reflection

New Year Fails and Feats

February is hardly a month when I reflect. I doubt that it’s a month when anyone does, either. It’s never the time for looking back and thinking over what I’ve accomplished, what I’ve failed at, what I should ball up and toss in the fire. It’s more a month when, frustrated at my failure to follow through with my resolutions (when I have them), I come to terms with the fact that it’s too late in the year to make any ‘beginnings’. I settle uncomfortably into my old former-year self and trudge on. It’s a stale month, often flying by unnoticed.

I’ve failed at every resolution I made at the start of the year. The first was to give gratitude. I succeeded, at first, but my initial successes justified my latter complacency. And here I am. The second was to read more. I’ve made it through a few pages of Sandcastle Kings. And here I am. The third was to write more. And here I yet again am, writing my first blog post in close to two months. I’ve begun to write other pieces, but they’ve been left hanging in the air, losing their need for existing. They might die of depression, I fear. Still, this February feels different.

I’ve learnt to count my blessings. Thus far, I’ve succeeded at things I didn’t set out to do. I’ve succeeded at connecting- truly connecting- with someone I’m growing to care deeply about. I’ve succeeded at facing my life’s biggest fears and telling them they have little bearing on what I can and will do (I’ll brew tea and talk about this more explicitly and elaborately in posts in the near future). I’ve succeeded at realizing that I’ve found myself in the warm, delicate embrace of friendships that anchor me. I’ve succeeded at loving myself a little bit more today than I did a month ago. And today, I have finally succeeded at sitting down and writing this.

I cannot shake the feeling that this year is going to be a good one. In the hopeful spirit that looks on to the rest of the year, it’s only fitting that I share a piece of my heart for the near future.

I want to give more, and more gladly. Giving is uncomfortable for me. This happens to one when one is anywhere near as sentimental as I am. I cling on to things. To moments, to people, to memories- to things and trinkets that speak of those moments and of those people and of those memories. So much that to give them away breaks my heart, plunging me into the illusion that by doing so, I am giving away those things that I dearly love, and of my life itself.

But you know what love does? It is so compelling that it outshines the discomfort. It consumes us with its purpose, so that our intentions become embedded in its very folds. It replaces reluctance with resolve, hesitance with honour, fear with faith. And it is in love, for God, and for those that I love, that I seek to find everything I need to give. Authentically, wholeheartedly, and with a sincere heart.

This blog is one such place that I hope to give- everything that God purposes for me to give, and everything that God purposes for you to receive. As always, my gratitude abounds, and I am excited to have the grace to remain on this journey with you. The last time I wrote, I was about to begin a mini-series. Starting next week Monday, I’m picking that up again, but I felt it necessary to kick of my year, as late as I am, with this note (that has become much lengthier than I initially anticipated). All the rest will come as sporadically as always. I hope you’ll journey on with me.

All my gratitude,

Priscilla Takondwa

(Featured Photo from here)

 

 

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We’re All Up in the Air


I don’t like to admit how much flying frightens me. I say it once in a while, but I water down how afraid it makes me. Partly because I don’t like to claim possession of fears- as though they are a precious thing that I cherish and hold dear. It does, nonetheless, render me uneasy- I will not lie. My mind goes to very dark places when I fly. I think about death and loss and catastrophe. I think of everything that could go wrong. I envision the cockpit exploding. I imaging crash landing into the ocean.

Call the fear irrational. Call it unfounded. Call it what you may, but it creeps up on me every time a trip draws near, to the point that stepping onto any flight becomes my own little act of courage. I’m not proud of it. I’m not happy that I am afraid. One thing I’ve realized, however, is that I am no less in danger of losing my life in any moment in my life than I am when I’m strapped into my seat on any flight I take. Every breath I take, every move I make, every single word I’m blessed to think and speak out loud- every single moment I have on this earth is shrouded in grace and mercy. None of it is earned. None of it is deserved. It’s not as if I control my heart to keep on beating. It’s not as if it’s by any effort on my part that I stay alive. I’m pretty much perpetually up in the air- moving through this earth without an ounce of knowledge of when I’ll fall.

Fear is not usually healthy. Not when we allow it to irrationally guide our lives. Not when we allow it to cripple us from taking a deep breath and marveling at God’s handiwork in the cloudscapes. But I believe that there is a fear that is godly, and precious, true, and necessary. This is the sort of fear that makes me examine my life. It makes me wonder where I’m storing my treasures. It makes me wonder where the value in my life truly lies.

David put it so rightly when he said:

O Lord, what are human beings that you should notice them,
    mere mortals that you should think about them?
For they are like a breath of air;
    their days are like a passing shadow.

Psalm 144:3-4

The truth is, we’re all up in the air. None of us is in control. As bothered and distraught, or content and fulfilled as we may be by the state of our lives and the world around us, we are never and can never be in control of any of it.

13 Look here, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we are going to a certain town and will stay there a year. We will do business there and make a profit.” 14 How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone. 15 What you ought to say is, “If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that.” 16 Otherwise you are boasting about your own pretentious plans, and all such boasting is evil.

James 4:13-16

Overwhelmed by the brevity of life, and by the importance of a relationship with God, I invite you to think about God today. Think angry thoughts. Think inquisitive thoughts. Think surrendering thoughts. Think thoughts. Consider this truth: this love which is unconditional the only constant that we can ever always be fully certain of and rest completely in.

38 And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[a] neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. 39 No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 8:38-39

O death, where is your victory?
    O death, where is your sting?[a]

1 Corinthians 15:55

Featured Image from here.

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Unbecoming.

I’ve nearly completed three semesters of my undergraduate career. I feel rather underfulfilled, but incredibly grateful for my awareness of the fact. Gratitude abounds. There are countless things to be thankful for. Like friends. Good health. Freedom to believe. (I am rediscovering that freedom I so boldy claim to have. The freedom that is eternal, the freedom that is compassionate, and the freedom that is mine.) Family is another thing to be grateful for. And home. These two have been on my mind quite constantly over the past few months.

Much to my Standard 3 teacher’s probable dismay, I (still) do not know what I should be when I ‘grow up’. I know what I want to do. But I don’t know what I should do. That makes college a very awkward space to occupy, because it seems to be meant for the latter, but my heart beats more for the former.

I want to write. Lengthy stories with characters spunkier and more interesting and brave than I will ever be, with whom people will grow deeply enamored. I long to tell authentic truths in trustworthy ways that do justice to experiences. (I find, however, that love is one of those authentic truths, and that my experience with it has largely been flawed. This is something I will readily fault myself for. You see, I am an expert at beginnings. I am a master at initiating. What I fail at is sustaining. I am astoundingly akin to a matchstick. When I begin to burn, it is with fervor. But the sight of my flame signals that its very end is imminent. I don’t believe that this is inherent. I think that it is the manifestation of a deeper, more latent trait that I am yet to discover.)

But writing is painstaking work, which I do not know if I have the strength to undertake. Although I share quite a lot, much of my work is unfinished. Some of it is so because I’ve changed so much from who I was when I first begun to pen it down to who I am now. The rest because I am simply afraid to go there. What will happen when the characters I write have to face the things I’m afraid to face in my own life? What will happen when the time comes for their love to awaken? What will happen when they have to experience tragedy and loss? I believe that it’s my duty to feel those things as they feel them, too. That if I do not, they will not fully live them.

I may be wrong.

Is it odd that I feel that I haven’t lived enough life to bring wholesomeness to this? (Is it odd that I secretly want to contest this fact?)

Finally, here’s series of tweets, which capture the rest of my most recent meditations in a far more accessible manner than my current train of thought has feebly attempted to

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Featured Image from here

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My Name is Priscilla and I am Weak.

As it turns out, I am not too different from David (my dear friend told me so). Belting out my psalms of praise from the rooftops one day, and whispering cries of deep sadness the next. I do not like to share the sadness here these days. Not while it is present. Things put here are offerings. For you, Dear Reader, to consider and cherish, or dismiss and deem unimportant. The decision is mine, but the ultimate prerogative is your honour. To leave it up to chance, and have that room for rejection is among my greatest fears. And so I do not like to share my sadness here- not while I am fumbling in the thick of it.

I prefer to speak of it as an unwelcome visitor come and gone, all its vices gone with it. Lest it leap up from your screen and jump onto your shoulders. I prefer to talk of my uncertainty in past tense- when I have sat down and pondered and prayed and made some manner of sense of it.

I like to share the high bits. The strong songs. The joyful melodies. But truthfully, we’re all so inevitably inclined to melancholy at times. Or so I’m theorizing.

Now is one of those moments.

I am overtaken by everything I wish to be and do and become. I am profoundly irritated by the things I am shackled to doing in the meantime. It all feels futile. It all feels big. Emptily big and bigly empty. I’ve been second-guessing myself for quite a while now. I’ve been questioning. Who I am. Who I am perceived to be. The ocean of difference that lies insultingly between.

(We, human beings, should maybe just be. And not have to define ourselves. Or be defined. But I digress.)

I feel small and incompetent. I feel inconspicuous and weak. I feel inexperienced. I feel like I fall short of what even those who think the least of me see.

I feel that I need permission. Permission to fail. To fail so epically and openly and completely. To be. Just simply be. Not constantly haunted by what needs to be done, and when, and for whom, and for what purpose.

I feel that I need permission to zoom out. To call a spade a spade and declare from the top of my shaky doings that I am weak. That I am weak, and afraid of my calling. That I am afraid of what I feel so completely and honestly drawn to. That I am afraid of doing it absolutely no justice. Of dragging it through the mud and then eventually abandoning it. Muddy and tattered and torn. And gravely smaller than it could have been, in more deserving hands.

I need permission to wing it. I need permission to fear. I need permission to say, quite honestly, and quite boldly, that I do not know. That if there is anyone small, I am she. That if there is anyone hesitant, I am her. That if there is anyone whose every step quivers these days, Priscilla Takondwa is that person.

In a world where strength is the stuff that warrants praise and admiration, or at the very least, a pat on the back, I need permission to be weak. I need permission to be weak without cause. Not because I am going through something, or because I’ve been through enough. But because I am not strong. Maybe these are false, misconstrued narratives of self. But in this moment, they feel the most true. This shouldn’t be a bad thing (should it?)

I feel daunted. I feel like I am at my wits’ ellipsis… This ellipsis, it’s a long row of ellipsis that coils around me in the dead of the night, and dances fiendishly above me as I live out my days. I am in the dark, with a small dying lantern that only lights few steps ahead of me. I feel like on this path, I expect to find refuge, but a deep pit might await. I am afraid. (I am commanded not to be).

I feel weak. One shouldn’t feel this weak so early in her race. One shouldn’t feel this ‘failful’ when the scent of her beginning still lingers heavily in the air. I am never one to get caught up in illusions of grandeur. (I have never thought of grandeur as a thing to be attained at all).

Right now, I feel weak. Rightfully.

But there is hope. Promises remain. And into them, I let myself collapse- fully and completely. When I am weak, it is then that I am strong.

Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.

1 Corinthians 12:9

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Ins and Outs: Devotional #12 (Mini-Series Intro)

A few posts ago, I mentioned that I started exercising. When first I started going to the gym, I became attentive to what I ate. Not with a calorie-counting obsession, but with a mindfulness of what was the best for me and what would help me be productive in the gym.

I’m learning that going to the gym is not all it takes to be fit and healthy. It’s not only a matter of what I burn, but is a matter of what I bring in to my body as well. I think this is a brilliant illustration of the life we’re called to in Jesus. The bible says to throw off our new nature, but to also put on the whole armour of God. We are told that the old has passed and behold, the new has come. Jesus constantly told his disciples and the crowds that listened to him preach to both forsake AND to follow. 

22 throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. 23 Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. 24 Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy.

Ephesians 4:22-24

Faith really IS a two-way street.

In Matthew 6, Jesus says;

22 “Your eye is a lamp that provides light for your body. When your eye is good, your whole body is filled with light. 23 But when your eye is bad, your whole body is filled with darkness. And if the light you think you have is actually darkness, how deep that darkness is!

Today, I am mindful of the ins and outs of my faith. Of what I consume. Of what I let in. Over the next four weeks, I’m going to dedicate my focus to four thematic aspects I notice in this.

  1. Throw if Off: Getting rid of our old nature.
  2. Put It On: Putting on our new nature in Christ Jesus.
  3. Taking in: You are what you eat.
  4. Letting it Out: What goes in must come out.

I hope you’ll journey with me!

Have a blessed week.

Featured image from here.

 

 

you will die

No guilt in life, no fear in death
This is the power of Christ in me
From a life’s first cry to final breath
Jesus commands my destiny

No power of hell, no scheme of man
Could ever pluck me from His hand
Til He returns or calls me home
Here in the power of Christ I stand

~In Christ Alone

 

 

the book of miriam

Many weeks ago, I attended the funeral service of a young woman who I had very briefly known. She was a good friend to some close friends, and I accompanied them to pay their last respects. My experience at the funeral service, however, stayed with me for many days to come, as I mulled over the words the pastor shared during the memorial.

For one, his sermon was very straight talking, in some ways, too straight talking, I felt, especially for individuals mourning the sudden demise of a loved one. “Are you ready to die?” He asked the congregation. “Are you ready to die too soon? You will die.” He discussed theology that I had never considered before, stating that we remain in a sort of unconscious limbo until Christ’s return. We don’t go to heaven immediately. We ‘sleep’ till then. “When Christ returns and she is resurrected,” he said…

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Not-So-Devotional #11

I haven’t been on social media for 16 days and this weekend, I’ve been especially thankful for the fact. It has allowed me to sit quietly with the news of chaos, without the dissonance of well-meaning opinions and criticisms. It has allowed me to notice my reactions. To be silent and still. To make mistakes in my judgement and acknowledge them. To own my ignorance on matters that are far more complicated than I have the knowledge to comprehend. It has made me experience the feelings: the anger, the fear, the frustration.

This weekend has been a whole host of different things for different people.Some mourn. Some remain confused and apprehensive. Some, while grateful at the information they receive, are frustrated at the media (social and otherwise) and its apparent selectivity in crisis- in its choosiness over who is worth being mourned and who isn’t. Some remain angry over this frustration. Some remain withdrawn- still trying hard to make sense of other equally recent tragedies so that feasibly, they cannot yet begin to deal with the most recent catastrophe. Some are on the streets, occupied in protest for their own lives and those of their people. Mothers mourn. And yet more mothers, elsewhere, wonder why the deaths of their children were met with no impassioned reaction.

For me, this weekend has been a giant question mark, an exclamation point, and an ellipsis. I suppose everyone who has heard of this is doing their best to make meaning of the chaos that unfolded, as well as the reactions that have erupted as a result of it. It takes the shape of lengthy rants for some, and it takes the shape of silent retreat for others.

This weekend, I have made criticisms. I have passed judgement. I have gone through bouts of frustration, and I have lost it over the dispensableness of some lives as compared to others.

This weekend, I have been humbled. I have been slapped in the face with the reality that very real people are gone, and very real people are mourning.

I have been angry some more that the others are very real people, too.

I have seen a name scroll across the screen followed by the words “A student studying abroad in Paris for the semester,” and been reminded of my own status as a student abroad, and of the friends I have all over the globe.

I have been annoyed.

I have put it away from my mind to sit with all of it later.

I don’t know how I feel. I offer no criticisms any longer. I am still, and I am silent. I am aware of the myriad of places in turbulent circumstances- far above and beyond, and including Paris. I am saddened. I am observant. I am aware of what I know God’s word says about all of this. 

But above all, consistently, and prevailingly, for reasons I do not know, I am reminded of the following scripture, and this is all I have today by way of a devotional.

He heals the brokenhearted
    and bandages their wounds.

Psalm 147:3N

That is the God we serve.

Be strengthened. Trust in the LORD.

Have a good week.

Featured Image from here.