Let it go

2011 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 3,800 times in 2011. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 3 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Prepare to ‘WOW’ in 2012 for orphaned and abandoned children

World Orphan Week 6-12 February 2012

Children’s charity SOS Children’s Villages South Africa is encouraging all South Africans to do something ‘WOW’ to raise awareness for orphaned and abandoned children.

World Orphan Week (otherwise known as WOW) 2012 takes place during the second week in February. Raising awareness for this cause is the world’s largest children’s charity, SOS Children’s Villages.

WOW was introduced in the UK in 2005.  Since the inception of this event, SOS International has played a key role in raising awareness around the needs of orphaned and abandoned children around the world.  SOS Children’s Villages South Africa spearheaded the introduction of WOW to our nation in 2009 and has played an important part in making every vulnerable, abandoned and orphaned child’s plight known.

“Sadly, society today has far too many people, mostly children and the youth, who are unable to speak or fend for themselves,” says Leigh Swartz, fund development manager for SOS Children’s Village’s South Africa. “In South Africa, many have lost their families to diseases such as HIV/Aids and Tuberculosis; some are abandoned by family members who are no longer able to care for them due to extreme poverty; others (some 50 000, according to UNICEF stats) are victims of domestic violence and crime. A voice for the unheard is needed and SOS seeks to be that voice.”

The statistics are alarming, poignant and woeful. This is the sad reality:

  • Every 2.2 seconds a child becomes an orphan (stats from SOS International)
  • There are over 160 million orphans around the world (stats from SOS International)
  • In SA alone, the number of orphaned and abandoned children has risen 4.5 per cent since 2005 (Stats from HRSC, 2010)
  • There are approximately 3.6 million orphans in South Africa, 1.8 million of whom as a direct result of the AIDS epidemic (stats from UNICEF)

“The need for organisations and individuals alike to become involved has never been more urgent,” Swartz continues. “The task is simply too great for any single government or organisation to tackle alone. Working together, however, we can achieve this. Our aim for 2012 is to get as many people as possible involved in achieving the common goal of assisting those youth and children without families.”

With this in mind, SOS is calling on all companies, organisations, schools, communities and individuals to do something ‘WOW’ to aid vulnerable, orphaned and abandoned children in February 2012. There are no limitations to how to get involved. In fact Swartz encourages those wanting to participate to be as creative as possible.

For those not sure where to start or how big or small a role you can play to make an impact, she offers the following ideas to inspire action:

  • Buy a R5 WOW sticker from SOS.
  • Host a WOW event for friends and family in aid of orphaned and abandoned children. Go to www.justgiving.com for tips and ideas on how to hold such an event.
  • Use your Facebook page and/or Twitter account to encourage others to get involved. Posta link on your page to SOS’s Facebook page and invite people to ‘like’ it.
  • SMS the word ‘SOS’ to 36976 to donate R5.
  • Donate online at www.sos.org.za.
  • Clean out your cupboards and donate old clothing, blankets and toys to a SOS Village near you (go to www.sos.org.za to view all villages).
  • Donate your time, skills or professional services to SOS Children’s Villages facilities across South Africa

“Any money raised for SOS Children’s Villages will go directly to supporting the 7300 children in our care, as well as toward our community programme known as the ‘SOS Family Strengthening Programme’, a sustainable operation developed to support vulnerable children without removing them from their natural family environment,” Swartz explains .

“The Oxford English Dictionary describes WOW as ‘significant success’, she adds. “Our wish for WOW 2012 is that through increased awareness and participation each orphaned and abandoned child will benefit and as a result the World Orphan Week will indeed be true to its name and simply be – WOW!”

To make a WOW donation or sponsor a child in need, please deposit funds into the following bank account:

Nedbank Randburg
Account Name: Fund Development Unit SOS South Africa
Account Number: 1984 563 068
Branch code: 198 405
Reference: WOW -Your Company Name/Your name


On the 25th anniversary of our wedding day, I wrote a letter to my love

How do I love you? Let me count the ways.

I first began to love you when I heard you pray as a new babe in Christ. Although you were not well-acquainted with public praying then, I was deeply touched by the sincerity of your words and the humility with which you expressed them.

As I came to know you better, I was increasingly drawn to your gentle nature and quiet spirit, and I began to love you more. I was blessed in that you loved me in return and eventually, 25 years ago today, we vowed to love, honour and obey each other until death us do part.

‘Draw nigh to God and He will draw nigh to you,’ you love to quote from James 4:8. Over the last 25 years, I have watched you strive do this every day, while also teaching it to our children. And I love you.

I have watched as you consistently pursue peace in your interactions with others. And I love you.

I have watched you attain so many accolades – in your studies, at work and on the tennis court – always graciously and with humility. And I love you.

During your years as an Air Force officer, you were also always a gentleman, and still are, and I love you for that. I love you for always carrying a handkerchief in your pocket, and discreetly giving it to me when I cry during a sad movie, when our children bring us joy, or when I’m feeling emotional for no particular reason, as is women’s wont. I love that after 25 years of marriage, you still open the car door for me.

I love you for remaining true to your commitment that our house will serve the Lord, and that our children have been raised in His nurture and admonition. I see your gentleness reflected in them and I love you.

I love you for standing by me during my darkest hours, for being my strength when I was weak, my voice when I couldn’t speak. I love you for holding me up and never letting me fall, giving me wings to make me fly, for always seeing the best in me. I love you for all the joy you have brought to my life.

I love you because you fill my heart with gladness, take away all my sadness. Ease my troubles, that’s what you do.

Some might say it is surprising that our union has lasted a quarter of a century. And we would not disagree. We are well aware of the many differences between us.

You are right-handed; I use my left.
You rely largely on reason; I am emotionally driven.
You prefer a written To Do list; I make mental notes.
You are a huge fan of Roger Federer, while I prefer Shakespeare.
You love to watch a live rugby game. I would rather attend a Josh Groban concert.
You have an introverted personality and find rejuvenation in solitude. I am more of an extrovert who is energised by people.

So if we have so little in common, what then, is the glue that binds us together? As the choir sang at our wedding, shortly after we were pronounced husband and wife – a common bond holding us to the Lord, a common joy in the truth of God’s Word.

We may do things differently, and even disagree from time to time, my love, but on the Lord’s day, when we go together to worship God, all those differences and disagreements fade away. Sitting beside each other in Church, our spirits are in perfect harmony. Our common gift to the Saviour negates all that makes us incompatible and forges the bond between us ever tighter. And each time I fall in love with you anew.

This love divine is yours and mine, like the sun. At the end of the day, we should give thanks and pray to the One.

I began this letter to you with a paraphase of the opening lines of my favourite love poem, and interspersed it with lyrics from songs that have special meaning to us. I shall end it wth a direct quote from the same poem:

I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life;
and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.

Happy anniversary.

Waiting to adopt? Please don’t give up

“My earnest plea to all prospective adoptive parents is don’t give up. The adoption procedure is fraught with difficult obstacles but see it through. God has a special place in His heart for people who take care of orphans (James 1:27).”

I was addressing a group of around twenty at a meeting of the Pretoria Adoption Support Group. I wasn’t scheduled to speak. I had only been invited to sell copies of my book, the proceeds of which were to be donated to the Southern Africa Bible College.

But as I listened to the discussion going on around me, I began to sense a rising sense of frustration among the audience, comprised primarily of pre and post adoptive parents.

The topic under discussion was the latest amendments to the South African Children’s Act 2007 and how these affect the adoption process.

I listened as an experienced adoption social worker explained the rationale behind the extensive waiting periods prospective parents must endure before a baby is placed with its adoptive family, and how every decision made by a social worker has to be done with “the best interests of the child” in mind.

It wasn’t long into her presentation before someone in the audience posed a question, which was quickly followed by another, and another. Although the social worker responded well to each one, it soon became apparent that the Act, although an improvement on its predecessor, remains fraught with flaws.

Under the new Act, babies only “become adoptable” after 60 days, the social worker explained. After this period, the birth mother has an additional 30 days in which to rescind her decision to give up her baby. Factor in the time required by the Act to search for birth fathers, and that they are also afforded 30 days to give their consent to the adoption, and it can be months before a child is eventually placed in their adoptive parents’ arms for the first time. For abandoned babies, the waiting period can be even longer, as the Act affords the birth mother, father and even extended family members ample time to come forward to claim the baby. By then, adoptive parents may be faced with serious bonding issues with their adopted child.

“Government adoption agencies expect us to wait months before placing a baby in our arms, so who can blame couples for choosing to work with private social workers who give them a newborn baby immediately?” one father asked (I later learned that he and his wife are waiting to adopt their second child). Everyone could hear the exasperation in his voice and as he spoke other parents nodded their heads in agreement.

I could not remain silent. As an adoptee, I felt a responsibility to speak for the orphaned, unwanted and abandoned babies. After obtaining permission from the group co-ordinator I stood up after the final presentation and faced the group. I knew that all they wanted to do was give a loving home to an orphaned, unwanted or abandoned child, but complex legal procedures made it so difficult for them to do so.

“After listening to everything that has been said today I cannot help but feel thankful that I was adopted under the old Children’s Act, which enabled me to be placed in my mother’s arms when I was a few days old and stay with them while the adoption process was finalised,” I began.

“That said, part of me also wishes I had been adopted under the new Act, because then my birth mother would have been legally required to name my birth father on my original birth certificate and that piece of my life puzzle would not still be missing to today.

“What this has made me realise is that sadly, even though it is intended to protect children from being exploited, the Children’s Act will never be perfect. It is formulated by imperfect humans who will never be able to devise a law that will satisfy the needs of all the parties involved.

“My parents also went through a difficult screening process and had to overcome numerous obstacles in order to adopt me. But they did it. They never gave up and today I am so thankful, because were it not for their perseverance I wouldn’t be standing here today pleading with you not to give up hope.

“The adoption procedure may lengthy, complex and frustrating, but stick with it. Orphans all over the world need you and God will bless you richly for your selfless act of love.”

 

Double vision: an adoptee’s view of family

Every once in a while I stumble across something from a fellow adoptee that sums up exactly how I feel about my adoption, but conveys these emotions so well that I would rather “copy and paste” their thoughts (with permission, of course) than try to echo them with my own sentiments.

Like the following blog by Rebecca Hawkes, adopted daughter and adoptive and biological mother – I think what she says is simply brilliant…

I sometimes wish I knew what it would be like to not be adopted. If you are not adopted, please think about that for a moment. Think about the things that you take for granted. Think about the simple, natural connection between you and the people to whom you are related. Even if your relationship with your family is not 100 per cent positive, there is a quality of your connection to them that you have probably never questioned; they simply ARE your family. They didn’t choose you; you didn’t choose them. You are connected to them by the interwoven threads of shared experience and biology.

For me, as an adopted person, things are not so simple. It occurred to me recently that being adopted is a bit like having Strabismus, or “Wandering Eye,” a condition in which the two eyes don’t quite work together as they should to create a single, unified picture. As a metaphor for the adoption experience, this translates to two separate visions of family. One eye sees the world through the lens of experience and upbringing. This is the “nurture” lens, connected to a definition of family as those people with whom I grew up, who cared for me, and shared the experiences of family life with me. The other eye is the lens of “nature,” or biology. It sees family as those people who share my genetics and genealogy, who are related to me in spite of our lack of shared history.

Some people with Strabismus compensate by favoring one eye over the other, and some adopted people do so as well, metaphorically. There are adoptees who will tell you that their real family is the one that they grew up in. Period. There are even those who express distance from, and disdain for, their biological mothers by referring to the them as “incubators.” On the other end of the spectrum are those who refer to their adoptive parents as “adopters,” rather than parents, rejecting the adoptive definition of family in favor of a strictly biological one. But many of us find ourselves in the middle, struggling to hold two (at times contradictory) definitions of family simultaneously, striving to create a single, unified vision from these two divergent points of reference.

Can I say that my life would have been better if I hadn’t been adopted? Would I be happier or psychologically healthier today? I can’t say that with any certainty at all; who knows where that unknown path would have led. Most of the time I am able to accept, and even celebrate, my life for what it is and to see the duality of adoption as an enrichment rather than a detraction. Usually, I am thankful that I have the love of not just one but two families. But to be honest, I’m not always in that place of acceptance and gratitude. Sometimes I wish that instead of families, I simply had “a family”.

Follow Rebecca’s blog at http://rebecca-hawkes.blogspot.com/

Rina Bowes – A Virtuous Woman

I am reposting this today, in honour of my beloved mother-in-law, who passed away peacefully on 26 August 2010. Today would have been her 80th birthday.

Who can find a virtuous woman, whose worth is far more than rubies?

Her name is Catharina Cornelia Bowes; Rina to her family and friends, Ouma to her grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and to her children and their spouses – Mommy.

She will be remembered as a faithful and devoted wife to her husband, and a joyful mother of seven children, to whom she not only gave life, but lovingly and tenderly moulded each one’s individual personality, instilling in them all a good measure of the humanitarian and Christian principles by which she lived.

Never needing to adorn herself with the latest fashions or trendy cosmetics, Mommy glowed with an inner beauty that personified the attributes of love she radiated – patience, kindness, humility, peace, gentleness, unselfishness, forgiveness and compassion.

Consequently, people were drawn to Mommy’s loving temperament and generous nature. To anyone in need she was always prepared to listen and provide a word of encouragement and, not surprisingly, she had many friends. Some turned out not to be friends at all, but abusers of Mommy’s kind-heartedness, yet she never rejected one of them or turned them away when they were in need. Without a malicious, spiteful or vengeful bone in her body she shied away from all forms of conflict and in her humble, submissive way would do everything in her power to bring about peace, even if it meant sacrificing her own dignity and wellbeing.

Her husband trusted her completely with the affairs of their household and as a full time wife and mother, Mommy’s hands were never idle. She rose early each morning to tend to her family’s needs, and with such a large one to take care of, there were many. Seldom during the day did she have a moment to herself.

Because she loved her children so much, Mommy was not afraid to mete out discipline when it was necessary. Woe to the child who tried to borrow a few pennies from her purse, without asking, to buy sweets, secretly sneak out of the house to visit a friend, or feign an illness in an attempt to get out of going to school. But no one could ever argue that she wasn’t fair.

Raising seven children on a single income was not without its challenges, but not once did they suffer physically or mentally during their growing years.  Mommy sacrificed much for them, never hesitating to give up her own pleasures to ensure their comfort. Indeed, at meal times, after serving her family supper, it was not unusual for Mommy to retreat quietly to the kitchen to eat her own meal – a slice of bread and a cup of coffee.

Later in the evening, when the children were asleep, Mommy would spend the quiet time mending clothes, darning socks and knitting – never for herself, always for her family and often, even for others.

As her children entered adulthood and chose marriage partners, Mommy welcomed each one into her family without reservation, freely giving them her love and making them her own. She was always there to nurture and support their dreams, or give a gentle push when they ran out of steam.

After her husband died and she had seen her youngest child comfortably settled in his own home, Mommy, for the first time, sat down to rest. To her family she had become more than just a mother, mother-in-law and ouma, but an integral part of everyone’s lives.  She had taken care of so many for so long, and now it was her turn to be spoiled.

Treating Mommy was just as much fun for the one doing the treating as it was for her because she indulged in each experience with childlike delight, finding great joy in the simplest pleasures. But nothing made Mommy happier than having all her children gathered around her. Getting the whole family together for a special occasion was no mean feat, and if someone was unable to make it for some reason Mommy would never fail to mention how much she missed them.

Now it will be Mommy’s place that is empty and we will be the ones talking about how much we miss her. But she has left us with a beautiful gift. All the love we shared and all the fun we had with Mommy have been replaced with wonderful, happy memories – of lappies and bonks, blokkiesraaisels and television soapies, Dream chocolates, Liquorice Allsorts and Ouma’s lazagne, trails of crumpled tissues, gentle admonishments of “Ag, jy’s laf” and exclamations of “Ek kry die piep”.

Along with these beautiful memories, we have the assurance that even though Mommy’s life on earth is over, today her spirit lives anew with God, where she has gone home to share in His glory for eternity, and is waiting to meet up again one day with her children in Christ.

Today and always, Mommy, your children rise up and call you blessed. Many women have done virtuously, but you surpass them all.

via Rina Bowes – A Virtuous Woman.

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