The Christmas season is over. We’ve said good-bye to wishing strangers Merry Christmas. Spontaneous generosity is tucked away with the decorations for another year. For some of us, we’ve made our yearly pilgrimage to church for the Christmas Eve service. No need to go again ’til next Christmas.
Does it have to be over? Do we have to let go of that Christmas Spirit? That’s a familiar lament. As I wrote these words, I looked up to see the quizzical face of George the Giraffe peering back at me.
George the giraffe came, as a special gift of love last summer. Every time I look at him, I think of my son, Dave, our daughter-in-law, Joanne and our granddaughter, Jenna. I hear their words to me as they handed me the package.” When you came to visit us in South Africa, we went on safari. You wanted to see the giraffes. When we returned, you were fascinated with the beaded giraffes made by the African people. Instead of getting one for yourself, you bought one for Vanessa. We decided you needed a giraffe, too.” They handed me George. He’s adorable. With his face full of curiosity, George is my precious reminder of the love of this part of our family living far away in South Africa.
Christians over the centuries have used icons – images, things and even people, sometimes – that help us remember God is the source of everything and that God loves and accepts us just as we are. That’s what the Christmas tree, the songs, the decorations, do for us. They remind us of our Christian story, and Jesus’ lessons of love and forgiveness. This year, I’ve decided that George the giraffe, with his rainbow coloured beads, his big ears that stick straight out, and his long neck and legs, will be my icon to help me remember to live God’s Christmas Spirit all year long. I see George every time I sit down with my computer on my knees. Every time I walk past the living room and see George, peering at me with his quizzical expression I will think of God’s call to love and forgive others as God loves and forgives me.
As you start another year, I suggest you identify something in your home that is connected to love, something that you see every day. It could be a family heirloom (Mom’s china cabinet, Grandpa’s favorite chair), a gift you’ve received (a painting, a bowl, a knick knack). Choose something to remind you daily of the many blessings you have received, something to trigger words of thanks for your abundance, something that brings to your heart a response of love. That icon can help you keep God’s loving Spirit that thrives at Christmas time, with you all year long. You see, we don’t intend to pack away our love and acceptance, our joy in living with the Christmas decorations. We lose our Christmas Spirit in the busyness, the sadness, the craziness of everyday living. Let your icon be the reminder you need for 2018.
“People like lists,” my friend said. “Write a blog with a list.” I love a challenge.
It’s summer: wedding season. Why not a list of the top ten reasons for getting married. After all, I’ve been married twice: twenty-seven years the first time, and fourteen years so far in this second one. And I’ve conducted a multitude of weddings overs the years. I believe in marriage.
As you read my list, consider this question about your significant relationship. Why did you get married in the first place? Or Why have you chosen a common law relationship
Please comment on my list: What, in your opinion, needs to be added, changed or re-prioritized.
Top Ten Reasons for Being Married.
#10. Being Married simplifies financial records, especially for the small business owner. I own my tiny business, buying and selling my books, but I never thought about it in terms of marriage. My young businessman friend informed me the other day that a common law relationship makes keeping your financial records more complicated than a legal marriage. Paperwork is simpler in a legal marriage.
#9. Financial – Also, he told me organizing benefits is simpler with a legal marriage. The whole financial setup is simpler and clearer. Just ask any gay or trans- person about the practical benefits of having a government-registered, same sex marriage.
#8. Pleasing Family – Some deny they need to get married, but claim parents really want them to have the ceremony. Marriage is the extra touch to please family and friends. Just watch their faces and experience their joy when you tell them you are getting married.
#7. Celebration – Joy shared multiplies. It’s wonderful to celebrate the happiness you find in each other with family and friends. Life affords no better opportunity for a party, a big party, an extravagant party.
#6. Commitment – Although you can make your own private commitment to each other as you live together, somewhere in the deep recesses of your mind there is always the knowledge that the government’s legal stamp has not been given. If you or your partner find something better, if you or your partner want to give up trying, you or your partner can walk away. You have what in business is called, “A golden parachute’, an escape clause. “Oh no,” you may say, “not us. Those thoughts don’t lurk in our minds.” At bottom, those thoughts do. Saying the words of commitment publicly and signing that marriage license involves a different quality of commitment. Two still exist as one each, but two declared together create much more than the sum of two individuals.
Watch for the other five coming August 7th. What will be number one? Make your own list. See how it compares.
Today began at 6:00 a.m. We wanted one last hug from Dave, Joanne and Jenna. They leave for school every day at 6:30. I learned that saying goodbye that early is just a little easier because sleepiness clouds my ability to feel. After everyone left the house was silent, too silent. We had intended to go back to bed but we didn’t. I worked on yesterday’s blog and we packed.
We didn’t bring our luggage scale and Dave doesn’t have one. We reverted to using the bathroom scale. It worked as we were not overweight at the airport.
We left for the airport at 3:00 p.m. in Jonathon’s flashy BMW, our last opportunity to live as the rich. I wrote that statement and thought, no that’s not right. Although we are considered Middle Class in Canada, we live as the ultra rich every day, compared to most of the people here in South Africa and around the world. I’ve always known that. Now, I have a deeper knowledge and an even stronger desire to share my many blessings.
Rain poured down all the way to the airport. Traffic became more and more congested. We were both glad we had left early and Jonathon was driving. The trip took a good half hour longer than expected, but we arrived with heaps of time to spare. A friendly and helpful man offered us a cart, loaded on our bags and took us to the check-in. We gave him 20 rand ($2.00 Canadian). He was delighted and so were we.
Took a while to go through security and immigration. Lots of people are travelling. Terrorists are certainly not keeping any of us home. We had brought a snack, so once inside that was our first task. We wanted to use our last few African Rand so I invested in a Hagendaz milkshake – 85 Rand – the Canadian Equivalent $8.50. That was obviously a poor investment as it was gone from my body before the end of the day. It did satisfy my desire for something sweet, taste delicious and may still be around in a few extra fat cells. After eating, we talked with a friendly french couple who assured us our ten hour lay over in Paris would give us plenty of time to hop the train to downtown. I’m wasn’t so sure. We decided to check out the weather in Paris. If it’s pouring rain, we might as well just stay at the airport. At that point, all I wanted to do was get home.
I was cold, so we decided to buy me a South Africa sweatshirt. The stores were ultra chic. Sweatshirts were not on the agenda. After asking at several places we were directed to a sports shop that specialized in souvenirs for South African rugby. There wasn’t much choice. I paid the equivalent of $55 Canadian for a white Springbok (that’s the name of the national rugby team) sweatshirt. I just pulled it on over the light sweater, and t-shirt and camisole I was already wearing. It felt good to be warm.
Food on the plane was great. I enjoyed my fish and potatoes and veggies. The salad was good too. When we bought our tickets originally Tom had ordered gluten free for me. They are doing a grand job with that.
A small blip on this first leg of the journey was a spill. As usual they offered me tiny bottle of red wine (equivalent of one healthy glass), free on international flights. I saved it to drink in the middle of the night when I would be restless. The time came and I poured my wine and set it on my seat tray for sipping. A little later I asked Tom to get something for me from his seat pocket. In the process he jostled my tray. You guessed it. My new sweatshirt, my light sweater and my beige jeans were all christened. Oh well, it may wash out.
Food on the plane was great. I enjoyed my fish and potatoes and veggies. The salad was good too. When we bought our tickets originally Tom had ordered gluten free for me. They are doing a grand job with that.
The Flight from Johannesburg to Paris went on forever. We both decided that overnight on the plane is not really our style. We just don’t sleep. When we arrived in Paris at 6:00 a.m. we just couldn’t face going anywhere. We laid down on the floor and slept for a couple of hours or more. That used up too much of the time we could have used to take the train into Paris and look around a bit. Next time we will plan a stopover for 2 or 3 days.
The flight from Paris to Toronto was fine. I even slept for an hour on the plane. Our bodies seemed to respond much better. We talked with a family, and two different single people, all returning to Canada from India (their place of birth). We thoroughly enjoyed our conversations with these nice people.
The arrival in Toronto was crazy. One of the airport workers said that 5000 passengers had all arrived at almost the same time. The line ups were long. We did an endless spiral dance to get to the customs machine and we were fortunate. Being Canadian citizens we could use the machines. Once past that point the customs people just looked at our Pass Ports and our landing card and waved us on. By the time we got to baggage, it was no longer rolling round and round. In fact a lot of the bags had been taken off the carousel. I guess the baggage crew were trying to get ready for the next plane.
We are home. Hallelujah! We had a marvelous journey that we won’t ever forget. And we are grateful and delighted to be back in good old Canada. It’s fun to travel and it’s fabulous to come home.
Tom’s brother Bob came with our car to the airport. The fact that he can store our car at his condo for three weeks and is our airport taxi, is so very helpful. We are truly blessed.
All in all, even though its a grinding trip home from Johannesburg, I know we have sent an abundance of God’s light of love out to the world in large doses today.
Over the last three weeks we have met a multitude of friendly caring people. God loves variety and I am grateful. Our world is amazing. Thanks be to God.
Today we were tourists and we had a grand time. After our trip to Klip Town Youth Program, where we experienced real life in today’s South Africa, we thought it would be good to experience some of South Africa’s history.
Lesedi Cultural Village is located in the heart of the African bushveld amidst the rocky hills within the Cradle of Humankind, a World Heritage Site. We visited five traditional homesteads inhabited by Zulu, Xhosa, Pedi, Basotho and Ndebele tribes who live according to the tribal folklore and traditions of their ancestors. Lesedi means “Place of Light”. I struggled to receive the everflowing fountain of information that was offered because my hearing was defeated by the speed of speech and the lilting accent. I heard enough to learn a little, and there was lots to see. And then there was the dancing. The young people of the village were energetic and skillful dancers. Tom and I thoroughly enjoyed the show, the lunch and the overall experience..
Like good tourists we shopped. At this point we are familiar with the items that are every where and the ones that are made by artists. The selection at Lesedi Village was excellent. We purchased a number of gifts for family and even something for ourselves. We made the shopkeeper so happy that she gave us a zebra key ring.
We had a successful day. Dave picked us up and brought us home. This time it was our job to get supper. Tom and I had a grand time making pasta, salad and garlic bread. Two teens from the Ethiopia International School arrived today for a Music Program event at the school here. They are friends of Jenna’s and are staying here with Dave, Jo and Jenna til Sunday. It felt a little like preparing for family gatherings at home.
Tomorrow we pack and leave for the airport at three. It will be good to get home, and yet it is hard to leave. South Africa is amazing. There’s so much more to see. Our time with Dave, Joanne and Jenna has been precious. We will return for Jenna’s grade twelve graduation. They will be home come summer. That helps so much.
You can pick out the Joys that lit up my life today. One not mentioned, of course, is that we are both feeling much better.
Here are some pictures of Lesedi. During our visit we have taken several videos. I don’t know how to upload them. Guess you’ll just have to come visit us to see them.
We’re tired tonight mostly because we spent most of the afternoon sitting in the sun, watching our amazing granddaughter Jenna, play beach volleyball. We are proud grandparents. Jenna is an elite athlete. It’s always fun to watch her participate in her sports. The tournament was held at the German International School of Johannesburg. Among other things, there was a beautiful 25 meter pool, with lanes delineated ready for racing. Today, there were no races, so I had a swim between Jenna’s games. Jenna must have inspired me, because I swam 500 meters – 20 lengths of that pool. We didn’t bring a towel. In this beautiful African weather, the solar dryer did the trick.
Before the tournament we shopped in the Rosemount Rooftop Sunday Market. We are slowly gathering together our souvenirs of this trip. When we arrived back at Dave’s, we were thrilled to have almost an hour long conversation on Skype with Bonnie , Boris, and the children Lise and Alex. Another dose of home which was needed. Supper required little effort, as we had heaps of leftovers from last night’s party.
Now we’ll crawl into bed early. Those night’s are needed. Tomorrow, we return to being tourists as we travel to the Lesedi Cultural Village, a world heritage site.
My moments of joy started with Joanne our amazing daughter-in-law. She volunteered to drive us to the rooftop market, making herself late for Jenna’s tournament. She helped with the bargaining when we purchased something. While I was swimming, she went back to the city to get us all some lunch. She brought me rice cakes iced with yoghurt that are delicious, cheese and a gluten free granola bar. She always ensures that there is food for me without gluten. I know that requires extra effort. She is special and caring and very kind. Of course, there is Jenna. Watching her, talking with her, just being able to spend time with her, is a total joy. I have to include the swim. It felt so good to stretch out my muscles in the water.
Lots of light emanated from me today. I am truly grateful.
Today Tom and I enjoyed a slow day at the “White House”. I slept till 9:00 a.m., Tom quite a bit longer. For most of the day, I worked on yesterday’s very long blog, writing the text and organizing the pictures. We went for a walk to a strip mall up the street to buy a thank you card to send to Leone and a box of just plain tea. The tea of choice in South Africa is Roibos and Roibos Chai. It tastes good, but my digestive system hasn’t been all that happy. I decided the familiarity of good old English Breakfast tea might help a little.
Tonight we went to a tiny Chinese restaurant for supper with Dave and Jo and their friends Lee and Russell. The food and the company were both grand. It’s good to meet some of Dave and Jo’s friends. Jenna stayed home to do homework. Lee and Russell’s three boys didn’t come either. I guess the teens thought the old folks could use a night without them. Homework does rule a teenager’s life. Tonight we went on online to look at things to do in and around Johannesburg. We picked a couple. Tomorrow we’ll set them up.
One of my joys today was the pleasure of returning to my daily routine. I actually started the day with my meditation/reflection/prayer time. And I did my physio exercises. Routine has its advantageous. I felt a bit like I was home and I needed that.
A second joy of course was meeting Lee and Russell and sharing a meal.
Best of all was the grand conversation we had with Jenna after school. We were in the pool. She came out to talk. It’s wonderful to be a part of her life. Yes, even on this lazy day, we have had opportunity to give and receive love and add a little light to the world. Sometimes, we just have to be intentional about noticing it.
Valentine’ Day was great fun. Of course, we struggled with a small glitch here and there. Hope you enjoy the story.
After yesterday’s bus tour starting so early, we slept in a bit. When I woke at eight, my leg muscles were screaming. They were totally indignant. How dare I push them so hard. I limped downstairs for breakfast. Judith and Norman were just leaving for their Cape Tour. They had rented a car for their stay in the area, so they could set their own pace. After breakfast Shennoz (I think that‘s the spelling) walked with us to the bus stop. “I’ll call Leonie,” she said. “Leonie will leave work, meet you downtown and take you to get your ticket for the “On/Off bus. Now remember the name and number of the bus, so you will know what one to take back.” Carefully we repeated the name and number. “If you forget, just call Leonie. She will be home from work by then.”
The ride downtown didn’t take long. It was easy to recognize the bus station. Leonie was there. Since we were right in front of an ABSA bank, which has connection with the Scotia Bank here at home through Barclay’s Bank in England, we asked to stop at the ATM. Leonie agreed. We expected it to be simple and take at the most three minutes. We followed the instructions and the screen said, “Pin number too short.” We tried again. Same problem. Leonie took us inside. Bank teller couldn’t help. She didn’t know anything about Barclay’s or Scotia. Leonie advised we spend the day using our credit card. We had some Rand (S.A. currency) so we would be fine. That small glitch of course, threw my system off and we next had to locate a washroom. “Public Toilets” are not quite as plentiful here. Leonie asked at a restaurant and they let me use the “Staff Toilet”. That emergency dealt with, we headed for the “On/Off Bus Depot.”
As we marched along a busy main street of Cape town, with Leonie talking a mile a minute, we encountered a family from Chile. Like most of us foreigners, they were nervous. The young boy about ten, obviously excited about using his English, asked us where we were from. That opened a great conversation. We learned that they were looking for the same bus so Leonie adopted them. Now we were 6 as we hurried along to keep up with Leonie, our “Pied Piper”. What fun she was. At our destination, she ensured we all got our required tickets and onto the correct bus. We waved goodbye and climbed up the steep steps (my legs objected strenuously), to the top level.
After a half-hour ride in the beautiful sunshine, we arrived at Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens. Acres and acres of trees, grass, flowers and plants. A place of peace and learning. We wandered for several hours learning about traditional medicinal plants, enjoying the flowers and trees, soaking in the sunshine, and finding rest for our souls. The terrain was slightly rolling hills. My legs complained bitterly. I ignored them as much as possible. We sat down a lot, on the multitude of benches that were sprinkled along every pathway. After about three hours, we dragged ourselves away.
Our next stop was the Groot Constantia Winery. We started with a Valentine’s Lunch. Constantia’s Valentine special was two glasses of their sparkling wine (they can’t call it champagne) for the price of one. It was extremely windy outside, so we chose to enjoy the atmosphere of this ancient winery, inside. The food was delicious, the presentation lovely and unique. The handsome young waiter took good care of us. We had a traditional long African lunch, followed by a wine tour which included tasting. We were allowed to taste five wines. For me, on top of wine for lunch, I was glad neither of us were driving. The friendly woman serving us obviously wanted to please. She gave us those giant red wine glasses and then poured our first choice. Instead of the traditional single swallow we receive at home, my glass was 1/3 filled. The wine was delicious so I drank it all. At which point I realized that this kind of generosity was going to do me in. I had to at least be able to walk to the bus stop (which would take about 10 minutes.) With taste number two, I asked for less. Taste number three was the best. Taste number four finished me. No more I said and laughed. She smiled. “It’s good?” she asked. “Yes, yes,” I responded. I just can’t have more.” She laughed. Tom did not have my problem.
We arrived back at the bus stop and waited about two minutes for what we discovered was the last bus of the day. It was already 5:00 p.m. We hopped on. Well, I don’t think either one of us hopped. If you remember we were only at the second stop of the day. There were many more stops but since this was the last bus, we enjoyed a long scenic bus tour in the still wonderful sunshine and wind. It would have been a long walk or expensive taxi ride back to Leoni’s. As we came past the white sand beaches of Camps Bay, Clifton and Bantry Bay, the wind showered us with sand. We were plugged into a recorded commentary that was magically coordinated with the sights, even though we were plodding along in rush hour traffic.
Sandy, gritty and exhausted once again, we walked back to the city bus station and stood in front of the map. As usual, I couldn’t remember the name of the bus. This time neither could Tom. “It’s number 126,” he said. “I’m sure.” There was no 126 on the map. A different map hung on another wall. Still no number 126.
“We’ll just call Leonie,” I said. We searched our pockets, our back pack, nothing. We searched them again. By this time it was 6:30 and heading for dusk. We asked the girl at the ticket office. She wasn’t sure where Essex street was. Finally she offered a bus route into an industrial district. We knew that wasn’t safe. We couldn’t ask her to call Leonie because we had Leonie’s number on the phone, not in our brains. At that moment, we couldn’t remember Leonie’s last name either. As we stood there talking about our predicament, there were several women in line waiting to buy a ticket. Overhearing us, they talked together. Finally, an older one said, “I think you want the Omarhumba bus I’m taking.” Immediately Tom recognized the name. “That’s #261,” she said. We had reversed the numbers. With profuse appreciation we climbed on the bus behind the wonderful woman. Tom helped her daughter lift the stroller with a sweet 18 month old grandson, onto the bus. At least Tom recognized our stop and we got off and walked the three blocks back to Leonie’s.
Leonie greeted us with, “You left your phone on the bus. I was worried and tried to call you. The bus driver answered. He’s left it at the office. We can get it tomorrow.”
As I told our story, I willingly admitted to having been slightly upset. I kept repeating that I knew we could get a taxi. Our address was deeply embedded in both our brains.
Excitement over, we showered and dressed up a little, for our romantic valentine’s dinner with Judith and Norman.
Valentine’s Day in South Africa is a big event. The day before Leonie had volunteered to find us a nice restaurant. She called a lot of places and eventually got us a table at Meloncino’s Italian Restaurant where there was a special menu for the night at a reasonable price. She drove us to the waterfront and gave us instructions on finding the restaurant in Victoria Square.
The whole experience was absolutely spectacular. At the waterfront, there were lots of people, lights, music, a giant ferris wheel. The air was electric. Meloncino’s was up above, looking down on the water. It had white table cloths, fine linen, complimentary champagne, gourmet food. The menu included appetizers and dessert. Tom and I both enjoyed chocolate cheesecake African Style. The four of us shared stories of how we met and our lives together.
We had a lovely evening. Tom and I considered going dancing but when Norm and Judith were ready for home and sleep, we decided that would be best for us too. Taxi’s waited. We shared a ride home and all of us I’m sure were asleep in minutes. We had enjoyed a Valentine’s Day to remember. No pictures of dinner out. We forgot the camera.
I haven’t picked out the instances of Joy in this day. There were lots. You can decide which was our deepest joy and who brought it to us. I’m just sure that our world became a little lighter today. I hope this long blog has brought light to your day too. Now, enjoy the pictures.
Groot Constantia Winery
Next came wine tasting. We forgot to take pictures. I wonder why.
Another two days have flown away. This is a spectacular trip. It’s hard to believe that I was afraid of this journey.
The flight from Johannesburg to Cape Town was less than two hours and felt like ten minutes. Our seatmate was interesting, fun and helpful. Her career is in marketing and she works for a travel agency in Capetown. I asked her about the best things to see and do in Cape Town and she wrote us out an affordable list. We talked of careers, my books, and faith. Of course, I gave her a card and told her about my books. It was so helpful to say, “They’re available on Amazon.” Maybe if I tell enough folks that, I’ll sell some on Amazon, and Amazon will begin to recommend my books. Regardless, Candice with her willingness to share, her great conversation, and her ready smile, added a large portion of joy to our world and I am truly grateful.
This trip to Cape Town is just over the top. Where do I begin? We are staying in Woodstock, a suburb of Cape Town at a wonderful Air b&b run by Leonie. I’m sure there is no better place to stay in Cape Town. We have a good size room with ensuite in which we are very comfortable. It comes with breakfast served when we need it. This morning that was 6:30 a.m. Leonie takes great delight in helping us plan our day. She delivered us today to our bus tour pick-up point for 7:15 and was disappointed when the tour bus returned us just one block from the b&b. She helped us choose a place for supper, waited till we had a rest and showered and drove us to the restaurant as well as returning to pick us up. She did the same last night except when she picked us up after dinner she drove us to see the sunset from the Lion’s Head look out (a local tourist spot).
Last night we had supper with a lovely young German couple. Judith a surgeon, and Norman, a banking loan officer. We laughed, shared stories and generally enjoyed each other’s company. Tomorrow evening we’re having dinner together to celebrate Valentine’s Day.
Cape Town is heaps of fun. Today our bus tour took us to see the Penguins. This is breeding season so those inquisitive birds were all sitting very still on their eggs or caring for their new hatchlings. Afterward we went on to the Cape of Good Hope. I remember in about Grade Six social studies learning about the explorers Bartholomew Diaz & Vasco Da Gama. To actually travel to the southern tip of Africa wasn’t even on my radar when I was a kid. Today, I was thrilled to stand there and look out over the ocean. There just aren’t words to describe the feeling.
Our little bus had 22 occupants 17 of which were under 30. We travelled with the backpackers. Needless to say, my knees didn’t allow me to cycle up hill for 5 kilometers, or climb about a half a kilometer of steps. I did manage to the last 100 or so and made it to the light house to look out over the Cape. The bus carried me and a few more over the rest of the trip. Tom of course, cycled and climbed.
We totally enjoyed the young people on the bus. They were interesting and helpful. I wouldn’t have made it all the way up to the lighthouse without the support and encouragement of Anna from Brazil.
Tonight’s supper was in an authentic African Islamic restaurant which serves Cape Malay food. My taste buds delighted in a dish named Bobotjies. The flavours were delicate and delicious. The sauces obviously gourmet. The name of the restaurant, Biesmiellah, means the Grace or blessing said after the prayer at meals. It was truly an experience of God’s Grace.
We have had a grand day. So many people have filled our lives with joy that you must all be feeling the amazing vibes all the way back in Canada. Tomorrow will be the same.
My friend Nancy emailed pictures of Montreal’s snowy streets. I have to tell you all that South African weather is the best in the world, 25-28 degrees Celsius in the daytime and down to 17-19 at night. It’s fabulous. Ooops maybe that didn’t add to your joy.
I hope you enjoy the pictures.
At the lighthouse overlooking Cape of Good Hope. I’m halfway up the last 100 steps. I stopped to rest and Anna, age 20, told me “You can do. Of course you can.”
Pilanesberg Gate We have been blessed, truly blessed. Two days on safari in South Africa, is, for many people a dream come true. The animals have been amazing. A highlight for me happened when the elephant we were watching started to walk casually toward us. As he got closer and closer, he seemed to be looking straight at me. I heard the tour bus ahead of us start up and watched it pull forward out of the elephant’s way. Our motor started up as well, but our bus didn’t move. The elephant kept coming. His tread measured and slow. In my mind I heard, “Take all the pictures you like. I’m special.”, as he lumbered past at the most two feet in front of our bus. This majestic, awesome animal walked by just four feet from my seat. (Of course, we were in the front seat.)
There were other times when it felt as if the animal was actually posing for our picture. Here they roam free in a 550 square kilometer game park. These animals are wild. That’s for sure. And yet, at times it felt as if there was a connection. I’ve added some pictures for you to enjoy. On our evening drive, there was a time where pictures couldn’t happen. We joined a collection of about five vehicles sitting in the dark. “Lion’s,” our guide said. “There’s a family of lions here. Two cubs and a Mom and Dad. They made a kill yesterday and have dragged the carcass into that thicket. He shone his light on a collection of shrubs. The lion’s were well hidden. We sat in silence and listened. We heard the cubs mewing. We heard the sounds of lion’s at play, of Mom encouraging them to settle down, of Father losing patience and roaring, but not a fearsome roar. No it was more a “Come on kids, settle down” roar. We heard them crunching bones. Experiencing the family was a special gift.
During the morning when we were out with Dave and Joanne, we saw zebras. Two particularly touched my heart as I watched them, possibly lovesick teenagers, standing close, nose to nose and side to side. It was neat. In fact it was the families and their interactions that touched my heart and filled it with joy.
The other most important part of this safari is being with Dave and Joanne and Jenna. This has been a special time that will live in our hearts forever. We’re not only experiencing their passion for animals and safari’s, but we’re sharing thoughts and stories. Our family traditionally gets together regularly to celebrate the good things of our lives. This is a memory to add to the pile that is special. Today I have so much joy that the world over must feel a lightening of whatever darkness hovers.
I hope you enjoy my pictures as much as I have enjoyed taking them.
Last night, Tom and I sat on my daughter’s deck with family and friends. Some of the circle were missing. Sickness, work, life had led them to different places at that moment. We ate well from a simple and delicious meal prepared with love. We shared stories of the past and present, and we shared dreams for the future. I felt love’s mantle enfold us and with it came inner peace.
It was just a Sunday dinner; a rare occasion in today’s world; a quiet gathering. For me, it was a glimpse of heaven. I could have missed it. We could have gone home early or been too busy to come. I could have been focused on my own concerns, but last night, my heart was open – open to God’s special gift of love. In Biblical terms, “Last night, I joined Moses as he saw the burning bush, took off his shoes and walked on “holy ground.” I’m truly grateful.
I’ve been practicing. Just as a child needs to learn to stop, look and listen before he/she crosses the street, I have been learning to stop, open my heart, look and listen for the moments of joy that God offers us daily.
I recommend you start this journey for yourself. It means letting go of whatever is going on in your mind – plans, frustrations, fears, worries – letting go for just a few moments so that you can become aware of the love and joy around you.
All God needs is a crack in our armor, just a crack. Open your heart to the love that surrounds you. Whether it’s the joy that comes with a stranger’s smile, a child’s laughter, or a dog’s cold nose on your arm, let it in. These moments will stay with you. Their memory will give you strength in your darkest hours.
Remember, God’s “holy ground” is where you are at the moment. And…Don’t forget to give thanks.
My thought this morning is, “With moments like last night as part of God’s heaven, I have no fear of death.”