Thursday, April 29, 2010

Nervous Excitement

Tomorrow we leave for Louis Trichardt, a city in the Limpopo Province (which, technically, was renamed Makhado in 2002). It's about a five or six hour drive. The wedding is actually in Levubu, close to the Mozambique and Zimbabwe borders, and is an area historically populated by the Venda people. Interestingly, it is also the hub of South Africa's sub-tropical farming: guavas, litchis, papayas, bananas, avocados and macadamia nuts are commercially produced there.

We will be going to our first South African wedding. I'm so excited. I know that I have to dress up, I know the wedding ceremony will be in Afrikaans, but other than that I have no idea what to expect. I don't know how different weddings are here from American weddings (although, secretly, I hope they're less lavish and more about the words of the ceremony than the "stuff" of the ceremony).

But there's also this part of me that wonders if I'll commit some awful sort of social blunder... like showing up for a high school graduation in your underwear or something equally embarrassing. I wish that, when I moved here to South Africa, someone had handed me a cultural manual that covered every situation I could possibly encounter.

I'll let you know how the weekend goes...

Thoughts on Moth Wings

Like spider legs, moth wings are also quite varied and amazing. There is a moth on my kitchen wall - a very small moth - and yet its wing pattern is so intricate that I can't stop staring at it. I actually left it on my wall as a temporary "art display." I have been so fascinated by this moth that I'm distracted from my cooking (and I love to cook).

Why is it that, growing up in church, I heard about God as Father, God as Judge, God as Loving, Omnipotent, Sovereign, etc.... but never God as Artist? And why do we try so hard to label Him, to put Him in a box?

Someone once said that if we understood God completely, then we would be as smart as God, or rather, God would only be a smart as us. I don't know about you, but I would prefer God to be infinitely wiser and more clever than myself, which means there will be things about Him I can never hope to understand.... like moth wings and spider legs.

I find that when I give up trying to understand God and just marvel at His creativity, I am more passionate about wanting to know Him. When I accept that certain aspects of His character will forever be a mystery, I find Him more intriguing. And then God's love, which at times has been reduced to a science, becomes beautiful and amazing... I could stare at it for hours because it's so distracting. Like spider legs and moth wings.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Thoughts on Spider Legs

I've been thinking a lot about spiders today, probably because my daughter got bitten by one and her leg is swollen and quite sore.

I really don't like spiders. I don't mind rats, mice, snakes, lizards or even beetles, but spiders... no thank you. However, I was struck today by the thought that while all spiders have eight legs, spider legs are so incredibly varied. Some spiders have four legs pointing forwards and four legs pointing backwards. Some have legs evenly spaced in a circle. Some spiders have flat legs, some have bendy legs. Some spiders have hairy legs, while others have smooth legs. Some have striped legs. Some spiders have pairs of legs longer than others.

As much as I don't appreciate spiders, this says something of God's creativity. He could have just made standard spider legs - one model fits all - but instead He was incredibly artistic and ingenius. And if God is like that with something as small and seemingly insignificant as spider legs, then I am excited to know more of Him and how He is with the "bigger" things in life.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Thankful for Friends

Every now and then the cultural barriers are erased and we are bound by our laughter and humanity. Represented here are the nations of Namibia, Denmark and the United States.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Peanut Butter Sandwiches... With a Twist

I've had peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, peanut butter and banana sandwiches, and peanut butter and honey sandwiches. But my friends here in South Africa have taken it to new levels. Here are some of their favourites:
  • peanut butter and butter
  • peanut butter and golden syrup
  • peanut butter and fresh mango slices
  • peanut butter, golden syrup and cheddar cheese slices
I am curious now about peanut butter sandwiches around the world. If you have any contributions, let me know!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Sunday Quote

"To choose God and live set apart is to choose a difficult life. It's just so much easier to believe in God and blend in with everyone else, whether that's blending into everyday Christianity or mainstream society. But choose carefully because halfway is just not good enough." - Andrew Marin, Love is an Orientation

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Birthday Party Hangover

Yesterday was my daughter's 12th birthday. To celebrate, she invited five of her friends to a sleepover at our house.

I understand now that the word "sleepover" is a misnomer. Girls don't actually sleep at sleepovers. The goal, apparently, is to stay up all night giggling, talking, watching movies, and to leave a trail of nail varnish and popcorn through the house.

And THEN, when they finally fell asleep, they still woke up at the crack of dawn! I cooked, I cleaned, I entertained, I let them give me a makeover (I looked like the Bride of Frankenstein), I jumped on the trampoline with them, and now...

I just want my bed. And my teddy bear.

Thursday, April 15, 2010


I drove across Pretoria today. One of the robots was out and traffic was nightmarish. When I finally arrived at my destination there were throngs of people standing in a queue that snaked through two shopping malls - twisting, turning, suffocating any empty space in a two-block radius. There were police everywhere, strapped with guns on both thighs, carrying semi-automatic weapons and wearing bullet proof vests. They were there for crowd-control, I suppose. I couldn't figure out what was going on, so I asked someone. The occasion: World Cup tickets were available for public sale. The crowd was so thick I couldn't leave or go anywhere, so I sat in a cafe for three hours.

On my way home, two more robots were out, which affected traffic the entire way home. It took me 2 hours to make a 20-minute trip. All in all, I was "stuck" for five hours.

When I got home, I looked at the news online to see if there was anything regarding the ticket sales. There were two articles. The headlines? "Pensioner dies standing in queue for World Cup tickets" and "Police Use Pepper Spray to Control Crowd." As it turns out, there were only 11 venues across the country where tickets were being sold. I happened to pick the one place in all of Pretoria where tickets were being sold to do a little birthday shopping for my daughter.

I came up with my own headline: "Birthday shopping mommy meets South African Police Tactical Response Team, who was called in to deal with the angry, would-be ticket buyers in the crowd and asks them to explain to hubby why she won't be home for dinner." ("Hey, can I pose for a picture holding your AK-47?")

You'd think there would be an easier way to sell tickets.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Messages to Two Countries

Poland, we grieve with you. We're so sorry for your loss. You've had such a sad history, suffered so much. There are no words, but know that you're in our thoughts and prayers. We love you.

South Africa, don't throw away what you've worked so hard to accomplish in 16 years. You've come so far... please don't forget. You are in the unique position to be either a shining example to the rest of the world or another Rwanda or Zimbabwe. Make the better choice. Please make the better choice. We love you.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Sunday Quote

"For the very first time I substantially knew in the depths of my soul that I didn't have to worry about all of those other things because they were not mine to worry about. I was making it my deal, making it my baggage and making it my worry, and I didn't have to do any of that. When did I become God? When did I have to figure it all out? When did I have to come up with a position point on every single topic ever thought of in the history of mankind? I didn't; and I don't. I am allowed the ability to just trust in the faithfulness of my loving Father to fill in the gaps that I can never understand... Let the all-knowing God be God, and you be you." - Andrew Marin, Love is an Orientation

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Thoughts on Recent Events

I wasn't going to write about this, even though it's been on my mind a lot lately - the killing of Eugene Terreblanche and Julius Malema's new "theme song." Then I was going to write about it, and I had a lot to say - I had quotes from several different news articles, I had opinions, I had passionate responses. And then...

Then I realised a few things:
  • One more riled-up opinion from someone who's not even technically South African won't change the country for the better. It just adds to the tension and cacophony of voices.
  • I cannot see myself as better than either of those two men, because God doesn't see me as better. And if God sees us all on an equal level - if Jesus died for all of us - then I cannot, dare not, elevate myself above another, whether I agree with them or not.
  • I have been talking all week about the need to love people and not judge them. Here's an excellent chance to put that into practice.
I wish there was a loophole out of this. I want to get on my soapbox and tell the world how I would do things better than either Eugene Terreblanche or Julius Malema. But, truth be told, I can't. I have my own weaknesses and failings. And if Eugene Terreblanche and Julius Malema are made in the image of God, if they were knit together in their mother's womb by Holy hands, then I would do better to pray for them rather than complain.

Christians have failed so much throughout history in the area of love. We are so quick to criticise, judge, complain and lash out. But to just... love. Even if we dont't agree (especially if we don't agree). To see a person as God intends them to be. To wish them blessing instead of harm. That is so hard, so counter-intuitive. Yet I truly believe it is that very kind of love that can change the world, because it is God's unconditional love.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

More Thoughts on Missing Family

So... back to Easter. As you know I was having a pity part, missing my family. I told God the night before Easter, "I just want the whole world to show up my doorstep for a big, loud, happy Easter braai. We will dirty every dish in the house and for those few hours, we will be family for each other."

Would you believe me if I told you God actually answered my prayer? Seven people came over, four of whom I had never met. One of them even said, "We'll be family for you today." And while we didn't dirty every dish in the house, we came close. We made a huge mess, we laughed, we had great conversations, and it was a dream come true.

Why do we feel so amazed when God answers our prayers? Maybe He doesn't always answer them in the way that we would like, but I think He does always answer them. Or do we not actually believe that He loves and cares for us, that He wants to surprise us by His love rather than beat us over the head? When He provides the very thing we ask for, why are we shocked?

I think God has a lot of patience to put up with us.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Thoughts on Missing Family

I just celebrated my third Easter in South Africa. I would like to say that I don't feel homesick anymore, but that would be a lie. What is strange, however, is that the homesickness takes on a different flavour each year.

The first Easter we experienced was just pure culture shock. Easter was in autumn instead of spring, there were braais instead of roast ham dinners, hot cross buns instead of Marshmallow Peeps (and let's be honest, who likes those anyway?), and the whole day was much less commercialised - no egg hunts, no fancy dresses, no bunnies and chicks or Easter baskets. Which, truth be told, was fine by me.

The second Easter we knew what to expect but I longed for the roast ham dinner with extended family, spring weather, and Cadbury Creme Eggs.

The third Easter, just a few days ago, I actually looked forward to the braai, autumn weather and was thankful that I didn't feel any pressure to do the whole chocolate egg/easter basket/dress-up thing. Church was just as meaningful without all of that - maybe even more.

I still long for my extended family and those big dinners, but instead of a roast ham dinner I wanted to fly my whole family - both sides - over here for an Easter braai.

The traditions surrounding holidays may change, depending on where you live, but the ache to be with family never really goes away.

Update on Grandma's Birthday

Well, Grandma didn't go skydiving for her 90th birthday, but she did go parasailing in Hawaii! Here's the proof: Here's to making the most of life, no matter your age. That's one thing Grandma demonstrates daily - loving God, loving people, and making the most of every opportunity. It's not always easy, but it's always worth it.