I am 21: It ends with ‘happily ever after’

Last one before we tackle something even scarier on the blog! We have tackled the task of remembering the complexity and simplicity of every stage of our lives, in order to best love and serve the younger ones around us. To finish off, we have a piece to encourage us college-aged girls.

Today we have Mother Bear on the blog! I definitely inherited my love for writing from my mum; she has an amazing gift that I wish I got to see more often. My mother is just that, a mother through and through. She is also a wife, a friend, a daughter, a sister, a writer, a speaker, a prayer, a psychologist, a professional, and is successful in everything that she does. Most importantly though, she is my mother. She has an amazing testimony of restoration and finding renewal, strength and joy in Jesus, and the fruit of His freedom is so evident in her life! I am so privileged to have been raised by this amazing woman; is is both strong and gentle, just and kind. It is fair to say Mamma, I definitely gave you the most cheek of us three and probably fought with you the most too, but you always stayed patient and understanding. Probably because you were fighting with the mini version of yourself… For those of you not fortunate enough to have met my Mamma yet, she is best described in Autumn patterns. She is fun, a moment-maker, creative, colourful, loving, deep, and shows great love for everyone she meets. I love you Mamma and am so thankful for everything that you do and who you are; and so thankful for this love of writing that we share!

All the posts the last while have been beautiful and have absolutely touched my heart, but this one was the one that brought me to tears. So without further ado, enjoy this beautiful encouragement from my Mamma to you!

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I am 21. We are dancing, I have my arms in the air and a smile in my heart. Tonight I am wearing my long pleated brown skirt and matching top, leather belt and my Cowboy boots. Oh, them boots, I love them. Wear them every day and everywhere!

My family is here tonight, to celebrate with me. Dad, had organised it all. He is happy. I look up and know that he sees me tonight. Together.  It has been a long time since we had all been together.

Not long ago, I saw dad smiling at her. Adulterer.  Lies.  Denial.  Rejection.  A lonely girl in her Cowboy boots, in a lonely city…

Longing to be seen.

I keep busy and study hard. I achieve.  There is this boy in my life. He is fun and dynamic, yet toxic.

At night I dream and long for “one day”. When morning unfolds her brightness over me, I keep busy. Meals are small and very controlled. I exercise. Driven to be busy.

Dear, sweet little girl, how I wish you could know that not long from now, your stride will change. You will find home in the Father’s house and know that HE knows you and that HE sees you! You will never feel lonely again and the “busy” will become content.

Them boots will dance, dance before Jesus!

You will discover your calling in life and fall in love with an amazing gentle- giant of a man. You were ready to meet him, because you had spent time with Jesus.

Those fears that haunted you, the loneliness, rejection, perfectionism,  insecurities, abuse, all of them, taken from you when you sat down at the Father’s feet and opened your ears to hear His Word.

I am so proud of you! You chose to run after God. To believe what He said about you. You chose to let go of self-doubt and the staring judgment of their eyes.  You studied the Word and memorised verse upon verse. You pulled on His Armor and sharpened your sword.  Most off all you softened your tongue. You speak life and tend to others now.

Them boots will be traded for walking boots.  You will go from dusty-red African sunsets to amazing greens and oranges in the South-Pacific.

My garden blossoms here in the green:  there is a meadow full of wild flowers, a rose-bud and a bright yellow sunflower.

Sunflower springs into action at the first sight of light. Her eyes are filled with life. Adventure is what she loves. She reminds me of a brown-eyed 21 year old, and yet, there is more. More passion, more purpose, more focus, more love.

I put down the watering can and smile.

Thank you Father for tending my garden, even when I am far away and not able to prune and feed. Thank you Abba for my Sunflower who is now wearing bright Texas orange and waking up content, knowing that You know her and see her.

The truth behind 18 years of lies and life

I genuinely don’t know where to start with talking about the woman. If you took me, added a extra dash of dorkiness, took away netball and left me in the sun for rest of my life – you’d get Wilma. She has been a great asset to my life the last 4-5 years that I have known her; she has encouraged me, held my broken pieces when I was too ashamed to share them with anyone else, told me countless times that I am a dweeb, laughed and dreamed with me and called me up when I am in the wrong. She is a inspiration to me when it comes to writing (check out her awesome blog here) and one of the unfortunate souls who is stuck with me for life! Her honesty and teachability are amazing and I absolutely love the way that she wholeheartedly pursues knowing Jesus more intimately every day. I don’t know someone who so actively seeks to grow and improve themselves consistently like Wilma. She’s a gem and I love her to bits! Here is her perfectly written piece on being 18!

The tick tock march of the times always sojourns forever forward.  Quite like the beat of your own heart; always a steady beat, beat continuously itching forward to what? What is the desired end my beloved 18 year old self, that time and heart strings reach forward to? 

The Truth

The truth; it gently cups your face, looks tenderly into your face and says you are going to be okay.   

With each change life brings, with each day your heart beats into the future, in every moment you are going to be okay.  

I know the world seems bleak, there is so much confusion and deep emotional swirls but be still; you are held in God’s hands.  

Especially when you feel like letting the grip go and fall into silent, painless oblivion. The One who died to give you life abundantly is holding you with nail scarred hands. He has stared into the black abyss of death and conquered it, beloved seal this into your bones; He went through hell so that you wouldn’t have to.  

So with each change life brings and there will be many.  

With each day your heart beats into the future, for you will live and have life abundantly.  

In every moment no matter how painful; you are going to be okay.  

Beloved take a walk with me, you keep asking why I keep calling you beloved.  

You scurry away from that word like a cockroach exposed to light.  

It’s time to stop living in the darkness of the lies you are cowering under. You were not created to have clandestine meetings with Luke-warm and drink stolen waters. You were re-created to live in the light and to bask in the love that God lavishes on you.  

You don’t know God very well at this time but don’t worry He knows you. 

One day you will be able to see the tenderness He gazes at you with as you stagger slowly towards Him.  

One day you will know the tone of His voice, the gentle, quiet voice that draws you closer and deeper into Love.  

One day you will catch a glimpse of how much you are loved and be forever changed.  

You don’t know yourself yet, but you will.  

Who are you?  

Why, you are the Beloved. You are chosen and set apart for God. For Good works.  

No matter the accolade, no matter the adoration from parents, no matter the embrace of a lover.  

They are all mere dung compared to the knowledge and the revelation that you are the Beloved of God. Chosen by and for Him alone.  

If I could go back to my 18 year old self, this is what I would tell her. 

The tick tock march of time always sojourns forward, we can’t bend it but we can reflect and allow another, you precious reader, to glimpse behind and see.

That God is with us in every moment, He is faithful beloved so take His hand and walk this life together. 

From your 22 year old self.



Fifteen: Pick up the pen

My turn again! I was sitting here wondering who was meant to do this week’s post, then I remembered it was me… Then I procrastinated writing; watched too many episodes of Gilmore Girls, went to the baseball and had spring break instead. 

Many of you knew me at 15, or at least have heard about what life and Petro were like in 2011. For those of you that don’t know that part of my saga, you can read a bit about it on my GUCCI Girls Night post. So, we’ll just jump straight into me at 15 years old. 

You’re fifteen, vulnerable and insecure. You have absolutely no clue who you are, where you’re going or what you’re doing. Fear of being pushed aside or unjustly benched keeps you sharp, sarcastic and loud. You find your worth in success in school and sport, and the pains of worthlessness come from having no control over relationships and joy. Joy. Dang, that’s an elusive idea!

Darling, pick up your pen. You’ve always been interested in words but saw poetry as boring. Literature is far more powerful than an A on your report card. Your heart spills so beautifully through ink. The dark, chilling phrases scribbled on napkins, whiteboards, folders and scrap paper will bring the sweetest relief. 

You’ve never viewed yourself as depressed, it’s a label that doesn’t fit you. You don’t fit the stereotypical behaviors or gothic persona. Your family is outwardly perfect. You laugh a lot and to the untrained eye life is going perfectly for you. You are involved in prayer ministry and are supporting your friends through their own struggles. I see you though. I hear your silent pleas not to wake up the next morning and feel the heavy pit in your heart. 

So pick up the pen. Write, dream, explore, exaggerate, minimize and paint pictures with your words. After you’ve run your lungs raw and feel drained after exuding your aggression on your netball opponent and your insecurity by arguing withthe poor boys in class: write. Always write, but keep your journal to yourself. You want others to read it to understand the rawness inside, but they never will. You can paint the best picture, but art always requires the viewer to interpret what they’re seeing. 

Keep writing, never stop. One day your pieces will skip along the page instead of dragging their feet and you will need to extend your vocabulary to find new synonyms for “happy”. Your notebook of poems will start to leak onto a blog, but instead of bleeding into electronic ink you will craft a letter of hope and encouragement to share. If your heart needs to bleed, bleed into paper and then share that relief online. Never encourage out of a wound, first give it time to heal and always use your words to encourage others. 

There will come a day when that pit will be filled with petals and the rawness gently healed. You will never be fully okay, no one ever is, but you will find joy. You will find the boldness to dream and the courage tthat chase down those dreams. You will find friends, be patient dear. Always love others, always be honest and be open to making mistakes. You will still be hurt by people and hurt a good many yourself, but you will learn the art of forgiveness and restitution. 

Hang in through the winter dear, spring is coming and it is beautiful! Keep smiling and enjoy those dashes of happiness. Love your netball team, those girls will provide some of your most cherished memories and will be the cushion that your heart is seeking. You will never have a team like that again, make every single second with them count. Embrace grief, it will open doors to connect with your family and show your friends your true heart. 

Though this season is marked by a depth of sadness you will hopefully not experience again, it is not defined by it. You will still laugh and enjoy life. You will still seem like you have it all together and are happy, because Jesus is holding all your pieces together and His joy is giving you strength. Never let go of Him, He is the only hope you need to survive till tomorrow. 

You are about to undergo a massive life change moving cities, it will be challenging but so rewarding! Everything you hate about yourself now will be challenged and eventually it will either fixed or you’ll come to terms with it. Some of friends you have now and are abut to make will stay around for a long time yet (that English one who keeps harassing you to call her – keep her, she’s of great value), but some you will outgrow and that’s okay. It will hurt because your friends mean everything to you, but you will always remember them fondly and love them.

Remember that all it takes for friends to be there for you is for you to ask for them to be, you are awfully good at seeming okay. Be honest when people ask how you are. Be willing to sit on the outskirts of a group and never truly fit in, you were never made to be part of the crowd. 
So darling, wear your retainer and curly hair with pride, embrace whatever fashion statements you want (you’re going to regret them later regardless of what you choose), run, play, laugh, be a kid, work hard, embrace grief and love people. Most importantly though; pick up the pen and write. 

Ten Years Vulnerable

As I mentioned before, this mini-series is all about getting perspective back into the lives of young girls, as many of us are in positions of serving these girls. Last week we looked at being five, how much doubt and fear there can be at that age and how gracious God is to keep us joyful at that age.

This week we are jumping forward to ten-years-old, and hearing from another girl is super dear to my heart. This girl was my childhood best friend and around this age we were as thick as thieves. She was there for my first real crush and first heartbreak, for a large portion of my God-moments, multitudes of laughs and backyard camping, my Cabbage Patch pal, the girl who inspired me to get a Baby-G and joined me in the awkward brace-face phase. She runs her own successful blog at  Lovely’s Little Adventures, y’all should go check her out.

Lovely, I am so proud of the amazing woman you have become and the ministry you have. I am so thankful for you and love you so much! 10 was an interesting and busy time for you and for us, and you capture it so nicely on it below.

Without further ado, enjoy the world’s most tragic photo of 13(ish)-year-old us and then how stunning my friend has become!

To my ten year old self,

First off – you’re going to be okay. Sometimes in the darkest nights, you don’t think you’re going to make it, but you are. Be excited for all the things God is going to do in your life, and in you. But most of all, be excited for the people God’s going to bless you with.

I know making friends is hard, and it will continue to be a struggle (yay for being an introvert), but there are some really cool people who are in your life right now, and some that will walk in a little later. Although people will hurt you, it’s okay, because we’re all human and you’re definitely going to hurt others too. You’ll get to experience God’s love and healing, and you’re going to make lifelong friends.

Appreciate the different seasons in life. Sometimes you’ll naturally drift away from people and although it’s going to be hard for a little while, God’s going to fill the gaps. But for now, enjoy the friends you have and make lots of fun memories. When you get older, you’re going to be so thankful for all the times you’ve spent at the Swart house.

Learning isn’t going to be something you’ll only be doing at school. You’ll look back and realise how much you’ve learned from other people, from books, from life experiences. But there are going to be things you’re going to have to unlearn, but it’s okay. You’re always going to be growing, changing and learning, but at the end of the day, you’re really going to love it.

Life is going to take some twists and turns, and you’re really going to have no idea how you ended up where you are as a 20 year old, but enjoy the ride! Don’t get so caught in trying to find your worth in your grades, in relationships or in trying to be perfect. Don’t let words sink into your heart that aren’t from God. And don’t be so hard on yourself. Sometimes you are your own worst critic. You’re going to love who God created you to be, and life is going to be so much more fun when you do.