities of life e.g. taking kids to school, going to work, buy groceries, paying the bills.

roses1The things they used to do, the fun they use to have, is all in the past. They do not go to their favourite restaurant anymore. They do not go out of their way to impress their beloved anymore. They do not take time to consider their appearance for their beloved the way they used to. They do not seek out ways to do what is pleasing to their spouse. Their marriage is slowly withering away. What happens to a couple who are so full of love, joy and happiness who cannot wait to be together? What happens to them  years down the line where they look as if they are strangers; strangers who share a house, share food, share a name but do not share a life. They might not even share a bed…

Shrivelled up
You find that many marriages after a couple of years have shrivelled up. They are a shadow of their former selves. Youthful individuals who looked happy and were full of life after a couple of years look as if they have lost the spring in their steps; they have lost their enthusiasm, their hunger for life, their adventurous spirit. What happens to them? They are no longer smiling! They are no longer blooming; they are no longer in-love. What happens?

My children gave me a plant for Mother’s Day this year. I really appreciated it, more so that they had picked it out themselves and paid for it themselves. I received it with such enthusiasm and eagerness to display it in my kitchen. That day I remember watering it and putting it on the most visible place in my kitchen so everyone could see it. I was so proud of my babies for going through such lengths to give me such a beautiful gift. My enthusiasm soon faded however as the days went by and I soon forgot about taking care of my plant. Somewhere in the back of my mind after a few days I thought “Well it is going to die any day now. I can see it is starting to wither” I forgot that this was not a flower and that the reason it was starting to wither was BECAUSE I WAS NOT TAKING CARE OF IT!!!!!!!!!!

My husband surprises me with flowers now and again and although they are watered they soon die and I have to throw them away. Because of habit I didn’t pay much attention to the plant that my kids gave me. I did water it at first. I probably did a second time but I forgot about it. Yes I did display it very proudly on my kitchen cupboard especially since it had the word ‘mom’ attached to it. What it needed to survive though was to be watered. 

Still alive
Well days went by and I thought that someone must have thrown it away as I didn’t see it on the kitchen cupboard. I forgot about the plant until this week when I saw it at the garage window!!!!! I had thought the plant had died but when we saw it this week in our garage there was something about it that made us realise that the plant is actually STILL ALIVE. In the neglect during these months since May it has somehow managed to survive. What was most obvious; the reason that it was able to survive was that it was placed on a window that faced the sun. Its exposure to the sun kept it alive!!!!!!!!!!! Looking at my small pot plant I was truly amazed at its resilience.

Marriage is just like a plant. It needs nurturing for it to thrive and survive. It needs to be watered. Without the constant watering and nurturing it will wither. Too much neglect; being away from your spouse; taking her or him for granted; no longer putting in the effort to be there; putting her last in the list; all these contribute to the withering of a marriage .

Even the marriages that do survive after years of neglect do so because the people in those relationships convince themselves that: “This is as good as it gets. I am old and marriage is hard. To be happy in marriage is reserved only for the newly-weds”

Watering brings back life
With enough watering, nurturing and a lot of tender loving care your marriage can blossom again to what it once was except it will be better because you will have experience on your hands. You will appreciate your spouse more and you will appreciate your vows more. Your spouse needs you to pay attention to them. They need your watering. They need your words of life that spring forth from your gentle heart. They need to hear that you love them. Let our marriages blossom and shine for the glory of our Lord.

I have a rose garden outside my house and every now and again I love to just sit and stare at the roses. My husband planted those particular flowers because he knows that roses are my favourite. When he bought the rose plants they were just small trees but now they have grown and grown. Getting the tree to grow to such heights was not by chance. It took hours and hours of pruning; nurturing and watering to for the flowers to grow.

Other people may look on the outside and celebrate the two of you. They must say “Wow those two look so good together” You might take care of providing material things that make your home look beautiful and dress your family with expensive clothes that make them look good but if you neglect to invest in some heart nutrients; if you neglect to speak their love language they slowly wither inside. They slowly lose their joy; they lose their radiance; they lose their confidence in the marriage. You need to attend to your marriage as you would attend a plant.

Take heart
If your marriage seems dead because of years and years of neglect, take heart — there is hope in God.

He is the Resurrection and the Life.  He is all powerful!!!!! Once you put your marriage into His hands He can put the life back into your marriage. He is the One who formed Adam from dust and pulled out Eve from him. He does the impossible and shows you the possible. Do not give up on your marriage. God is good and He is good all the time. All good and perfect gifts come from above and your marriage is one of them. Do not give up on it so easily. Do not throw it away. Bring it to the Son…

Once your marriage is towards the Son there is nothing that you cannot withstand.

Shalom!

I will love to hear from you.  You can get in-touch with me you can email me at renejedk@gmail.com

 




Cultivating the rare fruit of gentleness

lifeinfullbloom

A fortnightly column on marriage, family and relationships.

As a church we were very blessed this past Sunday when our former pastor came to visit. We had a very special service at church when we were welcoming for the first time our senior pastoral couple who got married two weeks ago and as spiritual father in our church our former pastor came to bless the new couple and to offer words of advice.

We were blessed to sit under his ministry once again. Dr T W Ngobeni always struck me as a very gentle man. Well into his seventies, he is still sold out for Christ having served our Lord for decades. He left our church to go and pastor another church. He was already in his 70s when he did that.

What strikes me about his life and what ministers to my walk with the Lord every time I sit under his ministry is his gentle, gentle soul. Pastor Ngobeni has many spiritual sons and daughters who love, respect and honour him. When I came back from church this past Sunday I began to reflect on my life and my interactions with others. I identified that one of the reasons why Pastor Ngobeni is so loved and respected is a quality that he always displays — his gentleness. Gentleness is an often missed quality and value. Although it is not a quality that is often mentioned like love, joy, peace and faith, gentleness when applied will revolutionise relationships.

Is there a place in our world for gentleness?
Is there a place in our world for gentleness? We live in a world that is exposed to so much violence. Violent words, violent behaviour! Violence has taken over our television dramas. There has to be some kind of violence for the dramas or soapies to attract an audience. Headline news is filled with violent images. Is there a place in our world for gentleness? What used to be such welcomed behaviour from men; gentlemen pulling out a chair for a lady or opening a door is even frowned upon by a world with women’s rights. I gave myself time to read the Word of God to find out what He says about gentleness. The Lord expects us to be gentle. I question myself how does one do that in a world that is obsessed with putting one’s opinion forward; in a world where people are obsessed about being right; proving a point; in a world that is obsessed with looking out for number one. Can one be gentle towards others without being seen as weak? Can one be gentle without being a walkover?

lionlambHow do you respond to the mundane mistakes of life; you know the everyday scenarios that we all face. When she does not cook the steak just the way you like it do you scream and shout? When he leaves his socks on the floor and you have to pick them up do you scream and shout? When your children do not do the task that you have told them to do are you harsh? We always have a choice (although it really does not seem like it at the time) how we respond. You can scream and shout; be harsh and yell or choose gentleness. Gentleness can prevent a potential fight from happening. I have found that when I yell at my kids to do something they do it but you can see rebellion in their eyes. I have also noticed that beaming smile that is full of tenderness when they do the task without being shouted at. It is the same outcome but different seeds that are sown. When we shout and yell we are sowing seeds or rebellion and disrespect in children and we are planting potential conflicts in a marriage but when we are gentle we are showing our children a better way to live with others. Yes they will have plenty of opportunities to be upset as they are growing older but how they react in those circumstances will largely depend on how we have role modelled our reactions for them through the years.

Sometimes we speak harmful words, intentionally harmful words. Why are we not gentle with our children; with our husbands; with our wives? Where has gentleness gone? In this day and age gentleness is seen as a sign of weakness. If I do not stand up to you then I am being weak and no one is applauded when they are weak. It is amazing to me how gentle people are with each other when they start their love journey. Before they get married people are so gentle to one another.

10 ways of gentleness from the Word of God
In my study of gentleness let me share 10 ways that I have seen outlined in the Word of God..

1. Avoid quarrelling. There will be many opportunities to choose to quarrel but avoid it and be courteous to not only members of your family but to all people.
Titus 3:2 To speak evil of no one, to avoid quarrelling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people.

2. If you have to correct do it with gentleness
1 Peter 3:15 But in your hearts honour Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defence to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.

3. Wisdom always chooses the way of heaven
James 3:17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.

4. You might save a soul through your gentleness. When unbelievers see how a servant of the Lord behaves they might be won over to the ways of Christ by seeing how His follower is gentle.
2 Timothy 2:24-26 And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.

5. When you correct a brother speak the truth in love and correct in the spirit of gentleness. In our relationships we will be tempted to lose our temper many times but let us choose to correct with gentleness.
Galatians 6:1 Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.

6. When you are in the middle of a potential fight choose to be tender and gentle as that will not cause the situation to be worse. When both parties are harsh and angry using harsh words and are yelling there will be a fight and words might be uttered that will cause lasting emotional damage.
Proverbs 15:1 A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.

7. The word of God advises us to be slow to anger. It is an advice we should take to heart as it pleases the Father and it will save much heartache when we practice it.
James 1:19-20 Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.

8. We are called to bear one another in love. When you are thinking of another person instead of yourself you will be gentle. When you are mindful to be patient and humble towards them instead of being right you will be intentional not to want to hurt them.
Ephesians 4:2 With all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love.

9. Gentleness is one of the fruits of the Spirit. It shows that we are children of God and the Holy Spirit is in us and guiding us when we are gentle. It shows that we do not give in to the flesh so easily. In a fight the flesh wants to retaliate and fight but the Holy Spirit in us wants to reconcile and have peace.
Galatians 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness.

10. When all is said and done we all do not want to be shouted and yelled at. Let us treat others the way we want to be treated. When we sow gentleness to others that is what we will reap in return.
1 Corinthians 4:21 What do you wish? Shall I come to you with a rod, or with love in a spirit of gentleness?

The world can be full of hatred and strife but as children of God we are called to live by His standards. We are called to imitate our Father. For the world to see Him in us we have to make the sometimes forgotten fruit of the spirit gentleness more visible in our conduct with each other. As we model this fruit we will have richer more fulfilled lives.. more peaceful lives.

SHALOM!




Stand at the door and knock

lifeinfullbloom

A fortnightly column on marriage, family and relationships.

knockRevelation 3:20 says, “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.” I have always read this and understood it in the spiritual sense. In the last two weeks I have come to understand it literally. On two occasions I locked myself out.

A couple of weeks ago when I came back home from church at night I was stuck at the gate. I thought that I had forgotten my keys at home when I went to church. I began to panic that no one was going to hear me even if I yelled for someone to open the gate for me as my house is a panhandler. What made the situation worse was that I could not use my phone as the battery was flat. For about 15 to 20 minutes I stood there outside wondering what to do. I am a woman; alone at night. With the crime rate being high in South Africa my situation was getting a bit desperate. What was a dangerous situation would be swiftly taken care of with the right key. I would be inside the house with my family. I finally decided to get inside my car and maybe go to a nearby garage and look for a Telkom public phone (do we even still have them?) when I noticed my keys on my dashboard. I don’t know how I had missed them earlier when I got home but THEY WERE THERE. ALL WAS WELL! RELIEF!

Act of respect
The act of standing and knocking is an act of respect. We teach our kids all the time not to just go into a room when someone is inside. We teach them to knock and wait to listen for the person to tell them if they can enter. Why? Because they have to learn manners; they have to learn respect. To stand at the door and knock says you choose to respect and honour the person on the other side. It is an act of saying yes I can choose to go inside or I CAN RESPECT SOMEONE ENOUGH TO WAIT FOR THEIR OK.

Even Christ is tender. He is a gentleman. He says: “I stand at the door of your heart and knock.” He does not force His way in. The One who could absolutely choose to be dictatorial if He wanted to chooses to show us His way of love by asking. He asks for our permission to enter our heart. We allow Him in. Sometimes that is all you can do is to wait and when the person is ready they will open the door. So many relationships will be saved if people learnt this Godly principle of standing (patiently) and knocking.

The other day as I was about to drive my children to school I remembered something I had forgotten in the house. I rushed into my house only to have my key not open the door. I tried frantically to get inside; to turn the key so it would unlock. After some time I realised that the reason I was not able to unlock the door was because there was already a key in the door and two keys cannot unlock the same door at the same time. One key has to be used. What I didn’t realise was someone had left keys hanging on the other side of the door.

We think by trying to force matters we can have success. Standing there I realised that I could force and force and get myself tired in the process or take out my key and let the person open with their key from the inside. If we want breakthroughs; successes we have to learn how to work together for the common goals that we want. We cannot insist on our own way and think that we will get far. One key works beautifully. One key at a time!

The Bible says there is time for everything. There is time to speak and there is time to listen. There are times when you have to have your own way. There are times when you have to humble yourself and back down to allow another to lead. There is a time for everything under the sun but if you insist on your own way all the time; you will not get far. You will be stuck in front of doors that could have been easily opened to you but because you insisted on doing things your own way; because you insisted on just pushing through and breaking things in the process you will remain.

My husband has his own keys to the house and I have mine. It is the same with life and relationships. He has his way of doing things and I have mine. He is not necessarily wrong in how he does somethings nor am I! We are just different! It is two sets of keys but one key must be used at any one time. I can insist on having my way and do things my way but I choose to honour you; to come into your heart I will choose to do things your way; speak the way that you want. I choose to be loving and patient (waiting at the door). Love has a lot of ‘wait at the door’ moments. It is kind. It is gentle.

Earn their trust
You cannot force people to open up to you and trust you. You have to earn their respect and trust. So many times we think just because I am in a position of authority to this person that I can force them to speak. No you may not. You might be the parent but if you want your teenager to open up to you have to be patient. You cannot force them into a conversation that they are not ready for. Earn their trust. Wait for the person. Like our beloved Lord “Stand at the door and knock’

When it’s time; when they feel that you are a safe place to fall then they will open the door from the inside and let you into their heart. Love does not insist on its own way. Stand and continue to stand until the person is ready to open the door and let you into the home of their heart.

You cannot both be talking at the same time. One must keep quiet to hear what is being said. Conversation is not two people talking at the same time. A conversation flows when one talks and the other listens with respect. How many times have you heard someone say so and so has a heart of brick. It is hard to convince them of anything.

The dictionary defines hardened as cold, insensitive, unfeeling, and unyielding. If you’re honest with yourself, you’ll have to agree that there are certain areas of your life where you have a hard heart toward God.

If you have been hurt in the past learn to trust again and give your spouse a chance to love you. If he or she is the one who has hurt you be honest about how you feel. Tell him that it is difficult for you to trust him because of what he did but you are working being better. If you have hurt your spouse understand that it will take sometime for her to trust again. Be willing to give her or him time. Love waits. It stands at the door and waits.

SHALOM

 




Not a single fight in 75 years of marriage

weddedblissOriginally published in Testimony1.com

An elderly Christian couple from Wisconsin, USA, was featured on Time magazine and other US media recently when they revealed to a local news network that they never had even a single argument in their 75 years of blissful marriage.

Arlene and Richard Baughman, age 96 and 97, respectively, got married in 1940 or two years before World War II, and until now they remain as deeply in love and committed to each other as during their first day together as husband and wife.

“If we had differences we just talked about it,” said Richard.

“We always said, we didn’t have dishes to throw or shoes to throw because we couldn’t afford it. So, we had to get along!” Arlene joked, noting that money was scarce in the pre-war era right after the Great Depression.

The two met at a movie with friends, and it did not take long until they became a couple.

“We talked right from the start, he was really easy to talk to,” said Arlene.

The two eventually married on Nov. 21, 1940.

“I’m still wearing my original wedding ring,” said Arlene, who showed her thin gold band. She wanted to be Richard’s wife more than having a fancy engagement ring.

They encountered a huge challenge in their married life when Richard got drafted in 1942 for the war, only a few weeks after the birth of their first son.

“There was no way of getting in touch with him. Letters were scare so we hardly knew how he was or where he was,” said Arlene.

Arlene busied herself with teaching. After 14 months of having no way of communication, Richard finally returned to their home in Sheldon, Wisconsin.

“That was the most wonderful time of my life, said Richard. “To think I could come home to my wife and children.”

But the memories of war haunted Richard, who said: “I know I had a lot of bad dreams and so forth.”

The two faced everything together, from Richard’s post-traumatic stress disorder to the death of their eldest son.

“Without him, I don’t know what I would have done, I wouldn’t have made it,” said Arlene.

“I’m still in love with her, she means everything to me,” said Richard.




Porn linked to child abuse

stopabuse

PHOTO: Thorn

Originally published in Times Live

Porn addicts are at high risk of sexually abusing children, including their own.

This is according to research by Dr Antoinette Basson, of Unisa’s youth research unit, who interviewed convicted child-sex offenders in prisons in Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal and Western Cape.

The study, which focused on child-sex offenders who used porn, found that the offenders had in common:

  • Exposed to pornography while young by peers or family members;
  • Preoccupied with pornography; and
  • Had low self-esteem and came from dysfunctional family environments characterised by violence, unstable relationships and abuse.

The early exposure to porn prompted offenders to use it for grooming victims, the research stated.

Said Basson: “Based on the results it is reasonable to conclude that porn has an influence on human behaviour in relation to the sexual exploitation of children.”

Dr Shaheda Omar, a representative of the Teddy Bear Clinic for abused children, claimed that exposure to pornography while young creates a “vicious cycle”.

Said Omar: “It is a huge factor that leads to perpetuating this behaviour, when these kids feel excited or stimulated they do not have anyone to speak to,” she said.

While the law prohibits pornography from being displayed in the presence of a child, Omar said it is difficult to police private homes.

She called for “stringent measures”, such as punishing parents who leave porn lying around for their children to find.

The SA Law Reform Commission is investigating the pornography laws.

Child rights activist Joan van Niekerk said the commission will begin consultations with others when it has completed its report.

Pornography was legalised in 1994. The change in the law and the growth of the internet caused the porn market to flourish.

Basson said her study sought to examine the link between porn addiction and the exploitation of children . The men and women interviewed for the study were aged between 20 and their late 50s, and came from different backgrounds and occupations.

Many were serving life sentences in maximum-security prisons.

Basson said: “These offenders were very intelligent — engineers, teachers, social workers — very professional people. They develop a total preoccupation with porn; they watch it at work without even thinking about work.”

Many of the subjects reported early exposure to pornography.

“My father had a lot of porn tapes and magazines,” said one offender.

Another offender said he first watched porn after he found his mother’s porn lying around the house.

One father interviewed said that he would expose his two daughters to porn while his wife was at work before sexually abusing them.

 




Pro-life and family conference in Cape Town

hliHuman Life International is hosting the “Protect our Families in South Africa Pro-life and Family Conference” at St John’s Church, Maitland, Cape Town from Thursday, May 28 to Tuesday, June 2, 2015.

Topics that will be addressed include crisis pregnancy and abortion, birth control, African pro-life policy, euthanasia, human trafficking, speaking truth through media, pornography, and counter-acting immoral sex education at schools. The conference is free and children are welcome.

International speakers from Human Life International include Father Shenan J Boquet, an expert on the Catholic Church’s teachings on life and family; Dr Brian Clowes, director of education and research at Human Life International and pro-life author; and Emil Hagamu from Tanzania. Taryn Hodgson, the Cape Town-based International Co-ordinator of Africa Christian Action will be speaking on how to defend your family against pornography (12 noon on May, 28) and traffick proof (10am on June 1).

The full programme is:

Thu 28 May 10h00: The Family under Siege
11h00: Crisis Pregnancy
12h00: Protect your Family from Pornography
14h00: The Demographic Impacts of Abortion     
15h00: The International Abortion Situation
19h00: Euthanasia

Fri 29 May    
10h00: Marriage – 14h00: Natural Family Planning
16h00: The Condom Conundrum & Population Control Agenda
19h00: Euthanasia

Sat 30 May   
13h30: South Africans rights, public demonstration
14h00: Speaking Truth through Media
15h30: 40 Days for Life – Abortion Centres, the modern day Golgotha

Sun 31 May
14h00: Presentation by HLI Anglophone Regional Co-ordinator, focusing on issues affecting Africa and the way forward
15h00: Viewing of African Prolife documentary

Mon 01 Jun 10h00: Human Trafficking in Africa
11h00: Training: Pro-life Answers to Pro-Choice Questions on Euthanasia (asking the right questions and how to answer)

Tue 02 Jun
10h00 – 12h00: Group discussions and presentations – the way forward for SA.

For more information, or to register, contact Collette Thomas, Human Life International at colettethomas.hli@gmail.com, 083 412 4936.




Special need = Special gift

outloud title bar

A monthly column by Vivienne Solomons who is a legal consultant who passionately believes that God wants His people to make a difference right where they are and to stand up for what is true and just. She is also passionate about encouraging young women to walk victoriously with God and she is engaged in a challenging faith journey as a parent of a child with special needs.

driveThis past long weekend I was in the fairest Cape for a family wedding, and what a joyous occasion it was. We had planned our break away so that we could also spend a few days in Cape Town and surrounds, before and after the nuptials, catching up with family and friends.

In truth, this was a faith expedition for us and our son. For while the breathtaking scenery and the occasion itself promised wonderful days, it had all the makings of an emotionally stressful time – varied locations and a lot of time with people, just chatting and eating, usually with no other children around.

Ordinarily, I would jump at the chance to get away and just “kuier” but I had to consider how my son would react and adapt (or not) to being at a new location and meeting people he hardly knows or doesn’t know at all – over and over again. You see, my son, who is seven years old, has been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (“ADHD”) and social anxiety disorder, and, in addition, sensory integration dysfunction (or sensory processing disorder). Yes, it’s a mouthful. I know. And while I don’t like to label him as having “this” or “that”, giving what he deals with everyday a name does help to focus our time and energy on what is needed in order to assist him in leading a fulfilled and purpose-driven life. This is the goal of all our interventions.

Our decision as parents
In short, the ADHD, amongst others, causes our son to be lethargic and slow to respond to instructions. It also interferes with his sleeping patterns. Then there is the incessant talking, the impatience and the impulsiveness, as well as the tantrums. We are forced to medicate during school but choose to not do so outside of the learning environment, unless absolutely necessary. In other words, generally speaking, he does not receive the drug on weekends or during school holidays. This is a decision we have taken as parents. Although he is more compliant and better behaved under the drug’s influence, we prefer to experience him as he really is, which is an engaging individual who is, for the most part, fun to be around.

The social anxiety aspect provides its own set of challenges. Not the least of which is resistance to visiting new places and meeting new people. It causes our son to behave awkwardly, and avoid interaction with others, to the point of saying hurtful things in order to push them away. Even those he knows have to ‘break the ice’ when meeting him again after an interval of only a few days. There is, of course, a pill for this as well, which we duly administer on a daily basis. If I am honest, I would have to say that currently, I can live without my son taking medication for ADHD but life is difficult when he does not receive the anxiety medication. He becomes very fearful and clingy, and even going to the bathroom alone is not possible for him.

Then there is the sensory aspect. For those who are not familiar with this, it may be described as a condition in which the brain has difficulty in receiving and responding to information that comes in through the senses. It has far reaching consequences. For example, where a child experiences inadequate vestibular processing, he or she will have difficulty with balance and knowing where his or her body is in space – and it often manifests itself by a reluctance to sit on the toilet. For those with taste processing challenges, certain tastes and even textures are avoided, leaving the child with a very limited palate and therefore also a restricted menu – often soft, not chewy foods like bread, bread and, much to my dismay, more bread.

But our son is not slow in his thinking nor in his ability. On the contrary, he was able to recognise colours at the age of 2, and could also count to 20 at that age. He taught himself to read when he was just 5 years old. As a result, we walk a tightrope as parents of, on the one hand, needing to stimulate him academically while on the other, trying to mitigate his challenges. All the while cautiously administering medication and simultaneously praying for his complete healing and restoration.

Finding strength
Our journey to this point has been one of recognising that ‘something’ is not quite as it should be, and then finding the strength, the courage, the time and the resources to address the issue. It has also been one of trial and error in finding solutions and making compromises that work for us as a family. But, as you might expect, not all of our friends and family are always ‘on the same page’. There are the inevitable opinions, whether verbally expressed or not, ranging from “there is no problem that a good dose of discipline can’t solve“ to “perhaps you shouldn’t be so …, you are causing your child to behave in this way“. The key here, however, is to ‘take the meat and leave the bones’. People usually mean well, they just don’t know what to say or what to do to help. If they haven’t lived it, they can’t know. So at times it can be a frustrating and lonely path to tread. But this is where the friendship of parents with special needs children is invaluable. They know. They understand. We can encourage one another. We can celebrate the smallest of victories with one another.  

In the event, our weekend went smoothly, and, for the most part, without a hiccup. It is a testimony about me and how far I have come in this journey as much as it is about our child taking a huge step towards overcoming his fears and relating normally to others. I have grown. I have become more comfortable in parenting my special gift of a child with all of his quirkiness and less concerned about what others think about my parenting ability in the face of constant challenge. Yes, we are still learning, trying out different approaches and regimens to find the best fit for us as a family, and that is just fine. We simply celebrate the victories and learn from our setbacks.

What I have learned is that there are no quick fixes outside of a miracle of God and that His mercies are indeed new every morning. Each day I am given a new opportunity to try again and do better. To rise up in faith in the face of yesterday’s defeat. To hope against all hope. I also draw comfort from the fact that we have seen progress that medication and countless hours of therapy cannot explain. And we continue to trust God for more. For our goal as parents is to see our child thrive and become the best version of himself, growing more independent day by day and able to make his own unique yet significant mark in this world.