Sunday, 13 January 2019

2019 - new beginnings and other excitement

2019 is a big year for me.  For the first time in probably 30 years I am not in a fixed Monday to Friday job.  This is huge.  I return from leave tomorrow and on Monday it will be a very weird feeling to not have my alarm go off and then get up and drive off to a place and slide in behind my desk.  I am sitting on the balcony right now, writing this as the waves crash onto the beach, just a short distance in front of me.  I am trying to think when last I never had a desk to arrive at.  I can’t .... it is thousands of days ago.  

It gave me an opportunity to look back at the many desks I have sat at - 6 years at a big Catholic Parish as the Parish Secretary, 3 years at Irene Homes for Mentally Disabled Adults, where I was the Corporate Fundraiser (what a completely different world ... heels every day and negotiations with donors for amounts in excess of R500 000 each time), 3 years before that working for all the Embassies in Pretoria as the liaison between their duty free fuel purchases, SARS and the service station they purchased from (I got to have a tea appointment one on one with 11 Ambassadors, which was great), a stint working for my husband in his consultancy, 12 years as a Director, along with my parents, of our two Shell Service Stations, 3 years as National Public Relations Manager of Vista University and so many little ones in between .... and before that my studies.  What a wonderfully rich life of learning to do all kinds of stuff.  But it has taught me that organizing, counselling, public speaking, writing and being in charge of a situation/job where I can use my initiative, is what I love.  I am the consummate all rounder. I love people, and I intensely love being involved in dealing with them.  I don’t do mousy and withdrawn, that I know more than ever.  I am out there and full of sparkle.  And I do not apologise for it.  

But I digress.  Monday, just so I don’t sleep in and get lazy, I have to take my folks to the airport at 7am.  Which means leaving my house at 615am (thanks mom and dad, so grateful that you chose this absurd time to fly, just to make me feel secure) whahahahahah.  They shall however reward me with an obscenely wonderful cappuccino at ORT (is there a wonderful cappuccino there?).

I do not let the grass grow under my feet.  I am already involved now in the Deanery MAP course, which is to be attended by all engaged couples of all parishes in the Deanery, busy with their marriage prep at their parish.  The course is run by Fr Peter Switala, who also never let the grass grow under his feet, to nab me to do the admin and organization for him.  I know church, and I know it and the priests in both our Deanery and Diocese, and other Diocese, very well.  And this works with all couples of all parishes, which widens my scope.  So I can really be of use here.  It is a part time thing as the course is for one day, every 3 months, in a venue at CBC Mount Edmund, but someone is definitely needed to cross the t’s and dot the i’s.  Ta da - good choice Fr P.  

This is a good start to the idea brewing in my head and I am taking this on as a service being delivered by me as a private admin/secretarial consultant.  Watch this space!

So we came on leave straight after New Year, and I kept wondering how I would feel when we went back, when the reality of been desk-less as such, sunk in.  How do I feel?  Challenged, invigorated, motivated, cautious, nervous, excited, curious and so much more.  I chose to be here, in this new space and I intend to make use of the lessons learnt to forge my way forward. 

Seize the day, cometh the hour - cometh the man (or woman), I am right where God intended me to be, and all those other quotes ..... watch out world, I am coming at you.  

Till soon, be good to yourselves
c’est la vie 

Tuesday, 8 January 2019

beaches, speedos, big talking, teddies and other fun stuff

The beach. 

The beach is a place of great entertainment.   And the beach has a people culture, just like a 5 day cricket Test, which is the subject of another blog. 

So in order to form a clear picture for you, I am blending together various people experienced over the past 4 days on the beach. 

1.  The Big Talking, Small Costume Alpha Male and Family Group - You know when they arrive on the beach.  Because he all but makes an announcement.  Setting up their area is loud.  He is instructing his wife, his kids, his mother and anyone else around them.  Loudly. He can be recognized by some of the following phrases - “Ja I told Person A that Umhlanga is the place to be, the okes here all have money, cos you gotta have money to be down here boet” and  “xxx put that towel further away from us we don’t want sand on us” and “I must just remember to call the bank and ask them to check the balance on my investment”, “xxx call your brother and tell him to get his arse down here, we came as a family and he is gonna sit here with us”.  Then he arises, in a small black Speedo.  Should he wear a Speedo .... uhm usually not ...... but he struts down to the water as if he is the poster boy for  Speedo whilst saying “everyone come and swim .... we came here as a family, don’t make me buy the whole beach for us to be together”.  He talks, non stop, on the beach.  No-gets a word in.  He is the master of their universe.  PS if you own a Speedo, as many of my friends do, this is not an indictment on you.  Simply a comment for this blog.  I know many people love Speedos, or guys in Speedos. 

2.  The I Have the Best Body on the Beach Group - this is interesting.  I have noticed this for years.  Woman over 40 with fantastic bodies, just walk to the sea and swim.  Or lie on the beach and tan.  People notice them but they just keep on carrying on.  Now and then I see a very “oh everyone look at me” type, but not often.  Woman over 40 with less fantastic bodies, either strut up to the water, or try and remain fully dressed right up to the water’s edge and then drop their towel and run into the sea in one movement.  I have got less and less perturbed over the years.  I just walk across the beach and into the sea.  Yes I wobble.  And if you commenting while I do so, you better be damn sure that you do not have a single jelly part yourself.  Young girls also do the above I mostly see.   BUT the male species of “I have the best body on the beach” ...... jirre ... the first is the all over intense tan with a small costume guy.  Six pack.  Rippled Muscles.  Tats.  Strolls to the water.  Slowly.  This is very important.  Small steps and quite a lot of flexing.  Cos that is important when you approach the water.   Then the interesting part ...... turns around at the waters edge and faces the beach.  More flexing.  Studious expression looking out into the distance.  Weather report?  Took off glasses and is confused about which side the water is?  Then the sea gets entered.  With a dive.  The water is only 3cm deep there but it’s okay.  After swimming, the exit is dramatic.  Emerge from the water like James Bond, shaking your hair, flexing, again the “look”... walk out and pause, briefly and then go up the beach.  

3.  The Came To the Beach But Never Get Off My Phone Peeps - not sure why they come to the beach.  They land on their spot ... out comes the phone .... and that is the end.  They do not look at the beautiful water, talk to the others they are with, look at anyone, swim or move.  Even if they are alone.  They just text.  And you can see when some is typing and exiting, typing and exiting.  So it must be a plethora of social media and whatever other sites.  Addicts to the bitter end.  Not just the status post “look another day on the beach” ... no, hours of uninterrupted screen time. 

4.  The New Parents Group - and Eug and I chuckled today because we have been new parents and first time parents so we recognized this group.  They arrive at the beach carrying 23 bags.  A tent gazebo kind of thing, baby bags, baby slings, baby shawls, the actual baby, change of outfits, creams, lotions, hats, baby monitors, weather monitors, beach sand heat monitors ... alles.  Today we watched a mom hold a baby the size of twice her hand, while dad ... obviously for the first time, put up the gazebo.  It took 35 mins.  And then a further 35 to pack all their stuff under there.  They take 300 photos.  They are allowed to. We reminisced about 23 years ago when we took Jess to the beach for the first time.  Went down with our 23 bags, put out the blankets, the bucket and spade, the cool bag ... alles .... and when we put her down on the towel and her feet touched the sand she said “I no like it” and that was that.  No amount of cajoling helped.  30 mins later we were back in the flat. 

5.  The Entitled Group - This person/group do not have to do things like everyone else.  On arriving at the beach, needing an umbrella and chair, you usually go to the hire section, right on the beach, pay for your stuff and they walk with you to your spot as they are brilliant at putting in the umbrella in a non blow away way.  Also, when you want an icecream, you wait until the ice cream seller passes you and then ask them to stop.  You wait until the cold drink guy passes you and then ask him to stop.  You say please and thank you, just like they do.  However this group does not wait.  Or walk.  Or ask.  I have seen it on every one of my 4 days.  They arrive on the beach.  Put down their stuff and then proceed to shout ... across quite a distance ... “hey, hey you, umbrella guy, come here” ... “hey bring us 2 umbrellas china” ..... now the guy putting them up must come over as well as the guy controlling the money and the tickets.   Not long after we had “hey ... ice-cream, ICE-CREAM, come here ... she was about half a beach away”.  “What you got, don’t open the box too close, you bringing sand on my towel.  How much are they, why they so expensive” and on and on.  To the cold drink guy.  To the guy who had the bucket and spade for his grandchild. Sigh. 

But the beach has many other beautiful people as well.  The elderly couple walking on the waters edge, holding hands.  The clearly newly married couple, who just ooze romance.  The young kids who play that age old game of running towards the water and then running away from it as it runs up the beach, the people introducing their kids to the water for the first time, the ones having costume malfunctions in the sea ... the list is endless. 

I had two special ones today ...... a man came along the beach with his little girl, maybe 3 years old.  She was carrying her teddy and he was explaining that teddy did not like the water and had to sit on the beach on the waters edge while they went into the water.  It took a lot of coaxing before she sat teddy down a little way in front of me.  The tide was also coming in and the water edging up closer and closer on the beach.  Within a few minutes the water reached teddy’s paws so I fetched teddy and let him sit under my umbrella, but where the little girl would be sure to see him.  When they came out the sea I heard her dad say ... “oh look teddy is with that lady” ... I explained to her why teddy had moved and her dad told her to give me a high 5.  She did, and whispered “thank you for saving my teddy”.  Day made. 

The other incident was while Busi was still on the beach with me.  We hear the lady next to us say “no put it away, PUT.IT.AWAY” ... we look at her to see where she is looking, and there at the waters edge is a child of about 5, facing us, with his, uhm, privates, hanging over the top of his costume while he goes “wha wha wha wha wha” whilst swinging his hips from side to side.

Life is a beach. 

Till soon, be good to yourself

c’est la vie xxx 

Wednesday, 31 October 2018

Mo Salah, My car and other stuff

Each year a group of bloggers circulates a questionnaire around this time, intended to be answered by bloggers on Google and other forums, telling a bit about themselves.  This year’s one is loosely based on questions from a magazine.  I received mine last week ... so here goes

If there was one thing you could change about your life, what would it be - Trusting people too easily
What makes you angry - Bad coffee, disloyalty, arrogance, abuse of children, abuse of animals, racism, the increasing lack of morality on the internet and social media and number one on the list ..... adult bullying.  Also people who hurt my children.
In trying times how do you stay positive - my Faith. My family.  Belief that I am a compassionate person and can be there for others
What makes you laugh - Family and friends with great sense of humours, when my kids tease me, Mona & Lynette, Strings of Love kids, our dogs, my many church friends and those ludicrous requests (not from them)
If you could leave school now and choose a career, any career, what would it be - Advocate
Favourite saying or quote - Always in God’s time
Ultimate car - the one I have right now
Ultimate holiday - would love to go to Croatia
Ultimate hero - God
Ultimate drink - need you ask .........cappuccino
Ultimate food. Perfectly cooked fillet steak.  And Mac n cheese.
Favourite movies - Shawshank Redemption, Father of the Bride, Love Always, The Blind Side and Seven Pounds.  And just to be ridiculously laughing - Weekend at Bernie’s
Favourite sport to watch - Football ... Premier and Champions League
Favourite sportsman ..... Mo Salah Mo Salah Mo Salah and Lovren - both soooo handsome (and you of course Eugene ... sooooo handsome) - oh and Mo and Lovren can also play great football which helps
Favourite music - Any and all except rock and opera
Favourite authors - Dozens.  Especially love forensic thrillers.

Anything else you want to know?

Be good to yourselves
C’est la vie

Friday, 28 September 2018

Kitchen Conversations and the joy they bring

For many years I had a very special daily routine in my life.  The Housekeeper of my boss, who additionally is also regularly in my office building, is a wonderful lady .... like me she is married, has kids and all the challenges of balancing work, marriage, grown up kids (plus her one in school as well as also a grandchild). We understand school and all that goes with it, grown kids with girlfriends and boyfriends, family life and many other common things.  We are moms.  We are colleagues.  She calls me by my nickname, K, and we have spent many moments over the past 5 years, laughing at things, getting tears over things, getting angry over things and enjoying the daily kitchen conversation we used to have. Amazing how important the “basin” chats became.

We had a special ritual ..... I would come to work and find her at the basin in the kitchen.  Whilst I threw some yoghurt and muesli in a bowl (I find it impossible to eat first thing in the morning before I go to work) and made a coffee, we would catch up on the past 24 hours.  We went through a wide array of topics in every week - the political situation and who had done what, stories about our kids, concerns we had, fun things that had happened, what we had done on our leave etc.  It was just 10 mins, but felt like so much more. I remember when she went to the sea - first time ever - her son sent me blow by blow photos .... first step into the water, first time knocked over by a wave.  On Sunday she leaves to the sea again ..... I cannot wait for the pics.  When I took Setswana lessons she helped me with my practising.  When her daughter had to do a school assignment for LO incl gynaecological instruments (yes you heard right), I was the researcher.  When the baby shower rolled around, I sat at home and made colour printouts of all kinds of pics for the party.

I see her in my office now on Wednesdays and between her time in my office and then the boss’ office, making them smell wonderfully of furniture polish, we try and keep up our ritual.  Sometimes it is hard to be working, answering the phone and talking to someone who is in and out, also while she tries to bring some order to my very full desk .... but we are trying.  Even she misses our kitchen chats I was told today. We keep each other up to date as much as we can in the time we have ........

but those Kitchen Conversations ...... they will be in my heart forever.

Cherish the special moments ..... it is the little things that are very often actually the big things in our lives.

Till soon - be good to yourselves

c’est la vie xxxx

Monday, 24 September 2018

Strings of Love - my dream is now real

I combined a plan that was a long time on my personal wish list, with a crazy moment of “now is the time”, and recently started my young adults discussion group, Strings of Love.

I have always found a gap in society for this.  Even in schools.  Even in my church.  A place, even in a church, that is not a Youth Group and all that goes with that, but is also not the place for professional counselling, like Lifeline.  A “half way stop” for chatting, discussing, sharing, asking and interaction.  A more structured space, with a specific starting topic each time, but with enough space for a brief social chatting time and a snack at the onset.  But structured talk had to be the focus.  This is not intended to be the Buena Vista Social Club kind of gathering.

For years I have been chatting to young people who seek me out.  Via my own kids, through their school they were at, through church, through friends of friends and all sorts of ways.  This has gone on, on and off, for the past at least 20 years.  Some teenage kids that turned to me for space to talk are now in their 30’s, married with their own kids.  Many of them still keep contact with me.  Some are still in my life, 12 years later.  And from this, always, I wanted to have a more structured space.

This year, prompted by something really horrible said to me (it seems strange that the ugliness of one person who is supposed to be way better than that, can spark something so positive), I knew that this will be the year in which this will start.  In May, on a half day retreat at the Jesuit Institute, there was discussion about the ties that bind us to various people in our lives.  During the individual reflection afterwards in the garden, I was thinking of this and my mind leapt from ties that bind us, to strings, to love and there I had it “Strings of Love” ….. I knew that my months of prayer and discerning had been answered.  The times that I had asked God ….. will I manage?  Will they come?  Will I know what to say?, had been dealt with.  The name leapt up.  I wrote it down and walked back to the common room and told the young girl who had come with me …. “I have a name”.  

I set about to start my planning.  The venue was easy, my office at the church is 10 steps away (in the same building) from the Adami Centre, which forms part of the house in which our offices are.  I am the parish secretary of a large Catholic church and part of my “personal ministry” time is also to run the Repository for the parish.  The Repository is in the Adami Centre, so it is all intertwined.  It has chairs and tables and a little kitchen area and is ideally suited also for the young adults in this centrally located area who have no car and need to walk there.  The hire cost that the church charges the public is affordable and so I looked no further to hire a place.  My group is also very beneficial to the church as many of my members are parishioners, so as parishioners there is a “community programme” right on their doorstep that they can attend, and feel comfortable in.  There is no other group like this available in a big radius, so although not included as a parish ministry, the fact that the young people know me and know many of the others there, has made it easy to get going and to include people who are not in our parish, as our young people are very welcoming.

Next up was the fact that I know that young people love to eat.  And no matter what the age, hotdogs and Oros are always welcome.  So I ensure that I have enough viennas and rolls to give at least 2 (sometimes 3) to each one, lots of Tomato Sauce and a big Oros.  This is a great “hello and how are you” catch up time at the beginning and I usually allocate the first 30 or so minutes for everyone to arrive, eat and get ready.  Trust me this gets very loud.  But it is a wonderful heart-warming gathering of young people filled with joy.  It is also a good time to welcome new people, or people who are not from our parish, not Catholic, not known to others etc.   And our young people never let me down in this welcome.  This time we even had an exchange student from Chile.
I pack the chairs out in a large circle and each time I buy / make a little bookmark / purse sized card with a message on.  I encourage them to put it up on their pin boards, in their cars, in their wallets or anywhere else where they will see it regularly over the next month.  This month I also bought and gave each one of them a little cross.  My heart leaps when I see how kids of all ages get this excited about this little thing I give them.  After the first meeting, the youngsters took to social media, posting pics of where all they had their cards.  There were pics at work, varsity, school, church, sports camps …. The cards went as far as Swaziland.  Heart-warming indeed.

The youngest currently attending is a Gr 10 pupil, followed by a gr 11 pupil and then there are 3 pupils in Matric, with the oldest member being 26 years old.  We have a great spread across 19, 20, 21 and 22 years, and then about one or two of each 23, 24 and 26 years.  Almost an even number of males as females (which is very interesting to me) and a mix of pupils, students, part-time students or people working in internships, or a full-time job.  The older ones are still very student-like, if that makes sense.

We settle down in the circle, I find out who has anything big that has happened to them since we last met (good or bad) and I tell them the same.  It is lovely that in any discussion they always want to hear my personal answer as well.  The first time we met I was pretty anxious.  I had started a Whatsapp group explaining my dream and the response had been good.  But would they come?  As the starting time arrived I found myself pacing up and down between the kitchen and the entrance, somewhat anxiously.  My son says he was just starting to feel heartbreak for me ……and then ….. I heard car doors slamming ….. footsteps ….. voices ………. And my dream became a reality …..

Trust is imperative.  That I have theirs. That they have mine. I made this clear. This group is not a catalyst for a gossip session the next day on social media.   To prove my willingness to bare all to them, I put a plastic dish in the centre of the room at the first meeting, along with some pieces of cardboard and pens, and told them each one was to write down one thing they wanted to know about me.  They did not have to put their names.  I did not want trivial questions like favourite colour.  I told them to dig deeper.  I would answer unless I had a very good reason not to, and I would say so.  The youngsters did not disappoint, and the type of questions they asked showed me that such a group was needed, and that many of the questions they were asking themselves, were ones they asked me.  I was honest, brutally so, I never left a single question unanswered.  Some made me teary, some made me have to think very well before I verbalised an answer, some made them laugh.  But I answered.  Because they need to see that I am serious and prepared to be there.

This past Saturday we delved into a list of “17 things not to give a damn about”.  It was a good framework for issues of gossiping, the “what-ifs” or life, body image, body shaming, being right all the time, the ability of social media to destruct relationships, trust, social anxiety etc.  The thing that made me the most emotional was how eagerly all of them gave input, honestly, no holds barred and that many of the issues that the guys raised, were previously thought to only be concerns for girls.   It was wonderful.  And proved that the fact that we once again spoke non-stop for over an hour, meant there is a need.

The group is not only open to our parish.  It is not only open to Catholics.  It is not only open to Christians.  My group has only one criteria ….. Be You. We pray when we end the meeting. It is our way.  No one is forced to join in.

So I am currently discerning over my plans for the October meeting.  I spend a lot of time on the phone or meeting (outside of work time) with young people who want some one-on-one advice, help, or most often of all ….. someone to listen.  They know that I am just a number away.  I am happy to meet them in my lunch break or my off time, because very often just telling their story helps them sort it in their heads.  I offer them space.  You do not know how important that is.

My own kids (19 & 23) attend the group and their pride in me is so special it always brings me to tears.

I have been blessed that so far someone always steps up and says they want to sponsor the hotdogs and Oros because they love the concept I have come up with.  I am so grateful for the assistance with the costs.  However I have promised the kids that even if I have to pay the hire and food myself, this group will always go on. 

So to those who said follow your dream, to those who take a genuine interest in my planning before the time, to those who are interested in hearing my thoughts after the meeting, to those who actually ask what I experienced ……. You are the wind beneath my wings.  And I treasure you.  Sometimes the most support comes from those we least expect it from, and vice versa.

I hope to have more and more people join.
Follow your dreams …. I did.

Till soon
c’est la vie  xxxx

Tuesday, 11 September 2018

My lunches in a Catholic graveyard

What an enormous blessing my job affords me.  Death affects everyone.  And affects the families of the deceased, enormously, in different ways.  And as part of my job, I get to work with many people and families that come to the parish office to arrange funeral Masses and Services with our clergy, and then with me for every person who wishes to have the internment of Ashes in our Garden of Remembrance.  I have also worked with many families who move ashes from another GOR to ours, or bring ashes back from overseas.  It is an important time in these families’ lives, and to share this process with them in the weeks it takes, is very special. 

The Garden of Remembrance is very close to my heart.  Not because I have any family there yet, but because of the 70 plus families I have worked with, whose family, friends and others are remembered there.  We have sold niches to people preparing for the future, sold niches to people immediately after a death in their family.  We have had people now needing to use niches bought years ago.  I often get asked, when niches are being selected, "how do I know which one to choose?".  Very often people choose immediately and come to me with a picture of the niche or the number.  When people are confused as to where to place their family, I often tell them to go and sit in the Garden of Remembrance. Just sit. And listen. And look. And wait. You will know.  I don’t know how, but of this fact I am certain.  The process of picking words for a plaque is easy for some and so hard for others.  Getting to the point of sending me those words, is so traumatic for some that even I am driven to tears.  Many many times I have had people opposite me in the office, when the plaque is manufactured and ready, who say they are not ready yet and how will they know.  I always say the same thing.  Go home. Go sit in our Garden. This week, next week, next month, you will know when you are ready to place the Ashes.  I have had people bring Ashes to me and then just not being able to hand me the box.  It is heartbreaking.  I have gone and sat in the Garden with many many many people over the last 5 years.  Just sat.  It is a blessing.  Every time. 

I deal with the administration side of engaged couples in prep *149 so far* .. I do wedding rehearsals *27 so far*, I stand available for questions .... my opinion on veils, invites, you name it. Simply because I am impartial.  I mop up tears. I prepare baptism certificates, very often for couples whose marriage certificates were also written by me in years gone by.  I get so excited by that! 

However death is a huge part of our office.  My own friends have asked me if it is not depressing.  No.  It is very sad.  I have seen families heartbreakingly enter our offices after family have died from illness.  I have seen families who are shattered when their adult children, small children, babies - pass away.   Parents, uncles, aunts, cousins. Sudden deaths. Long time coming deaths.  Tragic deaths. When Fr C is not able to be there he trusts me to deal with arrangements with the families.  I find that incredibly moving - Fr Chris likes to know about the deceased person ... what families remember most fondly, what the person liked to do etc.  I listen to the most wonderful stories.  How people met. What their hobbies were. Their funny traits.  Husband mourn wives and vice verso.  Grandparents.  Parents.  Raw grief.  Raw pain.  The reality of life.  You do not have to be a member of clergy.  Just like undertakers deal with it, so does the secretary of a parish office.  And in a very big parish like ours, this is often about 25 times a year.  I have often had to go to the bathroom and wipe my own tears away after dealing with a family.

I marvel at how many people I have sat in the Garden with, or at my fountain,or in the Adami Centre, at my desk, in their car, in the church.  How many tears, how many tissues, how many whatsapp’s.  And I am so grateful for this. 

During my lunch breaks I usually do one of two things.  Sit in the Presbytery garden and read / do my crossword, or go to a coffee shop and do the same.  Now that Jess is in Pretoria, that lunch restaurant is always by her.  Recently I looked for a new sunshine spot at the parish and I realised that I would use the garden of remembrance.  So I take my lunch, and my book and my coffee.  And I sit in a different spot there each time.  With great respect. I sit. And I listen. And I remember.  And I randomly let my eyes fall on a plaque or booked spot.  And I play in my mind the story behind that plaque, that family, that moment.  There are beautiful ones and tragic ones. Angry ones and touching ones. And I always leave with a prayer for a family in particular on each time and also all those there. Each plaque and each niche has a story attached to it - and I can tell a story for every one I have worked on.  Each family is different, each story is different.  I just tell them in my mind. 

I ring the wind chimes every time and I listen.  It is not morbid.  It is not depressing.  It is a moment in which I thank God for the chance to touch these lives in a little way.  I thank God for giving me a nature of deep compassion,  I thank God for the blessing of being able to have my lunch here in the Catholic graveyard, because it is so important to me and close to my heart.

I am blessed indeed. 

till soon, be good to yourself
c'est la vie 

Tuesday, 28 August 2018

Trying to be human and a disciple .... all at once

Striving to be a disciple of Jesus.  
Wow.  Quite a challenge. 

Seems so easy to say.  Just go along all day, being nice, smiling, never losing your temper, never being abrupt, never being dismissive, never treating others unjustly, being loyal - just being the perfect disciple. Be that person who is just a walking model of the Fruits of the Holy Spirit. 

When you meet such a person, I would like to be the first to know. Sometimes I think that chasing the attributes of the Fruits is akin to being a bit robotic and unnatural. 

Because life is what happens amidst all our intentions to be that disciple.  Life, that messy, complicated, happy, sad, intense, fun, joyful, hurtful, slow, quick and crazy thing that we all live. 

I am pretty sure that most people start the day with good intentions.  I know that I try to.  When I wake up I try and think of the best thing I expect from that day.  Some days it is a big thing, like succeeding in finishing a task I have been battling with, or dealing well with a difficult relationship, or finding motivation for a project at work or something joyful with family and friends.  Other times it is a simple thing, like the warmer days that are here, or the prospect of a good coffee somewhere at lunchtime.  But I always think of one thing.  Most mornings I try and do my Bible reading before I put a toe out of bed.  I have a beautiful Catholic Bible and it is used to practice the age old tradition of Lectio Divina.  I started at the front of the Bible and am reading my way through, cover to cover.  Each day in a column on the side, it tells you the next verses to read and it gives you something to reflect on about that reading.  After reading there is a prayer in there and then an “action” or something to think about during that day.  At the moment it is focused on trying to act as an image of God with everyone I deal with in my daily routine. Several days last week focused on trying to see everyone I come across in a day, as being in the image of the Lord.  Trust me neither of these are as easy as it may sound.  In fact some days it is damn tough to see the image of the Lord in some people.  That practice of reading, reflection, prayer and daily action is known at the Lectio Divina way of working through the Bible.  Really lovely.  I remember shortly before my Grose Ouma died, she told me that she had read the Bible cover to cover more than 20 times in her life. 

If I find that I have really battled with a particular action, then I stay with it for a day or two more, not reading further until I feel I have tried at least to overcome my difficulty with it.  In addition at night I usually do the Gospel reading for each day.  Like any human being, there are days that I do not get to it in the morning, too tired, too grumpy, too stressed, oversleeping .... these happen.  I found that buying a little zip bag for my Bible helped.  I put it in the car every morning so when I find a time in the day, I do the reading, praying and action seeking then.  Luckily for me I am right opposite the church 5 days a week, and have literally forty steps to Adoration from my office, 5 days a week.  Plenty of opportunity.  I have even been known to do my readings whilst having a cappuccino at Jess at Cafenio.  Or by the fountain outside my office door, or sitting on the steps of my office, or in the Garden of Remembrance, or on the boss’ back lawn.  That is the beauty of Bible reading - it is an anywhere, anytime, any situation kind of book. 

Right now it is almost 1am and I am writing this in the Adoration Chapel in the church, during my Perpetual Adoration hour.  I am right in front.  This iPad is on two cushions, balanced on a chair which I have turned to face me.  Right up close, front and centre in front of me is the monstrance.  This way I can both write and chat to the Lord at the same time.  

He likes this blog so far.  I asked him.  I pause every now and then to continue chatting to the Lord, because I have much on my mind.  I even asked him a few minutes ago - “what is your plan for this issue I have now, because I assume you have a plan?”.  Sometimes our lives lead us in a way which has us wondering why we are wandering around in a seemingly pitch dark forest, unable to clear our minds, find direction, find answers, find solace.  That is what I now debate with God. It is a funny relationship.  I talk, rant, ask questions and then I wait.  The answer comes in the silence.  Sometimes I get it from Him right away.  Other times it takes several days before I find the answer.  But I have to listen for it.  I do not always agree with His suggestions, but I focus always on the fact that the answer I want is not always the answer that I need. 

So this week I am going to focus on answers.  Solutions.  Fix-it methods.  Try and be part of that corny saying “don’t be part of the problem, be part of the solution”. 

That is of course if I do not forget about the disciple of Jesus thought, and throttle someone. 

Till soon 
C’est la vie 

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