Tag Archives: hope

Faith like… tomatoes?

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Look at this bowl of perfect, ripe cherry tomatoes. There’s a story behind these tomatoes – a story that’s symbolic of my journey of faith.

Tomatoes 1

Read more…

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Life is not a straight line

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Pied crows 40_cr

I really don’t seem to get the concept of a 101 things in 1001 days list, do I?!

All I know is that these lists are supposed to inspire you to achieve personal goals… but what if your life has changed so much since the time you first penned those goals that many of them are now rendered useless – depressing, even?

By way of an extreme example, let’s say you had a list full of goals relating to physical activity, and then all of a sudden you’re crippled in an accident. Now what? You can no longer have goals like ‘Climb Mount Kilimanjaro’ on your list… they would just be an annoying reminder that you’re not who you were. The only sensible thing to do would be to make a fresh start with new goals for your new life.

Well, in a much more mundane way, that’s where I’m at right now. When I started this list I was a housewife with plenty of freedom to dream big. When I later updated the list it was because I’d moved back into the working world and had to adapt to that busy schedule. And now I’m itching to change the list again, because building a new home and having an ongoing career have reshaped my life once again.

Building a home costs me money, and working outside the home costs me time. Together, these factors limit what I can reasonably do for fun.

For instance, I love travelling. But keeping travel goals on my list for the next two years, when I know that there’s absolutely no budget for travelling, is just getting me down. As I see it, there will be no long holidays or trips over the next few years, because of finances.

Another reason I’m ready to rework my list is that I’ve recently realised how many of the goals are there for silly nostalgic reasons. Some of these goals I’ve already achieved once or twice before in my life, but they’re on my list because – until very recently – I’d been hankering back to my past as if I could recreate it in some way.

It’s only in the last month or so that I’ve finally come to realise that yes, my past was pretty cool, but my future could be even more amazing if I’d just face forward and dream again. Sure, some things are great fun and worth repeating… but maybe not if there’s something new to try instead.

I’ve also learnt a lot about the ‘101 things in 1001 days’ list since I first began. I’ve realised that it would be much more realistic if I had two lists: a ‘101 things’ list and a ‘someday’ list. The someday list could record many of the places I’d love to travel to and adventures I’d like to have, but which seem too large, expensive or impractical at this particular time in my life. They’d still keep me motivated, but without the pressure of a deadline. Then the 101 things list could be for the more achievable short- to medium-term goals, which rightly deserve a deadline.

My mom always used to say, ‘What’s a mind if you can’t change it?’, which drove me batty as a kid because I was usually the exact opposite: sticking boringly, tenaciously, stupidly to one thing until I’d completed it – even if the task had long since lost its usefulness.

Well, now it’s my turn to draw on my mom’s idiom and change my mind about some of my goals. So in the next post I’ll take a look at some of the goals that I think definitely need to go…

Selah, South Africa

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© Wikimedia Commons

© Wikimedia Commons

The other day, in order to find a movie I hadn’t watched before that started with the letter ‘I’ (thanks to Goal #90 on my 101 things in 1001 days list), I hired Clint Eastwood’s ‘Invictus’. Yes, OK, I am a little late to the party! Most South Africans and even many foreigners will have watched that film long ago, but it had never held all that much interest for me before.

It’s the true story of how the then newly elected President Nelson Mandela used the beloved South African sport of rugby (formerly a ‘white’ sport and almost exclusively Afrikaans) to begin to unify South Africans. When we won the Rugby World Cup in 1995, it was an enormous achievement. It was also probably the first time that people of all our races began to hope that we might actually become a harmonious Rainbow Nation.

Clint Eastwood and his team did a fantastic job telling a story that I’d previously only heard bits and pieces of. (The film sure gives a better impression of South Africans than ‘District 9’ or ‘Elysium’ do! If or when you watch those movies, please don’t believe their take on South Africans. Gag!)

Anyway, the unexpected thing was that as I watched ‘Invictus’, I found myself unable to stop smiling. It started with a little chuckle at hearing Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon speak in South African accents (which they mimicked very well, but it’s always weird to hear how other nations think we sound!). But as the film progressed I couldn’t help smiling to see such a true reflection of so many aspects of South African culture and our complicated interracial interaction. Then at the end the winning of the rugby game was so infectious, my cheeks hurt from grinning so much.

Watching that film brought back memories of the 1994 elections and the 1995 rugby game. I was still a kid back then and thus not very involved in the fanfare that surrounded all the changes in our country. But I recall the craziness after our win on that field. The celebrating went on for weeks, and I didn’t need to leave home to be part of it. Around the neighbourhood and on the TV I heard and saw the jubilation. I remember it being quite ridiculous sometimes, with one van of rugby fans devotedly (and drunkenly) belting out, ‘We won because we won…!’

My family wasn’t into sport, but I remember even my parents being rather proud of the Springboks and their thrashing of New Zealand’s All Blacks. Words like ‘haka’ and ‘scrum’ suddenly made sense, and everywhere was the feeling that we’d done it. Not we, the whites. We, the South Africans. All of us. Indians, Coloureds, blacks, whites and everything in between… we’d done it as a nation, and shown the world after the long years of boycotting and trade embargoes that South Africa was a country full of fight and worthy of respect.

Weird how sport can do that.

Also weird how I felt nothing like that when the Soccer World Cup came to SA in 2010. Duuuude! If we thought the fans were nuts 15 years before, 2010 was insane! But I just wasn’t interested. My own little world was too busy and I was little more than irritated at all the fuss, traffic and noise. And how I hated those vuvuzelas! (I still do. On my unpatriotic days I think such a backward device could only have come from our messed-up country…)

You see, that’s the problem, and the next thought that I had as the credits to ‘Invictus’ rolled. It’s been a long time since the Rugby World Cup. A lot has changed. Of course the most recent and most memorable change is that Mandela has passed away. But over the last 19 years our country has slowly slid from its euphoric high of 1995 for other reasons too.

Our government officials become more corrupt with every passing year. Yes, I know there’s probably no such thing as an honest politician, but Jacob Zuma is another beast altogether. Tell me, when last was your president accused of rape, polygamy, corruption, hate speech, fraud and deliberate extortion of his people? The crime, the poor levels of education, the high costs of living, the new e-toll system and all the old underlying racial rifts make this a shaky nation at best.

The only reason this is on my mind at all is that we’re coming up for our national elections in a few months’ time. You can feel the pressure building everywhere. Oh, how we already miss the wise, humble ruling of good old Madiba. He wasn’t president for long enough, but even after his term had ended there was the sense that while he was still alive, maybe he’d keep this cultural melting pot from boiling over.

Now as we head for major elections, there’s a sense of dread among many South Africans that this could be the last chance for the opposition parties to overthrow (peacefully and democratically, we hope) the clowns who currently lead this land. If Zuma or someone like him gets to rule South Africa for another few years, fears are great that we’ll end up like our poor neighbour Zimbabwe did.

Hmmm. It doesn’t feel right to be posting about politics on my cheerful blog, does it?! It’s out of character for me to even care about these things, really, because I have very little interest in politics of any kind. I just want to live my simple quiet life and leave the ruling of the country up to someone else. But of course I understand that I have to play a part in choosing that ruler, too.

Selah, South Africa – pause and consider.

It’s a good time to watch ‘Invictus’, I think. We all need the reminder that this country can achieve the seemingly impossible. This country needs another miracle election; another watershed change that will begin to reverse the damage that Zuma and his cronies have done. We don’t want the old white government back – everyone knows by now that that won’t work anymore – but neither can we stand the ongoing worry that this country is currently led by men who just don’t know what they’re doing!

In the end, within the limited sphere of my life I can do only three things to make any difference in what happens to this country.

I can cast my vote at the next elections, knowing it counts.

I can aim for kindness and understanding in my daily dealings with South Africans of all races.

And above all, I can pray fervently for this beautiful land, knowing that ultimately it is God who makes or breaks rulers and places them where He wants them in order to fulfil His specific purposes in history.

Ah, how everlastingly peaceful and beautiful and just His reign will be one day when His kingdom comes!

These things happen in threes…

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Sorry I’ve been so quiet, friends.

Each week of this new year has brought a new distressing event in our lives. I’ve already mentioned the retrenchment we’re facing; then add to that some upsetting family news over the past few days and now my poor Vodka ratty has a broken paw 😦

Sigh… they do say these things happen in threes 😦 (Though I far prefer the German version: ‘aller guten Dinge sind drei‘!)

Voddy before his injury

Voddy before his injury

Anyway, the accident must have happened sometime during his free run last night… Vodka did seem uncharacteristically skittish afterwards, and just before bed I noticed he was holding up his right front paw. At that stage it wasn’t swollen or discoloured, and he still let me touch it gently without squeaking.

But this morning the poor little pink foot had developed purple stripes over the toes and was clearly swollen. He couldn’t put any weight on it and held it very close to his body, walking with a pronounced limp. Turns out it’s a simple closed fracture on his little leg. My poor bub!

After doing some internet research and chatting to the vet, I’ve now isolated him in a cage without levels, switched his meals to easy-to-eat-with-one-paw foods and given him a tiny drop of the painkiller and anti-inflammatory, Metacam. I’m making sure he stays hydrated, too: squeezing fresh grape juice and mixing it with honey or vitamins before feeding it to him with a syringe.

We’re going to keep an eye on him over the next few days, but from all I’ve read online there’s not much more we can do – or even need to do. Thankfully ratties usually heal fairly quickly, and we’re boosting his diet with extra protein, carbs and vitamins to help him recover. I did put his best friend Moon in the cage with him, but Moony was not impressed with having to play nurse! So for now Voddy’s alone and it’s more peaceful that way.

It’s ironic that it would be Vodka – the rat I usually get most frustrated with – who goes through this horrible experience and needs my help. It’s changed my view of him completely. Sometimes when he’d senselessly attack Mishka I’d see him as a mean little critter, but today seeing him so slow, cautious and in pain has melted my heart. He’s an innocent animal in my care, just like each of our other sweet boys, and I’ve been wrong to love him less. Well I sure plan to make it up to him from here on in! 🙂

…oOo…

The last few weeks have really worn me down. With each new development I’ve seen more clearly that it’s only God’s grace that’s carrying me through. I certainly have no human strength or energy reserves left to face each new wave of bad news. I know it’s the time I spend praying and reading God’s wonderful Bible that renews my hope and faith each day. I may often be weak and discouraged, but I serve a great and faithful Father, who knows exactly what I need and supplies it abundantly!

And on my heart are the words of that lovely worship song from Matt Redman:

Blessed be Your name
When the sun’s shining down on me
When the world’s ‘all as it should be’
Blessed be Your name

Blessed be Your name
On the road marked with suffering
Though there’s pain in the offering
Blessed be Your name

Every blessing You pour out
I’ll turn back to praise
When the darkness closes in, Lord
Still I will say

Blessed be the name of the Lord…

2014 storm predictions

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Roses

Shewwee! We’re only two weeks in and already 2014 promises to be a hectic and interesting year for Ninja and I.

For starters, we’ve just heard that retrenchments are planned at Ninja’s company for the first quarter of the year 😦 So we’re now pre-emptively on the search for new work for him. (We’re very grateful that my own contract has been extended for the year.)

Surprisingly though, it’s not nearly as stressful as you’d expect. I feel as though I’ve landed softly in a spiritual and an emotional safety net of faith. Of course retrenchment is disappointing and disruptive. Changing jobs is a stressful adjustment at the best of times. But we truly believe that it’s our Heavenly Father, and not our employers, who is our ultimate Provider… and He is eternally trustworthy, having promised not to put us through more than He enables us to handle.

Still, a retrenchment would have a knock-on effect on our other major plans for 2014: moving into our new home (a cottage we’re building at my folks’ place). We were originally planning to move somewhere in early spring (that’s September for us down here in the southern hemisphere), but now we’ve all agreed to aim for early May instead.

And that in itself is scary and exciting, stressful and rewarding. If we were very eager before to finish building and move in, now we’ll all be doubling our prayers and our efforts 🙂

All of this may also have an effect on the Sunshine Scrapbook, because as we get closer to the time of relocation I’ll probably have to take a break from blogging in order to tidy up our old home and sort out the new one. Will keep you posted on that.

But in the meantime I can say that I stand facing this new year with a deeper faith than I would have a few years back. Not so long ago I was completely disillusioned about what God was doing in my life, and I regarded each new challenge with suspicion, fearing that my precious little plans would be thwarted!

Praise God for growing me past that point, so that now I can stand firm. Where do I get this firm foundation? From childish airy-fairy hope that there’s a Good Guy Up There who’s going to make all my troubles go away? No.

Jesus said, ‘Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock.’ (Matthew 7:24–25)

Storms will come – that’s a given. I’m definitely expecting a few in the year ahead. But God’s Word and my practical application of it are the two things that ground me during trials. May He give me grace to build my life on that firm foundation through 2014 and beyond 🙂

Blessed CHRISTmas!

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Hello friends and followers 🙂

It’s Christmas tomorrow, and I’m so thankful at this time for the birth of the only Saviour – Jesus Christ the Son of God. Although perhaps only a few of you reading this actually know and love the Lord, I hope none of you will let the true meaning of Christmas get swept away by the ridiculous hype that the world has made of it.

This Christmas, I hope you will realise that that baby whose birthday we celebrate tomorrow can only bring us joy, hope and peace at Christmas because He also grew up to face the cross at Easter. His birth was only the beginning of the promise – and there’s really no use celebrating it if you haven’t also trusted in His work on the cross. Jesus was sent into this world, not to bring us candy and gifts when we’ve been good, but to stand in our place to take the full wrath of the Most High God for all the times we haven’t been good!

And yet… in His kind providence and common grace, the Lord does also grant us the other side of Christmas as we’ve come to know it: the rest as the year draws to a close, the chance to see friends and family, the opportunity to travel away from home, the fun of sharing gifts with those we love and the time to enjoy delicious meals together.

All of these things, while they have nothing to do with the biblical reason for Christmas, are still good gifts in and of themselves. By grace we have the freedom to enjoy them – with moderation and gratitude, of course. This common grace extends even to those who reject Christ as the only way to reach a holy God. He’s good to them too, even when they don’t acknowledge it.

So tomorrow I look forward to both aspects of the special day. I am eager to celebrate and worship with my church family, knowing that ‘Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief’ (1 Tim 1:15). And I am also keen to spend time with friends and family, enjoying special meals, sharing gifts and thanking God for placing these people in my life.

I wish you the same 🙂

Christmas 2013

Zest

Goal #26 – Done!

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Goal #26 – Participate in a 5km run/walk – is DONE!!! Today my best friend and I finally checked this fitness goal off our lists, and if I may say so, I am inordinately proud of myself for succeeding! 😀

Jozi 2013 Spar 5km Women's Race

Jozi 2013 Spar 5km Women’s Race

You see, I’ve never, ever excelled at anything physical. I’ve rarely even participated in anything physical. I’ve just always felt clumsy and not 100% at home in my skin; I don’t take part in sports, I can’t throw or catch, and I’ve believed everything people told me through the years to affirm that I’m ‘no good’ at physical activities.

Occasionally it’s bugged me that that aspect of my self has been left undeveloped for decades, but usually I forget about it because most of my living is in the emotional, intellectual and relational spheres. That’s the stuff I’m good at, so of course that’s what I’ve channeled most of my energy towards.

But then along came two factors that set me on a path to working on what I lack – and that path led me to today’s race.

The first factor was a very negative influence: a job that robbed me of everything that mattered to me (or, I let it do so). Months of erratic overtime and constant stress made it all too easy for me to compensate with feel-good foods, quick-fix dinners and zero time for exercise. In short: I got fatter and unfitter than I’d ever been in my life. This negative factor pushed me to to a place where I was desperately ready to reverse the damage and improve my physical health.

The second factor is a very positive influence: my best friend. It was her idea to do this race at first, but the more we chatted about it the more I realised that I actually really wanted to do this for me too. I wanted to do it precisely because every voice in my head was arguing that it’d be too tough and I’d fail and I simply wasn’t made for this kind of thing. I wanted to do it because I’ve spent my whole life avoiding physical challenges, which is just ridiculous!

So I had a push factor and a pull factor that got me through today. I was running away from something – from being overweight, from disrespecting my body, from making unhealthy choices, from the labels of ‘lazy’ and ‘unfit’. And I was running toward something – a physical challenge, a body I’m more comfortable in, a special achievement with my sister, new labels of ‘growing’ and ‘willing to try’.

Being among those thousands of milling women of every shape, size, age, colour and fitness level, I came to accept that there’s no need to be as hard on myself as I have been in the past. Sure, I’ll never be a pro runner; I don’t aspire to it at all. I’ll never look that way or train that way or try to fit into that mould. But hey, I can still run for fun! I can still set goals that involve hard work and physical fitness. I can still deliberately choose to challenge myself to become better for as long as the Lord grants me breath.

Today was amazing 😀

One tiny 5k race for Jozi, but one enormous leap of growth for me!

Two thoughts

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‘But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles…’ ~ Isaiah 40:31

Have you ever been somewhere in public and been convinced that all eyes were on you, only to look up and discover that, in fact, not a single person was looking your way?

Welcome to my life.

For the longest time, my life has been dominated by low self-esteem and a gnawing concern that there’s some lofty standard I’m not meeting, some ideal I’m not reaching – and that the world is daily watching me fail at it.

What the heck, right? I mean, my rational mind knows that that’s just silly. I am a blessed, beautiful, healthy and smart woman. I have so much going for me. I have a side that is full of zest and light and joy. I am normal and balanced and sane and all that.

And yet.

And yet there’s always been the lurking suspicion that I don’t measure up. I’ve felt clumsy all my life, as though I’m not at home in my skin. Put me in any situation, and I’ll be sure to drop something or bump something or do something wrong; I’ll be the one blushing for no reason, saying the wrong thing, and constantly feeling like I’m out of my depth.

My expectations are stratospheric, so there’s no possible way I can succeed. In fact, I’m pretty sure that not even God’s standards for me are as high as the ones I set for myself! He gives grace, but I’m merciless towards myself (and unfortunately, often towards others too).

But I digress.

What I wanted to share with you today were two thoughts that I’ve had on this topic. Two thoughts that have become two principles for me to live by as I actively try to challenge my ridiculous self-concept and worldview.

First thought: No one is watching you.

No one. No one is watching you. The other diners in the restaurant, your colleagues in the office, the strangers in the mall and the other drivers on the roads – not one of them is watching you. Don’t flatter yourself, Zest. No one has the time or inclination to watch your every move. They are all too busy with their own lives, focused on their own highs and lows.

I (and dare I say, we?) pass up so many spontaneous opportunities for fun because our first thought is, ‘What will other people think of me?’ We can become so wrapped up in others’ opinions of us, without stopping to check a) whether those opinions even exist and b) if they do, whether they’re even valid.

Sometimes this can also lead us to do things we don’t actually want to do, but that we believe others expect us to do. Such as losing weight. Or buying the latest goods. Or having kids. Or taking drugs. Or getting into negative relationships. If your self-esteem is low and you think it can be remedied by pleasing other people, you’re headed down a path of empty striving and pain.

But what of those times when you do look up and happen to catch someone watching? Or what if it’s someone whose opinion does carry weight with you? Well, then be sure to live in such a way that whoever is watching is learning something good from you 🙂

For myself at least, I know that this issue is linked to pride and a fear of man, both of which the Bible warns against. If I am going to change the way I think of myself and of others, I will have to confess these man-centred sins and ask the Lord to put my focus back on what does matter.

Which brings me to my second thought: Someone is watching you.

Someone, the only One who matters, is watching you. And me. And every person on this planet.

Years ago an unsaved friend boasted to me of a late-night tryst with her boyfriend that had taken place ‘where no one could see’. I remember cringing at her boldness, thinking, ‘But you’re wrong… Someone could see!’ She thought she had gotten away with a daring sin in the darkness, not considering that the blazing eyes of the Most High God had witnessed everything.

If we are going to live without concern for others’ opinions of us, it must be balanced with a healthy respect for God’s opinion of us. The Bible tells us that ‘The eyes of the Lord are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good’ (Prov 15:3). We have it all wrong when we’re more concerned about unflattering human opinions rather than our standing before God.

But of course none of us can stand before God as we are. He is too holy and we are too lowly! That’s why we need Jesus Christ as our mediator. He took our rightful punishment so now the idea of God watching us brings peace instead of fear to those of us who are saved.

I believe that if I can practise these two principles – letting go of what I think people think of me, and clinging to a biblical view of how God sees me through Christ – I will have the perfect practical remedy for my low self-esteem and silly self-consciousness.

What a freeing way to live! :mrgreen: