Marias Testimony

I took my first breath in 1972 in the small town of Paarl in the Boland. My dad was a teacher at HS van der Walt Girls’ High and our family also lived on the school grounds. I am blessed to still have both of my parents in my life, my dad Willie and mom Raché Swart, and also have two sisters, Lézl Potgieter and Raché Gerber. My brother Bennie was born 14 years after me. We had a wonderful childhood, of which many hours were spent under the jacaranda trees and playing in the vineyards.

 

In 1980, just as I was about to start sub B, my family moved to Standerton. I found it very drab and flat, completely different to the beautiful Paarl that I was used to! At the end of standard nine, we moved yet again, this time to Heidelberg in the then Transvaal, where I completed my matric in 1990.

 

Early in 1991, I left my parental home to spend a year at the SA Army Women’s College. Right through school it was my dream to attend this college and I also wanted to study drama and art in Stellenbosch. Unfortunately, the latter never materialised.

 

Between 1992 and 1993 I tried different fields of study, first marketing and later social work, but I felt that it was a waste of time. In my mind, social work was something that is installed in every Christian, and I was already working part-time in marketing. I decided to quit my studies and started my career as a full-time marketer. I was originally appointed as merchandiser, later on as sales representative, and because of my hard work, I was promoted to key account executive. I left the company I was working at for a better salary and the status position of marketing manager at TCD Trading in Pretoria. During this period I received diplomas in business management as well as web development and design.

 

In December 1995 I got married to Francois Oosthuizen, and three months after our wedding in Heidelberg we moved to England, where we lived and worked for almost two years. I was five months pregnant with our first child, Katinka, when we moved back to Cape Town with bag and baggage. Our second child, Sharl-Francois, was born 16 months later during a time in which I was constantly searching for God. I needed the wisdom to raise our little ones after God’s own heart.

 

I can honestly say that my love for my children made my thirst for God’s wisdom uncontrollable and forced me to my knees. The Lord is faithful and not only did I find Him, but I also discovered His love, acceptance, wisdom, understanding, friendship and peace that passes all comprehension.

 

With the birth of our third child, Rigter, and with the continuing development of my relationship with God, I felt the need to live my life in the right way – divine order (which is so incredibly important!). His wisdom led me to a place where I, first of all, learnt to lay down my life for Him, to die within myself, so that He can live through me. Secondly, I had to give my children back to God; the realisation that He was the one who made them and that He loved them even more than I did, gave me absolute peace. The most important thing that God installed in my heart was that, after Him, I had to put my husband first, and then our children.

 

When our youngest was three years old, I began to feel that God wanted me to be more than a wife and a mother. He started talking to me about my talents and I began to pray about this earnestly.

 

Every word in the Bible led me to the knowledge that I had to use every talent, every gift for His glory. During this time I received a Scripture saying that He would educate me and send me where I needed to be – and that is exactly what happened.

 

I started by doing anything that I could lay my hands on – “ Once these signs are fulfilled, do whatever your hand finds to do, for God is with you” (1 Samuel 10:7). I started cutting and colouring hair, I had the skill as I had often cut my friends’ hair during my army days.

 

After a couple of months working in my tiny hair salon from home, I was at a crossroad. I had to buy hair-colouring products but in order to do so, I had to be qualified.

 

His Word returned to me where He says, “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;

I will counsel you with my loving eye on you” (Psalm 32:8), and I realised that I just had to believe that God is bigger in me than anything else in the world and that He would make my paths straight. God had blessed me with a dear friend, Corlene Louw, that was also my hairstylist, and she taught me a lot about the colouring of hair.

 

I also realised that I could do anything through God that gives me strength, so a bit self-consciously I applied to do the hairstylist examination. I had to receive training but I managed to complete my diploma in that same year.

 

Meanwhile I started to paint; I had a space on one of the walls in our house that I wanted to fill. A friend came to visit and fell in love with my “apple painting” and bought it for R800. More empty walls begged to be filled and here and there I had to paint something for a friend or client. A friend of mine, Elizabeth Ackerman, invited me to be part of an exhibition (with her and another artist) at her home, and preparing for this event kept me very busy. My paintings sold extremely well and I started to pray on this.

 

It says in the Bible that I can bring all my questions to the Lord and that I can ask him for wisdom and understanding, His promise to me and all of us is that He will give it to us, “The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him—
    the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
    the Spirit of counsel and of might,
    the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord” (Isaiah 11:2).

I asked Him where HE wanted to use me. Should I continue being a hairstylist or should I start painting full-time?

 

A couple of days later I made the decision to paint what was in my heart; an image of how we should serve the Lord. I decided on a scene illustrating the washing of feet, as it is every Christian’s duty to serve one another. That day I painted my first feet-washing scene. I was waiting for the paint to dry when I noticed an extract in a book that was lying next to me. Without a second thought, I jumped up and painted these words on the painting. I took a step back and gasped; the scene in front of me was speaking to me and the message was crystal clear –

 

“Take what I have given you and change the world.”

 

And then I just knew – God wanted me to paint! That was back in 2006. Without any training, knowledge or background in art, I realised that I had received a creative talent from the Creator of the universe. The best thing that I could do was to take what He had given me and paint with everything inside me, to praise Him through my work. I left everything in His hands. My life was His, and He would look after me.

 

I am still painting, and I have also never stopped washing feet. Whatever the Lord needs me to do, whether it’s my art; being a good wife, mother or friend; donating financially; or if He just wants me to be still and listen when somebody needs someone to talk to, that is what I will do.

 

May my testimony ignite a small flame in you today that will never be extinguished, in Jesus’ name, amen.