Sunday, September 23, 2012

Was It Worth It?, Part I

In the middle of a conversation I recently told a friend, "We used to have a lot... until we moved here". This comment was in reference to all the things we've lost since moving to South Africa - both the tangible and intangible. Among our losses is two cars, three handbags (which includes bank cards, I.D. docs and all contents), two iPods, our first jobs here, our reputation, the support of our church back home, our savings, over half of our salary, and a measure of security and certainty.

My friend then asked, "Was it worth it?" (pause...)

I gave a quiet, half-hearted "yes" in reply, but that question has haunted me for a few days now. Was it really worth it? Would I do it all over again?

This morning I woke up to a thunderstorm. After the thunderstorm, the birds came out in full force. There are more bird species in South Africa alone than all of North America.

Nature has a way of putting things into perspective, and few things in nature are as hopeful as the African sunrise. As I lay in bed, listening to the healing melody of the birds, I asked myself again, "Was it worth it?"

The answer was as loud as the chattering birds: Yes.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Stuck on You

As a child I loved stickers ("love" might be an understatement). I put them on everything from letters to lunch bags to clothing to my friends' hands. I saved them when I received them. I gave them away lavishly when I bought them. I collected them and filled several sticker books. Any school paper that received a sticker was meticulously archived. When we went to the store, I went straight to the sticker section to see if there were any new designs.

Scratch-and-sniff stickers were the best. Then came sparkly, metallic stickers. Then came puffy, 3-D stickers. I was in sticker heaven! Time marched on, however, and I eventually forgot all about stickers, until last night.

I woke up in the middle of the night thinking about stickers, and I couldn't turn my brain off. What was it I loved about stickers? And why is it such a pressing matter (no pun intended!) now? At first I thought it was an issue of approval, i.e. stickers as a reward for performing well. But the more I thought about it, the more I realised that it was a matter of acknowledgement.

In receiving a sticker, someone was acknowledging that I had worked hard, or that I merely existed. In giving a sticker, I was acknowledging someone's presence, worth, and sharing from my treasured collection with them in an effort to show them how special they were.

And so I would like to do something very unconventional: I would like to give each of you a virtual sticker to acknowledge you - your presence, your worth, your preciousness. Thank you for being you; I honour that.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

God's Favourite Place

Once upon a time there was a little girl who grew to be a woman but still felt like a little girl inside at times. One night, as she was praying, she asked God if the two of them could go to one of God's most favourite places in all the earth, sit down, and have a heart-to-heart chat.

She imagined that He would take her to the top of a mountain which overlooked the earth and much of creation - Mt. Everest, Kilimanjaro, or the Matterhorn. You can perhaps understand her shock and surprise, then, when God took her to a scene from her childhood.

"Remember how you used to put your arm up in the air as you fell asleep every night and pretend you were holding My hand?" God asked the woman. "That's one of my favourite places. I loved the beauty and simplicity of your faith."

"But God," the woman protested, somewhat embarrassed, "I was a child; I was too stupid to know any better!"

God laughed. "That's what I loved about it."

The two of them sat there quietly, enjoying one another's presence. The woman could have come up with a hundred questions but decided against it. God put His arm around her. For now, it was enough to know that He was near.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Friday Quote

"Failure is not fatal; it is the courage to continue that counts". - Winston Churchill

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Five Years in South Africa

Yesterday marked the five-year anniversary of our move to South Africa.  For some reason, five years is a big milestone for me.  Looking back, I think it has been some of the most difficult years of my life, but also some of the best:

  • I came to teach, but I have learned more
  • I came to give, but I have received more
  • I came to love, but I have been loved more
  • I came to serve, but I have been served more
  • I came to help, but I have been helped more
  • I came to bring Jesus, but Jesus showed me His African side

Despite the many challenges, I wouldn't trade the past five years for anything.  South Africa is smoothing out my rough edges and making me into a better person.  My faith has grown deeper and richer (though not without painful moments of doubt), I have learned to value relationships and people above tasks, and I have learned to survive and make due when circumstances are less than ideal.

I have grown to appreciate and cherish the beauty of the land and the people.  This is home now.  I pray that South Africa will continue to teach me her ways, and that I may in some small, humble way, be able to give back.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Monday Poetry

I've discovered the Spanish poet, Antonio Machado. Here's my favourite poem of his, with an English translation below:

Caminante, son tus huellas el camino, y nada más;
Caminante, no hay camino, se hace camino al andar.
Al andar se hace el camino, y al volver la vista atrás,
Se ve la que nunca se ha de volver a pisar.
Caminante, no hay camino, sino estelas en la mar.

Traveller, your footprints are the path, and nothing more;
Traveller, there is no path, you make the path as you walk.
As you walk you make a path, and when you turn to look back,
You see a path that you will never walk again.
Traveller, there is no path, only the wake upon the sea.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

My New Zulu Phrase

I learned a new phrase in Zulu today. It's used to describe when it's raining, or rather trying to rain, but is little more than a mist. The phrase is amathe ezimpukane, and it translates literally as "fly spit".

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Why Struggling is a Good Thing

We are quick to criticise those who are struggling, but perhaps we should applaud them for this simple reason:  The fact that they are battling means they haven't given up.

Perhaps we should encourage those who struggle - encourage them to keep battling, encourage them to persevere despite the odds, and love them where they are, thereby giving them the freedom to devote all of their energies to fighting the battle rather than defending themselves to unnecessary critics.