Category Archives: lockdown

One Year On

This post is part of Streams of Consciousness Saturday

 Now that I have retired, my main roles are wife, mother and grandmother. We are particularly blessed in that we live in a cottage on the property of our daughter, son-in-law and three grandchildren.

When the lockdown came, I cried. I had seen footage from other countries and I had been keeping an eye on the news since the first Covid 19 was diagnosed in South Africa but I didn’t fully understand the scale of the pandemic.

I cried for my country. I never thought it would come to this. I cried for the poor people who would lose their jobs, I cried for the homeless who would be housed in emergency shelters.

Our laws were strict. Nobody was allowed to leave their homes except for medical emergencies and essential shopping. Malls were closed except for food suppliers.

It was March 2020, about two weeks before the Easter school holidays. The schools would close early and stay closed until further notice.

We were given four days to prepare for lockdown. My husband and I made the most of our four days.

We took our motorhome for a run to charge the battery. We went to the Botanical gardens and enjoyed walking around in  the gardens before we were locked down when we wouldn’t be able to walk outside our house.

We did our slightly bigger than normal grocery shop on Tuesday but I forgot to get stock cubes to make butternut soup, although I did buy a big bag of butternuts.

I went to Checkers. It was full to bursting. Queues for the tills stretched all the way down the aisles. The ten-items-only queue snaked across the front of the isles and down the last isle. As I looked around for maybe the shortest queue, a black lady smiled at me and offered that I could go ahead of her in the ten-items-only line. That was my first glimpse of glory. An ordinary housewife, having already waited for who knows how long, being kind to a stranger. She was about twentieth from the till so I thanked her but decided I could probably do without stock cubes. That small gesture brought a lightness to my step.

Perhaps that set the tone for my lockdown. I determined to see the glimpses of glory, to keep my eyes open to the beauty, the fun. These ranged from dew drops on a spiderweb to the family making a campfire from the chopped down branch.

My son-in-law worked from home so he got to see the children more during the day. We did fun things together. We cleaned out the store room and found three tents. For the rest of the lockdown the children camped int the art studio which unfortunately had to be closed.

We all learned many things. I had never heard of Zoom before. The children learned to do on-line schooling and learned to use Google Classroom.

As a family, we grew closer. Once the hard lockdown had been lifted, I missed certain aspects of it – the sense of community where we contacted neighbours to find out how they were doing, the sense of peace where rush hour was bird song not traffic noise, the ability to do online church together.

So I learned, I grew, I appreciated little things. The crisis is not over. We are expecting a third wave of the virus any day. We still cannot visit our family in New Zealand. Meanwhile may I make the most of every day and continue to look for glimpses of glory.

Spider web in the garden
sailing boats on puddles

I am an Arms Dealer

Image by Alexander Lesnitsky from Pixabay

My husband and I belong to the Gideons.

The Gideons International is an Association of Christian business and professional men and their wives dedicated to telling people about Jesus through associating together for service, sharing personal testimony, and by providing Bibles and New Testaments.

While we are often recognized for our work with hotels, we also place and distribute Scriptures in strategic locations so they are available to those who want them, as well as to those who may not know they need them.

The first school term is the time to distribute testaments to the Grade 8’s at all the schools in our area. Because of the Covid restrictions, instead of visiting schools, addressing the learners and handing out testaments individually to those who are willing to accept them, my husband has to drop boxes of testaments at the schools for them to distribute.

In the same way, the ladies used to visit clinics and doctors’ rooms and hand out testaments to the medical staff. We can’t do that anymore. Recently I left a box of testaments at the security station of the Windsor clinic.

Paul refers to the Word of God as The Sword of the Spirit. (Ephesians 6:17)

The Bible says “…the Word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow, it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12 NIV)

It occurred to me that we are arms dealers. We put swords in the hands of teenagers, we arm nurses, doctors, policemen, even prisoners. How outrageous! How daring! How dangerous! If opposition comes, it is not that surprising. However, in South Africa, most people we come across are happy to receive their weapon. They value the Word of God and treasure it.

On Sunday we joined Dare to Love at Charlotte Maxeke Hospital in Johannesburg. It is the largest hospital in South Africa. We distributed over a thousand gift packs containing a Gideon’s testament, a pen, biscuits, chocolates and other goodies. When those ran out, we distributed packs containing the goodies and a Gospel of John booklet. This was meant as a gesture of appreciation to the heroes who serve on the front line.

It was an exciting morning. We are honoured to be allowed to do this work.

My Prayer

Father, thank you for the Bible, the Sword of the Spirit. Teach me to handle it aright. You know that many of the Gideon members are getting old and even dying. Please send new, younger members to help us with this work of distributing Your Word. Amen.

Image by azboomer from Pixabay

The Alpha and the Omega

“The end of the world has arrived!”

Image by icheinfach from Pixabay

This was the theme of many social media posts at the beginning of the Covid pandemic. Not long after came a batch of talks by various pastors and scholars showing how this was not the end of the world.

Most of this frenzy has died down recently (or maybe I’m being more selective of what I choose to watch and read. I’m wary of social media.)

In either case, Jesus said, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.“(Rev 22:13 NIV)

Jesus was at the beginning of Creation (John 1:1-12) and He will be with us at the end of the world.

And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20b NIV)

Even if it is the end of the world, if we walk with Jesus, we don’t need to fear. Today is the beginning of the rest of our lives.

My Prayer

Lord Jesus Christ, the Alpha and the Omega, Keep me trusting You so that each new day can be a new beginning. Amen.

This post is part of JusJoJan and Streams of Consciousness Saturday.

Stormy Weather

We’ve all been hearing about Cyclone Eloise recently. Across Southern Africa at least 15 people have died, including two from South Africa.

It reminds me of the Covid pandemic. It sweeps across the world leaving death in its wake.

There were storms in the Bible too. Elijah was on a mountain and experienced wind strong enough to break rocks, an earthquake and a fire but the Lord was not in any of these natural disasters. God was in the aftermath – in a still, small voice. ( 1 Kings 19)

The disciples were in a boat in the eye of a storm that they, experienced fishermen, thought might kill them. They woke Jesus. I don’t imagine they woke him at the first sign of the storm or when they thought they could cope on their own. It was only when things were out of their control that they called to Him.

The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord save us! We’re going to drown!” He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm. (Matthew 8:25-26 NIV)

We are in the midst of a Covid storm. Maybe we think we can cope. Let’s not wait until we are out of our depth to call on Jesus. He’s not sleeping. He is only a whisper away. He has the power and the authority to still any storm.

My Prayer

Lord Jesus, all around me is uncertainty, fear and confusion. Please still the raging anxiety in my heart and bring me peace. Amen.

This post is part of JusJoJan.

Home Schooling (Again)

South Africa is under adjusted level three lockdown at the moment. This means businesses can still operate but the return to school has been delayed until 14 February.

The King’s School Robin Hills, which my grandchildren attend, has been outstanding in their organisation and management of online schooling. My grandchildren, aged six, nine and eleven, have all learned to navigate google classroom, watch youtube videos (selected or produced by the school), and even attend zoom meetings with their teachers once a day. Every week my daughter collects a pack of worksheets for each child and hands in finished work as required.

My daughter is fortunate in that she is still able to run her art classes, so Granny is supervising the children with their on-line schooling (like many other grannies I know). The older two are capable and responsible, but the youngest is only just learning to read and needs me to read the instructions to her.

I am struck by the different levels of the children’s school work. One is colouring pictures and cutting and pasting them into her book, one is learning spelling words and preparing an oral with cue cards, and one is learning about equivalent ratios and photosynthesis.

In the same way, our Heavenly Father treats us all individually, according to our maturity. The lessons He would like me to learn are not the same ones He’s working on with you. It is no use looking at other Christians and their experiences and expecting God to give us the same. He knows exactly our personalities, our talents, our strengths and weaknesses. You can be sure He is leading us gently into full maturity in Christ.

So let’s not give up the opportunity to learn the lessons He puts in our path daily.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

My Prayer

Teach me your way, LORD, that I may rely on your faithfulness; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. (Psalm 86:11)

This post is part of JusJoJan. The word for today is spell.

…And a Time to Forget

Why should we forget?

First of all, it’s in our nature, in our humanity. As I approach seventy, I find I am forgetting more and more. However, this is not the kind of forgetting I am talking about. I am talking about a deliberate choice to forget something and think about it no more; to fling it from our fingertips and turn our back on it.

God forgets. On purpose. Isaiah 43:25 reads, “I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.” (NIV) This theme is repeated in Hebrews 8:12, “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”(NIV)

So we forget, because God forgets. We are commanded to forgive others as we have been forgiven:- remember no more.

I find it interesting that in Isaiah God forgets for His own sake. Likewise we forgive for our own sakes. It makes very little difference to the person who wronged us, but it makes a difference to us, to our peace, to our happiness and even our health.

So what are we called on to forget? We are called on to forget the sins other people have committed against us. Now I know this is impossible. Because I’ve tried. However, what is impossible with man is possible with God. (Luke 18:27) It is only through the power of the Holy Spirit that we can practice this kind of forgetting. And it might need constant practice and we might never perfect it.

We also need to forgive ourselves for our sins and failures. After all, if we’ve confessed our sins, God has forgotten them. Who are we to keep thinking about them and calling them to mind? They are removed from us as far as the east is from the west.

John also talks about forgetting. “A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come, but when her baby is born, she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world.” (John 16;21 NIV) I think this is not so much forgetting as not concentrating on, not filling our minds with the pain and constantly reliving it.

I have met a number of people who, when asked what was their highlight of 2020, have answered, “Surviving Covid.” They choose not to dwell on the pain, isolation and hopelessness but rather to be grateful that it is over. What I focus on is my choice.

Paul says, “Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”(Philipians 3:13-14 NIV) I do not think Paul was suggesting we forget the past but rather to not let the past drag us back from embracing the present and the future. The past has many treasures that we need to hold onto.

I find I am in need of God’s wisdom and guidance to know what to remember and what to forget. What shall I write in the sand and let God’s gentle waves wash away for ever? What shall I take into the New Year to equip me to face it with hope and courage?

My Prayer

My Father, Please teach me to know when to forget and when to remember. I commit my memory to You, conscious and unconscious. Amen.

This post is part of JusJoJan.

Christmas without Trimmings

When I was a little girl, we would often have hot dogs or boerewors rolls for supper. We could choose whether to have it with trimmings or without. The trimmings usually consisted of fried onion and tomato, sometimes with grated cheese, or maybe mustard. Quite often the trimmings made the hot dog more messy but added to the enjoyment of it. However, the fried onion and tomato were never a substitute for the meal.

When I got old enough to start making my own clothes, I learned to use paper patterns. The pattern guide would list how much fabric to buy for each size and then at the end it would list the trimmings:- buttons or lace, ribbons or embellishments. These added to the satisfaction with the final product but lace and buttons can never be a substitute for a dress.

Christmas has trimmings and they vary from culture to culture. Some are universal. Time with family is often considered non-negotiable. The media has contributed to this belief that Christmas is not Christmas without family. However it is no more true than the fact that Christmas trees, cakes, crackers and presents are essentials for Christmas.

These Christmas trimmings add to our enjoyment of the celebration. Families forge their own traditions for Christmas. For some it means going to church together on Christmas morning, for others, having waffles for breakfast.

Some of us have had to do without trimmings this year, perhaps because of Covid lockdown restrictions, or geographical distance or the absence of loved ones who have passed away. Some have faced financial difficulties and can’t afford presents in wrapped boxes, or trees, or crackers.

Just as fried onion and tomatoes are not the meal, nor lace and buttons not the dress, Christmas trimmings, as enjoyable as they are, are not Christmas.

Christmas celebrates the fact that God, the Creator and Master of the universe, set His love upon us. He moved the line between infinite and finite so He could be with us. Forever. So that we can be with Him. Forever. He became flesh and for the joy set before him, he endured the cross, scorning its shame (Hebrew 12:2) so that He could remove the barrier of sin that kept us from being able to be with Him, where He is, forever.

No wonder the shepherds left their sheep and raced to Bethlehem, no wonder eastern astronomers followed a star that foretold a king.

The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel (which means God with us.” Matthew 1:23 NIV, quoting Isaiah 7:14)

God with us. That is Christmas. God with me, warts and all, because that’s where He longs to be.

Let us never confuse the Christmas trimmings with the real thing.

This post is part of Streams of Consciousness Saturday.

Travelling Light

Jesus sent the disciples out to proclaim the Kingdom of God and to heal the sick. He told them, “Take nothing for the journey – no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, no extra shirt.” (Luke 9:3 NIV)

He wanted them to travel light.

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

I picture Jesus taking me on a long hike. “What shall I bring?” I say.

“Nothing. Just trust me,” He says.

That’s just scary. No hiking stick, no spare clothes, no food. What about a water bottle?

I used to lead a Girl Guide company. The Girl Guide motto is Be Prepared. It would be unthinkable to go on a hike without making preparations and being prepared. Trusting Jesus is no easy matter. It is certainly against all we’ve been taught. We feel we need to be in control. I would be inclined to ask Him for a map so I can see where we are compared to where we intend to go. But Jesus won’t give me one. All He asks is my trust and that I will stay close to Him, following where He leads.

In this Covid season we are in at the moment, everybody feels insecure. Matters have been taken out of our hands. Our well-prepared plans have been summarily cancelled and we have no idea what the future holds. With my mind I know God is in control but I still feel unsettled.

My Prayer

Lord Jesus Christ, it’s been a long time since I asked You to come into my life and take over. I am so inclined to try to wrest control back from You. Please forgive me and teach me to trust You and rest in Your love. Amen.

Carried

In all their distress he too was distressed, and the angel of his presence saved them. In his love and mercy he redeemed them; he lifted them up and carried them all the days of old. (Isaiah 63:9 NIV)

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

When our children were younger, they would often fall asleep in the car on the way home from an evening’s outing. My husband would carry them inside and lay them in their beds. Sometimes they would pretend to be asleep so they could be carried rather than walk the short distance from the car to the bedroom.

I remember doing exactly the same thing when I was a child. It feels so safe and comfortable to be carried rather than try to cope on your own and use your own energy to make progress.

There are times when we, as big as we are, need to be carried. When we are worn out, distressed or in pain, our loving Heavenly Father would love nothing more than just to pick us up and carry us. Then it is time to cease striving and snuggle into His strong and capable arms.

When we were at the beach recently, I was reminded of the well-known poem, “Footprints in the Sand,” by Margaret F Powers.

On Hibberdene beach

One night I dreamed a dream.
As I was walking along the beach with my Lord.
Across the dark sky flashed scenes from my life.
For each scene, I noticed two sets of footprints in the sand,
One belonging to me and one to my Lord.

After the last scene of my life flashed before me,
I looked back at the footprints in the sand.
I noticed that at many times along the path of my life,
especially at the very lowest and saddest times,
there was only one set of footprints.

This really troubled me, so I asked the Lord about it.
“Lord, you said once I decided to follow you,
You’d walk with me all the way.
But I noticed that during the saddest and most troublesome times of my life,
there was only one set of footprints.
I don’t understand why, when I needed You the most, You would leave me.”

He whispered, “My precious child, I love you and will never leave you
Never, ever, during your trials and testings.
When you saw only one set of footprints,
It was then that I carried you.”

Knopkieries

On Friday we made the ten hour journey back home. We had an uneventful but enjoyable journey, enlivened by two pit stops. At the second one, just beyond Harrismith, we sat under a thatch-roofed picnic area and ate our egg mayonnaise sandwiches and drank our Pepsi Max. Nearby a man was selling walking sticks with a knob at one end like a knopkierie. I was thinking about buying one but wasn’t sure what they cost, so didn’t want to show too much interest. I had drawn R200 for the journey and had already spent some of it.

A man in his fifties walked past with one of the walking sticks. I asked him what it had cost.

“R150,” he replied, “as the Bible says, one good deed a day keeps the devil away.”

I queried whether that was really in the Bible, because I had never come accross it.

“It’s in my bible,” he said, “That’s what I taught my kids.”

Those words inspired me and made up my vacillating mind. It was now not so much about acquiring a walking stick, but helping support a craftsman who was providing for his family.

When we went closer to look at the sticks, we found out the man’s name was Steven. He made the sticks from teak railway sleepers, using only hand tools. Each one was beautifully crafted and decorated with different patterns. I bought one and my husband gave Steven the last of our little booklets of John’s Gospel that we had been given.

Whenever I use my walking stick, I will remember how a stranger’s words had acted as God’s guidance and how I was blessed to meet an interesting fellow South African.

Prayer

Dear Lord, today may I be attentive to people, situations and interruptions so that my ears are open to Your voice and I may see You more clearly in everyday life. Amen.