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

WHEN YOU GO THROUGH THE RIVER OF DIFFICULTY, YOU WONT DROWN

I was born in a country that has two great rivers for borders, the one was the Zambezi on which the Victoria Falls is situated and is a treacherous river with crocodiles and hippopotami.  It is also one of the most beautiful rivers when the sun is setting, and the sounds of wildlife and birds fill the air.  The sun has a magnificent orange glow that sets the river on fire and silhouettes the palm trees, and as you listen to the lapping of the water on the shore or on the boat for the Sunset Cruise, there is no more beautiful place on earth. I can imagine this was like the river mentioned in the Garden of Eden. The southern border of my land of birth was the great, grey, greasy Limpopo River cited by Rudyard Kipling in the Elephant’s Child in Just So Stories, also a dangerous river with crocodiles and hippopotami. People have lost their lives trying to cross these rivers, the Limpopo in particular, as it is shallower and people wanting to cross without going through the border post stand in danger of losing their lives if they risk crossing.

There were times when I was trying to relocate internationally that the bureaucracy was unbearable. To obtain all the documentation and proof of identity that was required of me, was difficult to get from a country in chaos. This among other things made leaving my land of birth a hard time.  But harder still was leaving family and friends and the land that was and still is beautiful. I cherish the memories of my childhood years and the land of freedom and milk and honey (so it seemed to me). I have moved internationally four times and each time has had its difficulties, but I also learned how to navigate through the bureaucracy making it that much easier each time.

I have never been tempted to swim the Limpopo river! I crossed the Beitbridge which takes you into South Africa. I leant all I could about the country on the other side of the bridge and taking the steps necessary to be able to cross over at the Immigration post with my paperwork in order, knowing I had a job waiting for me so I could pay my way. This is part of the process getting to know the culture, language, geography and history of the place your are relocating to, making the transition easier.

I kept my faith that the path that God was leading me was the right one for me and took comfort in the words of Isaiah “When you go through deep waters and great trouble, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown! When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up—the flames will not consume you.” That is such a comforting verse for people leaving a conflicted land. Not only that, but Isaiah goes on to say “For I’m going to do a brand-new thing. See, I have already begun! Don’t you see it? I will make a road through the wilderness for my people to go home and create rivers for them in the desert!” Words of hope for the future!

Yes, the Lord has been gracious and given me a future in each land I have lived, it has not been an easy road, but with God’s help there has been work that I could do and people to help me when I have sought them out in the churches in my new location. If you are going through an international relocation right now, patiently follow the process, there is no quick and easy way. Take comfort that God goes with you and is with you through each of the trials you may face.  Treasure the memories of your past place of living, but keep them in a box to be pulled out every now and then to be enjoyed, mourn the loss of your past life, but also embrace the new, letting the past remain there, it cant be changed. Focus on building up your new life, making new friends and contacts and exploring your new environment. In due course you will feel like a native in your new land.

Divorce, Grief, Seasons of Life, Transitions, Travel, Widowhood

Temporary Beauty

TEMPORARY BEAUTY

For all the beauty that we see in flowers, they are seasonal and temporal. You would be hard put to find tulips in fall! Lambing time is in Spring and so is the singing of birds and flowers blooming on hillsides and gardens. Soon the temperature changes and in the heat of summer the flowers wither and die. Lambs have grown up and are sent to market and birds look out for their food – the seasons have changed again!

Jesus said “Look at the lilies! They don’t toil and spin, and yet Solomon in all his glory was not robed as well as they are”, he was saying that beauty fades it is here today and gone tomorrow, we should not be concerned about the fleeting things of life because they are only part of a greater cycle of things that is eternal and God has provided for us in that.

Quite often after we have been through a loss, be it divorce, widowhood or other, we find ourselves struggling to make ends meet to survive. We take on extra work to pay the bills or we adapt to living with less. These are our temporal needs and in the Sermon on the Mount Jesus was teaching us not to worry about our everyday lives. Life is more than the temporal, he pointed back to nature, the birds and the wildflowers. Birds are fed by God’s hand they just have to look for food, whether it is seeds, insects or small creatures, their provision is there, they just have to find it.  That of course is the more difficult part!  We know God has promised to provide for our needs, so we need to look in the right places!  Seed eating birds will look in the fields of grain, fruit eaters will look for fruit trees, and eagles will search for small creatures. Knowing your gifting and talents, how God has wired you, will help you to look in the right places for your provision.

Wildflowers are so beautiful, and yet they last for such a short time, but without them we would certainly live in a very dull world, the joy that enters our soul when we see flowers en masse is our spiritual food and nourishment.  A reminder of God’s provision. When I was living in England, I had friends who introduced me to the Charity Shops, these were a treasure trove of cast-off clothing, jewelry and household items. As I had got rid of so many of my belongings in Cape Town before my move to the UK I was able to replace them by shopping at these places for a fraction of what the items would cost new. When I left the UK, I could again return my cast-offs back to these shops to be recycled once again. The proceeds the Charity Shops made were then given to their particular charity to help people who were not in a position to help themselves. I see this as a metaphor for what Jesus was teaching, we only use temporal things for a season or so and are provided for in that season.

We should not worry about these things because God loves us, he values us more than the birds or the flowers and said He will provide for us, we just need to have some faith in His goodness. If we seek the Kingdom of God first, we will be given everything we need, so we do not have to worry about tomorrow, only looking for our provision for this day.

I know this is really hard to take into our hearts when we are struggling and wonder when it will ever end, yet I can honestly say there has never been a day I did not have a roof over my head, food in my mouth or clothes on my back. Being grateful for the small things, seeing them as provision and thanking God for them, opens your heart and mind to receive more of His provision, and knowing it is just for a season, it is as temporary as the flowers helps keep your perspective.

Copyright Deryn van der Tang 2019

Desert cacti
Divorce, Grief, Seasons of Life, Transitions, Travel, TRIALS AND TRIBULATIONS, Widowhood

BLOOMING IN THE DESERT

BLOOMING IN THE DESERT  

I have travelled to many places all over the globe, and in each of those places I have found beauty.  I see beauty  mainly in nature in the amazing variety of indigenous flora. I have seen beautiful lace plants in Finland at dawn when the early morning sun turned every drop of dew into a diamond. I have seen acres of lupines alongside the roads.  During my stay in England, I never ceased to wonder at the amazing variety of bulbs that appeared in spring. I went to the Keukenhof Gardens in the Netherlands to see the fields of tulips (my favorite flower, my late husband always gave me the first tulip of the season!) Australia has its variety of flowers that in many ways are similar to those I grew up with in Rhodesia, the beautiful purple jacaranda trees lining the avenues throwing down their purple carpet.  Flamboyant and tulip trees with their red carpets of fallen petals beneath them.  In South Africa in the Western Cape, the fynbos has a special kind of flora indigenous to that region, and Namaqualand daisies that only flower once a year after rain has fallen in the desert.

What is the difference between thriving and surviving? Indigenous plants flourish and thrive because they are in their home environment and have adapted to the conditions, so they grow strong and healthy. Desert plants do not thrive in wet conditions and visa-versa. After I had been divorced, I felt uprooted, I left my country of birth, I was transplanted into a new environment when I moved to Johannesburg and Cape Town.  In these right conditions I started to thrive, I found new friends who uplifted me, a church that supported me in my journey into wholeness and work that I loved. Because I thrived and grew in my new environment it helped my children to as well.  There were difficult times as well, but we lived through the storms, because we were in the right environment.  After my husband died, I transferred to the UK to start my life again.  This time around was a lot harder as the environment was more difficult to adapt to.  The weather for a start!  Eventually I established myself in my new environment, but I am not sure whether I was merely surviving, I would not classify my existence as joyfully thriving though! After a time of rest and renewal since retiring and moving to the USA I found I was thriving again.  I had found my right environment, a church that practices a creative ministry where I can use my gifts, family around me and friends young and old whose company I enjoy.

Sometimes we may just be in an environment that is not conducive to thriving after we have been divorced or lost a loved one.  Our inspiration and will to live is battered by these storms.  Do you wait out the storm and bloom in the desert like the Namaqualand daisies? or do you transplant to a better environment where you can thrive?  Those are questions you will need to answer for yourself. The prophet Isaiah has some words to encourage us “Even the wilderness and desert will rejoice in those days; the desert will blossom with flowers”. And again “Yes, there will be an abundance of flowers and singing and joy! The deserts will become as green as the Lebanon mountains, as lovely as Mount Carmel’s pastures and Sharon’s meadows; for the Lord will display his glory there, the excellency of our God.”  Ask God where He wants you to bloom, be it the desert, mountains or meadows. Wherever it is He will display His glory through you.

Copyright Deryn van der Tang 2019

Divorce, Grief, Seasons of Life, Transitions, Travel, Uncategorized, Widowhood

Wind Energy

On a recent trip to Pennsylvania, I travelled across the hillsides dotted with wind-turbines, their massive white bases reaching high into the sky and their silver arms slowly circling in massive arcs across the landscape.  I will not go into the pros and cons of this method of harvesting energy as I don’t want to step into a minefield.  The Dutch had used wind as a method of collecting energy for centuries, their picturesque windmill sails capturing the wind to grind their crops, this was far easier than turning the millstones by hand,

On this meditation on wind, I was struck again how God has given us nature to help us, we just need to be channels for His energy to flow.  What is wind? We can’t see it yet we can hear it, feel it and see the effects is has. It is naturally occurring air flowing through the earth’s atmosphere. Jesus mentioned this when he was talking to Nicodemous, a religious leader, telling him how hard it is to explain spiritual things, they are like wind, you don’t know where it comes from or where it is going, yet you are aware of it.

Like a windmill when you are facing difficult situations, you need the courage to face them head on, as a windmill faces into the strongest wind, the sails or blade of the windmill are set to capture the most energy. Quite often it can be anger or fear at a situation that drives the energy to move things forward.  Righteous anger in unjust situations can be a powerful force to motivate you out of lethargy into taking the necessary action to protect yourself or to make courageous choices.

The Holy Spirit was described as a rushing wind. He was sent as a Comforter and Helper, I like to think that as we make ourselves available, open our heart and arms and set our face towards God, the Holy Spirit will give us the power, the energy and the help that we need to move through our problems, giving us the insight and understanding of what we need to do or whether we need to wait.  Sometimes the arms of a windmill stand still, they are just waiting for the wind to blow again to set them in motion. Sometimes we too need to listen until we can hear the movement of the Holy Spirit moving us on again, we may have had to reset our sails to face in another direction to catch the energy.  Being in tune with the flow of energy around us and linking up with others who are also on this journey gives us more power.  Just like the wind farms all link up to the grid and provide energy that can be utilized anywhere the grid can be switched to where industries and people need it.

By linking up with a support group to go with you through your grief process and transition back into singlehood will give you the motivation, support and energy when you need it. This is true for whatever problems you may be faced with, find a group of people who you are able to connect with to get the synergy of working together and getting things done.  I invite you to join my private FaceBook Group for the Hero’s Journey through Grief, Divorce and Loss.  https://www.facebook.com/groups/324574228228420/?ref=bookmarks

Next time the wind blows, or you see the wind turbines give a thought to the positive energy we can tune into by setting our sails into the wind of God’s power through the Holy Spirit.

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Divorce, Grief, Retirement, Transitions, Travel, Widowhood

PILLARS OF FIRE AND CLOUD

On this third meditation on travel, I will talk about God’s presence on the journey. It is not always easy to discern, especially as your emotions are running high in times of grief and stress.  I took comfort in verses about God’s presence with the children of Israel through the wilderness.  “By day the Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night.  Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people.” I could identify this with a steam train whose engine was up ahead pulling the carriages behind it, smoke billowing out of the stack. In the daytime it looks like white smoky cloud and at night you can see the sparks glowing in the dark.

Many of the journeys I have taken have been by train.  In fact, I think I enjoy train travel the most, particularly steam trains. The routes are direct as the rail system is set along specific lines. I like the clickety clack of the wheels running over the tracks, and if it is a sleeper, the comfortable bunk beds and food in the dining car. It is more leisurely, and you can enjoy the scenery as you go clicking by, making a pleasant journey.

I have travelled through the desert in Botswana and the train I was travelling on in Rhodesia was stoned during political upheavals – probably most of my adventures in travel have been on trains. I have travelled on high speed trains, but steam trains are still my favorite.  I have puffed through the Welsh Valleys on a narrow-gauge steam train enjoying the magnificent scenery. In Queensland Australia, I have travelled through multiple tunnels on the Karunda railway, where I could marvel at the workmanship of the tunnels and forests.

I was travelling on the Sky Rail down the mountain at Karunda when I had a moment of terror suspended midair over the tropical forest. The Skyrail, is a cable rail with three stations down the mountain where the cable cars are suspended as they are winched down the mountain in three stages, as it is so high.  I was all by myself in the car when it suddenly jolted to a stop and there I was swinging, suspended way above the forest in the mist and wind.  I felt so alone and adrift at that point. I knew if the car fell off the rail into that forest, it would not be found for days, and not a soul in the world would know where I was.  I was out of phone touch with my family, they knew I was in Queensland but not where. This thought terrified me, to be so totally alone on the face of the globe, as I hung there dangling and swaying above the forest.  Suddenly I had the feeling of God’s presence with me, and He said, “while you are up here take the opportunity to appreciate my creation from a new angle, just look at those amazing tree ferns growing out of the top of the trees, look at the variety of trees and plants” – that calmed me immediately and I took out my sketch book and started sketching the top of the forest! After a few scary jerks, the car made its way down to the next stop and the bottom of the mountain.

This last incident truly cemented my belief that there is no place that God is not with us, and for the most part on our journey through life He is there going before us like the steam engine, we may not know what is going to be ahead of us, but He does, and the tracks we go along will lead us there eventually.  There may be scary places along the way, but His presence is with you at those moments. Sometimes we just have to trust that all will be well.

What have been your scary moments? How were you able to get through them?  I would love for you to share your story with me in the comments below.  If you are still struggling with fear of moving on, please contact me  so I can walk with you through your fear.