Don’t box her in!


This last week has had my heart feel a little heavier. I know living in a mixed race family (dual heritage when we are feeling posh) race is not an invisible issue, but this last week was the first time we have ever been asked to tick a box for our kids. Jenny’s school enrollment forms asked was she:

‘Black/ Africa’       ‘White’    ‘Coloured’             ‘Indian/ Asian’     or ‘Not Applicable’

It makes me sad that in this day and age the question is still asked. I understand that with a horrid history of racism/ apartheid it is good to monitor to ensure that all people are being treated fairly, but it still stuck in my throat a little. The options were so few. Many will consider our kids ‘coloured’ because of their skin colour – but coloured in South Africa is a whole heritage and culture that we are not part of. If they were in America they would be considered black, in Malawi called white as they are paler than most people! To sum up the richness of their heritage with so limited options makes my heart sore. If you want to know about my daughter here are some boxes I will gladly tick:

  • Is she kind – most of the time
  • Is she naughty – quite a lot
  • Is she hilariously funny – always
  • Is she loving – definitely
  • Is she quirky – of course
  • Does she love unicorns, princess stuff and everything sparkly (& her little brother) – with a fierce passion
  • Is she fearfully and wonderfully made – absolutely

One of my favourite Psalm tells me that she is fearfully and wonderfully made – God did a really great job creating her!

Psalm 139: 14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.

We live in a society that is so focused on looks and as well as monitoring fairness and rights – but it is limiting, even if well intended (In Ireland we monitor religion so each country has its own tick the box system). But I don’t want that for my kids and I don’t want that for the way they treat and judge others.

I think next time I have to play tick the box I will choose….

option 5- fearfully and wonderfully made!


Skin wigs & authenticity.


I think when she grows up Jenny will be a conspiracy theorist – to her already, at the age of 5, things are not what they seem. In a recent conversation with her about politics – she has some very strong opinions – she decided that the current president of South Africa is wearing a skin wig. What on earth is a skin wig?? Apparently, it is a complete disguise for your whole body that makes you look totally different that you really are. According to Jenny you can even get a voice wig too that lets you have a totally different voice.

It got me to thinking that there are many of us walking around with skin wigs – appearing to be someone we are not. The Together Mom who has everything under control, the happily marrieds who are fighting the bit out at home, the good Christian who hide her struggles. When we meet each other, and interact with each other wearing skin wigs, we never get to meet the real person – we don’t get see the struggles but then we also don’t get to see the victories and the healing also. By wearing skin wigs we deny each other and ourselves the chance to grow and learn together, to be a community with real intimacy and authentic connections.

Skin wigs don’t stop God seeing who we really are:

Psalm 139: 13 For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. 14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.

God created your inmost being – the person you are – there is no need to hide that from Him – He sees the good, the bad and the ugly. A skin wig will not help that – yet He still says you are wonderfully made. It is when we deal with who we really are that God is able to use us in community to help one another:

Isaiah 61: 1 The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, 2 to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, 3 and provide for those who grieve in Zion— to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor. 4 They will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated; they will renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations.

I don’t know about you but skin wigs are hard work – they are itchy and uncomfortable. It can be easy to hide behind them but a real relief to take them off. Are you wearing a skin wig today? Will you brave taking it off to be authentic before God and one another?

Lord, help me to take off anything that masks who I really am – help me to be authentic and help me when it hurts to be so vulnerable. May the work you do in my life be evident and be of help to others so that they too can find healing in you.

9 lessons from 9 years of marriage

Tracey Ramos 2007 088

  1. It’s not always all about him

Sorry Ramos! Early on in a marriage there can be a tendency to put your spouse on a pedestal and make your happiness revolve around their happiness. But marriage is a partnership – while each person is important no one is the most important all the time. While I love Ramos is it is not sum total of my life to make him happy – there are more people in our lives that just him. Sometimes it is all about him, but not always.

  1. It’s not all about me

I think I was quite selfish early on in marriage – my happiness was so important. Over time other emotions has become the focus – contentment, joy. Sometimes you have to compromise on dreams and plans. This has gotten easier from we have had kids – often it ends up really be all about them! Yes, I am important in the marriage, but on the scale of things no one person’s plans or happiness rates above the other’s

  1. Forgive quickly or drive yourself mad

Both of us mess up and we will again. The degree varies (Obviously him much more than me 🙂 only joking!) but if you want a marriage to work, like any relationship, you have to forgive and move on. Otherwise you get stuck in an angry fighting place which sucks for everyone.

  1. It’s the ordinary stuff that is special, not the special stuff

Maybe this has to do more with love languages than anything – hubby is not great at grand gestures, rather he says I love you by getting my car cleaned. Yesterday was our anniversary (or our ‘versary as Jenny calls it) – our planned lunch got cancelled by a burst pipe at home so hubby rushed off to fixed the pipe. Nothing says I love you like emergency plumbing! If you are always looking for the sweeping gesture I loves you, you miss out on the whispered everyday ones.

  1. Don’t compare your marriage to other people’s

Maybe not the best one to add when sharing advice on what I have learnt from marriage – but not everyone’s marriage is the same. Different people and different personalities are involved so the relationships are not the same. I read all the advice on the ‘date night’ and struggle to think when the last time we had one is – but it is ok as our marriage functions differently. I would find it stressful to have a date night each week/ month! What works for you may not work for another couple – don’t feel bad about it.

  1. Don’t talk bad about your spouse to other people

Not one I have learnt from my own marriage but have watched it in others. Try to not bad talk your spouse to other people, even if they have been an idiot. What you share about your spouse to others can come back to influence your relationship for good or for bad. As far as possible be a cheerleader. I’m not talking about getting counsel or wise advice but the type of talk with a friend who will add fuel to the fire will not help in the long term, even if it feels good to vent.

  1. You are stronger when you work as a team

This one is simple – have you ever seen the push me pull you from Dr Dolittle?


Life is so much easier when you are working in the same direction, and much less exhausting!

  1. There is still much to learn

Although you think you know the person you marry you do not know they person they are becoming. Life changes you, age and experiences all change you are. So don’t think you have gotten you marriage or your spouse pegged. There is room to grow and new things to learn.

  1. Keep Jesus in your marriage

Honestly there were some days in the last nine years that I think either of us could have just called quits. Love and feelings are not enough to hold a marriage together – they change and are not constant. But we keep going back to the commitment we made before God. Yes, I’m sure we will face tough times in the future, just as we have in the past, but quitting is not an option. It may feel like it at the time, but often we come out stronger on the other end.


What are the key things that you have learnt from your marriage?

Broken Walls & Self-control


(Photo credit: Max Wolfe)

Last week was the start of my countdown – 100 days until 40. If you remember I decided to focus each week on different characters and habits I would like to bring with me into my next decade. I also wanted to focus on being more aware and awake as often I get to the end of the week and wonder where the days have gone. So I thought a great character to focus on for the first week was self-control.

So this past week I tried to focus and exercise self-control – in my actions, my thoughts, my reactions. It was really interesting to have this as my focus and I learnt a few things about myself. My self-control is great -I’m really really good at it……

I wish I could end that sentence there, but I am really good at self-control as long as everything is under my control! As soon as curve balls and the unexpected comes my self-control goes to pot! So basically I’m really great at self-control if I lived in a bubble – not so practical.

One verse that I kept coming back to in the week that kept reminding me how important self-control is was:

Proverbs 25:28 Like a city whose walls are broken down is a man who lacks self-control.

It at first sounds like a strange thing to say, but when we lack self-control you actually leave yourself vulnerable for attack – attack of shame, guilt etc. But also you leave yourself vulnerable for subtle attacks – for example if you lack self-control it affects your self-worth. That means that in your low self- esteem you are more vulnerable to be taken in by false flattery or the schmoozing of Satan. What do I mean? Without the defenses that self-control builds in your life you open up a vulnerability for Satan’s temptations – do it because you are worth it, or do it because you have already messed up so you may as well keep going.

This may not be new for you, but it was a bit of revelation for me last week – I tend to isolate self-control as a wonderful attribute I would like to have. But it is actually a critical resource in protecting my life from temptation, Satan and further mess ups.

So as I carry on in my 100 days and shift my focus to other characteristics and habits I want to carry with me the need for self-control and rely on the Holy Spirit to help develop it with in me. For I know when self-control is reliant on my own resources it goes pear shape the first sign of trouble – so I will rather rely on the One who has ultimate control.



100 days of wakefulness– sleep walking to my 40s

Where has the time gone? I’m not talking about how fast the kids grow or how I’m getting so old, but rather where have the days gone? I’m sure you have done the same as me – you reach the end of another busy week and you realised you feel like you missed it. The number of times I sit down to watch the weather forecast and zone out before it reaches our area has become a bit of joke between my hubby and I – I wonder what else I’m missing out on because of sleepwalking through life. I know, I know, I’m a mum of small kids – life is tiring, kids are tiring.

I worked out the other day that this week will start the 100 days count down until I turn 40! I’m not freaked out by the age – I think I’m like cheese or wine and get better with age. I certainly enjoy being older and further away from drama – maybe I’m an old before my time fuddy duddy 🙂

Anyway with this last 5 years being consumed with babies, parenting and basic exhaustion I have decided that for the next 100 days I would purposefully focus on my character and habits – to be awake about my choices and actions. I want to re-evaluate and discard some bad habits I have pick up and nurtured through my 30s. There are also some good habits that I would like to adopt and carry through to my 40s.

So for the next 14 weeks I have allocated a character or attribute to focus on for the week – ranging for self-control, to kindness, to courage and adventure (because I like organising stuff). I want to be purposeful and mindful in the choices I make – both in actions and thought for the next 100 days. They used to say that it takes 21 days to make or break a habit – but now the research says 66 days on average so hopefully in 100 days some traction can be made.

Isaiah 52:1 Wake up, wake up! Pull on your boots, Zion! Dress up in your Sunday best, Jerusalem, holy city! Those who want no part of God have been culled out. They won’t be coming along. 2 Brush off the dust and get to your feet, captive Jerusalem! Throw off your chains, captive daughter of Zion!

(The Message)

Let’s see what the next 100 days of wakefulness will bring. It’s wakey wakey time!

They thought I was Gorgeous


I learnt I lesson from my daughter yesterday. At the age of 4 she really does not give much thought to what other people think of her – she is secure and has no self-esteem issues at all. I lost a discussion about whether it was appropriate to wear a princess dress to church or not – in my negotiations (yes, I went wrong by even trying to negotiate with a 4-year-old) I asked if people might not laugh at her wearing dress up to church. She declared that if they do her little brother will just bite their toes (He is very good a biting toes!) So, clad in a full length glittery gown, Jenny twirled her way through church and Sunday school. As we were driving home she turned to me and said: Mummy, you were wrong. Nobody laughed – they all thought I was gorgeous.

I was wrong – often we do too much and base our decisions on what other people may say or think.

I wonder how much twirling I have missed out on for fear of other’s comments. Yet there is only one person whose opinion really counts – the One who made me, the One in Whose image I am created. He says this:

Psalm 45:10-11 Listen, daughter, and pay careful attention: Forget your people and your father’s house. 11 Let the king be enthralled by your beauty; honor him, for he is your lord.

We launched an update on our church website this week and I was not thrilled by the photo of me – too silly a smile! But Jenny declared it beautiful as it was just like her mummy.

It can be hard to not think too much about what other people may say or think – although half the time it is only our own thoughts we are thinking. Eleanor Roosevelt famously said: “You wouldn’t worry so much about what others think of you if you realized how seldom they do.”

So this week I chose to listen to the opinion of the one who created me and to twirl a bit through my days- to let God’s voice be louder in my life than those around me or in my own thoughts. Will you twirl with me this week?

Carols on the Common – are you feeling Christmassy

This is the message that I am sharing tonight at Carol on the Common – a picnic Carols service and one of the traditions that have helped me feel Christmassy in South Africa, despite the heat:

What do you associate Christmas with? What triggers a Christmassy feeling in you? Is it the smell of minced pies? The Christmas songs playing as you shop? I was standing in a long queue with my daughter the other day when Jingle Bells came on – she shouted out ‘Great music’ and started dancing much to the laughter of the queue.

I had not realized until I moved away from Ireland that so much of my Christmassy feeling as wrapped up in the weather – literally wrapped up – in scarves and hats. I used to think that I could only sing Christmas Carols if I could see my breath in front of me and would joke my husband that I would go to the walk in freezers at Makro to go caroling.

Yet that Christmassy feeling is illusive – it is based upon on feelings, on our traditions, on memories of the past. For some this year it won’t feel like Christmas because they is an empty space at the table – a loved one passed away, moved away or even through a broken relationships yet for others they are excited because a loved one who moved overseas is coming home or their family has grown through birth, adoption, a new friendship. So I have been thinking this year what is that illusive Christmassy feeling.

We have heard some bible readings about that first Christmas when God came as a baby to live among us but for a purpose. Not just so we could have a fun time of year with giving gifts and singing catchy songs. I think the real Christmas feeling can be discovered when we look at what motivated God that first Christmas.

  1. The ultimate Christmassy feeling is God’s love for you

 Matthew 1.18-24 This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. 19 Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. 20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”–which means, “God with us.” 24When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. 25 But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.

 This baby we celebrate this season was born with a purpose – a huge purpose. I had a little boy this year – he is nearly 9 months now – and while I hope that he might grow to be a happy boy (maybe some kind of super genius brain surgeon etc) but this baby Jesus was born to save the world. Why?

John 3.16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

God’s motive for Christmas – love. His love for me and for you – for everyone no matter their age, race, bank balance. Why did Jesus have to come to save us – because sin (doing things our own way, instead of God’s way) had messed up the world – realtionships between each other and with God. Jesus was the only way to repair that relationship – He had to die as a sacrifice for our sins.

As I watch my boy sleep I often wonder what Mary felt as she watched Her boy Jesus – did she know what lay ahead for Him, the cross and the horrible death? But every step that Jesus took – to become a helpless baby, to walk towards the cross was motivated by love.

Yes, we have all messed up, yes, we have bad sin habits, but that real Christmassy feeling is knowing that God loves you enough not to abandon you to your sin and messups.

You see at that first Christmas God took a massive step towards us.

  1. The ultimate Christmassy feeling is God reaching out to you

Sin damaged the relationship between us a God so badly that there was no way that we could repair it. Have you ever hurt someone so badly that you couldn’t even face them, yet they still came to you and put their arms around you and said let’s work it out. That for me is a picture of what God does through Christmas. We could not behave our way back into a good relationship with Him, we could not pay the debt that sin have built up. But instead of abandoning us and walking away God took a giant step towards us in the form of that little baby.

Romans 8. 38-39 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

When I was growing up there was always an ad on TV at Christmas for Milk Tray chocolates. It had a masked man perform daring stunts – like a James Bond film and at the end it turns out his objective was to deliver a boy of chocolates – all because a lady loves Milk Tray. We’ll Christmas for me is the ultimate and original version of that ad – the lengths that God has gone to rescue us and step towards us even though we are the one who messed up.

That ultimate Christmassy feeling is knowing that God loves you, even though you messed up. He has a rescue plan, a solution. Christmas is His big step towards you – will you take a step towards Him this year.