Top Deck, little anxieties and coming home



In less than two weeks I will be taking my two kids to visit my home city, Belfast, for the first time. I’m excited for them to meet family and friends, for them to experience a real winter instead of a wet and windy Cape Town Winter. But, if I’m honest, a little part of me is little anxious. I haven’t been home in 5 ½ years and I haven’t lived there 14 years but it is not me I’m anxious for but for my kids. I want them to love it, but honestly reading news articles about racism in Northern Ireland makes my heart beat a little harder. (I know, I know, you shouldn’t base how you view a place based on what makes the newspaper).

Like every Mom I only want to expose my kids to good things, to lovely people but you cannot control everything or keep them in a bubble. In Cape Town we have never had people comment anything negative about the kids (at least that we could hear). Yes, people look, one even walked into a parking meter while staring. But the only comments we get are that they are such cute or beautiful kids – in Cape Town folk love to comment on kids so they hear this a lot. In the whole time hubby and I have been together no one has said anything negative to us (I’m sure they thought it, but they have not been silly enough to say to us) – the sum total of ‘insults’ we have had shouted at us in the street was ‘Top Deck’ (a chocolate bar that had both milk and white chocolate in it).

I am by nature, sin nature that is, a worrywart so I have to stop myself from letting my mind get carried away with something that may never happen. We will be home for such a short time the likelihood of running into a verbose idiot is not that high – and if we do, well the words of one person cannot undo all the heaps of lovely words the kids get from our friends, family and all the strangers in Cape Town. So when this little anxiety pops into my head I find myself having to purposely squash it and turn it over to God.

 “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?  Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life” (Matt 6:25-27)

I laugh a bit at myself that I have no problem living in a mixed race family in South Africa but am anxious about home.

There are no surprises for God and I trust Him.

Help me, Lord, to squash worrywart thoughts of things that may never happen.

Just keep moving

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It surprises me that my kids are so different – same recipe but definitely different kids. Jenny is a whirlwind of drama and curls – skirts and glitter flying everywhere. Whilst Liam is so chilled and relaxed with a little twinkle in his eye. I have even noticed now that Liam is trying to crawl that I am seeing even more how different they are . Jenny spent about a month on her hands and knees in the proper crawl position before anything happened – she just rocked and it was like ‘On your marks, get set ………….. sit down’. Liam has developed his own crawl style which is inelegant and caterpillar like  – it involves bum in the air and face scraped along the ground. Sometimes he’ll stick his bum up too far and topple over – but he gets to where he wants to go, even if he crashed head first into it.

It has reminded me that sometimes my walk with God is not very elegant – it is not the acceptable text book style – but the least I can do is keep moving.

Philippians 3.12-14 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

So if my walk with God is not so perfect looking today I’ll not be too worried – as long as I keep moving with and towards Him.

Feeling Christmassy – Advent readings

For the past 7 years I have written daily Advent readings for our church. For me the process of writing them always reminds me how Christmas is the written on every page of the Bible. It has been more than 10 years now since I had a Northern Hemisphere cold Christmas so these notes for me and getting them finished, rather than the drop in temperature and the shrinking daylight, are now my trigger that Christmas is fast approaching.

I’ll post them daily on my Facebook page and also the Church page, but if you are itching for your own copy you can download this year’s notes here

Advent 2015

I hope that they help you feel Christmassy this year.


Funeral Teas and picnics in enemy territory – the theology of comfort


A silly Facebook conversation sparked by the shocking revelation that most Americans don’t know what a sausage roll is has had me thinking about church funeral teas. (I know, my mind is a funny place to live!!) It got me to thinking that everyplace I have lived in has marked the passing of a loved one with gathering together around food. The food changes from country to country, but the tradition of bringing food to the bereaved and sharing a plate together is the same. I remember in Ireland after my mum’s passing being loved by plateful of scones and traybakes (for those who don’t know what a traybake is you really need to visit Northern Ireland but there is one recipe in photo above). This happened both at the house and at the church after the service – no one went home without having shared a cup of tea and a bite to eat. In Malawi I have sat around shared plates of nsima and stew. In South Africa I shared tea with samosas and milk tart amongst other yummy sweet thing. There is comfort in eating together and bringing food to share is a tangible way of showing our care.

God says He brings us that same comfort in Psalm 23

Psalm 23.4-6 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. 5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil;my cup overflows. 6 Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

Now, I’m not someone who easily loses her appetite, but for many people eating whilst stressed, in trouble or grieving eating can be hard. But God says to us that even amongst your enemies, the place where you are most afraid and scared I’ll set up a picnic for you. He says in tough times when you don’t know where to turn – sit down and eat with me.

He did the same with the disciples when they were running scared after’s Jesus’ crucifixion:

John 21.12 -13 Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” None of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. 13 Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish.

So I figure that when we bring someone in trouble or sorrow a plateful of something yummy to share it is a God-image way of saying: I love you, I care for you. Of saying that things look bad, but let’s take a breather and have a cup of tea together.

The next time that I feel overwhelmed by what is around me I plan to take the same strategy – sit down, take a deep breath, make a cup of tea and have a chat with my heavenly father who lays on picnics in enemy territory.

Traditions, two legged hyenas and e-Bay


I’ve been thinking about traditions – what to pass on to our kids and what not to. How do you make those decisions? I had not fully decided what to do about the ‘Father Christmas issue’ but it seems that daycare has decided that partially for us – there is no escape from Father Christmas. So we have focused on the idea that Father Christmas gives us presents to celebrate Jesus’ birthday, we will work on the rest later.

Our engagement was another event full of potential traditions. Yes, hubby did ask my Dad. But also we had an engagement ceremony in Malawi. Friends acted as family for me there (after all friends are family too). His family came to my family to ask for their girl. Gifts were given to show that they could support me – cloth to make clothes for me, cookware so I could cook for their boy and a huge panga (knife) so that my uncle could protect me from hyenas (the 2 legged kind aka other men!). When it came to the money that is where tradition went out the window though. My hubby is Chewa and they don’t do a full on bride price like some African tribes do, but they do pay a small amount from one uncle to another for the hassle of talking. Over the years this amount has grown and my uncle for the day, a local pastor friend, often lamented how young people were put of Christian weddings due to the costs so he decided to break with tradition and make our engagement an example. In the end he said that we are Christians so we don’t demand lots of money – instead he accepted 500 Kwacha – not enough to even buy a chicken. My brother commented afterwards he was sure he could have gotten more for me on e-Bay! But it taught me a lesson about tradition and when to drop them.

Traditions are fine, unless they stop you obeying God or prevent someone else obeying God. My friend was seeing again and again young people living together but never getting married because a tradition was preventing them – the wedding expectations and costs were getting to high, when in fact the whole idea is simply a vow taken together before God.

Colossians 2.6-8 So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him,7 rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught,and overflowing with thankfulness. 8 See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.

So as I deal with issues like the tooth fairy (or mouse) and Father Christmas I have to ask myself is there anything about this that prevents my family or I following God. The answer may not be straight forward and may look different in our multicultural home than in others, but at the root is does this honour God.

May my traditions be rooted in You, Christ, and what ever is not, may You give me the courage to break or weed out.

Root Canals & Guinea Fowls

For the past few weeks I was in denial that my tooth had cracked and I was in pain. The kids were sick, the dentist fees to much, but eventually I could not bear it any longer and visited the dentist. Now I am halfway through a root canal treatment (Ekk for pain & for wallet!). But that first night after the initial treatment was bliss – no pain. How wonderful. Yet last night I realized that I had a dull ache again – how come? I forgot to take my antibiotics at lunchtime and I also left them at work – I had missed two doses. This morning I observed the sticker on my medicine: (Finish the Course). So now a few hours later having taken my medicine I am pain free again.


Previously I have compared my daughter to a Guinea Fowl – she gets easily distracted and changes course often. If you send her to her room to find shoes you will find her playing with a toy that go her attention while on the way to her shoes. I think I am pretty much the same – sticking to the same course can be tricky.

Proverbs 15.21 Folly delights a man who lacks judgment, but a man of understanding keeps a straight course.

My medicine has reminded me again of the need for consistency and sticking to a straight course – a long obedience in the same direction. But going off course I ended up in pain that was not necessary. Distractions, sin habits, can through us off course, especially when we lose focus of Jesus and the life he has called us to.

Hebrews 12.1-2 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Lord, help me keep on course for you and minimize my distractions – the often end in needless pain.

The dance of the mundane.

It is been a funny few weeks with lots of ups and downs. My Dad came to stay which is always fun and hubby loved having a rugby buddy, but the kids and I have been sick, which is down down down. I also have had horrible tooth ache – really down down down. I now have the joy of paying for a root canal!!! Each month it feels like you are treading water just to keep you head afloat and then zap a doctor’s bill, a dentist’s bill, a visa renewal & ekk down down down.

Yet in the same few weeks we have enjoyed family visits, my twins have been hilarious (you cannot say anything to convince my 3 year old that her little brother of 6 months is not her twin!!) and I have finally booked a visit home! So while there is much down down, there is plenty of up up too. In fact often feels each month is two steps forward and two steps back. But rather than focus on the up and down I have decided that this is the dance of life.

Jeremiah 31. 11-13 For the LORD will ransom Jacob and redeem them from the hand of those stronger than they.12 They will come and shout for joy on the heights of Zion; they will rejoice in the bounty of the LORD– the grain, the new wine and the oil, the young of the flocks and herds. They will be like a well-watered garden, and they will sorrow no more. 13 Then maidens will dance and be glad, young men and old as well. I will turn their mourning into gladness; I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow.

So this week with root canal and all if you see me doing a funny backwards forwards dance just know I am celebrating the dance of the mundane – an ordinary life that is full of ups and downs, but with joy mixed in.