Posts Tagged ‘ scripture ’

‘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.”

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.

The final chapter

I did not write the final chapter of my book. It was written by my husband Sean, for a very special reason.

During my journey of discovery and healing, Sean was always at my side – physically, emotionally and spiritually.

One on occasion he accompanied me to a support group meeting for adoption triad members. There we met not only adoptees, birth mothers and adoptive parents, but also their spouses. Like Sean, they had come along to provide support.

One young man, the husband of an adoptee, expressed how helpless he felt as his wife battled to deal with all the emotions that engulfed her. He admitted that sometimes he struggled to understand her pain, even though, as her husband, he experienced it almost first hand with her every day.

Sitting next to me, Sean nodded his head in agreement, now and then whispering a quiet “yes” as the young man spoke. Clearly he could relate to what the man was talking about.

In that moment I realised that I was not travelling my journey alone. The pain I felt was not limited to me , but also affected those close to me, especially my immediate family – my husband and children.

When I made the decision to write my book I asked Sean to contribute a chapter. I wanted him to write about his experience of my adoption journey – how he felt through it all and most importantly, how he dealt with it. I wanted Sean to speak so that others like him, whose unwavering support is indispensable, who feel our pain as they carry our burden with us, could feel heard.

I was not prepared for my reaction when I read Sean’s chapter. He wrote from the heart and his honesty moved me to tears. I had been so self-absorbed, so intent on what I was going through, that I never gave a minute’s thought to how he was being affected by it all. Yes, learning about your adoption as an adult is traumatic, but the trauma is not isolated. The spillover effect on those closest to us is considerable and as adoptees, we need to be aware of this.

Although our pain causes our loved ones pain, mostly they remain silent because their primary role is to provide support. How unselfish is this love.

Sean’s chapter is entitled A Little While of Winter, taken from Song of Solomon 2:10-12. A  talented friend of mine put the words to music and recorded the song, which I gave it to Sean as a gift as our pain turned into healing:

My beloved spake, and said unto me,
Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away.
For, lo, the winter is past;
The rain is over and gone;
The flowers appear on the earth;
The time of the singing of birds is come,
And the voice of the turtle-dove is heard in our land.

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.

A powerful purpose

I stumbled across this image on the Internet recently and immediately associated it with my adoption.

“You were an answer to prayer,” my mother said to me when we discussed how their adoption of me came about.

Her statement caused me to catch my breath as I felt my heart skip a beat.

I was an answer to prayer.

Imagine two people praying to the Almighty God – the Creator who spoke the world into existence – for a baby and they receive you. Wow. God choosing me as a gift for someone – that in itself is a gift – to me.

Truly, God meant it when He said:  “Can a mother forget her baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you” (Isa 49:15).

And He didn’t. When my birth mother decided she couldn’t keep me and wanted to ensure that her baby girl was given to a happy, Christian home, God looked down from Heaven, saw my mother and father and said: “This baby for that couple.”

The fact that my father had always wanted a little girl with brown eyes and blonde hair had everything to do with it.

Adoptees are a gift from God to their adoptive parents. That you were given to them specifically is no accident. God had a definite purpose in mind when He caused you to come into each others’ lives. Even if your adoptive situation was not a happy one, it’s important to know that God can turn any evil into good to suit His divine purpose – if you allow Him to by submitting to His will.

It’s Powerful stuff. And it’s ours for the taking.

Go on, take it.

Striking back at the black hole

Stress happens. All the time. And it’s not uncommon that just as one stressful situation resolves itself, another develops to take its place. Often there are two, three or even more to be dealt with simultaneously. For previously diagnosed depression sufferers this can make that deep, dark, black hole look increasingly inviting and the urge to crawl back into it too tempting to ignore.

Sometimes I am tempted to sit on the floor and let all the painful emotions surrounding my adoption completely overwhelm me. All the unfinished business, the unresolved issues, the unanswered questions. I have to work extremely hard every day at keeping them at bay, and sometimes it just becomes… exhausting.

That’s when I feel that black hole looming ever larger and larger. And it looks so enticing. It seems so peaceful in there. So quiet. Far away from all the pressure. All the stress. All the stuff. Like a thick, warm, wooly blanket. I can almost feel myself being pulled closer and closer into its looming folds, until eventually my legs are dangling inside and it’s only my fingers clinging tightly onto the edge of the hole that are keeping me from letting go and falling… falling…

That’s when I know I have to waste no time in heading straight for my Safe Place, my “refuge in times of trouble”.

“The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want,” I recite to myself over and over again. “Tho’ I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil. I will fear no evil. I will fear no evil.”

And then the one that gives me the strength to claw my way out of the hole: “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Because “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

And as I move farther and farther away from the gaping blackness I begin to feel it. The fear dissipating, and I am left with peace. “My peace I give unto you. Not as the world gives, give I unto you…”

And as I breathe Him deeply in, so that once more “in Him I live, and move, and have my being” I hear Him whisper: “Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”

And as I slowly exhale I know that I am safe. And I can see the hole for what it really is. A black shroud of despair where there is no light, only endless night.

And as I continue to “renew my mind” I am once again reminded that “without Him I can do nothing.” But with Him “all things are possible” and I no longer have to fear. I can see my adoption for what it really is: a gift from God to my parents, a gift of eternal salvation to me. I am blessed.

%d bloggers like this: