Life Happens

 

Crowds
Life happens !
We are all different and respond or react differently in different situations.
Living life gives us the opportunity to experience different situations,  some that we would never choose for ourselves.   And through these life situations we get to know ourselves a little better – and perhaps that is the crux of the matter of life, to get to know ourselves a little better, through the hard times and the good times.

Sprouting a little wisdom here then ?

Well, taking a small overview of the past twelve months, and in particular the last five months, has given me a glimpse into the way I respond to life situations, and so getting to know myself a little better.
Having been diagnosed with breast cancer and walking on the stepping stones of a new pathway I am a little surprised how the walk through the valley of the shadow of death has brought a subtle change in me.
A cancer diagnosis becomes a death sentence, well in my mind it was so.
First the symptom then the mammogram, then the visit to the surgeon, then the results of his biopsy, then its over.  Well so I thought, but discovered that it was not over, and that I did not die, but lived !

My demise was a mental address, real and sad to me that there was nothing beyond the final visit to the surgeon.   I was in a dead-end street.
I tried to tidy up my cupboards, throw out any excess so the family didn’t have much bother when I was gone.  Get my accounts in order.  Just generally tidying up my life, with no loose ends to tie up.   I made no commitments  so that I would have no obligations.  I had no desire to be creative or work on any project.   I only did what I had to do.   I kind of gave up on my life, after all there was no future.

I put on a strong face for the family, and was very positive in the beginning. I wanted them to ease into the reality of the death sentence, as I knew it is a personal blow to come to terms with losing a loved one.   They were all so very supportive, each in their own way, and the love they carried in their hearts were revealed to me in each one’s unique response to the situation.  They each grew in stature and grace at Life’s happenings.

The hormone therapy that the oncologist had put me on was easy, apart from the tiredness that went along with it.   The tumour had regressed and I was on my way to healing.   I became optimistic that things were working out  after all.   Somewhere along the way I lost the death sentence as I began to realise that there was much wisdom in ‘taking one day at a time’ and ‘to keep hope alive.’

Then the tumour started to grow again.   The oncologist suggested radiation therapy, and I was in a dilemma – to do, or not to do, was the decision I struggled with, until I finally made an appointment with the unknown – radiation treatment !

Radiation sign

The treatment itself was not to daunting.   “Its like having a chest ex-ray,” my oncologist said.   It is however the after effects that had to be walked through, with plenty of rest, as the treatment left me drained, physically emotionally and spiritually.  And rest I did, for the best part of six weeks.   My poor immune system had been rocked by radiation to destroy the enemy within, it deserved to rest and to be nurtured, –  so to my soul.

It was during this time that I realised I had to keep my mind busy.   I was not to let this situation, this ‘ life’s happenings’,  this malady with its tiredness dominate my thinking.  I had to bring in other thoughts, and good thoughts.  I had to focus my mind on something better, a bigger story than my own.
So I took to the Scriptures, and focused particularly on a project-read, and then bring it to a conclusion by writing a summary of it on my blog.    I chose to look at the great men in the Bible.   I wrote Minding Moses and Dancing with David, and am currently working on other Faith heroes.

The  radiation treatment is still doing its work, and the tumour is regressing.  Hallelujah ! And my oncologist is delighted with my physical progress.

crossing the bridge
Having said all that I must add, that emotionally it is quite a ride too, a lonely ride.  I regard myself as a fairly stable person, and was outwardly, and for the most part inwardly, calm through each step of the way.  Although open,  I’m a private person and like to handle my own “emotional stuff” my own way.  There were days when I felt very alone and very sad for myself.   And indeed I was alone, except when I drew my strength from the Scriptures.

Cancer has an ugly face, its not a nice companion, and I did not embrace it for one minute, but I had to surrender to God’s sovereignty in the situation.  Once I did that I was at peace with Him and with myself.

I am not only on hormone therapy, but on faith therapy too.     Its a therapy that has no bad side effects, and will in time manifest only the goodness of God.   Faith is spiritual, a heavenly thing,  and is another ball game, which I am slowly learning by His grace, and with expectation.

I am still on my pathway to healing, and calling on God to show me the way.
Perhaps there is new ground to break, I hope so.   I hope to see Him working in new ways in my life – help me to attain higher ground in faith and healing, and His way of doing things.

I keep in mind, that His grace is sufficient for a new day, for there is always faith, hope and love in, Life’s happenings !

The sun comes up

Can a Leopard change its spots ?

 

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My somewhat lopsided Leopard, with all its intricate and significant markings, took me ages to complete, and finally brought me to this question  :  Can a leopard change its spots ?

This questions reminded me of a sweet Bible joke,  –  and a play on words that has the
power to make me smile.
Before I share it with you I have to set a scene from our history for you to understand my little joke, –  and some of our nation’s culture tensions.

We have 11 official languages in South Africa !   One of which is Afrikaans.    The Afrikaners were part of the forge from European nations e.g. the Dutch, French and German, who all had their reasons to set sail for African shores in the distant past.
In the wake of the discovery of gold and diamonds, the Anglo-Boer (the war between the Afrikaans farmers and English soldiers )  –  scraping through a crippling drought, famine and poverty, the Afrikaners were instrumental in establishing a firm foundation, and set infrastructures in place for a nation to emerge here at the southern tip of Africa.  Of course, not perfect, they have made huge mis-judgments and mistakes in the development of our people, that have their result in our very present day super sensitive racial tensions.

Butterfly SA

We are a very complex and diverse nation, evident in each of our 11 cultural languages with their own histories, before we even get to the collective history – which is still unfolding !!

Because of the Anglo-Boer war,  before our recent history, there had always been a sharp cultural tension between the Afrikaner and the English-speaking people in the land – mainly due to the war.    The ‘Boertjie’ a nick name for the Afrikaner and ‘Rooinek’ for the English were at times intentionally disparaging toward each other. One particular aspect was that the ‘Boertjie” often got his tenses wrong when he was forced to speak English.
Perhaps that’s the reason why some of my writing gets its tenses wrong  – a kickback from my ancestry !!

images.png Smiley face    Now let me tell you my little joke, emanating from that part of our history.

Adam and Eve were walking in the Garden of Eden, and Eve had identity issues, with questions.
She asked Adam if they were English or Afrikaans ?   Adam scratched his head unknowingly and said he would ask God.     So the next day when they met in the cool of the evening as was their custom,  Adam asked God if they were English or Afrikaans.  God gave Adam a penetrating gaze and said in a soft wisdom “Adam my son, you are what you are”
The next morning over an apple crumble breakfast, Adam told Eve he now knew the answer to her question.  Eve sat forward, for she had an inquiring mind and liked to gather knowledge.  “We are English” Adam told her.  “And how did you come to that deduction” asked Eve.  “Well” said Adam, ” I asked God if we were English or Afrikaans, and He said  ‘ Adam you are who you are‘  – well now, if He was Afrikaans He surely would have said Adam you is who you is.”  –  (smile now)

Language,  and culture make up identity.   I think that mindful language will not easily offend, and a little humour can go a long way in today’s global racist climate.  We need to laugh at ourselves more often – and that is easier done when you have an understanding and an acceptance of your own place in history, whatever that may be, your identity,  and your own unique story, for we all have stories to tell.
History clarifies that we all come from a race and cultural group.  And History will always reveal the bias of past governance.  Taking the high ground of hindsight is easy, and demanding justice has its place.   But we can’t truly go forward, looking in the rear view mirror.  We need to get into the gear of forgiveness to take us forward to fulfil our potential and our destinies, – or stay as we are, and wait until time heals or new adversaries surface !   History has an equalising effect.
I came across a telling quote recently,  it read :  We are all products of our past, but we don’t have to be prisoners of it – Rick Warren.   Well said.

With worldwide nation-shifting currently going on, the world is in a state of cultural and racial flux. We all have our own cultural perspectives, because we are all diverse.  We would be wise to heed sensitivity and by the same token avoid a victim-mentality.  After all we all have our own distinct and different spots, so to speak.

Identity, is not only language and culture, but character too.  Character is based on values, ethics and morals – and choices make character.
In my little joke, God in His wisdom said : you are who you are,  but we are not expected to stay that way.   Through moral values and decisions we have opportunities to become more, and this can and will influence our character, identity, even our destiny.
Perhaps it is not just the social economic poverty, which is huge, but moral poverty that is the true cause of the ills in our societies today.

Attitude is telling, and shines through the filtered light of our varying  societies.   An often used quote is  : Attitude is everything.   I agree with that.   It’s the place in life, where courtesy and respect begins or ends, the difference between being civilised or barbaric.   I like to keep this quote in mind : Courtesy is the first rung on the ladder of civilisation. (source unknown)

‘Ubuntu’  is an African term that can take on different connotations  e.g. community caring, kindness, courtesy, respect for each other.   This makes all the difference to our attitudes in our societies.
My interpretation of Ubuntu is  –  Love your neighbour as you love yourself.

We can change our spots by changing our minds, and our attitudes and sprinkled with humour can even help to change the spots of others.
So even when we humorously retort  …..’  I is who I is ‘  ….. we can change !
If we stop to think about this, it is applicable on many levels, –  socially, psychological and spiritual,     As a man thinks, so is he.  Proverbs 23:7

I found my leopard in the Bible, Jeremiah 13:23 where it says : Can an Ethiopian change his skin, can a leopard change its spots ?
As the chapter also speaks to idolatry and  pride – eeek ! –  I had to pay close attention, because my spots can so easily reveal my pride too !!   It is something to think on.

My spots are my spots, but if I allow God’s goodness and grace to change me, my spots, wrinkles and blemishes will change into a thing of beauty, that helps me see the beauty spots in other people.  That kind of transformation is good, essential and eternal.

In today’s super sensitive racial climate, may my leopard serve as a reminder for us to love our neighbour.

Ubuntu,  my friend  Ubuntu !

Butterfly SA

 

 

 

 

 

A Story of a Sparrow

 

Let my sparrow drawing bring you a tender story.

Mossie

Written in the annals of our nation’s very diverse history is a story of a sparrow.

The background is the Anglo Boer war of 1901.
With the discovery of gold and diamonds, the British Empire came to occupy the land.
The British desperately tried to bring the pioneer Boers to submission.   The Boers,  fiercely resisted, fighting their enemy with guerrilla warfare,  that cost the British much.  Eventually a ‘scorched earth policy’ was implemented, where their farmsteads were burnt down, their fields salted so that they could not grow crops to survive.  Their women and children were taken to concentration camps.   But there was, overcrowding, bad hygiene, severe malnutrition, and endemic contagious diseases.  Over 26,000 women and children were to perish in these concentration camps of the Anglo Boer war.  The women in particular knew immeasurable grief as they  helplessly watched their children suffer, and give them over to death.
One such woman was Anette Marais, and the story goes …

“Anette Marais sat on a log and shook the dust off her tatty clothes.  Around her sit a group of women with familiar but weary faces.  Just a few feet away is the high wire fence of the concentration camp.
She opens her Bible and begins to read.   She had wrestled with God in the dark hours of the night, and begged Him for a message of hope for these women,  for who knows how much longer……!

Anette reads the words of Matthew 10:29 .
 Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin?   And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will.
But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.
Do not fear therefore, you are of more value than many sparrows
.
While she is busy reading these words, a small insignificant sparrow comes and sits upon her shoulder.
The group of women stare in surprise at the incident unfolding before their eyes.
And so the sparrow becomes a sign of hope in the impossible situation of the concentration camp at Bethulie.

It is fantastic to see how in the following months the sparrow of Bethulie became a beacon of faith and hope for these women.    On May 1902 the Anglo Boer war ended.
Anette, on returning to her home, met a women of influence, and told her the sparrow story.    She,  in turn, retold the story.
In 1923 General Jan Smuts had two sparrows minted on the smallest coin of the then South African currency.”
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So remember the story of the sparrow on days you may feel small, insignificant, forlorn or forgotten.   May faith and hope be a beacon in our lives too.

PS     In South Africa, the sparrow is known as a Mossie.   I translated the story from Afrikaans.  The author is unknown.  More Afrikaans sparrow stories can be found in my Menu bar, just click on Random Writings and scroll down to Mossie Dag.
Reference on the background of the Anglo Boer War is from Wikipedia, should you want to know more.

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GIVE, its good mental health.

blue-river

Let your life be a river not a swamp

Like the pages of a book in a gentle breezy wind the months just seem to flip over.
I had intended to write on good mental health for the month of October, but it slipped my mind !! – and October came and went almost unnoticed.

So I am playing catch up, and want to share a few simple thoughts on good mental health.

Let your life be a river not a swamp,
Give, its good mental health.

stars

When stars stop emitting light, gravity sucks them in, and they become a black hole !!
So keep on shining, keep on giving… its good mental health.

Give of yourself…. little deeds of kindness, makes the world a better place.
Give of your finances ….  it breeds generosity in you, and in others.
Give of your personality …. and share your sense of humour, share your opinion, your smile – and best of all share your presence.

Let your life be a river,  not a swamp that is stale and stagnant, a place where crocodiles lurk !

Give, its good mental health.

brown-swamp

Give, and it will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom.

For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.   Luke 6:38

Give, and it will let your cup run over with  JOY, ….  and thats good mental health !!

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Care Africa

Green Africa map

Life is made up of small things.
Everything you do matters.

Africa is a big continent.  It is a block of land that captures you.  Whether you are in the north or in the south of it it will lay claim to a corner of your heart.   I have heard of South Africans who leave Africa for more appealing shores, but often, very often have the yearning to come home again.   Its challenges, its diversities and its humanities, is like a magnet that draws all kinds of human emotions from the heart that has at its roots the most scary and at the same time the most amazing appeal.   Or perhaps, for me, its just home.
Famous words of Thabo Mbeki, former president of South Africa : “I am an African”
brings with it many connotations, because Africa has many connotations – anybody can be anybody in Africa.  Its diversity creates space for this, yet it also creates fragmentation, for diversity does not necessarily mean unity.   The trick is to bring diversity into a patchwork for unity.   I am not an African.  But I am a South African.  A white South African, does that make me an African ?

Nevertheless, Africa is a place for expression.  Africa will find you out !  There is room for everyone, for every kind under the sun in Africa – the good, the very good, the bad and the very bad, the place where humanity is at war with itself, and mirrors that for the world to see and to watch.

Love it or hate it Africa is the place that calls for attention.  And at the same time offers opportunity to express that humanity one way or another.

Many years ago now, I came across MAF and signed up for their newsletter.  What is MAF ?
An extract from their 2015 Annual  Report sums it up consicely .
Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF) is an international Christian organisation bringing help and hope to some of the poorest and most remote communities in the world….
We work with hundred of missions, churches, local groups, relief & development organisations and national government agencies.   Together we deliver practical medical and spiritual care in places with the deepest human needs ” – Prof. Polla Roux.

Furthermore to this is a very brief snippet of its history, supplied by the MAF office in South Africa:
In 1945 Murray Kendon, a New Zealander flying with the RAF Coastal Command during World War 2, wondered if the power and versatility of aircraft would only be used for conflict and carnage.   After realizing this dream was indeed God-given, he accepted the challenge and Mission Aviation Fellowship was born.
In 1970 David and Beryl Luke developed the MAF SA programme in the Transkei and it then moved to Johannesburg in the late ’70s.   In 2011 MAF saw the need to develop a programme in South Africa and the Flying for Life project was developed.
We currently work in the Vhembe District in Limpopo, taking in missionaries, churches, medical professionals and other organisations to help sustainably uplift the community.
Looking ahead, we are wanting to expand our eye doctor clinic to an additional hospital,
and extend into other provinces in South Africa. “

 

Care Africa Purple Bags
The Care Africa project is a small random project that encourages people to “grow a garden in your yard,  grow a garden in your heart”,  and encourages growing vegetables for food, and reading the Bible for growing the soul.   Both very necessary for human growth and sustainability – social development in an wholistic sense.
Recently I met up with Maxine Holman from MAFSA, and could give her two care bags to grow the concept of Care Africa.
Big or little deeds of kindness, whether a Flying Mission or a packet of spinach seeds, can make a difference in Africa.

I reckon poverty’s first priority is to combat hunger, and the growing of vegetables whether in a car tyre, an individual yard, or a community garden, will go a long way to addressing hunger, so prevalent in Africa today.  

In today’s shaky economic climate it makes sense to save cents by growing your own vegetable garden  – and together with reading the Word of God everyday you will begin to create a healthy, survival, sustainable and a good life.

Life is made up of small things.   What you do matters.

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Grow a garden in your yard,  Grow a garden in your heart,  and so join the Care Africa project.
 Start today, and let CareSA know how your gardens grow.   Grow well, eat well, share well
Happy gardening !

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FREEDOM DAY

HAPPY BIRTHDAY SOUTH AFRICA!

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Today is Freedom Day in South Africa.  It is a public holiday to remind us that twenty one years ago the cloak of Oppression was lifted when all South Africans freely went to the political polls to vote for a new government to rule the country and its peoples. Twenty one years is a short period of time when one thinks in terms of nations.  Liken that to a person, and one can understand that the new South Africa has a long way to go in becoming a full mature, functional and prosperous nation.  At twenty one who isn’t still wet behind the ears, coming through the troubling teenage years with all its rebelliousness, rejections, broken promises and looking to find true identity and purpose. It is not easy, even for the best of us !  The distressing recent xenophobia displays, and rapid peace interventions are perhaps a sign on a maturing process taking place….a getting to know thyself of sorts.  Happy birthday South Africa, may the next 21 years find you firmly engaged in building and planting prosperity and peace on the African continent.

And don’t forget to plant your Care Gardens for the Care Africa Movement project.
Plant some seeds in your yard, for food, and Plant a garden in your heart by reading the Bible every day to feed your soul. Send me a photo with your name or project’s name and help me build a photo blog with your Care Garden on it.

Freedom is not cheap, and Oppression comes in huge forms. Vividly seen from the TV news are evident results of oppressive leaders and governments who are hell bent on holding onto power, position and wealth, in spite of great cost to their own people.  War, mass protest marches, mass migration from nation to nation seems to be a sign that Oppression rules almost everywhere in our Global Village.

But Oppression also comes in subtle forms, often nestles in the soul, and in the family where it is not so easy to detect, yet the outward reaction tells the tale.  And when you think about it, is the soul not the place where the darkness can grow until it reaches  monsterous proportions.?  Eventually it vents itself into further Oppression causing  the cycle of death, demise destruction – creating dark and dingy prisons of sadness, shame, sorrow and mourning –  resulting in the captive soul – and a loss of liberty.  Oppression causes this to happen on the soul, family, national and global level, as history has shown us.   And peace is far off !

The Bible speaks of setting the captives free.  Luke 4 and Isaiah 61 are Bible pieces that depict the human condition.  It brings with it hope to those who are oppressed, depressed and suppressed.  Those who  battle depressions, afflictions and addictions – seekers for peace, but also for those who are the peace-bringers .

       … To preach good tidings to the poor,
            He has sent Me to heal the broken hearted,
            To proclaim liberty  to the captives,
            And recovery of sight to the blind,
           To set at liberty those who are oppressed;
           To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.

This is a song for freedom, true freedom, that transcends any tyrant or political system or person, or addiction that can hold us captive.  Its the song of salvation that Jesus Christ sings over us… for He came to set the captives free.  The real day of freedom is the day of salvation, the day of second chances and new beginnings, a freedom that is well worth celebrating.            

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The Garden of Your Heart

Just to keep track of the Care Africa movement project I am continuing with the concept of Care Gardens.  The main focus of the project is to encourage people, especially in Africa, where there is so much poverty, to plant a care garden in their yards as a means to combat poverty.   By not only providing food there is much to learn from the science of nature, from the soil, the seed and the benefits of good nutrition.   For instance, to produce a good healthy crop of vegetable plants that flowers e.g. tomatoes, brinjals, strawberries etc. you may add to the soil the following : Half a cup of Ammonia mixed with 2 cups water,  300 ml beer, and 1 cup Epsom Salts.  Mix well and add 30 ml of this mixture to 5 litres of water, and use to feed fruiting plants.  This is a recipe that a Virologist gave me, I tried it and had the tastiest tomatoes ever. Go ahead try it. Get practical and Happy Gardening!

All gardens need to be cultivated, those in yards, and those in hearts.  Just as the soil needs to be nourished, so too does the soul need to be nourished.   Take a little time out and do an exercise in solitude, in nature if you can.  Quietly take note of what you feel, see, hear, touch, smell and  taste, then say thank you – say thank you for all the blessings that are just lingering there for you.  Be sure to add value to your soul by listening to uplifting music, reading good books, reading the Bible everyday will be like medicine for your soul for it is full of wisdom, strength and comfort whenever your soul needs it.  I take it everyday, I call it my “Gos pills”! My soul can’t do without them.

When tending to your soul be on the look out for poisonous plants, especially in the Garden of Despair.   Some deep seated seed grow deep roots in dark places, in fact thrive on and feed off the dark and negative thoughts.  Watch out for these.  They are toxic, dangerous and poison to the soul – and will effect those in proximity to your garden!   Call your Gardener at once.   Toxic thoughts come from bad memories, and can pop up at any time.  Recognise them, look for the roots from where they have grown so that He can pull them out – roots and all.    Then apply the good ointment of Forgiveness.  This is essential, as Forgiveness is a antiseptic, antibacterial anti viril and essential for cleaning out the wound in the soul.  Sprinkle the wound with a dusting of thanks too as this accelerates the healing.  Be constantly on the look out for other pathogens like Jealousy, this is an ugly plant,  Anger that can quickly turn to Hatred – quite potent,  Disappointment – often camouflaged in full sight, and the trailing Resentment that can entangle a choke other healthy plants in your garden.

Tend to your soul, its the essence of you.   Happy Gardening!