Posts Tagged ‘ God ’

As you pledge your love

Dear Caitlin and Athan

This is the day that the Lord has made for you. It’s a day of gladness, of rejoicing in new things.

Look… the sky is radiant with abundant sunshine.

Listen… the mountains and hills have burst into song, and all the trees of the field are clapping their hands.

There is much joy among all of God’s creation, because today we celebrate the culmination of your love story – the story of two people who found the one whom their soul loves.

It’s a story authored by God, with you, his children, as the main characters. After he planted the seed of friendship between you he began to water it with fun, laughter and just the right amount of romance. Then he stood back and watched it blossom into pure, unconditional and eternal love, which can never be quenched.

Today, as you become one in God’s sight, this is my prayer for you: that he keep you from all harm as he watches over your life together, both now and forever more. That your love for each other may abound more and more as you strive to draw ever closer to him. As Christ rules your hearts, make him the centre of your home so that it may be filled with joy and peace.

Treat one another with kindness, patience and gentle forgiveness. Love generously, with faithful admiration and quiet humility. Pray with each other and for each other.

Embark on a new adventure every day. Delight in the happy moments, grow in wisdom during times of trial. Be content. Continue to walk in love.

May the God of love and peace be with you. May he make your love increase and overflow so that together you may give glory with one heart to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Lots of love,

Mom

Memories of our perfect day

“With this ring, I thee wed.”

Exactly 27 years have passed since Sean and I said these words to each other, but the memories I have of our wedding day are as vivid as if the event took place yesterday. Not least among these is the orchestra of emotions that played out as the day unfolded…

The excitement of the preparations – hair, makeup and finally putting on my gorgeous wedding gown, in which I felt like a princess.

The nervous anticipation as my father and I were chauffeured to the church (in a Rolls-Royce no less), smiling and waving as other drivers on the route tooted their acknowledgement of the occasion…

The thrill of walking down the aisle on my father’s arm to meet Sean, who stood waiting to receive me…

The joy of the happy celebrations that followed the wedding ceremony and the wonderful honeymoon that came thereafter.

But the memory I love to talk about most is the one that began in the week leading up to our wedding.

It rained. A lot. Incessant, pouring rain that continued unabated day after day. At first, the refreshing relief it provided from the heat was welcoming. But when Friday arrived and the skies still showed no signs of clearing I began to feel just a little apprehensive.

A dear friend of mine (who, sadly, was tragically killed in a car accident eight months later) was also getting married on 1 November. He and his fiance had planned a morning garden wedding. Understandably frantic, she eventually telephoned the weather bureau to enquire whether the rain would clear up by the Saturday.

“Cancel your garden wedding. Move everything indoors,” she was told emphatically. “There is a 100 per cent certainty that it will rain on Saturday.”

It didn’t even feel right to pray about it; because when you live in a country frequently afflicted by drought, rain is considered precious and always to be appreciated.

I went to bed that night intending to sleep late the next morning (as brides are wont to do), but I awoke around four – to the sound of falling rain.

Somehow, I managed to fall asleep again. It was around six when I awoke. Everyone else was still asleep. It was quiet. Very quiet.  I got up, opened the bedroom curtains and looked out of the window.

I was greeted by a clear blue sky, without so much as a wisp of a cloud, and a radiantly shining sun. It was as if the air itself was sparkling, it was so bright. There was no sign of rain. My bridesmaid, who by now was also awake, came to stand beside me.

“I can’t believe it,” I whispered. “The sun is shining.”

“It’s beautiful,” she responded. “It won’t rain today.”

And she was right. We enjoyed a perfect, sunny day – pleasantly warm, soothingly tranquil. It was as if the earth had been washed until it gleamed, the colours shimmering in their intensity, the air crisp and clean.

Quietly, I gave thanks to God. To this day, I believe it was His wedding gift to us and, like everything He does, perfect.

The following morning dawned grey, overcast and not a little chilly, the thick, billowy clouds heavy with the promise of more rain.

I could not help but be reminded of the words of the psalmist in Psalms 118:23-24:

This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvellous in our eyes. 
This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.

For our Grandpa

Following the recent passing of my father, Danie Fourie, his grandchildren wrote beautiful tributes to honour their beloved Grandpa, which I felt were well worth sharing…

From Keenan

The first memory I have of my Grandpa is fishing at the beach. He would wake Caitlin and me up early in the morning with coffee, and then we would get dressed and go to the beach.  I would hardly ever fish though, because I was too young and too impatient to wait for the fish to come to me. But we would walk along the beach and he would introduce me to all his friends and I was just happy to be with my Grandpa.

When I was older he gave me a lot of fishing gear, and I loved it. My friend and I went fishing and I was so proud to show him all the fishing equipment I got from my Grandpa.

If Grandpa wasn’t fishing then he was in his garage busy making something or fixing something. He had a real talent for carpentry. He showed me all his tools, and how each one worked. And even though I never had the same interest that he did, he never forced me to be like him.

Grandpa had a very good heart, and was a very friendly person, always making friends with people on the way down in the lift. He was always offering to make curry for friends, or make something in his garage for them.

He was well liked at the flat where they lived. When other children who lived there found out that Oom Danie was my Grandpa, they got excited, and said, “Wow, is that your Grandpa!”

We always knew where Grandpa was because he would always make a lot of noise. From stirring the coffee cups in such a way that we knew he was making coffee again, to singing wherever he went.

He wasn’t a fighter, he was a lover. For those he loved, he would do anything, and he loved a lot of people.

The last memory I have of my Grandpa is reading Psalm 23 to him while he was lying in hospital. That memory is one I will always remember. Only God can make the passing of a loved one a special occasion. It didn’t matter how different we were, how similar we were, or the age difference, we shared the same God. Being able to share Psalm 23 with my Grandpa is extremely special, and I thank God that I was able to do that.

My Grandpa will be missed, but I have peace, knowing that God is alive. God is still with me, and Grandpa is with God.

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.

From Jenna-Lee

You’re gone now, gone but not forgotten. And I can’t say this to your face but I know you hear…

I know we are all feeling a little bit sad,

That we’ve lost our Grandpa, our friend and our Dad

Together we have cried an ocean of tears

As we feel so empty and hold many fears.

But Grandpa would want us to know he’s in a good place

And that he’s watching us all with a smile on his face.

As we have made him so proud, as proud as can be

That he has raised such a beautiful and special family.

Thinking back now I really must say

I feel lucky and privileged to have known Grandpa to this day.

For in my life you have played a special part,

The memories I will treasure and keep close to my heart.

For me, I’m glad my little baby he got to meet

And for all of us, be grateful, his life is now complete.

For each one of us he has loved and cared

As a family, be thankful for the good times we shared.

Although he has gone we will always be together

And his spirit will live on in each one of us forever.

When you look to the sky, look for the brightest star

As that will be Grandpa, looking down on us from afar.

And now I’d like to thank the good Lord above

For blessing us with our Grandpa, his kindness and love.

Dear God, if it’s not too much fuss

Take extra-special care of our Grandpa, as he’s very dear to us

Grandpa, if you’re listening, say a prayer for us every day,

Be sure to protect us and guide us on our way.

We know when God called you, you had to go, but we want you to know

Grandpa, we love and miss you so.

Love always, your Little Princess.

From Caitlin

Daniel Fourie meant different things to different people. He was a husband, a father, a brother, an uncle and even a dear friend, but to me he was simply known as Grandpa. And I have been truly blessed to be his granddaughter.

My Grandpa had special nicknames for all his grandkids and my special nickname was Tinkerbell. I will never forget the way he said “Tinkerbell” when he saw me coming towards him; there was a ring in his voice and a smile on face that left no doubt in your mind that, at least for that moment, you were the centre of his world. No matter which grandchild you were Grandpa had the uncanny ability to make you feel like you were the most important kid in his life.

He had a special relationship with all his grandkids and I will always treasure the relationship I had with my Grandpa. Together we shared a love for singing, and whenever he saw me, even in his very old age he would always say “Sing for me, Tinkerbell” and he would join in later and together we would sing for ages.

My Grandpa and I loved the beach and he would take me there every day and he would show me all the little sea creatures, point out all the different shells and keep them in his pocket so that I could take them home.

My Grandpa always had patience and unconditional love for us. He once showed me a bucket of fish he had just caught. When he wasn’t looking I took the bucket of fish, along with all his hard work and threw them back into the ocean. When he saw that all his fish were free he just looked at me, smiled and said: “Only my Tinkerbell would think about saving the fish.” And he took my hand and we walked back home.

My Grandpa taught me what true love meant when he, without fail, would wake me and my granny up with coffee every morning and before going to bed bring the entire family vanilla milkshakes and come and tuck me in; he had a special way of tucking me in. My grandpa and I loved to bake, from cookies to Chelsea buns to different kinds of breads. He would give me the credit when the end product tasted good, but we all knew that he did most of the work and I was there more for moral support.

My Grandpa was very good at making things and he loved making things for his grandchildren. He made me my very own personal oven, a dollhouse with furniture and cot for all my extra dolls.

All my friends admired my Grandpa. I was so proud that he was my Grandpa and I was his Tinkerbell and that will never change. Even though he is no longer with us I know that he is finally at peace and I will never forget all the memories I shared with my Grandpa and the life lessons that he taught me. I will always carry with me.

Love you always,

Tinkerbell

From Chad

Grandpa, you are my soldier and idol. I love you to the moon and back, and always will do.

Your Chaddy boy

‘Daniel, a man greatly beloved’

DadMy father was not an educated man. Forced to leave school at the age of 16, he joined the then South African Railways and Harbours, where he worked until his medical retirement during his early 50s. My father never wrote his matric exam, nor did he ever obtain a degree or diploma.

But none of this ever mattered to me. As far as I was concerned my father was the best daddy in the whole word. As a little girl there was no safer place than in my daddy’s arms, nothing broken he could not fix, no problem he could not solve.

My father’s life was, and still is, a classroom for me. Not in matters of philosophy, science, or maths. No, the lessons I learned from him were far more meaningful and indeed, precious.

The first lesson my father taught me was God’s Word. As a tiny baby, the moment I began to talk he taught me scripture, beginning with his favourite passage, Psalm 23. To this day, it is one of the first passages I turn to for comfort during times of trial.

My father strongly believed in rightly dividing the word of truth. “Rather err on the side of conservatism,” he would say, “than distort the truth for the sake of liberal appeasement.” He taught me to never be afraid to take a stand for righteousness, especially where the Church was concerned.

My father taught me about generosity. He gave all the time, to almost everyone he came in contact with, simply because he loved to do so. An avid rock-and-surf fisherman for many years, his favourite fish to catch was shad. He would bring it home, clean it, cook it according to his own recipe, and then proceed to share it with as many people as he could find. The kitchen freezer was almost always packed with fish my father had previously caught and he would give it away whenever anyone came to visit, or when he went to visit someone. He did the same with practically everything he cooked and baked, and he cooked and baked often; it was another of his favourite things to do.

My father taught me about compassion. He could not bear to see a woman or a child hurting. During one of his many stays in hospital, I visited him, and took along his favourite snack at the time – two Chelsea buns and a coke – as a special treat. At the next visiting hour I noticed that the food was gone and asked if he had enjoyed it.

“No,” he responded. “I gave it to that little boy in the bed in the corner of the ward. His family live too far away to come visit him. Please, go and see if he’s okay.”

Another time a man knocked at the door of my parents’ home. When my father opened the door the man asked if there was any bread to spare because he was hungry. My father told him to return in an hour and then proceeded to cook the man a hot meal.

My father taught me about service – to God and others. He served the Lord’s Church in many ways from the time he and my mother became Christians in 1956, the year they were married. As a member of Queen Mary Avenue Church of Christ in Durban, he taught the teenaged boys, while my mother taught the girls.

While my brother and I were still very young, he was transferred to Kimberley, where there was no Church. This did not deter my father. He led a worship service for the four us every Sunday. From this I learned the importance of attending Church, even when there were no other saints to fellowship with. After our family moved to Pretoria in 1969, we placed membership with this congregation, where my father was often asked to lead the singing. He loved to sing, especially songs of praise to God. He sang them when he was happy, and when he wasn’t in a good mood, which wasn’t often, he whistled them. So many hymns we sing every Sunday remind me of my father, because he either led them or they were one of his many favourites.

My father loved to work with his hands. He could take a piece of wood or metal and lovingly fashion it into something beautiful and functional. When the congregation purchased the property in Ashlea Gardens, my father helped to build the building. As a child, I remember spending many a Saturday here while my parents, along with other members, worked on the site. I watched this building grow from its foundations to what it is today. The floor tiles my father laid in the passages and classrooms are still there. Years later, he installed little boxes behind the pews to hold the notes for our Loveliners ministry.

My father was happiest when he was serving others. There was no task too menial he would not do, and no time too inconvenient, even if it was the middle of the night. He never failed to respond to a call for help, no matter where or when it came, or from whom.

He was always there for his family, through good times and bad. To my mother he was more than a provider and protector; he was a soul mate. “She is my better half,” he liked to say.

To his grandchildren he was a loving Grandpa who spoiled them with toys lovingly made with his own hands, took them to the beach, played games with them, gave them treats, and even tucked them into bed at night. When he heard of Keenan’s recent engagement to Janine, his immediate response was: “I have become a Grandpa again, overnight.”

During my father’s long illness I received many messages of support from friends, family and brethren in Christ. I could not but help notice the common threat that featured prominently among them all. “I remember when your father did this for me…”; “I remember when your father helped me with that…”; I remember when your father gave me…”.

Even those who only knew him for a short time spoke of his gentleness, compassion and kindness.

These are the godly principles my father taught me. This is the legacy he has left for his family. For this reason, Dad, Grandpa, we are proud to be known as your children, grandchildren and great-grandchild, and we shall strive to carry your legacy forward in our own lives.

I shall miss, so much, Dad, your fish and chips, Chelsea buns and last calls for coffee, but the knowledge that you no longer have to bear the excruciating pain you suffered for so many years fills me with joy, and the certainty that I shall be reunited with you again, in a little while, gives me perfect peace.

You epitomised Matthew 25 – you fed those who were hungry and thirsty, took in strangers, gave to those in need, visited the sick and in trouble. You practised “true religion”, as stated in the book of James, because you took care of widows and orphans. As Paul urged the Galatians to do, you never “became weary in doing good… to all people”.  You did all these things for no other reason than you loved to do it.

Because you did so many things for others out of love, you were loved by many in return. For this reason, I can confidently echo the words of Christ when He spoke to your biblical namesake: “O Daniel, a man greatly beloved.”

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.”

 

What’s good about being adopted?

This question was asked of me recently by an adoptive mother, following a talk I presented to an adoption support group on the myriad painful emotional issues adoptees have to deal with over their lifetime.

For a few moments I was silent as I tried to think of an answer.

“That’s a difficult one,” I said eventually, playing for time while I frantically searched my brain for an answer.

Then I thought of the Bible story about the man born blind (John 9:1ff). Jesus’ disciples asked Him whose sin – the man’s or his parents’ – had caused him to be born blind.

“Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.” (John 9:3)

It’s a heavy cross we adoptees have to bear, but my journey of healing has showed me that we can use it to glorify God and further His Gospel, as the apostle Paul did (Philippians 1:12).

He also encouraged the Corinthian Church with these words:

“We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed” (2 Corinthians 4:8)

and went on to say:

“For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all” (2 Corinthians 4:17).

It is important to note, however, that God doesn’t cause bad things to happen so that He can manifest Himself and others can learn of Him. For example, an innocent person being killed by a drunk driver is certainly not part of God’s plan or His will.

But God can use situations such as these and turn them into good. As He did with Joseph, who was sold into slavery by his own brothers (sounds a little familiar, doesn’t it?).

Despite all the hardships Joseph had to endure while in Egypt, he remained faithful to God and eventually became a high-ranking ruler of the country. In time, he was  reunited and reconciled with his family and saved his countrymen from famine.

Thus he was able to say to his brothers:

“You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives” (Genesis 50:20).

God is fully aware of the pain that results when babies are placed for adoption, but because He has given us free will, He doesn’t interfere with our choices. He can turn that pain into something beautiful, however, as long as we remain faithful to Him and wholly submit our lives to His will.

It’s a wonderful, liberating promise.

Has my adoption made me a ‘depressaholic’?

Research shows that most adoptees suffer from recurrent bouts of depression. Although I was only formally diagnosed with the illness at around 38, once I was familiar with its symptoms I was able to identify earlier episodes in my life.

Studies have also revealed that if you’ve had depression once, there’s a good chance you’ll get it again. This is certainly the case with me. Even though I’m no longer clinically depressed, the propensity for the illness to take hold of me again has become an ever-present factor in my life.

It’s not unlike the disease of alcoholism. Even if an alcoholic stops drinking he is still an alcoholic, albeit a recovering one. The craving to drink is always there, and often becomes more intense during difficult times. Alcoholics know that the tiniest sip of of alcohol can set them off on a drinking binge, from which they may never recover.

My depression is much the same. I have to work every day at keeping it at bay. Some days are easy. On others I can forget totally that I ever had those awful dark days in the black hole.

But as it is wont to do – life happens – I experience a “wobbly” and all too quickly I can feel the dark hole beckoning. Thankfully, now I have the tools to resist succumbing to its black emptiness. And as long as I use them I’m okay. To quote a dear friend who is a recovering alcoholic: “If you don’t want to slip, stay away from slippery places.”

For him, this means anywhere where alcohol is present. As a depressaholic, it’s anything or anyone negative. I make it a point to surround myself with things positive and to avoid people who habitually grumble and complain about everything.

In every situation there’s a bright side. For every problem there’s a solution. I challenge myself to look for it, focus on it and apply it. It’s not always easy, but that’s where I have learned rely on the promise contained in Philippians 4:13 – “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”.

But He can only do that if I depend wholly on Him. This means giving the problem over to God. Completely. As my late faither-in-law often used to say: “Let go and let God.” Once I do that the relief is overwhelming, because now I know that the One who is omnipotent is taking care of it, and whatever happens will be right, because His will is always perfect. And what’s right for Him is ultimately always right for me.

I try not to wallow. Rather than dwell on the bad, I constantly strive to renew my mind, thinking on things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy (Philippians 4:8) – all qualities epitomised by Christ, thus I focus my thoughts on Him.

Finally, while I am still able to do so, I tell myself to snap out of it – before I sink so deep into the inky mire that I lose the ability – and the will – to claw my way out  and become completely engulfed in the blackness.

It’s hard work, but with God at my side I always get through it, each time emerging stronger, wiser and best of all, closer to Him.

Rina Bowes – A Virtuous Woman

A tribute to my beloved mother-in-law, who passed away peacefully on 26 August 2010, after suffering a severe stroke on 3 August 2010.

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 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.

The secret’s out, but the silence continues

When I first learned of my adoption around nine years ago I thought, great, now that the secret’s out my parents will no longer have to worry about someone blurting out the information to me and we will be able to talk about it openly. Sadly, that was not to be.

My parents were not only reluctant to discuss my adoption, indeed, they indicated strongly that I should “forget about it and get on with my life”. Of course, I couldn’t do this.

It took numerous weeks of counselling and many prayers for me to realise that my parents’, and especially my mother’s, unwillingness to talk about the subject was motivated not by spite or malice but fear and insecurity. But, through her faith in God and motivated by of her love for me, my mother was eventually able to overcome her fear and open her heart to understanding my need to search for my biological heritage. Not only did she give me her blessing, she even initiated the search for me. (I relate this story in more detail in my book. It’s one of my favourite memories of my journey because it affirms the scripture in 1 John 4:8:  “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear”.)

Months later, after I had found and been reunited with my birth mother, I was eager to tell my mother all about her. But the power of the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives is limited by our faith. My mother had gone as far as she was willing to. 

To this day she remains silent about my adoption.  She has not read my book, indeed, has not even acknowledged it. Naturally, I was hurt and disappointed at first, and turned to the Lord for guidance. How perfect are His ways. I love how He helps us overcome hurts by allowing us to relate to the experiences of others. Recently I visited with a friend of mine who had just adopted a baby girl and was eager to tell me all about it.

I was astounded at how different this child’s open adoption was to my closed process, and how far the adoption process has come in the 45 years since I was adopted. Then it was all done under cover of secrecy, “to protect the interests of the child” whose illegitimacy was considered a social scandal. For married couples eager to have a child but unable to because of infertility, adoption was considered the ideal “quick fix”. There was no counselling for the barrage of emotional issues adoptive parents could expect to encounter over their child’s lifetime.

Neither did my birth mother receive any counselling after relinquishing her baby. Once both parties had signed the relevant documentation, they were left to “live happily ever after”.

Where could my parents go with wounds that received no help to heal? My mother did what most members of her Silent Generation ddid with emotional hurts – she buried. She surrounded her heart with walls that became thicker and higher as time passed until eventually they were impenetrable. To talk openly about anything related to my adoption was to scratch open a fragile scar that had taken decades to form.

My parents and I are at opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to dealing with emotional pain, but I have come to understand their need for silence. I may not agree with it, and I wish with all my heart that I could change it, but I accept that this is not to be. That they respect my need to talk about my adoption in order to heal is enough for me.

My parents are in their seventies. I don’t know how much time we have left together, but I would rather spend it creating happy memories than trying to change things that, in their interests, are best left alone. As I do with all of my unresolved adoption issues, I have placed this one in God’s hands. There’s no safer place to leave it.

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