We need to talk

I have a complicated relationship with feminism.

Not the fundamental principle of gender equality. With that I have zero ideological dissonance. In fact, I find the notion of anything but unquestionable equality frankly, unbiblical.

You’ll very seldom find me engaged in outspoken activism for gender (or any other type of) equality. But you will always find me standing my ground, politely stubborn, on the assumption of equality. I don’t demand. I assume, and expect. I often offend people by having this smiling yet firm internal stance.

I expect to be treated with equality, because I perceive myself to be equal. As a woman, to men. As a white person, to all other races. As a single person, to married people. As a South African, to other nations. Etc. And I expect that everyone else in the room be treated in the same way. That is sort of the definition of equality, is it not? Do unto others …

Walking into a context where others don’t hold those same assumptions (a similar sensation for me than walking into a glass wall) has often been a cause of massive underlying conflict. But I’ll get back to that.

So, my relationship with equality is simple. It’s assumed, expected and reciprocated. This is my stand. You’re welcome to try and move me. In fact, I dare you … :).

But my relationship with the various faces of feminism got complicated again over the past few weeks as the public narratives around gender based violence (GBV) became mass outcry campaigns.

Perhaps I need to be clear before I sound like I’m approaching real pain from an academic perspective. This is just a deeply personal long-winded way of unraveling my own biases. Maybe, somewhere, you can relate, and it helps. That’s my hope.

Thousands of vulnerable people in this country suffer, and die senselessly, at the hands of depraved people who serve evil through their actions. I align fully with the demand on authorities to protect and bring justice. I anguish over violence (gender-based and xenophobic), and mourn the loss of life and of the sense of security. This is not a media agenda. It is an epidemic, and it has to be stopped. I fully agree. We all suffer from some form of PTSD. There are no easy answers. We need to do better, as a nation, on so many levels. We can, though. The police and justice systems needs to be capacitated. Mindset and systems much change. People need new hearts.

But I’m writing this to try to try and figure out why I haven’t been able to fully align my own heart with some of the GBV messaging that has trended on social media, and on the placards on display at the numerous (awesome) marches that have happened around the country, demanding action from authorities.

What I fully get, is that anger is a stage of grief. The expression of this grief-based anger is powerful and necessary, and it will confront complacency and denial. It has to do that. I get that shock tactics and -messaging are often a thin veil placed over desperation and real fear. Compassion and empathy sees through that veil. I hear you. I am you.

There is just some of the borderline hate-speech messaging and lines-of-thought that didn’t make sense to me. I know people have their set of arguments for each statement made. I can probably unpack your argument and explain to you what your underlying philosophical assumptions are in three steps :). Or, you can tell me where you’re coming from. But, let’s not go there now. This is not the time to school one another. You can express whatever you like. It’s valid. It’s necessary. It’s critical. I hear you. Cry, girl-child. Scream. Get it out. Keep going.

I am merely trying to unpack a few of the statements that seemed flawed to me in where the expectations are placed, juxtaposed over statements that make those same expectations void of substance. I’m trying to understand my own heart, where those same juxtapositions live.

I’m talking specifically about the “Men/Cyril/JSE Please Save Us” (or whatever iteration of that) vs. “all men/governments/corporates are Trash” (or whatever iteration of that) conversations.

Let me put it simply: I don’t understand how you can cry out for help from the same “source” that you are vilifying. If you demand principled behavior, surely you can’t be demanding that from trash?

You cannot expect “trash” to speak out on your behalf, to stand up for you, to protect you, to use its strength for your benefit?

You are demanding virtue from something you are declaring to be void of it by decreeing it to be trash.

I am perplexed by this.

So, let’s soldier on.

I’m of the notion that not all men are trash. The campaign messaging logic is flawed.

There, I said it.

Let’s distinguish, though.

Even-though I’m saying that I don’t align with #allmenaretrash, I understand that the cry of this global campaign is for men to recognize that, even-though they might not be directly perpetrating through physical violence or abuse, they might be perpetuating by keeping the strongholds of patriarchy (read: systemic unequal power-dynamics) firmly in place through words, actions and, notably, silence.

I know it sounds like I’m following a particular argument that casts the blame of GBV on patriarchy. I’m not suggesting it’s that simple, or that a sexist joke is the same as rape. Some might suggest that, though. I struggle with extremism, but I do get the logic behind the argument.

I get that we have to have a drastic approach to highlighting blind spots, and that those blind spots are no longer excusable. Boys will be boys, … but not if that is what it means to be a boy.

There are justifiable reasons to “keep the peace”. People who perceive themselves to be “powerful” don’t like when you don’t laugh at their rude jokes. You may be sidelined. I get that. The struggle is real. Leave the damn whatsapp group. Or stay, and school. It’ s the least you can do. Thank you for doing that, though. And for trying to get it.

Selah.

Let’s take this on another rabit trail.

I saw a guy on Twitter not understanding why a memorandum of the #SandtonShutdown march against GBV was handed over to the CEO of the JSE.

Perhaps I can explain by means of a vague example.

Let’s just say I’ve been in corporate contexts where what I said bounced off the glass walls of patriarchy, only to be said next by a male, and then received with much enthusiasm and attributed to the male as the insight that brought the game-changing breakthrough to unravel a deadlock complexity … In this regard, I have been pissed off to the point of withdrawing wisdom and shutting-up. Which is a disservice to myself, and to the people that actually needed to hear what I had to say. Their loss. But mine too. Passive aggression is also a form of violence that damages trust in both parties. I’m guilty too.

And that’s just in the context of being occasionally patronized. Others go through far worse.

Do you understand now why corporate South Africa is also being called to task on GBV? Probably not … because what the hell does GBV have to fo with being patronized in a boardroom …? I’ll leave you to ponder that one.

I have another juxtaposition problem.

I opened a regional newspaper this morning. On the front page there is a potentially powerful advertorial and creed written for men to read out loud to show their solidarity with women in the fight against GBV. On the Lifestyle section front-page of that same newspaper there is a full page photo of a pop star pole-dancing, with gawking men throwing money on stage. I guess she thinks she’s exerting power. Some might argue that she is. But, hell.

Can we pause, please.

Firstly, the newspaper published this “totally acceptable” photo in the same edition where they are calling for a change to the gender narrative. Uhm. Can we be any more tone-deaf?

Secondly, and very critically … the pop star chose to pose in that way. Her PR team was mandated to distribute that image into the world. Don’t throw the “society has created that expectation of her …” line. She bloody-well takes her own clothes off, pays people to take photos of her butt and boobs and and makes a crap-load of money by perpetuating gender sexuality stereotypes on a global scale. Get off the pole, please, before you accuse others of objectifying you. If accountability is demanded, it needs to be demanded of all.

This is not about the clothing / dressing rabbit hole. She does not “give consent” in any way or form by exercising this choice of dress or pose. That is not at all part of this point. Consent is verbal, and it is spelled “yes”.

I am merely making the point that female “role models” are fully accountable for gender stereotypes too. For this statement, I was disqualified from the flammable student feminism gang at Rhodes :).

I guess this post has become about calling out societal “schizophrenia” when we try to deal with difficult and painful matters on a mass scale. You can take any one of the lines I’ve written in this post, and quote it out of context to drive your own agenda. Let’s not.

Maybe it’s time to simply be authentic, and not try and be politically correct or profound. I’m not a hardcore feminist. I don’t hold a social sciences degree that informs clever conversations around hypothesis of gender and power.

But I am a girl. And I do feel vulnerable. And often, highly frustrated by the status quo.

Grieve. Listen. Care. Do what you must. For your own soul. For others.

I was at church last week Sunday. As one does. Also a delicate personal matter currently, but let’s suffice to say that I was there. Holding on to institutional faith by my nails. But alas, I digress.

The pastor led the congregation in a service dedicated to lamenting the state of the nation in response to the violence that has been again brought into the spotlight by painful recent events. It was a powerful communal act of owning responsibility, acknowledging injustice, respecting different expressions of angry mourning, and communicating solidarity. It felt deeply prophetic.

But he had one line that made me realise that I may be harboring some underlying pain. He said: “To my sisters, we stand with you …”

I remember looking up from the prayer at the the guy from way back in the hall. He was doing really well in navigating through murky waters and delivering a powerful statement, but as he said that I thought suddenly: ”Dude, I appreciate your sentiment, but your promise is not practical and does not apply to me. I mostly walk very much alone in places you will never be near enough to do anything to help.” The unfair accusation popped up involuntarily.

I know he was making an important and heartfelt sincere statement. I discern these things. He meant what he said, and I’m sure his actions will follow through for the people in his world.

But my own sense of lack became acutely practical in that moment, and so far removed from well-meaning declarations and sentiment.

The entire thing came crashing down on me. I felt crushed by disillusion. And very much alone.

I simply don’t expect men to be strong on my behalf. I’ve had to be strong for myself. And even though I recommend being empowered, I don’t think hyper-self-sufficiency is a good thing, especially in close relationships.

I do however, know the root of this fortifying.

To put it bluntly, and dangerously out of the bigger context of much honour, love and respect: My primary male example was sadly often incapacitated by his own choices. He probably would have given his life to protect his family from physical danger, but his lifestyle habits often made that intention nonviable.

My father was sacrificially devoted to his family and work, a stubborn and gentle man, with moral integrity and a work-ethic like no one else I know. A highly successful and super intelligent, internationally respected business man.

And for all practical reasons, privately an alcoholic.

Never violent. Just passed-out often physically, and increasingly checked-out emotionally. And currently, frankly, dead.

So, I never did feel quite safe, and learned to protect myself. Fiercely independent, I believe some of the perceptions have been.

My relationship with feminism is complicated because of this very real innate desire for missing male protection, juxtaposed over this inner resolve and coping mechanism of successful self-sufficiency.

It’s a a bloody daddy issues case study :).

I will leave it there for now.

I’m not going to go any deeper by adding the obvious layer of having faith and trusting in God, and not in man. That’s good practice for us all. I don’t mean self-sufficiency in that way. I’m not relying on my own strength. But I’m also not relying on the strength of another human. Which I probably should consider doing if I’m ever going to move beyond the relational status of “it’s complicated”.

I’ve intentionally not alluded to the spiritual warfare dimension in all of this. I actually believe that none of this violence is primarily gender or race based. It is, and has always been, a war on humanity, fueled by a hatred of the image of God. Human free will that chooses to act out of selfishness, denying love, empowers evil to exert influence, marring both the one who wrongs, and the one who is wronged. Free will that chooses to love, empowered by grace, can stop evil. This post is however not written from the assumption that all its readers necessarily share that worldview.

This is not a metaphysical existential crises. It’s simply an attempt to grapple with public statements and positions that I should have been fully aligned with, according to my gender, but that I am not.

So, for the sake of the conversations that people are having: I don’t align with the “#allmenaretrash wording because the majority of my personal experience has simply not been that, and it doesn’t align with my personally held redemptive theology.

I’ve observed how men that I respect grapple sincerely with their roles and responsibility in this time. I’ve been spoken up for and physically protected from harm, by males. I really do appreciate it, when I perceive it to be safe.

But I don’t expect it. Maybe I should?

So, all men are not trash beyond redemption. But neither are they saints beyond reproach. None of us are either. Hence, the Gospel.

This has taken me more than seven hours to write, and I still don’t feel like I’ve nailed what I needed to get out.

And it is unraveling …

We do need to talk.

Selah.

Grace, abounding. For the pilgrim’s progress.

It’s been a week of proper adulting. It’s probably about time.

The personal transition of the past four months has been drenched in a grace that is hard to put in words.

Some of you reading this are aware of the seasons of mourning that hit in 2009, and then again in 2017. Few of you are aware of the intensity surrounding this, and how many aspects of my life felt like I was permanently on a gauntlet. Without that context, a social media observation of this new season might not give glory enough to the One that has been faithful throughout.

I’ve recently realised again how personal a faith journey is. We can speak to others about our unspoken prayers and their miraculous outcomes. We can witness about the amazing and awful experiences we’ve been through, and the supernatural peace we’ve had in the midst of the storms of life. We can testify of the undeserved goodness that has been given to us, freely. It still doesn’t mean others would want to choose to believe that the source of this constant love, is a Person that you can know in your spirit, through communion with His.

And that’s ok. I still believe that none of the storms that I’ve been through, and none of the sunlight that I walk in now, is without Him.

The concept of physical inheritance has given me some still-maturing insights into spiritual inheritance.

Inheritance is interesting. You don’t get to choose what you get. What’s bequeathed to you in a will, is what you get. You can choose to receive it, or to renounce it. There is an executor of that will, with the authority to act on behalf of the one that willed. In our case, the dude’s name was fittingly, Progress. We frequently asked for progress reports. #progress. But I digress.

It is finished. Selah.

God’s will is for us to be in relationship with Him. The terms and conditions of that relationship, and how we access it, is His to determine.

In the Christian Way, faith in Jesus is the T&C. I don’t pretend to know how some get to that faith, and others don’t. But it’s the Gospel. Wrestle with it. It’s too good to not give it a thorough investigation.

We did nothing to deserve what we have in Christ. As the faithful executor of God’s will, Jesus lived the righteous life we can’t live in our flesh, died the death we should have died on the Cross, overcame sin and death, and lives to return as King in the fullness of time. Through His death and resurrection, we are given access to His inheritance of unhindered and eternal relationship with Yahweh, the Father. On earth, as it it is in Heaven. The Kingdom is righteousness, joy and peace in the Spirit. Now, and for eternity.

I don’t pretend to understand this either. I just know it’s too good to renounce.

Then there’s this wrestling with the enabling grace of physical inheritance. Wrestling, because getting stuff can never compensate for loosing people.

There is a responsibility to steward a received inheritance for the benefit of the generations to come. Which, in my case, is still by faith.

It is foolish to not appreciate, sow, enjoy and invest wisely. With deep thankfulness, and many other mixed emotions. For the sake of vulnerability and transparency: That is what you’re observing on social media in this season. That’s where the Morocco adventure came from. It is undeserved and unearned abundant grace. The honour belongs to Fanie and Cilna Pienaar. And to Paul van Heerden. And the thanks to my sister and brother-in-law, for being faithful stewards of what they have been entrusted with, on so many levels.

The glory, always to God.

So, as an investment start, I bought a property. By faith. Knowing full-well that there are challenges in this country that would make many caution against investing anything relatively long-term now.

But South Africa is my heart’s home. It is my delight to invest and work in my spheres of influence for its prosperous future, for as long as I am called here. My land is Beulah, according to Isaiah 62. It’s all happening very fast. Papers have been signed. Deposits have been made.

Talking about long-term commitments, I even downloaded PhD application forms. The topic I’m pondering on relates to resilience, value propositions and nation branding, in line with my love for this country and the current context I’m blessed to work in.

I’m still not sure what I want to be when I grow up, but I think I may be taking some proper steps towards officially adulting. It’s been a reluctant start (from age 25 to 37 …), but things are looking up …

Grace, abounding. For the pilgrim’s progress. “As they pass through the Valley of Baca, they make it a place of springs.” Psalm 84: 6

Beauty for ashes. Gladness for mourning.

Selah.

Morocco: Ten days of summer in North Africa

I can’t remember when I fell in love with Morocco.

It just happened. Like falling in love does. The one day you’re browsing a world atlas. The next day you’re planning your future wedding according to a Berber nomadic-camp-in-the-desert theme.

I’ve basically been infatuated with the colours and patterns of this special North African country for quite some time now.

So, when the invite came to join a group of friends (we were housemates (and honorary housemates), so it was basically a reunion tour :)) on a 10-day adventure to this country that has been in my heart for years, it almost felt like a “too-good-to-be-true”. But alas, some dreams do weave their way into reality.

Disclaimer: I am by no means a travel blogger, and this is a rather self-indulgent one-week-post-trip memory download, but you might find some useful info in-between the (sorry, lengthy … ) personal observations and reflections.

Salaam …

Flying solo

The only part of the trip that I did alone was getting there and back. I met up with the gang in Marrakesh, so I needed to navigate the connecting flights from Cape Town to Marrakesh by myself (CPT – Doha – Casablanca – RAK, on Royal Air Morocco, operated by Qatar Airways). Not a big deal, if all goes well … which it thankfully did.

I’m always delighted by the little plane on the screen making it’s way across the globe. I love knowing that I’m now somewhere over Tanzania, Kenya, Ethiopia, Somalia, Yemen … Egypt, Libya, Algeria … I simply love the MENA region.

En-route there I did nip a bit, because international flights tend to disembark slightly slower than what you plan for, and I was still disembarking from the CPT-Doha flight (a 10 hour-ish flight, fast-forwarding time by an hour, arriving there at midnight), when the Doha-Casablanca flight was already starting to board …

First thing that hits you is the humidity when the doors open. Even at midnight. Then you walk-run through a major international airport (massive, beautiful and excellently sign-posted, by the way) to find your connecting flight gate, to discover through deducting from conversations in Arabic that it is delayed by just enough time for you to not be stranded in Doha, and by not too much that you would be stranded in Casablanca the next day … Winning.

The Doha-Casablanca flight time is almost 8 hours (going back in time by two hours). Arrived groggy from 20-ish hours of traveling (worked through a few movies: Crazy Rich Asians, Mary, Queen of Scots etc. And Sound of Music, for good measure). Sat around in the Casablanca domestic departures lounge for about two hours, figuring out the wifi. Then, a short hop to Marrakesh (50 mins, up and down).

Travel tip: When I get on the plane, I set my wrist watch to the time at destination. This helps to orient your internal clock and avoid freak-out sessions when you realise that you a) don’t have an extra 3 hours to board, or b) do have an extra 7 hours to smell all the perfumes in duty free.

Perfect timing

So, despite being this “independently strong” woman that I’m supposed to be … I did have a bit of a stress-sesh about arriving in Marrakesh. What if I don’t find my friends? What does the airport look like? What if the wifi doesn’t work and whatsapp fails? What if their flight had issues? But alas, grace. Literally, the exact time I walked through customs, they walked through customs on the other side. Perfect timing. The reunion was joyful :).

Travel tip: We exchanged money at the airport. RAK has a very convenient station as you go through customs, where you can use your Visa card to draw local currency (dirham) or exchange money. Not Rands, though. So, go with US dollars or Euro, or use your SA card to draw money. Remember to let your bank know that you’re traveling. ABSA: On the app, FNB: Call the credit card division. The exchange rate was around R1.5 to MAD1. We easily found a taxi to take the six of us to the medina. Negotiate the price before the trip. We paid MAD400. Which we later found out was a slight rip-off. But alas. We got there.

Marrakesh

I’ve never been one for crowds. I’m more of a skip-the-cue-VIP-section kinda-girl. Diva. Owning it.

But you need to have the Marrakesh medina experience. It’s as vibrant and bustling as you would expect it to be. The taxi basically drops you outside the medina (the old city), and you’re on your own from there. If you manage to steer clear of everyone offering their guide-services for free, which is seldom really for free …

If not for the guys who downloaded Google maps to navigate us around, I would never have found my way. It’s a maze of stalls and restaurants and rihads, with what seems to be thousands of people squeezing passed one another, jostling scooters and bikes and donkeys for a space to take it all in. It’s wonderful. And overwhelming. Especially after 20-plus hours of no sleep traveling.

We spent the first day side-stepping close encounters with all sorts of moving objects in the souks. We visited the delightful Dar Si Said Museum (historic and contemporary Moroccan art) and the insightful Maison de la Photographie (a history of Morocco in photos, 1870 – 1950). We found Casablanca beer on a rooftop, and dodged snake charmers and determined food stall promo guys on the famous Jemaa el-Fnaa Square. The first night we stayed at Rihad Zanzibar. The hospitality and splash pool was wonderful. The bed bugs, not so much.

Travel tip: The rihad arranged a Merzouga desert excursion for us at a price better than what was available online. We paid around R1 500 for a three-day trip, and they took care of all the arrangements. You can do Marrakesh on Google maps, but the desert tours are better through one of the thousand tour operators :). Travel tip PS: Peaceful Sleep spray. Selah.

Sahara (High Atlas Mountains, Ouarzazate, Dades Valley & Todra Gorge, Merzouga)

This entire experience was a massive life-highlight for me. The Sahara holds a special charm, and to have had a small glimpse of this beauty will forever be a cherished memory.

We had an endearing tour guide (yes, I perhaps developed a light crush …), and shared the trip with two girls from China, two from Spain, one guy doing a solo trip around the world from Japan, a couple from Morocco, and a couple from Portugal. While winding through the High Atlas Mountains, Morocco Hit Radio’s playlist shuffled treffers like Aisha, Bla, bla, bla, bla cookie, the litchi song and an Arabic reworking of Informer … I like your boom-boom girl. We also got deep into a Kenny Rogers sing-along medley. True story.

En-route to Merzouga (the town on the edge of desert) we stopped to do a walking tour of Atlas Film Studios’ “Hollywood”. Numerous movies have used the UNESCO World Heritage Site Berber town of Aït Ben Haddou as a set location. Including Lawrence of Arabia, The Passion of the Christ, Gladiator, Black Hawk Down, Kingdom of Heaven, and Game of Thrones. We also had an agriculture tour and a walk into the Todra Gorge, to where the fountain births the river.

There is a striking contrast between the piercing blue sky, red clay and lush green vegetation in the Dades Valley. The imposing Todra Gorge left a lasting impression. I never even knew that these awe-inspiring places and landscapes existed, with their kasbahs, olive groves and roses, let alone imagined I would have the privilege of seeing them.

We slept over in a hotel outside Ourzazate with a view on a spectacular rock face that felt like being in the Cederberg.

Next day, the trip takes you to Merzouga, where a congregation of camel caravans await to whisk you off into the desert sunset.

Interlude. Things about a camel-ride into the Sahara to note:

  • Camels get up with their back-legs first. They’re huge. You can fall forward. And off. And break limbs. Hypothetically.
  • Suppress the urge to burst into “Arabian Nights”. Remember: You are not in Agrabah. But it is highly tempting.
  • An hour and a half on a camel can give you blisters. On your hands. And potentially elsewhere.
  • It’s not ideal to be at a particular stage of the female cycle whilst riding a camel. Or venture into the desert, for that matter. Girl problems.
  • Going up dunes is slightly more comfortable than going down dunes.
  • Wear long pants. Heat is temporary. Chaffing has longer term implications.
  • Camels get down with their front-legs first. They’re still huge. You can fall forward again. And off. And break limbs. Hypothetically.
  • Be in the moment. It really is bucket-list stuff.

The evening in the desert was special. We arrived at dusk to a camp with semi-permanent tents set up. After a tajine dinner prepared by a Berber dude appearing out of nowhere, we took the beds (proper beds with mattresses) outside the tents (as per recommendation) to sleep under a billion Northern hemisphere stars. Priceless. And freezing, at 4am. I felt a bit exposed, to be honest, so I slept with my contact lenses in and my passport and wallet under my pillow, for what it’s worth …

Watched the sunrise over the Algerian border, and hitched a roller-coaster ride back over the dunes with a 4×4, at an additional MAD100. Worth it. Couldn’t quite imagine getting back on a camel at 5am … Big bonus: We were able to have shower and breakfast at one of the hotels on the edge of the desert, before the full-day (slightly exhausting) trip back to Marrakesh.

We spent another night in Marrakesh at Riad Puchka, which we touristingly referred to as our sultan’s palace.

Sitting at a rooftop restaurant, listening to the call for prayer symphony, and reflecting on the almost surreal experience of the past two days, a realisation hit me: My tummy feels funny.

Which turned into two days of frequenting W.C.’s and a renewed commitment to semi-vegetarianism.

Fez

After a pleasant (if not for the above-mentioned tummy-context) 6 hour train ride, we again easily found a taxi to take us to the vicinity of Riad les Oudayas. Once again, the guys, with Google maps, saved the day. I was woman down, so night 1 in Fez was basically just identifying where the loo was located, and getting into bed.

Thankfully, Fez medina is way more chilled than Marrakesh. Spent the next day meandering at a demure pace through all the stalls. Saw the famous Fez leather tannery (aroma, not ideal … you walk with mint leaves in-front of your nose as you approach the tannery. They use pigeon poo to soften the leather …). We walked all the way up to the ruins outside the city for a sunset drink and a game of Kings & Assholes at a fancy hotel on a hill.

Day 2 in Fez was an officially decreed shopping day. I bought a leather laptop bag for R420. It still smells a bit like camel. For effect.

We had dinner on a rooftop overlooking the Grande Porte Bab Boujeloud (The Blue Gate), the main entry to Fez el-Bali. The mood was festive after Morocco beat South Africa 1-0 in the AFCON game. It made a great banter topic throughout the rest of the trip.

Interesting observation: The street café’s were packed with men watching the game. Zero alcohol involved. High levels of enthusiasm, and major joy in winning, without the negative effects of the boozing that we would often associate with the same sport watching culture back home. It felt quite refreshing. And way safer. Selah.

Travel tip: The leather products are really well-priced, compared to SA prices. Make sure the zips work, though. Err’body has their hustle-game on, so don’t hold back on the bargaining. One dude gave me a starting price of MAD400, and another MAD300, for the same bag at the same stall. I paid MAD280. Camel fragrance included.

Chefchaouen

Chefchaouen is in one word, delightful. It’s about a 4-hour mountain-winding bus ride from Fez to get to this gem.

Morocco’s “Blue Pearl” is nestled in the Rif mountains. The streets and houses are literally painted in all the different shades of my second-favourite colour. The involuntary impulse to sing “Alles is blou” is inescapable.

If Marrakesh is Joburg-hustle and Fez is Cape Town-buzz, then Chefchaouen is McGregor-quaint. We stayed in Dar Nokhba Inn.

It’s worth taking a day to browse this Insta-dream town. You want to pause around every corner for a profile pic. We took a short walk at dusk, up to the Spanish mosque. To watch the sunset over the castle on the hill … Got a group of Asian travel influencers to take our group pic professionally. Winning.

Second day in Chefchaouen, we took a 30-minute taxi ride to do a 2 hour-ish (about 13km) hike to swim in the pools of the Akchour waterfalls. This was probably the most surprising experience for me, not expecting at all the lush valley and azure blue pools to play in. Morocco’s Jonkershoek. Absolutely loved every minute of it.

Returned to the square that evening, to have tajines on a rooftop. As per custom. Bought one too many throws. Because, pretty.

Travel tip: Don’t be surprised by the numerous offers for opportunities to sample the local flora. The green plantation patches high on the slopes is not per se lusern. Also, beware the stray dogs. They seem to like being yelled “voetsek!” at. Also, make sure the taxi you take to get to the waterfall hike is registered to go on that route. We had a close encounter with a group of irate taxi drivers who seemed to be highly annoyed with our driver, whom we figured out was probably a friend of the guy who arranged the trip for us, and not a registered taxi. Rookie error.

Tangier

With the bus ride to Tangier the landscape changes to distinctly more Mediterranean, with one of my other favorites, olive trees, dominating the scenery. That, and the wind farms.

Spent the last day in Morocco on the beach, with a view of Spain on the horizon over the Strait of Gibraltar. We were the only women showing skin. As in, legs. Tried to downplay it a bit by wearing sarongs. But we were quite obviously not from around there.

The promenade felt like Sea Point in summer. Everyone out with their families, strolling deep into the cooling hours of the night.

We didn’t book a hotel for the last night, since our flights were at 5am the next morning. So, we maxed out the time in Tangier, and headed for the airport at around 10pm. Found a corner, and hit the floor for a short, hard snooze.

The trip back was basically just surviving a 7-hour layover in Casablanca and a middle seat for the Doha-Cape Town leg. Which I thankfully passed out for.

And just like that.

My soul, forever coloured in by the generous people and resilient vibrancy of a special country on the exact opposite other end of the continent I love. An adventure of a lifetime, shared with friends-that-have-become-family … #avontuur-rustig.

Back in my mountain nest. Where airport trips are marked by conversations with Zimbabwean Uber drivers about their planned road trip to Egypt. He legit bought a Hilux with six friends, and they’re fixing it up for a three-month trip in 2021 …

Everybody, on a journey.

Choukran, Morocco.

Until we meet again. At a young girl’s dream wedding, perhaps.

Selah.

Some other random and potentially useful travel tips:

  • Flight Center handled my flight bookings and visa application. No mess, no fuss. Visa takes about 10 days. But don’t leave it too late.
  • Hand-sanitizer, wet-wipes and bug repellent saves the day.
  • Cash is preferable, even at the places that say they have credit card facilities.
  • We booked accommodation via bookings.com prior to the trip. I made additional bookings to have my name reflect on the confirmation for the Visa application. Just remember to cancel the bookings that you won’t take up, prior to the trip. Almost caused an international relations incident with a rihad that was expecting my arrival. Managed to make a whatsapp friend in the end.
  • I had my passport on me at all times, while the others felt safer to leave it at the accommodation.
  • Our two-point plug chargers work in their sockets. Wifi is pretty freely available.
  • Eat the beef, prune and almond tajine. It probably is beef. Or a version thereof.
  • Learn some French. It will help if your Arabic fails you. Most people we met spoke good (or some) English, though.
  • The colours do run, despite what the guy in the medina promised you.
  • Download the city maps to work offline on your phone.
  • Remember the Immodium, Valoid and some form of antibiotic salve.

Suddenly

The past two months have been a joyride on the wave-crest of a “suddenly”.

A breakthrough that catapults into a new season, where longed-for change is suddenly the new reality.

I haven’t quite had the time to process the extent of this rather abrupt transition.

It’s a complete shift.

For most people, it would look like normal progression. People move on to other jobs, and they move cities to be closer to their place of work. It’s not that uncommon, actually.

The context of this move, for me, is however beyond career advancement, even-though it is wonderfully that too.

I couldn’t quite place my finger on it.

My life in Stellenbosch was beyond blessed. There are multiple factors playing into that statement, and in general, if I looked at my life objectively, it made no sense to uproot and move away from 10 years of meaningful commitments to a wide network of wonderful people. Deeply rooted in loving community. With Jonkershoek as backyard playground. Stellenbosch was home.

But yet, there was this underlying frustration that something needed to break open, heightening into a deep groaning for change. Waiting …

I’m not elaborating on the intensity of the emotions that I went through in this process. I remember sitting with Habakkuk … “Though the fig tree may not blossom …” and feeling like I really understood what that felt like, on the level of not feeling heard by God in certain aspects of my life, and overlooked by people. I kept declaring that Yahweh Perazim is the God of the breakthrough, and that in His time, He acts swiftly …

It felt, however, like the heavens were brass. (Given the confusing context of mourning too …)

At the risk of not doing this miracle justice, I leave out many things, for many things don’t always need public disclosure. Discretion is sister to wisdom. Selah. Suffice to say, expectations don’t always align. Which was a contributing factor to the crying out for something to shift.

Which it did. After quite a few disappointments that taught me the difference between a false opportunity and a real open door.

To be frank: I had four seemingly perfect job opportunities that I needed to say no to, before the one that I felt the “yes” for came, pretty much out the blue. I had to say no for reasons that had to do with morality, integrity, and self-worth. God reasons. Those that we don’t always understand. “Why can’t I just have peace about this …?!”. But I don’t. So, no.

Then, after months of not seeing any indication of prayers being heard, the suddenly. More than what I asked for.

I had one day to make a decision. The peace was there. So, I jumped.

It’s been quite a faith ride. But here we are. Cape Town. Nestled in on the slopes of a new mountain. Learning at a breakneck speed about the exciting world that is the green economy. A spacious place. Completely new.

Be encouraged. Your life can literally change for the good in a day.

I’ve had many “suddenlies” in my life happen on both the delightfully positive and devastatingly negative side of the spectrum.

Regardless of which way the suddenly plays out, the Rock-reality remains the same: His grace is sufficient.

Selah.

Nuwe berg

Teen die hange van ’n nuwe berg,
word vlerke weer tentatief getoets,
wat deur die storms bedremmeld-nat vasgeplak was
teen die weerlose veg-gees
van alleen vrou-wees.

bietjie vir bietjie
soos wat wysheid en gaafheid spasie gee
kom die onthou:

die droom was nog altyd
om hoog te vlieg.

Dit was net nog nie veilig nie.
Al wou jy wees.

Harte sing eers regtig
as die stilte luister
om te ken.

Selah.

Be prepared …

I received an email this morning with race details for the Two Oceans Marathon. Which is next week.

See, here’s the thing.

I didn’t enter the Two Oceans Marathon. And if I did, it didn’t occur to me to note it anywhere.

So, I had a moment of administrative self-doubt. But my knee-jerk internal processing surprised me.

I actually, for a brief second, considered doing it. Despite not remembering that I intended to, or not having spent more than 10km on the road over the past two months.

I figured … why not … ? Let’s just go for it. See what happens. Walk. Dalla wat jy moet …

Fact of the matter is, the race would probably be slightly challenging. But then again, what isn’t … ?

See, you don’t just enter the OMTOM. You get selected to enter. So, if you do get an entry, it’s not one that you simply pass up. You make a plan. Ideally, more than a week before the actual race. But, hey.

Reality is, that email reads further down “… if you are entered …”. So, no, I didn’t actually forget that I entered the OMTOM. Seems like they’re sending general info mails about the Expo to err’body on their database.

“To prepare for your race …” was however the line that got me thinking.

The faith-decision to jump on an opportunity when it presents itself is often what matters in the moment, even when you feel highly unprepared. Those “but I’m not ready/but I know it’s right” split-second “aaaah … yes! … jump” moments are often what gets our absolute dependence on the Lord activated again. I’m not talking about being unwise. I’m talking about prayerful, peace-filled, council-invited, cost-counted, “this is crazy, but ok” … decisions.

I’ve made a few radical decisions in my life. Most of them have had to happen really fast.

What is also true, however, is that those types of decisions, and the subsequent wave of change, can actually only happen at the speed it does because of the months, and even years, of internal preparation. For people who observe from a distance, it seems like a “wow, that was quick.” “Are you sure you’re not rushing into this?” But no one really knows what you are going through to be able to have the internal resources to draw from to be able to say “yes” when the Kairos moment comes. To access the faith-resources that have been stored up in the lonely seasons of desert dwelling. To hold on to Him. Because the wave is crashing at a breakneck speed, and you’re not actually a surfer. It’s all grace.

The faith to wait. To say no. To walk away. More than once. Obedience, when it hurts.

And then, in the “suddenly” … the faith to take a deep breath, and then just quietly say: “Yes, but only if it’s with You.”

To run the race marked out.

Because there is a time for every purpose under Heaven. Taste and see that the Lord is good.

Selah.

Die lyf se onthou

Dis al vir jare wat ek nie op my linkersy kan slaap nie. My oor word seer. Beenpyn seer.

Elke keer as ek dokter toe gaan, en hulle skyn met daai brein-kyk liggie in my ore, dan het hulle iets te sê oor die binnekant van my ore. Dis blykbaar redelik interessant daar binne, waar niemand kan sien as hulle nie bedoel om te kyk nie. In my ore, bedoel ek. My brein ook, maar as iemand kan sien wat daar aangaan wens ek hulle alle sterkte toe.

Nou die dag, toe ek vir die tweede keer in twee maande by ‘n dokter sit met ’n ding wat my asem wou steel, kry ek perspektief op die ore ding.

“Het jy baie geswem?” vra die dokter.

“Jip, redelik,” sê ek. In die understatement van die jaar.

“Ek sien so. Jou oorwande is bietjie gekartel. Links meer as regs.”

Nou ja toe. Nou verstaan ek my linkerlê pyn beter.

Blykbaar doen die koue water dit. Google “Surfer’s Ear.” Daar het jy dit.

Swem was my ding. Van Graad 2 af. Toe stop ek na SA’s in Standerd 9. Want ek wou nie meer nie.

Toe vergeet ek van swem, en wat dit vat om te wen.

Maar my ore onthou.

En toe dink ek bietjie.

Daar is dinge wat mens vergeet, of kies om te vergeet. Of dit word deur jare se plein aangaan met die lewe vervaag.

Maar iets in jou lyf onthou.

Dat jy goed was in swem. Dat jy al in Jerusalem was in oorlogtyd op jou eie. Dat jy voor 1 000 mense kan praat sonder om te skroom. Dat jy hoog kan sing.

Iets in jou lyf onthou.

Dat jy alles vergewe het, en dat jy gekies het om aan te hou dien. Waar bittermin mense konteks het.

Iets in jou lyf onthou.

Elke breekpunt. Elke keuse.

Die kartels van onthou kan soms die klank van ’n nuwe lied probeer dof maak.

Maar iets in jou lyf onthou.

Dat jy ’n vrou is.

Selah.

SPENDING TIME ON PURPOSE

I have this thing with using time optimally.

One of my “always-on” internal conversation starters with myself seems to be the question: “Is this the best use of your time, now?”

Only if I am able to answer that question affirmatively, can I be present in the moment.

This has application from day-to-day task and time management to bigger concepts like “purpose”, “calling”, “career” … etc.

Anyway.

I want to use my time well. Constructively. Productively. Fruit-bearing-ly.

I guess I am rather intuitive when it comes to practical “order of events/tasks” etc. I would sometimes pause something mid-way because I had a light-bulb go on about something else I could do first in order to make a “chain of events” later on flow better.

I find my mind racing ahead constantly to everything diarised (… if it’s not written down it doesn’t exist) for the day … week … month … and then I race back to the present moment to make sure it’s aiming in the right direction. In that sense, I don’t do that well with disorder. Unless I’ve planned for it, or I’ve anticipated the need to be flexible. I don’t mean complexity. That’s fine. As long as the order becomes clear eventually …

I also find my spirit asking on a continual basis: “Lord, is this right, and is this right, for now?” Also in deciding what to say, and when to say it … because words create worlds, and can direct energy towards action, or distraction …

It’s a dynamic process of optimising capacity. Welcome to the inner workings of my brain …

Now, this is all fair and well when the system is healthy and firing on all cylinders.

This year didn’t exactly start off that way.

It started off with tickbite fever.

I was rather ill for more than two weeks. Woman down. Exhaustion levels like I’ve never known. Then, because of a lack of exercise, it spiraled into a bout of unanticipated depression. There were a few minor external disruptions which probably also rattled a rather delicate internal balance.

Thankfully, the tickbite fever healed, and the depression lifted. The waters calmed down again, and the boat survived without any visible damage, having weathered a few storms before … The house built on the rock stands firm. Safe under the shadow of His wings, until the disaster passes.

But, all that stuff about using time optimally and being uber efficient …

Not so easy when your systems go haywire.

Be that as it may. Grace sustains. Favour prevails. Fruit is supernatural anyway.

During this storm, because that’s pretty much just what it was, I also wrestled with this big word: purpose, and questioned its personal vocational application.

It happens every now and again. It’s also a theme our church is exploring in this season, so it probably makes sense that it would be a spiritual battle to a certain extent.

“God has a plan for your life” is not new knowledge to me. This is a phrase that I have encountered from a young age, growing up in faith-communities where there has always been an encouragement to ask God to reveal His “purpose and calling”.

Many well-meaning people have made it sound pretty straight-forward. God has a plan. Ask Him to tell you what it is. Ta da. You should know what your purpose and calling is. At least by the age of 30 … Now go ye forth …

Just a disclaimer: I don’t ever want to be familiar with the privilege of being surrounded by people who pursue, by faith, this understanding that there is a divine purpose to life, and that God has personal and specific reasons why He created each person on the planet.

I concur.

For me, it’s just not been so easy to pinpoint my “purpose”. I’ve been to many seminars and heard a lot of excellent sermons. I’ve filled in most of the tools. I know my personality type and my spiritual shape. I’ve even conceptualised a consulting company around my talents and skillset, so it’s not like I haven’t delved into this stuff before. I have friends who are exceptionally passionate about journeying with others in a systematic way to find their purpose, and I have had many helpful and inspiring conversations on the topic.

But I still felt lke I couldn’t commit to verbalise my own “purpose” and “one thing”.

You see, in the light of wanting to use time optimally, I got stuck on “finding the exact right thing to do, right now”, lest I miss my purpose in life and waste the time I have been given … standing before God one day with a “but I actually really couldn’t figure out what You wanted me to do exactly …”

I got stuck on the “what”.

But WHAT we do with our time is probably only meaningful if we’ve figured out the WHY. Thank you, Simon Sinek and a client conference brainstorm 🙂

So, with that in mind, I sat down with my journal this morning. As I do frequently, to order things.

The past few weeks have again taugh me the value of submitting my ways to God so that He can make my ways secure and paths straight.

I literally “submit my ways” by writing down every thought process, argument, excuse, feeling, and interpretation. My fears and desires, my frustrations and multiple recommendations for improvement of the situation. Pros and cons to each decision. It’s a presidential debate up in here, often.

Then I pray. And quieten my soul to listen.

For those precious drops of Wisdom.

Rhema words came. Light again dispelled confusion.

I felt the Holy Spirit highlight Scripture, reminding me that every good and perfect gift is from Above, from the Father of heavenly lights, Who does not change like shifting shadows. That the boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places, and that surely I have a delightful inheritance. That He will not place anything heavy or ill-fitting on me. That the blessing of the Lord brings wealth, without painful toil for it.

His light and His faithful care will guide me.

Peace.

Not a clear directional word on purpose and calling.

But a firm comfort in being known and guided continually.

So, I rest.

I did also have a go at defining stuff. Again. Which is helpful, I guess, in the spirit of time optimisation.

I sort of pinpoint my “why” on one thing: Worship. (Not meaning the singing I do in church on Sundays).

PURPOSE / CALLING:
Worship. Living in delighted response to God’s delight in me.

MOTIVATION:
The outflow of true worship is always love. Love for God, expressed in love for people.

Then I broke it down into a few vocational applications.

FLOW:
Creative ideation. Put me in a brainstorm and watch me fly …

CORE COMPETENCIES:
Creative concept development.
Strategy development and implementation planning.
Doing the planned stuff / Collaborating to get stuff done.

CURRENT CONTEXTS:
Corporate and brand communication.
Tertiary education.

PASSIONS:
Teaching.
Business incubation & capacity consulting.

CRAFTS TO MASTER:
Writing, singing and public speaking.

I feel like that’s gotten pretty specific. After 20 years of trying to narrow it down …

And it makes me happy to let it rest there. For now.

Moving along to the next best use of my time for this Saturday …

Which happens to be an afternoon nap.

Selah.

2018 – A fynbos bouquet

I was tempted to write 2018 off as a blur.

A year that sped past and left a sense of “check, next!” in its aftermath.

Our daily lives are so crammed with detailed to-do lists, that the memorable moments of the year could easily get clouded over by the mental fog of “truckloads of stuff got done.”

So, yesterday, I took stock. Properly.

I took my daily calendar (I still have a physical diary every year, not just a phone/computer calendar), and I paged through from January to date. I wrote down three to five highlights and significant experiences from each month. I also went through the photo album on my phone, and my Instagram feed to refresh my memory where the calendar only said “hike” or “kuier” or “Hermanus naweek”.

Then, I drew themes from this rich data.

Basically, I did a thematic content analysis of the year. These things happen involuntarily if you are a verified nerdgirl …

The themes were a revelation to me.

When I looked at them from another perspective (as a qualitatively inclined researcher arguably should do often), I realised that I could probably draw most of them back to words of encouragement I received while I was going through the tough season of mourning in the second half of 2017.

Here are my main themes. I share them as an encouragement for you to find yours, and be intentionally thankful for life in abundance.

The first theme was flowers. Red disas hidden above a rock pool in a kloof outside Hermanus. Rare blue disas on Table Mountain. The delightful Bergbruidjie and Fleurs de La Motte fynbos art at La Motte. Proteas on my mother’s grave, and on the slopes of Jonkershoek.

Quite a few people told me last year that they saw pictures of me walking through fields of flowers, and that they see flowers blooming again after a devastating veldfire. Profound. Beauty for ashes.

The second theme was mountains. Jonkershoek. Table Mountain. Swadini. Overberg. Not just looking at them. Playing in their ravines. Hiding in their shadow-shelters. Drinking from their streams. Delighting in the wild charm of spontaneous waterfalls and springs. Battling with their inclines, tested by their immovable nature. Marvelling at their abundance. Soul restoring. An overflow of ferns and wild proteas adorning slopes where only few see. I love how extravagant beauty is hidden in high places. Green, lush life. Buite speel.

Psalm 18 is an anchor scripture for me, and has been a go-to comfort for the season. “The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold … He makes my feet like the feet of a deer; He causes me to stand on the heights … ” Hence, the delight in being hidden in the clefts of mountain rocks.

Another theme is rivers and full dams. The Blyde River. The Eerste River. The drought that was broken by merciful rain. Lest we forget His on-time provision in times of desperate need. Don’t have to explain that one too much.

IMG_2533

Another theme was community. Friends and family and church and work. The love and the laughter woven into doing daily life, Saturday hikes and braai’s, Sunday services, weekends away and holiday road-trips. WhatsApp groups with random memes and rabbit-trail conversations. A rich tapestry of characters, personalities, shared dreams and burdens. A sense of belonging. Communal purpose. Being valued. Having people to love, pray, work and celebrate with. Priceless.

“He sets the solitary into families …”

A theme that became important to me a few years ago is self-care when I realised that self-love is in fact a Biblical mandate. I don’t mean vanity. I mean actually loving who you are, and taking care of your only body, soul and spirit because you are delighted in by God and you are allowed to enjoy being you. I cannot begin to tell you what a victory it is for me to wear a bikini in public. It’s not about how you look to others. It is about how you feel about yourself. I loved going for pedicures this year, and investing time and money in exercise that I enjoy. I bought a mountain bike and I did the Gun Run 21 km. I also try eating as clean as possible, without being pedantic. Because, you know, pizza. I also invested in my mental health, making regular appointments to speak to a counsellor when I need to process the layers of spiritual and emotional turmoil I don’t show to others. There is no shame in needing help. Body, soul and spirit. Take care of all three. A crucial aspect of selfcare, is boundaries. You alone are responsible for setting them wisely, and protecting them diligently.

A theme that carries through my work and personal life, is words. We play with words daily, because words create worlds. Brands and communication strategies are built first with words. The meaning of a word is weighed, tried, tested, shifted, played with. Deleted. Re-written. Words have always mattered. And this year, some of my heart words found their timely way onto the pages of a beautifully crafted passport journal, giving a glimpse into the pent-up poetry which is my soul. Inviting others to find their own words. Psalm 45:1.

IMG_7832

I also saw ministry fruits beginning to form again, from brokenness. I had an opportunity to share some of my testimony relating to loosing both parents, as well as being very single for very long. I had opportunities to teach about spiritual warfare and Holy Spirit gifts, as well as on a Kingdom vision for society. Green faith-shoots breaking through devastation. As promised.

Then there were books that fascinated me. Biographies of controversial historic world leaders, to be exact. Napoleon and Cleopatra. Weird, I know. But I guess I’m fascinated by people’s motives for wanting power, and how influence actually works. I honestly don’t get why one would want to rule the world. It seems like way too much admin to me. But yet, throughout history, people have been driven by the seemingly addictive need for power to dominate. To this day. I don’t get it. But it fascinates me. Why would you want to rule / lead a nation if you have zero desire to care for people? Same applies to companies. Or churches. Power, or shall I rather say the desire to control, seems to inevitably corrupt. I pondered on that this year, also reading Commanding Heights, an overview of the global political and economical governmental systems since World War 2. Trevor Noah’s Born a Crime is also proving to be quite a challenging and insightful rebuke.

I won’ add an image to this one if you don’t mind … Obviously, I had a crush on one or two guys during the year.  Spanning an age gap of probably about 20 years between the youngest and the oldest. What can I say. Lifespace theory still applies. Psychographic segmentation has alway been more useful than demographic segmentation. Ce’st la vie. A luta continua.

And that is basically that.

This year was not just a blur. It is textured with layers of profound memories. Experiences and lessons. Opportunities to exercise faith and wisdom. To love. To forgive. To petition. To surrender. To step up and to stand back. To hold loosely, and to let go. In faith.

When I first moved to the Western Cape, I thought fynbos was just a blur of grey and green shrubbery, being used to the trees of the lowveld and bushveld, and grasslands of the highveld.

But fynbos is in fact a multifaceted tapestry of abundance that only becomes clear when you’re focussing in on the delightful detail of each plant.

This year was like the fynbos that grows wild on the mountain slopes that I have come to love.

Where eagles glide in to nest, and childlike souls are free to play.

Selah.

IMG_5796

Skidding towards 2019

Normally, if memory recalls correctly, things start to wind down towards the latter part of a year.

Not so, 2018.

2018 seems to be adamant to make a mad dash for the proverbial finish line.

Then, off to the beach for a week, and the bush for two. Friends and family. Beach hair, no care, kaalvoet stofpad, laeveld kampvuur kuiers

To start all over again in January …

In the greater scheme of things, 2018 has been lemon butter, compared to the peri peri that was 2017.

I guess any year compared to the year that a parent passed away, seems mild.

To an extent, it has been an aftermath year. Restorative, to a degree. Still rough, to another. I instituted several unapologetic measures to self-preserve. With bouts of unexpected relapse into inner turmoil.

Hope prevails. Life beckons.

2018, in its conferring of generational blessing, added new realities and complexities. Like suddenly being part of a rather turbulent homeowners association in another part of the country. Like needing to make decisions about future legacy building investments. Super rational decisions in highly emotional times. Wrapped in grace, mercy and beautiful family love-that-covers-a-multitude-of-stuff.

Stuff like that.

I honestly had no goals coming into this year. I started 2018 simply thankful to have survived the year before.

I only wanted to not have to choose to bury or cremate anyone. Sorry to seem crass. (These are awkward conversations you need to have with your loved ones, by the way. Also, be kind and have a funeral policy or life insurance in place. Side note. Tell someone what your passwords are. Etc.)

Point being, if 2017 was war, then 2018 was a slow and steady road to emotional and physical rebuilding.

I simply wanted to do my work well, get some exercise, eat healthy, climb a few mountains, spend selected quality time with family and friends, and perhaps sing something on the odd occasion.

I did manage to do one 21km race, and finally publish a poetry journal. And tick off a bucket list item: Climb Table Mountain. Not too bad, as far as having no goals go, I guess. But for the grace of God …

People forget that 2017 smashed everything against the rock of mortality. I lost the person who knew and nurtured my talents from birth. It’s really hard to keep going when the one person who unconditionally and sincerely believed in your ability to succeed, is no longer there to give words of affirmation and encouragement.

A mother is irreplaceable.

2018 was all about collecting and picking up the pieces. Figuring out what goes where, again. By myself, largely. It simply is a solo journey. In the shadow of His wings. But faith also takes a serious knock at times, despite the evidence of Faithfulness.

I might consider dreaming big again, as the 2019 clouds roll in.

As for 2018, it was a year of navigating a way out of the sense of futility, which is a normal companion to grief. Walking through the valley, finding that there is beauty for ashes. Strength for fear. Gladness for mourning. Peace for despair.

We finally had a proper funeral in May, almost a year later. There are no rules. Only principles of honour.

All the while, there are days to be seized. Moments to be savoured. Views to delight in.

Eyes to look into, caught off guard as a fragile hope flickers. Maybe … ? Dare I … ?

May your vision be restored for the year ahead, as you enter this time of holy-days, remembering and finding true rest in He-who-has-overcome-this-world.

Albeit entering teen ’n moerse gejuig

Selah.