Friday, October 18, 2013

Big Book

The Year of the Tortoise has delivered another surprise: the gift of writing a short children's book on astronomy. A "Big Book" is designed to be read aloud to the class; and ours is to cover 5 areas: Earth, Moon, Sun, planets, and stars.
Did YOU know that the Moon rotates about its own axis? - or that we see Venus as the Morning OR Evening "star" but not both at once? 
The whole project is filled with God-incidence and "wow" moments... But they must wait til another day. In the meantime, may I challenge you to step outside and look up at the stars?


Saturday, September 28, 2013

Song of September

It's a song of snow, and floods; of new stories; of miracles and mundane things; birthdays and baking..Above all, it is a song of a God who is completely involved in our lives, who is beneath and above, interwoven in our daily fabric, so much part of us we forget He is there - close as breath, more precious. And in spring-time, the Creator God is so clearly visible: a shimmer of green, a riot of pink blossom, everywhere a great shout of praise and life.

Friday, September 6, 2013

When the bird sings

"There are the mud-flowers of dialect
And the immortelles of perfect pitch
And that moment when the bird sings very close
To the music of what happens." (Seamus Heaney, "Song")

Clearly, today's "what happens" is Spring in all its golden warmth. A week ago, floods and snow; today, glorious sunshine. The birds are thrilling to its touch: every bush and tree is alive with twitter and song, as if some kind of liquid energy has been uncorked and cannot be contained. My whole morning has been framed and infused and delighted by robin-song. Drawn out by his ceaseless invitation, I was rewarded by a flash of orange wings, as he changed "stage" from one tree to another.

Spring has arrived; we are revived.

Seamus Heaney

This great and wonderful poet* died last week. The news caused me to return to some of my favourite poems of his. I was going to share some with my Saturday morning students, but they are mostly primary-school kids, and the level of language and the very Irish contexts seemed too difficult. Perhaps I should have read some anyway - poetry has a way of reaching the heart, bypassing word-for-word understanding!

In one of his most well-known poems, "Digging", Heaney is sitting writing while listening to his elderly father digging in the garden outside his window. His father worked at digging potatoes and cutting turf when Heaney was a boy. In the closing verses, he admires his father's skill, and affirms his own, very different one:

The cold smell of potato mould, the squelch and slap
Of soggy peat, the curt cuts of an edge
Through living roots awaken in my head.
But I've no spade to follow men like them.

Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests.
I'll dig with it.

Try some "digging" of your own: capture a childhood memory on paper, or reaffirm one of your skills...If you've no-one else to tell it to, tell me!

*I hate it when I'm confronted with a name whose pronounciation I'm unsure of: his name is "Shame-us Hee-nee".

Friday, August 16, 2013


A wire baobab graces the desk. Its sturdy trunk extends upwards into short, perfect branches. The artist has fashioned it so that the strands forming the "shell" of the trunk become the branches. Like the living tree, it is all of one piece; an organic form. 

Tonight I had a picture of how my tree can become my daily inspiration and organiser. Steven Covey uses the visual aid of "placing the rocks in the jar" to describe setting priorities. Place the rocks - the vital things - first, and you can fit in all the others too. The picture I had was of hearts or leaves, each with a priority written on it. These could be hung on the tree - placed in the jar - daily, or weekly... I visualize thin wooden painted shapes; but maybe I will begin with cardboard, or else I won't get started... 
I even have a name for it: Priori-Tree.
(If this idea goes global, remember you read it here first!)

Monday, August 12, 2013

For Kathy

How many ways can you say, "Hello, boys!"?  The variety might seem endless, and include a number of great movie scenes: mob boss greets muscle-men who have yet again failed to nail the hero; same hero surprises said muscle-men in final show-down; bar-lady addresses regulars (add "tiredly" or "sultrily" according to your preference)...I'm sure you can add many more.
In the real world - my real world - "Hello, boys!" is a greeting I often hear directed at my two sons. Grannies and granddads use it; Dad uses it; I use it myself. Just yesterday, we heard it, as the two boys and I arrived (late!) at church. As we moved up the path, we encountered a man pushing a wheelchair. The greeting, "Hello, boys!" came from the lady in the wheelchair; and it was only later, when I thought about how natural and normal it sounded, that I was moved to tears.
The words came from a dear friend who had been in hospital for two months after a stroke; a friend who has been in and out of "reality" for all that time. So "confused" had she been that all but a very few visitors were kept away; and now, here she was, about to enter a hall full of people, and her precious mind making the connection to these two young whirligigs she hadn't seen in months: "Hello, boys!"

I was so glad of that serendipity: the blessing of meeting Kathy as she arrived at church after such a long absence. A few minutes later, I drove away from church again, off home to complete some work while the boys went to their classes. The irony of it hit me: Kathy had just arrived, and here I was, rushing away. What had it cost Kathy and her husband to get to the meeting that morning? Why was I giving up that precious thing, the fellowship of the saints, to attend to the tyranny of the urgent? I could rationalize it in many ways; but I realized that such things must not be lightly reasoned away. For who knows when we may next be able to enjoy them?

Sunday, July 14, 2013


Returning a wooden statue to "his family": this was why we journeyed to Franschhoek last week, an hour's driver over a mountain pass and through winelands. The carved statue, about 60cm tall, belonged to my friend Elizabeth. As she is hoping to move to America, she decided to return the "man" to the artist's family - cousins of hers who run a pottery and gallery in Franschhoek. We were welcomed into their historic home, with the gallery downstairs and very old house upstairs, full of beautiful artworks. Paintings, objects, furniture, pottery - each had its place and complemented the beautiful old building.

Another "family occasion" happened last night, when our church family gathered to celebrate the 60th birthday of a friend. Gary has been our lead elder/ pastor for many years, and the team devised a musical tribute to him, using a timeline of his own life. It was excellent - such talented singers and musicians! - and demonstrated community at work in a brilliant way.

On Friday the boys and I were part of an even wider community: that of the City of Cape Town. We went to Sea Point, had tea with our friend Kevin, and then took the Red Bus sight-seeing tour of the city. The weather was perfect - no-one needed their jackets, leaving some fellow passengers rather over-dressed! They had obviously been warned about the city's fickle weather... On the way to catch our bus we strolled through the Green Point Park. This place made my heart sing: it is a thoughtfully designed green space, linking two areas of the city, providing acres of play-areas, beautiful granite water-fountains, areas of open water, and a wide boulevard for cycling or walking. There is a bio-diversity garden, a labyrinth, a water-wheel...and space for everyone. If you need more, there is the backdrop of a golf-course, the soccer stadium, Signal Hill, and of course, Table Mountain. Hope you can join us one day...

Friday, July 5, 2013

Home Office

My mind is full of gorgeous pictures of home offices, from bright orange and contemporary, to clean white and utilitarian, to booklined and traditional...I have discovered a site called, and while the spelling is irritating, the site itself is inspiring. I have started two "ideabooks" as they call them, and could quite happily stay up all night browsing photos and finding ideas...

And then my thoughts turn to more sombre things, such as a friend still in hospital after a stroke; my nephew who, it seems, has not outgrown his epilepsy, despite our high hopes...My emotional tank is drained by these thoughts, and by the constant refereeing between two small boys who have been on holiday together for too long.
I long to just lose myself in the pleasure of design and beauty and inspiration; and am thankful for the few half-hours when I can indeed do so.
(By the way: the bathroom has finally been painted, for the SECOND time (the first failed...). It is clean, bright, and white.)

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Rainbows of all shades

"Over the Rainbow" went the Ladybird Class at Happy Days Pre-primary school; and the whole school went with them. Dedicated moms and dads set up stalls, kids rehearsed their rainbow song, we baked and packed and organized; and the result was a fun two hours of "Cake Sale". The whole exercise was in aid of raising funds for our school, and plenty of money was spent. Most of it went on tummies: candy floss, cakes, pizza, sweets... Some of it went on games and activities...All of it will benefit our little community in the end.Some part of me feels uncomfortable that so much was spent on just buying "what I want"with few limits. The same part of me stays determined to limit my children's spending on such things, and keep them mindful of how full their lives already are.

A rainbow of a different sort was visible in our Sunday meeting at Urban Voice today. We really are becoming a "rainbow" of people, representative of all walks of life, a boquet of cultures, a people whose praises are a rich fragrance to God. (And I know He won't mind the mixed metaphor!) A group of young sports-women and -men joined us, and it was lovely to see our "family" gather round them to pray and encourage. I felt proud of us.

I hope you, too, are part of a community of whom you can feel proud, and with whom you can create rainbows to brighten your own and others' lives. If you aren't, you are welcome to join this little Penny Lane community - we'd love to have you.

Saturday, June 22, 2013


Today is our 17th wedding anniversary. We have just had a mild wrangle over whether it is indeed 16 or 17 years, a skirmish which Steve graciously conceded (after counting on his fingers to prove me wrong): 17 is indeed correct. For our niece Lilly, it is her very own anniversary: she turned one today. We enjoyed a very pleasant family gathering - kids playing without too many arguments, adults chatting, and the birthday girl charming everyone. Her deep blue eyes don't miss a thing; she bestows smiles rarely and so to great effect.
Some cultures don't celebrate birthdays at all, or wedding anniversaries. I like the idea of having one day on which you are made to feel extra-special; a day when friends and family gather to celebrate "you". Wedding anniversaries are a bit more personal - an occasion for the two of you to reminisce, to reaffirm what you mean to each other.
When next you have the chance to celebrate an anniversay, embrace it with hands and heart.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

A lick of paint

Well, the bathroom makeover is well on its way. We have finally scraped, sealed and painted. We chose WHITE in the end, as it is a small bathroom and bold colour just looked wrong. I have already bought a few plants to add colour - they now need some shelves to live on! A frame around the mirror will be another project.
I recently came across this very practical site, and thought I'd share just one article from it. The ideas range from "new towels" to "make a new vanity" - so you can choose your level of difficulty and cost! I find that looking at designs like these inspires and refreshes me. They are "ordinary" enough, yet still innovative. Enjoy!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Writer's block?

TOO MANY! My problem is not the blank page, but the surfeit of thoughts and ideas...Which one will win the race onto the page? Which is the most vibrant, or the most outrageous, or the most insightful, or the most true-to-life?
As the writer, shouldn't I be in charge of them all? How is it that all my ideas seem to conspire to throw a net of inaction over me? I sit and think about what I could say - and end up not writing at all. In the story "The Lion and the Mouse", the lion is caught in the hunters' net. It takes the little mouse to nibble its way through the ropes, to set the lion free. Hmmm...what could be the "mouse" to my netted "lion" of thoughts? Uh-oh - I see the word "patience" looming large in that story. It took the mouse a long time to do its nibbling. Could patience be my key?

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Perfect weather...

Hard, driving rain; the scent of wet dogs and broken branches and sodden earth; gusting wind that makes the chimney-top creak and the gutter squeak as the branches rub against it...perfect writing weather! On the edges of my awareness lie mud paths between make-shift dwellings; washing that will not dry without sun or the luxury of tumble-driers; children whose coughs and colds won't heal...More insistent, though, the hum of the computer, the tap-tap-TAP of rain on the window, the warmth of the mohair blanket...For now, I sit cocooned in a pool of light, the room's corners dark, the night even darker. Such are the blessings I may count; so, is the space filled...

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Colour my World

The page turns...”A butterfly!” On the colouring-in page is the usual outline: a central
cylinder of a body, with four wings – a smaller pair and a larger pair. The butterfly has a
smile on its face. The page is black and white.
What if this was the only butterfly the child ever knew?
Now imagine the same picture after the attentions of an enthusiastic five-year-old with a
box of crayons: there is red and black on the wings, purple in the spots, a yellow body,
and green edging. What a transformation!
The bible tells us we are “here to bring light, bringing out the God-colours in the world.”
We are not to leave our neighbours in a black-and-white, colourless world, but we are to
“colour in” life for those around us, because “God is not a secret to be kept..." (Matthew
5:14 The Message)
A wonderful aid to bringing God’s colour into our lives is the new God Speaks Bible, with
its colour-coded highlighting of God’s words, miracles, and much more. Previously black-
and-white pages are now splashed with colour: blocks of green, or strips of purple and
yellow and then purple again… Hearing God is now aided by “seeing” God.
Want to help promote the reading of God's Word and encourage people to learn how to
hear God's voice? Imagine a color coded study Bible and multi-media application
highlighting when God speaks to you. Operation Light Force (OLF) is a ministry devoted
to equipping people to do what Jesus did, setting captives free, healing and preaching.
Richard Mull is the President and Founder of OLF and the General Editor of the God
Speaks Bible and many other books and was featured on TV and media. Help us spread
the word.

Monday, May 13, 2013

"We were at school together..."

When last did you speak of someone, or introduce them to a friend, with the words, "We were at school together!"? Did it bring you the same pleasure it brings me? Perhaps you are surrounded by old school friends because you all still live in the same town or area; meeting one is no great event. For me, having moved many years ago to a different area of the country, it is a rare occurrence to meet an old school-mate; hence the pleasure.
There is also something of the glow of reflected glory: the friend I met just yesterday is a medical doctor, mum of four, an occasional preacher, in church eldership...and the same age as me! I can boast in her accomplishments, and somehow our school link reflects well on me, too...
Then of course there are the compliments: "You haven't changed!" and "I would have recognized you anywhere!" I experienced this quite unexpectedly, recently, when someone recognized ME before I recognized HER. She swore that I hadn't changed a bit - so I got her to repeat it several times, so I could almost believe it!
This year so far has brought TWO meetings with old school friends - what wonderful and unexpected blessings.

Monday, April 22, 2013


No bounce! Our trampoline is useless, it just gets in the way, has to be moved in high winds or when watering the grass...We have to keep small boys off it, so they don't fall through the gap or damage it further. Our trampoline, you see, has lost quite a few springs. The material holding springs and mat together has failed, and the springs now lie in a box, waiting. The whole mat must come off, so that the springs can be reattached. We know where to take it for repairs, we have collected the springs...but we can't find the spring-puller. Yes, dear readers, there is such a thing in this world as a "spring-puller". And in our little Penny Lane world, it remains hidden in a dark recess, refusing to come to light either in memory (Where DID we put it?) or in reality (Have you tried the blue trunk?)

I am tempted to draw a number of anaolgies between our trampoline and its unrepaired state, and our own lives; but most of them break down sooner rather than later, so I will spare you any philosophical comparisons for now. Happy bouncing, if you have a trampoline!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Sensible shoes for sensitive feet

I thought "Aha!" moments were supposed to happen in your head; but mine just happened in my feet...

I have been reading a book called "Sensible Shoes: A Story about the Spiritual Journey" by Sharon Garlough Brown. She follows four characters as they meet at a "Spiritual Journey" seminar, taking readers into a lovely story, and a spiritual journey of their own. I will definitely re-read the book, taking time to try out the various spiritual disciplines/ exercises described, as well as reflecting on each character's journey and how it resonates with my own.

What about the sensitive feet, you may ask? Well, a few weeks ago I walked (to church!) in what I thought were comfortable shoes; then next day wore a succession of shoes, including a too-big pair that hurt my feet. Now, as I sit at my desk, my left foot is still sore, feeling as if the ball has been bruised. It has affected so many things over the past weeks, including the buying of new shoes. A pair I bought last week feel, on re-trying, too tight and sore; tomorrow I must try and change them.

Tonight, letting my thoughts roam, the Holy Spirit made the connection for me: my poor sore feet are reminding me of my need for sensible shoes, and providing a metaphor for my need for a spiritual journey in "sensisble shoes"...I will try and turn every twinge into a prayer, looking to "journey deeper into God's heart" as Sharon puts it.

Another "feet" connection: last Sunday one of our pastors, Wesley, prayed for my friend Pam's arthritic feet. He was being obedient to what he had heard God tell him to do. This week, Pam stood up in church to tell us that her feet are indeed better. Wow!

So get out those sensible shoes, and continue to walk this year's journey with me. I so value your company along the way!

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Trading words for seeds

How many radio-talks have you heard that really inspired you? - where you thought, "I really must follow this up!" This past week I took time to look up a business I'd heard about, "Reel Gardening". A young South African has developed a system of packaging seeds, so that you simply plant them: the package contains all the necessary nutrients and growing medium for the seed. The information on the site was in need of a proofreader's care, so I contacted the owner with a cheeky offer of words-for-seeds...and she accepted! In this "Year of the Tortoise" I'm in, nothing happens fast, so that is as far as we've got with the idea. Watch this space! - oh, and visit
I'm looking forward to some lettuce for my tortoise, so to speak...

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Magical memories

Steve wore a leather farmer's hat, which he soon changed for a smart pork-pie with a feather; I wore a straw hat which made my head itch; Alexander had a black top hat with blue band; and William wore a sherriff's hat, with its badge freshly glued back on. (Both boys later tried on almost all the hats in the two large hat-boxes provided.) We also carried a plant. All this, in response to an invitation to a 65th birthday party, and the promise of MAGIC! And indeed, magic there was, of varying kinds: from balloon-animals, to card tricks, to mind games. There was also the more special, lasting magic of meeting new people; learning more about acquaintances; and seeing the delight of our children as they drank it all in. As parents, we are called to create memories with and for our children; and that party was such a time. Happy Birthday, Cynthia.

An aside: the party reminded me of a line I once heard, "I've been to a marvellous party..." It was recited by a fellow school-girl, in a tipsy voice, at an Eisteddfod or concert...
When I searched for the words, I found a rather drawn-out song by Noel Coward; but this particular part is the verse I recall:
I've been to a marvellous party
I must say the fun was intense;
We all had to do
What the people we knew
Might be doing a hundred years hence...
We talked about growing old gracefully,
And Elsie - who's seventy-four -
Said, "A) It's a question of being sincere,
And B) If you're supple you've got nothing to fear” -
Then she swung upside-down from a chandelier!

And I couldn't have liked it more!

From: ]

Wednesday, March 13, 2013


A small but beautiful bottle of flowery perfume; a pair of shoes; a box of eye-shadow...I can count on one hand the things I have ever won. And now I can add one more: a story-competition. I can't put this win on a shelf, or wear it; but I can feast off it, off the encouragement and inspiration and fresh determination it serves up.
The story was about "My Writing Journey"; and right now that journey has brought me to a very creative place. A key part of this place is that there is time: time to write, and time to read. I am learning to take time, and use the time, and save time... I have also been reminded of just how powerful encouragement can be. When last did you encourage someone, or say "Well done!"? I have resolved to do it far more often. Won't you take the time to join me?

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Colour my world

"You're here to bring light, bringing out the God-colours in the world. God is not a secret to be kept..." I love this image of "bringing out the God-colours"! It seems so creative and hopeful and joyous. I can picture a half-forgotten image from a children's book, where the illustrations are black-and-white line drawings, and then in the story someone comes along with colour...In my mind's eye, I just can't quite see what the pictures were about; but I have a clear sense of the delight, the "rightness", when colour was added... God is definitely all about colourfulness!

I've just remembered a song by Petula Clarke (it used to be my intro music when I was on Radio Helderberg.) Her words capture something of the feeling of those "God-colours":
"Well you can colour my world with sunshine yellow each day; well you can colour my world with happiness all the way. Just take the green from the grass and the blue from the sky up above; but you can colour my world, just colour it, with your love."

Let's resolve to live "full-colour" lives!

Monday, March 4, 2013

Urban Voice

I'm a bit behind, so it's hard to know where to start...
Last Sunday saw the announcement of a new name for our church: Urban Voice. The choice reflects our aim to reach out to our community, in all ways, but most especially by talking about Jesus. We had a fun celebration with lots of song, baptisms, people telling how they heard about Jesus; and afterwards a braai and water slides for the kids! Everyone helped; interesting groups formed as old and new friends chatted and shared stories.
One boy's face stayed with me all week. He came to tell me he'd hurt his elbow, but I couldn't see what was wrong. As he walked away, I saw the ugly pink wound on his dark skin where it had been rubbed raw. I got him some help, and he stayed close by. I couldn't communicate with him, which troubled me, especially as he seemed to have some kind of intellectual disability. I could only be kind; and ask people to follow up during the week, trying to find out his circumstances...
As I write this, a teenager is in the news for setting fire to his teacher's hair. This occurred here in Cape Town, and the learner has been suspended. The teacher has been too traumatized to return to work, and says she hopes to be transferred. Listening to the story brings back all the old feelings of hopelessness and helplessness that I encountered towards the end of my decade spent teaching at high school. By the end, I really felt victimized by some learners. A bleak period.

Thursday, February 21, 2013


If you were asked what you value most, you might answer with something lofty, or something humble - wisdom, or integrity, or clean bedsheets, or the laughter of children.

Most of us, I think, value kindness very highly without realizing it. I recently asked a new acquaintance how some plans of hers were progressing, and received this (written) reply:
Thanks for being kind to me. I appreciate it more than you know.
Her reply stopped me in my tracks. Surely I had just acted normally, just asked about something? Yet to this person, it had shown kindness, met some need...Kindness can be almost effortless; its effects, dazzling.

Gary Chapman (Living Love) said this week:
When we act kindly toward others, they will be drawn to us and to God. That's why being kind is so energizing. When we are kind, we are acting as we were created to act. 
I don't know about you, but I need energizing! May you give and receive kindness, welling up from inside and washing over you from outside; kindness, within and without.

Regions Beyond

We've had a stirring, exciting, challenging time at church this past week, hearing from Steve Oliver about his work at Gateway Church in Dubai, and how it is opening links into nations around the world (hence "Regions Beyond", the group of churches he disciples). On Sunday our church will be changing its name, in line with the new directions we believe God is taking us. Watch this space!

Turning to changes in the country at large, South Africa has a new "political party platform", "Agang", headed by Dr Mamphela Ramphele. I've just looked her up on, and she seems like a dedicated, extremely hard-working lady, who has certainly done her part in empowering people on many fronts, from growing food, to medical health, to political liberation. I intend to read more about her and her ideas. Here, for the moment, and for those interested, is Steven Friedman's comment:
Whether, as this columnist believes, the game will finally be changed by another split in the ANC or, as others argue, by an erosion of the ANC vote, the shift is likely to ripen in time, not burst forth with the arrival of a new messiah.
In party politics, as in anything else to do with society, the hope for quick fixes often hides the more important processes growing slowly but more surely beneath the surface.
• Friedman is director of the Centre for the Study of Democracy.
Source: Business Day Live, via

Sunday, February 17, 2013

The sound of money

"Tick! Tick!...Tick!...Tick, tick, tick!" This sharp sound is the bamboo hitting the electric fence and making a "crack" as the voltage is discharged. After three days, the sound was becoming more than irritating; it was grating, jarring, disturbing. The electric fence runs along the back of our property, forming the bottom border of an estate called Rome Homestead. After a few fruitless internet searches and phone calls, I decided to walk round to the house.
There is a small office just inside the automatic gate, staffed by a very polite and helpful security guard. After I had explained my problem, he invited me into his office, showing me the aerial view of the property. I could then point out to him exactly where my property is, and he promised to get the bamboo cut.
"Is this still a guesthouse?" "No, it is the home of just one lady."
She has her own security staff, groundsmen, and housekeeping staff. The latter are transported in their own mini-bus to and from work daily.
The bamboo on my fence, "Tick! Tick! Tick!" was the sound of money...

Monday, February 11, 2013

"I can't forget that feeling"

I've been meaning to share this quote with you, from the inimitable Maya Angelou:

I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.
This may be true for most of us. Feelings create powerful memories, and shape the course of events if we let them. A feeling of rejection can harm many future relationships in a person's life; a feeling of being accepted and loved can give a sense of security that carries you through countless difficulties. We can react on the spur of the moment to a feeling, and the result can be thrilling or tortuous or just disappointing.

If you had your last half-hour on earth, what would you re-live? If it were your last second, what would you rather NOT relive? When a group of us answered these questions, most of them had to do with FEELINGS: the powerful freedom of flying; the quiet satisfaction of family-time; the intense pain of identifying a loved one, dead...

Let's try to give others feelings that build and encourage and warm and nurture them, as we go through each day. Let's forgive ourselves, and others, when the negative feelings take hold. Choose life!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Gathering threads

I see there are a few things I have promised to update you on...
The bathroom remains unpainted. We tried out a turquoise kind of colour, and decided it is too bold, possibly even institutional. So it's back to neutrals - well, in theory. That might have changed by the time the painting actually gets DONE!

Sad news of the Blue Car: due to inferior parts corroding, those parts and one other part all need replacing. Thankfully (mercifully) the metal has not spread round the whole engine. We are hoping the part-suppliers will meet the whole bill, including labour...

Some new ideas inlcude thoughts on electricity: we have met a family who is off the grid, using solar and gas power only. Do give me your comments on this issue: whether you have solar power in any form, would like to, prefer using gas, or any other relevant ideas.

February Firsts

On Saturday I started a new job (or in a sense took up an old one), and caught my first cold of the year...
Let's focus on the job! I'm teaching for a local study-franchise called Kip McGrath, after a break of a year from them. The Saturday session is a gentle way to begin again, especially as I already know one of the students.

The cold meant having to pull out of the worship team for Sunday morning – SOOOOO disappointing!!!!! No more of that depressing subject.
We have had a few "I don't want to go to school" mornings with Alexander. He is making friends at a new school, but also telling me he misses me. He and his class have a rather difficult boy to cope with, who doesn't wait in line, jumps around, and generally lacks classroom-discipline. After we had talked about this last night, Alexander decided to pray for the boy, for him to settle in and make friends. What a gift: a soft and caring heart.

William is rising to the challenges of Grade 4, with longer sport practices and more homework. After a few humphs and derailments, he has seen the wisdom of doing homework FIRST, and then playing. Victory for Mom - long may it last!

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Notebooks and routine

Today I'm trying to master using a notebook-type computer. I'm sitting in my car outside the Post Office waiting for someone; so the plan is to use that time to blog. It's taken me ages just to find the programme, for starters! Now I'm getting used to the keyboard: how it feels to the touch, where the keys are... I'm reminding myself about the tortoise right now: slowly, with perseverance. Using this new machine is very frustrating; but I know it will be worthwhile.

My friend Barbara and I were agreeing yesterday that both of us like routine - but that God stretches and teaches us by putting us OUT of routine sometimes...

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Getting it right

"Paint the bathroom": this was on our to-do list for the December holidays.Well, you know what comes next: it is STILL on our to-do list! Everyone has a different view of how to prepare the surfaces, what colour paint we should choose, and whether the walls need damp-seal or not. I've surprised myself at the range of colours I've looked at, from a very pale green to a deep moss to the current "Grecian" turquoise/green. I hope to paint on a sample of the colour tomorrow, and live with it for a few days before taking the final decision. (If I get really technologically organized, and post a picture here, you can even help me choose.) I am keeping the tortoise in mind: no rushing on this job. Anyway, we CAN"T rush: the walls must be sanded and then sugar-soaped before any paint can be applied. There are also cracks to fill and one wall of very stubborn paint to strip off. This might be a rather drawn-out project.

By complete contrast, I was faced this week with a very quick change in the life of one of my one-time mentors. On the 15th, I bumped into her at the shops, said hello, admired her beautiful green-co-ordinated clothes, and moved on. Ten days later, I encountered her again (at the library this time), to the news that she had had a double mastectomy. I still can't grasp the suddenness and depth of this. Would I have faced such an intimate change with such equanimity? I know she is rooted in Christ, and sees God's grace and timing in the whole event.


This one is about knowing that you are loved, and I've passed it on as-is from Gary Chapman:

Living Love by Gary Chapman []

Bedtime Stories 
I am convinced that neither death nor life,
neither angels nor demons, neither the present
nor the future, nor any powers, neither
height nor depth, nor anything else in all
creation, will be able to separate us from the
love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
—ROMANS 8:38-39 

When my grandchildren were toddlers, I read many books to them about farms, the alphabet, and how to have good manners. A more subtle theme among children's picture books is unconditional love.
"Mama, do you love me?" a child asks her mother. "How much do you love me?" a bunny asks his father. With a variety of settings and characters, countless books represent children asking, "What if I ran away? What if I hurt you? What if I traveled to the moon or broke a vase or hit my sister? Would you still love me?"
"Yes," the parent says. "I will love you no matter what. I will always love you."
These cozy bedtime stories reflect a universal need that we never outgrow: the need to know that someone, somewhere, loves us without restraint or condition.
What a gift we give each other when we communicate that kind of love every day. We might not say it with words. In fact, we might choose to love by not speaking but by being patient in the face of frustration, kind when someone is rude to us, or humble when it would be easier to talk about our  accomplishments. But every time we are purposeful about making love a way of life, we are affirming what we each need to hear—and what God speaks to us every day: You are loved. No matter what. Forever and always.
How would truly believing God loves you—no matter what—change your thoughts and actions in the next twenty-four hours?

Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Year of the Tortoise

My dream and plan is to make these blogs a record of the year's journey: the Year of the Tortoise. The focus will be on following the example of that tortoise Alexander and I met (see The Scent of Water): taking a purposeful detour towards the scent of water, soaking in it; being patient, intent, purposeful; being rested and refreshed. My prayer is that this journey of mine will bring me closer to God, becoming more like Jesus. As you read that journey, take some time to rest and be restored too.

Please join me on my journey - a journey that, along with tortoises, will include boys, cars, re-painting the bathrooms, and whatever else the year holds!

Newsmaker of the year: The Muscle Car

2012 was our "Year of the Car" as Steve worked on his Ford Fairlane. It went from old yellow crunk-car, to shiny blue monster. Needless to say, plenty of money and time was spent along the way - but he is now an expert in it, and very satisfied with the result. There are of course a few further adjustments to make...and I think there always will be. That is the nature of the beast!

I hope you enjoy this collage of our year: the car, William's 9th birthday, the cats Luca and Jet, helicopter rides with Gavin, racing and swimming, and our beautiful Nature Reserve.

LIFE! - a miracle merry-go-round

"I felt my lungs inflate with the onrush of scenery—air, mountains, trees, people. I thought, ‘This is what it is to be happy." - Sylvia Plath *

Life feels as if it is fizzing and buzzing at the moment - full of creative energy. What a powerful blessing, after a long season of dryness and depression and lack of energy. It can only be due to water from the well-spring of life, from Father-God who "tends" me and cares for me. I FEEL like a vine rooted in Christ...

Last night we met with a group that we call LIFE, and it was just that. Each one had a vision to share, a story of God's faithfulness and goodness, an insight into how we live this life in Christ...It is hard to put into words the sense of family, "solidness", and strength such times bring. At Pilates class earlier the same day, I could feel my body just "drinking in" the stretching and controlled exercises we did - it was sometimes painful, but overall so satisfying, so needed. There was something of the same sense at Lifegroup: of challenge, growth, and vitality.

Did you play on a merry-go-round as a child? My Alexander (6) can't get his head around the word, which is fairly new to him (his new school has one). Yesterday, despite telling me he'd fallen off it, he called it a "miracle-round". I pray your "merry-go-round" that feels a bit too fast or busy, will become your "miracle-round" as you feel and see God at work in your life.

A real merry-go-round at Ratanga Junction

*This comes from a site called, which runs a "life game" where you grow your tree by setting goals, adding inspiration, and generally doing your own "life-coaching". It is a bit slow and frustrating at times, but overall enjoyable and helpful.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

The Scent of Water

On Wednesday, Alexander and I saw a lovely old tortoise. We had walked in the Nature Reserve, following a beautiful shaded path along the stream. As we walked under the archway that marks the pedestrian entrance, we saw a tortoise trundling along at quite a pace. Its neck was stretched out, and all four legs were fully extended. Its shell was quite white in places, as if all the top layer had been burned off. Where was it off to? We watched, intrigued, as it headed for a puddle of water on the tar, left by the sprinklers. When it reached the water, it sat right down in it and sort of shuffled. It did this several times, before setting off again, still with set intent. It had made a significant detour to reach the water.

The tortoise knew what it needed: it followed the scent of water. The book of Job in the bible talks about how even a tree stump in the ground will sprout and branch again at the scent of water (Job 14:22). That speaks to me about renewal; about resting in God; about following the path to what we know we need and is best for us, even if to others it seems like a detour. And the tortoise enjoyed it!

Some other threads from this episode: Alexander was so intent and focused on that tortoise. He followed it in its slow progress; sat and watched it; delighted in it. It was like a gift and blessing on the day.
Earlier, I had let HIM lead the way, choosing the path, choosing the pace. He decided when we should rest, what to look at. It was so satisfying to see him enjoy this exploration; satisfying just to be patient, and allow him his six-year-old space...

I have decided that this will be the Year of the Tortoise: patience, concentration and intentness, a sense of purpose, rest and restoration in God.