What Advice Would You Give Your Younger Self?

What Advice Would you Give your Younger Self?


//  Ahhhhh, I love Fridays. Have I ever told you that I’m a homebody? Yup, completely and irrevocably.

I LOVE being home.

I ♥ curling up on the couch with my laptop, or maybe some Netflix.

I ♥ organizing.

I ♥ decorating.

I ♥ cooking, and yes, sometimes even cleaning.

I even ♥ rainy days when I can hide within our four walls and not feel guilty for avoiding the beaches or malls.

Don’t get me wrong… I also ♥ being with people. In fact, inviting people over is the BEST way to fill my love tank. I ♥ coffee times with friends or bring & share suppers, and I ♥ having parties! The BEST!

But I must admit that it wasn’t always like this. There was a time (and still occasionally is) when I felt completely out-of-place here in South Africa. When we first landed ten-and-a-half years ago, everything felt foreign and strange. EVERYTHING! Flavours, language, customs, clothing; even the coffee and toothpaste were weird and unsettling.

Foreign… It’s a horrible feeling.

Last night, we had the incredible privilege to be interviewed at Creative Collective—the gathering of a creative community that we hold every Thursday night just before worship practice. //

Anne Galloway, our amazing Chinese-Australian-now-married-to-a-South-African friend, asked us a myriad of questions, everything from our favourite worship song to our favourite child (relax, kids, I chose your dad 😀 ).

She also asked us questions about how we originally got into worship ministry, and our SECRET TO LONGEVITY in ministry and in life (another post for another time—maybe Erwin should write that one?).

And lastly, she asked us

“What advice would you give your younger self?”

What a great question! Have you ever considered what your answer would be? If you could go back in time (10, 20, 30, 40 years ago), what would you say to yourself?

I thought for a few moments and then said,

“I would tell myself, ‘Unpack your boxes earlier. Don’t live like you’re in a permanent state of transience. Even if you don’t know how long you’ll be somewhere, unpack, settle, and build a place for yourself.’

You see, when we moved to South Africa, we only thought we were going to be here for a year and a half. I spent most of those first few years saying, ‘No we can’t buy that; it won’t fit in a suitcase. No, we shouldn’t do that; we’re not going to be here that long.’ I lived with one foot out the door mentally, emotionally, and psychologically. And it was terrible.

I know I’ve mentioned this before, but it’s worth repeating—even if it’s just for one of you reading this. About five years into our journey, I read an incredible book called Third Culture Kids which radically changed how I lived life.

Third Culture Kids: Growing Up Among Worlds, Revised Edition

The author told the story of a family that had to move every few years because of business. Such transience could’ve been devastating for the mental health of that whole family, but the dad had the most brilliant advice. He said,

“Wherever you go in life, unpack your bags―physically and mentally―and plant your trees. Too many people never live in the now because they assume the time is too short to settle in. They don’t plant trees because they expect to be gone before the trees bear fruit. But if you keep thinking about the next move, you’ll never live fully where you are. When it’s time to go, then it’s time to go, but you won’t have missed what this experience was about. If you never eat from the trees, someone else will.” (page 217)

That advice radically changed how we live life! We started living IN THE NOW.

1. It gave us the courage we needed to SETTLE AND INVEST in this beautiful country.

It gave us the courage we needed to buy a house, and furniture, and spend the mental effort to learn the language. It was hard and painful at times, but man, you should hear me sing and worship now in Afrikaans!

2. It gave us the courage to really OPEN OUR HEARTS to the people around us.

Yes, it always hurts to say ‘goodbye’ to people we love, but that’s not a good enough reason to withhold your heart. Get to know people. Learn to love the things they love, and laugh at the things they laugh at.

Fall in love with the people God has placed around you. Click To Tweet


So, what does ‘unpacking your boxes and planting a tree’ mean to you?

  • Are you subconsciously withholding your heart and your passion from what God has asked you to do?
  • Are you scared of investing in something you may not be around later to reap?

My friend, that’s a terrible way to live. Don’t stay there. Don’t hold back.

In the book, the daughter told of returning to some of those places twelve years later and actually eating the fruit from the very trees that her family had planted. What beautiful closure!

My friends, your time of reaping will come… it may happen five years from now, maybe ten, or maybe long after you’re gone. But plant yourself anyway.

You have the potential to build a beautiful place for yourself if you’d just GIVE YOURSELF to your calling and allow God to plant you where you are.

You have the potential to build a beautiful place for yourself. Give yourself. Click To Tweet





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11 replies
  1. Janyre Tromp
    Janyre Tromp says:

    Thank you for the encouragement to invest in my life where I am. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized how many times I didn’t dig into the friendships and experiences right in front of me. Now I’m in the process of figuring out what being invested looks like today and tomorrow. I love the thought of the trees I plant today becoming the fruit of tomorrow. God bless. Visiting from just after you on FMF.

    • Shauna Blaak
      Shauna Blaak says:

      Hi Janyre! I’m so glad to see you here again. It’s so true! We often avoid LIVING IN THE NOW, and our reasons for doing so never really makes sense to us later. I guess that’s why hindsight is 20/20 🙂
      I’m determined to live every day to the fullest now, even if that means avoiding the crowds and cuddling on the couch with the family and a good movie.

      I pray that your journey toward ‘investment’ will be full of much joy and friendship! Have a great week! ❤️

  2. Katha
    Katha says:

    Thanks for this post, Shauna! It spoke right to my TCK heart…
    For a long time I have lived in-between, never really unpacked because I always wanted to be ready to just leave. Since I moved into this new apartment in November, I have decided to set down a few roots. For me, this meant to actually put nails in the wall and hang up pictures. At first it felt strange and uncomfortable, but every nail meant a bit more of home. It’s the little things…
    And yes, I am a bit similar – love people, but have no problem staying home and enjoying the coziness!
    Have a lekker weekend!

    • Shauna Blaak
      Shauna Blaak says:

      Awwww, Katha. You have so been on my heart! I understand your comments completely, and I could cry for joy that you are finally hanging pictures! I get it! Progress, investment, mental health. That’s a huge step and I’m so happy for you.

      I pray that, regardless of how long this season will be, your roots will grow deep and full, and that your fruit will be sweet HE’ll help you when it’s time to leave. Until then, just LIVE FULLY, my friend! ❤️
      Much love.

  3. Susan Nowell @ My Place to Yours
    Susan Nowell @ My Place to Yours says:

    So glad I discovered your blog! (I’m #60 at FMF.) We are in transition, preparing to build a new home. I’ve already decided: this time everything will be unpacked and enjoyed. Anything not used will find new homes. Holes will be put in walls, and decisions will not be made based on resale value. Your words are wonderful affirmation today!

    • Shauna Blaak
      Shauna Blaak says:

      Awwww, that’s so special, Susan! I love hearing that my journey encourages someone else. Thank you for sharing that! May you find MUCH joy and healing in the process of unpacking and hanging pictures. I completely understand where you’re coming from. ❤️

      Sooo glad to meet you today. Heading over to read your post now. Have a great week!

    • Shauna Blaak
      Shauna Blaak says:

      Hey Andrew! How nice to see you here again this week! I love when you leave me comments. If there is anyone who has wisdom borne from trial and testing, it’s you, my friend. Like gold.

      I am so very sorry for your suffering. Praying comfort, strength, and healing for you! Love to Barb. ❤️

  4. Puleng Mamabolo
    Puleng Mamabolo says:

    So so encouraging. Difficult for my personality but doable. Going out to to invest myself to that one person.
    Miss you, love

    • Shauna Blaak
      Shauna Blaak says:

      Haha! Puleng, you are such a GIFT to everyone who meets you. Don’t hold back… Unpack and plant yourself wherever you are! I know you’re gonna thrive wherever that is! You are, afterall, a Lesotho princess!
      I believe in you, my friend, and miss you tons!


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