Highly unlikely; however not impossible

It’s my husband’s birthday.

“What is your wish for the next year?” I ask him.

“Peace and quiet,” he answers without hesitation.

I have to laugh, however quietly in my sleeve. ‘Bless your soul, my dear husband,’ I think, ‘such a noble wish’.  The chances of peace and quiet are highly unlikely; however not impossible.  We always have hope that surpasses all circumstances, right?  But with a soon-to-be seven year-old son going to big school and a soon-to-be five year-old daughter who are both utterly strong-willed, a wife full of drama, a stressful job and life in the city, to name a few things, the chances of peace and quiet seem slim to none.  We are definitely accustomed to a never-a-dull-moment type of life by now.

And so we are off to celebrate this milestone at our favourite sushi restaurant not far from home. Dinners like these are seldom a wise idea at the end of long days with children and work, but we go anyway.  We take our seats outside and order a glass of wine to unwind and start the festivities.  The kids are running around.  A few minutes after, our son arrives at the table and asks for two five rands to buy little rubber balls for him and his sister at the vending machine.  My husband and I look at each other and decide to give him the money.  We always say ‘no’, and for good reason, but sometimes we must say ‘yes’.  He runs away excitedly, his sister in tow.

Only for them to return a few moments later, his shoulders slumped; she on the other hand brimming from ear to ear. In her hand is a blue rubber ball, in his… a pink one.

“Mom, look, I got a blue ball!” She shows it off proudly.

“Dad, I asked if we could swop around. I don’t want a pink one,” our son tells my husband.  “But she doesn’t want to.”

My husband looks at her and asks, “Don’t you want to swop with your brother? Remember, you like pink more?”

“No! I like blue too!”  She runs off; ball in hand, body strong with determination.

I look at our son and see tears on the brink of bursting. He falls in his chair, disappointment infested in his little body.

“But I like blue, I’m a boy, she is a girl! I want the blue one!”  Tears are flowing freely now.

My husband, always looking to avoid conflict like the plague, hence the wish for peace and quiet, tries to reason with him. But his state of emotions is soon at the worst of worst stations and there he gets stuck.  Our daughter comes back with ball in hand and offers another definite ‘no’ when asked to swop.  Sharing is also completely off the table.  Now our son is almost at the point of hyperventilating and I must admit, I do not play the role of validator of emotions very well.  I epically fail at this once again.  When you hear, via the grapevine, of a family that threw a terrible tantrum in a sushi restaurant in the east of Pretoria, look no further.  The more my husband tries to calm him down, the angrier I become and I have trouble sympathising with my son.  This has been going on for the better part of fifteen minutes now.

“You know what,” I tell him, “there are worse things in life than a little ball! It is definitely not the end of the world!  You and your sister haven’t even thanked dad for the money!  It’s all about what is going on in your hearts!  I can’t believe you are going on like this!”

Now my husband tries to calm me down. So much for peace and quiet.  “Just relax,” he tells me, “there are people around us.”  I think of how I read the other day that never in the history of calming down has anybody calmed down by being told to calm down.  “Remember,” he says, “boys like blue.  I can understand that he doesn’t want the pink ball.”

After a while of this going on, our daughter comes in again with her blue ball.

“She got the blue one fair and square,” I say. “And recently, she likes blue more.”

“Don’t you think she is saying that just to terrorize him?” my husband asks.

“Even if she is; she got the blue one fair and square and it would be unfair to expect her to swop just because her brother likes blue.” Fresh tears are coming from our son’s green eyes.

My words have barely left my mouth or our daughter says with ruthless cockiness, “Look at my blue ball, look at my blue ball!” Our son now reverts to wailing.

“Okay, now that is enough!” my husband says. “I am going to take both balls now.  Maybe tomorrow, when both of you can show a bit of decency towards one another, we can give it back.  But for the rest of the night, no balls!”

Both turn away unhappy, but they manage to go outside and play together. A few minutes of relative peace and quiet preside.  When all four of us sit to eat, our son again asks if he can have the blue ball.  There is always hope.

“No! It’s mine!” our daughter says.

“Dad said enough for tonight! We can try again tomorrow.  And you know what?” I say, looking at our son, “for all you know, the pink ball hops higher than the blue one.”

He looks at his sister. “Hey sis, Mom says the pink ball hops higher than the blue one!”

“Okay, then you can have the blue ball,’ she says, and shrugs her shoulders as if it is now the simplest thing in the world to do. Just like that, all is forgotten.

“That is not what I said,” I say. “I said, for all you know, it hops higher.  And no, there will be no more balls tonight!”

About an hour into our dinner, we are able to focus on why we actually came in the first place.

And so my dear husband, I want to say to you, happy birthday. I love you and thank God for another year by your side.  You are a truly remarkable man.  I admire the wish that you harbour for the next year and I realize how sincere you are in wishing this.  I wish this too, especially for you.  Truth be told, when I look at the prospects for the coming year, I see that there is an extremely high probability of ‘never a dull moment’, and a very slim chance of peace and quiet.  May we find the peace and quiet in the midst of it all regardless.  I am thankful that we are in this together and I commit to finding the peace and quiet with you.  I commit to trying my best to sometimes just be the peace and quiet that you wish for.  I am thankful that we can look for it together.  I am thankful that we have hope that surpasses all circumstances, together.  The keyword being ‘together’.

Oh yes, and may we always remember why we always say ‘no’ when our son and daughter ask if they can have little rubber balls.

And this is all I need to know now.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A letter to all of my family and friends who home school

Before I begin, a bit of background is required.  I do not write this letter to add more fuel to the whole home school versus going to school debate.  It is not my place to harbour an opinion on what you should or should not do with your own children.  This is also not a letter explaining why my children are going to school (well, on second thought, maybe it is here and there) and to question why you home school yours.  This is also not a letter to bring any further division with regards to this subject.  I am well aware of the fact that, as the status quo so often is in this world, this has become an area of great conflict where it should actually be one where we simply learn from each other and have grace with one another.

At this point, I also have to admit that, indeed, you do make me uncomfortable. But, in a refreshing way as with anything that is not in my comfort zone.  My children’s schooling was more or less mapped out in my mind.  But then, you did come along with ‘your’ home schooling and necessarily urged me to think about this in ways that I never thought I would.  I am thankful for this.

Simply put, this is an honest letter from my mother heart to yours. Yes, I realize we differ fundamentally with regards to many things, but I know that we have one thing in common.  We agree that we want what is best for our children.  And for each of us, this indeed means something different.

So, here goes….

To my dearest friends and family who home school…

You have been in my thoughts today. Actually, you have been on my mind quite a lot during the past two weeks, but especially today.  For my children were on holiday these past two weeks and today returned to school.  Now (and, yes, I am holding my breath) I am going to be brutally honest at this point and I hope that you will also have grace with me.  Once I set foot in my home after taking them to school this morning, only one emotion overwhelmed me in the best way possible.  What I experienced was utter relief.  I walked peacefully into my peaceful kitchen and through my peaceful house and marvelled at the fact that a few uninterrupted, quiet, peaceful hours were on the cards for me in order to reach a state of peacefulness.  God knows, I needed this today to gather myself.  I actually phoned a friend to merely say, “Just for today, this is the definition of relief.”

I absolutely adore my children. I would not have it any other way.  I could, however, go to great lengths to describe to you how demanding these past two weeks were with two utterly stubborn children who won’t budge a millimetre.  They are just at that age where every single thing is a power struggle.  I could describe to you in the finest detail my daughter’s terrible tantrums because of her frustration with her brother and my son’s delight at my daughter’s frustration with him and everything in between.  Alas, some days, no, let’s make that most days, I felt emotionally tortured. I could tell you how I wished that we could be apart from each other now and then in order to appreciate each other again, especially these two children.  I mean, just this afternoon, after school, they were again the closest of friends.  I could describe to you my inability to not let my emotions and inner and outer conflicts have an effect on them and how this mostly became extremely overwhelming, especially the guilt surrounding this.  How, being an introvert and being surrounded by little souls bursting with energy the likes I have never experienced, for every minute of every day, drained me.  Hence, my utter relief this morning that we could have a break from each other, even if it was only for a few hours.  I could tell you all these things, but it is not the aim of this letter.

The aim of this letter is to tell you in all honesty and vulnerability, from the bottom of my heart to yours, that I respect and salute you in ways that are difficult to put into words. Just the mere fact that you did not drop your kids at school for a while this morning makes me want to erupt in a standing ovation.   Pippi Longstocking’s complaint that it’s unfair that she doesn’t have any holidays as she doesn’t go to school has taken on a whole new meaning for me.  You have no holidays in so many ways and I respect you for the selfless decision you make to have your kids with you mostly uninterrupted.  I cannot think that it can be easy some days, just as many things are not easy for mothers whose kids do go to school.  We all have different challenges and we pray different prayers.  We all have to focus on the good and make best of the bad.  We all look at these things from completely different angles and hence, we cannot tell each other what to do.  But all of us, I imagine, every so often, ask ourselves if we are doing the right thing for our children.

After these past two weeks, I actually do not know how you do it. You take so many things upon yourself and I imagine that you have to learn to gather yourself and keep yourself gathered in the midst of your children.  In my view, this is brave.  You must know that you are brave women and mothers.  And while each of us has our reasons for doing everything that we do, the point of this letter is not to discuss these reasons.  The bottom line of all these words is that I admire your courage, your resolve and your dedication.  I will continue to keep my heart and thoughts open to learn from you.  There is much to learn and I am indeed a scholar of this thing called life.  I welcome the new path of thinking that you bring into me and my children’s lives.  May we learn from each other in grace and patience.

Most of all, for the record, please know that my admiration and respect for you run incredibly deep.  In many ways, you are pioneers.  May your courage take you and your children to the highest of grounds.

And that is all I need to know now.

 

Giving up a fight unlike any other

1 Kings 3:22-27 AMP:

“Then the other woman said, “No!  For my son is the one who is living, and your son is the dead one.”  But the first woman said, “No!  For your son is the dead one, and my son is the living one.”  This is how they were speaking before the king.

“Then the king said, “This woman says, ‘This is my son, the one who is alive, and your son is the dead one’; and the other woman says, ‘No!  For your son is the dead one, and my son is the one who is alive.’”  Then the king said, “Bring me a sword.”  So they brought a sword before the king.  Then the king said, “Cut the living child in two, and give half to the one and half to the other.”

Then the woman whose child was the living one spoke to the king, for she was deeply moved over her son, “O my lord, give her the living child, and by no means kill him.”  But the other said, “He shall be neither mine nor yours; cut him!”  Then the king said, “Give the first woman who is pleading for his life the living child, and by no means kill him.  She is his mother.”” 

 

Once upon a time, a father fought with a mother over their two small sons like the women before King Solomon.  For the better part of nine years, this relentless fight raged on, a deadly fire engulfing every living thing in its way.  God only knew how this father fought with every single thing he had.  He fought bitterly for the right to be their father and all that this role encompassed.  He fought with every little shred of dignity in him, every cent, every heartbeat, every ounce of wisdom.  He stood before countless judges and advocates and wise men and women of the world.  He pleaded, he cried, he bled.  In the process, his dignity was left in tatters, he had no money left and his heart, once blindly brave, was reduced to a raw piece of leather with irreparable, gaping holes in it.  The wisdom he thought he possessed turned out to be of no worth against a massive worldly onslaught.

How he would have appreciated a wise man such as King Solomon to decide over his case.  How a swift outcome as with the two women in the Bible would have suited him, a decision that honoured the fact that he was indeed his sons’ father and that awarded him his rightful place in their lives.  A judgement that no one would ever again deny.  Sadly, he was not bestowed this grace by worldly orders.  By the end of the nine years, he found himself at a place of utter desolation and disillusionment.  He had to look in the mirror and admit to himself that he had arrived at the very end of all that he thought he had in him.  He had nothing left to fight with.  And as the wise King Salomon once did, he had to make a decision.  One that literally tore what was left of his heart in pieces.

For he chose to give up the fight.  He realized that if he was to continue taking part in this fight, his sons’ souls also would be destroyed.  The decision to spare them this fate lay in his hands.  As their father, the one who had to protect them, he could choose to withhold any further harm from them.  And he made this decision with the utmost care, for his bleeding heart was indeed moved over his sons.  He could stop them from being tossed back and forth, innocent and with no choice in the matter, to the point of being torn in two.  Any other choice would have meant more devastation, for this was how utterly deadly this fight was for so many years.  He chose life for them by giving up the fight and letting them go for a while.

In the eyes of the countless judges and advocates and wise men and women of the world that he pleaded his case to, he lost.  Some even said that he forsake his sons.  He had to ask himself where this decision left him, apart from being left with next to nothing and humiliated to the place of total despair.  Most days, the inexplicable loss and longing he experienced over his two sons drove him to tears.  He wrestled with himself and he wrestled with God over the injustice of it all.  Prideful revolt and the urge to start the fight all over again in order to prove himself to his sons and the world overtook him many times.  Every time he had to sacrifice himself all over again and choose life for his sons all over again.  Every day, he had to do this all over again.  Every day, his heart broke anew.

But, every time, he could remind himself of who God was.  For through all the excruciating pain of it all, he knew that, somehow, he had not lost.  He experienced how God was revealing Himself in surprising ways while he waited for the day of reconciliation.  He realized how incredible it was to experience these revelations in the most profound ways.  He was indeed unable to experience this while he was fighting.  He committed himself to his sons and his sons to him through prayer and faith.  He believed with all of his shattered heart that great was the victory for those who gave up the fight in order for love to prevail in the end.  He realized that through the humbling process of admitting his inability to fight with his own means any further and looking to God for help, incredible relief was to be found.  He read of the many battles of God’s people against those more powerful than them and these words he made his own, “Be not afraid or dismayed at this great multitude, for the battle is not yours, but God’s.  You need not fight this battle; take your positions, stand and witness the salvation of the Lord who is with you.”  2 Chronicles 20:15-17 AMP

Because of this, his hope for his sons was very much alive for it was not placed on worldly orders anymore.  Because of this, he could give up the fight.  And this was all he needed to know.

 

 

Rosalita

Daar is ‘n klein plekkie in die hartjie van Pretoria, knus geleë tussen winkeltjies en groen. Jy stap met trappies na bo waar die plekkie jou in rus en afwagting sit en inwag.  Vanaf die balkonnetjie aan die einde van die trappe sien jy die ontluikende kleure van die nuwe seisoen in die kwekery onder, skuins na regs.  Die asemrowende lewe wat net die lente kan aankondig verwelkom jou. Jy aanskou die menigte voete wat onder oppad is na vele plekke en wil-wil dink daar is nog baie om te sien in die eksentrieke samekoms van winkeltjies.  Tot jy jouself na regs wend en ‘n fees van kleure op lap en geure van lafenisse jou soos ‘n broodnodige oase begroet.  Jy word verras, jou asem word weggeslaan.  Hier wil jy wees.  By Rosalita.

Die pragtige kleure en geure is egter nie wat jou laat welkom voel nie. Wel die glimlagte op skoner-geslag gesigte wat jou innooi, glimlagte wat spreek van krag wat net hul oorsprong in God se vreugde vind.  Glimlagte wat sê:  “Kom in, kom tot rus, maar kom ook tot lewe.  Ons is opreg verheug dat jy hier is.”  Dit geld vir almal, nuut en bekend.  Jy is familie van die oomblik dat jou voete die plekkie ingaan, of jy nou wil of nie.  Sommige dinge word vir jou gekies en dis ook goed so.  Want hier is al die oneindige mooi te veel om van te kies.  Die mooi bly jou by baie lank nadat jy van daar af weg is.  Die mooi raak jou hart en maak dat jy wil terugkeer, weer en weer.  Die mooi omsluit jou van alle kante.  Die mooi is ‘n fees wat jou naderwink om aan te sluit.

Die mooi sluit natuurlik die allerpragtigste klere in. Klere wat keurig ontwerp en gemaak word deur Talita en haar man en bekendgestel word deur Nellie.  Trots Suid-Afrikaans, met die hand gemaak.  Liefde is inderdaad ook hart uitgestort op lap, kuns sagkens en stylvol gedrapeer om vroue-lywe.  Kleure kom tot hul reg in unieke teksture en kombinasies.  Elke kledingstuk is sinvol en weldeurdag ontwerp met alle groottes en vorms in die oog.  Hier word verstaan dat klere deel is van menigte vrou se menswees.  Hier word jou behoefte om dikwels daardie onuitspreeklike versugtinge van jou hart deur klere bekend te maak, begryp.  Hier word jy sagkens in die oë gekyk sodat die mees gepaste kledingstuk vir jou aanbeveel word.  Hier word jy versorg.

Jy ervaar aan jou lyf en hart dat hierdie plekkie nie soos enige ander klerewinkel is waar jy al ooit voorheen was nie. Dit word gekenmerk deur lag en lewe.  Die plekkie en sy mense trek jou heel gepas op na waar hulle is, na plekke verhewe bo die gewone.  Kyk verder as die klein spasie van hierdie winkeltjie en jy sien massiewe grondgebied raak.  Spits jou ore en hoor die frekwensie van stemme wat lewe spreek.  Neem die reuke in en laat toe dat jy meegevoer raak na al die plekke waarheen dit versprei.  Neem die tyd om dieper in die oë te kyk van die mense wat die plekkie al vir jare lank bou en jy sien Goddelike inspirasie raak.  Hy uit wie se hand alles kom wat mooi is, is die hart van alles wat hier geskep en gepraat word.  Maak oop jou hart en ervaar hoe jy hier op ‘n diepgaande wyse geïnspireer word.  Want hier het jy met mense te doen wat met uitgestrekte arms en oop hande gereed staan om te ontvang dít wat God hul wil gee.  Mense wat die prag, kleurvolheid en veelsydigheid van God op bonatuurlike wyse bymekaar weef in klere.  Mense wat lewens aanraak deur prag in dit in te bring.  Mense van seën.  Klere van seën.  Mense en klere uit God se beeldskone hart.

Dis die begin van ‘n nuwe seisoen, ook vir Rosalita in haar nuwe plekkie. Lewe wat lank gesluimer het wil oral uit sy nate bars, energie bewend onder die oppervlak.  Die wêreld is honger vir nuwe hoop, smagtend na prag.  Hier gaan jy dit vind, die prag wat inspireer en bybly.  Die prag wat van jou ‘n beter mens maak sodat jy ook daardie prag wil versprei na almal om jou.  Die prag wat jou seën sodat jy ‘n seën vir ander kan wees.  Dit is die hart van Rosalita.  Die mooi klere is net ‘n bonus.  Hier wil jy beslis wees.

 

“En U het haar hart getrou gevind voor u aangesig, en U het met haar ‘n verbond gesluit om die land te gee… Om dit aan haar nageslag te gee;  en U het u woorde vervul, want U is regverdig.”  Neh 9:8

 

 

 

Small miracles

It was at the end of 2013 when I began the search for a little playschool for my son. I was almost eight months pregnant with my daughter, exhausted and in desperate need of help and a village.  I came across a little school near our home, appropriately named ‘Small Miracles’.  For me, this name was profound.  Before I fell pregnant with my son, I experienced the utter devastation brought along by the lack of a heartbeat in the first trimester of pregnancy.  When I fell pregnant with him a few months afterwards, I called him my ‘heartbeat-miracle’.  Every single time I saw and heard his heartbeat, I experienced a miracle.  It was thus not difficult to choose this little playschool for my son.  Many a thing depends on a name.

For small it is, probably the smallest in our part of town. Twenty five little children from two to five years old go there daily to mostly play and learn a little bit, together with four teachers and four assistants.  Over the years, it has had its share of ups and downs.  Small places struggle to survive in a city where everything gets bigger and more competitive by the day.  Most months, it’s hard to make ends meet.  It’s probably not the grandest playschool you’ll find.  It’s actually quite simple.  Yet, “simplicity is the joy of life, it’s to give and take nothing more than what there is.  It is to thankfully eat every skew little piece of bread which is love…” (Koos du Plessis, freely translated).

The addition of this little school to my family’s life was indeed a most extraordinary and welcome event. Something has to be said when a school probably means more to a mother than to her child.  Indeed, this is true in our case.  For the teachers and fellow mothers I met there became my family in the city where we live and to this day, still are and will continue to be.  The friendships I built through the years I count together with my most prized possessions in my heart.  The lifelong connections that have been and are still being formed through this little school make it a most profound place, one of the greatest importance.  To drop my child at school means to be cared for by teachers, assistants and friends alike.  Never, to this day, have I been able to stick to my promise to just drop my kids at school and go.  The smiles I find inside the little school are just too inviting and the conversations shared much more important than the time that presses me to be somewhere else.  Here I find teachers who look from their hearts upon my little children as I do and I can truly walk the, sometimes, lonely path of motherhood with them.  All these things, I count as small miracles.

My children also found in this little school the most precious of friends. Here they learn to simply take care of each other and pray for one another.  They know the comings and goings of every teacher and friend because they make it their business to know.  They truly learn to love and bless others.  They are surrounded by simple, pure acceptance and care.  And because they experience this, they can learn without restraint.  Being able to learn new things in this way is just the tiny cherry on the cake.  When I look at my son who is now in ‘big school’, I am in awe of his confidence and strength.  But mostly, I appreciate how he gets along with each and every little person he meets and how open his heart is to others.  This little school helped him along this way.  All these things, I count as small miracles.

I look back on almost five years of being part of this little school and wonder what exactly it is that makes is so significant. I realize that this school is an immense blessing in our lives.  During a time when I desperately needed a village for my family, our hearts were indeed ready to receive this blessing.  When our hearts are wide open to receive blessings without reservation and with nothing to lose or gain, we are able to be simple blessings to others.  And this is where and when the small miracles in life are able to happen.  Our children are indeed blessings and this they must know in their hearts.  But it’s only when they actively learn to be a blessing to others that they truly are the small miracles they are destined to be with the influence that they are meant to have.  They are small not in spirit, just in size.  What a privilege that they can practice this from a young age at this little school.

All of this, and so much more, I count as small miracles. I will forever be thankful for the small miracles that happen in our lives because of this little school.  Indeed, many a thing depends on a name.

 

Love lacked

I have a friend who wears motherhood. Or motherhood wears her.  It’s entangled in her hair, etched on her face, her voice speaks of it and her posture encompasses it.  Her eyes tell the story of proper and utter shell-shock.  I adore her for it.  She is even more beautiful because of it.  We all feel it, but while most of us try to hide behind gloss on the lips or neat hair or anything that diverts attention from our disillusionment, she wears it like it is.  No excuses offered.  Motherhood is not merely, as one father said the other day, an ‘evolvement’ of life into something more beautiful.  It’s teeth-grinding, pulling-out-your-hair, shockingly hard.  So much so, that another friend of mine’s son rightfully asked the question the other day, “Mommy, your life with me in it is hard, is it not?”

It was during the first year of baby number two when I woke up one morning and realized I was in trouble. That morning, my brain could not tell my body how to do basic things like get up, walk to the kitchen and put on the kettle.  Doing the everyday things that I did just the day before, seemed completely impossible.  I was numb and exhausted.  Disillusionment with motherhood hung like an oversized, black mantle over my whole being, the mere weight of it making a next move too much to bear.

My doctor said that postpartum depression was mainly caused by a lack of five things in a new mother’s life, these being sleep, touch, sitting down to eat properly, laughter and exercise. Together with hormonal imbalances, some levels in a mother’s brain can become depleted.  Of course, I lacked these five things severely and it made sense to me at the time, having experienced that my brain literally could not tell my body what to do, that I needed medication to correct these imbalances.  And so I embarked on this journey.  A journey that, in hindsight, was actually caused by a lack of love.

Yes, a lack of love. I look back on the first years of both my children’s lives and realize that I was just as desperately in need of unconditional love and acceptance as my little children were.  I needed to feel safe and immersed in unfathomable, touchable love as I tried to feel my way blindly through the new role that was motherhood.  I needed complete acceptance and understanding of the fears and uncertainties I instantly developed.  The fact that I did not receive this was nobody’s fault.  It was life. You had to walk in my unique shoes and every single person in my life had to walk in theirs.  The truth is, new mothers often feel very alone.  I know I did.  Long lost are the days when close family moved into the house to take care of the mother so the mother could focus mainly on taking care of the baby and make the transition gracefully.

We are wired for love. We were created by God, who is love and we need to be immersed in this love to live abundantly.  Especially as new mothers, we need to be unconditionally assured of who we are and valued as what we have become when our babies were born.  Because everything changes for us, for the rest of our lives.  For the better, yes, but the emotional burden a mother carries unbeknownst to all is incredible.  But all this is bearable when we are tangibly surrounded by unconditional love and acceptance.  We need to feel safe again as little girls in loving parents’ homes.  Then we can freak out, because we know we are loved and accepted.  It’s when fear and uncertainties begin to take over that things like postpartum depression develop.  For me, the cause of this was definitely the nagging feeling of uncertainty and loneliness while I gave all the love and energy I had to my little children.

What do mothers need? We need the love of our mother, because there is no love like a mother’s.  We need the love of a father, who protects his daughter against fear and uncertainties.  We need the love of parents who think the world of us just because they chose to bring us into this world.  We need the love of our parents and parents-in-law, who just appreciates the fact that we are bringing up a next generation and trying our best with what we have while doing so.  We need the love of our husbands even more than the day we got married and even though our personalities and priorities completely change.  We need the unconditional acceptance of our friends.  We need to be safe.  We do not need to be judged.  We need to be loved by our Father’s love that manifests through family and friends.

Today, I pray for all mothers who experience a lack of love for whatever reason.  I pray for those disillusioned to the core.  I urge you to not hide behind gloss on the lips or neat hair, but to wear it unapologetically like my friend does.  For it will make you even more beautiful and strong.  Then you will know that you are not alone.

We need our villages

I am a mother and, God knows, I need help. A while ago, in the process of putting my kids, the groceries and myself in the car in pouring rain, I forget my handbag in the Woollies trolley, only to discover this the following morning.  Anxiously I pray, “God, please help!”  Nowadays, that is all I pray, it seems, because I am incapable of doing motherhood, ‘husband-hood’ and’ family-hood’ on my own.

I get to Woollies and even though me and my kids pray for help, I tell myself there is no way that I would find my handbag after all this time. I get sent from point to point in the shop, no handbag. I get back to the car, all hope lost and start crying upon the realization that I would have to replace everything in it.  My son, bless his soul, says he still hopes that I would find my handbag.  Just as I’m about to turn on the ignition, a woman come running from the shop, shouting, “Wait!  There is a handbag!”  Yes, my handbag.  I can’t stop saying thank you to the staff.  And the manager tells me, “We value you.”

It takes a village. And I often find myself believing the lie that my husband and I am the sole members of our village.  Firstly, because we live in the city and have no immediate or extended family nearby, we are solely responsible for raising our kids.  I do believe God gave us close family and friends to help us raise our kids, not only because our kids come to grips with what love, care and acceptance truly means, but also because it helps my husband and me to have more perspective when it comes to our kids.  The older my children become, the more we long for and value our nearest and dearest family’s input in their lives.  Why?  Because we know that they love to spend time with our kids, and vice versa, and carry their best interests at heart, especially their grandparents.

Secondly, in our country with its history, our men must often work to the point of burnout to prove they are irreplaceable. That is our reality, in any case.  We mothers must keep all the rest in place and it is not easy.  Many of the roles that we have to juggle aren’t even ours to take on.  But it has to be done, no question about it.  We struggle to ask for help, to offer it and to accept it as we think it a sign of weakness and not having things together.  But to swallow our pride, to admit that we are struggling and to ask for help are signs of immense inner strength.

That said, the upside of not having immediate family nearby that help with raising our children is that my husband and I do value the village we have so much more. I am profoundly grateful for my closest friends and my children’s teachers.  And I view the time my children get to spend with nearest family, although not often, as God’s grace, love and dreams for families in action.  The Woollies manager’s words “we value you,” touched me deeply.  Help and value goes hand in hand.  We value each other when we ask for help, when we offer it and accept it.  We reach out a hand that shows that we really see each other and we become a village, connected with the golden thread of God’s grace and love for one another.  Even more, we start trusting one another with what is most precious t us.  We develop a deep empathy for one another and are much more sensitive to each other’s struggles.  These are qualities that I hope to see in my kids, also.

With the handbag-ordeal, even Woollies became part of my village. Well, on second thought, it has been for a long time with their delicious readymade meals.  God uses the most interesting building blocks to establish my village.  When all the dust settled, the Woollies manager tells me and my kids, “God is good, all the time”!  God truly knows, I can’t do this on my own.