What a Simple Conversation with a School Girl Taught Me About Empathy

“Does it hurt your feelings?” It was a simple question, and yet these five words taught me the gravity of choosing empathy, always.

Let me begin by saying that I have never, and will never, experience the inexcusable oppression that people of colour all around the world have experienced for years.

Sharing this story below is in no way an attempt to try and compare an experience I have had with the prejudice against all people of colour that has happened, and is sadly still happening today.

Instead, I want to highlight how this simple, yet profound conversation I had with a school girl has shaped my view on empathy and the significance of showing love to everybody at all times, not just some people when we feel like it.

As we waited for our safari guide to return to our car, my sister and I were approached by a group of about 15 young school children in Tanzania, Africa.

They pointed at us, calling out ‘mzungu’ with huge smiling faces and waved, as they walked over to where we were standing.

We waved at them, smiling back – completely aware that the term ‘mzungu’ is translated in English to ‘white man’.

The conversation began with their school excursion for the day, before one girl among the group suddenly asked us, “do white people like it when we call them mzungus?”

I looked at her smiling and said, “to be honest, no – not really.”

She asked further, “Why is that? Does it hurt your feelings?”

My sister and I looked at each other, incredibly impressed by her interest in this subject. “It doesn’t make us feel good, that’s for sure!” we replied.

Her next response was so simple, yet so profound.

The young school girl looked around at her friends and said, “Well if it hurts your feelings, I don’t know why we call you that then.”

She paused and looked back at us, “It’s mean! I’m not going to call white people mzungus anymore.”

Wow, right. Honestly, I didn’t realise the depth of her words until right now.

That was it. She didn’t need any further explanation from us. The fact that this single word was hurting our feelings was enough for her to decide that she needed to do something about it.

At the core of what she was saying, this young twelve-year-old had a complete understanding of what it means to show empathy.

And I don’t know about you, but right now, amidst the global conversations that are taking place – I think there is an incredibly powerful lesson in that.

As I said, in no way am I trying to compare this conversation I had to what is happening in our world right now.

But white friends – I want you to seriously take on board the lesson that I learnt from this conversation.

We need to acknowledge that there is a problem.

We need to listen to those who have experienced, or are experiencing, oppression.

We need to learn from one another in order to further our understanding.

We need to actively empathise with those who are hurting.

As a Christian, I strive to live as a reflection of Jesus and that means choosing empathy, always.

Here are just a small handful of my favourite verses regarding this empathetic nature we need to adopt daily:

  • Romans 12:15 (ESV) says, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.”
  • 1 Corinthians 12 refers to the body of Christ having many parts. Specifically, verse 26 says, “if one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it, and if one part is honoured, all the parts are glad” (NLT).
  • And of course, the heart of Jesus’ ministry encapsulated within John 13:34 (ESV): “to love one another, just as I have loved you.”

The conversation that is taking place right now regarding Black Lives Matter is incredibly important. However, the injustice and racism that people of colour have experienced is something that has unfortunately been happening for many years.

I can honestly tell you that I have not taken this issue of race as seriously as this before.

I have always known that racism occurs, not only in America, but here in my own backyard too. But to what extent exactly – I have not taken the responsibility on myself to listen and learn more about.

And for that, I want to apologise. I am listening and I am learning.

In today’s day and age, with the online world, every person with a platform has a voice that can share any message they wish, to an audience ranging from one to one million and beyond.

As Will Smith succinctly put it in his Instagram post, “Racism hasn’t gotten worse. It’s just being filmed”.

So I want to encourage you, simply posting on social media does not permit us to adopt the mentality that it will be okay to address this, share about it and simply move on once the hashtags stop trending.

Similarly, [and to be honest, more importantly], these conversations need to continue happening in our homes, workplaces, friendship circles and churches – just as much as they are occurring online right now.

As a young white woman, I want to acknowledge the privilege that I have [and have always had] purely because of the colour of my skin.

And to my white friends reading this, I also want to stress that white privilege is not something we should feel guilty or be ashamed about.

We did not choose the colour of our skin and the subsequent privileges that are associated inherently with that.

But we CAN choose to acknowledge white privilege for what it is.

We CAN choose to listen to those who have suffered injustices time and time again.

We CAN choose to stand up for our black brothers and sisters in Christ.

We CAN choose to actively and intentionally fight against racism, discrimination and injustice.

It has happened in the past, and as much as I wish we could, we unfortunately can’t change that.

But it is also happening right now, all around us.

And right now? We have an incredibly powerful opportunity to write the future.

We CAN choose empathy. We HAVE to choose empathy.

It won’t be the solution, but it is absolutely a part of it.

Keep smiling. x

7 Things I've Learnt About Love

7 Things I’ve Learnt About Love (and What It’s Not)

Valentine’s Day; you either love it or you hate it. Generally speaking, if you’re in a relationship you love it and the latter relates to you more if you’re single.

I mean, it makes sense. All these loved up couples send each other sappy gifts and all of a sudden, your singleness feels like it’s in the spotlight.

While I have been with my boyfriend for the last three years, February 14 always makes me feel a bit weird.

Like you secretly want them to buy you flowers, but you know you’ll kill them within twenty-four hours. And you don’t want to tell them you want flowers because you want them to give you flowers on their own accord, rather than on a specific day of the year.

But as the years go on, the sappy, loved-up stuff becomes just that. Stuff.

Why? Because love shouldn’t be celebrated one day per year. I’m all about going out on a random Tuesday night to the movies or Thursday morning breakfast when you both have the day off work.

This isn’t a hate-on-Valentine’s-Day post at all. Don’t get me wrong, I think love is definitely something worth celebrating. However, the fact that you can buy a box of chocolates or a bunch of flowers any other day of the year for HALF the price makes me wonder who is benefiting from this day of celebration.

As the ads started coming out with Valentine’s Day specials and the shops were filled with “the perfect gifts”, I began reflecting on what I have learnt about love over the years. Lessons that I have learnt through past and present relationships. Not just the dating kind, but all forms – friends, family, work colleagues and God.

1. surround yourself with people who cheer for you.

Love is: having a network of people who support you. And when you find those people, don’t let them go easily. Your circle needs to encourage you, but most importantly, they need to clap for you even when you aren’t looking.

Those people genuinely care for you and they are excited about what lights you up. They aren’t threatened by your success. Instead, they want to celebrate both the small and big things with you.

Love isn’t: holding onto toxic relationships because you’re scared to lose them. Anyone who makes you feel unnecessarily bad doesn’t deserve your attention. If you aren’t happy when you are with them, then walk away.

2. actions and words should reflect one another.

Love is: ensuring that you are authentic and genuine about what you say and do. It’s telling them that you love them and showing it. It’s making someone else feel special and loved.

Love isn’t: saying one thing and doing another. Likewise, you can’t be doing one thing and then saying something completely different. In any sort of relationship, this kind of love is confusing and essentially, harmful – generally to one person.

3. surprises are fun, unless it involves feelings.

Love is: communicating about everything, even when it hurts. Relationship breakups are never fun. Whether it’s a friend you have had since high-school or a partner that you’ve been dating for years; there are almost always tears. And there is almost always one person that hurts more than the other.

This is usually because the communication breaks and one person falls out of love with the other. A breakup of this kind is difficult, because only half the relationship has fractured. One friend was still invested, while the other stopped trying. One partner was still madly in love, while the other had lost feelings altogether.

Love isn’t: waiting until the other person starts feeling the same way as you. It’s not about hiding your feelings and surprising them with a bombshell before you walk away. Love isn’t passive, it doesn’t hope that things will go away and fix themselves. Instead, love actively seeks opportunity to be open and honest.

4. know when to shut up and listen.

Love is: making sure you are on the same page at all times. Communicating honestly is crucial. Knowing that you can sit down and be patient with one another as you talk things out is the best way to solving a problem. Know when to shut up and listen, but also know when you need to stand up for yourself and what you believe in.

Love isn’t: constantly seeking reassurance from your friends, family or partner about whether they care about you. You deserve something that you don’t have to question. Sometimes, their indecision is a decision in itself.  While all relationships experience roller coasters, it shouldn’t be a constant one. There will be ups and downs, but know when the lows are outweighing the highs.

5. acknowledge that it takes two to tango.

Love is: feeling like the relationship is effortless – not in the sense that the effort is less, but because there is an equal tug of the rope from both ends that it feels mutual. You shouldn’t feel like you are doing all the work, and neither should they.

Love isn’t: sitting back and not trying, or always waiting for them. It’s about acknowledging that it takes two to make a relationship work – in whatever form it may be. If you are the only one trying, then seriously consider whether you want to hold on or walk away.

6. apologise, but only for the right things.

Love is: recognising when you are in the wrong. It’s appreciating when you have jumped the gun, assumed something incorrectly or said something way out of line. Love is knowing how powerful an apology is and not being scared to say sorry when necessary.

Love isn’t: apologising for what makes you you. A person who loves you shouldn’t make you change yourself just to please them. Your happiness should not be wholly dependent on someone else. Rather, your worth and value should be firmly rooted in your identity with God.

7. knowing when it’s time to move on.

Love is: recognising that the people we encounter and connect with can be one of two things: a message in a bottle or an anchor. They either come into your life merely to teach you a lesson, then just as quickly, they drift, moving on to be picked up by someone else. Or they support, love and encourage you, firmly holding you when your seas get rough.

Love isn’t: convincing someone to stay. Nor is it convincing yourself that you should. If your gut is telling you that you need to let go, then seriously consider listening to it. Your heart can confuse you sometimes, when you let emotional thinking outweigh the rational.

Relationships are important parts of life. Honestly, I truly believe it’s the reason we were placed on this Earth. Our purpose is to love one another just like Jesus loved us.

So today, and every day, I want you to remember that while we throw around the word ‘love’ like there’s no tomorrow, Jesus’ love is far from cliche.

“I love chocolate!”

“I absolutely love your haircut!”

“I love my family!”

And then…Jesus loves us.

There’s one small word that is used in all of the above and yet the capacity for His love is so much greater than we could ever imagine.

So as you celebrate Valentine’s Day either surrounded by your friends, family or your partner, don’t forget the agape love that Jesus has for us – because that beats a dozen roses any day!

Keep smiling. x

18 Life Lessons from 2018

Dear 2018, Thank You for These 18 Life Lessons

This year has been filled with ups and downs. From multiple visits to the hospital and countless blood tests, to building my own business and graduating from university – 2018 has taught me a lot along the way.

As each year comes to an end, I love to reflect on the lessons that I have learnt. So here are 18 things that 2018 has taught me.

1. Her beauty doesn’t lessen mine.

I think one of the hardest, yet most beautiful things we can do these days is genuinely fall in love with ourselves. From our personality to our outward appearance, there’s a lot of folding that happens.

We bend into awkward shapes to fit into the mould that society tells us we need to match. But that gets uncomfortable and I can tell you now, I don’t really want to be flexible either. When we recognise that appreciating someone else’s beauty doesn’t lessen our own, everything changes.

2. God is working in the background.

I’m not the most patient person in the world. I tend to get frustrated quite easily and particularly when things aren’t going the way I had planned. Unanswered prayers can feel a lot like that, but while it may seem like He isn’t listening, trust me – He is always working in the background.

3. Embrace change.

You have no idea where you’re going to be this time next year. I can’t believe how much can change in the period of twelve months, let alone twelve weeks. It’s easy to become comfortable and complacent with where we are in life. So when something comes to shake things up a bit or our plans change, it’s all of a sudden inconvenient and downright scary. Getting uncomfortable sometimes is a good thing though. Embrace the change.

4. It’s your perseverance through the struggle that makes you realise how much you want it.

It’s easy to give up when things are getting difficult, but it’s the struggle that you endure during the climb that makes you appreciate the view at the top. We tend to compare our valleys to other people’s peaks, but please don’t forget that they had to do the climbing, too. If you’re giving up easy, then perhaps you didn’t want that end thing (ie. the six-pack, the new job, the dream client, the house, the relationship) as much as you thought you did.

5. find your passion and Run with it.

This year I realised how important your passions are. Passion can be caused by an intense anger about a certain cause or it could be fuelled by a love for something, someone or some place. Once you find what your passionate about, run with that. As soon as you believe in the power you have to make a difference with that fire you’ve ignited in your belly, don’t ever let anyone tell you it’s silly.

6. Find your circle.

Community is everything. Through both my blog and my marketing business, I have found so many beautiful people who support my dreams. You need to find your cheerleaders. The types of people who tell you like it is and encourage you on your journey. Those people who cheer you on and clap for you. But here’s the most important part: they need to clap for you even when you’re not looking.

7. Be kind, anyway.

Not everyone is going to like you and not everyone will be nice to you. The sooner you learn to accept that there are always going to be people like that, the easier it becomes to not care about what they say or think of you.

What I’ve learnt is that you never know what is causing someone to act the way they are. You never know what they are going through. While it’s always much more natural to retaliate, I am trying my best to choose to be kind, anyway.

8. It’s a bad day, not a bad life.

Everything is temporary. Don’t think about that too much (or do), because it’s a seriously insane thought. But it’s also incredibly comforting at the same time – it really depends on the season you are experiencing right now.

You might have a really crappy day or week, ha – it could even be a few months or years. But hold on to the hope that all this pain, sadness and emptiness will one day be filled with eternal life with Him.

9. Our perspective is limited.

Picture yourself peering out of the window of a plane after take off. You can see the little cars on the little road beneath you. There is a car at a set of lights waiting to turn right. They can’t see what lies beyond the corner, but you can.

Our perspective is the same. As much as we would like to think we know it all, we don’t even scratch the surface! We see where we have been and where we are now. But the amazing thing about God is that He sees that AND where we are headed.

10. Someone needs to hear your story.

There is someone who is about to enter into the very season you’ve just come out from. This year, I had the opportunity to share my testimony in regards to a health journey that I experienced. I was hesitant in sharing all of the details, but in hindsight I am so glad I did.

Not only did I get messages from people after they watched it online, but people came up to me straight after I spoke and told me how much they could resonate with it. The takeaway: share your story. Someone needs to hear it.

11. you’re not special, you’re chosen.

There’s a reason why Jesus was born in a manger in a smelly, dirty stable filled with animals. He could have easily been born into a wealthy family, living in an amazing place. But Mary and Joseph weren’t special, they were just chosen by God to do His work.

Same with the disciples. Jesus picked a bunch of unsophisticated and uneducated fisherman. He could have chosen influential and powerful people instead. So why didn’t He? To show that everyday, common people can be used to further His kingdom. You don’t have to be anything the world calls ‘special’, ‘influential’, ‘powerful’ or ‘wealthy’ – you are chosen.

12. Don’t become complacent with what you know.

The church is really good at doing this. You will have people who sit in the pews at church and believe they know everything. But you know what? You need to be willing to learn more, always.

Because it’s the know-it-all’s who cause others to sit in a small group or church service and feel obliged to preface their questions with, “this is probably stupid, but…”

We need to acknowledge different opinions and ideas. We need to appreciate people’s open-mindedness, receptiveness and willingness to learn – regardless of whether they have been in a church for 5 minutes or 5 years.

13. Don’t compare your timeline to others.

It’s incredibly easy to see how not only our friends, but strangers too, are doing life. It’s even easier to then compare ourselves to these people and feel like we haven’t accomplished as much as them.

You can have five gap years after graduating high school. You don’t have to be married by 25. Don’t feel pressured to have kids and start a family if that’s not what you want. Don’t allow the Internet, society and other people rush you. Do life at your own pace. There’s no correct timeline.

14. You are right where you need to be.

God can use you right where you are. You may not see how He is going to use you in your current situation, but trust me – there’s a reason you are going through this. You are going to come out stronger in both your personal and spiritual life.

“He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.” – 2 Corinthians 1:4.

If you saw the size of the blessings that are coming your way, you would understand the magnitude of the battles you are fighting now.

15. Make sure you celebrate other people’s wins, too.

Encouraging, supporting and cheering others on does not diminish or lessen your achievements or success. I recognised this even more this year. I tend to play the comparison game hard. I look at how others are serving Jesus, how amazing their writing is or their business wins and achievements and automatically feel a little less happy with myself.

But being confident isn’t about looking at others and thinking, ‘I’m better than them!’ It’s all about, ‘I’m doing really well  and so are they!’

16. Tell your grandma you love her, often.

I can’t even tell you how important this is. This year, I have been more intentional with telling my family how much I love them. Each time I say goodbye to my grandmothers and my other family members, I give them a big squeeze and tell them I love them.

If they don’t say it back, I tell them to. Why? Not because I’m forcing them to love me (well, kinda haha), but I’m trying to flip the notion that it’s awkward. Because while we have no hesitation in saying how much we loved that movie we saw last week or how much we love seeing everyone, we rarely tell one another, ‘I love you’.

17. Start your prayers with a thankful heart.

I’ll be real with you. My prayer life isn’t perfect, but it’s a heck of a lot better than it used to be. I used to pray pretty inconsistently. Usually, it was when I needed God. What I have realised now is that it was when I felt like I needed God. Because the truth is, you always need Him.

Now, I make a conscious effort to begin my prayers with a thankful heart. No ‘asking’ for things until I have genuinely had a conversation with Him about how grateful I am for what He has done in my life. Of course, this doesn’t happen all the time, but it’s a work in progress.

18. Never go to bed angry.

My boyfriend and I have been dating for almost three years. In that time, we have had our fair share of arguments. They’re never really that big and after a civil conversation (after I give him the silent treatment, of course), it’s solved.

But one thing that Bryson has taught me is to never go to bed angry with someone. If there is an unresolved problem, solve it. Talk to people. We tend to be quite happy with talking to everyone and anyone about our problems, but as soon as it comes to the person it’s about, no thanks!

This year has taught me so many valuable lessons about life. Not only personally and emotionally, but spiritually as well.

I have labelled Chapter 2018 with the word EXPECTANT and I am praying that Chapter 2019 will be all about GROWTH. What are your labels?

Keep smiling. x

When God Says No: Maybe Closed Doors Aren't So Bad

When God Says No: Maybe Closed Doors Aren’t So Bad

You’ve heard it all before: when one door closes, another opens. But it’s often hard to be optimistic about the prospects of a new door opening when you have just had one slam shut in your face.

Trust me, I have been there before (multiple times) and it’s not fun.

Perhaps you have lost a friend that you thought you’d have forever. Or maybe you have been knocked back by various job interviews and your bank account is going anywhere but up.

What about when your partner tells you they no longer love you and suddenly, the relationship ends right before your eyes. Or when you begin to see things moving ahead, then out of nowhere you stall – or worse, find yourself back at square one.

These examples aren’t uncommon and to be honest, they are just my experiences. But you know what? They won’t be the only closed doors I will have to deal with.

A major lesson I have learnt from relationships ending or missed opportunities is the reason why we struggle with the end result. We flip the coin hoping for heads but fail to remember that there is an equal chance of tails.

When we recognise and appreciate that not everything is going to turn out the way we planned or hoped, we can prepare ourselves mentally and emotionally (to an extent) for the worst case scenario.

That’s a hard thing to do. I get it. But it’s also really important that we don’t get so caught up in our own little world and become so confident in ourselves and others, that we forget that people mess up.

And it’s because of this that nothing is certain.

Alexander Graham Bell famously said, “When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us.”

He wasn’t wrong.

What if I told you that you might be missing opportunities that have been specifically designed for you because you’re not walking away from the closed doors.

That’s a scary thought. The fact that there could be something better. It’s kinda comforting, but simultaneously a bit of a joke, right? Because how could there possibly be something better in store for you than what just got taken away from you?

Well, let me break it down. (Because each of those closed door experiences led me to bigger and better opportunities, and you better believe God’s got the same plan for you!)

3 reasons why closed doors aren’t always a bad thing

1. his timing is better than ours

Even though it might feel like it, closed doors aren’t always a “no” from God. You’ll be surprised at how many times an opportunity slides and you’re devastated, but then a few months or years down the track you know exactly why it happened the way it did.

Sometimes you’re just not ready. God knows you need to experience other things before that door is opened completely for you. It’s not a “no”, it’s a “not just yet”, “don’t rush this” or “you still have some growing to do first”.

2. we need to realign our focus

I like to think my spirit animal is a meerkat. Distraction is something I struggle with. We can be mid-conversation, but if my favourite song comes on the radio, I’ll make sure you know that my favourite song is on the radio.

But sometimes we become so distracted that we place opportunities, relationships, careers and anything other than God, on a pedestal. This is where closed doors can help us realign our focus. Essentially, see it as a tap on the shoulder from God saying, “hey, remember me?”

3. it’s not a god-door.

The doors we come across aren’t always placed there by God. We can find ourselves stumbling across opportunities that others have given to us, or perhaps that we believe are a great opportunity.

Here’s the thing though: God knows best. So naturally, He may close doors that you really want to walk through in order to protect you. It’s easy to see that in hindsight, but while you’re standing there fiddling with the key trying to get it open, it’s downright frustrating.

Not all doors need to be opened. And when we realise that our God is a God who both closes and opens doors, it’s a lot more comforting knowing that His plan doesn’t stop there.

While the closed doors I experienced may have hurt more than I’d like to admit, they were necessary. Not only for moving forward, but for my own personal growth and my confidence in God.

Losing those relationships absolutely shattered me. However, it also taught me that your circle matters and you need to choose the people you do life with wisely.

Each one of those job interviews I got knocked back from made me feel like I was not enough. But after every closed door, I managed to land a brand new client for my own business. Not to mention, fast forward a year and I’m now doing that full-time!

Are you still waiting for your prayers to be answered?

Have you recently experienced God telling you “no” or anything but what you want to hear?

I want to encourage you to trust in His plan for you. Take each closed door as an opportunity in itself to learn more about who you are and who God is.

Keep smiling. x

I Was Called a ‘Social Media Influencer’ and Here’s What I Realised…

I’m a part of a few engagement pods on Instagram compiled of Christian ‘influencers’ helping one another reach more people to spread the Word.

A couple of months ago, I was approached by a group of girls on Instagram who asked to collaborate on a blog post championing ‘influencers’ with Christ-centred blogs.

I have recorded a few podcasts with other Christian bloggers or speakers, where I have been referred to as an ‘influencer.’

In the last few months, I have been called an ‘influencer’ more times than I would like to admit. You see, I have never really liked the word. It makes me feel weird.

Why? Because the first thing I think of is Kylie Jenner trying to sell me some lip kit thing that I really don’t care about.

And on top of that, people getting paid an unnecessarily large figure for posting a selfie. I mean seriously, most of us wouldn’t even get half that much in a week’s worth of pay.

We have celebrities and social media sensations, all the way to YouTube stars and those C-grade celebs who get recycled through ‘reality’ TV shows because they were the one that the Bachelor didn’t pick. Need I say more?

They’re no one and then all of a sudden, someone.  Apparently. They’re a person whose voice doesn’t really get heard, and then overnight, after they gain a few thousand followers, their opinion is now validated. Why? Because it’s given a platform.

With this negative concept of ‘influencers’ already engraved in my head, I couldn’t help but think, well then, I don’t want to be one.

But here’s what I have realised: we are all influencers.

If you have social media of any kind – even just access to the Internet, you have influence. If you have a following, you have influence, whether that’s 10 people or 10,000.

You have the opportunity and more importantly, the choice, to use that influence in a positive way.

I wrote down a list of goals for my blog at the end of last year that I wanted to achieve in 2018. Here are a few of them:

  • Reach 1,000 followers on Instagram.
  • Reach 500 Page Likes on Facebook.
  • Double my email subscribers list.

But here’s the thing: I’m not collecting a following for me, I’m collecting a following for Him.

And it was because of this that I decided that these three quantified goals – these numbers that I wanted to reach – needed to be superseded by these three other, more important, goals:

  1. Have my complete focus on God first, rather than the number of followers.
  2. Be more intentional with my relationships online.
  3. Pray for those who are following my blog.

If I was focusing on achieving these three goals, then the others should be a byproduct of my passion, purpose and intentionality.

And can I tell you something? With a few months still left of the year, I have already ticked off two of those first set of goals.

And the last set of three? Well, they are an ongoing process that I am actively and intentionally implementing every single day.

It’s amazing how God works when you start focusing less on yourself and your own status, and more about why you do what you do and the real who behind why you do it.

Be the Moon

I heard this phrase at the Hillsong Conference as a word of advice given to Chris Tomlin. You know, the cool dude who wrote ‘How Great is Our God’ (along with a whole heap of other Christian bangers!)

Ever since, I have had these three words plastered in my mind and heart, and written on the top of my list of goals: BE THE MOON.

Essentially, Chris’ friend told him that he needed to stop trying to be the sun, and start being the moon. Don’t worry, I didn’t get it at first either. But this next part is where it gets good.

The moon shines at night because its surface reflects light off the sun.

In other words – every time we [write content, get another email subscriber, perform a worship song on stage at church or reach thousands of people with messages about faith], it’s not to glorify our own name. It’s to glorify His Name.

He is the sun (and the Son). We are the moon. We don’t shine purely because of our own doing, we shine because of Him. Yep, I know what you’re thinking – wowza. What a powerful message. Less of us. More of Him.

So I want to encourage you, as an influencer – whose name are you bringing glory to? I want to challenge you to be the moon. Always, be the moon.

Keep smiling. x

Generation lazy, flatlay of tablet screen with Facebook wallpaper displayed and glasses and pen

Introducing Gen L (It’s Short for Lazy, but I Couldn’t Be Bothered to Write It)

I remember reading an article about a mother who had been planning her son’s ninth birthday party and sent out invitations to his friends at school. When the day of the party arrived, no one turned up.

She had received zero responses from the parents, but her son was adamant that five of his friends said they were coming. He was left completely heartbroken, convinced that he wasn’t popular enough at school.

The mother shared this story on her personal blog, pleading for parents to RSVP to children’s birthdays to ensure her family’s experience doesn’t become the norm. But here’s the (really annoying) thing: it already has.

introducing generation lazy

We live in a society today where we are continuously taking other people and their time for granted. We are increasingly becoming selfish and frankly, lazy and rude. While social media has granted us the ease of connecting and communicating with our friends in a click of a button, the privilege is constantly being abused.

Take Facebook events for example:

Dave is invited to Belinda’s 21st party next weekend who he hasn’t seen in almost a year, but he is not too sure who will be there. He clicks “maybe” until he knows if he will be sitting in the corner by himself or actually enjoying the night. Fair enough.

It is a few days out from the party. The host has posted on the event wall asking if everyone could respond for catering purposes. (And perhaps because it is just polite and manners are always welcome, but hey). Dave is sitting there, scrolling through the invite list to see who is attending the party in order to determine whether or not he will make an appearance.

Let’s pause here for a moment. Since when did someone else’s [21st party / Hens Night / Movie Night catch up] all of a sudden become all about you? Before I continue, I want to make it clear that if you are reading this thinking, “this is so me” while silently praying your seat will swallow you whole, then good.

I am not trying to guilt you into thinking that you are a bad person. Trust me – I have done this way too many times. I am sharing this because I have recognised my own lazy, selfish behaviour. I want others to acknowledge the actions they take (or lack thereof) and the potential consequences of that.

The day before the party, the host has created name tags for all thirty-six guests and purchased enough food for about forty. Meanwhile, Dave just got a Facebook notification from Rick saying he has been invited to go hang out at the beach and play some footy with his mates. Heck yes!

Oh, wait. It’s the same night as Belinda’s 21st. Eh. Easy fix. Dave quickly clicks ‘Can’t Go’ on Belinda’s event page and tells Rick that he is keen to see him because he missed seeing the boys at their weekly footy training last Thursday. Classic.

so, was that the right move?

Whether you think Dave made the right decision or not is entirely your choice. But there are a few things here that I think we all need to consider:

1. we have more time to make decisions

Reality is, nowadays there are a lot of people like Dave (myself included). How is Belinda going to feel when she has enough food to feed a group of forty people and only half of them show up?

We are a generation that has become lazy. With every man and his dog on Facebook, we perceive that we have more time to make decisions. No more receiving an invitation in the letterbox and returning the confirmation of attendance before the RSVP date. Now, we have the ability to not only receive invitations to multiple events held at the same time, but also decide which event we would like to go to at our own leisure.

2. we wait until we get a better offer

And if no other alternative shows up at any point immediately before the party, we settle for ‘second best’. We are becoming more and more selfish. And on top of that, we are taking other people for granted.

3. committing to something scares us

The process of responding to invitations is being overlooked. With the ability to click ‘maybe’ as a response to an event, comes the ability to take that for granted. We only ever seem ‘interested’ in attending, while failing to provide a confirmed response.

the (unfortunate) new normal

This growing trend stems further than event invitations. Even simply text messaging, online instant chat messaging or communicating with groups over social media. I can guarantee you that we have all been there.

Think of a time when you sent your friend a text. What about that time you were trying to organise a catch up with friends? Or discuss details for a group holiday somewhere? You sent that message in an attempt to plan or talk about something. But it can only work when you are getting some feedback in return.

I’m talking to myself here too. I think it is fair to say that we have all been on both ends of this: the person initiating a response AND the person either too busy to respond, forgetting to respond or ignoring it altogether.

social media has made us lazy

While the Internet and social media all might be a wonderful advancement in technology, we need to take a step back and realise that we can’t take advantage of these screens we live behind.

The very purpose of social media is to connect people, but is it actually doing a disservice? At the end of the day, we are still just a bunch of social creatures that appreciate respect and kindness from each other. We need to stop tolerating this lack of response and allowing this behaviour to become acceptable.

Rather, we need to encourage healthy and positive communication in order to facilitate spaces for open discussion. The purpose of social media should increase our connectedness with one another, but not diminish our ability to respect others. Kindness never grows old and the fact we don’t have to physically be with a person in order to talk to them anymore, shouldn’t serve as an excuse.

Keep smiling. x

Top 12 Christian Influencers You Need to Be Following

Top 12 Christian Influencers You Need to be Following

Writing has always been a passion of mine. But so have people and God. Over the last six years, my blog has transformed into a platform in which I share my writing through everyday analogies and experiences with a different perspective.

I enjoy sharing the love of Jesus in ways that are relatable and relevant so that those who don’t know God yet can still get a glimpse of Him. The three things I pray my content does is to encourage, inspire and bless those it reaches.

But here’s the thing: I’m not the only one who has this passion. I have grown to know so many beautiful and inspiring people online through blogging, and if encouraging content is something you’re into – then here are my top 12 Christian influencers that you NEED to be following.

1. Shelby Esau

Blog: popanddot.com/
Instagram: @pop_dot

Shelby is the grace-driven, Jesus-follower behind Pop-Dot. I have never met her in person, but her love for God and people is so genuine. The heart of her page is all about pursuing our unique, God-given purpose and deepening our trust in the only One who never disappoints.

The daily posts are usually inspired by what God is showing both her and her community! Sometimes that’s life-giving relationships, sometimes it’s Jesus’ unending grace and other times, it’s the struggle to put one foot in front of the other.

It’s real and it’s raw. Seasons change and so do we, but the goal is to rehearse, remember and remind one another that our faithful God never will!

Shelby Esau from Pop Dot

2. Tiffany Nicole

Blog: lavendervines.com
Instagram: @lavendervines

Tiffany is the Jesus-loving, free spirit behind the blog Lavender Vines. This Christian blog is centered around sharing the unfiltered truth of what it is like to follow God. From the amazing times of breakthrough and rejoicing in God’s love, to the struggles of unanswered prayers and questions, and the times we feel far from God.

Her passion for God is inspiring and her goal is to guide, encourage, and inspire you and your walk with God. Make sure you follow her along!

Tiffany Nicole from Lavender Vines

3. maddie kitchen

Blog: maddieejoy.com/
Instagram: @maddiee_joy

Maddie Joy is a world changer. Her heart behind her blog and the reason for writing and speaking serves a lot of different purposes. However, it all comes back to knowing Jesus and making Him known.

Due to experiencing the reality that comparison is the thief of joy first-hand, Maddie Joy’s primary goal is to encourage others to walk boldly and confidently in who God has called them to be.

She is also passionate about the power of vulnerability and sharing the “real life stuff” behind the pretty, put-together smiles we so often slap on. Maddie recognises and appreciates that this isn’t always the reality (even as Christians), but God is so faithful to meet us there and work through those hardships.

She desires to expose fear for what it is: a liar and a thief of dreams, as it held her captive for many years – and champion those who follow her personal experiences as they live out the unique call set before them! Her mission: to change the world, together!

Maddie-Joy Kitchen

4. gia-grace

Blog: girlredefined.weebly.com/
Instagram: @girlredefinedblog

Gia-Grace is the 20-year-old author and faith blogger behind Girl Redefined, who is incredibly in love with Jesus and longs to see young women living out their God-given identities.

From relationships and friendships to difficulties that Christians face, Gia covers relevant and raw topics on her blog. She loves all things creative and hopes to start her own theatre company or film-making organisation once she finishes Bible College to create films and plays which tackle secular issues, like human trafficking. Go and say hi!

Gia from Girl Redefined Blog

5. alisha wesley

Blog: shelaughsmission.com
Instagram: @shelaughsmission

Alisha is the 23-year-old Bible College grad and faith blogger behind She Laughs Mission. She Laughs Mission is a blog to help empower women of all ages to be who they’re called to be and to walk this life with strength and dignity.

Her goal? To help you grow in your faith, become who God created you to be and live life to the absolute fullest.

Alisha from She Laughs Mission

6. kristin skipper

Blog: www.lifefromtheseashes.com/

Kristin is the founder of Life From These Ashes blog. She is 35 and not only a blogger, but a full-time RN (nurse) as well. Her passion for writing and sharing what God has taught her in her life is the heart behind why she encourages women to stand strong in their faith. Her mission is to inspire women to live their life as God has created them a new identity in Christ.

Kristin writes about marriage, parenting and the difficulties we face in life and how to navigate the road with Jesus as the lead. Her hope is that through the truths God gives her to write, that she can motivate you in your daily walk with God.

Kristin from Life from these Ashes

7. anna liisa moss

Blog: annaliisamoss.com/
Instagram: @annaliisamoss

As an artist, wife and Jesus-lover, Anna Liisa seeks to share the joy and grace found in Christ. She loves worshipping by creating pieces of art (and they’re amazing!)

She believes that He created us all to create, whether through art or another creative outlet. With this in mind, she hopes to encourage, inspire, and bring light into the world by sharing Jesus. Ultimately, Anna Liisa wants the Lord to work through her to be a blessing in the lives of others. Check out her pages, she loves making new friends!

Anna Liisa Moss

8. samantha rue

Blog: www.samantharue.com

Samantha is the author of Samantha Rue blog, where she shares about everything she loves; fashion, beauty, skin care, her walk with the Lord, and her passion to see other Christian women loving and growing with the Lord!

Samantha’s Instagram page is filled with her infectious smile and her fashion sense is on point! She believes that in this world, comes the battle for perfection and comparison, which we all know only hurts ourselves.

With this in mind, Samantha strives for bravery over perfection and shows her readers and followers that life is not perfect, but it’s an amazing journey following the Lord’s perfect Will for your life.

Samantha Rue

9. lilli van natta

Blog: arestyled.life/

Lilli is a joy-filled, lifestyle blogger and a force behind A Re.Styled Life blog. Her passion lies in encouraging women to delight in small, everyday moments of beauty, and live a life of gratitude for our Creator. She is a strong believer that with gratitude comes abundant joy; something she hopes to inspire others to seek.

Her Instagram feed is filled with pretty photos, reflecting her gift for interior decorating. Lilli uses this to equip others to transform their houses into homes, ready to be filled with warmth and memories.

Lilli Van-Natta

10. rachel rogers

Blog: hellorachelnicole.com/

Rachel is a wife, daughter, sister, and friend, but most importantly – a woman of faith. Her goal is to help others to grow in their faith no matter where they are in life.  Her warm smile and enthusiasm for helping others are incredibly encouraging and contagious!

Rachel’s blog is a resource for lifestyle tips about cultivating confidence and living a more purpose-driven life.  You will find style and beauty inspiration, stories about how God shows His love in her daily life, and so much more! Make sure you check this lovely lady out!

Rachel Rogers from Hello Rachel Nicole

11. tarah-lynn

Blog: adornedinarmor.com
Instagram: @adornedinarmor

Tarah-Lynn Saint-Elien is a complete boss babe! With the title of ‘Miss Black New Jersey 2018’, she also is the fashion writer for Teen Vogue and the host of Dressed for Battle Podcast. However, above all, she is a fierce and favoured fashionista, passionate about encouraging and empowering young women to fully grasp their worth in Christ.

Through her award-winning brand Adorned in Armor (AIA), Tarah-Lynn inspires thousands of young women to conquer life through faith and style. After just one year, her readers nominated AIA as a finalist for the Best International Blog in the 2014 Cosmopolitan UK Awards. The blog was inspired by the message found in Ephesians 6 about putting on the full armor of God and preaches to properly uniform spiritually and physically in order to fight in victory.

You can find Tarah-Lynn styling, hosting events and speaking at self-worth and branding workshops. If you love God and you love fashion, then follow her fashion and faith-driven adventures!

Tarah-Lynn from Adorned in Armor

12.kristina dapaah

Blog: kouturekitten.com/

As a proud mum and head-over-heels wife, Kristina describes herself as a creative ninja and a Chosen vessel! She likes to think of herself as a Jack-of-many trades with a little thing for fashion and an even bigger thing for Church!

Kristina believes that the most beautiful thing about her life is that she is Loved by Jesus. With that love as her guide, she CREATES her own version of ‘beautiful’ in the form of lifestyle content over on her blog. Her goal is to inspire others to grab hold of the beauty available to them in Christ Jesus.

Kristina Dapaah

So there it is! My top 12 Christian influencers that you need to be following! It was hard to keep this list short because there are plenty of other beautiful blogs that I would love to share with you.

If you would like to follow some of my other favourites, then check out my Instagram Story Highlight titled ‘People’ for more inspiring accounts!

Keep smiling. x

Girl wearing Choose Empathy Hillsong jumper

Choose Empathy: Lessons from Learning to Drive Manual

Learning to drive is one of the most exciting, not to mention terrifying, things when you’re a teenager. The feeling of royalty as other’s on the road have to be more patient and empathetic because you’re a learner driver. The picture you share on Facebook once you pass the test, holding the ‘L’ plates above your forehead like a ‘loser’ (…or was that one just me?!)

Learner Driver Test

(It was cool at the time, I promise).

The adrenalin is well and truly pumping as you get into the driver’s seat for the first time. (Unless you grew up on acreage, or knew people who did – then we all know it’s not the first time…)

For the first six months, I drove my Mum’s big 7-seater Holden Captiva. An automatic car with seat warmers (my personal favourite). Once I got the hang of it and became much more confident in my driving abilities, my parent’s decided it was time to purchase a small, manual (stick shift) car for my sister and I to learn on.

Goodbye all kind of confidence I had managed to muster up in the last few months, and hello months of frustration,  stalling, hill starts, stalling, bunny hops, stalling and tantrums. (Did I mention stalling?)

The struggle was real, and the tears were a regular occurrence. I hated failing and I just couldn’t seem to get it. I had next to no patience, and that didn’t help whichever parent who was lucky enough to be sitting in the passenger’s seat, trying to teach me.

The silly little mistakes that I kept making nudged me one step closer to giving up completely. Each hill start that I stalled on. Every time I was low key redlining because I had forgotten to put it in gear. The countless times I over-revved the car when I went to take off.

I just couldn’t do it. It was as if I was learning to drive all over again. Like the last six months of driving had been all for nothing! It took me weeks, if not months, to then muster up the courage to get back on the road, but this time driving manual.

I remember driving to school. The quickest route only had two sets of traffic lights and a couple of roundabouts. My strategy was to avoid stopping whenever I could. (In hindsight – probably not the safest strategy). I would tend to speed up every time I was approaching a set of traffic lights. I’d pray so hard that the lights wouldn’t turn red because that meant I had to stop; which meant starting again. And starting again meant a high chance of stalling.

One day, I was at the second set of the two traffic lights and so far, it had been pretty good. No stalling, minimal bunny hops and smooth transitioning between gears. But then, of course, the lights turned orange and I knew that flooring it probably wasn’t the best idea from a solid 50m away. Bummer.

Now, I swear they say you sit at traffic lights for a few minutes before it’s your turn to go. But I can assure you that on this particular day, three hours passed. For the hundredth time, Mum was telling me from the passenger seat, “stop riding the clutch, Jess” and I would justify it by saying, “I don’t want to be under-prepared.”

It didn’t matter.

I stalled it.

Three times to be exact.

Enough times that somehow the lights were able to go through its entire timed cycle and return back to being red (much to the dismay of the long line of cars that had suddenly appeared behind me). I could hear a handful of cars honking in the distance, while a few changed lanes and sped past.

But one thing that stood out was the car behind me. I remember looking in my rear vision mirror, as the beads of sweat were quickly forming on every inch of my body, and seeing a woman sitting there. No retaliation or frustration, no anger or impatience. Just sitting and waiting. Almost a sense of “it’s okay, just try again”.

Fast forward six years and I have my full license and that small, manual car is my main mode of transport. I still stall occasionally. Smooth gear transitions aren’t a guarantee and I often over-rev on hill starts. But the biggest difference: it was ‘acceptable’ when I had my L plates on. As soon as the signs came off – nope, not anymore.

People tend to be more tolerant and patient with you when there’s a sign in their face telling them why they should be. When there’s a reason to choose empathy, most of the time, we don’t have an issue with it.

That lady in the car behind me saw the L plates and understood straight away that I was only learning to drive. She chose empathy and patience, while the cars at the back of the queue had no idea that I was learning manual and stalling the car.

So how come we need to justify our feelings of empathy? How come there needs to be a reason to feel that way first, then choosing empathy follows?

Imagine if everyone you [walked past/saw at work/drove past/came in contact with] held a sign describing what they were dealing with currently.

“Battling cancer.”
“Going through a divorce.”
“Son in a coma.”
“Lost my job.”
“Fighting depression.”

We would be playing in a completely different ballpark then. It is very likely that we would all be a bit more empathetic and patient with others. But that shouldn’t be the case. Choosing empathy should be a genuine reaction, rather than the byproduct of successful justification.

I encourage you to practice patience with others. Not just those that you know, but more importantly – strangers. Those people who you have no idea what they are going through. That one is hard to do.

Don’t wait until you know what someone is going through to start choosing empathy. I’d like to think that the woman in the car behind me would have chosen patience and empathy if the L plates weren’t put on my car. But the reality is that she probably would’ve acted like everyone else did.

If everyone held signs and we could visually read what other people were going through, I can assure you that the world would be a nicer place. But I want to challenge us all to treat others with kindness and patience, whether we believe they deserve it or not.

Maybe, just maybe, instead of needing to read signs to know someone’s story first, we could all choose empathy anyway.

Keep smiling. x