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LANDSCAPES OF LIFE, LEARNING JOURNEYS, Seasons of Life, TRANSFORMATION, Transitions, Travel

OPEN A BOOK OPEN THE WORLD

Library of Congress Book Festival


For this year’s Library of Congress Book Festival in September, the theme was “Open a Book, Open the World.” This really resonated with me as that was the maxim of my grandfather’s world as well. As children, he always encouraged us to read. He told us if we could read, there was nothing we could not learn to do; the world would always be open.

FARM SCHOOL MODEL


My grandfather was so right. He grew up in an era of large families. Schools were few and far between, so a tutor was employed to teach the children. My great grandfather employed a Cambridge graduate to teach his children. He also built a schoolroom on the farm, so the neighborhood children also were able to benefit. Based on the model of learning he had undergone, my grandfather taught us. He would make us look up words in the dictionary, learn what they meant and how to spell them. He would make us collect wildflowers and herbs and bring them back to the house, where we had to look through reference books to find them to identify them, and so my love of books was born.

wooden school structure in park
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

CLASSROOM UNDER THE TREES


As a foundation pupil at the local school, the headmaster did not have time to teach us because of his other duties, so we were told to take books out of the stockroom, sit under the trees, and read. Our class was probably the most educated that year as we read our way through the entire stockroom!
I am thinking of today’s children with online learning; the world is open to them at the push of a few buttons. For many, reading a book is a real challenge; it is not something they enjoy. Is it too easy to access knowledge? Do they find it harder to discern what to read? Are the options too many? I don’t know what the answer is as I have struggled with my grandchildren getting them to enjoy reading as I had done.

girls sitting under the tree
Photo by Polina Tankilevitch on Pexels.com

ADVENTUROUS WORLD OF BOOKS


For me, there was nothing more enjoyable than taking a book, something to eat, climb a tree and enjoy the world I was reading about undisturbed. I lived in these worlds. They opened my eyes to the possibilities outside of a small town in a small country. I longed to travel the world, see the places I read about, experience the different cultures and foods, meet new people, and have adventures. An exciting world lay outside my immediate boundaries, but I could enjoy it vicariously through the books I was reading. Later I set about enjoying these adventures in reality when I became an adult.

woman reading book at daytime, leaning against the tree
Photo by Artem Beliaikin on Pexels.com

THE PRIVILEDGE AND POTENTIAL OF LIBRARIES


I was thrilled when the Library of Congress, one of the most extensive Libraries in the world, chose their theme, “Open a Book, Open the World.” I would love someone to tell me how to inspire young people again to enjoy the worlds within two covers. Modern children have so many more privileges than generations before them and have access to more knowledge that will help them advance in the world than previous generations. How do we help them understand that nothing can stop them from reaching their potential once they can read?

books in black wooden book shelf
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

TRANSLATIONS AND INSPIRATION


I would love to hear stories of how books have inspired you to have adventures or go on to achieve things you would not have been able to do without that knowledge or inspiration. Books can help you learn new ways of interacting with the world, spiritually and emotionally too. I found the King James Version of the Bible almost a foreign language and hard to understand. Modern translations have helped simplify and interpret Scriptures in a more understandable way for the modern reader, without detracting from the truth but enhancing it, making it easier to apply to twenty first century life. Devotional books make it easier to connect with God through inspiring stories and prayers.

selective focus photo of person holding the Bible
Photo by Luis Quintero on Pexels.com


Thank you to the Library of Congress for once again reminding us that Books are our Passport to the world, both seen and unseen, real and imagined, past, present, and future worlds. Time to get down to the Library and find what is new on the Shelves!

LANDSCAPES OF LIFE, Retirement, Seasons of Life, SOCIAL JUSTICE, Travel, TRIALS AND TRIBULATIONS

CAN TECHNOLOGY PROVIDE THE REAL NEEDS OF OLDER PEOPLE?

woman sitting on a leather couch using a laptop
Photo by MART PRODUCTION on Pexels.com

INTERNATIONAL DAY FOR OLDER PEOPLE

Elderly person using and iPad
to illustrate his capacity
Elderly man with iPad photo DvdTang

It is International Older People’s Day, and I wanted to highlight a few of the difficulties that older people and their families must contend with. This past year has seen the death of several older members of my family. This has been especially hard for our far-flung family, who have been scattered over the face of the globe. I know we are not the only family who has had to deal with this, as thousands of other immigrants will testify.

BENEFITS OF TECHNOLOGY

Elderly man with cup of tea with his community
Elderly man with cup of tea in his community. Photo dvdTang

Modern technology has been excellent in enabling families to remain connected, especially in times of trial. I have attended funeral services in South Africa, United Kingdom, and New Zealand while still here in the USA. Although this was such a boon, I still could not visit, hug, touch or say my own farewells. Distance, time, cost, and COVID protocols prevented that.

ELDER INCAPACITY DISADVANTAGES

Elderly woman reading her Bible, Can technology give spiritual direction?
Elderly woman reading her Bible. photo DvdTang

Yet there was also something else, my family member’s lack of capacity through dementia to engage with technology or even know who I was. Many older persons are frail and incapacitated in different ways. I was not able to attend my own mother’s funeral a few years back.  I had not been able to have a meaningful conversation with her for several years due to her lack of capacity to see, hear, or engage with even a phone call. When I said goodbye as I left the country, I knew it would be the last time I saw her and made my farewell as meaningful as possible.

INHUMANE IMMIGRATION POLICIES

Elderly lady enjoying an afternoon of arts and crafts
Arts and Crafts afternoon in Community. Photo DvdTang

This is the price our African Diaspora generation had had to pay when we were scattered after politics destroyed our home country and we no longer felt safe or could survive there. It is also the story I have heard from many other immigrants from other countries who have had to flee. They have had to leave the elderly behind, as their new countries make it nigh on impossible to bring an older person with them. They then have to survive in their new country and send funds back home to care for their elderly. Good care that can be bought to provide for our elderly cannot replace the loving family that left them behind.  These are some of the tough choices that must be made for survival in a disrupted world.

ACCESSIBILITY AND SAFETY IN THE DIGITIZED WORLD

Elderly lady taking a biscuit break in community
Enjoying a tea break during the Craft afternoon. photo DvdTang

How great if technology was affordable and easy to use and sufficient safety measures put in place to help the elderly remain connected to their families, even if they are elsewhere, but this just does not help at all when a person’s capacity has diminished. Families have to work so hard and such long hours to take care of themselves, there is often little time or energy left over to contact and chat with their elderly, leaving the void that scammers are aware of. Older people are also targets of scammers, knowing their vulnerability and loneliness. Older people can still contribute to the economy if they can continue working at a pace more suited to their capacity. Here is where the digital world can make a positive difference if older people can learn to thrive with their digital skills, communicate, and access help when required.

AFFORDABLE HOUSING AND IMMIGRATION POLICIES

happy elderly women sitting at table with coffee in a retirement home
Photo by Anna Shvets on Pexels.com

What is the solution? Not more technology, but better immigration policies that allow families to stay together. Affordable housing with sufficient space for three generations to live together. Housing for life, built with adaptions that can assist in keeping both the elderly and the children safe during the parents’ workday. The cost of housing is so high that both people must work, even second jobs, leaving very little time for taking care of their elderly, which should have been a priority. Policies that are detrimental to family life, insufficient vacation time off, low wages. Lack of recognition for educational and professional status received in another country, expensive healthcare, just to name a few.

CAN TECHNOLOGY PROVIDE THE BASIC HUMAN NEEDS?

people in airport, families can travel and immigrate togethertogether
Photo by Connor Danylenko on Pexels.com

Can technology provide the basic needs of all people? Will society thrive, and the elderly have their needs met by technology? Their primary need for care, safety, and security will be met by belonging to their families and neighborhoods. Technology can assist in that but not replace the personal touch and care that is needed to thrive. Technology does not have a value system; it is merely a tool. Until we value people, provide the care, they require and keep family units together by allowing the elderly to emigrate with their children. No technology will replace the family and neighborhood system of ‘loving your neighbor as yourself.’ For society and families to thrive, adequate and affordable housing with a balanced work/lifestyle and connected community is required.

SPIRITUAL LAWS

Old lady praying, technology cannot provide the spiritual connection people need
Old lady praying. Photo DvdTang

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:30-31. “Honor your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise— “so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.” (Ephesians 6:2) To see what real community and specialized care for the elderly can look like visit Pilgrim Friend Society #UNIDOP2021

LANDSCAPES OF LIFE, Retirement, Seasons of Life, TRANSFORMATION, Transitions, Travel

TWO FRESH PERSPECTIVES FROM THE DESERT AS AN AGENCY OF CHANGE

Desert in Utah
Desert in Utah

A trip across the wide-open spaces and deserts of Utah and Arizona and the mountains and nature of Colorado helped to clear the patterns and cobwebs of old thoughts of the past year. Sometimes all we need to move forward is a fresh perspective. This family trip, after a year of being shut-in with little opportunity to travel, was what was needed to give fresh ideas and impetus to my planning for next year’s work and creative efforts. Watch this space as the plans evolve!

Desert scene, Utah
Desert Scene, Utah

CHANGE TAKES TIME

As I looked out at the vast open plains with only dry scrubby bushes here and there, I wondered what it must have been like for the Israelites to wander through the wilderness for forty years, not reaching their Promised Land. What would their perspective on God’s promise have looked like? Day after day, they trekked their families and herds hoping to find water to sustain their flocks and themselves. They sat wearily by their campfires at night using up the last of the manna for that day. Tomorrow morning they would be up again early to collect the manna. Same old routine year in and year out. This last year has certainly taught me about the mundaneness of the same old routines, when you get stuck in your head.

EVENTS MOVE US FORWARD

At times like this it is good to be reminded that God is still at work. In Isaiah 43 , He says “See I am doing a new thing.” Like geological processes are slow, sometimes we just need to know that God is still working even though we can’t see it.  He said, “I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the desert.” Providing water requires an ‘event’, be it a rainstorm or snow in the winter, the impetus of the volume and the flow create the stream and makes a way.  The manna collected daily with the dew in the morning was sufficient to sustain life for the Israelites, but not enough to thrive. We need ‘events’ to give us new perspectives to help move us forward. We get stuck in our old ways, living in ‘auto’ mode, not really having to challenge, or thinking or ways of doing things. An ‘event’ like COVID had the desired effect of waking us all up to having to do things differently.

DO NOT DWELL ON THE PAST

The passage in Isaiah 43, tells us to ‘forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.” That is really what must happen for us to move forward and create new ways of doing things, responding to challenges, and relating to God and one another. How easy it is to fall back into old patterns, if we don’t cultivate new patterns and sustain them. What was God’s plan for the Israelites? He rescued them from oppression in Egypt to go to the Promised Land where they were to become His chosen people who could proclaim His praises and become a kingdom of priests, ushering in God’s Kingdom on earth. What would our perspective on God’s Kingdom on earth look like?

WE ALL CONTRIBUTE TO CHANGE OVER TIME

Did that happen? Not right then, but it still forged the way forward to when Christ would come to complete God’s redemption plan for all the people and nations of the world. Remember the geological processes – it takes a very long time. As I looked up at the steep rockfaces of the buttes and the weathered surfaces of the rocks where wind and rain had cut through the softer layers. How long had they been standing there? Perhaps we could look at life from the perspective of God’s agents of change. Our lives are like the wind and rain, each one slowly working out the plans God has for our lives, doing the tasks He had planned for us long ago, so that over time we each contribute to wearing down the old ways of thinking and culture. Eventually, God’s kingdom will come on earth.


“The voice of one crying in the wilderness: “Prepare the way of the Lord; Make straight [a]in the desert A highway for our God.4 Every valley shall be exalted And every mountain and hill brought low; The crooked places shall be made straight And the rough places smooth; The glory of the Lord shall be revealed, And all flesh shall see it together; For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” Isaiah 40:3


OUR RESPONSE TO CATACLYSMIC EVENTS

As the last quarter of this year approaches, lets us ask God for a fresh perspective on living out our mundane days. Refresh our vision for the approaching year to see new ways of looking, doing and being, that are part of His redemptive work of making all things new. “Now it springs up: do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the desert.” It is God at work we are merely some of the agencies He uses besides the elements and cataclysmic events. It is our responses to those cataclysmic events that will be used by God to wear down the old and create the new.

The timelessness of the rock face
The timeless, fortress-like, face of the rock

Leaving the mountains and desert behind, I returned to the city with fresh vision and hope for the future. As the Psalmist said in Psalm 121 “I will lift up my eyes to the hills—From whence comes my help? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.” My perspective had changed. We are not alone in this struggle through life with its complexities and problems. The God of the mountains is still our God who is asking for our co-operation as agencies of change in this time frame we have been born into.

LANDSCAPES OF LIFE, Seasons of Life, SPIRITUAL AND EMOTIONAL WOUNDING, TRANSFORMATION, Transitions, Travel

HOW DEEP ARE THE CANYONS OF YOUR MIND?

San Juan River Goose Neck Utah showing deeply etched canyon sides
San Juan River at Goose Neck – Utah

I was reminded of a song by Bonzo Dog called the “Canyons of your Mind,” on a recent trip to Utah and Arizona. I was so inspired by the majesty and grandeur of God’s design in the raw. Creation at its best, where you can see nature at work. The landscape tells the geological story of time with the many-colored layers of rock, the massive buttes that stand sentinel over the land. The mighty Colorado and San Juan rivers thread their way through the Canyons cutting deeply into the rock layers every year. Looking at the San Juan River at Gooseneck, set me thinking about the canyons of your mind. I could see how like a brain this landscape could look like as the river wound through deep horseshoe bends, similar to the indentations that cover a human brain.

Five things that Canyons and the Human brain have in common.

1. Canyons start small, gathers debris along the way

A Canyon starts as a tiny rivulet. Water flows after a storm and gathers at the lowest point. The force of the water gradually moves the soil, which it pushes further downstream with any rocks and debris in its path making its way to the sea. It gets deeper and deeper as it flows as it is joined by other runoff along the way until it either ends in a lake or exits into the ocean. Every year and every season, the water cuts deeper and makes a significant impact that keeps the river flowing along its course. The rocky banks, mostly unyielding, make it more challenging to change the path as it stays within the parameters cut into the surrounding soil and rocks.

A child is born with a fast-growing brain; it has a primitive survival brain that tells it to cry when it needs food and care, that continues to develop with other survival skills. It also starts to create pathways as it learns different things, motor skills, and communication skills. It knows when it gets hurt. Often this is repeated until it learns, all the time making impressions in its brain. A child’s brain grows the fastest between ages birth and five years old. These layers get embedded first and make the most significant impact on how the child views its environment. Are the cries ignored, are its need for warmth and love met as it learns to survive outside of its mother’s body? Is the child spoken to and taught social skills?

technology computer head health, brain cross section showing 'canyons'
Photo by MART PRODUCTION on Pexels.com

2 Canyons make impressions year on year

  1. As the seasons move on, new layers of silt, debris, and rocks are added to the riverbed. There will be years of drought when the river is nothing more than a bed of stones and sand marking its course. Events like excessive drought will dry it up, and the mud will have open dry cracks. There may be excessive rain or floods in another season, forcing the collected debris further down the river. The force of the water can bring new rock, mud, and even topsoil from the surrounding land as it furiously churns before depositing its load further down the river. These times of flooding can cause a redirection in the course of the river if it is not too deep, or it may start making new tributaries. The old course may fill with the silt and debris deposited so redirecting the flow of water.

There is substantial evidence to suggest experiences between birth and the age of five have significant impacts on outcomes later in life. In fact, children’s experiences and strengths at the age of three can often be used to effectively predict health, happiness, and other successes in adulthood. “

(The Front  Project)

As the child grows, learns new skills, has unique experiences, each season will add further growth to the brain. Events like new schools, new people, harmful events, hospital visits, harsh punishments, and abandonment will mark their groove. A child’s brain is primed to learn critical thinking and emotional maturity between ages three and five. If a child has been neglected or harmed in the former seasons, its primitive adaptive behavior will start to manifest. Often called ‘acting out,’ especially when new siblings are introduced. Or it will begin to form new adaptive behaviors to its environment and how it perceives its world. Every experience will leave its impression on the brain, reinforcing the child’s belief system. The child’s brain is trusting. If it knows it will be protected, the child will dare to push its boundaries because it feels safe. This is healthy because it will feel happy to explore its world and not be afraid of it. On the other hand, if the child is fearful of exploring, the primitive survival skills will become more ingrained as the child believes his world is unsafe.

3. The Canyons foundations are in place

  1. Year after year, century after century, the river cuts its course through the rocks, perhaps altering its course a little in the flatter parts of the landscape, but the deeper and steeper the sides of the riverbed and canyon, the more difficult it is to change its course. Wind, rain, ice, snow, sunshine, gravity, and vegetation all have a part to play in the landscape, leaving pockmarks, fallen boulders, isolated buttes, and scars along the course of the river as it snakes its way through the canyon bottom.

As the child matures into an adult and its brain completes development, most of its belief system is ingrained. Children will have been taught or learned about their family’s value system, faith, and culture. The foundational beliefs around God, love, provision, reward, punishment, and role are well ingrained and used as reference points in making judgments and adjustments to their life situations, whatever they happen to be. This mindset will continue to be their compass unless they actively decide to change it. Usually, spiritual direction, counseling, therapy, or psychology will help them learn new ways to think. This is on an individual level.

Debris lying on top of a sandstone boulder, it can be moved
Debris lying on top of a sandstone boulder

4. Cataclysmic, life-lifechanging events can change the face of a canyon

  1. Cataclysmic events can change the whole course of the river. Looking at the upended rocks and vertical or inclined sedimentary layers of the landscape in Utah, a cataclysmic geological event or events changed its landscape. Earthquakes, fault fractures, volcanic action, and moving of the tectonic plates, climate change all these things in which nature is in control, change what was, and a new geologic era was born.

It often takes a personal or community cataclysmic event to change or force people to change their mindsets and regrow neural pathways in different areas to survive and move on, as their old manner of adaptation no longer serves them. This could be a severe accident with physical injury, divorce, widowhood with emotional injury, war, or other trauma or life-changing event. This can be really hard for some people as the primitive brain continues to operate as it did when it was formed as a child.  Our society also gets reshaped each time we have a cataclysmic event, like the current COVID, 9/11, and social unrest. We all have to find ways to adapt to this and one another.

The Colorado river flows though uplifted sedimentary rocks from some cataclysmic geologic event
The Colorado River flows through uplifted sedimentary layers from a cataclysmic event

5. Time, or Timeless, the canyons are evidence of a good Creator

  1. The landscape remains. Looking up at the canyons in Utah, they are beautiful, rugged, timeless, and a challenge to survival at the same time. They are a reminder of the Creator, our God who formed the earth from the beginning and declared it good. Psalm 104 tells the story of the canyons “You placed the world on its foundation, so it would never be moved. You clothed the earth with floods of water, water that covered even the mountains. At your command, the water fled; at the sound of your thunder, it hurried away. Mountains rose and valleys sank to the levels you decreed. Then you set a firm boundary for the seas, so they would never again cover the earth.” NLT
The perspective of timelessness gazing at layer after layer of canyons and buttes, the mist of perspective indicates a sense of age
The perspective of timelessness gazing at layer after layer of canyons and buttes

The above passage in Psalm 104 also reflects part of the musings of Job’s friends at his suffering. Yet, God vindicated Job for keeping his faith in a good God amid his pain and trials. When He prayed for his friends who were discouraging in the least, his fortunes were restored, and the second half of his life was more blessed than the first half. God was the one who created us, our brains, and the intricate way they function. He gave breath and life to our bodies and knows us intimately. Are we able to hold onto the goodness of God in cataclysmic events in our life? This often will make us revisit our belief system around God. If this was faulty and we don’t believe in His goodness, it is difficult to adapt to life-changing events.

The Canyons of Utah are a gift from God. They teach us from nature about His goodness even in the cataclysmic events of life that change our landscapes forever.

LANDSCAPES OF LIFE, Seasons of Life, SOCIAL JUSTICE, SPIRITUAL AND EMOTIONAL WOUNDING, TRANSFORMATION, Transitions, TRIALS AND TRIBULATIONS

Why Inflexible Doctrine Divides, and how Love can Bind

St Paul’s, Bedford

I have long pondered why there is so much division in religion and in Christianity in particular, when everyone reads the same Bible. A lot of it is what doctrines people believe about the Scriptures, whether they are divinely inspired or a set of inerrant laws to be followed. Parables and stories are often used to explain tricky questions, so here is a little story to illustrate what I mean.

THE PARABLE OF THE EAGLE AND THE OAK TREE

COMMUNION OF THE SAINTS

There was an old oak tree that grew on the boundary of the churchyard and a field. The oak tree had been standing for centuries; in fact, it was standing when George Whitefield had preached in this very field on one of his itinerant journeys to preach to groups of working-class people. The oak tree grew strong and tall, its roots deeply embedded in the soil, drawing nutrients up into the branches and grounding it to endure the wind and storms that beat upon it every year.

St Paul’s Square, Bedford

The church building with its weathered stone and square tower had stood from the Norman invasion. The bones of generations of people lay under the tilting gravestones in the churchyard. People who had lived loved and walked in the shade of the oak tree. They had sat in the church pews to learn about God.  Many changes occurred as who had stood in the pulpit, monks, and abbots as they taught their flock about God. Some people listened to John Bunyan, a Puritan and non-Conformist preacher, and others, John and Charles Wesley, who preached from this pulpit.

TRADITION

The sun filtered through the stained-glass windows onto the lectern inside the church.  It was in the form of a golden eagle with its wings outspread. On its wings rested the Word of God, the Bible. This had been updated with the times. It had once held parchment hand-scribed pages, faithfully copied by the monks. In 1611 it was replaced by the King James Bible, and since then, newer translations have been held on the eagle’s outstretched wings.

Brass Eagle Lectern – photo Christies Catalogue

Outside sitting in the branches of the oak tree, were some birds. They chattered and quarreled over which bough to roost on. There were already several nests in the tree.

The golden eagle flew overhead. “This is my tree,” he said to the birds, looking down,” Any birds that hear me crying out and listen to the words I say are welcome to roost here. There are only two rules. One is to love me and the other is to love each other. My tree provides you with safety, and gives you the opportunites to look after each other. All you have to do is follow the instructions written in my book.”

THE WORD

Each flock of birds had its own copy of the book. Foreign birds had flown in from abroad, so their book was written in a different language, but the instructions meant the same. Other birds had different editions of the book – the words were not the same, but the directions of the golden eagle to love him and each other were the same. So whichever version of his book you read, the eagle had made sure that his message that he loved all birds was the same.

King James Bible 1629 – photo digital commons- Cedar University

The birds often met together to read the book and discuss what the words meant. They also loved to sing with the voices they had been given. Some sang with a lovely trill, others cawed or had a soft chirp, but the sound they made together was an excellent dawn chorus in praise of the golden eagle. They loved to do this, as this was one reason they decided to build their nests in the eagle’s tree.

DISPUTES OVER DOCTINE

Over time, some birds started picking the words in the book to pieces; they would sit on a branch and argue over what a particular word meant.

“Our book is the original and best book,” said the warblers. If someone did not agree with them, they pecked them and told them to go and sit on another branch.

man raising his right arm
Photo by Rene Asmussen on Pexels.com

The oak tree listened to the birds as they hopped from branch to branch, arguing over the meanings of the instructions. Those that sat on lower limbs would discuss what they understood about particular instructions. Each group started to chase away the birds that disagreed with their interpretation until there were different groups of birds on just about every branch of the tree, all with different opinions. While the birds argued over the exact details of what the eagle meant, they forgot about the two rules, loving the eagle, and loving each other.

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

Luke 10:27

The eagle was most dismayed when he saw what was going on in the nests and branches. “They just don’t get it,” he said to himself, “my instructions are not about the words and what they mean, they are about the actions, and how the birds must live.”

tilt shift photo of two white bird eggs on a nest
Photo by Mauriciooliveira109 on Pexels.com

CRISIS PROVIDES OPPORTUNITIES TO PRACTICE FAITH

The following spring was cold and bleak: weeks of rain making life miserable for the birds. The north winds blew in a severe storm. One dark night, lightning struck one of the ancient limbs of the oak tree; it was gnarled and weakened from the winter storms. The branch broke off with a thud knocking the birds’ nests onto the ground, smashing eggs, and leaving the birds squawking in dismay.

Some birds on the unaffected side of the tree snuggled closer into their warm nests, ignoring the cries of dismay below them. “Silly birds, they should not have moved to that branch,” they muttered to themselves as they kept their eggs warm and snuggled even deeper into their nest.”

black leafless tree
Photo by eberhard grossgasteiger on Pexels.com

Other of the birds whose nests were safe shuffled around in their nests feeling a bit discomforted, but fluffed their wings and settled down again, “that’s life, I guess you were just unlucky, not one of the elect.” They blocked their ears to the cries of their brother birds.

The eagle flew past again, checking to see what would happen. Had the birds really taken to heart the instructions in his book?  “Yes, there was some movement down there.”

LOVE IS AN ACTION

The swallow seeing so much mud around, said, “I can make a few houses in the eaves of the church building, just hold on a bit, while I get the mud and pack it,” so off he went busying himself making as many nests as he could, inviting the other swallows to help him.  Soon there was a small colony of nests built under the eaves of the entrance porch of the church. The birds whose nests had been broken went searching for soft sheep’s wool and plants to line their new mud homes so they could move in. As they thanked the swallows, the golden eagle alit on the oak tree and smiled. Some of the birds had understood his instructions. He then flew into the building and settled down again with his wings open, holding up the Word of God.

Swallows Nests
Swallows nests – photo Bird-B-gone , no copyright infringement intended

The oak tree continued to watch over new generations of birds, making their nests and people resting in its shade. The scar of where the branch broke off could still be seen as a big weal on its trunk, healed but making it vulnerable to rot. The golden eagle still sits with its outspread wings inviting people to read the instructions to love God and love their neighbor.

Even the sparrow has found a home, And the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young— Even Your altars, O Lord of hosts, My King and my God.” Psalm 84:3

LANDSCAPES OF LIFE, Seasons of Life, SOCIAL JUSTICE, SPIRITUAL AND EMOTIONAL WOUNDING, TRANSFORMATION, Transitions, TRIALS AND TRIBULATIONS

BECOME RESILIENT BY REFORMING YOUR BELIEF SYSTEMS AND EXPERIENCES

man and woman standing on brown field near green tree under white clouds
Photo by Rene Asmussen on Pexels.com

Four Steps to Turn your Past into Your Future

We are on an ever-evolving pathway of growth, and understanding the world around us, and our purpose in it. Some have settled into a comfort zone of “I know what I know and am happy and content with that.” This may give a sense of stability and security, thinking things will stay the same and the future is more predictable. Unfortunately, many things outside of our control will flip that idea on its head. Natural disasters, disease, and war can pull the rug out from right under our feet. So how can we build resiliency into our lives?

1. EXPLORE NEW IDEAS AND BELIEFS

unrecognizable men praying in old catholic church
Photo by Mimi Moromisato on Pexels.com

Most of us would have grown up in a home that had a particular set of beliefs that were passed from parents to children. The culture, and environment in which you live also play a large part. Beliefs and values and not the same, but they do overlap at times. What is valued in one culture may not necessarily be appreciated in another. Examples of these systems can be capitalism, socialism, ubuntu, or some other local system. Do we really understand the positive and negative things these systems bring with them? How they affect our culture and our sense of being and self-worth?

Religion is another system, although it was meant to be a spiritual experience with our Creator God. It has evolved in some places to a structure of hierarchy and power. Instead of being the place of refuge for the vulnerable, it has imposed oppression on them, particularly women and children. Especially when the application of Scripture is interpreted through the laws and not through the grace which was the Creator’s redemptive design for His Creation.

Do we blindly accept everything we were taught, or has life experience led us to doubt certain things, as they no longer make sense?

Do we blindly accept everything we were taught, or has life experience led us to doubt certain things, as they no longer make sense? As an example, a seven-day creation does not make scientific sense to me as a geological cartographer. I am happy to change that belief to one of time periods, eras, or epochs.  Have life experiences and new scientific discoveries rocked your belief system? We are on a journey of discovery; when you open yourself to let go of an old belief, you can embrace new ideas and thoughts.

2. ENJOY THE LEARNING EXPERIENCE

person holding book from shelf
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To build resilience, you must be prepared to spend time learning new things. Is research a chore, something you did at school or college, and when you had finished, you were done? I have met many people like that, they have hardly opened a book since they left school. They only learned the necessary skills to keep a job or find employment. But what if learning was fun, digging deeper into the hard questions of life to find hidden nuggets of wisdom and truth. History repeats itself if the lessons are not learned. The French Revolution was an example when a government system did not heed the people’s voice, and power and corruption were rife. How did Nazism take hold? What did the people in those times believe? Enjoy the learning experience as you delve into other deeply held beliefs, religious, faith, and church systems.

In the light of what we know now, do these things really bring us into alignment with the purposes of our loving and compassionate Creator, whose pathway of redemption was love and sacrifice of self, not others.

In the light of what we know now, do these things really bring us into alignment with the purposes of our loving and compassionate Creator, whose pathway of redemption was love and sacrifice of self, not others. Learning new things can be fun, but your new ideas may not be well received as people around you get uncomfortable with your new truths. This is also part of growing resilience as you learn to live in the face of opposition.

3. CHALLENGE YOURSELF

positive senior businessman typing on laptop while holding money in hand
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

Building resilience involves challenging yourself, not others. They are just as entitled to their beliefs as you are. Breaking free of the old systems and ways is always hard. Heraclitus said, “the only constant in life is change.”  Nobody likes change, but survival often requires us to embrace change and accept what is. My grandfather was a horseman; he never could adapt to the automobile, so he always relied on other people to take him to appointments if he could not walk to them, thereby limiting his experiences.

We are in a digital age now. It is difficult for older people to embrace that this is how life is going to work from now on. Resisting online banking and shopping is not going to make it go away. Learning to use new technology is a challenge, but it is here to stay. Re-read the previous paragraph and take it on board, enjoy the learning experience. Make it part of your daily practice to build new experiences into your everyday life, try ethnic foods, new languages or skills, or even watch movies you never enjoyed before. What new things could you intentionally learn from them?

4. MOVE OUT OF YOUR COMFORT ZONE

man riding motocross dirt bike on dirt road
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Building resilience means you need to practice what you have learned, which usually means moving out of your comfort zone. Speak the new language you have learned. Interact with people of different beliefs and cultural systems, try and understand their perspectives on life. Visit places you would not usually have. If you are a sports fan, visit an art gallery or a ballet. If you are a culture vulture, see a sports game. How does this make you feel? Are you enjoying this experience or learning something you would not have had the chance to learn before? By moving out of your comfort zone, you are giving your heart, mind, and emotions time to make new neural pathways and expand your capacity to survive more difficult circumstances. You are building resilience muscles just as you would in a gym workout for strength training.

black handled key on key hole
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After reading this, you may still decide you want to hold tightly onto your past beliefs and cultural systems, and that is OK. But I have given you the key to open the door to new experiences that will build your resilience muscles for when life moves on and the inevitable changes are forced upon us that we have no control over. There is one core belief that has remained unaltered for me. Our compassionate, unchanging Creator God loves and cares for all that He created and desires to walk in companionship with us to show us the pathway through the changing seasons of life.

Grief, LANDSCAPES OF LIFE, Retirement, Seasons of Life, SOCIAL JUSTICE, SPIRITUAL AND EMOTIONAL WOUNDING, TRANSFORMATION, Transitions, TRIALS AND TRIBULATIONS, Widowhood

FIVE WAYS TO FIND EMOTIONAL PEACE AFTER TRAUMA

faceless barefoot female traveler on embankment against sea
Inner healing pathway
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Recognize the Symptoms

When we experience a sore throat or fever, we are reasonably sure we are getting a cold or the flu and take measures to help ourselves get over it. But quite often, we don’t feel quite right within ourselves. Perhaps we feel anxious or uneasy at certain times or with certain people, or our stomach knots up at certain places. We have low-grade depression and just find life hard at times. These can all be symptoms of PTSD or systemic abuse. Part of healing is recognizing that something is just not quite right. Having established that you could be living a much happier and healthier life than you currently are, is the first step in getting help. Your commitment to yourself to get help or find new coping strategies and strategies for overcoming disabling thoughts and behavior are the motivation you need. Let us look at a few ways in which we can recognize unhealthy symptoms.

woman sitting on wooden planks
Depression, Inner Healing Pathway
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Mental: Stinking Thinking?

So much takes place in our thinking brain. What are our obsessive thoughts? Do our thoughts and our beliefs align? What are our thoughts about ourselves? Do we beat ourselves up all the time?  What are our thoughts about others, families, friends, teachers, etc.? If these are on a constant negative spectrum and churn and return both waking or sleeping. We are constantly thinking about rights and wrongs and get confused with what we were taught and how our reality matches up. Do you have thoughts of self-harm? Make an inventory of your thoughts over several days or a week, write them down without judging them, they just are, and you are now aware of how much time you spend with them.

bunch of white oval medication tablets and white medication capsules
Physical, chronic illness
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Physical: Chronic Illnesses?

Physical symptoms are easier to experience but not necessarily to diagnose as sometimes they may have started out as psychosomatic but have taken on reality in your body. Be aware that stress and trauma are retained in the body’s cells as a memory imprint. Do you get stomach aches in certain situations? Did that end up as IBS or chronic inflammation of the bowl? There are many forms that this can take, backaches, migraines, arthritis, etc. After having a thorough physical at your doctor to rule out any disease or illness. Learn to read your body signs when you are feeling stressed or your muscles tighten. Does your heart race, do you get hot, does your stomach contract? When does this happen? Make an inventory over a month, scan your body each day, what symptoms you feel and when.

a man angry in a workplace
Emotional , incontrollable outbursts
Photo by Yan Krukov on Pexels.com

Emotional: Uncontrollable Outbursts?

We may often feel angry or upset over something that should not really affect us to the degree it does. When do we feel triggered? Are there words that people use that make us feel bad? Or perhaps we will see or smell something that brings back bad feelings. Do we feel guilty over nothing or uncomfortable when certain subjects are talked about? Do you struggle with addictions to make you feel better? Or perhaps places we walk past or through that make us feel uneasy. Take an inventory of these places or incidents and any feelings or thoughts you have about them.

ancient arch architecture art
Empty Church arches, dead
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Spiritual: Disillusioned with God?

Do you have a belief system in some Higher Power? Do you believe there is help from someone greater who will guide you by their wisdom? Have you lost your faith? Does the thought of religion turn you off, or do you long for connection with God? Have you been hurt or disillusioned by church and religion or don’t believe that God loves you? Where do you seek spiritual solace? Journal your feelings around spirit, faith, church, God.

smiling woman stroking welsh corgi pembroke
Finding happiness with a pet
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Having taken an honest inventory of your dis-ease, you will now have a lot of information to help you identify the symptoms of perhaps a traumatic experience that has affected you most of your life. You will also have places to start looking for healing. We are wonderfully complex creatures made in God’s image, created for a purpose. We are His masterpieces, yet sometimes the mud that sticks to us is hard to remove, marring that image and holding us back from our full potential. According to your situation (we are all different), look for professional help in the area you felt the most in need, a psychologist, medical professional, or spiritual director. Once you have turned the key in the door that unlocks the secrets to your anxiety, unease, and mental health, you will have begun the journey to healing yourself. This may take several years, so have patience with yourself and those who would help you. For those who feel they can help themselves, there are many excellent books and resources available. There are also support groups to help you both on and off-line. Find one that you can gel with and be comfortable sharing your journey. A few resources are mentioned in my previous blog.

LANDSCAPES OF LIFE, Retirement, Seasons of Life, SPIRITUAL AND EMOTIONAL WOUNDING, TRANSFORMATION, Transitions, TRIALS AND TRIBULATIONS

Five Things To Do in an Art Gallery to Problem Solve

Here is my list of Five Things to do when visiting an Art Gallery to help you solve problems. Art bypasses the cognitive brain and your rational thinking and works in the liminal space between the subconscious, where you are much more likely to access solutions from deep within and your soul and heart center.

Have you ever experienced when something seemed to be going well and then suddenly, out of the blue, it all went pear-shaped? I am sure that this has happened to many of us at one time or another. Whenever I have been through emotional struggles with relationships or problems at work, I want to know what my part in the situation was or if it had nothing to do with me at all. Although I am sure, there is always a part that we play in the relationship or work situation in the first place. My first port of call is not the Psychologist but the Art Gallery.

CHOOSE WHICH TYPE OF ART GALLERY

We are all wired differently, so choose the Gallery you feel most likely will help you today. This may not be the Gallery you choose on another day with a different set of problems. If you are not sure which Gallery, just select any, but have an open mind about what you may see and learn. I have been to the National Portrait Gallery and seen artwork portraying different famous or infamous people’s lives and have found solutions just by reading the story of the exhibition and their life. They, too, had problems and found solutions.

ASK FOR DIVINE HELP TO SOLVE YOUR PROBLEM

Sit quietly for a few moments and pray. Open your heart space to be turned into whatever God may turn your attention to. This is done by sitting quietly with centered breathing. It can be a silent prayer or just a silent listening heart, but make sure it is opened to be ‘tuned in.’

WAIT FOR ART TO ‘SPEAK TO YOU’

Walk around the Gallery slowly, looking at each painting or sculpture, not in detail yet. If there is an exhibition, read the notes on the artist, see if there is anything that strikes you. If not, walk on. Keep walking until a painting or description ‘speaks to you.’ Once you are standing in front of this painting, whatever it is, stop. Don’t give up on the unexpected. Some of the best solutions I have found were in the Tate Modern. I entered an exhibition hall that was made up of installations from a builder’s rubbish skip. I was about to walk out muttering,’ What a load of rubbish.’ I was stopped in my tracks at the door. A still small voice inside said, ‘go back in there until you have found the solution.’ I was given such incredible insight into my problems at that time through the discarded builders’ rubble! Don’t discount how God can break through to you in the most obscure of places.

STICK WITH IT

Stand or sit in front of this painting and just look at it with an open heart for ten to twenty minutes, asking what am I seeing? What is this trying to tell me? Is there wisdom is it sharing? How am I feeling? What emotions arise when I look at this? How does this painting address my problem? Parts of us have been suppressed deep in our souls, is there anything bubbling up that is an insight?

PROBLEM SOLVE ON PAPER

TAKE A NOTEBOOK AND JOURNAL OR SKETCH WHAT YOU ARE EXPERIENCING. Start writing or sketching what is coming up for you. Sometimes the thoughts are so fleeing they need to be captured at once. Describe your feelings and what drew your attention. Are there any ideas that you are getting? Can you join the dots between two different thoughts or ideas? Once you have captured everything that has come up for you, go to the cafeteria or a quiet place and meditate on your sketches or writing, and you will be surprised at how you will be most likely to have solved your problem or found a new perspective to look at it through.

If you can get out to an Art Gallery, take a browse through online artists, or visit my Amazing Gaze Gallery to find some inspiration.

Grief, LANDSCAPES OF LIFE, Seasons of Life, SPIRITUAL AND EMOTIONAL WOUNDING, TRANSFORMATION, Transitions, TRIALS AND TRIBULATIONS

Resources for Healing Spiritual Wounds

What book or e-book would I recommend to my readers this week is the challenge for Welcome to My World? That is a tough question to answer as I have read at least five excellent books this past month in doing the research for my focus articles on Spiritual Wounding, Generational Trauma, and Child Abuse for April.

Healing Spiritual Wounds

I will tell you a bit about each of them, and you can decide if you want to read any. “Healing Spiritual Wounds,” by Carol Howard Merrit. Merrit shares her own story of living in a home where abusive parental practices took place following the teachings of their fundamentalist church. I followed her story through the process of her anger, grief, and shame to reconnecting with God and finding her healing in His love. Sadly, what she writes about has been common practice in many fundamentalist church groups.

Sacred Wounds

Another more practical book was Sacred Wounds by Theresa B Pasquale. This book deals with this sensitive subject, spiritual wounding, and trauma. She has shed a lot of light on the subject, which is close to her heart. She is professionally qualified to write on this subject, and anyone who has had to deal with spiritual abuse or trauma will find the book most helpful with examples from life. People coping with or helping people through their issues with religion and church would find the insight most beneficial. To know where to back off and where to support. Spiritual abuse had a lasting effect on people’s lives and how they can deal with their problems when their concept of God has been corrupted. If you need help for releasing some of these wounds, God has gifted some people to help you, I am happy to share this article by Justina Ford on being Confidently Visible Despite Spiritual Wounding.

Conditions of the Heart

Healing Power Through Spirit Born Emotions

For people who want to find ways to connect to God and heal from this type of trauma, a beneficial book with many different angles to approach healing is “Unleashing Healing Power through Spirit-Born Emotions” by Mark Virkler and Charity Kayembe.  One of the most exciting things in one of his approaches is that God speaks through images. As an artist, I have always found that I have been closer to God visually. This was in significant conflict with my upbringing when it was only The Word, which quite often, to be truthful, I did not understand! This book shows the numerous ways in which we can communicate with our Creator, which is really quite liberating.

What is the Bible and How Do we Understand it?

Life has certainly moved on since I was a child. Technology has changed so much of how we view the world that was not available to our forebears. The millennial generation thinks and experiences the world in ways that we never could. They also have many questions about the Bible and the Church, so my church here in Washington DC is doing a seminar on hermeneutics. We used the book by Dennis R Edwards, “What is the Bible and How Do We Understand it?His books on radical faith and the Jesus Way certainly shed a lot of light on many of the problems we have in applying Bible passages to modern life and made so much sense in light of the previous books mentioned.

The Body Keeps the Score

My research converged with listening to a weeklong series of lectures on Dealing with Trauma by a team from the National Institute for the Clinical Application of Behavioral Medicine. Their scientific experience verified what I had been learning from the above books but made the picture a lot clearer in the case of the developing child’s brain. Children are helpless to escape from traumatic or ongoing trauma, developing their own mechanisms, which become a learned behavior in their bodies. “The Body Keeps the Score” by Bessel van der Kolk is an excellent resource for learning about this.

Deconstructing Old Beliefs

There are other good resources for counseling from Spiritual Abuse. Church as Refuge is leading the movement to bring this to light and bring healing to those who have been taught a theology that had made them doubt their relationship with God. Listen to a short video excerpt by Rev Megan Cox of “Give Her Wings” or check out the website if you know of someone who might need this kind of help.

Memory and Dream Artwork

In January, I signed up to attend classes for Memory and Dreamwork in Drawing with a lecturer at the Royal School of Drawing in London for May. In the very first lesson, I had chosen a nightmare of vegetables chasing me I had had as a small child to work with. Everything fell into place with the eating and stomach problems I had experienced when I looked through the lens of what I had just been reading and listening to!  My recent work with the elderly who had dementia made me acutely aware that unresolved trauma can severely impact you in old age. I wanted to deal with any issues that might arise if I got dementia, hence my research. By the same token, I wanted to bring this awareness to the forefront to help point people in the right direction to get the help they might need before it is too late.

I could not choose just one book because one book would not cover the scope of this vast subject with so many facets, as everyone is unique. These books are a good starting point for people interested in the topic or who know someone who is struggling with any aspect of PTSD. Soaked in prayer as to which one will be most helpful in moving you forward. It is also crucial to seek counsel to find therapists who are specialists in PTSD with the spiritual aspect. Being able to reconnect to God is part of the healing process.

It is crucial to seek counsel to find therapists who are specialists in PSDT with the spiritual aspect. Being able to reconnect to God is part of the healing process.

What are your thoughts on PSDT and trauma? Do you think they are original sin? Do you believe that the church can help or harm in the healing of people who have PSDT?

LANDSCAPES OF LIFE, Seasons of Life, TRANSFORMATION, Transitions, Travel

IS THE TREE OF LIFE IN BRAZIL?

Brazil rainforest
Amazon Fores Photo by David Riaño Cortés on Pexels.com

In welcoming you to my world this week I want to talk about the country I would most like to visit. I have always wanted to visit Brazil and see the Amazon. I have visited many countries in my lifetime, from the northern reaches of the icy, beautiful Scandinavian countries to the southernmost tip of Africa and Australia. I have seen the wonders of Europe; visited France, Belgium, Spain, and the Netherlands. I have been through the romantic scenery painted by poets and artists of England, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland. In the east, I have seen exotic orchids in Singapore and Hong Kong and traveled around Australia. Born in Africa, I have visited most of the countries in Southern Africa. In the west, I now live in the USA and have visited Canada and several states. So, that leaves South America to be discovered. 

But the country I really want to visit is a country that has found the secret to living in the Kingdom of God, where people love one another, have compassion for the sick, weary, downcast, and outcasts. The Kingdom that brings hope and healing to those suffering from trauma and brokenness.

The country I really want to visit is a country that has found the secret to living in the Kingdom of God, where people love one another, have compassion for the sick, weary, downcast, and outcasts. The Kingdom that brings hope and healing to those suffering from trauma and brokenness.

How wonderful it would be if that Tree of Life, whose leaves bring healing to the nations, could be in the Amazon Forest and that the River of Life that flows from the Throne of God was the Amazon. In a country where so many indigenous tears have been shed and the blood of missionaries spilled wouldn’t it be wonderful if the Kingdom of God was to be found there!

Healing leaves, Brazil
“Leaves for the healing of the nations”

Jesus said how hard it was for the rich to enter the Kingdom of God, and it should be entered with the trust of little children. Perhaps our capitalistic and western viewpoints have clouded our vision of the Kingdom of God. Is it time to revisit the teachings of Jesus and look through a new lens focused on His love and compassion for mankind? What country would the Kingdom of God look like then?

LANDSCAPES OF LIFE, Seasons of Life, Travel, TRIALS AND TRIBULATIONS

God on the Mountain is also God of the Forest

Tropical Forest leaf in Queensland

Welcome to My World – I love nature, whether it is mountains, the coastline, wide-open savannah, or cultivated fields. My favorite scenery is forests and mountains where I feel most comfortable. So after some pretty heavy subjects in the last few blogs something in a lighter vein.

Inyanga Wattle Forests

My love of forests began as a child, in the wattle and pine forests of Inyanga, Zimbabwe, breathing in pine-scented air and plucking the little yellow flower balls on the wattle trees. My love of forests was not diminished when camping as a young bride in these same forests when ants ate through the groundsheet and started biting me. My love of camping was extinguished!

I have been blessed with the opportunities to visit forests on five continents, and each time I come away renewed and envigored just for being in the presence of trees.

Bluebell Forest in Bedford UK
Putnoe Woods

Putnoe Woods

There are many fine forests with massive oak, beech, plane, and hazel trees in the UK. When I lived there, it was my delight to walk in the local Putnoe Wood during spring. The pathway wound through the trees. Underneath the dappled sunlight was a carpet of bluebells and wood anemones, which was a joy to behold. This wood was an ancient wood recorded in the Doomsday Book. The wood suffered badly when Henry III found it convenient for cutting timber during the siege of Bedford Castle.

Welsh Forest from the narrow gauge rail
Forest in Wales

Forests in Scotland and Wales

Further North, I enjoyed the lochs and glens of Scotland with their beautiful pine forests clinging to the mountainsides. We were taught how to look out for deer in the woods, and I managed to see a few deer as the coach rolled past. I had great fun on a narrow-gauge railway winding its way through the hillsides of Wales, where I could see Mythical Castles on the hillsides and the great slag heaps of the coal mines.

Winter forest of Birch trees in Finland
Birch Forest, Finland

Scandinavian Forests

Traveling through Europe, Estonia, and Finland, I loved the large stretches of forests mile after mile. It was fun walking in the forests of Finland at the side of the lake looking for blueberries and cranberries. My hosts taught me how to distinguish the correct berries, and I crawled around on the forest’s mossy floor with a plastic container in which to place the blueberries. I could not speak the language, but with a lot of pointing and poking with sticks, I understood the instructions and came home with a box of blueberries. We rowed in a canoe to one of the forested islands to picnic. After exploring the island, we sat on a mossy bank under the canopy of pine trees, drinking some rhubarb cordial and eating a pastry.

Tropical Forest, Queensland
Queensland Rainforest

Queensland’s Rain Forests

Perhaps some of the most enchanting forests I have visited are in the Queensland Tropical Rainforest along the coastal area near Cairns, Australia. I took a day tour to the Daintree Rainforest, home of the secretive Cassowary. This antediluvian forest has relics from Gondwanaland before the continents broke apart and spread. It is a showcase of the evolutionary history of the world’s plants. It was fascinating to walk in the depths of this forested area, smelling the aroma of dampness and rotting wood. The dart or call of a bird breaking the stillness as we carefully walked on the boardwalks to preserve the forest floor. The forest ecosystem was explained to us, with ‘green ants’ being a significant part of the breaking down process of the deadwood with their formic acid.  Apparently, it is so strong that the ants are sometimes used as meat tenderizers!

Kuranda Rail and Skyrail, Cairns, Queensland
Kuranda Rail and Skyrail

God in the SkyRail Pod

On another trip in the same area, I caught the Kuranda Scenic Railway. This historic railway line went through 15 tunnels and 37 bridges as it snaked its way for two hours up to the top of the McAllister Range. I took the SkyRail back down to the bottom. The six-person pods kept moving as we climbed into them. As it was a very long way to the bottom, there were several stations where we could get out and enjoy the view and the forest and then catch another pod to the next station. I got out to view the Barron Falls, an exquisite waterfall viewed from the mountain. I was about to embark on the next stage of the trip down with another group of people when the people I was standing with said I must get in the pod, and they would wait for the next one as there were six of them. So off I went alone. I was not too happy as the pod swayed in the wind high above the roof of the forest. The misty rain surrounded me, and the pod suddenly jolted to a stop, and I was left swinging high above the forest.

My first thought was, if this thing falls into the forest, it may never be found. I also realized that there was no person on the face of the globe who knew where I was

My first thought was, if this thing falls into the forest, it may never be found. I also realized that there was no person on the face of the globe who knew where I was right then, as I did not have a phone, and my daughter did not know my itinerary. No sooner had I thought this when a calming Presence said to me, “you are not alone, I am with you, and while you are about it why don’t you just check out all the amazing plants, I created below you.” So, I got out my sketch pad and started to draw the wonderful and unique plants that I could see from my vantage point, giant ferns at the top of trees, palms, and all sorts of other plants I had never seen before. I was nearly finished drawing when the pod juddered into action again, and I made my way down to the station at the bottom of the mountain. Apparently, they had had to stop the SkyRail so someone with a wheelchair could get on, as they could not hop on quickly.

Boranup Karri Forest, Western Australia
Jerusalem Hollow

Jerusalem Hollow Boranup Karri Forest

During a visit to Perth, I stayed with friends who took me to their favorite place on earth, which he called “Jerusalem Hollow,” part of the Boranup Karri Forest in the Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park. I could see why he enjoyed this so much as it was a view to behold these beautiful tall, straight trees with mottled gold and grey bark. The sunlight filtered through the leaves onto the trunks of these enormous Karri and Jarrah Trees, making them glow. The wood is exceptionally hard and is used for furniture and railway sleepers. In the days of sailing ships, they made suitable masts. At the viewing point, we appreciated God’s creation before heading on to the Boyanup Gallery, where we could see the furniture and objects made from these woods with their lovely grain.

Fall Trees in Forest, Pennsylvania
Fall Trees in Pennsylvania

The Blue Ridge Mountain Forests

My story of the forests would not be complete without my visits to the forests of Pennsylvania and West Virginia during the Fall with their brilliant red, yellow, and orange palette. A drive through the Blue Ridge Mountains, and the Shenandoah Valley is a feast for the eyes before the trees take their final bow and shed their leaves for winter. The forests will rest, drawing nourishment from the soil, ready to burst into spring song with their pale green leaves and pink and white blossoms the following season.

Yes, God on the mountain is also God in the valley and in every season of life. I believe He speaks the loudest when we are the quietest, just admiring His handiwork.

Grief, LANDSCAPES OF LIFE, Seasons of Life, SOCIAL JUSTICE, SPIRITUAL AND EMOTIONAL WOUNDING, TRIALS AND TRIBULATIONS

Suffer the Children to Come Unto Me

girl jeans kid loneliness
Photo of child by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Answering the question “what new thing have I learned this week?” for Welcome To My World was easy.

I signed up for a Symposium held by Harvard University and Interfaith Alliance for Safer Communities. It was April 8 World Day Symposium on Faith and Flourishing: Strategies for Preventing and Healing Child Sexual Abuse. There were so many speakers and opportunities to learn new things. Anyone who is interested can check out the YouTube Channel. I will share some of the main takeaways I found especially interesting.

It Takes a Village to Raise a Child

African Children in School image by Doug Linstedt – Unsplash

This symposium had been about twenty years in the making. It drew speakers from over 23 countries around the world as violence against children is a global problem. It also took faith leaders to come together, as faith has been part of the problem as well as the solution. Lifting the veil of this most difficult subject they felt it was better to stand together than to stand alone. This alone can be considered a miracle as they stood together in spirit and solidarity to have the discussion.

Sub-Saharan Africa

The one thing that really shocked me looking at the figures presented about the prevalence of any kind of violence towards children, sexual, physical, or emotional, was that the top eight countries were African, Zimbabwe leading the field with 76-80% of boys and girls being abused. As this was my country of birth I was horrified, and saddened.

Screenshot of Symposium data

God loves a Broken Vessel; every child houses the Divine

A child needs to feel protected and loved, they need a safe place to grow up into healthy adults. When the home environment, schools or churches are no longer safe places, but places to fear, children have nowhere to go. They are marinaded in ongoing trauma, from which there is no escape. The internet adds yet another layer of abuse to children who have access, as online bullying, stalking and other such evils are perpetrated. Faith communities who believe in a loving Father God, must not ignore the plight of children. If children’s pain is discounted, the ethos of faith is in vain. We are marring the image of God in the child and the authoritarian figure of the abuser.

Faith communities who believe in a loving Father God, must not ignore the plight of children. If children’s pain is discounted, the ethos of faith is in vain. We are marring the image of God in the child and the authoritarian figure of the abuser.

Standing with Survivors

Photo by Jordan Whitt – Unsplash

Not every child who is abused survives. Those that survive carry with them a heavy burden that they need help in healing from. Listen to the voices of children, look for signs as they may well not verbalize but act out. Safeguarding legislation and practices for those working with children will help in institutions, churches, and schools but not in-home and neighborhood environments. The community needs to be inspired to help on the survivor’s healing journey. How can this be done? Faith leaders can decrease the stigma to the abused and welcome them into their communities. They can learn how to help and make resources available for counseling. The sad thing is in many countries including sub-Saharan Africa there just is not the psychological support available.

“Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”

JESUS OF NAZERETH

God in the Work, Work in God

There is not very much investment in healing for children or availability of support for survivors. How does the faith community bring hope, honor, and healing into the lives of children? Children carry the damage caused throughout their life, which affects every part of them, and in turn society as well. Jesus blessed the children brought to him, even though the disciples wanted to chase them away. He also said it was better to have a millstone around your neck and be cast into the sea than to cause one of these little ones to lose their faith. Innocent children need to be protected and loved.

healing shawl- Felicia Reed Artist
Healing shawl

Healing through Art

Another new thing I learned this week, one such survivor Felicia Reed started making fiber art as a means to heal. She now makes the most exquisite Healing Wraps of silk and wool felt with which to wrap people in love, she calls it swaddling. Through the process of creativity, God can begin His work of realigning thoughts and releasing the trauma that is held in the body with His redeeming love. Do check out the CHAW blog and read her story.

Do you know anyone who has had childhood abuse? How can you help and support them? Your voice added to others will also count.Even if you can only pray with compassion, it will add to the prayers to end the scourge of violence against children.

LANDSCAPES OF LIFE, Seasons of Life, SOCIAL JUSTICE, SPIRITUAL AND EMOTIONAL WOUNDING, TRANSFORMATION, Transitions, TRIALS AND TRIBULATIONS

LOVING ‘OTHERS’

Black sheep and white sheep, diversity, legalism vs freedom
The Lord is My Shepherd

Following up on a conversation with my son on Welcome to My World – why we live here.  Our world is Washington DC, the capital of one of the world’s largest and most prominent countries. It is a city where influence is exerted by many people living here in their jobs as non-profit or lobbyists to make or change legislation or to administer and write the legislation. There are ‘other people that live here as well.

So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets. Matthew 7:12

Diversity in Practice

Our little family here consists of ‘the other.’ What do I mean by that?  The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines ‘Othering” as – “The use of other as a verb is rooted in sociology: to other, a certain culture or individual is to treat that culture as fundamentally different from another class of individuals, often by emphasizing its apartness in traits that differ from one’s own. Othering can be as simple as speaking of a group of people as “them” in relation to “us.” Targets of othering can range from race to gender to sexuality to regional accents to hair color. It’s the notion behind a term like black sheep (“a disfavored or disreputable member of a group”), which only makes sense when one thinks of sheep with white fleece as the only normal kind.”

Our Neighbor Diversity
One of our Neighbors

Immigrants

I am sure you will agree within that definition there is a lot of scope to be ‘other’ in Washington DC! My son and I both fit into the ‘Immigrant Other.’ There are days when I feel sad when immigrants are denigrated or spoken of as  ‘less than.’ America was built on immigration; top scientists like Albert Einstein immigrated from Germany to bring his knowledge of physics to America for the world’s benefit.

Zimbabwe, Rhodesia, Africa, South AFrica
Zimbabwe Flag

Native Americans

My son-in-law fits into the ‘other’ of People Groups. He is a Native American from the Navajo Nation. He is here in Washington DC advocating for his people who have been treated as ‘other’ even though they were the original occupants of this country. I have been made to feel ‘other’ when stating I was born in Rhodesia. People viewed me as a ‘white supremacist,’ which could not be further from the truth. My sons also are ‘other’ as they belong to the LBGQT community.

Native American Dancer
Native American Dancer

Community in Christ

Working, living, and being ‘other’ here in Washington DC has really taught me much. It has made me study and question things I had previously thought differently about and try to find answers to reconcile my beliefs. I have read many historical and spiritual books and studied the Bible regarding the issues we face here. It has also made me look at people through the eyes of Christ. It took me some time to find a Christian Community that extended a welcome to ‘otherness,’ where I could be happy to worship.  Living in ‘otherness’ certainly has opened my eyes to what it really means to live a Christ-Centered life versus a ‘Law Centered’ life.

LBGQT Flags in the Neighborhood
Our Diverse Neighborhood

When Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment was, he replied, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind and love your neighbor as yourself. All the other commandments and demands of the prophets stem from these two laws and are fulfilled if you obey them.” Jesus was the one who welcomed the ‘other,’ the Samaritan woman, the lepers, the tax collectors, Roman centurions, Greeks, and women. In fact, he turned the prejudices of the times on their head.

When Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment was, he replied, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind and love your neighbor as yourself. All the other commandments and demands of the prophets stem from these two laws and are fulfilled if you obey them.”

JESUS OF NAZERETH

Wisdom from a Previous Epidemic Era

Julian of Norwich, a fourteenth-century mystic, who lived in times remarkably similar to us when the Black Death decimated the population in Europe, wrote a book called “Revelations of Divine Love.” Locked away in a small room (I can relate!), she wrote, “And so what I saw most clearly was that love is his meaning. God wants us to know that he loved us before he even made us, and this love has never diminished and never will. All his actions unfold from this love, and through this love he makes everything that happens of value to us, and in this love, we find everlasting life. Our creation has a starting point, but the love in which he made us has no beginning, and this love is our true source.” That is Christ-Centered love when we can extend our actions in love towards ‘others.’

Have you ever been made to feel ‘other?’ or “have you made those different from yourself feel ’other?’What are your thoughts on ‘otherness?’ How do we bridge the gap between ourselves and those that are different from us?

LANDSCAPES OF LIFE, Seasons of Life, SOCIAL JUSTICE, SPIRITUAL AND EMOTIONAL WOUNDING, TRANSFORMATION, TRIALS AND TRIBULATIONS

THE SCAPEGOAT

The Welcome to my World Challenge theme is “what is one thought I would like to share in regard to Easter?” I have chosen the theme of Scapegoating and building resilience.

“But the goat chosen by lot as the scapegoat shall be presented alive before the Lord to be used for making atonement by sending it into the wilderness as a scapegoat.” Lev 16:10

THE ORIGINS OF THE SCAPEGOAT

I have chosen this verse from Leviticus regarding the ‘Scapegoat.’ The Jewish Day of Atonement was when the priests performed a ceremonial ritual of laying all the sins of the Nation of Israel onto a goat. The animal was chosen by ‘lot’ and then sent away into the wilderness where it was at the mercy of wild animals or starvation. The people would then be happy for the next year as their sins were removed from them. This ceremony needed to be repeated annually.

The theme ‘scapegoating’ fitted nicely into my thoughts on trauma for these few weeks, with a resolution in the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Jesus. He was the ultimate scapegoat for the sins of the world. His resurrection enables us to build resilience for living in an unjust world.

UNDESERVED ILL TREATMENT

When someone is singled out for adverse treatment or blame, they did not deserve, but because of the ‘lot’ drawn against them, those in power used their authority to abuse and demeaned that individual or group of people. This can happen in a family, where one child is singled out as the ‘culprit’ for anything that goes wrong. It could be that child has AHHD, high spirited, is autistic, or for any other reason, but they are likely to be blamed for the family’s ills. They will carry the negative consequences of being ‘picked on’ into the world with them.

It can happen in all kinds of businesses and organizations when things go wrong, and the CEO or management needs someone to blame for their failures. Someone in the lower ranks is chosen as the scapegoat and will leave the organization, taking a load of injustice and anger with them into the world.

This can happen in religious and church settings, when the leadership, pastor, or priest has messed up big time, often with sexual abuse. There is a big cover-up to protect the institution, and it is the victim who is sent away as the scapegoat into the world, carrying the institution’s shame with them.

COMMUNITY SCAPEGOATING

The same thing is playing out in communities, where a specific community is singled out as the ‘scapegoat.’ We see the Asian-American community targeted now. Previous years, it was African Americans or Muslims.’ Who will be the ‘scapegoat’ for the nation’s sins next year? As each generation of scapegoats takes their burden of injustice out into the world, the world becomes a more hostile place as the injustices heap up one upon the other. How will this all be resolved? Our world becomes deeply divided between those who have the power to inflict injustice and the recipients, who in turn will begin to respond with their own manner of injustice.

As each generation of scapegoats takes their burden of injustice out into the world, the world becomes a more hostile place as the injustices heap up one upon the other.

What options does the ‘scapegoat’ have? If we look at the original scapegoat, he may have been torn apart by wild animals, or he may have been resilient and learned how to survive in the hostile wilderness. Those excluded from the ‘power’ group may decide to fight back; this causes conflict or terrorism as they may be few against many. Others may look for greener pastures and safety elsewhere. Taking themselves out of the danger zone, only to find themselves ‘scapegoated’ again as ‘immigrants.’ They could just kowtow to the ‘party line, give up their fight for justice and accept the status -quo, and become passive. Or they could build resilience, each time becoming stronger until they know they are being scapegoated and can call the perpetrators out.

This is where the Easter story comes into a full circle. The prophet Isaiah said, “But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was crushed for our wickedness [our sin, our injustice, our wrongdoing]; The punishment [required] for our well-being fell on Him, And by His stripes (wounds) we are healed. 53:5-7 Amplified Bible.

Live in the resilience of the Risen Christ – Santa Monica

Jesus of Nazareth was the ultimate scapegoat chosen by the people, who did know that this was precisely God’s plan and purpose for their redemption. Jesus was the innocent victim, showing up the violent and hateful tendencies of humanity. His words from the Cross ‘Father forgive them for they know not what they do,” show us the pathway to healing. His Resurrection on the third day broke the power of the cycle of abuse and completed the atonement.

How can we live in His victory or build resilience in the violent culture around us? How do we call out those in power to deal with unjust policies? It all starts in the Father’s heart to forgive, as Jesus forgave, by His wounds we are healed. As individuals build resilience and heal, we bring healing into the world with us instead of carrying the guilt and shame of those who chose us as their’ scapegoat.’ If we continue to take our hurt into the world, we keep repeating the cycle that the Israelites did, every year having to keep on sending a ‘scapegoat’ back into the wilderness. But Christ died once and for all as the atonement for mankind. May we learn to live in His Resurrection power.

Have you ever been ‘scapegoated’? If you want to share your story with me, please comment below or send an email in the Contact Page

Read the previous blogs on Generational Trauma as well for more insight

LANDSCAPES OF LIFE, Seasons of Life, SOCIAL JUSTICE, SPIRITUAL AND EMOTIONAL WOUNDING, TRANSFORMATION, TRIALS AND TRIBULATIONS, Uncategorized

GENERATIONAL TRAUMA AND WOUNDS

My Grandparents

This blog is part of a challenge in Welcome to my World and to answer the question today, “what was the first thing I thought about when I woke up?” I was woken rather early by a neighbor’s phone ringing. As it was so early I hoped it was not bad news. My mind went straight back to the time my father woke me up early to tell me my cousin had been killed in a road accident. This was a very traumatic event for our whole family and will have a lasting effect on our generation and quite possibly the next generation or two as we process emotions that run deep when triggered by something like an early phone call.

Grief photo from Unsplash

Numbers 14:18 ‘The Lord is slow to anger and filled with unfailing love, forgiving every kind of sin and rebellion. But he does not excuse the guilty. He lays the sins of the parents upon their children; the entire family is affected—even children in the third and fourth generations.’

Native Americans have a seven-generation principle, that the decisions that are made today need to be weighed in the light of their effect over the next seven generations. Today we are living with the previous seven generations’ decision-making. This principle is also Biblical when it is stated that the fathers’ sins reach the third and fourth generation, a generation can be between 20 to 30 years, and a Biblical one 35 years, so we are looking at about 200-250 years down the line.

Navajo Basket with Corn seed

The French Revolution

My interest in history around two hundred years ago during the French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars stems from the fact my ancestors left Europe to make a better life for themselves in 1820 in South Africa with the 1820 Settlers. My research has taken me down many fascinating research roads. Joseph Scherer, the brother of Bartholomey Louis Joseph Scherer, one of Napoleon’s generals but one of the old guard. They fell out over strategy for logistics. His brother, Joseph, our ancestor, left France to go to England. I knew he was French at heart as he named his daughter Marianne, which symbolized the attachment of the common French citizens of the revolution to the Republic – Marianne stands for liberty, equality, and fraternity. When Marianne and James Smith married, their first child was named Sarah Fish, I thought this was a most extraordinary name until I found a reference to Sarah Fish around the same time who was a radical Quaker abolitionist and advocate for the Native people in America, and it then made sense to me. The Revolution had cut deep into the family, and they were showing solidarity with just causes in the names they chose for their children.

Arc de Triomphe, Paris

Retracing the family history were many threads of trauma over the following generations in Africa, both familial and institutional. The Settlers were abandoned in Africa by the British after arriving there, and they suffered greatly.

Bessel Van der Kolk, a Dutch Psychiatrist, and researcher in post-traumatic stress wrote a book called “The Body Keeps the Score,” in which he says “the ability to feel safe is probably the most important aspect of mental health. When we grow up with family dynamics that make us feel unsafe, invalidated in our feelings and experiences, we can struggle to move past our personal and familial trauma.” We also know we are connected to our past through our DNA, and this trauma has been stored in the very cells of our bodies.

“The ability to feel safe is probably the most important aspect of mental health. When we grow up with family dynamics that make us feel unsafe, invalidated in our feelings and experiences, we can struggle to move past our personal and familial trauma.”

Bessel van de Kolk

Living with War

My interest in the times’ social history has enabled me to try and live in my ancestor’s shoes to see the world as they experienced it. I can imagine that they did not feel safe most of the time, from the generations since the French Revolution, through the Native Wars, Boer Wars in South Africa, the two World Wars, right up to my generation with the Bush War in Rhodesia. Replicate that on a worldwide scale with other families, editing the countries and the wars they went through, we are now reaping the crisis of the seventh-generation decisions in mental health that plague the population as the trauma of each generation build on the previous generation.

We may respond in a certain way to stimuli when we are dealing with issues that need to be examined. Are we are repeating our parents’ and grandparents’ behavior. We may have been taught to respond in a particular way or react in a certain manner. If we can understand the meaning of the trauma fully, we can heal from it. It is not always a problem we have created for ourselves.

I have identified one particular generational trauma both my sister and I have embedded in our DNA. We both have an overwhelming fear of snakes, more than a normal person would have. Our Great Grandmother Jessie Orchard was blinded by a Ringhals snake (similar to a cobra) when she chopped off its tail instead of its head with an ax, and it turned around and spat her in the eye, blinding her for life. This event in our family history has given us a hypersensitivity to an image of snakes or, heaven forbid, coming across one in the wild.

beige python on brown branch of tree
Photo by Worldspectrum on Pexels.com

How are we going to heal from all this generational trauma? I don’t know the answer – but with more research and more understanding, self-care, and caring for others, we need to find the way. Bessel van der Kalk says that our homes should be a ‘safe place’ where we can feel loved, where someone can hold us and calm us down when we come home from a traumatic day at work. When our homes are not safe places, it becomes difficult to heal as domestic violence adds trauma to trauma as often there is no escape for women and children. When the church is not the refuge we had hoped for and adds to the abuse, we have nowhere to turn. We need the safe space of home, relaxation, and touch. We need to have our bodies calm down with a soft touch or massage. We need the sound of a soft voice to soothe us, to let us be safe just as we are and who we are. We all have the power to make those around us feel safer. When we can make people feel safe, protected, and loved, we are already on the pathway to healing those around us and the society in which we live.

our homes should be a ‘safe place’ where we can feel loved, where someone can hold us and calm us down when we come home from a traumatic day at work.

Bessel van der Kalk

I would love to hear your thoughts on this subject. Do you have anything that triggers generational trauma? Please comment below, and if you have not signed up to receive my newsletter, please take this opportunity to do so.

LANDSCAPES OF LIFE, Seasons of Life, SOCIAL JUSTICE, SPIRITUAL AND EMOTIONAL WOUNDING, TRANSFORMATION, Travel, TRIALS AND TRIBULATIONS

INJUSTICE CALLS FROM THE GRAVE

My response to this week’s Challenge for the Welcome to My World question “What does the word WATER make you think of?”. For me, it immediately conjures up the picture of the Victoria Falls cascading over the edge of the rocks and the bridge over the Zambezi River. This is my logo! A lot of water has gone under that bridge, and metaphorically in history too. My blog is one of a series in looking at some of that history that has gone under the bridge than cannot be retrieved like the hymn-writer said “Time, like an ever-flowing stream, bears all its sons away.” Our God, our help in ages past, can redeem that history.

From where I live in Washington DC, it doesn’t take me five minutes out of my front door to be reminded of injustice. So many houses in the street have signboards in their gardens proclaiming words uttered by Martin Luther King Jr and others, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” This reminded me of the passage in Revelation 6 where “the souls of those who had been martyred for preaching the Word of God and for being faithful in their witnessing. They called loudly to the Lord and said, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long will it be before you judge the people of the earth for what they’ve done to us? When will you avenge our blood against those living on the earth?”

I have been studying generational trauma recently, and I have had to reassess how I thought about some of the things I had learned. Most Christians will say one or another version of the Creed, which mentions the “communion of the saints.” My previous understanding was, once a person has died, there are no further prayers required. Some churches will light candles for the dead and say prayers; others honor the dead-on Allhallows, maybe even a pilgrimage to the graveyard. My understanding has been expanded by reading Revelation 8 “the bowls are the prayers of the saints which are delivered to God.” And Hebrews 12:1, where the persons who have died are pictured as a cloud of witnesses encompassing Christians on earth. It appears that the saints who have gone before us are still actively interceding on our behalf for the healing of the nations and individuals.

Prayers around the Throne

What caused this shift in how I understood the “communion of the saints?” I had an experience when I lived in the UK that shook me to the core of my being. I was visiting my son one weekend, and he decided we would go and look at one of the National Trust Country Houses. We found the one he had chosen was closed, so we proceeded to another that was nearby. We walked around Petworth House, enjoying the beautiful woodwork and furnishings and the extensive Art collection. We minded our own business; when we arrived at one gallery, the lady at the door stepped up to me and insisted I take a booklet of the paintings’ descriptions. I did not really want to take it, but the lady had singled me out with some urgency, so I dutifully took it and began to page through the painting descriptions. As I turned the pages, one name jumped right out at me, Thomas Wentworth Earl of Strafford!

As I turned the pages, one name jumped right out at me, Thomas Wentworth Earl of Strafford!

His DNA flows in our family history as one of our ancestors. He was beheaded at the Tower of London on 12th May 1641. He was a supporter of Charles I but hated by Parliament, and they wanted him Impeached. Charles I had promised Thomas Wentworth he would protect him from Parliament, but he signed his death warrant. Charles I, which he later regretted. We found the painting, and I was shaking as Thomas looked down at me from the wall. I thanked the lady as I handed her back the booklet and pointed out our ancestor’s painting. We completed the tour of the rest of the House without any further interruption. I must admit to being quite freaked out by the experience. About a week before I left the UK, I was at the Swan Inn in Bedford and as I left the Ladies’ room, facing me at the top of the staircase was another portrait of Thomas Wentworth. It was as if he was saying to me, do not forget.

Thomas Wentworth, Earl of Strafford

I still do not fully understand what that was about, but what I have learned about generational trauma is stored in the body’s cells and DNA. This needs to be recognized to be healed. “Trauma constantly confronts us with our fragility and with man’s inhumanity to man but also with our extraordinary resilience,” says Bessel Van Der Kolk, in his seminal work on PSDT and book “The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma.”

“Silence about trauma also leads to death—the death of the soul.”

Bessel van der Kolk

How do we heal from this generational trauma? “Silence about trauma also leads to death—the death of the soul. Silence reinforces the godforsaken isolation of trauma. Being able to say aloud to another human being, “I was raped” or “I was battered by my husband” or “My parents called it discipline, but it was abuse” or “I’m not making it since I got back from Iraq,” is a sign that healing can begin.” (Bessel van der Kolk). Individuals and society need to listen when people are silent or depressed. When you ask them ‘How are you?’ they may well answer, “I am fine.” They may be afraid to speak out as they do not want to disclose what has happened to them and are just holding their lives together.

My thoughts are we should join our prayers for justice to those of the saints around the throne and do what we can to help those who are being unjustly treated, whoever they may be. A few more of Martin Luther King Jr.’s quotes to finish with are, “Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” “I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right, temporarily defeated, is stronger than evil triumphant.” “I know that love is ultimately the only answer to mankind’s problems.” “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” May we open our hearts to love to keep the flow of God’s goodness into our hurting and broken world.

“I know that love is ultimately the only answer to mankind’s problems.” “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”

Martin Luther King Jr.

Can we really listen to another’s suffering without judging? Can we respond with compassion and love? We are all affected by the pain that others suffer; even if we do nothing, our taxes will have to pay for rehabilitation or deal with the next wave of violence or war. It is time to educate ourselves and our religious systems that they can harm as well as heal.

A Conference called Church is a Refuge for anyone interested in learning more about Spiritual Abuse is being held in May, check it out, it may give you a greater insight into this problem.

Look out for next week’s blog on Generational Trauma. Subscribe to my blog so that you won’t miss out!

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Divorce, LANDSCAPES OF LIFE, Seasons of Life, SPIRITUAL AND EMOTIONAL WOUNDING, TRANSFORMATION, Transitions, TRIALS AND TRIBULATIONS, Uncategorized, Widowhood

HAVE YOU MET GOD THE MOTHER HEN?

As part of the Welcome to My World challenge, I am first answering this week’s question:

Q: What do you see as you look out of your window?

A: I look out of the window of my soul at the world of the past, the present, and the future. The past makes sense of the past, the present is part of the journey and the future is healed in God’s hands

This is probably one of the most difficult blogs I have ever written, but it is also part of my own healing journey. In my travels, I have come across so many spiritually and emotionally wounded women in the last decade, and like me, they are only now finding the courage to talk about it.

The remnants of a patriarchal mindset in the church and abuse of power have wounded so many women. When the Church should have been a refuge, it became the instrument of abuse using Scriptures as a weapon to beat women into submission in what today is named domestic abuse. I am writing this from a woman’s perspective as that is who I am, but I am sure that many men could also claim those wounds.

“Trauma is a deep wound of the heart and mind that takes a long time to heal. It hurts every part of us: our relationships, our bodies, our thoughts, and our faith.”

I am a great student of social history, especially the French Revolution, Napoleonic Wars, American Revolution, and British Colonialism, as they are all interrelated in one way or another and have influenced my own family history and so many others. The British legal and parliamentary system they brought with them made laws that disadvantaged women and others not belonging to the ‘system.’ British law stated that in marriage, a man and a woman were one person – the legal existence of a woman was suspended during the marriage as she was meant to be under his protection and cover. He could take all her dowry to spend as he liked. According to their dowries, women were ‘traded,’ father’s marrying off their daughters to their own political or financial advantage. Women were not able to vote to change the ‘system,’ and it took Emily Pankhurst (the suffragette movement was the Woman’s Revolution) and others more than fifty years to finally get the right to vote in 1920.

Photo Annie Spratt from Unsplash

Domestic Violence

This controlling role of men was also practiced in the Church by interpreting the Scriptures through their lens and insisting on their womenfolk submitting, by domestic violence or any other means at their disposal, including the church disciplinary systems. When this teaching has been instilled at an incredibly young age, a girl is brainwashed into thinking that they are an inferior person, subject to temptation (the Eve metaphor) or the temptress (the Bathsheba metaphor) but not the blessed woman (Jael). How many teachings have you ever received on Jael? Unrealistic standards set by the application of the example of the Proverbs 31 woman can lay the foundation for systemic shame and never being good enough. This teaching on the place of women at home, the church, and society when not applied with the second half of the teaching, the way that Jesus treated women, the Samaritan woman, Mary Magdalene, and his own mother Mary, failed women in giving them an earthly role model of Father. The teaching as God the Father, angry, punitive, and ready to judge and cast you into hell, reinforced this belief, disconnecting woman from a loving God, one who was their Creator, protector, provider, and friend.

It has taken me most of my life to reconnect with this Father, the Creator, the Good Shepherd, the mother hen God who shelters and protects in the shadow of His wings. It has taken time to deconstruct the angry God and reconstruct the loving God, who protects, provides, and is the lover of my soul. How have I been able to do this?

It has taken me most of my life to reconnect with this Father, the Creator, the Good Shepherd, the mother hen God who shelters and protects in the shadow of His wings. It has taken time to deconstruct the angry God and reconstruct the loving God, who protects, provides, and is the lover of my soul. How have I been able to do this?

Mother hen with chicks photo by K Kannan Unsplash

It has been a long journey of questioning everything I was taught and reviewing it in contemplative prayer, and revisiting ancient and modern teachers and historical contexts. It is by checking against Scripture, and if it is not clear, referring to how Jesus would have seen it and dealt with it. There are only two Commandments, “you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength. The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.” Mark 12:30-31.

The Golden Rule….

In other words, treat people how you yourself would like to be treated. Just as important, was to sit quietly with God in nature and in Art Galleries, letting Him reveal Himself and His truth to me. It was learning to hear His voice, the voice of the Good Shepherd, as He called my name. I was never taught how to listen for my name. The system had taught me I was nameless, always referred to as my father’s daughter. I was called my nicknames but not often my given name, Deryn. When I found out its meaning of ‘little bird’, it was a liberation. I was able to fly out of the cage in which I had been entrapped for so long. I could sit on a branch and observe for myself, think for myself, and I could sing my new song.

Sketched in an Art Gallery

Reading good books has helped in reconstructing the image of a loving Father God and the research that Laurel Thatcher Ulrich put into her book “Good Wives- Image and Reality in the Lives of Women in Northern New England 1650-1750,” helped to clarify the patriarchal thinking of the church in their era which has filtered down through the centuries. A modern book by Carol Howard Merritt on her journey from the teaching at Moody Bible College to her liberation from the spiritual woundedness caused by domestic violence in her family, “Healing Spiritual Wounds,” confirmed the importance of Creator God, creativity in the arts, and reconnecting with a loving God through Contemplative prayer.

Listen to Keynote speaker DrDiane Langberg who is a practicing psychologist whose clinical expertise includes 35 years of working with trauma survivors and clergy. She speaks at an international Conference Church as a Refuge in June.

It is my desire to be a sounding board for those who struggle in this arena of patriarchy and spiritual abuse both as domestic violence and in the church, so they can find their way to peace under the soft feathers of the wings of their loving Father God. If this resonates with you, please contact me via the Contact button.

LANDSCAPES OF LIFE, Seasons of Life, TRANSFORMATION, Transitions

THE SACRED RHYTHMS

At the end of a long, cold winter, I am really looking forward to spring. I am dreaming of the flower beds popping with color as the spring bulbs push their way through the cold soil to warmer days, assuring me that Spring is finally here.

I was reminded on a webinar I was listening to how far we have come from living in the natural rhythms of life that the Creator made for our benefit. Our access to heat, food, lighting, and everything we really need to live comfortably in whatever weather or season we find ourselves has made us become like hamsters on a wheel, unable to get off getting exhausted in the process.

Our ancestors and native peoples used to live according to the seasons and rhythms of the days, the cycles of the sun and the moon, and the earth’s seasons. My grandparents would live by the cycle of the day, getting up at sunrise, eating at noon, having a siesta in the heat of the day, then working until mid to late afternoon, when they would stop, visit with neighbors, and eat an early supper before locking themselves in for the night at 6.00 pm, they did not have TV or social media. They may have listened to the radio before settling down to sleep. Rising with the sun the next day.

On a visit to Arizona, I heard how the Diné people lived in harmony with nature and the seasons. The entrance of their hogans faces east so that they can greet the dawn and pray to their Creator. The Old Testament Israelite’s entrance of their Tabernacle also faced east; sunrise was the time for the morning sacrifice of sweet incense, which symbolized the people’s prayers. Do we make time each morning to pray and listen to the voice of our Creator?

The hours between sunrise and sunset are the time to work and do the chores of the day. Time to prepare, sow seeds or create new ideas, nurture and produce and wait for the time to reap the rewards of our hard labor, or our monthly paycheck!

As the sun sinks in the west, it is time to close off the activities of the day. The Israelites had their evening sacrifice at sunset to thank the Lord for the day. This daily rhythm is one that we seem to have forgotten, working late into the night on projects or double shifts. Fetching and carrying children to extra activities, rushing into the grocery store to get supplies, we all do it. While in I was in Arizona I painted a synthesis of the harmony of living in the Sacred Rhythms, which I have posted here.

The kiss of the sun for pardon, The song of the birds for mirth, One is nearer God’s Heart in a garden Than anywhere else on earth. Dorothy Frances Gurney

My grandfather planted with the moon’s seasons; there were times when he knew that it was better to plant than others. Some plants require a certain amount of moonlight, such as cherries, to grow optimally. The sea’s tides are governed by the phases of the moon and the gravitational pull of the moon. Our moods can be affected by the moon, just as a woman’s monthly cycles affect her emotions.

“There is a season for everything under heaven” King Solomon wrote in Ecclesiates.  Spring as a time of birthing, renewal, and growth. Daffodils are one of the first bulbs to flower, and lambs are often a symbol of spring.

Summer is a time for youth, the growing pains of learning and working when our muscles and bodies are strong—a time to explore and tend to the land, family life and produce. Autumn is the time to harvest what we have produced. Our harvest may be bountiful or thin according to the effort we put in and the generosity of nature, and the seasonal rains. Winter is a time for rest and preparation for a new season as the year turns again. It can also symbolize old age and night, preparing our spirit to be released back to our Creator. I love the simplicity of the natural rhythms. A Diné Hogan has an exit on the north side which allows the departing spirit a way out of the hogan when someone dies.

I wonder what it would be like if we could live by the natural rhythms, our Creator gave us again? COVID has disrupted our normal way of life, so we have adapted by living even closer with technology sitting for hours at a time in front of our screens. Would it help if we were to become more in tune with our daily rhythms and need for relaxation and sleep and switch everything off at sunset? Or the monthly rhythms when maybe our moods are affected, and our energy levels are affected? Should our work reflect the season of life we find ourselves in, either in the annual or life cycle? Have we moved so far away from our Creator’s design for our lives?

Do you think we could ever get back to a place where we could live in harmony with nature, the seasons, and the Sacred Rhythms we were given? Do let me know what you think, I would be really interested to know.

LANDSCAPES OF LIFE, Seasons of Life, TRANSFORMATION, Transitions, Travel, TRIALS AND TRIBULATIONS, Uncategorized

WHERE AND WHEN IN HISTORY YOU WERE YOU BORN MATTERS.

Victoria Falls Bridge

Does it matter where you were born, the place, and time in history?  Time, location, and culture affect the way we view things and how we think. We often make assumptions based on our values shaped by that time and place and our groups’ influences. It can have a lasting impact on your life, where you were born, also the time slot in history.

The prophecy of where Christ would be born was made centuries before.  Messiah would be born in Bethlehem in Judea, not in Jerusalem or even Nazareth, his parents’ hometown.  His birth centuries later was a turning point in history, with our calendar becoming AD and not BC. The prophets inspired by the Holy Spirit thought it necessary to record this in Scripture so that people could pinpoint that moment and KNOW that Jesus was the Messiah.

William Wilberforce

Other important people were born into history who took their place as people who changed society, transforming it through their life and work. One of these was William Wilberforce, who stood alone at times in the British Parliament advocating abolishing slavery. Yet his stand was the beginning of the dismantling of slavery as it was then. Another reformer born in that era was John Howard, who reformed the British prison system after being imprisoned in a French prison.  His personal experience drove him to advocate for humanitarian reforms of the British prison system. Each century has had people who were critical catalysts for change in their lifetimes.

Each century has had people who were critical catalysts for change in their lifetimes.

Two people born into modern history have also influenced society and brought about changes to unjust systems. Martin Luther King Jr and Nelson Mandela both fought for and brought about changes in the laws governing racial injustice in their lifetimes. Others were born into time slots in history that brought about chaos and suffering for people during their time and position in history, like Napoleon and Adolf Hitler. Leaders who held the upper hand often created a time of trials and suffering for another group of people that they may not even have known or cared less.

Rhodesia Collage DvdTang

Two such people influenced the times I was born into, Harold Wilson, British Prime Minister, and Ian Smith, a farmer. Ian Smith became Prime Minister of Rhodesia and declared Unilateral Independence in 1965. At stake was a small landlocked country in the heart of Africa, founded by Cecil John Rhodes in 1885, only sixty years before I was born. Part of the colonial push into Africa by the British Empire during the Scramble for Africa. The European nations were greedy for Africa’s vast mineral wealth and resources to rebuild their economies after wars and a long depression. These colonies were ideal places to send the unemployed population and explorers who would, in turn, remit valuable resources back to their home countries. Initially, the country was under the British South Africa Company’s occupation. It became the self-governing British Crown Colony of Southern Rhodesia in 1923, just twenty-three years before I was born.

Both sets of my grandparents ended up in Rhodesia: my mother’s father, an engineer, after the First World War, and my father’s parents, South African farmers who wanted a new life after the Boer War, WW1, and personal farming failures. My parents met and married in 1945, just after the end of WW2. This vignette sets the stage for the time and place in history I was born into the following year.

A limited education system had been put in place in the few towns by the time I was due to go to school.  ‘School on the Air’ was broadcast over the local radio station, with study material sent through the post and once a term visit to the town to meet the Headmistress, to meet the needs of children further afield. It was a Homeschooling system for most children who had access to the radio. Not unlike today, when children are educated at home through the internet, those who do not have access are disadvantaged. There was no socialization for children, and being the eldest, no friends for play. The arrival of next-door neighbors with school-going children facilitated me going to school in town for a year as our parents could do lift share to get us to and from school. I did not know how to socialize with other children but having a neighbor my age helped me settle down, and we become lifelong friends. Another influence was my parent’s fundamentalist church, giving me a skewed view of God and Christianity.

Ian Douglas Smith (photo Ministry of Information)

Our education was always in the pioneering stage, as we moved to a new school being created the following year in our area. The school started in a church hall on the bare concrete floors, a class in each corner of the hall.  The Headmaster, a Welshman, his wife, and a Scottish lady were our teachers. By the time the school building was ready the following year, we were behind in English and Mathematics. After we moved into the new school building, the Headmaster continued to teach our class and do his job as Headmaster at the same time. He told us to go to the stockroom, take out a book, and sit under the trees to read! We spent most of our Primary School years reading books under the trees. By the time we got to high school, we were very well-read but not necessarily educated in grammar or mathematics matters.

My formative years were the years that the Winds of Change were blowing through Africa, with political unrest in the former colonies.  I was taught to view the world through this lens.

Through travel and living in other countries, and meeting people of different races, cultures, and languages, I learned there were so many ways to look at social issues applicable to their time and history situation.  I have learned to question a lot of the assumptions and ideas that I had been taught. I attended churches with different approaches to God and Christianity.  I allowed God to show me who He was so that my experience could align with what the psalmist says “God alone provides security, safety and prosperity” Ps 147:13-14. My image of God no longer mirrored the paternal teachings of fundamentalism.

I allowed God to show me who He was so that my experience could align with what the psalmist says “God alone provides security, safety and prosperity” Ps 147:13-14. My image of God no longer mirrored the paternal teachings of fundamentalism.

We may not make the impact that great men like Wilberforce and Nelson Mandela made during our lifetime, but there is a reason that we were placed in this time in history and born to our parents in the place we were. Like Paul mentions in Acts 13:36, “after David had served his generation according to the will of God, he died…..”  How can we best serve our generation? For me, that is to write and paint, sharing the compassionate, caring heart of God, through nature, through contemplative prayer and meditations.  I hope I can inspire others in their life’s journey through my journey and what is required to get to this place of respite.

How can we best serve our generation?

Divorce, Grief, Seasons of Life, Transitions, TRIALS AND TRIBULATIONS

Interview With Keabecoe Choene Ex-Pastor’s Wife

koebe1

When we get married, we have the starry-eyed dream of ‘happily ever after,’ and especially if we were to marry another Christian.  That would make it just perfect or would it? I would like to introduce you to new author, Keabecoe Choene, who has just written a book on her emotional journey through divorce, “When Life, not Death do Us Part.” I asked her whether she would like to share a little bit about herself and why she wrote it with my readers.

Deryn-Tell me a bit about yourself, Keabecoe.

Keabocoe –I am a servant of the Lord. I grew up in Bloemfontein, one of the major cities in South Africa. My mother was a single parent trying to raise four children (two brothers, my younger sister, and I) with my grandmother’s help. In South Africa, grandmothers often helped raise children where parents were separated either by work or relationship difficulties.

I am also a mom to an eight-year-old and an aunt to my two nieces and nephew, my brother’s children.

Deryn-Did you grow up in a Christian environment?

Keabocoe –Yes and no, my family considered themselves Christians like so many South African families, we attended church weekly, but that is the only time we thought about God. I come from a semi-traditional background that worshipped ancestors and yet went to church. Growing up, I considered that the norm. I was ‘born again’ when I was nineteen when I turned fully and totally to Christ alone. I have been a child of God, servant, and follower of Jesus Christ since, and now I am thirty-nine years old.

Deryn-Your perception of marriage was viewed through your home experience with absent fathers? 

Keabocoe –Yes, I never knew my biological father, I only met him when I turned 30, and he passed on two years later. I grew up in a household of very strong women. My grandmother took care of us until I was 12 when my mom fetched me and took over. My mom got married to my stepdad; it was a short marriage, though. My stepdad was absent most of the time that my mom was married to him, or maybe he seemed absent to me because I was in boarding school. When I was on school break, I went to my grandmother to visit. I must mention that I did not grow up with my mom in the same house until I was 12. I stayed with my grandmother, who had 11 other grandkids.

Deryn-Did your experience with your parent’s marriage influence your expectations of marriage?

Keabocoe –I had no expectations of marriage growing up. My mom and stepfather divorced because he physically abused us. I did not want to get married. I saw no need for it, strong women raised me, and I knew how capable I could be as a woman; I never wanted to be a mom at all. I did not even imagine it. But my idea of marriage changed when I was born again. For some weird reason, after getting born again, I toyed with the idea of getting married and having children.

Deryn- What part did your culture and tradition play in your expectations of marriage when you met your husband, who was the pastor at your church?

Keabocoe –In my culture and tradition, the male (husband) pays the Lobola (the bride price) to the girl’s family. My ex-husband had to pay lobola for me. Since we were both Christians, him being a pastor, I expected a great marriage. My silent meditation going into this marriage with a man that knew God so profoundly was that my husband would hear from HIm regarding me; by virtue of us both being Christians, I thought that the marriage will work.

Deryn-Your husband also was a Ghanaian and not a South African did you find that even though you were both Africans, the customs of his culture and his expectations were different from yours?

Keabocoe –My ex-husband grew up completely different from how I grew up. He was born in a foreign country; the only thing we had in common was the love we both had for the Lord; I had never in my life seen such deep devotion to God’s work. He was a giver and loved people tremendously, and I was attracted to that. I could look at him, and his heartbeat was just echoing and serving God. We shared that passion; that passion fueled us. Early in my marriage, I soon found out that we needed more than a passion for God to make this marriage work.

His expectation of a wife was not my reality. My demand of him stepping up as a husband was construed as opposition from him. Neither of us was prepared to put in the work our marriage demanded. There were too many people speaking loudly into our marriage, and those same voices drowned us. Our relationship fell apart, and although we kept going, we went our separate ways in marriage. When our son was born, I could not even remember how to laugh out loud.

Deryn-The voices in your marriage, who were they?

Keabocoe –They were Church members and his friends. My ex-husband listened to so many other people more than he ever listened to me. The church and the people drowned any passion I thought I had for ministry. I needed to go back to the Lord, who had called me. I did not have a voice or the will to fight anymore.

One day I looked at myself in the mirror, and I could not see myself; I saw someone who looked like me. I had poured myself out for everyone, and I had not received the same fuel back. I kept fighting everyone who was a threat to my marriage that I neglected managing myself; the more I tried to address these things, the more things got out of control. I had to compete with the church for my husband’s attention, and I could not stand being third place. I knew I had to walk away. And I did.

Deryn-That must have been hard for you?

Keabocoe –That was extremely hard, and I wish the voice of the Lord was much louder. The sad part about getting a divorce as a pastor’s wife is that you have no pulpit to explain yourself to anyone. My ex-husband did his PR and told everyone what he wanted to tell them and what he told them was further from the truth. The only truth he told was I was the one who filed. And because I filed, the church hated me for it. And they were not ashamed to say and show it.

Deryn-What was the Church’s response to you?

Keabocoe –I ceased from being his wife, and I became their enemy; I became the person against his success in ministry. The story he preached not only on that day but continuously, was that I was against his success in ministry. That so many people believed that narrative always baffled me, firstly if I had been against his ministry why would I leave my job and join him to build the same ministry? Secondly, any wife’s joy comes when her man succeeds, his wins were my wins; if he lost, I was counted right there beside him. Why will I want to lose? Any sane wife wants their man to succeed, I wanted him to make it, I prayed that he would, yet I could not watch him in the ministry and fail as a husband and father.

Deryn-What was the reality of being a pastor’s wife in your situation?

Keabocoe –I knew he would be applauded for his ministry, but he failed dismally as a husband and father. He was hardly home. We never went anywhere as a family unless it was ministry-related, and even when we went for ministry, there were too many people with us. We went places alright, but it was work, not family. I got so tired of traveling; I wanted him home. We had no family life, he knocked off late and left early, and when questioned, I was labeled as an “unsupportive wife.”

The church could not wait to get rid of me. When the time for the divorce came, some people were delighted that it was happening. Yet others branded me evil and backslidden. It is too distressing to write all the things that were said to me during that time. I was shattered, discarded, and dismissed.

Deryn-What happened when you left the marital home?

Keabocoe –When I left my marital home to go back home to my mother, my older brother came to pick me up. I packed my clothes and my son’s clothes and left the house. My ex-husband was not home then, and he was out of the province. When he returned, he found me gone and asked me where I was, I told him that I had left, and he said okay. His aunt called me and asked me why I left. I told her I was tired, and I cannot live like that anymore. She told me that in their culture, if a wife goes, the husband does not fetch her; she must either come back, herself or her family must fetch her. I told the aunt that in my culture, a wife needed to be fetched from her family. He never came to fetch me, and I never went back, it was just wrapped around in the culture. I was super disappointed when he did not fetch me because he truly did not want me or loved me.

Deryn-How did I come to the point of peace?

Keabocoe –When Satan tempted Jesus, Jesus answered him, and he said, you shall worship the Lord your God, and only Him shall you worship. The divorce for me was the lowest moment of my life, yet it was a time that God brought me back to worship Him and Him alone. When I thought I had lost it all, my all to me was my husband, position, and material things, yet I had to realize that I had it all along. I had put the Lord on the back burner.

You can’t serve Him effectively without worshipping Him in Spirit and in truth. I had lost my way. Yes, I was serving Him but was I worshiping Him? Worshipping Him is not singing songs to Him about Him. And before I lost my husband, I had turned lukewarm. Like David said before I was afflicted I went astray. My heart was hardened by many other things I did not give to Him. I had carried a lot. In my time of true worship, I stripped it all off and laid bare before Him, I had no desires for anything else, I had reached my crossroad, I had come to the end of me, I was utterly broken. I found my peace when the Lord said in your broken self you are good for me to work with. I could not believe such love, forgiveness, I had to repent of my sins, of getting a divorce, and in that time, the Lord was setting a foundation that no man can shut.

Divorce was hard, painful, and life-transforming for me. I did not see the green pasture everyone raved about after getting divorced. I walked through the valley of the shadow of death, I did not want to live, yet today all I live for is Him,” In Him, I move, live and have my being”. Without Jesus Christ, I am truly nothing.

Deryn-What is your book about and what do you hope your readers will gain from it?

Keabocoe –The book is an emotional journey of my divorce; it covers subjects such as anger, guilt, pain, hurt.  I documented how God took me through all those phases and eventually led to my healing. It was tough being a child of God and going through a divorce; I faced a lot, including many Christians rejecting me.

I hope that my story will be an eye-opener for many other married people. I pray that it brings healing and salvation to other people who are divorced, going through a divorce, or thinking about divorce.  I hope that it also serves as a warning that serving God is great but putting Him first is greater. And after Him, it must be your family, and then working for God can take its rightful place.

Thank you so much Keabecoe Choene…………….

If readers would like a copy of your book where can they obtain it?

When Life Not Death Do us Part

Links for the book

Barnes & Noble

Kobu  Scribd Vivlio

24 Symbols

 

LANDSCAPES OF LIFE, Seasons of Life, TRANSFORMATION, Transitions

MY ART JOURNEY FROM BLACK AND WHITE TO RAINBOW COLORS

Transformation 2

My art journey began at a young age with a red hibiscus flower drawing, thus started my botanical themes and colors. My desire to go to Art School was frustrated at the time I left school, so I started my career as a Geological Cartographer by learning to map and do calligraphy. I enjoyed this job as I learned to map with black ink on tracing linen and color up the beautiful geological prints!

I never lost the desire to paint, but family life interrupted my creative practice. It was only later, when the children were older, that I could continue studies at the local community college in Cape Town. During this period in history, Nelson Mandela was released from prison and gave his famous ‘rainbow colored nation’ speech.  At the same time, I had felt very frustrated with the oppressive and pontifical rhetoric coming from the pulpit at the church I was attending. My husband and I decided to participate in another more liberal church and found it was like a stream in the desert. This congregation was creatively inclined, and it permeated their services and the way they did things. They also used to be involved in their neighborhood and social justice issues. My artistic vision became much clearer, and I could use the metaphors of black and white blocks as integrations and transformations, so I started doing some more black and white drawings. I continued with botanical illustrations and other experimental artwork as well. I had two paintings accepted for the New Signatures Exhibition at the Bellville Art Center and other exhibitions run at the center.

Transformation1

Several years later, when I was working in the UK. I continued with botanical painting, but this became less satisfying as I wanted to do more experimental art. I had access to some of the most famous galleries in London, so I continued experimenting with a bit more abstract art.  When I moved to the USA, my local church was also a creative space and social justice advocate. One of the areas they were addressing was the inclusion of the LGBTQ community, and so once more, the rainbow flourished.  I now saw black and white structures that needed to be dismantled, and although there were particular frameworks, the edges were no longer sharp but could be more fluid, so I started working in blocks.  I like to have a framework within which to work; sometimes, I need some structure in my life, but it certainly is not set in stone.  Where fluidity is required and allowed, transformation can be attained.  It indeed became more apparent to me with all the Black Lives Matter and other issues of the day that this same fluidity and space for rainbow-colored transformation was needed. So, I started painting transformational symbols such as the butterfly within the fluid black and white linework.

BW Greyvillea

During my sojourn in Australia last year, I could not travel, so I spent my shut downtime painting some beautiful Australian flora and fauna. I was motivated by the fascinating shapes and colors of the tropical plants and local trees striking bark and shapes.

My art is informed by what is going on around me and how I perceive it. Any solution I may feel to the current integration and transformation of our society at this time, I will try to express through my art. I will meditate on what the Spirit is trying to convey through my artwork and hope that it inspires people to look deeper. Transformation is a process, and only when we take the time to meditate will we find the deeply embedded truths of the Spirit.

Transformation is a process, and only when we take the time to meditate will we find the deeply embedded truths of the Spirit.

Like geological sedimentary layers, we may have a lot to dig through to find the golden nugget of truth that we can embrace and use to transform our thinking and actions. I hope my paintings will be a catalyst to help you on your journey to find the golden nuggets of truth spoken into you by the Spirit.

LANDSCAPES OF LIFE, Seasons of Life, TRANSFORMATION, Transitions, TRIALS AND TRIBULATIONS, Uncategorized

YOUR IDENTITY, WHAT IS IN A NAME?

In my last blog, I chatted about the time and place we were born into in History. For every baby born the year of COVID, the parents spent time and thought finding a name they wanted to call their child.  With great care, they chose a name befitting the new arrival.  The name they choose will be the identifier for the child their entire life. Once their name is recorded in the State Birth’s and Death’s register, all documents relating to that tiny person will use that name and number from then on.  The name can only be changed by marriage or a petition for a change of name with the court system.

Hopefully, the child will like their chosen name. Some parents can give their child a name that provokes other children and people to tease them, causing great distress.  Other parents must use the grandparents’ names as a second name; this was common practice in previous generations. Naming a child well is a responsibility parents need to take seriously, as it can cause unforeseen consequences in the future for that child.  Every era has its favorite names, and there will be a whole crop of Jason’s or Amelia’s in a particular year.  Then there are the ‘old fashioned’ names like Gladys (my grandmother) or Mabel, seldom used today.

There are deeper levels that name goes as well, and parents may well choose a name that befits the person they would like their child to grow up to be or characteristics. For instance, the name Philip means a lover of horses. Do all Philip’s love horses? Not at all, but the name originated from Greek and meant the same in several different languages. Whole webpages and books are dedicated to finding a name for your child, and according to them, more classical and Biblical names are coming into favor for 2021. We want our children to embrace their uniqueness amongst all the noise of thousands of other children growing up within their generation.  

We want our children to embrace their uniqueness amongst all the noise of thousands of other children growing up within their generation.  

My parents named me after Deryn Edmonds, the Church minister’s daughter, who married them and served as their bridesmaid.  ‘Deryn’ has and continues to be an unusual name, often mistaken for Darren, which is a more popular name.   I had many problems at school with teachers who did not know it, and I was invariably asked to spell it. People mispronounced it. Often, I would end up answering to anything that began with a D. Children would tease me, calling me horrible names that started with D, like Derelict; even my parents would call me other nicknames, and so my name became something that I loathed.

It was only many years later when I found out that Deryn meant ‘Little Bird’ in Welsh, that I started to appreciate it and all that it stood for.  A little bird has freedom; it can fly, choose to move away from danger, is independent, and does not enjoy being in captivity, so the name became ‘Freedom’ for me.  An artist friend of mine gave me a lovely piece of Calligraphy to remind me that “the Lord is the Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.” (2 Cor. 3:17) Knowing this made all the difference, from a name that was a curse to a name that I could fully embrace and rejoice that God knew that was the best name for me. So my mission became telling others that they can have true freedom in their spirit even though others want to enslave them to legalism, or they feel imprisoned in a life they did not choose or the world around them that may be in total lockdown.

God has promised us that He would be giving us a new name.

Better still, God has promised us that He would be giving us a new name. Everyone who is victorious shall eat of the hidden manna, the secret nourishment from heaven; and I will give to each a white stone, and on the stone will be engraved a new name that no one else knows except the one receiving it. (Rev 2:17).

Even when our names do not give us joy when we feel they mean ‘derelict,’ our new name will have the secret meaning of ‘delight’ as we know the Lord delights in us and will give a new meaning to our name when He claims us as His own.

Are you happy with the name your parents chose for you?

Do you know what your name means?

What does knowing that God will give you a new name look like to you?

How can you live in the power of your new name?

LANDSCAPES OF LIFE, Seasons of Life, TRANSFORMATION, Transitions, TRIALS AND TRIBULATIONS, Uncategorized

YOUR UNIQUE PLACE IN TIME AND HISTORY

20201231_162136210085432933995836.jpgA New year heralds new beginnings, new opportunities, and hope that things will be better this year. We have just come to the end of the first year of COVID lockdowns.  So many of my friends and family have had a new addition to their family this year. A year of hidden joys and surprises amongst the sorrow.  The birth of a child brings so much happiness, from all the beautiful pictures I have seen on Social Media. Parents lovingly hold their babies as they introduce them to their new world.  I am sure they hope there will be a better future for their child, confident that COVID will become history, and their children can play freely with their friends and life becomes ‘normal’ again.

In every parent’s heart, they have decided to be the best parents they can be, either consciously choosing to follow the way their parents raised them or trying not to make the same mistakes their parents made in rearing them! They are melding two different family backgrounds into one and creating their own family. They have their dreams of a perfect future for their child; they vow to protect them from harm and to bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, if they are Christian, or to bring them up as good members of their belief system. These children will have a unique slot in history as the COVID babies, a time when young parents raising children, homeschooling, bringing home a new baby, with both having to work from their home, are stretched and challenged to their limits.

These children will have a unique slot in history as the COVID babies

2020 will be the year that turned a page in history between doing things the old way and learning new ways to do the same things. Learning new methods will always involve making mistakes too, few people can learn something new straight off; it is a process until we become familiar with the new ways of thinking about and doing things.

Another page in history was turned at the end of World War II, bringing in the wave of Baby Boomers whose parents had been fighting in the war and were now ready to create a new home and start a family in peacetime. They certainly had their challenges with shortages of food and materials and mental health issues from PTSD from their trauma during the war. They were bringing in a new social order, too, with women being able to vote and take positions in the workforce. Birth control and improved health and childcare options, vaccinations for childhood diseases all became available. They, too, had their hopes and dreams for the babies they brought into the world, just like the young parents today.  Dr. Spock became the go-to reference book on how to raise your children, influencing a few generations with a much more lenient approach to childraising.  Yet, the previous generations’ childraising methods still seeped through as these new parents were challenged with the realities of how to handle crying babies and difficult toddlers, often reverting to much harsher treatment, which today would be labeled child abuse.

At the end of World War II,  the wave of Baby Boomers was born whose parents had been fighting in the war and were now ready to create a new home and start a family in peacetime.

It was into such a time that I was born – post-war. My father had been in the Red Cross division of the army and was quite passionate about becoming a doctor, which was not possible with his education and the war’s timing in his life. So, he worked his way up in the Post Office, becoming an Accountant and eventually Deputy Post-Master General. He never lost his interest in medicine and ‘doctored’ us when we were sick or hurt unless we were so ill, we had to go to a regular doctor. My mother worked in the CID before she was married, checking fingerprints, and always considered herself a bit of a detective. They both attended a church with fundamental beliefs and did not believe in sparing the rod to bring us children under their control. They probably also had their dreams of raising model children in this new post-war era. They came from entirely different backgrounds, my mother from a more privileged family and my father from a poor farming background. So, our upbring reflected all the broken pieces they brought into making this new family exemplify their ‘ideal Christian’ family.

We have no control over the time slot we are born into in history neither over who our parents are; this is by God’s grace. He knows the plans He has for us, and He knew us in the womb before we were born. Therefore, we live by God’s grace and design according to our unique genetic make-up, place, and time in history. We carry the scars of our humanity yet bear the seed of divinity within our very being.

We have no control over the time slot we are born into in history neither over who our parents are; this is by God’s grace.

  • What hopes and dreams have you got for your children?
  • Does your family background influence the way you are raising your children?
  • What broken pieces do you bring into child-rearing?
  • What positive and new ways are you bringing into your child-rearing?
Retirement, Seasons of Life, TRANSFORMATION, Transitions

THE AUTUMN OF OUR LIVES

The trail

It is not too difficult to find safe places to exercise and enjoy walking near the city, so we headed off to Fort Du Pont Park for a Sunday afternoon walk. The park is a wooded area in Washington DC on the site of an old Civil War fort designed as a defense for a Confederate attack on Washington. It is hard to believe that it is already Thanksgiving time and the end of November, after eight months of living with COVID lockdowns and travel restrictions.

It was a beautiful crisp afternoon, a little bit on the cool side, but excellent for walking. The leaves had mostly fallen, and the forest was open so you could see the naked tree trunks standing amidst the thick carpet of golden and brown leaves that lay at their feet. The smell of slightly damp leaves reached our nostrils as we tramped through the thick piles of leaves along the trail. It became difficult to see the trail as we headed into the middle of the forest after we had left the initial paved pathway. The two men went on ahead of me as I carefully picked my way along the trail not knowing if I would trip on a tree root or fall into a hole hidden under the leaves. If it wasn’t for the men ahead who stopped to point out difficult places along the path I may well have wandered off the trail or fallen over a root or rock. They were patient in waiting for me to catch up as I slowly picked my way along the pathway.

As I walked along, I realized how much more vulnerable I had become with age. In my youth I would probably have skipped along the pathway catching handfuls of leaves and let them flutter down, or as a middle-aged person walked briskly along the path, not concerned about falling. Now I needed to be careful not to stumble or trip over the things that I did not see as my eyesight has deteriorated. A fall could result in broken bones. My knees are unstable, and they do not have the same strength to lift me on the steep places, making a slip or fall more likely. I needed to stop more often to take a breather. Fortunately, someone had marked the trail ahead and I saw there were red splashes on some of the trees. I kept my eyes on the trees along the way, checking where the markers were for the pathway.

As I walked along, I began to get new insights into the seasons of the life that we live in. The seasons roll around with annual regularity, in the same order every year. I would consider that I am in the autumn of my life right now even though I may not like to acknowledge it. My body tells me my strength and stamina are not as strong as it was to navigate the steep places. I need help from time to time to give me a hand up or down. Many things could trip me up at this stage, I become more vulnerable to diseases. Mold and fungi are nature’s way of dealing with a fallen and diseased tree, breaking it down until it once more becomes a part of the earth from whence it grew. A warning to me not to fall before my time! I need to have someone ahead of me on the pathway to guide and watch out for me, someone who can check that I am still on the right path and not heading off into the woods and get lost.

The trail and marked tree

We continued our walk, it was invigorating, with fresh air to fill our lungs as we breathed out the stale city air. We took our time (or should I say I did!) pointing out fascinating fungi on tree stumps. Nature was at work, slowly but meticulously the fungi doing their job, preparing the earth to receive new life in the spring when tree shoots will arise from the leaf mold and broken-down trees.

We were surprised by a couple of deer not far off the pathway, there was no cover to hide them so we were able to look at each other, and after they decided we were not a threat, they continued to walk on. A bit further on a couple of elk made their appearance. They were more skittish and moved off quickly, this was the closest we’ve ever been to deer on this pathway. They may have been there before, but we had not seen them because of the leaves, now they were also a lot more vulnerable, with no leaves or cover to hide from hunters. They must live on their wits and speed to getaway.

We need to recognize when we are in the autumn of our lives. This is one of the hard transitions into the second half of life, admitting we need help and that we can’t do everything we used to be able to do. We do become much more vulnerable, not only physically, but financially, health-wise, emotionally, and spiritually. We become prey for those who will take advantage of us, the scammers who want to rob us financially, or emotionally. We become targets for every type of salesperson selling the elixirs of youth aka medications, supplements, and gadgets.

We need to recognize when we are in the autumn of our lives. This is one of the hard transitions into the second half of life, admitting we need help and that we can’t do everything we used to be able to do.

Loneliness makes us more vulnerable to these types of scams because we are no longer out in the workplace, and family and friends may be at work or live far away. A thought-provoking study in the UK found that although there was technology to help filter scammers from the elderly’s telephones, they often switched them off because at least there was someone to talk to, to break the loneliness of the day. COVID certainly has not helped in keeping community, it has isolated people even more as they no longer can enjoy going out to meet with friends or the odd shopping.

Just as we breathed in the fresh country air and exhaled the city air, we need to breathe in the life-giving Spirit. I have found it particularly hard not to be able to attend church and meet up with my community. Their encouragement and the interaction of sharing lives and worshipping together had always lifted my spirit. I have had to find other means to achieve this with an online church and small groups, this helps. Otherwise, I must be satisfied with solitude, meditation, and prayer, but this was the way of the hermits and contemplatives, and they had a rich relationship with God. One of my favorite contemplative authors is Thomas Merton, I read one of his prayers today that resonated with me, so I will share it with you.

My Lord God,
I have no idea where I am going
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
Nor do I really know myself,
and the fact that I think I am following your will
does not mean that I am actually doing so.
But I believe that the desire to please you
does in fact please you.
And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.
And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road,
though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore I will trust you always though
I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.
I will not fear, for you are ever with me,
and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.

Facing the second half of life, knowing you are more vulnerable, you can trust the One who will never leave you to face your perils alone. You also still have much to give, to help nourish the generations below, the wisdom of experience and compassion for those who are struggling in their life’s circumstances.

Surprise! You may think you have nothing to offer but you still have time to bloom. Yes, there are winter flowering plants! In the northern hemisphere, the hellebores and snowdrops still cheer in the middle of winter snow, and the lovely aloes in the southern hemisphere when all is dry and drab sing forth their joy with orange and red spikes of cheer.

Retirement, Seasons of Life, Transitions, Travel

Final Chapter of My Adventures in Australia 2020

The first weekend restrictions were lifted on visiting parks for recreation, we went back to the Khola Botanical Gardens to walk. It was as beautiful as ever, with the water lily pond where a cute little turtle climbed onto a lily pad and then jumped off again. We walked the circuitous route down to the river and back getting our fair share of cardio exercise!  The following weekend we were able to go to Slaughter Falls a lovely parkland area below Mt Coot-ha where we walked along a winding trail where I came across the tallest, straightest tree I have ever seen! The Falls were dry but we enjoyed the walk amongst all the beautiful indigenous trees. On the way home, we went to the look out on Mt Coot-ha for a cup of coffee which we enjoyed sitting on the lawn overlooking the city.  

Another Sunday, we were able to go to Springfield dam, which we walked around enjoying the sunshine and fresh air watching the fish swimming beneath the water lilies and waterfowl paddling along the edges of the lake dipping for food. The water dragons were out in force basking in the sunshine. We went on a bit further to Orion Park, to walk along the trail, I nearly stood on a snake that looked just like a twig, which sent me into flight mode screaming as I ran away. My daughter though it was a poisonous brown snake. After that scare we made our way slowly back along the trail to the car after a lovely weekend out of the house! 

The Kohla Botanical Gardens became our favorite ‘get out of the house’ place to go as it was not too far away in Ipswitch and it is set in such beautiful scenery. We also took a trip down to the Brisbane River at Anstead where we enjoyed a walk along the river bank, saw a couple of bush turkeys running around and my grandson did some fishing.  We also had several walks in the Anstead Bush Reserve. My daughter and I walked down the trail to Sugars Quarry, it was a very steep road so I stopped halfway as I knew I would have to walk up it again!  We walked a very long circuitous route back to the car park instead. 

When we were allowed to drive a bit further we decided to take a trip up to Toowoomba about 120 miles away, where we looked at the beautiful vistas from the top of the mountain, it was very cold up there so we went into the town for a cup of hot coffee. We went to see the windmill museum so I could photograph the old windmills, which have special memories for me.  I also wanted to see the Japanese Gardens but they were closed, we did walk around the park though, looking at flowers before heading home. We did the scenic drive back to Brisbane along the Lockyer Valley which was badly flooded in 2011. This rich fertile valley is the breadbasket of Queensland, mile upon mile of irrigated crops and agricultural lands. 

My penultimate weekend, we went into Brisbane so I could say goodbye to the city. We drove to New Farm and walked through the gardens to the Avatar Tree, so my grandson could climb it. This huge Fig Tree is a feature, with a children’s park built around it, and where I have made a memory of my grandson each time I visit. We walked down to the City Cat Quay to take a ride up the river, this was a wonderful experience as we looked at the city skyscrapers and the skyline from the comfort of our seats. We disembarked at South Bank and walked through the gardens were the bougainvillea were out which was what I had hoped to see. After a lovely cup of hot coffee, we slowly made our way back to the pier to catch the City Cat back up the river to New Farm.  I was sad that COVID had prevented a visit into the shopping precinct of Brisbane, but guess it also saved me some money!  It was so good to have spent this time with my family making memories, as who knows if I will ever come back this way again! 

Retirement, Seasons of Life, Travel

Highlights from Morton Bay, Sunshine Coast and the Glasshouse Mountains

20200314_1324181737560795807035247.jpg

After my return from Perth, the last three weeks of my stay in Australia was meant to be a bit of family time and return home, but the shut downs after the Corona virus put paid to those plans. I stayed on another three months to see out the worst of the pandemic after three flights were cancelled. In many ways it was a bonus for me being able to spend more time with the family helping out with normal household chores. Once I got my head around the uncertainty of it all, I caught up with my life, trying to live it on four continents, messaging back and forth, and getting on with my artwork and writing. 

2020-05-02 16.29.20The first Saturday back we had a lovely trip out to Wellington Point, Morton Bay, with Bribie Island nestled in the entrance to the Bay, this the main sea port for ships entering Brisbane Harbor. We picnicked under an indigenous Morton Bay Fig Tree with its huge grey trunk and extending branches which threw a good shade to protect us from the sun.  We walked along the boardwalk to the pier where we experienced a stiff breeze and the salty smell of the sea. We stood with the wind ruffling our hair watching red and white sailed yachts tacking their way back to the harbor with billowing sails, before going to the café for a cup of coffee. We drove home again around the outskirts of Brisbane where we were able to see a different view of the city than that from the top of Mt Coot-ha. 

20200315_1538371044997727639563647.jpgSunday saw us walking through the Botanical Gardens and the Biosphere, looking at exotic plants and ferns. We made our way down to the Japanese Gardens with their peaceful lily pads, ordered bushes and tinkling stream flowing through the stepping stones. We also encountered enormous lizards which fascinated me at nearly two feet long! 

20200504_1555174978138841950680901.jpgThe final weekend before the ban on travel we took a weekend trip to the Sunshine Coast.  We stopped along the way at the famous Pie Shop where I had a delicious curried chicken pie for lunch. We stayed at a self-catering cabin in Moochadoore, right near the beach. We headed off to the beach in the afternoon enjoying the sand between our toes and the waves lapping around our feet, watching the sun set over the ocean. 

20200321_1243013802703388053241495.jpgThe highlight of this trip was a drive to Maleny and Montville, right up in the Glasshouse Mountains. We had lunch at The Secret Place, it lives up to its name hidden deep in the forest on the shores of Lake Maroon. We sat on the deck enjoying the view, framed by tropical plants and the artworks and rustic carved furniture.  I was privileged to meet Gary Myers at his Maleny Studio, an artist I very much admire for his colorful paintings of the area.  He gave me a brief painting lesson on how he does his paintings, it turns out he was also a cartographer in his younger days!  I bought one of his Art books as a memento.  We went back to Moochadoory for dinner and walk along the beach. Sunday, we headed down to Maloolabah to walk around the harbor and beaches. It was quite warm so we did not stay too long, we were excited to find a flame lily growing alongside the road, a symbol of our country of origin! We then drove home via the Pie shop for lunch after a very pleasant and fruitful trip.   

20200321_1430013118447520155204852.jpgThis was the last trip before travel restrictions were lifted in Queensland. Thus, followed about six weeks of total self-isolation going nowhere except twice out to the shops for urgent supplies and my daily walk up the road to the little park by Hibiscus and Paperbark Rds, Moggill. On my walks I looked closely for interesting or exciting things as I observed the trees, plants and bird life around me. When you take the time to really look, it is amazing what will inspire you! I spent time sewing masks, painting and writing, so nothing really changed from my daily routine at home. 

Retirement, Seasons of Life, TRANSFORMATION, Transitions, Travel

Filling up My Creative Well in Margaret River

This is the second half of my trip to Western Australia, my hosts had planned the itinerary according to my love of nature and art. We often we travel with companions whose taste differs from ours, so what a treat to have friends who shared my interests and accommodated all my photo stops.

The following day we drive along a scenic route through the Margaret River Vineyards to the Chocolate Company.  I had never seen so much chocolate in my life, we watched them making these tasty treats and finished off experiencing the most exquisite Mocha coffee with chocolate buttons at the bottom which we had to stir to melt. It was too tempting to stay here much longer so we then took the Caves Road which took us to my host’s favorite place on earth, which he called Jerusalem Hollow, which is part of the Boranup Karri Forest in the Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park. I could see why he enjoyed this so much it was a view to behold with the sunlight filtering through the leaves onto the trunks of these enormous Karri and Jarrah Trees, beautiful tall straight trees with mottled gold and grey bark, their wood is exceptionally hard and is quite often used for furniture and railway sleepers. In the days of sailing ships, they made good masts.

Jerusalem Hollow

We went up to the viewing point and appreciated this part of God’s creation, before heading on to the Boyanup Gallery where furniture and objects made from these woods was on exhibition, such beautiful grain in the polished surfaces of the wooden furniture. There were also paintings by local artists as well on Exhibition. We carried on back up the coast to Surfer’s Point and the Margaret River Mouth which was not as big as I had expected. Big surfing competitions are held in this area which had plenty of parking and view places for the competitors and supporters of the surfers. We saw someone skimming the waves on his orange surf kite, the wind was the strongest I had experienced in Australia at this point, so we sheltered in a very artistic shelter designed rather like a shell! 

Surfers Bay

Driving though Prevelly we saw the damage to the areas that had had fires two years before where several homes were lost, the vegetation had started to grow again, but the evidence of dead trees with their ghostly heads rising out of the carpet of green was a reminder and caution of the recent devastation of fires in Australia 

Cow Town

We drove into Margaret River town for lunch where we enjoyed a Subway Sandwich and then went for a taster at the Fudge Factory shop which we considered dessert, they had a large variety of fudges and nougat for sale. On the return drive home, we went through a place called Cowaramup “Cow Town”, this unique town that has 42 life-sized models of cows all around the town in different positions, grazing or sitting! I took some pictures to prove this! I am not sure how this came about. It is a wine growing area and in 2012 broke the Guiness World Record of largest gathering of people dressed as cows!

Kangaroos on the golf course

After a cup of tea at home, we walked to the local golf course to see the kangaroos, which had obviously made this their home, they were quite comfortable with us walking past them as they lay about the greens, bounding off when they were bored of watching us. Spooky fire burnt trees lined the golf course evidence of a fire in previous years as well.  

Canal Rock

The next day we drove to Canal Rock, a geological masterpiece of fault lines bisecting the rocks in two directions, leaving channels for the sea to flow through as the water crashes through the gaps.  A little wooden bridge crossed the channel to a viewing platform, this was a very special place for my hosts as their son had proposed to his girlfriend there.  They had put tea lights and rose petals along the bridge to lead her to the platform where their son went down on bended knee to propose – she accepted! We then drove down to Smith’s Beach which was a lovely Holiday Resort and caravan park, also with a nice surfing beach.  Our journey progressed to Yallinup where we looked at the town and then went to the Art Gallery which was quite extensive, with some lovely paintings and different styles. After lunch at home we walked into Dunsborough to look at the Christian Fletcher Gallery, a local nature photographer, with some amazing almost abstract photographs which had had put onto products. We competed the day at the Dunsborough Tavern, where I had a very nice meal of vegetarian hamburger.  

Bussleton Jetty

As all good things come to an end so did this wonderful artsy time away. We packed up and left Dunsborough behind us driving along the coastal road to Bussleton where we stopped and walked along the foreshore and Jetty.  The historical Jetty is 1.50 miles long and has a train that runs along its length so you can enjoy the ride and go out to see the corals. This was quite expensive and would take up a bit of time so we just went into the museum where we could enjoy looking at the history on an interactive map, which was really interesting. The Bussleton Iron Man Triathlons are held here and one can hire bikes if required, as there are many good cycle paths around the area, and the ocean around the jetty is where the swim takes place, with grandstands built into the beach for spectators. 

The jetty

After a coffee we walked along the esplanade for a bit licking our ice creams before setting off again back to Perth. We drove past the Vasse Estuary which was enormous with its cute settlement just outside of Bussleton. Then it was time to hit the highway again breaking our journey at the Miami Bakehouse with its award-winning pies, where I had the most delicious croissant. The gardens were decorated with brightly colored Art Kangaroos. We arrived back to Perth, and after a cup of tea we walked along the shore of the lagoon in the opposite direction to what we have previously done, enjoying the views of the marina and open water.    

Saturday morning, we took an early trip to Cottesloe Beach to see the Sculptures by the Sea Exhibition, Elizabeth Gilbert the author had been here the day before! We had an inspiring time looking at this extensive Exhibition with its large works of art placed along the beach and the jetty, some pieces were quite moving, especially one by an Iraqi artist symbolizing the freedom of relationships in Australia. My hosts had invited some of their family over in the afternoon where we had a good catch up chat on our life in Rhodesia and the good old days at the Geological Survey before my farewell dinner at the Bull Creek Chinese Restaurant. We had a delicious meal, I had my favorite Chicken and Cashew, they served such big portions we had to take some home with us.  We were up very early next morning to head for the airport and my flight back to Brisbane after my creative well had been well and truly filled thanks to my awesome hosts. 

Retirement, Seasons of Life, Transitions, Travel

Enjoying Retirement in Cape Naturalist near Dunsborough, WA

One of the things that many retired people look forward to is to travel, I was no exception, desiring to see the world and re connect with old friends. This trip to Australia was a fulfillment of  those dreams. I was fortunate to have timed my trips just weeks ahead of the COVID 19 epidemic when this would not have been possible. I am truly blessed to have had this opportunity which may never be a possibility for some of you as travel will not be the same again for a long time, so I wanted to share this with you so you can enjoy it with me..

The drive through from Perth to Dunsborough was uneventful as we drove through the Western Australian open bushland with low scrub trees, plants and open fields, quite different vegetation to Queensland’s tropical forests. After driving through Church Mile, an area donated for church and scouting camp sites, we arrived in Dunsborough and went straight to the Sculpture by the Bay Exhibition as it was closing at two o’clock. We wandered through the sculptures, some of which were very inspiring. A large clay snake made by school children with texturing from local natural objects, reminding us to be aware of the environment and bush safety, this was certainly brought back memories of our youth spent in Rhodesia with dodging puffadders and cobras! There were also some pretty poignant pieces, I liked the one of a man sitting quietly looking out to sea, very meditative and part of nature. I thoroughly enjoyed this exhibition, a red heart made out of broken pieces of reflective glass from crashed motor vehicles really spoke to my heart. When we had finished at the Sculptures, we went to my host’s apartment where we had lunch and enjoyed a cup of tea in the garden.