I did it. I did it. I’ve really finished round one. This afternoon, I finished the first serious edit of the sequel to Fireweed. Wow. This was a definite huge rewrite and I’m pleased as punch. Now before I send it to my editor I get to read it through all at once. I’m hoping that will happen tomorrow. I may learn that I have to do serious edit number 2 before I send it off. After all, in her words, the more I refine my manuscript before she gets it, the less work she has to do. Those of us who self-publish know how important that is. Editors are amazing and they need to be paid for their skill.
Now I have hope that maybe, just maybe this book will be ready to publish by November. Wouldn’t that be wonderful. Now, I need a title. A friend suggested I should carry on the plant theme. The working titles so far have been – “One More Step” and “Safe Haven”. Once I googled them, I learned that many many books carry those titles. I need something unique that fits the book. I will pray about it as I reread the manuscript. Maybe you will pray as well. Blessings to you all. Janet
When I sat down to write this article, my eyes were drawn to the front window. I looked through a sprightly bouquet of tulips and iris, flowers brought by friends. “A touch of spring,” she said when she handed them to me last week. Past the tulips, I saw the leaden winter sky setting free snow that filtered down to thicken the blanket that already covers our yard. More snow, I thought, yuk. My eyes slipped back to the tulips lifting their blooms toward the window. I smiled. Thank you God for this touch of new life, a bright spot in my day. Thank you God for friends.
A little earlier that morning, I had driven our granddaughter to high school. Her happy smile greeted me as she ran down the steps and opened the car door. On the way to school, I told her that I had kissed Grandpa’s sleepy forehead and reminded him that it was his turn tomorrow. We laughed. Her eyes alight with fun she teased, “Guess I was up before you two. I was making porridge at six o’clock this morning.” My thought was, Oh, how I love you. Thank you God for our Ellie. She is always a bright spot in our day.
Two gifts from God rest in my heart, blessings for this day. In winter, I can easily overlook blessings. So often I throw on my coat, leave it unzipped and ignore my hat and mitts left behind waiting on the cedar chest at the door. Once outside, I shudder and repeat my mantra to God, “I hate winter.”
Today, as I run my errands, I will snuggle into my long-johns and down-filled parka, pull my wild striped hat down over my ears and my warm cuddly mitts over my arthritic fingers. I don’t want to be distracted by the cold and discomfort. I want my soul open to more of those blessings that God has prepared for me.
I recommend we all endeavor to bring this attitude to our lives all year long. Whether it’s the weather that is uncomfortable, or our lives that have been tainted with misery, let’s do what we can to alleviate its effects. We can set our hearts and souls free to receive the love God offers us each day. Let’s notice, accept, smile and give thanks.
There shall be showers of blessing:
This is the promise of love;
There shall be seasons refreshing,
Sent from the Savior above.
Here in Johannesburg we have had two days of heavy rain. Tonight Dave’s swimming pool is filled to the brim. In this country, whether you own a shack or a castle you have no basement. Consequently, heavy rain cannot flood your basement but it can run in over your doorsill. Middleclass shacks have cement floors which provide some protection, not much. Because of the constant drought, and the clay soil, rain tends to run away and erode rather than soak into the thirsty earth. Consequently, flash floods are always a hazard. This much needed rain is both a blessing and a curse.
Today we stayed home til school was over. I wrote my blog and read. The slow day was lovely and needed. After school Jonathon, a hired driver, drove us to the school. Because this is a gated community we walked out to the front gate to meet him. While we waited we talked to the gatekeeper, an ex-policeman from Zimbabwe. His racing speech and south African accent defeated my ears. I caught a word here and there, enough to understand that he was here and his family back in Zimbabwe because of education. Jonathon arrived in a BMW and wearing a suit. Obviously being a driver for the rich is a grand occupation. He is obviously educated. He spoke well and slowly and that was helpful.
The pictures I have for you are of the American International School, AISJ, where David & Joanne work, and Jenna is a student. Dave gave us a wonderful tour in the rain. For me, AISJ feels like a palatial campus. White stucco buildings, with outside halls, (cloister walks I call them), spread lazily across the landscape in a mazelike pattern, making multiple courtyards for students to soak in the sun as they enjoy one another. With the welcoming climate here, the great outdoors is an integral part of the classroom space. Luscious gardens add beauty and peace. Inside there are also comfortable seating areas sprinkled throughout the buildings, gathering places for rainy days. The full theatre, two gymnasiums, swimming pool, fitness room, triple soccer field, and playground are fabulous resources for learning and activity.
As we followed David from building to building, I wondered what the public schools here were like. Next time we come to South Africa, we’ll have to arrange a tour of the school that the children from the townships attend. It would be good to talk with their teachers as well.
My mind was drawn back to home. We too have private luxury schools. We pride ourselves on equal education for all in Canada, so we too have public schools which are free for all children. Luxury private schools are available as well. I’ve taught in our public schools and know that, although not the total luxury of AISJ and private schools, they are still way more than just adequate. I have not had a tour of the schools on our northern native reservations. I have only heard about the lack of resources in those schools. Stories of the frustration and courage of teachers who seek jobs in those northern schools, speak to me of deficit rather than equality. We too have a lot to learn.
Yesterday my heart was touched by the gift of conversation with our gate security man, and our driver. I felt joy knowing that our Jenna is attending a fabulous school like AISJ. She has so many extra opportunities for learning because of her parents work.
As I experienced once again the enormous gap between the rich and the poor here, in South Africa, my eyes were opened wider to the gap in Canada. That too is a source of joy, because I need my eyes open. Jesus said, “those who have eyes to see… and ears to hear…” need to use them. Nothing will ever change unless all of us open our hearts to see and hear the reality of our world.
Although we are delighted to be here with Dave, Joanne and Jenna, Tom and I decided it would be valuable for us to experience a little of Johannesburg, while our family was at school. Dave suggested the Clip Town Youth Project as a possibility. Good old Google gave us heaps of information and a phone number. We called. Thando, the director, who joyfully encouraged us to come for a visit.
Clip Town is a community of 44,000 people in Soweto Township. Driving by Soweto one sees miles of tin roofs sticking above the barbed wire that is rolled atop a stucco wall. Soweto is a suburb of over 1.4 million inhabitants. You can google the history of Soweto. I am only going to tell you about what I saw.
We walked into KYP through rows and rows of tiny one room tin dwellings, most without electricity. At the KYP centre, I saw mostly barefoot children, running, laughing, playing, justlike children back home. I saw many school age children looking spiffy in their school uniforms. The Clip Town Youth Project runs an afterschool program providing tutoring and two meals a day for as many children as they can manage. The goals of the program are:
Please go to www.kliptownyouthprogram.org.za for a detailed introduction to the project. The director, Thando took us on a full tour of the classrooms where volunteers tutor the kids, the computer room, the library, the kitchen, the “family” room, talking about the program. He encouraged me to take pictures. Afterward he led us down one of the footpaths to the place where he grew up. We met his mother, who welcomed us inside. “Here in Klip Town,” Thando said, “this is a middle class home. My mother saved her money to buy and furnish this home. (She does not own the property only the dwelling). Proudly he pointed out the stove, the cupboards, the bedroom. “Most do not have the second room,” he said. Outside there was a water tap, one of 51 accesses to water for the 44,000 residents. Many homes have what we would call “Johnny on the Spots” that they share with others in the community.
After our home visit we returned to the project family room where we enjoyed a performance by the project’s gumboot dances, done just for the two of us. They were amazing. These young people have travelled through Europe and the US.
I signed and gave to the community three of my books – Fireweed, Can I Hold Him? and Dipping your Toes. They were thrilled to receive these Christian books. We made a donation that would feed a child for a year and buy him/her a school uniform, which took all the African Rand we had with us. It didn’t seem like much but as Mother Theresa said, “We can’t feed the whole world but we can feed the one that we encounter.” Before we left we bought two KYP t-shirts. We asked if we could use Canadian money. “Sure,” Thando said. “We can use money in any form.” Our whole visit was awesome. I hope you enjoy the pictures.
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.”
Before supper we went with Joanne to walk the dogs in a nearby park. The birds here are exquisite and different. The brown ones looked very plain walking on the ground. When we got close they took flight revealing white wings bordered with black. Their call sounds like a squeaky toy. The tiny red weaver one comes in yellow two. They build their nests in the trees. We saw a neat looking duck with a white face and red tuft on his head. The little pond also was home for a family of Egyptian geese.
Supper last night was scrumptious. We sat at a high table out on the porch. We are being bathed in love by Dave, Joanne and Jenna. Joanne offered me the ultimate in hospitality when she asked me if I’d like to bless the meal. Although they do not claim Christianity, they live the “Way” of Christ. They are loving and accepting of all people – and they of course live among God’s infinite variety. They care for people and animals with a deep passion. As a family they volunteer in orphanages and animal shelters. Part of living that acceptance and love was Joanne’s willingness to welcome my commitment to living my faith.
For sure, her gesture added was giant gift of love that has made a positive difference throughout the world.
The first day is over. It’s 11:54 p.m. at home. As we glide past Ireland it’s already morning. The flight attendant smiled and handed me breakfast. I haven’t actually slept yet. Sunday night, adrenalin kept me awake almost all night. This is going to be a tough transition. Oh well, everything else is great.
At the airport yesterday we talked with several “neat” people. At one point, Colin, a Trinidadian from Indianapolis, entertained the lot of us with his violin for over an hour. He wasn’t a busker. He was a happy youngish man who just loved to play his violin. Of course, my Tom was drawn to the music. Before long he and Colin had become a musical duo as Tom sang along. They were two extroverts having a grand time.
While I worked away editing the first page of my book, Colin told Tom of his near death experience. He was working on an oil rig when it exploded. “They tell me I had no vital signs for 17 minutes. I’ve been on the ‘other side’.” He rolled up his sleeves to reveal heavy scarring on his arms. His hands, protected by his gloves, weren’t harmed by the flames.
“I learned two things,” he said. “I wasn’t going to work on the oil rigs anymore, regardless of the great pay and my dad’s objections.” Today, he makes his living using his precious hands to entertain folk in night clubs and casinos.
I’ve decided this was the moment I had been watching for. His obvious joy, along with Tom’s, brought smiles all around. They certainly added to the goodness of this world. I forgot to take a picture. I’ll do better tomorrow.
Today we received the annual report from World Vision for our beautiful foster child Layslla. In her picture we see a sweet young girl with a long ponytail. She looks much like any young girl here in Canada. Our Layslla is growing up. The letter tells us about the things she has learned because of our support. We are truly blessed to be able to be part of this program.
The best part of the World Vision Foster Child program is that the money we send benefits the entire community rather than just one child. When we write letters to Layslla, we are allowed to include little things like small note books, pens, pencils etc. We always send enough for Layslla to share. Sharing is important.
Many of us find it easy to give. We want to share our abundant blessings. We are not as good at receiving. Our culture teaches us that it is not good to be indebted by someone else’s gifts. “I’ll make it on my own, without help,” is a code we often live by. When I received Layslla’s letter today, I was reminded of the gifts we give when we receive help from someone. Our Layslla, gives Tom and I the blessing of being able to share. I am grateful.
This morning I started my prayer time telling God, “Here we go again. I won’t whine or complain. I’m happy, excited, overwhelmed, scared.” All those feelings filled my soul because at noon today, we picked up another 500 copies of my latest book, “Dipping Your Toes”, my popular worship resource. Once again my study closet will be filled with books. Even though I have already sold 1200 copies of this book, I was anxious.
Ever since I published my first book, I have been taking these leaps of faith. Ordering and paying for, 500 books takes courage. At this point I feel fairly secure that all 500 will sell if I work at it. My experience has taught me that all I have to do is tell someone about Dipping Your Toes, and they will buy it. They don’t even have to see it. People of faith who are active in their churches immediately recognize the value of having 44 complete devotional worship services at their fingertips.
This morning God responded immediately to my anxiety. I picked up the new book of reflections, my granddaughter Vanessa gave me. The bookmark brought me to Part 2 – Hope, Trust, Faith. The first scripture verse reminded me that “with God nothing will be impossible.” (Luke 1:37) Directly following was the prophet Jeremiah saying, “For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. Plans to bring you prosperity not evil, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11) I laughed out loud as I read. “O.k. God,” I said. “I hear you. We’re together on this. Just what I needed.”
God does speak words of encouragement to us every day, if we would only listen. I looked out my window and soaked in the life-giving sunshine. “Thank you, God,” I said. “We wrote Dippping Your ToesI together, so of course you will be with me as we sell it.
If you’re looking for a worship resource go to www.janetstobie.com, check out Dipping Your Toes in Planning Small Group Devotionals. It’s available through UCRD or through David C. Cook Distribution. If you have any questions click on contact me. I‘m happy to help in any way that I can.
Every Friday I have the pleasure and privilege of taking my special needs granddaughter, Vanessa, out for lunch and spending the afternoon with her. We run errands, work on her scrapbook, walk, read, whatever she is able to do and wants to do on particular Friday.
Last week, Vanessa and her wonderful Mom, Janet, surprised me with a gift, the book Footprints by M.F. Powers. The card said, “Thank you for spending Fridays with me” and was signed with love by my granddaughter. Every day, I read at least one of these inspiring stories. I am so grateful.
I believe the Bible offers us God’s living “Word” when we come to it with our mind’s open to hearing. The amazing part of this is that we can read the same passage every month or year and hear a different message.
God doesn’t just speak to us through the Bible. Although the stories in my lovely new book seldom mention God, I feel God touch my heart as I read. Today’s stories focused on kindness. The message I received was that I pass on to you was,
Offer a dose of “vitamin E for encouragement” to your family, friends, and strangers today.
It sounds so simple. The list of suggestions contained 101 examples. As I read through them, I noted all the ways that God had been encouraging me over the last few weeks. Today I will bring my handwritten note of gratitude for Vanessa to our family gathering. Their gift is truly a blessing for me.
Hopefully my posts occasionally offer the same kind of blessing to you.