Love covers a multitude of sins

white and pink floral freestanding letter decor
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How do you deal with toxicity in relationships, be it with family members, close relations, friends and acquaintances? I am reminded of 1 Peter 4: 8 which talks about loving one another above all and how love covers a multitude of sins. What does this mean when it comes to dealing with human relationships which have become toxic? By toxic I mean any individuals whose behaviours fall into any the following categories:

individuals whose words and actions have betrayed your trust in them,

who always disappoint you and still somehow expect you to stand with them,

or they manipulate you into thinking that everything that goes wrong in the relationship is your fault, and somehow they are never wrong,

and they never apologise…

Personally, in 2020 I feel like saying enough is enough and cancelling people who have toxic energy. But, as a Christian, I am struggling with this. I am aware that I need to forgive every offence and pray for those who continuously offend me. I am also aware that giving the other cheek when slapped is what Jesus would do, but how easy is this for us as humans to do?  We are fallible and find such conflicts in relationships very difficult to handle.

I came across a blog post earlier today titled “The love that listens” written by fellow bloggers @Fochwoman and it really helped me put this issue into perspective. You can also read the amazing post HERE. I was reminded of the verse Proverbs 19:11, quoting from the New Living Translation:

Sensible people control their temper; they earn respect by overlooking wrongs.

As much as I would want to “cancel” people who have already wronged me at the very beginning of the year, I also want to be a sensible human being and try to understand them and why they may be the way they are. By overlooking their faults, I choose to love in spite of their weaknesses, the same way I would also wish to be loved with all my flaws. This is by no means an easy choice, and yes that little voice screams that “they have always been doing this” and “they will not stop disrespecting and abusing you”; “you’re enabling them by forgiving them”, “yada yada yada”, but that is not the voice to listen to right now.

What makes it easier for me to make this choice right now is the knowledge that I don’t have to do it alone. The Holy Spirit will guide me in knowing the right words to respond when the time comes. And this makes me feel more secure and frees me because I do not have to carry bitterness or unforgiveness in my heart. Through prayer and constant reflection, I believe we can all get to a place where we think before we respond. We can be the light in the darkness and refuse to be the gasolene in the fire of toxicity by speaking back or refusing to pray for those who offend us.  I hope this encourages someone today.

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My group travel experience in Malaysia

Kuala Lumpur
A view of Kuala Lumpur from our first Air BnB

On my recent trip to Malaysia, I was very intrigued to observe the different kinds of personalities and behaviours displayed by the group of people that I travelled with.  This was my first time travelling with a group of people who are not necessarily family or close friends. Since it was an all-girls trip, I assumed all will be smooth-sailing. It did not take a day for me to realise how our different personalities were causing tension. For the purpose of this blog, I will describe the different instances in which I observed our differences creating tension:

The itinerary

  • Type-A likes to have a fixed itinerary, plans days before what they want to do and ensures that they visit every place on the well-googled list.
  • Type-B does not plan anything, wants to go with the flow and see where the day takes them.

I am a type-B traveller who is so not into the military-style planning and waking up at a certain time of the day to catch all the touristy sites suggested by Google. We had initially agreed to travel together within the city to minimise costs; which meant taking one taxi/cab or grab as they are known in Malaysia. Anyone who would opt to go their own way would end up paying the full fare whereas if four people went together, the fare would be split four-ways. This meant that there would be times when one is forced to take part in activities they were not interested in or choose to go their own way and pay the full fare. Within a few days, the group had split into smaller groups with similar interests. Speaking of similar interests; the group was also made of people with different religious beliefs. Malaysia has a lot of temples, mosques and churches. When it came to the itinerary, it was not surprising that some of the people wanted to visit a mosque, some wanted to go to the Buddhist temples. I felt that I had no reason to visit either of the two, so I opted to find something else to do. I also remember there being some old tombs to visit on the list. I opted for a relaxing sound-bath Read more about what it is here that actually helped me to relax and reflect on why I needed this break.

Some of us wanted to go restaurant-hopping and tasting all the food in Malaysia. This is fun if you’re into that kind of thing, but for me, it wasn’t something I was interested in because I don’t eat that much. I was fine tasting one meal at a time, but I draw the line when it comes to spending the whole day eating. Malaysia is known for its amazing food and I did enjoy sampling some of it. (PS: I will do a separate blog for the food).

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I tasted the famous roti canai with half-boiled eggs

Shared accommodation

We used the Air BnB because we all decided we preferred cosy apartments rather than the hotels or hostels. It also made sense to share the apartments instead of having separate ones (cost-effective). The result was that we had one apartment with several bedrooms, but sharing common areas (lounge, kitchen, bathrooms). With different personalities came different morning routines. Some people are weirdly happy and chipper in the morning and then there is me; terribly grumpy and generally unfriendly until I have at least had my first cup of coffee. I found myself having early morning conversations about what we were going to do that day before I even had a chance to open my eyes. Some days I would wake up to meetings that were too serious to be had in the morning. Lesson learned for next time, get your own room.

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One of our air BnB apartments in Kuala Lumpur

Socialising

I am a social person especially after I wake up properly and have my cup of coffee. One of my main aims on this trip was to meet new people and socialise. I love meeting and speaking to strangers, I believe that is how you make new friends. Now, with the different personalities in my travel group, it meant that some were interested in meeting new people and others were not. Picture a scenario where you all decide to have lunch at a local restaurant and another group of travellers approaches your table to greet the people at your table. You then find out that you’re the only one who is keen to speak to the new group and that your group prefers not to add new people to the group. How can you travel to a new place and only want to talk to the people you came with? This is when I realised I needed to separate myself from the group and go my own way.

Treatment of service staff

When you travel with a group of people, you will find that not everyone treats service staff the same. I was shocked to realise how some people can justify being rude to waiters, cab drivers and security personnel. I witnessed a number of arguments that could have been avoided with a little common courtesy.  At the back of my mind, I kept worrying about being guilty by association because I was part of the group. I am the kind of person who believes in treating people with respect, no matter who they are. I also realised that I was in a group of people of different age groups, different backgrounds and upbringing. As I was observing, I was also trying to understand what would drive certain behaviours. During the trip, I purchased the book “Surrounded by Idiots” by Thomas Erikson which is a great book if you want to understand the people around you and how to interact with them. I found myself reading this book every night after my observations so that I could make sense of what I was experiencing.Image result for surrounded by idiots

Conversations

I guess I had high expectations of the kind of conversations I wanted to have on this trip. I hate small talk and so I tend to seek out deeper and more meaningful conversations. Travelling as a group meant that I was with people who were either into that or not at all. I soon realised that some people in the group preferred not to converse at all and others were more interested in discussing the weather or some other random thing. I found myself seeking out strangers as had been my earlier plan because I wanted to learn new things and have memorable conversations. I will also write another blog about the interesting conversations and people I met during my trip.

Conclusion

In a nutshell, I really enjoyed my trip, but I doubt that I will be opting for group travel any time soon. Maybe, it just was not with the right group of people. It might have been a way for me to know what I prefer between being a solo-traveller or travelling in a group. I also learned a lot about what kind of traveller I am. What has been your experience with group travel? Please share below and maybe I can learn from your experiences too.

GG

Allowing God to guide my footsteps…literally

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I was about to call it a night and head to bed when the thought of my last conversation with a good friend popped in my head. I remembered how he told me about how God can literally guide someone’s footsteps, not just in an abstract sense. He explained how he has been experiencing his walk with God and how it sometimes feels as if God is giving actual directions like a GPS saying turn left, walk straight, now turn right. At the time of our conversation, I remember thinking WOW!!, I could so use that kind of experience right now. Not because I feel like I am lacking direction, but to experience that kind of intimate guidance from God at this point in my life would be so great.

I imagine God telling me what to do about that situation that has been bothering me for weeks. I could literally sit down and feel the advice pouring into me and I would know what to do. Can you imagine such a feeling? I imagine waking up in the morning without a single plan for my day and await God’s direction for the day. But we are so inundated with to-do-lists, weekly and monthly plans, annual, two-year and five-year plans that we often do not stop to ask God for His direction. I imagine a situation of complete surrender to God’s will and direction as a way of life. Would that not remove the weight of anxiety and fear that so often steals our joy?

Here are some verses from the Bible that illustrate God’s guidance:

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.

Psalms 119:105

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will guide you with My eye.

Psalms 32:8

I believe that prayer is our way of speaking to God, but I am often guilty of taking action right after praying before taking the time to listen to God’s voice. In my mind, I will be thinking I have prayed so everything is going to be fine, so I should get on with my day. But, I want to practice listening to God’s voice more and it is usually that still small voice that demands a quiet, reflective moment in order to hear it. We are too busy and too much in a hurry that we often miss it. Our minds are also filled with so many distractions that it is difficult to focus on what matters.

I’ll just end with a word of thanks to my friend for the insightful conversation. I had no idea that your own experience could resonate with me so much that I want the same for myself. And that is truly how we nurture one another as brothers and sisters in Christ.

Until next time…

GG

We are more similar than you think…

Since I came to Hong Kong, I usually found myself forming friendships or associations more with international people more than the local Chinese people. The reason behind this is mainly due to the language barrier, I do not speak a word of Cantonese and my attempt to learn Mandarin did not go very far.  I did try though and I wrote about it a while ago in this POST.

As a result, I do feel more at home with English-speakers. Usually, when we meet as friends or acquaintances in the places we work or socialise, we always find the common topics of discussion to be centred around our experiences of being here. It is not uncommon to hear complaints about how non-locals feel they are being treated by the locals or how this and that is difficult or how it would be different in other places. I guess that is the story of anyone living in a foreign land. 

I found myself in the least expected company the other day and the experience brought home this thought about how shared experiences can bring people together. There is a saying misery loves company which suggests that somehow people who are going through the same circumstance may find solace in their shared experience. So there I was, a female from Zimbabwe, seated with a guy whose heritage is mixed Indian and Russian (first time to ever meet someone with such an interesting heritage, massive conversation starter and he uses it to his advantage) and the other, more loud and confident, born and raised in Manila, Philippines. As the three of us sat at a table having dinner we suddenly found it funny that here we were, in Hong Kong, all three of us coming from completely different backgrounds, but we were speaking the same language, in the sense of having experienced some of the same things during our stay here. What are the chances that we would find similarities in each other’s stories? This blew my mind and immediately, I knew these two men would become my friends. One thing I totally forgot to do was to take a selfie, but next time I see them, I will remember to take one so I can share with you guys. 

We talked about, among other things, our different experiences of racism and discrimination, each of us having a story to share. I could write a book on this topic alone really. We also talked about our home countries and the concept of “home”. This is important to me because, at that moment, I realised that a lot of young adults are beginning to lose this concept of “home” as circumstances force them to leave the countries of their birth to seek greener pastures. However, each of us was so sure that there will be a day when we will all return back to our “home”. 

At that moment, we were so different yet so much alike. 

We also had a chance to relearn what we thought we knew about the other (black African, mixed Indian-Russian and South East-Asian) and filling in the blanks. This was such a beautiful learning moment and it made me realise that we are all HUMAN, period. Our differences make us who we are, but we can all find a place to meet as humans and find that we are not as different as the world makes us out to be. Stereotypes and prejudices are the things that separate people. 

At the end of the day…

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A cup of tea and the Holy Spirit

Enjoying a cup of honey rose tea

I have been a Christian for many years and I am still amazed by how much more there is to learn and know about God’s kingdom. I have been reading a book by Dave Roberson titled The Walk of the Spirit, The Walk of Power: The Vital Role of Praying in Tongues and I must tell you, this book has opened up a whole new realm of understanding about my relationship with the Holy Spirit.

I have always thought of the Holy Spirit as that quiet voice that tells me what is the right thing to do or that nudge that I get to wake up and pray. I have also experienced the Holy Spirit as a calming presence which usually manifests in tears falling down my cheeks for some reason when I am praying. However, the tears also bring an amazing sense of peace that embraces me ever so dearly, like a close friend. I also know that when I invite the Holy Spirit, He is always there.

While reading Roberson’s book, however, I am getting to learn of the Holy Spirit as a powerful mover and shaker, the force that can shake things around in the spirit realm, the supernatural power that can mean the difference between success and failure, breakthrough or downfall. I am also learning about the manifestation of the Holy Spirit in the spiritual gift of tongues and the role that praying in tongues plays in a believer’s life. One thing that has stuck with me is the fact that praying in tongues allows the Holy Spirit to intercede on my behalf, and that it edifies my soul. That last bit is the one that made me go to get a cup of tea and take time to ponder what this all means.

edify

Play ed·i·fy

verb

To edify is defined as to instruct someone in a way that enlightens them or uplifts them morally, spiritually or intellectually.

This is so profound for me because I have seen the way my spirit can be lifted, my mood can be shifted and my hope can be renewed just by the power of prayer and the presence of the Holy Spirit. It also means the Holy Spirit can enlighten me by showing me things that I would not have seen otherwise or teach me new things. This makes me so glad to know that not only do I get a spiritual companion, I also get to improve myself and become a better version of myself just by spending more time communing with the Holy Spirit.

I am going through a weird phase in my life where it seems to be all about learning and unlearning. I am becoming someone else and I feel like the Lord is redirecting me. It has not been easy, I am facing a lot of challenges, but hey, on the days when I choose to worship through the chaos, I see things moving on their own in my life. It is amazing and God is amazing.

What has been your experience with the Holy Spirit?

Boarding schools in crisis…my personal story

I had a conversation with my mother today that just brought back the motivation I had lost in the past couple of weeks. She brought back memories of a decision she once made about my education. Back in 2001 she decided, due to financial constraints to remove me from the boarding school where I had been since 1998. After I passed my O’Levels, I wanted to go further with A’ Level, but my single mother of four children sat me down to share how much she was struggling with the decision to remove me from boarding school, but the truth was that she just could not afford it anymore. For me, this was not a complicated decision at all, I told her that I can attend school anywhere and I will still do well, even the local school in our small town.  I remember her being so worried about that at the time. At the tender age of 16, I already knew that I was dedicated enough to study in any environment and make it.

I attended my A’ Levels at Mvurwi High school in Zimbabwe, which was pioneering A’ Levels that year. They had no library, no books, and a few experienced teachers to teach Advanced Level. This was the school my mother could afford because it was close to home and there would be no need for transport costs or monthly groceries and pocket money as I would have needed in boarding school. I went to this school and still passed with flying colours. My mother worried about what people would say and whether the quality of education would still be good enough for me to have a future. Our stream was the first A’ Level stream in 2001 and I am happy to say that we had good results, even with no library and books. I remember we used to have one book for History and another for Literature that we shared amongst ourselves. We used to share notes that our teachers were able to source from other schools. Our best student had 14 points and I got 13 points. This meant that we had more than enough points to get into the university.

Pupils suspended after bush sex
My local school Mvurwi High

 Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin…Zechariah 4:10

I went on from that local school to be awarded the Zimbabwean Presidential Scholarship to study in South Africa for my Bachelors’ degree in Social Work. Later, I went on to get scholarships to study in Ireland and Hong Kong. I have become a beacon of hope in my community, to motivate other students and parents that they can dream big and they can succeed no matter the circumstances. Hearing my mother tell me that she was at a meeting where people in our local town discussed me as an example to advise other parents to not be afraid to remove their kids from boarding schools and allow them to attend local schools blew my mind (our town is that small, everyone knows what the other is up to, so when someone’s kids graduate or go overseas, everyone knows).

Getting this feedback is the essence of my educational experience and I honestly believe that stories and examples like these are the foundations that build legacies (there is an idea forming here).

At the moment, boarding schools in Zimbabwe are struggling to provide water and basic needs for students and a lot of parents are paying huge amounts of school fees, yet their children are going without basic needs.

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Image from iwpr.net

The economic situation in the country is dire and parents are facing the same tough decision that my mother faced years ago, to remove their children from prestigious boarding schools to local schools.

I realized today that I might think and feel that I am invisible, but the world sees me. I am a light in someone else’s life and that light can be used to fuel a young person’s dreams. I remembered 16-year-old me telling my mother not to worry, that I did not mind leaving boarding school. I can imagine the relief she felt as a parent at the time and also after watching me doing well in spite of it all. Hard work, dedication and a sense of purpose will always be rewarded. I have seen this in my lifetime and it shall forever be true.  To God be all the glory and honour!

I hope this encourages someone.

Confronting my ageism…

ageism
/ˈeɪdʒɪz(ə)m/
noun
  1. stereotyping, prejudice or discrimination on the grounds of a person’s age. “ageism in recruitment is an increasing problem”

I am going to start with a few questions for you.

  • Is it always important for you to only hang out with people your own age?
  • Do you only consider dating in a certain age range and never step out of that range?
  • Do you only accept the views of people in your own age range and view others on the outside of that range to be “uninformed” about your experiences?

If you have answered yes to one or both of these questions, you might be an ageist. Well, that might be a strong statement, so let me rephrase. You might have practiced ageism knowingly or unknowingly.  I recently had to admit that about myself and it was only after taking some time to reflect on it and research on what ageism is all about that I realised just how limiting this mindset can be. The extreme forms of ageism can lead to people being overlooked for job opportunities or being discriminated against in society. However, I am going to describe my own experience with ageism, from how I have come to understand it.

The first time I came face to face with my own prejudice related to age was a little while back when I went on the GPS Gateway Camp . This was the first time I admitted to having stereotyped people according to their age and I felt really ashamed to have done this. The funny thing is as I was busy making stereotypes about people based on their age, it did not occur to me that I was also making those same stereotypes about myself (judging myself as old).

Here is how it happened:

So, we arrived at the camp on the first day and it was a Monday afternoon. I registered as an individual camper which meant that I would be part of a team of people who will be meeting each other for the very first time, unlike those who registered as a group. So, you know how it goes when you have to make introductions… The conversation went like this:

“Hey, how are you? My name is ….and I am from (insert country of origin),  how old are you?”

I was fine answering the first part of the question, but the last part I found myself feeling oddly uncomfortable. For some reason, I felt uneasy answering the question about my age. The reason being that the people in my team looked really young. I immediately thought, OMG, I am in the wrong team. I am in my early 30s and most of the people in the camp looked like they were teenagers. My reaction was so immediate and sort of subconscious. I  had judged them based on their appearance and made the conclusion that they were young and therefore, I was in the wrong group/the wrong camp.

In hindsight, I am happy to know how wrong I was to have made that judgement because even though the people in my team were much younger, it was the right group for me. Their energy levels and stories made me reflect back on my days as a young adult and also gave me an opportunity to feel like an older sister. 

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These days I am learning to work on my prejudices. I am willing to befriend people outside of my age range and I honestly think that has widened my network a whole lot. I am finding that younger or older people also have a lot they can show and teach me. Even people ten years younger or older than me.  I also realised the importance of having a teachable spirit and not judging a book by its cover.  Funny story…none of the people in my team believed me when I told them my real age, so it goes to show that age is really just a number.

Have you confronted your ageism and in what instances? Drop me a message below, you know that I always love to hear from you.