Coffee along the way

Coffee along the way
Coffee along the way

December 04, 2012

The need to be needed….or not.



 There is definitely some truth in the statement that medical people have a need to be needed.  It kind of drives you, this need.  You need to feel needed.  I used to be like this!  I liked the fact that people needed me....BUT…….i could go home, unplug the phone, order pizza, take time out EASILY!  I controlled this need to be needed, I chose when and how it suited me…..you can guess where this is going, right?

Out here you sometimes wish that all the needs would not jump on you and stick like they do!  There are TOO many on the best of days!  The boys need a haircut (usually all 3 plus my husband), every third person in the village needs some kind of medical help (all on one day it seems!), the laundry basket is extremely in need of help, the food needs to be cooked, the floors need to be washed.  There is a splinter that needs to be removed in my youngest boy’s hand, a sand flea needs to go from my husband’s toe, and we need to finish the school year!  Needs galore!  And I have No Control!  I feel swamped by needs!   And  yep, feel like running away!  (But I know that won’t help as I NEED running shoes and I don’t have any – haha)

I know this is kind of pathetic/shocking, but I have come to a point where I don’t want to be needed, I just want to be left alone, in peace.  I want everyone to go and sort out their own problems – live quite selfishly for a bit.  Or, if I do choose to help, I want to do it on my terms, when it suits me!  I want to have control over this needing business. ……. And then I wake up and realize the coffee is cold!  :)

Yes, God has brought me once again to a place in my life where I have not surrendered.  Oh, yes, I have committed my life to help others – but as I wrote before, committing means I still have CONTROL.  Surrender means I lose it (ie CONTROL) and very quickly too!  And to give up that control is to give over to God, to give up on working in my own strength…..

Jesus had moments like these too – not desperate like me of course - but in need of rest from the crowds.  Sometimes they even found Him where He was trying to rest (been there!) and sometimes He went off to pray all night long to recharge, hear and talk to His Father.  I can identify with the getting away bit, but man, it is hard if you are followed and still need to GIVE!  What a Man to follow!  Jesus, my Hero!  He didn’t have a diary or set up appointments!  He was WITH the people.  He gave up His right to control His life.  And who am I not to follow His example?  And as His child I have the great advantage that He said if I trust in Him, I will soar like an eagle, I will run and not tire I will walk and not faint.  I can run to Him and ask Him to fill me up, to help me be able to give again and again.  “Come to Me…”

Bella, actually knowing where to run too (and I don’t even need shoes!)





October 26, 2012

To Sing Again



On Sunday as I was sitting in church realizing this is the last time we will be in a church for a long time and I really had to fight back the tears……
Saying goodbye (not one of my favourite words) I just wanted to burst into tears – will I see you again?  I felt like crying……

My dad tripped over someone’s “ornamental” palisades and gashed his calf – 6 stitches later I heard about it and wanted to break down…… 
My husband hurt his back and needs to stay in bed, our trip postponed going home and now we need someone to travel with us, just in case…..ok, this time I did cry my heart out, and the tears flowed freely if I received any sympathetic look!   I am tired of having to be strong, fighting back the tears, not letting it go. 

I am not strong or very brave!  I miss family and friends with a deep ache.  I rarely cry in front of them, not because I’m strong, but because I want to spare them.  Although  I must admit, I don’t think I can hold it in much longer……I am not falling apart, I guess I want you to see the real me.  This “me” that is not strong or very brave – just an ordinary person, like you who has fears and dreams, hopes and heartaches.  Someone who goes through times of sadness, times of saying goodbye, times of wanting a bit more understanding and care. But to be fair I must say “an ordinary person serving an Extraordinary God”.  Really, without falling back on clich├ęs, He is my Rock.  Even if people do not understand, He does.  He can handle my tears!  And I think I just would like to cry a lot right now!!  J

I love Ps 63 and it sums up what I feel.  A soul longing for God in a dry and weary land.  A soul satisfied by 
God and the best part: “Because You are my help, I sing in the shadow of Your wings.” 

Singing to me is the opposite of crying. And I have done a lot of crying and not much singing lately!  And so once again I run to You, hide me under Your wings, dry my tears, satisfy my soul and help me sing again.

Bella, in the shadow of His wings.

October 08, 2012

Seasons and colours....

I have always thought about myself as a black/white person, no grey for me thank you very much!  (although being black or white does get one into trouble at times!)  But recently i had to admit firstly to myself and then obviously also to the world that i am actually grey - and i mean this in a very literal way!  haha Yes, grey hair galore! 

A while back i wrote something on What Defines a person, well in the mean time i have found out the hard way how the world defines me - having grey hair and actually showing it has been, shall we say ..... interesting?  From "Wow, you are so ...... GREY!" ( i would have preffered something like Happy!) to in denial...haha, to "Oh, so this is how you now look" and worst of all "I would not have recognized you!"  So much for discreetness!  ( i have been away for 2 years, but really!)

The synonym list says this about grey - old, dreary, ancient, depressing!!!  And i want to say very loudly I am not one of those!!

In any case, i think the lesson here is not so much what others think, but what do i think/feel?  Of course, even i, the missionary, want to look nice and stay young for ever and all that, but when facing facts (which at the best of times really is overwhelmingly in favour of all people aging!) then i think it's time i face the facts!  I have this genetic flaw that made me grey at 33!  Add a very sensitive skin and what you see is what i am - grey!  ( i do save a small fortune on not buying hair dye now!!)

But coming back to what i think/feel.....do i feel comfortable in my skin? Do i feel comfortable about the colour of my hair?  Can i reach a point where i am totally free to be me?  Does my hair colour really define me?  And if it does then i have to say.....that is really, really sad.  Of course there is the factor where every "she" goes through where you have to work through acceptance, but as i wrote before "In Acceptance there is Peace!"  And i guess that is where i aim to be - accepting me.  Feeling comfortable with me as i am.

The thing that makes it difficult, is to accept that in most of the world's eyes, i am now not really worth much.  I see this as a decline of society, where older people, even if you are not that old, but look it a bit more (!!) you have not much to give.  Well, so be it then.  They are the ones missing out!  In the Bible grey is seen as a symbol of wisdom and i think i'll rather go with that than the written-off view!  And i thank God for my dear husband who loves me just the way i am and not to mention God's view of me, His precious child, albeit with grey hair!  :)

And so, i guess i want to say "Sorry if you miss me on the street, or if you are shocked at my greyness BUT Viva Life!" 

Bella, grey and almost happy about it!  :)

August 09, 2012

Culture....


Being back in your own culture again after a prolonged time sure makes you see your own adaptation to the host culture in a new perspective!  Kind of helps you see how far you’ve come.  Not that that in itself is very helpful as you need to adapt once again back into your own culture and usually find that you might never be quite content in either one…..a global person longing for heaven, I guess!

We were in a restaurant when it suddenly started snowing – how exciting!  We all rushed out to taste and feel and see this wonderful light snow.  Others came out too but to my amazement they pulled out cell phones and started calling others and telling them about the snow!   They didn’t pay much attention to the ones around them.  Later I looked at some pictures on facebook and saw the same phenomena – people rather sharing via text or msg or whatever way what they are experiencing.  It could be just a way to tell significant others what you are up to, or it could be that the need for communicating quickly is very important or that time later to retell just don’t exist?  The Now Culture.  Or worse - we don’t talk to each other face to face……if you don’t believe me just quietly watch people around you……

Another little culture shock was to see how task-orientated people really are in our society.  What I need to do comes before greeting you or even acknowledging you.  Here we have certainly adapted well into the African way!  HAHA!!  Where in Africa I need to very patiently greet each and every one and then ask my burning question or go and do what I need to do.  Here again, I find I have to wait very patiently for the other one to go and do or finish up or whatever before I can greet him/her properly. 

I know that heaven is my home – I experience that feeling of being an alien wherever I am (albeit a legal alien!) and I know God gives grace and helps me adjust, but I also know people are important and as a cultures evolve we seem to lose the closer connections that still exist in lesser “developed” cultures.  And if I may I would like to say…..don’t forget the ones that are standing right there beside you.

Bella, heaven's alien.

July 12, 2012

Defined....


What defines you?  Some people on meeting you for the first time ask quickly “So what do you do?”  Doing defines them.  The Job.

Or what about looks?  Does Grey hair get you down like me?  It might get me down, but does it mean I am not me anymore just because I have grey hair?  Of course not!  What would Orange hair say??  Or the clothes you wear or whether you are thin or fat, short or tall, muscular or..flabby.  In some The Look defines.

Or how much you earn or have in the bank.  The car you drive, the house you have, the number and size of your TV screen(s).  The Possessions can define.
I kind of had a really good thing going a few years back – I had The Job, Looks was OKish, more than happy in what I earned, etc.  But one great thing was missing.  I didn’t have Jesus in my life.  And actually I had nothing that really defined me! 

Did you notice – all these things that the world uses to define itself can be taken away in a moment!?  You can lose your job, your house, car, income.  You can lose your looks due to health issues or an accident – and then what?  Well, you fall apart, because you are a nothing actually.  A nothing, that is, in your and the worlds eyes.  But never in God’s eyes.

In God’s eyes we are defined by His love for us.  I belong to Him.  I am His.  That is what ultimately defines me.  No-one can take that away.  I am defined by Jesus living in me.  No-one can take me away from Him.  I am a daughter of the Most High.  I am redeemed, summoned by name, I am His. 

Down here on earth I may not look like much in others eyes.  They might expect the least of me – a mother and teacher of my boys, at times a housewife (depending on the state of the house!!)  :) , a general helping hand - not someone who is defined by any form of greatness….just little ol’ me.

Mother Teresa once said – the work we do is not at all important, it is that we act in obedience to Him.  And so, even if my work, my looks and my possessions doesn’t add up to much, I know I am obedient to my King and in the right spot.  Let me keep this perspective Lord, as I lose it so easily when I am looked at and found wanting in the eyes of the world (and sadly sometimes even in the eyes of some believers).   

I am Yours and that defines me.

Bella, by definition God’s child.

July 06, 2012

Break our hearts with what breaks Yours....

These are such easy words to say and sing and even think, but actually kind of dangerous.  God takes every thought we have seriously and if we say/sing something He takes us up on it!

Sometimes i wish i could just wrap the hurting world  in a nice warm blanket, give a cup of tea and make it all right again.  But i can't. 

Last night a lady in our village was attacked by her husband - in the face.  In her eye actually, with a gaping wound and puffed-up eye to prove it.  I am sure that my Father's heart was broken at the sight of her......and mine too.  A clean wound, nicely "stitched-up" is all fine, but she needs so much more, she needs love, God's love and to know that He loves her..........and that His heart breaks for her.

This past week either a crazy guy or a jealous malicious person set fire to 7-8 families harvested maize....a whole year's food gone.  There is no back-up plan here.  There is no more rain until December.  My Father's heart is aching for the people, but they pray to their dead ancestors, they bend their knees on the cold floor of the mosque......my heart is broken. 

But i am not God, i have only a small heart!  How will i be able to take it? my heart cries out.  Then i see Jesus!  What a man!  What a God!  He looks at the crowds and even though He is tired and dusty and in need of rest, His heart was filled with compassion.  He wept at other times.  He was filled with righteous anger at what the leaders did to the temple!  He lived fully, experiencing heartache every day, because He knew that there is more, so much more from God for each of His people and they miss it, or mess it up. 

But how did He keep it up?  (Well, of course, He is God) but still, what did Jesus do?  No Me-Timeout, No self help books read in spare time, no.  He made Time to spend with the Father, to be filed again and again.  And so must i.  Fill me with Your love and Hope and Joy!

Bella, heartbroken but Hopeful.





June 28, 2012

Tears....


Sitting in a crumpled heap, tears streaming down my face…..yes, this is a normal day.  It is not easy to live here.  Isolation, always being an outsider (even in my own country) makes me feel very sorry for myself at times!  Other times I cry for the people here - the hopelessness of the situation just makes me weep with frustration …..tears, and more tears.

I was flooding my floor with my tears again one day while thinking WHAT to share with the church back home…..”Yes, we are still learning – the culture, the language, how to keep on living here…..the same old same, I guess!”  Well, while contemplating all this I realized what I would LIKE to share is God’s miracles – not small ones but BIG ones – to give Him glory, to wake up and shake the church so that they will see that He is the Living God and prove it too….but nothing came to mind and so I did what I do quite naturally, I cried.  I know, not very strong am i?

In any case when we are weak, I mean really weak then God can be strong – so as soon as I was out of the way the Lord showed me a wonderful picture to make me see (me, not the church!!)  And it has encouraged me so much, even though it doesn’t take away the hard, the difficult or the tears….
When a farmer is preparing a new field, he has a lot of hard work to do.  He needs to take out all the grass – roots and all, chop down trees – roots and all, drag away all the piles of rubbish, flatten the land, get the plough  out and plough it up a few times. Extremely Hard Work!  (and if you don’t believe me just take a spade and go dig up a tree!! J )

And this is where we are – not in the wonderful-fruit-bearing-harvest-time, but in the time of preparation – a time marked by tears, toil and sweat!  But our eyes are on the harvest to come!!  Literally Preparing the Way!

And so I am encouraged to keep on.

Leeland’s song – “Tears of the Saints” says it all:
“This is an emergency
and there are tears from the saints
for the lost and unsaved,
we’re crying for them Come back Home! 
Father we will lead them home……”

Bella, preparing and being prepared

June 18, 2012

Perspective oh where art thou??


I do wonder sometimes how my life looks from God’s perspective, because from here below it sure does not look successful…..

I became a believer 15 years ago after trying and searching in my own way to come close to God, but in the end He did it all!  Since then I have never doubted my salvation – but my worth, oh many times!
From an earthly perspective my most productive years really were the three years spent at Bible college – even though I only did 1 ½ year of studies, I still ministered in the Kid’s Club, Home Based Care, reaching out to Mozambique, etc.  After that, and obviously as my life with three small children of my own (born in 3 years!!), got more busy at home, ministry opportunities dwindled.  And not of lack of trying!  I did courses with students at night when the boys were asleep and so on, but as time went by things just changed – it was as if God was holding me back.  Yes, I did reach out in a different way – moms and tots for example – but things just didn’t work out as I had planned…….

And now here in the bush where we live and I homeschool my kids, keep the house (which just takes way more time as everything has to be done from scratch!) and I try and learn the local language I just feel so useless.  I can’t share the Gospel with anyone (yet), I can’t help too much (and create dependency), and it sometimes feels as if I can’t do anything……

BUT, this is when I look at my life through the world’s eyes – and yes, even through the churches’ eyes!  God sees and does things differently.  And here’s an object lesson just for me…..
As I was typing this up I was called out to help our chief who sprained his ankle and then a small boy with a burn wound….when I finished bandaging them, I looked up into the most amazing smile coming from the little boy!  And this coming from a Y who can be so stoic.  (I once pulled out a thorn 6cm long, without the patient even wincing, crying or anything!)  So, I got my reward and am reminded to look through God’s eyes at my life – even though in other’s eyes I might be nothing I can know that God values me, so, so much….and you too.

Recently a close friend wrote – for Bella – Isaiah 43:4 “Since you are precious and honoured in My sight, and because I love you, I will give men in exchange for you and people in exchange for your life.’
Bella, as always blown away by Pappa God’s love for me.

June 07, 2012

Humbled me.....


If I would ever write a book about my life the most fitting title probably will be "The Humbled me".  That sure sums it up!

I went to my language “helper” today.  She was not helpful.  In actual fact, she was bored with me, she kept sighing and saying the words very fast before I even had time to think!  I asked her a few times politely if she was not feeling well, I asked if she had had a bad day, lots of works still to do? – but no, nothing…….so I kept at it – trying to be quicker, trying not to bore her.

Then worst of all, a man came by to visit.  After all the greetings were over he asked what I was doing with the book.  She said, in Y, that  I was learning the language, whereupon he burst out laughing.  At this stage I was still smiling and tried to look at least Y intelligent-ish….but to no avail!  The next thing I heard was how little I know (this coming from my language “helper”) how slow I am and a few other things which I am very glad I did not understand – but I did understand the main gist of this extremely painful conversation!  So I said after a while – actually practising my newly acquired phrase – "Oh, yes, I do understand" – shocked faces there for a minute and then, just when I thought things couldn’t get worse they started talking really, really fast so that I won’t understand – wow, I was never gossiped at, at this rate and as I was watching!  Level  9 of humbledness……..

I guess this is my thorn in the flesh – my language helpers (past and present!)  But life continues and when the time comes for the next session with her I will slowly make my way over there, swallow the little pride I have left and learn this language even if it hurts!

Bella, humbled over and over……for the sake of the Gospel.

May 30, 2012

Plain and simple



There comes a point when “I am nothing” or “I can do nothing” can go either way. 
What I mean is – i can use it as an excuse to feel very sorry for myself.  See myself as extremely pathetic missionary.  I can think I am totally useless.  I don’t have enough training, do not have enough time, I am not enough ……This leads inevidently to thoughts that God could never use me, actually will not even choose me to work for Him and so on - a very nice and tidy downward spiral.  Exactly where the enemy wants me!

Funnily enough, that is actually where Gods wants me too – but for a VERY different reason!  He wants me in that place where I say – I cannot do it!  I am too weak!!  But instead of titling to the “oh, poor me” I tilt to “when I am weak, You are strong” and “without Jesus I can do nothing, but with Him, ……WITH HIM I can do all things!!!

Jesus chose uneducated fishermen to be His disciples – plain and simple.  He could have had His pick of intellectuals – priests, Rabbi’s, teachers of the Law, whoever!  But He chose fishermen.  I always marvel at that verse in Acts where Peter and John were before the Sanhedrin and the leaders were amazed at the wisdom and boldness of the two men –then they remarked that these two were uneducated men, but had BEEN with Jesus!  What a testimony! 

Abide in Me, Jesus said.   “I am the Vine and you are the branches, if a man remains in me (abide) and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from Me, you can do nothing’!!  No amount of training, no amount of willful perseverance, no amount of self-sacrifice will bear any fruit if you are not close to Jesus, abiding in Him.  Then you are truly useless!

And so, here I am with all my vaults and weaknesses and glad of them.  Jesus take me as I am, let me abide in You, and You in me, so that even if it looks to the world that I will never be able to accomplish anything, I will bear fruit, and fruit that will last, and only because of You!
Bella, plain and simple.

May 20, 2012

40-40-40?


The Bible says to count the cost….well, what if you didn’t take all into account?  And now, a few years down the line, new costs rise up?  Well, I guess that is where I am at! 
This morning I was thinking what it means to give everything up for God.  Giving up things like car, house, status, etc seems a breeze to the things that in the end Really matter!  Like not being there for family or giving up your own dreams and rights.  What if God calls you to give everything up and then calls you to do ……. nothing (of value)?  For example, Him not giving you anything important to DO.  You give up everything and then wonder if your life will mean anything on this earth.

I can really identify with Moses!  What a great man!  He SAW God!  Not that I can identify with his great ness – no, actually not at all – it is more the waiting part that strikes a chord in my heart.  I mean, he was 40 years old when he tried to do it all on his own and had to flee.  Then, for the next 40 years he, a prince, looked after sheep!  And then for the next 40 he looked after a very stubborn and unfaithful nation!  If I look at him, I do wonder if I am in the sheep-caring stage and how long this phase will last?  40 years?  Maybe some of us (i.e ME) need 40-80 years for God to accomplish His work in us?  Sure feels like that to me at the moment!

It might be a bit of mid-life thinking/evaluation here, but I realize that I would really like to have a meaningful life here on earth – it is the only chance I have!  (Actually it is not the right phrase – I want, wrongly, to have an Important life – you can lead a meaningful life and be a Nothing in the world’s eyes.) But, in all of this am I seeking to be Significant or to be Obedient?  Who is going to write a book about a mother of three boys who spent her days teaching them, cooking cleaning, washing sores and dishing out headache tablets to the village people?  I guess I would like to be more Significant than Obedient!  I would like to impact this world with a BANG!  Lead 3000 to Christ like Peter did!  See all the Y converted in a flash! Doing GREAT things for God! But then, who am I to tell God that I know better? 

And so, I guess, I pray for a heart that looks at my life through God’s eyes – things that look (extremely) insignificant down here will have Eternal value up there.  And for grace that is sufficient for me to keep on, keeping on.
Bella, servant-in-training

March 30, 2012

The Guilt Factor....



Lately I have been thinking a lot about my own culture – things we do and don’t do and used to do…..It is so different from our host culture – sometimes quite the opposite!  For example, the people here are really not individualistic at all and we really are!  My husband was reading to our boys about the Groot Trek (the Great trek) that occurred in our history – the personalities were so strong and the beliefs so bold that they soon broke off in splinter groups and went their own ways.  Yes, we are a headstrong stubborn people!

But that is just one aspect – culture runs so deep, we don’t see half of it!  The thing that got me thinking about my culture is a workshop about being in a multi-cultural team that will be presented in April.  Usually a missionary thinks about the other culture much more than her own!  In any case I just realized again what a strong Guilt Culture we have.  I sent out a short questionnaire asking two questions – What is lawful on the Sabbath?  And What is worse in our culture – to lie or to lose your temper.  The responses were quite interesting!

But the What is lawful on the Sabbath said it all – we justify why we do what we like on our supposed day of rest because we feel guilty!  Yes, shopping can be done (even shopping for the whole month!) as long as we went to church, or read our Bible or said a short prayer somewhere on the way….guilt.

Other places it comes out as well – we buy a lot of stuff to make up for the time we don’t spend with our kids – guilt.  We give something to the poor man sitting on the pavement if our child feels sorry for him – guilt.  We feel guilty after indulging in too much to eat, etc, etc.  Marketing people should catch onto this scoop to get people to buy their products!  Something like “Don’t you feel guilty that you spend 60 hours or more at the office? – No problem - send our flowers!” 

Well, all this to say I am from a guilt culture and at the moment this is what is dragging me down!  I feel guilty that I don’t get out more – visit the ladies in my village more, do more!  I feel guilty when I wish that not one more sick person will shout “Odi” for me to come out and help, I feel guilty that I don’t spend every waking moment I have that I am not teaching, baking, cooking or cleaning in language studies!!  Guilt, guilt, guilt!  Oh, to be free form it!  But then I think, if I am free of this guilt – what will drive me?  And then I feel guilty just thinking about all this guilt I have!  All this guilt stems from a "doing culture"  If you don't DO, then you ARE nothing, no respect, no status, etc and if you don't have all that then guilt sets in...... (see note at bottom)

But “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed!”  And “I have come so that they may have LIFE and have it to the FULL”   Guilt, shame, cultural bonds, heritage – these are all things that the enemy uses to keep us down, keeping us to not live in fullness.  Don’t get me wrong, not all things in our different cultures are wrong, but there are some things that definitely need renewing in every culture!  I guess my question as a missionary is always – “Am I doing enough for You Lord?”  

May the Holy Spirit help me sort out through all of this and bring growth and life where there are still desert areas.  And as I struggle through it may I learn valuable lessons that one day I may share with the people here as they will also face some serious cultural/Biblical issues…..

Bella.
 --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
From http://culturallyteaching.com

Here are some very broad characteristics of doing cultures:
  • Status is earned (e.g. the work you do in your job). It is not merely a function of who you are (e.g.  birth, age, seniority).
  • Status is not automatic and can be forfeited if one stops achieving (e.g. you quit your job).
  • Great emphasis is placed on deadlines, schedules etc.
  • Tasks take precedence over personal relationships in most cases (e.g. your family may not like it but they understand if you have to miss a family birthday party because you have work to do).
  • People are supposed to have a personal opinion, which they are expected to verbalize.
And here are some very broad characteristics of being cultures:
  • Status is built into who a person is. It’s automatic and therefore difficult to lose.
  • Titles are important and should always be used, in order to show appropriate respect for someone’s status.
  • Harmony should be maintained, and therefore direct confrontation or disagreement is to be avoided. Saving face is highly valued.
  • Relationships often take precedence over tasks. Much time is spent on greeting and farewell rituals or getting to know someone before agreeing to do business with them.