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Archive for the ‘Thoughts’ Category

“When thanksgiving hits a tipping point, it becomes thanksliving and catapults us straight into the will of Christ”  Ann Voskamp

Last weekend the sun came out and spring was in the air and I reclaimed my favourite seat in the conservatory,  and drank in the only view in our home where the surrounding houses don’t eyeball you.  I could feel petals unfurling somewhere deep within.

Richard was about to return home after 12 days away in the Congo.  And a lovely, long week of half-term holiday stretched ahead.

Today, a week later,  it is snowing and the temperature is doing a ‘sit-in’ on zero degrees.  The conservatory is a freezer once again. Yesterday we went for a walk in a forest and froze alongside the frozen pools of water. I got bone cold. Nevertheless I did experience the exhileration of the ‘green shoots’ of new friendships, as we walked with a group of  Mum’s-with-their-children.

Throughout, despite the wayward weather, I’ve been counting gifts.  I started counting three gifts a day at the start of 2013, a new years resolution.  Now it’s come to the point where by 11.00am the gifts are falling fast and furious.

Today’s Gifts:

Benjamin’s goodmorning sleepy hug.  Our bedroom is always his first port of call.  Today he enters with a lively “Bonjour”, in an attempt to shrug off the tendrils of sleep.  “Have you heard of Voodoo?” he asks.  “Voodoo, ‘you do’, voo means you’ in French”.  “Not spelt the same”,  my noncommittal sleepy response”.  Later I smile deep as I recall this.  Ahh my idiocentric son who keeps mining his mum’s heart, uncovering new seams of love.

Richard brings me a hot drink of water with ginger and almond nuts.  Don’t ask!  He started the day with a jog-about-the-block for the third time in a row.

Joanna decides to recreate her room, the furniture is moved about with the help of Dad, and now  visitors to her room  no longer have to wade through a swamp of discarded clothes.  She’s pleased with herself.

Two overipe bananas sit, waiting,  with eyebrows arched, on the kitchen counter. After a bit of a rummage through a variety of ‘worse-for-wear’ recipe books I finally find a banana muffin recipe that only needs two bananas, courtesy of Joannas after school cooking club.   It requires chocolate chips (we have cooking chocolate) instead of nuts (the cupboard only has almonds).  A green flag is waved for a bit of baking.

There are three small pots of primulas on the kitchen window sill.  Yellow, orange and purple.  No longer on deaths door.  All they needed was some water.

Richard helps clean the one long, narrow  diningroom and sittingroom.

Benjamin gets an e-mail from the first-friend-he-ever-made in the UK.  He goes to a different school now but he tells Benjamin he might be going to the same secondary school as Benjamin.

I forget to put the chocolate chips, so effeciently created by Joanna with the help of a plastic bag and rolling pin, in the muffin mix.   I have a mini tantrum in the kitchen stomping my feet up and down in quick succession. I imagine probably very like my two year old self was prevented from doing.   It’s my kitchen now, I’ll stomp my feet if I want to!   The baking has lost its bonhomie.   Do I scratch it from my list of gifts?

12 banana muffins and a thin banana loaf sit on my sideboard minus their chocolate chips.  My tummy rumbles.  It’s lent and I’ve given up sugar in all its many forms.  My echo of hunger  reminds me of the ‘tempo de forme’ (time of hunger) in rural Mozambique.  I remember the shock when I first heard a Mozambican refer to it as a matter of fact one January, as an aside almost.  Like the fact that for two months people are hungry, as their food stocks are running out, eaten by people, rats and weavels, and the harvest is not yet in, is just some kind of freak side-show, best ignored.

Perhaps this is the origin of Lent.  When people lived off the land, food reserves at this time of year, as winter drags on and spring fights valiantly to take center stage, would have been very low.  Best to offer this gnawing hunger as a gift of thanks for the greatest of all gifts.

I relook at the banana-without-the-chocolate-chip muffins with eyes that see. I’m humbled, palms open in thanksgiving.

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I can’t say when I actually left home.  I’m not sure I have ever actually done the ‘Three little pigs’ thing and gone out to seek my fortune, napsack on my back.  Leaving home, the family where I grew up, has been a process that began the year after finishing school at Hillcrest High School, Natal, South Africa.  It is a long story full of adventure.  What I can say is that between then and now I have definitely left home far behind.

Did you know that foreigners are often mentioned alongside the widow and the orphaned in the bible as needing extra doses of TLC.   I was reminded of the reason why while writing home recently.

Writing Home ……

It’s a Tuesday, my favourite day, sandwiched between two working days.Tuesdays are celebrated by a good, long walk through beautiful English countryside after dropping Joanna at school.  This morning as I waded through a meadow hip-high in pink and gold grasses, probably boasting up to 50 different varieties,  I suddenly felt adrift in the sea of grass.  It’s the time of the  horrible-hormones which is like losing all control of the tuning on one’s radio  so that the stations all play simultaneously at full volume. Gone is the option to choose serene Classic FM or thought provoking Radio 4 or energising Radio 1.   It’s like an emotional Maypole dance twisted into a mass of confused ribbon.  Like being compelled to use too many similes.   But as I prayed, I became aware of a steady rhythmic heart- sore beat and the Spirit of all wholeness, being Holy, helped me discern its true song.  “Ek Verlang ….”.  So much so that I can only dare acknowledge it in a foreign tongue.  It’s buried deep you see for practical purposes.  But the God in whom we live and move and have our being knows. And so standing in the sea of grass, watched by sentinels of Oak and Ash, a strangled cry escaped me to join the chorus of the crows.   Simultaneously knowing, as C.S. Lewis reminds us, that being homesick is a human condition as are we not all ultimately homeward bound?

Up and over the next style, with its friendly footpath logo, I start to log what it is I miss.  For starters, the distance between me and tea-on-my-parents veranda is simply mindboggling.   Completely confuses the inner-Cavewoman.  Then there  is  the indulgence of  peeping from under my sun-hat at the intoxicating shimmering blue of the Indian Ocean, as I lie sleepily upon the sand while someone else cleans my home and sorts my laundry.   I miss familiar faces.  Familiar sights and sounds.  Two Zulu women conversing loudly-with-laughter.  I miss the opportunity of seeing South African theatre and of hearing South African music live.  I miss hikes in the Drakensberg and far reaching horizons where blue-blue sky meets land or sea. That African bush that stretches on and on and on as it does in Hluhluwe Nature Reserve. I really miss living in a country where my choice of word for where I wee does not invoke a subterranean class war. ‘Loo’ or ‘Toilet’, come orf it you carn’t be serious mun, Poo!

And so while passing through a scrap of woodland I allow myself to weep in amongst the nettles and dappled rays of sun, leaving languid cows behind me, heading for a field of wheat beyond.  Over a style I climb and find the heart sore drum beat is in decline, the childish longing for a mum- and- dad- at- hand acknowledged and embraced, can now subside.   I take pleasure in my purpose-driven stride, to exercise in beautiful countryside.   Grateful for the side-order of psychological  processing , ‘on the house’.     After all the best things in life are for free.

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20 May 1994

Found this written in one of my diaries today and reconnected for a moment with my 20 something life.  This was written after listening to a radio broadcast on the Truth and Reconciliation process in South Africa.

Lives torn apart by mortar

suffering unimaginable.

I sit in my room, safe with my cat

and listen to academia dither.

While the anguish of the victims

seeps through the airways

demanding retribution thither.

Should the multitude of if’s and but’s

win the day?

or will the passionate pleas

sway over the middle way

transferring each persons cup of pain

from one to another.

Where does the horror begin

and will the sorrow ever end.

There is the dawning of a new beginning

dearly fragile,

I want to store it in my womb

safe from destruction, away from the ruin.

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In mourning…

IN MOURNING….

For the bold, brash sun down where –

I was born and mostly bred,

swirling, twirling it’s bright yellow ..

everywhere, everywhere.

 

For the  heart stopping , eye popping

pathos and drama, the fears and tears

scattering, battering it’s ululation ..

everywhere, everywhere.

 

For the dance and the music,

the laughter and banter

Thumping and bumping..

everywhere, everywhere.

 

For the wild open spaces

echoing  the beginning of time

Whispering,  conspiring ..

Everywhere, everywhere.

 

For the history,  geography,

Current philosophies ,  family genealogy

Embracing,  engaging …  me

To everything, everything.

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I leave tomorrow to the UK for  home leave.  A whole month of it.  While there, our future after August will probably be decided.    As our time here in Quelimane, finally  draws to an end I have been musing about what I will miss.

I have learned so much here.  It’s been my coming of age, I think.  I have grown up, finally.  Though not completely.  I have learned to let go of what I consider the basic requirements for happiness.  I have had daily lessons in opening my eyes to the hidden things of God.  I have learned to love.

Nothing new lasts long here.  So many people and things come and go.  The 5.30am tennis, such a great way to start the day, with the yearly Easter tennis tournament, when no-one escaped Jan’s match making.  Long gone.  It was delivered a death knell when the tennis court, laid down by the Portuguese, was dug up and replaced by a thin layer of cement which was lethal underfoot and soon broke up.  The Chinese take-away came and went, followed a year later by the Chinese Restaurant, also gone.  Sun downers at the Referba, a thing of the past.  The  5.30pm jogging-with-mates stopped when the mates left.   My piano lessons ended  when the teacher from Japan, went home.   Help with homeschooling stopped when the qualified teacher helping me, moved on. The municipal pool purchased and made operational off and on for 15 months, has now been empty for two months with no sign of regeneration in sight.  Sometimes there is Feta cheese for sale, then for an entire year none.  There are times when the entire place runs out of petrol/diesel, long life milk or popcorn.  We now drag ourselves out of bed early on a Sunday because the time of the International Quelimane Fellowship moved to 7.00am, when we lost our venue.  Joanna said goodbye to her best friend yesterday.  Her mother, a nurse practitioner from the States, who came to work with an organisation helping distribute antiretrovirals to people suffering with HIV/AIDS,  had to leave when her employer was threatened with a massive fine for having nine ex-pats over the quota of 5% expats per organisation.  This despite a shortage of qualified Mozambique doctors.  The pot holes are deeper and more proliferate then ever.  The new  rain drainage water pipes put into place only last year,  are already showing signs of collapse in places.  The rats still run about, I counted five in one sighting in the garden of a restaurant the other week. As Richard says, the scientific principle of entropy is very apparent here.   The women keep sweeping the streets so that we don’t get completely submerged by the dust.

NEVERTHELESS I have learned that none of these loses  truly, really matters in the big scheme of things.

I have said goodbye to so many people, and learned  to grab hold of every opportunity to make a friend and be a friend, for its better to have loved and lost then never to have loved at all.   I have learned to discover the hidden treasure in many a person,  I would not have given the time of day to, if given the option.

I have learned so much about what education should be about.  Living here has forced me to grapple with home schooling.  I doubt I would have learned this anywhere else, as given the chance to send the children to a half decent educational institution I probably would have done so.

I have learned to play the piano.  I have learned a dozen poems off by heart.  I have learned to love dappled sunlight and Mango trees.  I have learned to walk with God.   I have learned to respect resilience.

I daily salute the resilient inhabitants of this place called Quelimane. A place full of smiles despite the daily struggles to survive and heart breaking  tragedies that abound.   I will miss the humbling experience that living here provides.

I will miss the choral singing and drum beats coming from the Cathedral across the street.  I will miss going to see the dramatic African/Brazilian dancing at the Cultural Centre down the street.  I will miss living at the cutting edge of the battle between hope and despair.   I will miss the spectacular  sunsets over the Bons Sinais (good signs)estuary, thus named by Vasco da Gama when he came by, some time long ago.

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Our chicken laid it’s first egg today. We watched it clucking about as it chose the spot to drop it’s treasure. Joanna was delighted. She said it made her want to do science, “because eggs is science isn’t it!”. So I found her science activity book and told her to choose one. Benjamin jumping on his sisters bandwagon, was given his science activity book. Each book is accompanied by a DVD in which a rather fun teenager carries out each experiment with varying degrees of success. So at one point I sat on our sitting room carpet surrounded by two eager scientists, noticing a yellow butterfly flitting past a window and recognised the preciousness of the moment.

And I thought this could all be about to end.

I have applied for a full-time position based in the UK, where my children will attend school, looked after by their father who will complete  a PHD.  We are so closely knit in our current lifestyle.  Benjamin and Joanna tell me everything. Even how I scared them after a bad PMT inspired rant and rave.  When I apologise for scaring them, they forgive me so willingly.   I love being so in the loop of their lives because I can keep them safe, their sense of self intact.  When their minds fill with lies such as, “I’m dumb” I can counteract this by pointing out the truth.  “Learning to read is hard, it is a struggle, but that doesn’t mean you’re dumb.  It’s good to know how to persevere with something that is hard to do, because struggle is a big part of life.”  I fear that when I am away from them for a big part of the time, I will loose some of their trust and they will start to keep some of their experiences hidden from me.  Would this be a good thing or not?   Don’t they need my wisdom, the fact that I have been there and done that and know what potholes to avoid.  The fact that I have a greater grasp on what is true and what is false.  Or do they need the space to make their own distinctive way.  Are they old enough for that yet.

One of the experiments didn’t work out because Joanna was her clumsy self.  She is such a fairy child and has a real sense of being a princess yet her large hands frequently drop or knock things over, much to her chagrin.  Richard and I ALWAYS make light of her frequent mishaps but I detect she is aware of them.   As usual I made light of the fact that the only four sugar cubes (sent with the science kit) for thousands of miles around in all directions had just been destroyed, rendering the science experiment null n void.   But later I slumped down on the bathroom floor behind the locked door and silently sobbed.  And ranted and raved to God, like the Psalmist asking: “Why is this so hard, for me?”

And I thought this could all be about to end.

Then Joanna and I went shopping.  Going the long way around to avoid the largest of the pot holes which are currently filled with water.  As we clang our way along the pot marked roads in my twin cab buckie without power-steering or air-conditioning,  with the sound of Joanna’s endless sweet chatter by my side, I realise how much I’ve grown.  I’ve shed so much petulance and entitlement, and I prefer my new more stretchy skin.

I start to sing, “hit the road Jack, and don’t you come back, no more, no more, no more, no more, hit the road Jack….”.   I experience deep peace and contentment and turn a grateful heart towards God, concluding my personal Psalm for this day.

This could all be about to end.

(Or my nick-name ain’t Jack.)

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Three Word Wednesday

The words at 3WW this week are:

Cajole
Recluse
Temper

Hope has been a recluse  recently.   Hiding in her cave somewhere, licking her wounds inflicted by Foolishness, Wanton Disregard, Cruelty, Suffering,  Greed and the rest of the gang from Pandora’s box.   With Hope playing hide and seek, I bang cooking pot’s about having a toddler- type- temper- tantrum, hissing about iffy looking eggs.   The family fed.  I am free to slide, spiraling down into a pit and visit with Despair.

Which is where Hope came and found me, graciously accepting my 24/7 need of her.   Sitting down next to me, she tried to cajole me by opening a new window for me to look through.  But  Anxiety leaped up playing peak a boo.  So I lent upon Hope’s shoulder and wept.   Hope feeling the need for some help from the others in her club, sent an S.O.S to Faith and Love who came  bounding in.

And together they convinced Joy to come ring her bells and I can still hear their echo in my heart.

3ww11

“And now abide faith, hope, and love, these three;”  1 Corinthians 13:13

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