Friday, December 31, 2010


Harmony Wishes Me a Merry Christmas!
As you read this, it is better to read it with theme music.  In my dreams. everything I say is punctuated by beautiful music and great views of sunsets and rainbows.  So... to fulfill a dream of mine, load this youtube song, then switch over to reading me again.  :))  Remember, to avoid the "stutters" start the tune, then pause until the red line is all the way across the screen.

Okay, are we back?? Is the orchestra playing???

Funny, but New Year's Eve has always been a bit of a sad moment for me.  It's never been the celebration that it seems to be for all of those hat-wearing, noodle-blowing partiers at Times Square.  I've always seen it as the sad conclusion to a warm and happy holiday season.

Tonight, we say goodbye to an old year.  2010.

2010 was a spectacular year for us...full of delight, honesty, tragedy, pain, heartless cruelty, strength training, and beauty.  The most incredible dichotomies filled my life to show me passion and peace.
A Diepsloot Wedding

This year we had the first year of eldership in full.  We experienced the brilliance and struggle of being part of a new church plant.  Raising up leaders is no small task, because we're all people and we all have different personalities; different lives.  The oneness that's brought in Christ has to be fought for and claimed like a prize.

The World Cup Soccer in May and June was a stunning time of South Africa's unity...and we froze and cheered as the world came to our doorstep.  Spain took home the coveted trophy...and we loved it!!

 The building where we meet as a church was finished and we all, as a church, walked across William Nichol as if we were crossing the Jordan.

Boldo and Ganji in Ulaanbataar

We went to Mongolia, and saw Boldo and Ganji carrying on with the church that Rob and Bridget had left to them...and doing a beautiful job.  Embracing their people with a joy and soberness encouraged us to go on.

Three Generations at Harmony's First birthday

China for a brief holiday...then the USA...long enough to celebrate Harmony's first birthday.  I held her on my lap and read Dr. Seuss to her.  I held Alicia on my lap and did the same.

My parents' 50th anniversary.  I saw the couple that gave me life and nurtured me into an adult dance as a crowning moment to a perfect party: beautiful and tearful.

Vince and Rikki
We reunited with family and were able to process with them what can only be done in person.  It was an incredible blessing...and we were grateful.

I am growing up, finally standing on what is important.

I now can honestly say in truth that I trust God.  I can say this honestly, because I honestly had to in 2010.  Strangely enough, you can only trust God when you are forced to in this way, not for fluffy reasons like "I do because I love Him" (even though I do).  My life, my family, my faith is all in His hands...and I am grateful for His love that is greater than my understanding of why things are the way they are.
Trusting Beijing!

I have been married to the most desirable man I have ever had the pleasure of knowing for 23 years this year...just three days ago we celebrated our anniversary.  We had tamales and steak...and champagne.

I have beautiful friends, a rich life, a heart like a moving ocean, filled with the tumults of joy and pain that only can be found in movies....

Goodbye 2010... you will be tattooed on my heart forever.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010


In two days there are 48 hours.  If adults are lucky (or blessed) we’ll sleep for at least 10 hours of that 48 hours.  Others who are more scheduled (or gifted in resting) will sleep for 18 of those 48, making it 32 liveable hours. 

I have lived 48 years today...18 of those years were programmed for me by life’s natural patterns of childhood, school, and being a child in my parents’ home.  Thankfully, most of them were happy and memorable.  I had a strong parental influence; good schools;  painful and helpful loneliness in school; popularity in high school (then the only thing that mattered) and later a great validation of professors and fellow students that I had a fine mind. 

This is when I chose to walk away from programmed life and live away from my parents, rules and school.  I usually call this period my “crash and burn”. 

Everything culminated in my behaviours exposing deep troubled waters in my soul.  Addiction.  Irresponsible sexual behaviour.  Dark, depressive thoughts.  This led to a period of my life I call my addict days.  In these days, even though I was penniless and a drug addict, I was strangely happy...and in love.  My boyfriend and I soon had a child and it was then that I woke up.  The child was a reminder that my life was “off kilter” (then I think I said “f---ed up”) and I ran home, where I was now a child with a child living in my parents’ home.

In those days of "waking up", I experienced more miracles than I ever had imagined I could.  I sought God out to know Him myself, not just live in a house where He was.  I chased Him, and He was found... and spoke to me with a voice that was validating like no other, causing my wounded places to become crowded with healing.  Soon, my low valleys were there for a purpose, and my high places were wonderfully unconquered and beckoning to me. 

Then I met Mario.  That name...that image...that intense time of destiny is indescribably delicious, but still... a little off-kilter.  I was a mess and he was a mess...and we sought healing together (thank God) unwittingly from a pastor’s wife who was a licensed counsellor.  She reflected back to us an image that was functional, but filled with unhealed places.  She invited us to church and that’s when the whole thing began.  Our church family beginnings....

We got married in the dead of winter, one day after my 25th birthday.  He came to me with David and Joe, I came to him with Vince and soon after we had Alicia.  We moved to an idyllic mountain retreat where we both worked full time, but nestled into a truly beautiful church and we were introduced to the power of the Word of God...and the Holy Spirit.  This is the time I call our (my) Spiritual Awakening.  Prophetic words... speaking in tongues... dreams, visions, songs, worship.  Friendships that ran deeper than blood.  Memories of fishing, snow sports and hot chocolate.

As with most things, we had to leave that place for a reason.   We began again in the asphalt jungle of Sacramento- an unholy place devoid of tall trees and separate our new church family.  Still, a career and life change was at hand, and as Mario began the pinnacle of his career, I left the workplace to home-school Vince and Alicia.  This season I call “The Home-schooling Years”.   I was the new owner of a new home and a new life in a newly developed place with new parks and new schools surrounding us. 

It took awhile to find the right church, but we finally made a home at the Vineyard and soaked in more of the same “Awakening”, only to go through radical change as the church grew.  As it grew, so did we, moving into new and dangerous waters of serving God...not just knowing Him.  God spoke to us during those years, and I was always wishing I was more sure of myself – more sure of myself in marriage, in parenting, in teaching, in this Christian life.  I experienced depression for the first time in my life, decided against medication, and slowly trudged through the uncharted waters that lay before me.  Those days were a mixed blessing.  The pain and sorrow could only be balanced by the major blessings of loving and being loved... I loved my children more than my own life and really began to stress if I were doing the whole thing the right way....?   

Was it me, or do kids just take over your life?

At some point, the kids broke away and ran ahead.  We enrolled them in a small private school that seemed like the right thing at the time.  They became gifted in sports, drama, academics, friendships and I struggled to keep up.  I returned to the workplace teaching there, trying my best to remain in their lives.  It was then that we took our first trip to Africa. 

Whatever I thought I knew about life, blessings, God, knowledge, happiness....was blown out of the water.  It was there that all of my life came together and made sense.  I looked beyond my surroundings to see an entirely larger picture that we were a part of, and as I looked at Mario, I knew he saw it too.   This period I call “The decision-making days” where we began to travel internationally with the kids, and plan a future that would mean deciding to move to Africa, or deciding to stay in the States.  Our church family now circled the globe. 

To pre-emptively strike our decision, Vince moved out (a very painful time), and we grieved and continued....  Alicia grew and challenged us and our decisions to leave, then finally came with us.  We moved in 2006.  The move was miraculous and painful at the same time... and we began to know the glory and pain of living whole-heartedly as “Christian Missionaries”, even though we didn’t fit the normal connotation.  We separated from our families (our families of origin and our church family) and moved to the wild, untamed South Africa that everyone told us was so like America. 

The first year here we learned a saying in Afrikaans: “The boer mak a plan” which means “The farmer will make a plan”.  It sounds relatively harmless, doesn’t it??  Know what it means??  It means that you can’t count on anyone in the end but yourself and you’re gonna have to make it work when everything breaks down.  Ugh.  It’s true.  We took our first-world attitudes and chucked them out the door.  No one even applauded.  It’s expected here that things will go wrong and you musn’t complain, you must just make it work. 

Alicia decided to go back to the States.  We objected, but supported her decision in the end.  Vince and she seemed so remarkably SEPARATED from us... after a lifetime of us staying so closely to one another.  Here, the work of God included international travel, delightful presence of God and love, love, love of the people.  It was wonderful and painful.  The best and worst of times... everything that the Bible talks about.  Take up your cross and follow me.  Leaving house and home and country and family to answer a call to make disciples of all nations.   The Africa Years... and me here.

Here I am. 


I have four grandchildren now.  My daughter has a daughter.  She just got engaged.  Vince is in love and works a dangerous job.  Two of my nephews hardly know me. 

One of my best friends here lives in a township.  I went to a wedding last week given by a family that makes less than eight hundred dollars a month.  Our church just built a Community Center in the North of Joburg.  Mario did two weddings last week and will do another next week.  In the last month, we have had electricity for 12 days.  

For most of my life I have been wide awake... but at 48 I am fully alive and barely touching my destiny.

Pain.  Growth.  Change.  Miracles.  Tears.  Laughter...

Life... abundantly.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010


The summer sun is mercilessly seeping through the office window now, leaving me no choice but to close the curtains.  I grew up in North America and will never, never get used to December heat.  Today, as I write about my favorite holiday story: Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol", a chilling, frosty and wintery tale if there ever was one,  I write in a bata, sweating. . .  Go figure.  

For those of you who have never read the story or seen one of the many adaptations, let me give you a synopsized version.  The story is one of Ebenezer Scrooge - a stern and uncomfortable miser bent on making everyone's lives miserable.  He does this everyday, but the day we meet him is Christmas Eve.  Instead of being warmed by the holiday, we see a dramatic hatred for it, and "all those who keep it".  For those close to him, mainly his nephew, Fred, and his clerk, Bob Cratchit, Scrooge's hostility is so normal that they barely flinch at his behavior.   It is easy to tell that the two of them are as kind and warm and Scrooge is apathetic and cold.   It is this night that Scrooge meets up with his old (equally miserly) ex-partner, Jacob Marley.  There is only one catch:

Marley was dead.

I love that line.  It's the first line of the book, and usually it is the first line of the movies that adapt it, since there is no improving that chilling introduction.   The story evolves with an eerie reality:  Scrooge must repent, or he will walk (as Marley has walked since death) in chains and horror and hell he has ever dreamed of will be as bad as the one in store for him.   To give the precursor for repentance Marley has ordered "Three Spirits" - all of which will visit him within three days.  (THAT'S right...if you know the story, Marley tells Scrooge he will see one Spirit each night!!) Instead, in one night, all the ghosts come- all looking different and all having one purpose- to show him Christmas. 

The night of Christmas Eve, Scrooge takes a journey of discovery  through memories, emotions, other peoples' opinions of him, and finally arrives at a perfect and unexpected repentance: fear, trembling and redemption.   Perfect story.  

So when I reached for my copy of Scrooge, my favorite movie adaptation of the book, I couldn't  find it. I called friends to see if they had borrowed it.  It was nowhere to be found.  I went to the closest warehouse of DVDs and found nothing, nothing except a new (to me) animated feature with Jim Carrey (who has personally butchered much of my favorite Seuss characters) and I wasn't too happy.  Still, it was the only one I could find and I bought it.

Last night, curling up with a few jellies and a good glass of red wine, I loaded the DVD, expecting mediocrity, or perhaps an over-the-top portrayal of Scrooge.  Instead, I was welcomed by an incredible beginning: "Marley was dead..."  

From that point on, it was an incredible delight to see the story unfold nearly word for word Dickens.  

Robert Zemeckis (most known for his breakout "Back to the Future" series) directed and co-produced the "live animation" that is the film's deepest and brightest achievement.  Set in Victorian London, animation holds a favor that live action can never have: perfect backdrops, with Victorian structures; perfect skies discolored by coal; perfect carriages pulled by sickly horses, etc.  

 The characters are a mixture of live action and animation - with Scrooge being portrayed by a rubber-faced Jim Carrey, not resembling him in the slightest.  The others are a different story.  Scrooge's nephew, Fred, is a dead ringer for Colin Firth and Robin Wright Penn's face and voice are the "Buttercup" of Belle.  

Still, I have one thing against this adaptation: it drops key lines that are meant to include the salvation message (and a salvation conclusion) that is key to purists looking for this in the story.  It's like doing Hamlet without the famous soliloquy.  The ghost of Christmas present is perfect, but the ghost's visit with Scrooge is noticeably "forgetting" to visit the homeless shelters that serve food and preach the Gospel.  His famous declaration that resounds Christ's birth must be celebrated "all 365 days of the year".  

Without an outward declaration of Christ, the film is less than perfect, but (I almost regret to say) not to be missed.  I enjoyed it deeply -- would have enjoyed it a scoche more if my Savior was better preached, as Dickens did shamelessly.

Even so, this Sunday night Portia and the boys are coming over and we're showing it on the big screen...where I hope the kids will have the "Dickens" scared out of them (it is rather graphic) -- and see the beautiful conclusion to a perfect story.

Especially looking forward to it is Ebenezer Mabhena, Portia's youngest.  He can't wait to see his namesake's redemption!  

If you're curious, check out the original "Scrooge" with Alistair Sim and Jack Warner, also available through Amazon.  

Friday, December 3, 2010


Today I woke up...and (without coffee)  I soon became a sobbing mess in from of my own TV.  I would do it again.  

I'm glad I did it.  

I cried in great God and His beauty.  Mainly because I forget... how GREAT God is. 

Life lately has been a hurried year-end rush to get things put back together orderly and not miss phone calls or appointments.  The work of the Kingdom can be so busy!!  On top of that, our relationships are the most taxed... and phoning and connecting takes a back seat to working sometimes.  

I didn't even know I was getting to this place.  

It brings me back to my tears... in front of the TV.  Mario greeted me as I woke up and made me watch something before I got dressed.  "Lindsey just emailed us a link and you HAVE to see it!" he said, in his usual chipper-in-the-morning voice.   I looked over at him, following his voice to sit in front of the TV -- he had burned it onto a disc, which meant it was worth saving...and sharing.  

It was then that Mario played me the video of the people in the mall singing Handel's Messiah.  It seems like a fun sing the Messiah in the middle of a food court in a mall, doesn't it??   

In the summer of 1741 George Frideric Handel, depressed and in debt, began setting Charles Jennens' Biblical libretto to music.  Anointed or sleepless (perhaps a bit of both) Handel finished in less than a month – more specifically  In 24 days: August 22 - September 14.

The musical work known as “Messiah” gave the world a view of the Christian belief of the Messiah, or "the anointed one" as Jesus.  The whole piece is divided into three parts: The Annunciation, The Passion and The Aftermath.  The story (or in musical terms, libretto) covers the prophecies concerning the Christ, the birth, miracles, crucifixion, resurrection and ascension of Jesus, and finally the End Times with the Christ's final victory over death and sin.

Today Christmas concerts often feature only the first section of Messiah plus the "Hallelujah" chorus,  a prophecy of Salvation from the book of Isaiah, in the Bible.  Some classical venues will feature the entire work as a Christmas concert, but mostly the Hallelujah chorus is what we all know from the Messiah.  

It is the antithesis of "Happy Holidays", proclaiming that Jesus is coming!  It is beautiful and wonderful and passionate - with a chorus of song shouting that our problems are over... and He will be the King of Kings forever...His Kingdom will have no end.  

This morning I was reminded of passion...of hope...of homage.  If you haven't seen it, look closely.  It is -like Jesus- unexpected and full of glory.  Too beautiful to behold and too truthful to ignore.  

God is GREAT...Beautiful, worthy of all praise!! Hallelujah!! 

 If you want to see it, click this link