Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Crawling By Inches

If I can avoid public weeping – I do.

No one wants to see a grown woman cry– rebellious mascara, hair bedraggled, words unintelligible. It’s just awkward for everyone.

Last week I was discouraged, emotional and just plain broken-hearted. Have you ever been so sad you can barely talk without a scene – a Titanic size meltdown, complete with heaving sobs and the fetal position on the floor?

I’d rather skip the Oprah drama – ideal guest on the Dr. Phil show, if at all possible.

So I was praying and got nothing. A big fat ZERO. I begged God for a word from Him. Something. Anything.


I rarely feel God speak to me something specific and direct. The last time it happened was when Emme arrived a little over two years ago. I was sitting in the NICU – next to my sweet daughter, born with Down syndrome, barely a few hours old. I was in shock and weeping.

As I sat and watched her breathe in the little incubator – I felt Jesus slip into the chair beside me – and with the biggest, most expectant smile He said, “How do you like my Gift?”

How could I not like my Gift after that? From that point forward, I could only see Emme as the best, most wonderful present.

So, back to last week.

I was broken – misunderstanding, accusation, pain.

I asked again for a word from the Lord. I felt He said to me, “Is a Word from me enough?”

I thought long and hard about that one.

Was it enough?

The answer was “No” - a Word from God was NOT enough.

Although it was what I was asking for and deeply, desperately wanted – I wanted a Word plus a few other things.

I wanted apologies… I wanted affirmation…I wanted understanding – all from other people.

He asked again, “Is a Word from ME enough?”

But it still wasn’t. I wanted it to be. I SO desperately wanted it to be. Afterall, this is what I had been telling my friends in Ocean View for a month now - to trust his Word - despite horrific circumstances. Did I really believe it for myself?

I said to Him, “It’s not enough…but I want it to be.”

Again He asked.

I was crawling toward Him by inches…the smallest increments of movement possible. I finally said, “It is enough...if you sustain me.”


I said it.

It was all I had. I meant it, but still…nothing.

Perhaps a verse from the Bible? Nadda. A revelation? Zip. A visual in my mind from Him? Zilch.

It was 6 am – dark and quiet in our bedroom.

I hoped against hope that the Word would come later that day.

At that moment - Karl sat up in bed and said 9 words he has never spoken in the 10 years we’ve been together.

Karl said, “I have a Word of the Lord for you.”

I was astounded. I suppose I should not have been surprised, but I really was.

He said, “God wants you to know…your identity is in Him and no one else. He loves you, he’s proud of you and He’s smiling on you.”


May I always find my identity only in Him – not in my husband, my girls, my projects, my friends, my plans, my work, my dreams, my successes, my failures. My, my, my…

Only in Him.

Most issues I have in life are a question of identity.

Do we KNOW that we are His? That we are loved? Truly loved? When the floor crumbles around us, the war wages against us, the nights are dark, and we can only crawl by inches – is He enough?

He MUST be!

He is all I have.

He IS enough.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

4 Clicks Out

As my father would say…sometimes “you’re a few clicks out.”

For example...the women in Ocean View and me – I’m 4 clicks out (a click is how far removed you are from a situation).

1st Click: I am from America.

Not only am I not from Cape Town, South Africa or even the continent of Africa – I’m from America. This means I cannot help but think like an American. For example...

  • American Football – Give me Football over soccer any day– sorry about that, husband and World Cup! Gotta love a 45 – 64 point game over a “nail biter 1-0” soccer match– someone DO SOMETHING ALREADY! And what’s more fascinating at the moment than College Football Conference drama?
  • I like ice in my Coke - With 5 free refills please. What is this midget Coke can you’re bringing me yet again? What can I possibly do with 5 ounces of Coke (US standard can is 12 ounces)?
  • Home design that includes more than one plug in a room - I know I’ve mentioned this one before and really should just let it die– but I can’t come to terms with the morality of only one outlet per room. I think I finally said too much on the topic to my South African team mate. He said “Julie – why don’t you just go to a hotel?” I said “Why? It’s still a South African room with only ONE plug!!??!” I know I should let some Americaness go – but for crying out loud!
  • Converting money into US dollars – 100 R still doesn’t mean a whole lot to me, and I feel like I’m using Monopoly money for all of my transactions (I don’t think in Rand yet and convert everything to dollars in my head by dividing by 7.5)
  • June will always be a summer month to me - Here in the southern hemisphere the seasons are swapped and my daughter's June 29 summer birthday is now a winter birthday. Thanksgiving in the spring and Christmas is in the summer. What??!?
2nd Click: I’m not poor.

While I have never considered myself rich, I have absolutely no idea what it’s like to literally not have enough food to eat, not know what’s going to happen if my boyfriend’s cranky granny kicks me out of the dilapidated shack in her yard, and not be able to provide for the basic needs of my kids.

The kids here sometimes cry to their mom because they’re hungry and the moms will hit their children and say, “What do you want me to do about it? I have no money for food.”

3rd Click: I’m white.

I have no idea what it feels like to walk into a room of white people and be black. I try to imagine it and picture it in my mind – but the truth is I don’t know what it’s like.

4th Click: I only speak English.

Some words are just better in Afrikaans…especially when the women in Ocean View want to share something very personal from the heart.

For instance “lekker” – it means “good” – “nice” – “the best” – but more so. Outlets on every wall are lekker!!

Then there’s “bekeerd.” The women often get tripped on this one. If they are speaking to me in English and stop - I can see they are mentally trying to come up the equivalent of this…it means “to turn and around and be different.” Churchy people say “converted” or “saved” – but “bekeerd” is so much better.

So…as they say in the Princess Bride “Let me explain. No, there is too much. Let me sum up.”

CPx is nearing the end…I’ve learned a little bit about clicks:

It can be great to be a few clicks out. People sometimes respect the fact that you have a whole new perspective on life.

Sometimes a few clicks out is a few clicks too many. Thelma, an amazing colored woman from Ocean View came to our Bible study and was able to say exactly what was needed – having been from the exact place many of these women are.

She told them, “God is all you need. He will take care of you. You think you need a house? Trust God. You think you need a job? Trust God. He has provided for me – he WILL provide for you.”

Somehow it just would not have been the same hearing it from a girl 4 clicks out.

Suretha, Allison, Claudine, Thelma, Julie

I love this God of ours – “a million clicks out” from where I sit – who chooses to be “no clicks out” just for me… just for you . A God who uses our clicks – made our clicks – loves our clicks.

The creator of our sameness and differentness invites us to be fully ourselves (so very different and much the same) while fully His.

Picture that…fully His. Totally and fully His – as He made you – who He made you to be….clicks and all.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Taken Over By Vuvuzelas

The World Cup is HERE!

Vuvuzelas have taken Cape Town by storm!

"What is a Vuvuzela?" you ask?

It's a VERY loud, uniquely South African horn (powered by several air horns attached at the mouth piece). It sounds a bit like a renegade goat boldly protesting his sacrificial slaughter on the side of a mountain.

All that to say, they blow them EVERYWHERE - at the games, in the mall, on the streets.

Opening Day Recap

On Friday, the opening day, I woke up at 6 am to the sound of the vuvuzelas.

Clearly I had forgotten to put in my "vuvu-stopper" earplugs (that's really what the call them, being that vuvuzelas louder than a chainsaw and comparable to plane taking off.)

The louder-than-a-chain-saw horns blared all day long for the home team Bafana Bafana! (Zula for “The Boys, The Boys!”). Just to make sure you don’t forget it – it’s not just The Boys – it’s The Boys! THE BOYS! You get the distinct impression the team is made up of boys.

In effect, South Africa shut down, with most businesses closing their doors so that workers could watch Bafana Bafana play. In fact, schools and universities are closed for the entire month of the tournament.

I must say I did throw a mini American tantrum when I realized they were CLOSING stores, not opening them, for the influx of tourists. I'm not sure the shop security guard appreciated my dissertation advocating for a serious reconsideration of this business model.

As for the opening game, South Africa (ranked #83) held her own against Mexico (ranked #17).

Tied 1 to 1 against the odds. Not bad, not bad at all.

Stadium built for the World Cup in Cape Town

I remember the first time I noticed the World Cup.

The year was 1998, and I couldn’t get away from it. If you’re not interested in soccer, it’s best to avoid any African, Asian, European or South American countries as a rule – but especially during the World Cup. In fact if you're waving your anti-soccer flag– you should pretty much steer clear of 194 out of 195 countries in the world.

I was backpacking around Viet Nam at the time and made the mistake of taking public transportation to the coast during a World Cup Game. The bus stopped in every small town along the way and all the passengers would pile out and gather around a shack to watch the game on a tiny TV (everyone but me, that is– I was protesting such an inefficient transportation practice).

When France won that year I was annoyed. Shouldn’t they just have surrendered or something?

Back to the current World Cup - here are some facts of note…

So only European and South American countries have won
the World Cup since it's inception in 1930?

And the World Cup 2010 song...

Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh! (kinda catchy – I can’t get it out of my head)...

Video: Official FIFA World Cup Anthem “Wavin Flag” performance at the opening ceremony
(with the official World Cup dance - like the Macarena, but not really)

The 2010 World Cup stories I find interesting…

1. NORTH KOREA IS NAUGHTY: The North Korean coach “accidentally” listed one of his strikers (main guy to kick the ball in the goal) as a goalie. Once your position has been officially submitted to FIFA, it’s locked and loaded. So the striker is now a goalie – but since he’s not really a goalie he won’t play at all and the team has lost a good goal scoring player.

I sincerely hope that North Korean coach doesn’t get wacked when he gets back to Commie Town.

2. MEXCIAN FATHER QUITS JOB: I’m not a big fan of Chivas (the Mexican team), but was impressed when one of the player’s dads quit his hard-to-come-by job to watch his son play in the World Cup (his employer, a soccer club, wouldn’t give him the time off). Come on, Mexico!

3. SOUTH AFRICA BLAMES THE FANS: Despite the fact that if you’re at a game without the "vuvu-stopper" ear plugs, the vuvuzelas will give you ear damage within 15 minutes, the South African goalie said the horns weren’t loud enough during the opening game (to explain why they didn’t win...huh...).

The vibe here in South Africa is that the World Cup will make a difference.

People have hope for a brighter tomorrow because the Great Game is played here and the eyes of the world are turned to this southern most tip of Africa.

So I have to ask myself – does it matter in the least to the women of Ocean View?

Here is what a few of my friends have said:

Video: Admidst the vuvuzelas, Ocean View women speak about the World Cup http://vimeo.com/12511782

And of course…here is what Jensen has to say about the World Cup:

Video: Jensen's Profound Thoughts on the World Cup http://vimeo.com/12513087

So there you have it...bust out your vuvuzela!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Shame and Pleasure Sorted

You have to give it to South Africans for reducing long, overused statements into one word. Why waste all that time, energy and valuable lung capacity on unnecessary verbiage? Frankly, I’m surprised Americans, of all people, didn’t come up with these time-savers themselves– being that we’re in a hurry and all.

Here are the top 3 “reduced statements” words:

Short for, “Aww, that’s a shame!”

This one word takes care of…
• Oh, too bad.
• Wow, that’s awful!
• I’m so sorry to hear that!

There isn’t a simple packet of white socks, ranch salad dressing or rubber bands to be found in a single store in all of Cape Town? – “Shame!”

Your world cup tickets are counterfeit? – “Shame!”

A baboon stole your sandwich? – “Shame!”

The baboon that REALLY did steal my sandwich 2 feet away from me today. He looked so cute when we were taking the picture. NOT CUTE eating my sandwich. Bitter!

Video of this baboon jumping into someone's car right
before the crime against my sandwich: http://vimeo.com/12317124

This handy little word takes the place of "It's my pleasure!”

Other ways to put it...
• It’s no problem!
• I’m happy to do that for you.
• Thanks for stopping in and spending your American cash in my store!

When you buy your house electricity at the corner gas station –“Pleasure!”

When you thank someone for doing the dishes (being that there isn’t one dishwasher within a 3,000 mile radius) –“Pleasure!”

When you ask someone to pass you the “cool drink” (aka Soda Pop) –“Pleasure!”

This cool drink (Cream Soda) really is BRIGHT green here -
tastes basically the same -
but feels like you're drinking martian blood

This convenient word takes the place of…“Everything has been sorted out for you.”

In other words...
• It’s all been organized.
• Everything is taken care of.
• All the details have been worked out.

Are we having pap for dinner? (pap is every South African’s favorite staple – a traditional porridge made from ground maize – kinda like mashed potatoes, but not really at all) – “Sorted!”

We’ve moved about 10 times in the past year and are just curious – do you know if our new living arrangements have been handled? – “Sorted!”

My take on it? I still haven’t sorted why...

- ALL the locks here require a key FROM THE INSIDE (Fire hazard? Hello, Backdraft!),

- there are NO light switches INSIDE the bathrooms (they are opposed to the fancy little reset switch in American bathrooms that handle any moisture issues)

- every room has ONE outlet ONLY (do you really need a lamp AND a cell phone charger AND a clock? – all in ONE room – you CRAZY Americans should be saving power)

-why most sinks have separate cold/hot faucets (missing what they call the “mixer” – to “mix” the hot and cold water – apparently there is no valid use for warm water from the “tap”– sorry about that, Jensen - just wash your hands in the scalding hot water).

Still trying to get sorted on all that...

I guess the idea is that you should fill up the sink with a
mix of hot and cold water to get warm - Holy 1950's!

Shame! Sorted! Pleasure!