Thursday, November 26, 2015

So, it's Thanksgiving.

Hey. OK so I am not American, and am not a fan of adopting anything American if it's not your culture. HOWEVER, that being said, after the year I have had, today seems as good a time as any to reflect on that which I am thankful for. So here goes (in no order whatsoever):

  • I am thankful for My Man and My Girl. I am crazy about them and they add colour and sparkle to every day.
  • I am thankful for My family: Parentals, siblings, nieces, nephews and in-laws. Although we are separated by lots of miles - our closeness to one another is not hindered by distance. 
  • I am thankful for my Friends everywhere. For "Bus friends" / village friends, Skype friend dinners, for Friends Suppers,  for  running friends, for bookclub friends, for foreign accent friends, for friends of different cultures, and friends of different faiths, friends who are way younger than me, and friends who are older, friends who I have known forever, and those who are becoming friends. I am thankful for you all. 
  • I am thankful for Sport. Weird. But true. It brings people from all over the world together.  I am really thankful for our local pub who has proved this to be true! :)   #sportbringsallpeopletogether #proteafire #gobokke
  • I am thankful for My dogs. They accompany me, or I accompany them on so many great walks and have filled my days with specialness.
  • I am thankful for technology- with all its flaws it keeps me in touch with those I love.
  • I am thankful for where I live. Not only the town but the country. I am thankful for the opportunities here to meet people, travel and experience a whole new way of living. I am thankful for this wonderful adventure.
  • I am thankful for busses!!  :)
  • I am thankful for French lessons. Seriously. I really am. I am thankful that I am learning, and using this brain for more than what to make for supper! 
  • I am thankful for people who still have manners and common courtesy. For the men who still give their seats up for women. For people who don't spit in public, for people who shift up when seats are needed, for people who still smile and greet, and wish you a good day. 
  • I am thankful for music. For dancing and singing out loud, for being silly and not caring. 
  • I am thankful for time. Time for chilling, walking, running, reading... time for me.
  • I am thankful for all my senses. For seeing beauty, hearing friends, for warm hugs and for tasting good food and wine.
  • I am thankful for those who show compassion and mercy, for those who treat others with integrity and dignity, for those who look for ways to show kindness and serve others during an era when everyone looks out for #1. 
  •  I am thankful for sunsets and sunrises, for wildlife and birds, for forests and trails, for seasons. For beauty. 
  • I am thankful that I am South African and from the most beautiful city in the world: Cape Town.
  • Finally, I am thankful to the Author of Life, for giving me this one life to adventure through with Him.

What are you thankful for?

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

On the Shoulders of the Saints.

I was browsing through my status updates I had posted when I first joined Facebook (yes, I was a little bored at the time!) and I saw that I had shared this... and I fell in love with the quote all over again:

Then I saw this shared by Brian McLaren on Facebook today, and it comes from here originally. 
I just love it.  
These are my meditations for this week.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Defending Mr President

I find myself in a position of sympathy and wanting to defend our President. This is SUCH a foreign feeling since we all have an abundant of information at our fingertips that affirms that he has said and done MANY foolish things in the past that make us ashamed of him. (I am NOT defending his presidency, because we all know that he is an ongoing source of constant embarrassment to us as a nation).

However, this clip does not make me ashamed of him... my heart actually feels sympathy, and even empathy for the man.  Firstly  people, this has nothing to do counting, and everything to do with translating a language that is not his mother tongue!!  My guess is that the figure is in numbers for him to read out - and this is why I feel for him:
  • Can you read a number, written in digits, in Zulu (in the millions)?  I can't, not even in the tens. 
  • I am learning French and when we got to counting, it completely did my head in. I still am not able to give my year of birth without considering for about a minute what it is before I allow the words to tentatively escape my lips - and even then I make mistakes. Even worse in front of a class (or a crowd) when you make a mistake, and the nerves kick in....
So, in this instance - I want to be a little gracious to the man. I know there will be times again in the future when he will make me want to swear with frustration... but for now Mr President, I am sorry for your humiliation.

*Update:  A year later, and I just watched Trevor Noah back up this blogpost. Thank you Trevor.  

Monday, September 28, 2015

Cool Runnings

The last couple of months have been a blur. It's been just over a month since my brother-in-law passed away.

He was passionate about anything that gripped him whether it was his family, greening the environment, his faith or healthy living. We didn't always agree on everything - I think I gave him a grey hair or two with how much Oros we could consume, but nonetheless I always admired his passion.

Lots of people are going to miss him for a variety of reasons. As for me, one thing I know for certain that I will miss, are our conversations around faith. We'd spend many hours talking about spiritual things, not necessarily theology, but living it. I felt safe chatting to him about my thoughts around spiritual issues, no matter how unconventional they may sometimes have been, and I would like to think he felt the same about chatting to me about such things too.

Now he really is living. Spiritually alive and whole. 

For those still here, it's so tough: but he left us with the certainty of the "true-ness" of what is yet to come.  For that, I thank him.

Peace be the journey.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Nothing more to add

This is how I feel right now.

Instead of spewing aimlessly into the universe, I shall just decide how best to say nothing until I formulate something meaningful.

Until then... remember this:

May the grace and love of Christ follow you relentlessly and capture your heart.
Peace be the journey...

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Boring Random Stuff Really.

Summer is here!

I cannot actually express in words my absolute joy at that statement. It felt as though it took an eternity getting here, but when it arrived it did so in style with a week of temperatures between 33 - 39 deg, which is unheard of here.  Even I, who like a lizard love the sun, began to think some rain would be a relief. Today will go to about 31 which, although hot, is still do-able!

I am going to just list a couple of things that are making my days right now (in no particular order):

Summer Evenings.... the best!
Summer: Late sunsets & outdoor concerts.  Last night I packed a picnic and met My Man in the city. Complete with fresh flowers from our garden, we found a picnic bench in the Petrusse Valley and enjoyed our supper and a shandy, under the shade of the Viaduct and green leafy trees. When we left around 19h30 the sun was still shining brightly and we stopped for an ice-cream in the square and wandered around like tourists on the way to the bus home.
Working in the garden: We have bought so many flowers and shrubs, been working hard to make the house, home... as well as the garden. Sometimes I wonder why we spend so much money on a house that is not ours, but we can't help it. If we want it to be home.... we can't just live in it, we have to make it ours.
Loving gardening and the fresh flowers

Our dogs:  Their presence here made our transition so much easier - especially mine! I hope that I am not the only one who speaks to their hounds and basically would not be surprised if they did answer! In fact, I am sure that I see in their eyes that they totally know what I am saying. They are a source of great companionship!

My Sacred Space
Learning French: We just signed up for the Autumn class and I can't wait to begin again. Not that I want summer to be over - but there is something to look forward to.

The forest: The forest has become my "sacred space" - it's where I feel most connected to The Author and where I feel my story unfold. It's where I hear him loudest and me least.

The Family WA Thread: A moment of genius and created by my brother that makes me feel not so far away!

Short hair: Am really enjoying the change!
Short for summer

Masterchef:  Yes, I know. But it has inspired me to try new dishes. I have made pork chops with apple and maple syrup, and duck with a plum jus, next is pork chops with pear and blue cheese! Who knew?

Reading: I have not had the chance to read "for pleasure" as opposed to "for study" for years. I have devoured books in the past two years and am loving being able to do so again. I am especially happy that I have so many nice places to go and read.
My Favourite Reading Spot and the book I am about to finish.

Scrabble: My Man surprised me and bought Scrabble in SA for me. It's wonderful sitting out on the balcony in the evening, having a glass of wine, snacks and a game. I really don't miss TV at all - it really guzzles one's time... unless of course you are ;-)
Cricket: Lots of cricket coming up - that's all I can say about that!
Gratitude: My Man and I have been talking about how privileged we feel and wondered how we would have felt if we hadn't take this opportunity. A normal reaction would be to think that at 53 you don't just pack up and start again in a new country - especially when it may not work, and you would have to come back to find a new job. Had we decided not to come, we would always have wondered "What if we had taken it?" Sometimes one just has to make the leap, and I am so glad we did. Although there is a price to pay that we are aware of daily, we do feel grateful for this opportunity which brings us so much joy.

Last, but actually first - is My Man, my partner-in-adventure. Thank you for being a great balance of practicality and risk-taker.  Always with us in our adventures (via Skype!) is Our Girl - our gift.
 Love you lots Chickenwing!

My Man and My Girl  -  They Rock My World!

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Not everything happens "for a reason".

Further to my last post, a friend of mine posted this link yesterday which shares my belief far more eloquently than I did.

An excerpt:
"It’s exhausting enough to endure the dark hours here and not lose our religion, without the addition of a Maker who also makes us bleed. Instead, I prefer to understand God as One who bleeds along with us; Who sits with us in our agony and weeps, not causing us our distress but providing a steady, holy presence in it."
Read the full article here if you like.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Sh!t Happens

It's always difficult being far from family when one moves abroad albeit for a short while. One considers the things you will miss out on and all the "what ifs" that could happen, but when something DOES happen, then it's really difficult.

About 3 weeks ago my brother-in-law was diagnosed with cancer and has begun his chemo. It's a scary path for him and his family, and a journey that the whole family travel together. I have been so moved by the love and concern of their friends for them - the meal plans, helping with lifts for the children with sport and hobbies, the just-being-there-when-you-need-them friends, and all those far and wide who are praying for them all on a daily basis and sending so much encouragement.

Family is sometimes more than blood, it's all those who care enough to take time off from their life to help you get on with yours. 

One thing that I am finding a little difficult in this process is seeing/hearing some of the things that posters / music (etc) say about God in this situation.  Some of these seem to suggest that God SENDS sickness to prove something about himself, as though our sickness is part of his plan.  He doesn't send sickness, just like he doesn't send earthquakes, famine or any atrocity to punish anyone or prove any point. He is not the originator of any evil or harmful thought against us. He loves us. What Father would make their child ill to prove that they can "help" them?  Not the God I know and love. 
The world is not the way that God made it to be, it is fallen, and shit happens. That's how I see it. But always, through all the shit, He is there. 

He is unswervingly, unfalteringly, unendingly holding up our arms and pouring out his love. 

This is the God who I know and love.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

A Taste of Summer

Last week we spent the week in Cascais, Portugal. It reminds me of FH inasmuch as it is a seaside town with a walkway that runs alongside the beach - but that's where the comparison ends!

We treated ourselves to a Suite in an hotel at the beach instead of an apartment in Lisbon this time as we both felt we wanted to just chill in the sun and not be frantically trying to see everything.  We slept late, ate 4 course breakfasts, watched sunsets, walked a lot and had wonderful dinners.

Except for the fact that a train strike prevented us from taking our tour to Sintra, it was the perfect break with the weather being upward of 25 deg every day.

We would love to go back and am sure that we will!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

To my #ProteaFire

My #ProteaFire guys,

First off, I am not one of those overly emotional, mushy women, I am far more practical and matter-of-fact and I know that there is about a 100% chance that none of you will read this - but I need to say it so I will make it short and sweet.

I have loved and followed the Proteas single-mindedly since we re-entered the world sport scene and to me, this squad, is the best squad we have ever had. I don't only mean on the field either. You guys have something special, individually and as a collective team, and even a blind person can see that.

Your banner says that SA inspire you - but you guys inspire us.  You model lessons for us that are so valuable like:
  • Dedication
  • Passion
  • Humility
  • Never give up
  • Do your best
  • Always be gracious
  • Don't make excuses
You guys left SA as our heroes - and you are still my heroes.  Nothing has changed.

While you guys felt heartbroken for letting us down, we were more heartbroken about seeing you heartbroken. For me, losing wasn't what made me cry, it was seeing your heartache and watching you being asked unfair questions. We know what this meant to you, or we feel we do because we feel so "in it" with you. 

The team will probably face the usual tough critics, but know that the country is behind you, and the ones with the loudest criticisms are probably critical about everything in life, so try to guard your hearts and not take it personally.

You guys made us proud, you left it all out there, and as so many cricket-fans from ALL OVER THE WORLD have said on Twitter - you won their hearts. You guys are our trophy. I suppose that's not really a consolation for you right now even though it's true.

Anyway, like I said, you guys are our rockstars. Chin up, vasbyt and I will see you as soon as I can for another great game of cricket! 

With love and respect from one of your biggest fans
(among the millions!)


Thursday, March 19, 2015

Life is made of moments...

I saw this clip this morning and really thought it was brilliant and so true.

        "There was a man all alone; 
        he had neither son nor brother.
        There was no end to his toil,
        yet his eyes were not content with his wealth.
       "For whom am I toiling," he asked,
       "and why am I depriving myself of enjoyment?" (Ecc. 4:8)

We know that work is a gift from God, it gives us a sense of dignity 
and allows us to provide for our families....

"A person can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in their own toil. This too, I see is from the hand of God. for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment?"
 (Ecc 2)

but if we work so hard, continuously, eventually we alienate everyone around us 
and find ourselves with a lonely space in our hearts that work can't fill.

So, today - let us live in the moment we find ourselves in, let us be completely present with the people we are with, let's embrace this day.

* * * * *

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

French Class - Take 2

We advanced to our next level -we feel by a miracle, but we are happy to be making some headway!
We still go three evenings a week for 90min sessions, still hectic for My Man but he is enjoying it as much as I am.

The difference between our teacher from last term and this one is absolute. One is not better than the other.  I really like them both but they are so, so different.

We knew that this term was not going to be boring from the moment we walked into her class. In amongst all the usual first class carnage, she popped around to each of us and proceeded to take a quick pic - the type that never are flattering, but it didn't really matter because the next day we had to make a collage /caricature of ourselves out of it, and then, working with a partner, interview each other about various personal details, write it all down and at the end of the lesson, present your partner to the class. It was a great ice-breaker activity since the class is pretty much all new people.

The other thing that really keeps us on our toes (and makes me feel like a teacher again!) is that she is forever getting people to go up to the board and complete sentences, fill in the verbs, etc - so you can't afford to lose concentration even for a moment. I am pretty sure I look blank as a new canvas most of the time!

She is an artist, very friendly, warm and entertaining, I don't think one could lose focus even if one tried. She talks so fast, that at times I feel as though I need to breathe for her - and she gestures wildly a lot... it's wonderful and kind of reminds me of home.

Yes, French this term is going to be good - even if I only understand every 5th word, I think we will be learning a lot!

Now I have a French thing to write for tonight.... I better get cracking!

Friday, March 13, 2015

A hands-free lead? I think maybe not.

My Man has often asked why I don't invest in a "Human-Dog Running Lead/Harness" type vibe for when I run with the dogs. The type that has a waistband for the runner and the lead is attached to the waistband so you can run hands-free. In theory it sounds like a good idea - but in practice, maybe not so much.

The day before yesterday I took Jack for a short run and suddenly his ears pricked.  He just stood and looked down into the dip. I stopped and looked, but saw nothing. He was rooted to the spot, then suddenly, with no warning at all, he just lurched off down the side in hot pursuit. There, four beautiful deer, who realised they had been spotted, fled. I was left with an arm-ache, heels dug in, and a good view of the deer darting up the other side.

Then yesterday, I took Tigger along a different route, and as we rounded a corner, I saw the most lovely fox. I have seen one before but not like this. It was sitting just up the bank overlooking the path I was walking on. I was walking toward him. He saw me and I saw him. Tigger was blissfully unaware at that point. However, I knew what would happen so I slowed us down to almost a stop to give the fox a chance to slip away up the hill without being seen. The fox however, had other ideas and as I stopped, it sprang off the side and into the middle of my path. At that moment Tigger spotted it. There was about 20m between the two of them. The fox stood there and looked at Tigger and Tigger just stood there and looked at it. For about 5-10 seconds, time froze and I thought, "Hey, she is being so good!" - at the same time as I thought that, I think Tigger thought "Oh crap - a fox!!!" and she just went crazy, began yelping and then took off like a bullet. At that point "Oh crap - a dog" may have entered the fox's mind and it took off, running down the middle of the road for about 30m and then slipped off into the bush.  There may still be trenches down the hill of where my heels had dug in as I was dragged. Tigger is strong. I think stronger than Jack actually, so she is really difficult to hold back. 

I would not describe our dogs as reactive but there are some things that no dog can resist.
So, the long and the short of it is - if I was in a harness for either of these occasions, I would have been flying like a kite behind them.  I think I will stick to something I can let go of quickly if need be!

I love spring, everything is coming out of hiding, the birds are singing, and each walk comes with some sort of adventure!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Camping in the Comfortable

I like to underline passages of Scripture that have meant something "important" to me. My Bible is filled with highlights and underlinings - but it has come to my attention (as I am sure it would have to yours!), that the danger of this is that we can easily let our eyes go back to those passages when we begin to read - as opposed to allowing God to give us fresh insights in new places.

It's so easy to live in this place of wanting to experience God the way we did a year, 5 years or 25 years ago. In the same way as we "camp" at underlined passages, we can camp at past experiences. We compare how we experienced God then, and measure him up against what we are experiencing now - and sometimes we think He is not performing up to our expectations.  This can be so dangerous to us if we are not aware of it happening (I think), because we can completely miss out on today!

I downloaded the NIV Bible onto my Kindle for 2 reasons really - nothing spiritual, just practical: 

(a) I could make the print bigger and
(b) It's lighter in my bag!

HOWEVER, a third and possibly even better reason has surfaced - there are no highlighted passages of mine, no notes in the margin, no dates to remember events.... and so I am finding that I am reading passages I have not read in ages, I am "finding God in unexpected places" (to quote the title of Philip Yancey's book!) and it's good!

Don't misunderstand me, we must never devalue past experience since all of our experiences in Christ remind us of His faithfulness, they build our faith, grow us and shape us, but I do believe that if we are not careful and keep on camping in the same places, we can (a) become dissatisfied with God for not meeting us where we want him to (based on the past), and (b) become comfortable with what we (think we) know and lose out on fresh expressions and insights that this awesomely creative God can share with us if we are willing to move away from our expectations and spiritual comfort zones and just trust him. 

So, all that to say this actually... I am loving having my Bible on my Kindle!  :)

Sometimes we think we know what we see but with another look,
we could see the same thing, differently.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

A Tribute to Winter

I was flipping through a lovely little book and came across this quote:

"Live in each season as it passes: Breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influences of each". ~ Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862)

Much like spiritual seasons, some being easier to deal with than others, we also deal with physical seasons. Being from Cape Town, I am used to 4 seasons in one day rather than 6 months of winter, and so I find sun and heat much easier to live with than grey and cold.

I thought it would be a battle for me in winter because of this - and aside for the odd "grey mood" that corresponds with same skies - I have found that I absolutely love the obviousness of the seasons here.

So we are almost through with winter - and for that last little push I have decided to list some of the things that I love about winter in Lux.  (In no particular order)
  1. Soups and Stews!
  2. Hot chocolate
  3. Gluwein
  4. Christmas markets
  5. Dinners with friends 
  6. Fires
  7. Puzzles
  8. Reading with my blanket and hottie
  9. Scarves, boots and beanies
  10. Warm coats
  11. Thermal tights
  12. Heated car seats
  13. Cinema's
  14. Coffee shops
  15. The chilly air on your face when you leave your heated house
  16. Forests of frozen fog and other lovely forest things
  17. Long nights
  18. Wine (although I do like that all year round!)
  19. Snow
  20. Not having so much dog hair to sweep up
  21. Not having to shave every other day
  22. Blowing warm air out your mouth and trying to blow rings! :)
So, like the quote says... I am happily resigned to another month or two and then I shall embrace spring with much celebration!

Onward and upwards!  We're nearly there...  :)

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Just waffling about snow and gardens ...

After a few weeks of mild hysteria at the thought of the French exams, they are finally over and we proceed to the next level.  We breathed a collective sigh of relief since neither of us felt very confident when we walked out of the room. However, it is done.

We have had some snow which has been fun. We've enjoyed making an SA snowman, taking the dogs for their first "free snow run" on a field nearby, shovelling the pavements, and avoiding the icy patches on the pavements. It's actually an art avoiding landing on your butt alot of the time.
Our SA Snowman

I am wondering how the garden will manage. We love gardening and our FH garden was a source of great challenge (with snails, caterpillars, wind, sand, etc) but outweighed by a tremendous deal of love for it. We know little to nothing about what grows and what doesn't here, and I am sad to say that I have killed more indoor plants here than collectively in my entire life. I have always been able to grow anything indoors so it's a huge blow to my ego - I can only think that it has something to do with the indoor heating and I need to figure it out.

Outside, our new terracing which we recently did, is filled with snow, underneath that snow are the 100's of Euro's worth of plants we planted during our Spring/Summer - I wait with bated breath to see if any of it survives. Many times now when I take walks I look at the gardens of the locals and make mental notes of what they have, some plants I recognise, and others are a complete mystery - but next winter I shall be better prepared.

Snowy view from our balcony
We had one day of frost a few weeks ago which was absolutely just thee most beautiful thing ever. 
A frosty day in the city
Posted on FB by "Ville de Luxembourg"

My pic of what frost looks like up-close and personal.
This winter has been colder and wetter than last year, and I am dreaming of a long ice cold beer while sitting outside in a T-shirt and feeling just, hot!

In the meantime though, I am about to board a bus, head to the city for coffee with a friend and enjoy the cosyness of scarves, boots, beanies, coats and gloves. Yes, today there will be gloves because we are at a wonderful -5 today. 

Only about 10 days till the World Cup Cricket starts- that ought to heat things up a bit! 

Have lovely days wherever you are! 

Friday, January 16, 2015

No Retreat, No Surrender.

Remember I told you we had started our French Language Classes. Well, we are now at the end of the module and on Monday we have our Oral Test and Wednesday our Aural and Written Tests.

I feel like a piece of chewed string. It doesn't matter how much I look at the notes, eventually I realise I am just staring blankly at the page and feeling as though nothing else is going to majestically make its way into my brain, barring miraculous osmosis.

However, in spite of the blankness of my brain, I can't bring myself to surrender and put the books away, I want to fight back and show it who's the boss.  Except I just don't feel very bossy right now.

Maybe I will just put it down and surrender to the cricket against West Indies for the day, and I will don my red bandanna and Rambo my way into being more authoritarian tomorrow..... 

No retreat - No surrender!
Bonne Weekend.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Christmas Catch-Up

My Girl came for Christmas and since we couldn't be back with the greater family in FH, we decided we would head off by train to Paris for Christmas. It was a lovely few days, the rain held off and since we have been before, we didn't feel the need to rush to every tourist trap, but instead spent the days walking, eating, chatting and shopping. Of course the obligatory fly-by's to some venues had to be done!

Christmas Day was sunny! I wanted to shout from the top of the Eiffel Tower I was so happy! However, I am too scared to go to the top of the Eiffel Tower so had to be content to just WhatsApp my delight to our family group! 

At home we saw that it had been snowing. It was very exciting since we have never had snow "at our own house" before. 

We had barely put our suitcases down when My Girl and I took the snow shovels and began to clear our pavement and driveway.  My Man was quite happy to do it, but we insisted. We were like kids in a toy shop! It's a lot of fun while the snow is light and fluffy, but later we learnt it's not AS much fun when its become ice!

Our balcony was covered in a thick layer of snow and it looked so pretty I decided to leave it. 

Mistake #1. Within a day it was like an ice-rink and I nearly came short when I took a step onto it.  I realised then that we were rookies when it came to snow and I put out a Facebook SOS.

This was my favourite response and gave me a good laugh!  
We left it and admired it over a glass (or two) of wine and avoided the urge to taste any snow!

Some time later we were treated to frost. Oh my word. It was as though I was living in Narnia. I don't know if I have ever seen anything quite as lovely here.

Photo Credit: Luxembourg Ville Photography

Close up of the frost
So, all in all - it's been a lovely festive season, with lots of new things experienced! Now My Girl is back home and My Man is back at work and it's onward and upward into 2015!

                                                          Wishing you all a goodie!