Thoughts On Knowing How To Abound

I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. – Philippians 4:12

Many years ago, my friend and yet-to-be-discovered comedienne Frances once said in relation to this scripture in Philippians, “I know how to abase real good. I’m trying to figure out how to abound.”

When I recall her facial expression coupled with a peculiar mix of North Carolina and Atlanta inflection as she delivered her decree, I still have a deep belly laugh. Though Frances is a few years older than I, we were in similar phases in life as single, professional women. She was establishing herself as a freelancer and building her brand, while I was a temp working jumping from on assignment to the next. (Okay. Maybe our development wasn’t that similar at the time.) Still, what we had in common was firsthand knowledge of hustle, struggle and a strong acquaintance with what Paul calls ‘knowing how to be abased’.

We were and are not unique in that regard. Millions of Americans are one paycheck (or one health calamity) away from homelessness and whether they realize it or not – whether we admit it or not – we have mastered the art of living meagerly and presenting it as a life of abundance.

Yesterday Marshall was called up by Pastor Roger Mensah, whose church we were visiting in the Crags. His once sizeable congregation has now dwindled to less than a dozen, due mostly to “poaching”. Churches spring up in townships like the Crags like moss after rain. Instead of seeking the lost and bringing them to Christ, self-ordained pastors entice church attendees to join their flock, usually lured by the gifts of a good keyboard player. In Africa, the power of keyboard player/worship leader is second only to the pastor. The Holy Spirit comes in fourth.

Anyway, it was in this cozy setting that Marshall discussed the idea of always moving forward; not giving up the ground you’ve gained in the process of your advancement whether it be in prayer, business, etc. Philippians made its way into the discussion and as pastors are wont to do when this scripture comes up (in my experience), he dedicated a fair bit of time in explaining why we must be content in all things, focusing more on living humbly. It makes sense, since most of the world lives in poverty. We condition people to be comfortable with their modest lot, and nowhere is this message more perfected than in the church. I believe that this is why people go absolutely crazy when they unexpectedly find themselves in possession of an unexpected windfall or life changing blessing.

When Frances said, “I’m trying to figure out how to abound”, I took that as a two-fold statement of hope.
1) God, put me in an elevated financial position; one I’ve never been in before.
2) Let me prove that I can be trusted to be content in that position, never taking or using more than what I need.
Or simply put, being a good steward of God’s resources.

The image the Holy Spirit showed me in that moment to explain the idea further was a buffet – Golden Corral, more specifically. For those who are unfamiliar with GC, it is a massive restaurant filled with any sort of food, dessert and drink you can think of. Diners pile their plates with fried chicken, steak, fish and pork, and then trek back to fill two more plates with an assortment of pastas – a veggie or two – and sugary desserts. For years I’d feel sick any time I was forced to dine at Golden Corral and I finally understood why: It’s an environment governed, punctuated and spurred on by gluttony. There is simply no reason for any one person to eat that much food at one time. It was the simplest metaphor Holy Spirit could show me, that being how would the average person conduct themselves if they were given free reign to anything they wanted. Would you exercise the same self-control as you did when you had to ration your portions? At Golden Corral and similar buffets, almost everyone chooses excess…because they don’t know how to live in environments of abundance.

This idea extends to other scenarios as well. Men who chase after women don’t know how to be content with one partner; ruthless businessmen cheat people out of money with the aim of swelling their bank accounts; people seek out shaky relationships for the benefit of collecting friends like dolls… When one fails to understand how to abound, it becomes a harder’s spirit – and hoarding only ever leads to ruin.

My personal prayer is that as I seek God’s hand and face that my character will be developed enough to handle new promotions. For years, I honestly thought I had this trait fully formed, perfected even. I’ve been cocksure that I could handle anything thrown at me. It’s easy to be confident when your previous day looks like that next. However the previous 10 months have been a season of testing. I’ve been given great hope and been robbed of it in waves, ways and cycles that are unfamiliar to me: because these waters are unfamiliar to me. Yet through it all, I am humbled and grateful that I have a Master Coach to see me through. If I can’t miraculously walk on the water, He’s taught me well enough to swim. That’s more than enough.


How Often Do We Miss God in The Small Things?

Sawubona y’all!

As we prepare for the final month in the year and our second Christmas in South Africa, I can’t help but feel a sincere sense of gratitude for all that God has done for and shown us this year. He’s seen us through surgeries, and travel abroad, and kept us healthy and fed, and provided all the other things we generally take for granted until their acute and unexpected absence is felt.

Yesterday I was reflecting on some of the skills we’ve collectively acquired as a result of living outside of the US. The kids have become strong(er) swimmers, Aya and Stone have learned to write in cursive (a skill that is dying thanks to the data/tech push in the West) and we’re all learning how to be a bit more still. Stillness is not something that easy to adjust to when you’ve been brought up or lived in a fast paced community like Atlanta, GA. For my part, part of that stillness has been learning to sew, a prospect and a task that has terrified me for many years.

I learned everything I know about sewing from a 10-minute tutorial with the lady who sold me my machine in Cape Town and YouTube University. As a result, I’ve become pretty adept at making tote bags and was able to fill in for the supplier of our local deli while she was away on vacation in Asia. When she returned, she saw my work in the shop and asked me to join her at lunch to discuss the totes. I was pretty excited going into the conversation because while though I know that the chances of me becoming of billionaire off of the labor of making and selling totes are slim, it would be nice to generate some sort of income from my newfound skill.


The lady and I formed an instant connection, both genuinely fascinated with one another. She was amazed that I could juggle four kids, and I was impressed that she’d stuck to her convictions about never having at all. (She’s now in her 50s.) We talked about plastic waste, Jim Crow and apartheid and the differences in the pace of life in South Africa and the US. I discovered that she’d gone to fashion school in New York in the 80’s. However, she dressed like a woman for whom the nuances of fashion were a bother, and I liked that about her. Finally, we got to the point of the meeting: She wanted me to join her in making the totes as part of her campaign to rid our town of what she calls the Blight of Plastic. I leaned in and smiled eagerly as she began talking numbers.

“I offer R15 per bag,” she began. “I was offering more, initially, because the straps were such a beast to construct…but now that I’ve seen what you were able to do with the alternative by eliminating that portion of the labor…”

“Yes,” I finished. “Using the luggage strapping does take out a considerable portion of the time spent making the bags.”


Essentially, she was saying that my innovation (using luggage strapping) had increased the value of the bag, but decreased what she was willing to pay for the labor. My smile turned tepid as I contemplated her offer.

At today’s market rate, R15 is $1.09. It takes me approximately one hour to make a bag. Sure, I’m not expecting to become a billionaire off of tote making, but I had hoped at least to make enough money to contribute towards school fees, which are increasing next year. I’d have to sew 10,000 bags to make a dent towards that goal. I giggled at the absurdity of it all.

And then I told her I’d be happy to join her when the time came. She breathed a sigh of relief, admitting that she’s already burned out several seamstresses during this campaign.

“The orders are just too large for one person to fulfill,” she said. “One of my friends gave up after I requested 75 bags.”

I advised her to assemble a team and spread the labor.

You may be asking yourself why I would even consider taking on this task, given the minuscule returns. I pondered the same thing. $1.09 is about what seamstresses working in sweatshop conditions earn. I had to look at the opportunity from a different perspective. While I have learned a lot about sewing from YouTube, it cannot give me the same practical instruction as someone who has graduated from fashion school. She already pointed out that while my bags are sturdy, the handles are a weak point because of the stitching I used. She would be willing to show me how to improve that area. In effect, I wouldn’t be losing an hour of my day per bag…I would be EARNING $1.09 to learn a new skill. Essentially, she will pay me to study.

Like you, I’ve had other moments like this in my life – scenarios where I’ve slapped away the hand of God for presenting an opportunity or gift that didn’t look like God. We often look for God in the big things. The evidence of His power lies in whether we have a big house, or a big car, or a big paycheck, or big (important) followers on social media. However, I am reminded of Elijah in 1 Kings 19 that says:

And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the Lord. And, behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake:

And after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice.

Be encouraged, my family, and remember to look for God in the small things. 🙂

Giving, and A Lesson On Grace

Hello 34 DGZ family! So much has been going on with us here on the Garden Route. The kids are preparing for their final week of final exams, Marshall just returned from ministering in Malawi (his absence was an eye opener for us all) and I’m trying to get my new locktician to stop cutting my hair at the roots because my lines are not “ayoba”. I don’t know what that means, but I gather he is displeased with my grid pattern. I had brain surgery. I’m just grateful to have hair, ayoba or not.

This has been an interesting season in the Grant family’s life, because we are experiencing a stretching of faith. Coming from our ministry in Atlanta, this may not seem like a big deal. Almost every family at the Father’s House has had to live by faith for one period or another, but Marshall and I have always been cautious spenders (him more than me) and so the bulk of our needs have been met through the efforts of the sweat of our brow and the Lord’s keeping the palmerworm from devastating our harvest. I’ll talk more about the stretching of our faith in the next post. Today I want to speak about a revelation that left me humbled.

Marshall is a big giver, and I have not always agreed with how and/or how much he’s sowed into a person or a project. Oftentimes, I didn’t consider them ‘worthy’ investments. Still, I’ve tried to keep my grumbling to a minimum and over the years I’ve responded to his giving in the same way one would witnessing a duck swim across a pond in autumn: with nonchalance. A duck in water is natural, after all. There’s nothing remarkable about a waterfowl in that environment. You watch it do what it does and then you go on your way. But in time, a strange thing begins to happen; those ducky habits begin to rub off on you. Recently, I’ve found myself cultivating a habit of giving.

“Nothing bad can ever come from giving,” I cheerily exclaimed as I gave away a chocolate ganache cake to a total stranger. Now it was Marshall’s turn to give skeptical stares.

A day or so after I gave away the item, a woman at a local business handed me some merchandise I’d been looking for, free of charge. That’s the way giving works, right? You give and it shall be given unto you. Being in a position to give can sometimes seduce us into believing that we are also ‘worthy’ of being in a position to receive. Usually, I’d say that’s a sound interpretation of scripture. God showed me otherwise in the most unlikely of places: At the gas station.


As I had opened myself up to this new habit and season of giving, I’ve found myself more attuned to the unction of the Spirit. (I am not yet comfortable with declaring that I’ve ever heard The Voice of the Lord.) On Wednesday, I felt a nudge to give the attendant a R100 tip (around $8). We have a policy that we don’t give out tips for pumping gas. Pumping gas is the bare minimum. You need to wash our windows, check our tire pressure or SOMETHING to get a tip, and even then, it’s going to be R10. But the Spirit urged me to give R100 that morning, so I said, “Okay”.

I watched the attendant – a young man I had never seen before – go about his duties. He casually pumped the gas. He never reached for the window washing equipment. At one point, he left the pump idle and disappeared for what felt like an eternity. He was NOT the best gas attendant at the Shell station. In fact, he may be the very worst that has ever waited on me since I’ve been in the country.

When he finally did return to take my card for payment, he swiped it, handed it back to me, and wordlessly prepared to move on to some other task (or back to his breakfast).

“Wait!” I said. “Here.”


I gave him the R100 note. He took it, looked at it and then looked at me with a look that was a mixture of awe and confusion, as though he was sure I had made a mistake. He thanked me, and I wasn’t inspired to say anything else to him beyond, “You’re welcome”; so I drove off. Behind me I heard his raised voice repeat, “Thank you, Mama!”

God’s unique humor hit me in that moment, and I had to laugh. I could almost hear heave say, “You see? Even when you absolutely suck at your job (i.e. your Christian walk), at least you have the sense to show up. At least you’re in a position to receive. I can reward you for showing up because it’s MY pleasure to do so, not because you’ve earned it or because you’re worthy.”

The truth, as we know, is that there is none worthy but Christ…and that’s part of the essence of the grace the Father extends to us.

For that, I am grateful.



“Do Not Build Below This Point.”

I may have mentioned in one of my previous posts that there is one prayer request that I am almost always guaranteed to receive at the close of a service, particularly in a large church where we’re visiting.

“I want to divorce my husband. Can you pray that our separation is easy an smooth?”

These requests do no come easy. The supplications are often made by tearful women – who, despite their church finery – look wrung out and hung up to dry. They’ve prayed for their marriages. They’ve fasted for their union. They believe in the ministry of reconciliation. But by the time they’ve gotten to that prayer line at the altar, they’re ready to admit to themselves what the old aunties used to say: “You can’t keep a man who doesn’t want to be kept.”

Resigning yourself to the idea that the end of your marriage is imminent can be absolutely traumatic, especially when one partner has already moved on physically and emotionally while you still cling to hope. When the hope for reconciliation has been snatched from you, it leaves you feeling adrift; unmoored. In my trusted position as a pastor’s wife, it’s a difficult thing to witness. The grieving process is not unlike working through the circumstances surrounding a slow, painful death.

Still, it’s easier to pray for this former group than the latter. The hardest part about praying with certain women whose souls are still tied to husbands who have expressed in no uncertain terms that this marriage has run its course (for them) is getting them to understand that while we can take our request to God for reconciliation or a change in a loved one’s heart, God never forces His will on anyone’s heart. God does not force an action or a reaction from any of us. If a man/woman willfully walks away from their marriage, all of the counseling, guilt laying and law in the world can’t force them to return to the union and participate it in an equal, loving manner. Doing so can only lead to resentment and will be poisonous to everyone involved. Sure, God can touch their heart, but they have to be open to receiving that touch and respond accordingly. It’s this sticking point that the woman of blind faith so frequently can’t/refuses to grasp: the concept of the power of individual will. Sometimes that strength and power of will rivals in might to the Almighty’s.

A while ago, Marshall gave a word about the storms that we each will have to battle in our Christian walk. Those storms can manifest in myriad ways and are almost always guaranteed to come at intervals in our life.

“What matters,” he said, “is not what the situation you’re facing is, but how you handle it. But you know what? I’ve never known a storm to last forever. It doesn’t matter how long or fierce it is…the storm always ends. It just does.”

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In a follow up conversation with a new friend who has been battling with the break down of her filial relations, she took the analogy of the storm further by talking about the safety of the eye of the storm, which is ironically often in the middle of it. It’s counter-intuitive, but God in his perfect plan designed that that strongest place of chaos is smack in the middle of it. As she finds herself – and as well all will at some point – in the middle of a ferocious tempest, we can rest knowing that we’ll be kept safe so long as we are centered.

The conversation brought to mind a particularly devastating tsunami that struck Japan in 2011. An earthquake with a magnitude of 9.0 unleashed tidal waves that obliterated hundreds of miles of Japan’s coast and cost thousands of lives. There is a small coastal village called Aneyoshi which was spared the devastation only because they adhered to a warning written on an ancient rock.


In this particular storm, the waves stopped just 300 feet below the rock, sparing the homes and lives of the 11 families that lived in the village. Why only 11 families? Because as one of the elderly residents explained, people tend to forget about potential danger ‘until the next tsunami claims 10,000 or more lives.’ They migrate to the water’s edge in order to be closer to their boats or have more convenient access to the road.

A stone tablet in Aneyoshi, Japan, warns residents not to build homes below it. Hundreds of these so-called tsunami stones, some more than six centuries old, dot the coast of Japan. Credit Ko Sasaki for The New York Times

The word of God is very much the foundation – a rock, if you will – for our success, happiness and (spiritual/physical) health as believers. So long as we do not structure our lives beneath the safety and surety of God’s word, the storm may rage, but we will not be swept away with it. God’s ways are not always convenient (actually, they seldom are) but his laws and commandments, which we are at liberty to take as advise, are rooted in ancient wisdom. The Father uses foolish things to confound the wise. The recommendation of cutting off a spouse may sound unwise or unconventional, but Jesus said if your right hand offends thee, cut it off. If you find yourself in a toxic marriage and after having done all you can via prayer, fasting and pleading with your betrothed for reconciliation, it’s okay prune that relationship. It’s okay to let it go.

That was the storm.

You can rebuild a new life, so long as it’s steadfast and secure on the word and plan of God.