December 16, 2014
This morning as i was trying to save my lavender plant, i took a good look at the stem. It was very woody and thick. On closer inspection i also saw it was only a matter of time before it would have died anyway! The thick stem was eaten hollow on the inside by termites! So what the hosepipe started the termites would have finished! Add to that the red clay soil which hardens into rock and it was a wonder that the plant survived so long as it did!
And that i, guess, is a wonderful summary of life here.
If the termites don't get you, three or four other things take over where they left off! One thing after the other to get you down.
You buy pasta only to find it smells and tastes like soap! Or when you place pasta in rapid boiling water you see you have bought an enriched version of it - aka the bug version! You bake bread and forget to put salt in it. The sugar is wet.... yes, wet. You consider to throw it all away but then you remember you don't live close to a shop. In fact you will only go to a shop in two week's time. The nice pumpkins and passion fruits are eaten up by the same blasted termites, the lettuce rot with all the rain. Wounds get infected for no reason, it's just that season. On and on. Add loneliness, lack of good friends close by, water problems and you feel what is the use of trying to stick it out? And these are just to things i am willing to name!
Then i walk out my back door and sit with my neighbour. And i see real hopelessness. Of the lasting kind. I see nothing to make me feel like leaving and everything to make me leave. Overwhelmed and in despair but living like that constantly.
And i think, why do i look at the waves and become afraid? Or why do i only see the charging Egyptians and not the opened-up Red Sea? Why do i chose to hear the enemy's discouragements and not the Lord's encouragement? Why do i let the termites and soil kill my soul slowly, slowly?
What and who do i chose to believe each day? All the junk that is thrown at me? Or do i chose to see God in my day? And not only a God, but the One who knows me, loves me and deeply cares for me? I want to lift my head, stick out my chin and look beyond the muck and mire all around and see Him. I want to. And i call out to Jesus - Lord, I do believe, help me overcome my unbelief!
I want to lock my eyes on the Prize - not a what but a Who! Because He is worthy and i want to live my life for Him. He gave everything for me. I don't want to be stuck in the mud! I want to run and be free to live for Him!
Oh to have Joy! To not just survive - to Thrive and Bloom!
Bella, oh to have Joy!
I was digging a hole. And crying while digging. No, it wasn't a grave for some beloved pet. It was a new hole for my most beloved lavender plant which was broken off this morning. Broken by a hosepipe as it was dragged along. Not the worst thing to happen, but for the timing.
I decided to replant the little bit that was left over in faith. Looking at it everything screamed this is The End. More tears. And the soil so, so, hard. And this in the vegetable garden (a safer place in my mind!). I was trying to dig deep enough to fill the clay earth with some sand so my lavender will actually have half a chance and as i was digging away a thought struck me....
How is it possible for these tender roots to grow deep into rock-hard soil? How on, or rather, in earth is it possible? I was really hitting the ground hard now with my hoe and making little difference! What chance did this broken plant have? It seemed so hopeless as I was quite hurt and angry and so i was putting some "effort" into digging!
And then a still but clear voice, filled my mind "Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, says the Lord".
Is that just not IT? Not by MIGHT! Not by POWER! But By My Spirit!
How many times have i tried to do a thing by might and shear power? Only to be disappointed and tired. How many times have i picked up a too heavy load in my own strength? Not by might. Not by power. But by My Spirit.
For sure, life out here is hard. And not just in a spiritual sense, we need to work hard physically as well. We have times of no water, or the pump breaks or the bread is all gone. I need to physically jump in to dig a hole, knead the bread or we need to clean out the very septic tank and many other small and big things. Things that drain us, things that get us down. But somewhere there needs to be a balance - a sure sense that God is the One who gives me strength to go on. That He is the One who helps me to have courage. Courage because it is not by my measly might, or my puny power. But by His wonderful all-encompassing Spirit!
I don't have much hope for my broken plant, but i did get hope for my broken spirit. God is here beside me and it is through Him that i will make it, nothing else.
And in times of HUGE discouragement, i can crawl into someplace quiet and know, He is working, slowly but surely. I do not have to hack my way into life. I can relax. God is in control and He gives me what i need by His Spirit.
December 11, 2014
Yesterday was one of those days, to say the least! I won’t bore you with the whole long list of things that went wrong but I need to name a few…
I had this really bad cold and instead of getting better, yesterday I got worse….terrible ear ache all day long, and to top it off we had no water, so dirty dishes and dirty laundry everywhere and we are expecting guests today! So, I was freaking out a bit when my dear husband said that not too worry, God will help us through it all. On the outside I was saying Yes, of course, but on the inside I was losing it.
Worry, as Ann Voskamp puts it so well, is belief gone wrong.
I was not merely worrying a bit, I was in a STATE of worrying! And this State was not good at all.
In our weekly meetings with the people in our village, we have been going through the Old Testament stories that shows God’s plan for this world – stories about Adam and Eve, Cain, Noah, Babel, Abraham, Joseph, Moses …. Stories that tell us Who God is, what He wants of us and How He is really. On top of that I am reading Ann Voskamp’s book on Advent as well….you know those times when God has to hammer in the truths from a few different directions all at once to get your attention? Well, this is one of those times!
In this morning’s reading she also mentioned Abraham and the story about nearly sacrificing his son. Abraham named the place where God provided a ram in Isaac’s place just that – God Provides. Yehovah-Yireh.
Now, I know this story. I had just written a lesson on it. I am going through all these stories of how God provided everything for the Israelites in the desert – I have read, written down and listened to this story even in a few different languages! (How hard is it for God to get my attention?) In any case, here we were without WATER. Does that sound familiar? I always hoped I would have been a Caleb or a Joshua, but sadly it seems I would have been just one more unbelieving little Israelite! Sigh.
Without water - that life-giving-very-important-thing! Did I go directly to God? No. I worried. Worried about the dirty laundry and dirty dishes and wondering if should give the guests only one group towel and order them to all shower at the same time? yip, that was me. And I was ready to give it all up. To pack a bag (the suitcases were too hard to get to in my current state!) and slowly walk away down the dirt road. Once again, sigh.
Yehovah-Yireh also means God sees or will see to it. And that is what He did. Not me, I didn’t do much except fret and worry. He Saw. He gave a Plan, like He always does.
A bit of background is needed here – we have a well that was nearly dry a couple of weeks ago and so we put in a pump by the small river to at least water the trees and garden, esp the vegetable garden. But I did question the wisdom of such a large investment just before the rainy season when the outside world will be wetter than wet! But we did it and now I see God had a plan all along – we can now use the river water (after a struggle to clean it a bit) in our house as well. He Saw and He Helped.
And so I guess, every place where we have ever lived I could have named Yehovah-Yireh. I can honestly say over all these years He has always Provided and He always Sees To It in what we need. I just need to get it into my thick head to run to Him first of all, to TRUST Him and to know that He knows and cares. I need to believe and stop worrying.
Bella, humbled by the Patience and Grace of God, truly His Grace is enough.
November 24, 2014
It grips and takes over. It is impossible to believe God will help me. Impossible to have faith. There is only fear and it grows. It towers over me like huge trees....overshadowing everything else.
When i had malaria in June i also had severe backache...so yesterday i hurt my back by climbing unto my bike in a weird way. :) But, as it got worse i felt fear creep in, ok, more like a riptide flooding in. Was it just backache or something unmentionable?
The thing is, if you suspect you have it, you can only go forward - there is not much else to do! Wait it out and see what it is, take the meds and pray. Believe that even if this is really not nice (huge understatement, of course!) then trust God anyway!
But fear kills all that. It takes up all the space in my head and thoughts, it makes my heart shake with...fear and lots of "what ifs". So much for faith!
Faith cannot live with fear.
Taking up my cross becomes a real thing. Living here for the sake of Jesus' last command and not because i like it here, but because i know He is worth it and He has asked me to be here.
But i need to give Him my fears and panicky thoughts. I need to trust Him Every Day.
I need to TRUST. Fear leaves my paralyzed, while faith and trust sets me free. Free!! Free to live here, free to be here, free of fear. And even if fear comes along without my asking, i know i can come into the Presence of God Himself and say, "Here i am, i am afraid, but i trust You."
He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide in the shade of the Almighty. I will say to Jehovah: My Refuge and my Fortress, my God; I will trust in Him. For He delivers you from the fowler's snare, from destruction's plague. With His feathers He will cover you, and under His wings you shall seek refuge; His truth is a shield and buckler. You shall not fear the terror of night, nor of the arrow that flies by day; of the plague that walks in darkness, nor of the destruction laying waste at noonday. A thousand shall fall by your side, and a myriad at your right hand; it shall not come near you. Only with your eyes you shall look, and see the retribution of the wicked. Because You, O Jehovah, are My refuge; You make the Most High Your habitation, no evil shall happen to You, nor shall any plague come near Your tent. For He shall give His angels charge over You, to keep You in all Your ways. They shall bear You up in their hands, that You not dash Your foot on a stone. You shall tread on the lion and adder; the young lion and the serpent You shall trample under foot. Because He has set His love on Me, therefore I will deliver Him; I will set Him on high because He has known My name. He shall call on Me and I will answer Him; I will be with Him in distress; I will rescue Him and honor Him. I will satisfy him with length of days, and will make Him see My salvation.
October 08, 2014
I think many people with a brain do not actually use them. Use them to think, that is!! Just yesterday my theory was proven right once again.
I was walking home with a visitor of our neighbours. We had just attended the Bible teaching that my husband presents twice a week in the local language, when this young lady asks me if I am now also done with language learning. Done with language learning….hmmm what did she mean? Could she be so naive as to think one ever stops learning? No, it wasn’t that. Could she possible think that I in the role of wife, mother of 3, teacher, chef ( :) ), house cleaner, resident helper of the sick, was just so brilliant that I did it all and could actually now be done with language? Tempting thought – be done with you old friend!! No, I am quite sure she did not think that!! :) The dreaded question. Some just throw it out there with their mouth full of home-baked bread (because there is no shop to buy it from!!), others are puzzled and think there is something wrong with my intellectual abilities ....i do have a university degree by the way. :)
It all comes down to expectations and not using your upper faculties. Her and others expectation was that all missionary moms speak the language just as amazingly as their husbands. They do it all and are it all!! Wow, speak of not using your brain! How will this poor girl ever survive the real deal? She will definitely frizzle out and feel like an utter failure if she does not attain that goal. Or even if she does speak the language one day as well as her husband in the same time, something else will probably slip…maybe she will send her kids away at the age of 6….or maybe she will not have kids?
Or there will be no food to eat. Somewhere she needs to realign her expectations with reality and then make choices based on that. Or she might do it all!! But that is not me, sorry.
Could it be that God has something else for me in line? Heaven forbid, but could it be that He is ok with the fact that I speak a little but love a lot? If He is ok with it, then so should i. I just need to clarify something here – I do not say that as the missionary mom you have a license to not learn the language, of course not!! Why are you here then? I am just saying that it might take you longer as you focus on other more important God-things and as life’s challenges changes you might have more or less time for this. But work towards that goal, just don’t let it be the ruler to which you measure your being a “successful” missionary or not.
What I am saying is that you need to know what God wants you to do. Not what people think you should be doing. Believe me, that is not a good place to be. People place unrealistic expectations on you and judge you with their own limited scope. If you live to please people you will live in vain and exhaust yourself. And actually miss what God has planned for you.
So yes, I am still learning Y and rejoicing in small victories, on top of all the other things I do so that we as a family can live and function well here. We are a team!! Even though it is not me up there talking in Y and sharing God’s amazing plan of salvation – we are doing it together for Him!! So please don’t judge me or compare me with my husband or the missionary up the road or that amazing woman in that book you read just last week. Ask me what is God’s plan for my life here. Ask me how I have grown closer to Him. Ask me to share from my life; what I have learned here, out in the sticks. And please think for a second before you speak.
September 30, 2014
Africa can at times be such an assault to the senses. Don’t get me wrong, I love Africa. In fact I was born here and have lived most of my life here. But still, outside of my own country, way down in the South and my own culture, it can be quite pleasant but up here?? Up here, Africa attacks the senses.
Take this morning for instance. We live in a very small village in the North of this country. The police do not even know the name of our village. Immigration has no idea of our village’s name and we just put our place of abode as the larger one of these small villages which they might have heard of but never have visited. Even our road running through the village only connects us to other smaller villages going nowhere. Actually the road ends after 2 hours of driving. In two words; small village.
So you would think Peace and Quiet. Nope. Wrong. No Peace and no Quiet. Lots of noise and shouts and screams, parties and what-nots. Sometimes All Night long!
This morning I was listening to the just-returned swallows as I was opening my Bible for my Quiet time, when suddenly extremely Loud Music filled the air. Ah, Campaigning!! And this at 6 o’ clock! Loud music screaming in my ears about going all over the world and I think something to do with an ache in the back and there was also a mother in there somewhere…..an attack on my ears for sure! Haha my Y sure has improved if I can hear some words in the songs they play! But be that as it may, it wasn’t encouraging to me at the time.
Smells, people bustling all around without any thought to a personal space, bright light and strange tasting food. They go all out for all 5 senses!
So this wonderful Tuesday morning we are trying to do school with surround sound!! Oh and did I mention there are now two sets of songs going on at the same time?? Try and do Math or Science or even fill in a cross word puzzle with all this going on! My youngest actually made his Math way more complicated than was ever asked for!
Here is another example for you….some might feel a bit homesick for Africa right about now, I guess, but I long for clean lines, quiet, orderly dust free surroundings. But back to my example….
We went on this adventure, where we used a huge ferry boat on Lake Malawi going to an island. An island without a dock. Boarding was quite uneventful. We just walked up the gangplank. No problem. It was getting back to shore where the problem lay. In Africa they do things quite strange at times. This is how it is done - the life boats are lowered , on which it says very clearly, only 22 persons (sic) and then everyone jumps as fast as they can onto it with 50kg bags of corn, dried fish, flattened cardboard (for more fish) bread, drinks of various flavours and alcoholic percentages, suitcases etc. When the lifeboat is quite filled up with people and stuff (many more than 22) they make for shore. Just above water level. Don’t rock the boat gets new meaning.
When the ferry’s own boat leaves all kinds of little boats pull up to the side of the rocking ferry and whoever is either dumb enough or desperate enough can then jump on and are rowed to shore for a price, of course! But to get into the boats there lays the trick – even the ones you need to pay you have to be strong and definitely NOT claustrophobic as I found out! You push your way down a small staircase with people going up and down sometimes over your head!! Then onwards to a tiny opening, climbing over bags of rice, corn and fish down a hanging swinging ladder fighting your way through the owners of said corn, rice and fish. Frantically hoping I will not lose a child in all of this pushing, shoving and jumping and maneuvering into small spaces. Oh and of course you have to do all this with your backpack and stuff in your arms (food mostly, as adventures in Africa always require food). Luckily for me, my children are quite tall, so one formed the front and with a tall frame opened up a way for us while the other tall one covered the rear and the youngest talked me through it all. A party of 4 weary travelers. I was totally freaked out by the time we reached shore with all the shouting, shoving and people sitting kind of on top of me. But it was not over yet. On shore we had to all jump on the back of a small pick-up truck with 10 other people and all our stuff, bumping along the road to our destination. I was lucky here as I sat in the front listening to the scratching of gears and feeling how the poor vehicle scrapes the bottom of many rocks. So many attacks on one’s senses.
But I guess therein lies the beauty of Africa. On a good day when I drive through our largest town and see all the confusion, dust and dirt it looks kind of nice. Nothing is ever predictable here. Rules are there but no-one really adheres to them. The sun shines with extreme brilliance. There is little order except in endless paperwork (probably left over from the West in any case). People come and go at all hours in and in all manners of transport – inside and outside of the minibus. Shops are everywhere – markets are held mostly on the main roads with no regard to cars. Laws of nature are mostly disregarded but it seems many do survive this despite really dangerous contraptions – like in the case of electricity or extra diesel tanks feeding the truck while driving from the back……I can go on, but I guess you get the point!
Too much of a good thing …. I long for order, neatness, quietness and cleanliness. J But I live in Africa. And it is Wild here. Loud and noisy. And I guess I like it, even if it does tries my nerves at times to the extreme! :) Africa, somehow or the other, it gets under your skin and you can’t get rid of it even if it is a pesky thing.
Bella, I think I might plug my ears for a bit and close my eyes too and sit far from anyone. :)
September 18, 2014
A picture in my mind….
I am looking out of the window and I see a dry, dusty land – Africa in the Dry Season. The few green plants are all covered with a greyish paleness. All the trees have lost their leaves. It is the dry season and there are still a few months to go before the rains comes. Dry and dusty.
River beds only have a suggestion left of where the water once flowed. The wind picks up the dust and blows it over everything. The dead leaves aimlessly follow the wind.
And there I am with my little plastic orange spade, digging for water. I bend down, lick the ground – nothing! I dig a bit deeper - find a drop and very carefully scoop it up with a teaspoon and place it gingerly in the cracked teacup…where it all leaks promptly out into the thirsty soil! I frantically lick again at the cup’s chipped edge – nothing! I try again, dig, dig, dig. My plastic spade hits a rock, not even big, and disintegrates into handle and a few orange splinters. I look at my teacup and see a drop of liquid. I tilt the cup as far as I can without losing sight of the drop and try and aim for my parched mouth. A single drop, tainted by dust and dirt and it sticks in my throat. Not quenching the unbearable thirst, only adding to it…..
Meanwhile in the background there is this rushing sound. Kind of wild and full of Life. I turn my stiff neck at last towards the sound. It is Water! But not just Water – it is a gushing, rushing, wild current River! Right there next to my little hole and empty cracked teacup! The wind that blows over it smells sweet – like things are about to change, smells of Life and Green! I stand up and stumble over. I fall on my knees and stick my whole head into this wonderful rushing stream and I am drinking, washing and laughing all at the same time!
“My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken Me, the Spring of Living Water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.” Jeremiah 2:13
In real life, how do I get to this water? Practically, I mean? Here I am, totally given out. Totally used up and at the end of my rope with still a few kilometers of cliff to go down! What do I do to get to this Spring?
There are no 5 Easy Steps to this plus, I hate books that say The 3 easy steps to (fill in the blank)!!
But for me, for today the 1st step is that I have to come to God and say “I am thirsty!!! Help me!” I have to admit and say “Here is my little plastic spade, here is my cracked teacup. I lay them down. I open my mouth and I trust You, the Living Spring to fill me up. Without it I am a gonner. I need You. I cannot do it myself. I come to you in dependence and hope. Quench my thirst, fill me, and cleanse me. Give me new hope for every day. Let me lie down in green pastures, by quiet waters. Restore my soul.”
“The Lord will guide you always; He will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.”
September 03, 2014
I am hiding behind the curtains again. I just made myself a nice cinnamon cappuccino and was going to sit at my desk to read further in my new book ‘Expectations and burnout”.
And here I was skulking behind the curtain because one of our workers was watering the flowers right in front of my window where my desk is. I felt so annoyed! Man, I love my flowers but I was NOT ready to have someone stare at me while drinking coffee and reading a book!
Well, I rest my case. I obviously seriously needed to read this book! Talk about culture stress. I was in it and in it up to my neck! I was tired, sick of living in another culture, desperately in need of a break and the timing was all wrong…
This is one of life’s really weird ironies – one which no-one could prepare us for at all. We have worked years to come to this point in presenting the Gospel in the mother tongue! Whoohoo, we made it!! Well, truth to tell I am not There - I am cheering my husband on from behind the curtains (again standing there??). In any case, we are one so I guess I can say in all honesty that we are There! But the irony is that being There was turning out to be extremely exhausting!! The lessons occur twice weekly and that means that there need to be lessons ready and translated to be then committed to memory as much as possible, then these need to be practised over and over and then presented, all to start anew the next day! In between the translation keeps going on as well, so as not to run out of material. In a word – exhausting!
Talk (or rather read) about expectations … We have looked forward to this day for so long. I saw in my mind’s eye the whole village sitting very calm and peaceful and clean (?where did I get that idea?) listening to every word. No-one looking at a bicycle go past or no-one running off when the election campaign guys strode into the village and most certainly my dear husband would not be working himself nearly into a coma! People seem to think we lead an idyllic life out here – we see each other all the time and get to spend all our time together. Well, yeah, I guess if we both pull up chairs in front of the computer we would see each other all the time! The reality is, is that we don’t keep regular hours. We try though, but it is tough being out here with so much to do and only us to do it, so we do it all. Or think we can at least give it our best shot.
And so I am reading "Expectations and Burnout: Women Surviving the Great Commission” and hope I will survive this! The timing is extremely ironic!
A few difficult points….
At the Bible lessons half of the kids enjoy the luxury of the straw mats and roll around, the other half turn away from the teacher and stare open mouthed at me and the boys. We will make great celebrities – we can ignore stares just fine. (I am lying through my teeth here! My youngest crosses his eyes at them, scowls at them or pulls funny faces in reaction to their staring – in which they don’t even blink!)
Out here in the bush we have gotten used to the idea that we don’t have much of a schedule expect for school hours of course. So, afternoons we are free to do other stuff. Language learning, visiting, riding bikes, playing, etc. Now we are faced with a twice a week lesson that takes 2 hours all in all. We need to sit on straw mats and hope all kinds of bugs do not climb up, crawl into or bite us (well, actually it is probably only me that has these worries!), we need to adjust our time to fast cooking (no take outs here! Tuna is my fast food!) and generally go through a lot of culture stress. But we looked forward to this day and now I am not so sure how I feel. I mean, I can relate to old Jonah very well! It is probably a good thing that I am not the one teaching as I might also like Jonah, just throw it at them! For example – the one day they sit and listen to God’s Word and nod their heads in agreement and the very next day they are in these extremely suggestive dances and up to who-knows-what in the nights with the initiation ceremonies!! Running the dico with the petrol we sponsored because we need their sound system! (Irony is just adding up here!) It breaks my heart!! I know it is still early days, but it is very upsetting if you realize just how bad things are here….
But in all this, what does God want to teach me? Obviously He has something in mind, otherwise I would also sit serenely on my mat with my pencil stub ticking off new words and smiling at all the stares, which I am not!!
How far am I willing to go for my fellow man? Do I like my little luxuries more than seeing them grasp Salvation? No way!! What are my expectations and are they realistic? What are God’s expectations of me in this time? How can I grow and not shrink in this extremely busy time? Do I really Believe Him? He called us here, He chose us and He has a plan for us here. At times it seems so impossible that these people (for whom I gave up everything, well technically I gave it up for God!) will actually accept God’s love – but if God can, by just speaking, create Light, stars, the sun and moon, every kind of animal, fish and bird then what is impossible to Him? Am I willing to let go and really, truly, trust Him for all I need? That all this will not be in vain? Am I willing to trust Him for all they need? Most of my culture stress at times are, that I am scared that I will not make it and ruin God’s plan and of course, my husband’s work! Or that they will reject it all. I lose sight of whom God is and that He knows my needs, yes, even the silly ones! I am in His Hands. I pray that I will rest in that! That I will rest in God’s wisdom to know when to take a break, when to work our hands to the bone, when to sit back, when to smile and when to cry. Trust.
For God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you. It is written: "I believed; therefore I have spoken." With that same spirit of faith we also believe and therefore speak, because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you in his presence. All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God. Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
I am not sure if this blog makes much sense to you, I guess I had to get some stuff out. I would rather be real than put up a front.
Bella, holding onto I Am.