I am so overjoyed that Lirika Davis has joined me on the blog this week. We first met through the Stilettos Conference in Plymouth and I was captivated by her words of encouragement and love for Christ. Lirika is a wonderful friend, a great speaker and a gifted writer and I hope that today’s post will fill you with hope.
Tell us what life was like growing up in Albania and where your travels have taken you (right up to now!)
I was born in Albania in the 80s. Years where the regime of communism still held a great power on people through fear and intimidation. Every religion was forbidden and every ‘holy place’ destroyed. As family we were persecuted by the regime because many of our intellectual relatives had challenged the system, so we had spies and ‘friends’ who observed and checked every action we took. During those years I saw just one car patrolling our village streets and that was the car that picked up the people for prison. We travelled mostly by foot, and for the very blessed people donkey was luxury.
When communism fell and I finished high school I travelled to Tirana, Albania’s capital where I studied for general nursing. It was there that I became a Christian and I met Nath, my husband. We lived in Tirana for a while, then came to London where our twin girls were born. Later we moved to Devon and now we live in Monaco.
How did you come to know Jesus? What difference has this made to your life?
During my first year in Tirana, I was invited to a Campus Crusade Meeting (like Christian Union in the UK). When you are a student and someone offers you free food and free entertainment is all you hear… I went. During that meeting I heard about Jesus and the call to have a relationship with him. I heard how he can be not only your God, Saviour and Redeemer but your friend also. That startled me. When I was growing up our family practised Islam in hiding and fear so my idea of God was never as a loving friend. As a supreme authority, strict and harsh in his ways, yes, but as a loving friend never. So, in the end of that meeting after hearing about God’s love and grace I stood up and welcomed his sacrifice on the cross for me and I opened my heart to his love. It was an overwhelming experience and even now after 19 years from that day it still fills me with thanksgiving and awe for God’s mercy for me.
Salvation is a miracle – the message of the gospel is like no other message. God stepping down to earth to set us free through the sacrifice of his son Jesus Christ. Nothing is required from us, but putting our faith in, relying on and believing in that finished work of Christ. It’s a done deal, that has changed and is changing my life daily.
I am a work, goal and action orientated person and knowing that Christ has given me a new start of grace and that He is with me even in my failings and weakness changes everything. We all want meaning and purpose for ourselves and our lives. We all want peace and freedom from our guilt and shame consciences. We all want a wholesome and joyful life – I have found that Christ gives you all of that and much more. He is the answer to every longing heart and empty soul. He is the only one who can fulfil us.
You are married to an Englishman named Nath! How did you both meet? Could you give one piece of marriage advice that you have found helpful?
Nath and I met for the very first time in a missionary clinic in Tirana called ABC. Nath had been for a month sick and finally had come to have a check up. I was the nurse that saw him that day and continued to see him for many days after that. We got married in Tirana after 4 months from that day in a ‘My Big Fat Albanian Wedding’ style and have been married for 14 years now.
As for advice, every marriage is different and every individual has his or her quirks and special traits that need to be noticed, talked and respected I believe. Nath and I like many couples are totally opposite of each other. If you add to that the difference in cultures and traditions we bring to our relationship, then you can imagine the misunderstandings and problem that can arise.
From the beginning of our relationship we decided that we will not build an English home, not an Albanian home, but a Christ centred home. We would value and use the best of our cultures, but we would live our lives based on the principles of our faith. That was very helpful and the second thing that we practice and believe is a good marriage builder is being truthful with each other. What I mean by that is that we don’t have secrets that we hold from each other, we don’t hide our emotions under the carpet, we don’t bottle down our anger, bitterness, offence and hurt. We bring it all in the open, with love.
There are many other practices that have helped us to be and grow in love every year, but perhaps I will write a book about it.
You have three wonderful children – what are some of the joys and challenges of parenting that you have experienced? Can you share one piece of parenting advice that you have implemented?
Being a mamma has been the hardest and the holiest thing I ever done in my life. I have twin girls and a boy who continue to make me a better person and grow my capacity to love and be patient constantly. Their sincerity, vulnerability and courage surprise me every day and give me joy and strength. The challenge like with every parent of teenagers remains in being a listening ear for them and not just a talking mouth. I heard Ruth Graham in an interview saying that she had learned that until your kids reach adolescence you do the talking and they do the listening and after that wait for them to do the talking and you do the listening.
There is something that Nath and I try to practice every day with our children that I think might be helpful to mention and that is to assure them that they are loved and accepted for who they are, not for what they do. Their grades and their behaviour are not the stick we use to measure their place in our hearts and home. They are loved, valued, belong and fought for because they are our children and that’s enough. Their identity is given not achieved.
We came across each other through the Stilettos Conference in Plymouth that you founded. Tell us what the Stilettos Movement is and how you made it a reality!
Stilettos started as a normal women’s meeting at our church – North Plymouth Community Church – and grew to be now a movement in our region. Stilettos is not just a conference, but is a mission to gather and reach women from all denominations, background and belief experiences under one roof so they will connect with God and each other, grow in faith and character and make a difference locally and globally.
No growth in our lives and our organisations happens without prayer and God’s involvement in it. Stilettos is the fruit of learning to lean on God and following His heart for His people, involving faithful people that serve freely to that vision and persevering when things get hard.
Stilettos has grown even stronger with my departure in Monaco because Stilettos is from God and when God starts a good work He maintains it and accomplishes it no matter what vessel He uses. My friends who run Stilettos now have the same vision (of course displayed within their gifting) and I am very proud of their faithfulness.
You have a heart for communication through both the spoken and written word and how it can transform individuals, situations and the world. Can you share a couple of examples where you have seen this transformation and change occur?
I truly believe that the word of God (the Bible) and the Holy Spirit working in us, through us and by us are powerful to encourage and draw people to Jesus, the author and finisher of salvation. When I speak at conferences and gatherings and when I write in my blog, what I pray for is that the words spoken and written will penetrate people’s hearts to lead them to Christ. For He alone is the answer to all our needs and desires.
I have seen people in meetings that I have spoken with who see and experience the truth of the gospel clearly and move to a relationship with Christ. I have witnessed people set free by a verse that was heard many times perhaps, but became true and real in that very moment. Many women have written to me after an event or blog post saying that ‘God spoke to them, showed them and guided them’ through the message. For certain I can’t take credit for any of that. I am just a woman doing what I believe is my calling and the rest is all God’s miracle-working power in me and people.
I believe in the power of expanding the Word, preaching the word and most of all living the Word; the later one is the most powerful weapon of communication all believers have.
What would you say to someone who doesn’t yet know Jesus for themselves?
Dear one, we all have questions about life and ourselves. Questions about our identity, purpose and meaning. Questions about suffering, pain and the state of the world today. I can tell you with assurance and conviction that Christ is the answer to all those questions. Christ is a historic and biblical figure; His life can be studied, examined and questioned. Like no other religious leaders, Christ is not a way to salvation, but who confessed to be The Only Way.
Think about Him, think about the truths He confessed and He claimed to be, think on His life, death and resurrection. I pray that God will open your eyes and your heart to experience His love and truth.
Christ never promised a ‘pain free life’ but He promised to be with us through pain and struggles, fear and worry. He promised unsearchable joy and peace in the middle of hardship and He promised life eternal. Give him a try.