Saturday, April 4, 2020
Home Authors Posts by Miriam Telli

Miriam Telli

Marriage is not the goal

A couple of weeks ago I turned 25…which, let me tell you, was filled with many sleepless nights, worrying about the future, about how old I’m getting and which retirement home I should put my name on the waiting list for.

In all seriousness though, these days birthdays feel like another reminder of all the things I should’ve accomplished by now, but haven’t. When I was in high school, I thought that by 25 I would have my dream job, be a millionaire, own my own home and be blissfully married.

As of 2019, I have one of those things. I’m blissfully married! I can say with confidence that it’s one of the things in my life that I am most sure of. When I think about it, I’m filled with peace. I know that God brought my husband and me together – in a way that I least expected.

However, these days, so many of us millennials see marriage as another box to tick off – the way that I did in high school. It was just another milestone to reach, like buying a house or acing a promotion; and the older we get, the less time it feels like we have.

So here are three ways to make sure that you’re approaching this topic in a healthy way!

  • You’re whole already

If you’re a single millennial woman (or man!) I can almost guarantee that you have a Pinterest board for your wedding one day. While that’s not a bad thing, it can create a sense of urgency around marriage. I remember looking at gorgeously crafted photos of wedding ceremonies and wondering if that would ever be me. The world tells us that without a partner, we’re not whole and that in order to be complete, we need to be with somebody else. Firstly, that puts a whole lot of unnecessary pressure on a future partner to fill/fix you and secondly, it’s simply not true. Our lives are complimented by marriage, but not completed by it. Use the time you have as a single person to work on YOU, because that time is valuable and once you’re married, there’s a lot less of it!

  • It’ll happen when it happens

I’ve seen people settle countless times for somebody who wasn’t meant for them because they wanted to get married quickly. This happens when the ideal of marriage matters more than the reality. Waiting is difficult, but it is worth it. When that person does walk into your life, it will most likely be when you’re not looking for it! It will also come along with a sense of deep peace, in a way that makes things less complicated and not more so. When we compare our journey to other peoples, we miss out on the beauty of our own. Don’t rush it! Your person is out there, and in the meantime; focus on being the best you that you can be!

  • You are not alone

When all of your friends have a significant other, and you’re left out, it’s easy to feel alone. Trust me, I know! I was single for a good few years without a HINT of romance before I met my husband. It can be isolating and lead to thoughts like “I’m going to be alone forever” or “is there something wrong with me?”.

In the moments I felt alone, I decided that I wasn’t going to give those feeling the time of day. I wasn’t going to settle, to swipe right on Tinder or lower my standards because of my emotions. What I decided to do instead was remember that with God, I am never truly alone.

James 4:8 says “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.”

Our identity can never be found in another person because our identity is given to us by God and can only be found in Him. When you feel lonely, or lost, I encourage you to draw near to God. Talk to Him and tell Him how you are feeling…He loves you and understands what you’re going through more than you know. When Jesus was on earth, He experienced times of great loneliness but He found His peace and His purpose in God. We can do the same. If you haven’t found your peace yet or need someone to talk to about something you read in this post, connect with us using the button below.

God loves Africa

Looking at the state of our continent currently can inspire negativity – to put it lightly. The violence, the fear, the poverty – when we look at it from a human perspective, from our own perspectives, it can feel hopeless and overwhelming.

I’ve found that there are usually two ways that people react to this. The first is that we can get despondent, decide that there’s nothing we can do to change anything or to help, and we can stay in a state of anger and bitterness. The second is that we take the burden on our own shoulders, and we get filled with righteous anger which can sometimes be just as draining as giving up.

However, there is a third option – somewhere between the rock and the hard place – that we overlook when we’re thinking solving things from a human perspective. This isn’t only an option-  it’s an answer. The answer is a person – and His name is Jesus.

In these dark days, where our anger can get the better of us and the problems can seem insurmountable, we have hope.

When God looks at Africa, He does not see what we see. He does not see crime statistics and feel worn out, He does not look at homelessness and think that there is no answer. He does not look at rising unemployment and feel fear. He does not see the violence and feel overcome.

Don’t get me wrong, He is not ignoring the issues and He is not unaffected by our pain … but He knows that He has already won.

In John 16:33 (NIV) we read:

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

We live in a broken, imperfect, scary world. But our God is greater – and He is already victorious.

When God sees Africa, He sees potential. He sees a land full of people that He created – every individual, each with a purpose and a plan in mind. When God looks at Africa, He sees hope. He sees 1,216 billion hearts that He adores, that He cares about, that He has a plan for. He sees 1,216 billion people that He died for.

2000 years ago, when Jesus died on the cross, He did not only die for our heavenly salvation, but also for our earthly lives.

In John 10:10 (NLT), Jesus speaks and says:

“The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.”

We have a very real enemy, and its not Africa, or politicians or people. The devil would love us to give up on our beautiful continent, to say that it’s too late, too far gone to do anything. He would love us to give up and move away.

But that’s when we need to dig our heels in and say that enough is enough. Jesus has a plan and future for this continent, and when we put our hope, trust and future into His hands, we know that we will see abundant life.

By ourselves, there is only so much we can do. But with Jesus on our side, nothing is impossible. Whatever position you find yourself in today, however hopeless or afraid, take heart and know that He is with you – all you have to do is ask. Life is far too difficult to try and do alone, but with Jesus, we are victorious before we have even begun.

Are your friends holding you back?

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Rachel. Monica. Phoebe. Ross. Joey. Chandler.

The iconic characters from the 90s sitcom “F.R.I.E.N.D.S” have shaped the way many of us see life in our twenties and thirties. I’ve always wanted to have friends like that – ones that have your back no matter what.

Unfortunately, most of the time this isn’t the case. As much as we love our friends, they’re human beings who will mess up and hurt us.

But how can we tell the difference between a good friend who has made mistakes and a genuinely toxic friendship?

  1. Show me your friends, and I’ll show you your future

I’ve been a youth leader for close to a decade, and the above quote is one we repeat to our young people as often as possible. It’s important to understand that those we surround ourselves with have an immeasurable impact on our lives. Science says that we are the average of the five people closest to us. When trying to figure out whether or not a friendship is a healthy one, consider if you would like to be like your friends. Are they leading you towards abundant life or away from it?

  • The Take-Away

Spending quality time with friends is much like eating a good meal. It can either be absolutely delicious, fill you up with joy, and nourish your soul or it can leave you feeling uncomfortable and frustrated.

Some friendships can be like junk food – it tastes good in the moment but ends up with us feeling regret. When you walk away from spending time with your friends, how do you feel? Do you feel negative, pulled down and guilty or do you feel rejuvenated, encouraged and refreshed?

Spending time with those closest to us should be a joy, not a trial. That’s not to say that its always going to be sunshine and roses – tough times will always come – but the general feeling should be one of joy.

Friendship is a gift, they are God-created and God-intended. In Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 (NIV) we read that

“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work; if one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!”

This scripture shows us one of the reasons that we have friends – they help us up! But what if the person pushing you down in the first place is your “friend’?

That’s a cause to seriously re-examine your friendship. If somebody is purposefully hurting you, you may want to rethink having them in your life. While “cancelling friendships” is controversial – it is sometimes necessary under particular friendships. If a friend has made some mistakes, hurt you or themselves and is going through a difficult time – that is NOT a reason to “cancel” a friendship. We are all human and we all mess up from time to time – that’s why we show people the same grace that Jesus showed to us.

However, if a friend is having a continuous and on-going negative impact on your life, it might be the time to put in healthy distance and boundaries. Oftentimes, we put this off for fear of being alone. Nobody wants to be without friends or suffer from loneliness, and the good news is that you don’t have to!

When we accept Jesus as our Lord, we are never truly alone. God is with us wherever we go. In Deuteronomy 31:6 we read:

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; He will never leave your or forsake you.”

So remember, you are never alone and it is God’s desire that you have friendships that lift you up and lead you closer to Him!

Finish your 2019 strong

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Your alarm goes off, its 6:25am and you have a full week of work to look forward to. The sun hasn’t even risen yet, and the world outside of your duvet is nothing short of freezing. You hit snooze.

Sound familiar?

When the Southern Hemisphere hits mid-July, work seems longer, the weather gets more depressing and our zest for life seems non-existent. We began our year with so much hope…full of determination and what now seems like a naïve sense of expectancy.

It’s common to feel flat and demotivated around this time of year. Most of us do! Looking back at our list of New Years’ Resolutions, can make us feel depressed and slightly ashamed.

But, the year’s not over! We still have five months to go, and we can make the decision now to finish those five months strong.

How do we get out of the mid-winter slump?

  • Change up your routine

After six months, it’s easy to settle into a slow, grinding routine. Get up, fumble through our coffee, drive to work in a daze, come back and watch Netflix until we fall asleep.

Even if your routine looks better than this, changing it up and adding something new or different can still create positive change! For example, I have personally instilled a new rule of no screen-time an hour before bed. So, the TV goes off and my phone goes away until the morning. This means that I have digital downtime, which lets me languish in a warm shower, drink tea and read a book and focus my attention on my spouse. I wake up in the morning feeling a good deal more refreshed than I have in the past!

You could do the same thing or something totally different: like adding more vegetables to your plate, drinking 2L of water a day, or making sure you get out in nature at least twice a week. Whatever it is, adding positive change to our routines can shift us towards ending the year strong!

  • Renew your mind

“Watch your thoughts, they become words;

watch your words, they become actions;

watch your actions, they become habits;

watch your habits, they become character;

watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.”

This quote has been attributed to so many people that it was impossible to find out who originally said it…but whoever it was, the truth of it still stands!

A lot of the time, we think of our thoughts as something we don’t have much control over. And although that is true to a certain degree, we can put effort into controlling our own minds. If we wake up and we think “Today is going to be terrible, my co-worker is driving me nuts and I don’t get paid enough to do this job”, we are automatically starting off our day on the wrong foot.

But if we consciously decide to redirect our thinking, we’re setting ourselves up for a win. “Yes, my job is difficult at the moment, but I’m blessed to have one, it helps me provide for myself and my family, and gives me a sense of purpose everyday. Although it may not be a dream come true, it has value and I can still do it to the very best of my ability.”

The Bible puts it like this:

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will” Romans 12:2.

  • There is a plan and a purpose

The above quoted scripture is one of my favourites. Because it doesn’t just say “be transformed by the renewing of our mind” it ends with “Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – His good, pleasing and perfect will.”

Sometimes we can feel as if our lives have little or no purpose. What difference does it make if we think positively or negatively? We’re here, we live out our days, and then we’re gone. What for? What’s the point of renewing our minds?

Well, you’re not here for no reason. You weren’t an accident or a random selection. You were purposefully and specifically created for a purpose. You have an inherent and unique value that nobody else on earth has and that nobody ever will have again. There’s a job that only YOU can do. God created you with a plan, and He doesn’t want you to meander and wander blindly through your days. He wants you to wake up with a sense of vision, passion and purpose – knowing WHO you were created to be.

God has a plan and purpose for the rest of your year, He doesn’t want your days to blend into one another and look the same as they did last year. He wants good things for you – a life that will fulfill you and bring you a deep sense of joy.

And the best part is – you don’t have to do it alone! When you have Jesus on your side, you have a constant friend helping you along the way. Life is difficult enough as it is – doing it without God is like trying to run a race with your shoelaces tied. By inviting Jesus into your life, you’re handing over your burdens to someone far more capable to carry them and allowing your life to be filled with freedom, grace and peace – despite your circumstances.

The Meaning of Easter

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When you think of Easter, what comes to mind? If I’m being honest – the first thing I picture is the Duracell bunny – running a race to find Easter eggs, powered by the unstoppable Duracell batteries. The modern-day world turns a lot of special moments into saleable, marketable products. Easter eggs, Valentine’s Day cards, Christmas Presents…the list is endless.

If we pause for a moment, strip back all the stuff that the world throws at us, we can begin to consider what Easter is really about.

Spoiler alert: It has nothing to do with rabbits.

Have you ever done something that you regret? There are a lot of quotes floating around the internet about how we should never really regret something because it makes us who we are, and it teaches something etc etc.

But as nice as that sounds, sometimes the mistakes we make are so huge that we can’t sweep them under the rug and placate ourselves by saying that everything happens for a reason. Sometimes things happen because we make bad choices, and these choices turn into regret that can be very difficult to move on from.

I’ve had many such moments. I’ve said things and done things that I wish had never happened and if there’s ever a movie of my life made – you best believe I’m going to edit those parts out. We’ve all made terrible decisions, we’ve all hurt people that we care about, we ALL have things we regret. It’s a part of being human. In the end, we live in a world that is broken and filled to the brim with hurting and broken people.

And that’s why we celebrate Easter. It’s not just a public holiday that means stuffing your face with excessive amounts of chocolate (although, yes, that is a great bonus), it’s about healing. It’s about forgiveness.

Over 2000 years ago Jesus, the Son of God, chose to willingly lay down his life. He died to pay the price for every single one of our sins and bad choices, which means that we can live free of regret: not because of a cleverly-worded quote but because Jesus exchanged our regret for freedom, our pain for joy and our worry for peace.

Although many of us know the story, it’s a difficult concept to grasp. That Jesus, dying on the cross and rising again three days later, means that we can be forgiven. That we can be free by simply accepting and acknowledging Him. That it isn’t about a 10-step plan to happiness, mindfulness or self-care: it’s about Jesus. That there’s nothing we could have done to earn it, or to deserve it, but that our freedom and salvation is a gift freely offered.

Why? It sounds to good to be true.

Because He loves us – and not in the way that humans love. We love with conditions, from a place of pain, from a place of past hurts and difficulties. Our love is broken and can never replace the love of God. He loves us completely, and unconditionally: there are no strings attached. He loves us because of who He is – not because of who we are.

So, leading up to Easter, as we celebrate the death and the resurrection of Jesus, I hope that you are able to remember that in Christ, you can find freedom, forgiveness, acceptance and peace.

God doesn’t care about religion

The first time I ever heard the phrase “nominal Christianity” I must’ve been around 11 or 12 years old, sitting in the passenger seat of our battered SUV.

“She’s a Christian” I announced to my mom, referring to a friend I’d just spent the afternoon with.

My mom shook her head,  “I don’t think so…I think their family are just nominal Christians”.

The word “nominal” means “existing by name alone”…or in other words, by name but not by deeds. This was the first time I really realised that its possible to say you’re a Christian, but not really be one at all.

This is an easy trap to fall into…particularly for those of us who’ve been raised in a semi-Christian environment. Maybe you go to church on the “important” days, like Christmas or Easter or say a prayer at a wedding or a funeral. Its a faith that hovers around the edges of our lives, a part of ourselves that we’re distantly aware of but don’t give much time or thought to.

But that’s not how God works. He isn’t a “sometimes” God, the kind that is happy to have your attention only for a few sparse moments in the year. He’s an “all in” God, one that is completely dedicated to you, because He loves you SO much, and He wants you to be completely dedicated to Him.

It’s funny how we, as humans, can be such walking contradictions. We know our health is important, and we value it, and yet we think nothing of scarfing down a full pizza. We value monogamy and marriage, and yet time and time again affairs happen all over the world. We say we believe in Jesus, maybe we even worship at church on a Sunday, and yet…we seem to find the room to fit other beliefs and superstitions into our lives. We pursue multiple facets of spirituality… perhaps taking part in ancestral worship at the same time as claiming to believe in Jesus. Or maybe we feel as if Jesus could be God, but we aren’t 100% sure, so we make sure we’re on good terms with a few other faiths as well.

Being half-half about our faith, throwing in a little of this and some of that, might first appear the best way to have a well-rounded view of the world and religion – but it’s a trap that can rob us of experiencing the fullness of God.

However appealing, and simply easier, this way of living may seem, it’s ultimately not what is healthiest for our souls. You see, God is not interested in only knowing you nominally – by name alone. He wants to know all of you. He is uninterested in religion, for going to church for the sake of appearances…He wants to be in an intimate relationship with you. He doesn’t want to share you with any other beliefs, superstitions, or forms of spirituality.

Why? Why does He care so much? Ultimately, it’s because He loves us and, being God, He knows what is best for us. He understands that in order for our lives to thrive, for His blessing and favour to be upon us, we need to be all in. Our God isn’t a minor deity that can be experienced in small chunks, He is the One and Only God that has great and magnificent plans for your life.

This isn’t an easy message to swallow…it takes a bit of self-reflection and humility and even after writing it, I can pinpoint areas in my own life that I haven’t handed over entirely to God. But I know that in doing so, in surrendering totally to Him, that is where I will find true peace and blessing, and you will too.

Down but not Out

I believe that there are very few people, if any, that truly want to die. However, I think that the amount of people who don’t want to live is probably far more than we would like to think. They sound similar, wanting to die and not wanting to live, but in fact they’re different. Wanting to die would mean a desire for pain, for hurt, and ultimately – for death. Not wanting to live anymore is a desire to escape pain, hurt, and even death. It means wanting the hurt, confusion, and hardship of life to just STOP – to have peace, and to be able to find rest.

The lure of suicide can plague people who suffer from depression daily. Whether the depression is purely mental, or if it is related to an outward circumstance, the suffering that it brings cannot be underestimated. Living with depression daily can often lead someone to think that death would provide the peace and rest that they long for.

Maybe that someone is you – perhaps you’ve found yourself in a place so dire that you can see no way out. I’m here to tell you that there is hope! That today is not the day to give up, and that you don’t have to live like this forever, that you can have a life of freedom, peace, rest and JOY.

  1. Get Help

This might sound obvious – and maybe you’re already getting help, but the importance of this very first step cannot be overemphasized. Perhaps you’ve thought in the past that a counsellor, or psychiatrist, isn’t for you. What would your family think? Or your friends? Ultimately, your mental health is more important than the opinion of those around you – even family! In Africa, mental health has a HUGE stigma attached to it, and unfortunately, this stigma can stop people from getting the help that they need to live a life of freedom. If you’re unable to afford a private therapist, there are many free options available! Speak to your employers, your university or school, and see what they can do for you.

  • Talk to someone you trust

Nobody should ever have to face the difficulties of the world by themselves. Let somebody you love, and trust know that you’re struggling – don’t keep silent! It might sound cheesy, but the anecdote “a problem shared is a problem halved” is true! When we’re able to share our burdens, we’re released from them in a fundamental way because we are no longer alone. If there’s nobody in your life you feel as if you can speak to, finding a community who can be there for you and encourage you is vital. The Bible puts it like this:

“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfil the law of Christ” – Galatian 6:2 NIV

 The reason why the Bible emphasises the importance of church, is because God knows that we need each-other to face the trials that life throws at us! Becoming a part of a church community means that you will have people to do the journey of life with you, and that you will never be alone in whatever you’re facing.

  • It’s not over yet

I’ve always loved the saying “its not over until the fat lady sings”. Not only does it always bring a cheeky smile to my face, but I’ve never heard it used when a team or a person is on the winning side. It’s meant to encourage the underdogs – a reminder that you’re still in the game! Don’t give up on yourself! You might be facing what seems like an impossible mountain, but you WILL come out the other end, and able to say that you made it through! How can I be so sure? Well, one of my favourite scriptures says this:

“For I know the plans I have for you” declares the Lord, plans to prosper you, and not to harm you. Plans to give you a hope and future” – Jeremiah 29:11

God doesn’t say “maybe” at the end of this statement – it’s a promise! If you can hang on, see this storm through however long it takes, you can see God’s wonderful plans for your life come to pass. Don’t give up on yourself, because God has never once given up on you. You are not facing this alone, even if it feels like you are, because God is with you in every moment and if you ask Him for help, He is always willing and able to give it.

The Fatherless Generation

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When I was five years old, I walked confidently up to a boy called Lewis, who was sitting at the colouring table neatly filling in his picture. “I like you,” I stated, matter-of-fact, in a way that only five-year-olds can. “Do you like me?” He looked up at me and blinked, his brown eyes wide in horror. “No,” he said. No explanation necessary.

That was the first time in my short existence that I felt the sharp sting of rejection. 

Rejection: It’s a nasty word, isn’t it? We’ve all felt it at some point in our lives, and it’s not a feeling any of us would want to get used to. Each time it happens, it’s like the very first time all over again – embarrassing and painful.

But how do you deal with being rejected before you’ve even taken your first breath? How do you deal with being turned away by somebody you thought had to love you, by default?

The tricky thing about being from a fatherless household, is that you often find yourself missing what you’ve never had. A deep longing for someone that you may never have even met. Or maybe you did… but now they’re gone. Why? Was it something you did? 

In 2017, over 60% of births in South Africa did not reflect a father’s name on the birth certificate, and it is thought that in Zimbabwe, women have a 70% chance of being a single mother at some point in their lives. These statistics are frightening, and sometimes it’s easier to think about these things in terms of numbers, rather than in terms of the individual – and very real – lives that are being affected.

Trying to get over the fact that somebody who is supposed to love you by instinct, chose to leave, is near impossible. What would make somebody choose to give up the one person in the world that they’re supposed to love unconditionally?

  1. It’s not you – it’s me

Often, when we experience the kind of loss that fatherlessness brings, we internalize the pain. We start to blame ourselves, deciding that the reason they must have left is because something is wrong with us. We weren’t good enough. We were too much – too much to handle; too much work. However, there is nothing you could have done or said to cause somebody to leave or to stay – the choice is theirs entirely, not in any way influenced by you. Humans are messy, complicated and at our core, we can be incredibly selfish. By accepting that their choices don’t have anything to do with our value, we can release ourselves from blame, guilt, and insecurity. You are valuable, regardless of your father’s choice to leave.

  • Forgiveness:

    How to forgive someone

My mother often says that unforgiveness is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. It is hard to forgive somebody who doesn’t deserve it – harder still when their decisions have had dire consequences for our own lives. However, by forgiving  someone, you aren’t condoning what they did but setting yourself free.

It’s often easier to be angry and cold than it is to be vulnerable and open. Our anger can be like a protective coat, shielding us from harsh weather, but never getting us out of the cold. When we forgive, we give up that coat and face the sting of the cold, but then we’re free to move inside, to real warmth and peace. Once we’ve forgiven someone, we can let go, move on and heal. 

  • Our father who art in Heaven

Those are strange, old-fashioned words, but they were spoken by Jesus when He was teaching His disciples how to pray. Notice that he says “our father” and not “my father”. God might seem like a far-away and unreachable power, but actually He is your Heavenly Father. He cares about you tremendously, and unlike the fathers we have on earth, He will never leave you, abandon you, or let you down. The fathers we grew up with (or without) are human – full of imperfections. God is perfect, and He never makes mistakes. He created you on purpose, He loves you and He is more than able to fill the void that your earthly father may have left. By accepting Him into your heart, you can not only heal from your past pain, but you can look forward to a future with a father who is never absent, and who would like nothing more than to have a relationship with you.

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