This Is How A Woman Should Be Loved

Take the risk.

Show me your cards. Don’t keep them close to your chest because you’re afraid of what I might say or think. Tell me what’s on your mind and where you’re going with things. I want to know. I want to know your plans and your intentions. I want to know your truth. I want to know you and not the poker-faced version of you that you hide behind.

Lay them on the table. Don’t try to bluff your way through this cause you think I might hurt you. Tell me I’m the first thing you think of when you wake up in the morning and the last word spoken in your nighttime prayers. Be honest about how my strength scares you a little and makes you want to be a better man. Talk about how I’m nothing like you expected and everything that you ever hoped I’d be.

Go all-in. Decide that I’m worth whatever it’ll cost you. Love me anew every morning. Even when I’m mean. Even when I’m lazy. Even if it was me who farted but I’d rather deflect by talking about how TV programming isn’t getting any better and maybe we should get Netflix. Choose me anyway. Commit to me everything that you are and everything that you will be. Have faith in the woman that I am becoming and trust me to believe in the man God made you to be.

Trust me with your weaknesses and failings and I will trust you with mine. Please. Don’t lie to me. Come to me when you feel ashamed. When I go astray, find me again. When I run and hide cause I’m afraid, count to ten and go seek. Search me out, study my mind and pursue my heart. Think of me less as a problem to solve and more like a mystery waiting to be discovered.

Let me see your pain. Uncover those wounds that still sting when touched and those that have hardened into scars. Give me your joyful memories. I want to see that you’re a man who bleeds when pricked, laughs when tickled and cries because even Jesus wept. Show me that your heart breaks for the broken and that you can carry the burdens of others. Let me catch your tears with my hands, let me in, let me hold you.

Hold me. Gently. Know your strength and use it for and not against me. Build me up with words that will fortify my soul against a world hellbent on my destruction. Tell me I’m beautiful, even when you think I’ve heard it enough. When my faith grows weak and I forget who I am, remind me. Forgive me when I repent, say sorry and mean it.

Don’t ever let your mind reduce what we could have to a multiple choice option. Don’t passively wait for me to make the first move while you hedge your bets. Show me your hand and give me the chance to show mine. Or not to. Know what you want and go for it. I’m not saying be perfect, I’m saying be powerful. I’m saying love me with a love that is secure and suffers long and suffers first.

Take the risk.

Show me your cards.

Zola Ndlovu writes to encourage people to live every day intentionally. Get more of her writing when you subscribe by clicking here.

Dear Future Husband, From Your Future Wife

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Dear future husband,

Can I tell you my worst nightmare?

I’m lying on a bed in a room completely void of light, my arms and legs held down by invisible ties, my limbs feel paralysed, my tongue stuck to the roof of my mouth. The darkness that surrounds me crawls up my body and it won’t be long until it closes in on my neck and squeezes hard. I’m so afraid. I’m so afraid because this feels like death, and I’m alone, and it doesn’t matter how loudly I scream because no one will hear me…

I struggle and thrash around but finally the screams turn into short gasps for air. I feel lightheaded from the lack of oxygen. My heart beats hard against my chest, the rhythm pounds against my skull and I hear the blood rushing in my ears. Finally, my heart stops beating and the blood stops circulating around my body. My brain stops working almost immediately. My body no longer struggles, but is still and lifeless.

A day or so later someone will notice that my curtains haven’t been drawn and windows haven’t been opened and they didn’t see me out on my usual morning walk. The report will say I died of natural causes, a relative will be called to confirm my identity. My funeral policy will be called up, people will be notified and arrangements made. People I haven’t seen in years will gather to sing songs I didn’t like and a lacklustre sermon will be preached.

But it gets worse.

Strangers will stand up to give false testimony. They will speak of my great virtue and be character witnesses for someone they didn’t really know. Many a crocodile tear will be shed. And there will be a display of culturally appropriate histrionics – the wailing and the pretending to throw themselves into the grave. And when the last flower is laid everyone will leave. Life goes on. People will go home to their families, and their jobs and their social media posting. Here lies Zola Ndlovu, unloved, unknown and alone.

I don’t want to die, but it’s not so much the dying that scares me. It is dying alone. I think God created humans with a basic need to connect, to be known and yet loved, to have someone look at you, see right through you and say, “I will stay.” I think this basic need drives us to make reckless decisions. To give ourselves away to people who don’t really care about us, to give ourselves up to what feels like love but is anything but.

And it hurts.

When you give your heart to another, and they take it, stomp all over it and throw it back in your face, you feel like you will never love again. You’re reminded of your bad choices. You’re convinced that all men will fail you and none can be trusted. You’re haunted by loneliness, Little Girl Blue, never chosen and always rejected. You tell yourself that you will never love again.

Learn more about Zola’s online course, HEART DETOX!

The truth?

I will love again. I have to believe that my past wounds do not define me. I have to believe that beauty can rise out of pain and that even in heartbreak there is hope. I have to defy the lie that I am unlovable, I have to embrace vulnerability and let my heart respond again to another, to receive love. To laugh deeply, to desire passionately and to give myself unreservedly.

The world tells me there are no good men out there but I see them, I see them everywhere I go.

First, I see the father with his son, walking down the street in the rain. An umbrella in one hand, a briefcase in the other. His shirt is soaked down to the skin because you can’t cover yourself and your boy at the same time.

Next, I see the brother who works two jobs so he can pay school fees for his siblings. He defers his dreams to see those of others fulfilled.

Lastly, I see a man with his wife, he still pursues her. Two decades later they still flirt and publicly display affection, her face still captivates his heart.

I know you’re out there but I need you to understand that for all of my life I’ve been encountering counterfeit versions of you. The father who raises his voice in anger and his hand in violence. The brother who is indifferent. The husband who turns to another when his passion has cooled.

I need you to understand that women are taught to protect themselves from these men. We learn to cover up and hide ourselves and display big ‘KEEP OUT’ signs outside.

We do what anyone would do with anything of value. We keep it locked away. Not just to keep the wrong people out necessarily, but to let the right people in.

I am like a locked garden. It won’t be easy for you to come in. You’re going to have to learn to observe my beauty from a distance, to recognise and appreciate my scent. You’re going to need to be patient or you’ll grow tired and give up, which is what all those who came before you did.

I am a locked garden. It won’t be easy for me to let you in. To let you be the one who plants, waters and cultivates. To accept your words that cut, to prune me for my good and not to harm me. I’m going to have to give you the key and let you in.

And when I do… when I say I do you will discover what you thought was a little walled garden is actually a field of dreams. My heart has depths and heights you will need a lifetime to explore. And some. My mind is a land of wonders with surprises around every corner. I am a work in progress, being completed and perfected by the Master Builder Himself.

I long to know you. To hear your voice and see your face.

I know I won’t have to make you stay, you will choose to. And when I’m walking through the shadowland, you will walk with me. And when I take my last breath, I won’t be thinking about my hurts, my disappointments or my pain. I’ll be thinking about you. I’ll be thinking about the father who takes the rain and the husband whose love is unfading. I’ll be thinking about the beloved son who lays his life down so others might live.

Because that’s what love is about. Love is about sacrifice. Love is about making vows that bind us beyond feelings because feelings don’t last. Love is what lets us know that we’re not alone.

Love is here now.

So hurry up already.

I’m waiting for you.

Zola Ndlovu’s aim is to help you escape the overwhelm and live intentionally in every area of your life. Join her course HEART DETOX when you sign up here. It’s completely free:  http://eepurl.com/bP-AIP

How To Be An Adult About Your Career When You Feel Like A Confused Kid

Around the time that exam results are released, high school students have this conversation with their parents.

Mom: Love, I’m so proud of you for getting that place to study medicine in Cape Town.

Child: But mom, I told you that I’m going to study acting.

Mom : Acting for who? What is acting? Are you a comedian now?

 

And so it goes. In a conversation that I had with a mother she admitted that she was resistant to her daughter studying to work in the tourism industry because she did not understand it. She explained how the women of her generation only saw themselves walking in one of two career paths: teaching or nursing.

As African countries gained independence careers that were previously closed doors of opportunity opened up. Parents who could not pursue medicine, law and accounting began to have those dreams for their children. They worked hard to educate and prepare for university where their children would take advantage of the many opportunities they were deprived of.

You feel pressured to choose the path your parents want for you. You are conflicted because you want to honour your parents but you also want to live your own life, not theirs. You feel confused because you suddenly have to make grownup decisions but you still feel like a child.

 

Four years ago I felt terrified of getting stuck in a career that I hated. I had just finished studying my first degree and had to decide if I was going to pursue a law degree. My dad had told me that he had always wanted to be a lawyer but could not. The truth is that I was pressuring myself. My parents had never tried to force me into a specific path.

I wanted to make them proud, but I also wanted to be happy. I was confused and spent months wrestling with it until I could make sense of the tangle of the fear of failure and the fear of success. I don’t have all the answers but I do have ideas that will change the way you think.

It’s okay not to know what you want to be when you grow up

I used to envy people who said they always knew what work they wanted to do, but then I found out that there are far more people who can’t decide if they want to be biologist or a belly dancer. Realising this freed me. My uncertainty did not make me a failure.

Think of your degree as an investment in yourself

Billionaire investor Warren Buffet said, ‘Invest in yourself as much as you can, you are your own biggest asset by far.’ If you’re a student, stop thinking of university as a necessary evil on the path to making money, think of it as an investment in yourself.  University will give you more than a degree. It shapes your worldview, it puts in place the foundations that you will build your adult life on.

Do your research

Never, ever make a career choice on a whim. Find out as much as you can about your options and make an informed decision. Google is helpful and websites like Forbes are a great resource, but talking to a person slightly ahead of you on the path you are considering is by far the best way to get the lowdown on any career.

Honour your parents

Honour and obedience are not the same thing. To honour your parents means to consider them better than you, to value and respect them. Instead of dismissing their advice as old-fashioned or oppressive, listen and consider it as valuable. Use the language of respect, don’t throw a tantrum because they disagree. Engage them in conversation, but remember that it is your decision to make and not theirs.

Understand that it’s not about what job you are doing but about the person you are becoming

Four years ago I chose to read for a law degree even though I didn’t feel certain that I wanted to be a lawyer. I realised that my career is not my identity, it’s not who I am. Rather, it’s a channel through which I can express who I am. If you spend your life chasing job titles and employee of the year awards, you are going to be an empty shell at the end of your life.

Ultimately the most important question you must ask yourself is: Who do I want to be when I grow up?

Zola writes to encourage you to live every day with intentionality. Subscribe to get more of her writing free.

Why I’m Making the Choice to Be Celibate

Celebrities make everything look cool.

Torn denim is ratchet until Beyonce shows up outside wearing cut-off shorts. Short hair is boyish until Lupita rocks it. Celibacy was an unrealistic expectation to place on adults until Meagan Good, Devon Franklin, Russell Wilson and Ciara chose it. Now it’s cool!

It feels good to be celibate today because popular culture says its good. You look less like a sex-deprived religious fundamentalist and more like a self-assured woman who’s making powerful choices in her sex life. What makes celibacy extra-cool is that it’s not just the self-professed Christian celebrities who are doing it. The non-religious ones are into too.

So I’m making the choice to be celibate. But it’s actually a decision that I have been making since I was twelve after my boyfriend broke up with me by getting his boys to sing 112’s It’s Over Now. I probably deserved it. I was diabolical. I manipulated and controlled him because it was kind of nice to have that kind of power over a male.

After that horrible break up experience I made a vow not get a boyfriend until I was sixteen. Four years later I discovered that I liked not having a boyfriend. The constant hook-up and break-up cycle was wrecking my friends’ lives. I discovered that it was actually possible to have a healthy guy friendship without it having to turn romantic. I understood that a sexual relationship with a man is not part and parcel of what it means to be a woman. I felt free to discover who I was as a person.

It’s thirteen years after I first made that decision in a very different context. I want a boyfriend soon and I want to get married one day. I’m not a pubescent teen, I’m a sexually mature woman. Sex isn’t a thing my sister shields my eyes from when a scene comes on the TV screen; it’s an act people around me are doing every single day. And they aren’t shy about sharing the details either! So why, oh why, would I choose celibacy?

1. Because I can’t just walk away.

When I love someone I love them hard. I don’t do half measures. And for me opening myself up sexually to a man that I love would be the ultimate level of vulnerability. I know I couldn’t just move on from a man that I’ve slept with because I’ve shown him a part of myself that no other person has had the privilege to see. I want to entrust that sacred part of myself to a man who is entrusting that sacred part of himself to me – permanently. I want to feel safe to be fully vulnerable and free in a context where we’re both committed to never walking away.

2. Because sex is good motivation for a man.

Sex is the primary motivation for why men pursue relationships with women. My choice to be celibate puts me a in a position where I can encourage him to shift his priorities from sexual to establishing a real emotional and spiritual connection with me. Secondly, I understand that a man who tries to pressure me into sex doesn’t respect me or my values. Thirdly, I know that a man who is willing to sacrifice his sexual needs to win my heart sees my value beyond my physical attributes.

3. Because sex isn’t a test drive.

‘Before we get married, we need to have sex. What if he’s horrible in bed? What if we’re incompatible??’

I’ve heard my share of sad honeymoon fails from couples who got married as virgins. But I think most of their problems could have been solved by pre-marital counselling. The fear of marrying someone you’re incompatible with is illogical at best and selfish at worst. At the very least, if you plan on marrying a man you should at least establish that he has a penis. That doesn’t require sex. The ‘test drive’ mindset stems from a cultural view of sex that defines it like a commercial transaction. Sex is the good and we are the consumers. Like a lipstick in the beauty shelf at Clicks I want to try it before I buy it.

4. Because sex is fantastic motivation for a woman.

I’ve prayed that Jesus doesn’t return before I find the one more times than I care to admit. Because like a kid who gets to eat Choice Assorted Biscuits but once a year, the wait hasn’t quenched my desire, but intensified it. Celibacy isn’t a decision that I made because the priest told me so. It was a choice that I made because I truly believe that sex was created by God to be the fun, exciting, orgasmic experience that joins two individuals together for life.

I’m making the choice to be celibate before marriage. Even if Ciara decides to give up her Goodies. Even if Drake breaks up with Serena and shows up in a slim-fit suit and that beard. Even when it stops looking cool.

Zola writes to encourage women to be powerful people. Get her writing for free when you subscribe here.

How Exercise is Making Me a Happier Person

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I run four times a week early in the morning. I love being on the road as the sun rises, before the morning rush and school runs begin. It’s the best way for me to start my day – feeling wide awake and energised, rather than sleepy and grumpy which was my default setting before I started running.

Running was a dream I had for years but I could never seem to turn it into an achievable goal. Occasionally I would wake up early to jog around the block, but I was not becoming a runner which is what I wanted to be.

I am running today because friends came alongside me with the encouragement and practical advice to get my butt out of bed and on to the road. I no longer stare admiringly at the joggers going past my window, I am out there doing it.

There are visible changes to my body, I have dropped several kilos and I feel good. When you exercise your body releases two chemicals: BDNF (Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor) and endorphins. BDNF produces antidepressant effects and endorphins are natural painkillers. They make you feel good.

Exercise can make you a happier person.

Maybe you have been struggling to motivate yourself to go to the gym every week. Maybe you have never been sporty and dread the thought of daily exercise. Or maybe you think you are too busy to fit exercise into your schedule. I want to share the practical and powerful advice my friends gave me. These are simple steps that you can take today to turn your exercise dream into a lifelong habit:

1. Find an exercise buddy.
Your exercise buddy should be at least a step ahead of you – enough to challenge you to push yourself beyond what you think you can do. If your gym offers it and you can afford it then hire a personal trainer. You are more likely to be committed to someone you are paying to show up. A virtual alternative is the Nike+ Running App which keeps track of your runs and allows you to share your progress with your friends.

2. Use the ‘just 10 minutes’ trick.
When it is freezing outside and your bed is like a cocoon, it is nearly impossible to convince yourself to go out and run 3km. So set yourself a minimum goal of ten minutes. Anyone can do ten minutes! Once you are out there and the endorphins start flowing you will not want to come back.

3. Think. Pray.
Before I started running I never made time to pray in the morning, but my mornings have become the perfect time to connect with God. My running buddy and I never talk while we run so that gives me 30 minutes of uninterrupted silence – no Whatsapp chats coming in and no urgent matters bombarding me. I can clear my mind and focus on God. I also use it as time to focus my thoughts and plan my day.

Now that winter is over, October feels like a good month to get your body in shape and start a new exercise habit.

My name is Zola and I want you to escape the overwhelm and find your purpose. Subscribe  if you want to connect and get free access to more of my writing.