Friday, 28 September 2012

The Wedding Rose

"I have put my words in your mouth and covered you with the shadow of my hand..." (Isa 51:17)

A dragon tail of mist crept up from the valley and covered all in its wake this morning. A sister and friend recently said that she misses the mist like a dear friend during the hot sunny days. I have come to see this mystical phenomena as a gentle covering, giving us a brief respite from whatever lies in the distance. It makes me slow down, dance with my little ones, imagining a misty veil trailing and moving with us. The surreal absence of what is just beyond, lends to moments of nostalgia. Today, I was taken me back to the joyful day of our wedding. Colourful, sweet memories of a day in time when we slipped into a cool garden with family and friends to join our souls together before God. Our friend and Pastor at the time spoke to us of Godly commitment. The message was fresh, clear and from a heart that beat unashamedly for his Creator.

Unfortunately I was rather distracted by "bridal" anxieties and butterflies causing havoc in my tummy. Another cause for distraction was a scraggly looking miniature rose still stuck in its black nursery bag, looking totally out of place at the Pastor's feet... He used this thorny specimen to demonstrate what our marriage relationship would need to flourish. Nourishment, tender love and care, painful pruning at times but most important, fertile soil (the Word and Spirit of God the Father and Creator and Jesus our Saviour) to anchor our roots into.

The "wedding rose" was well watered, put in a sunny spot on the "stoep" and off we went on our journey (for me) into the unknown. Wondrous times spent in a tree house, meanderings through the gentle midlands made me feel like "happiness" would forever be mine as long as we could be together...

Back in Pretoria, the rose was carefully transplanted into a smart terra cotta pot and put next to the front door, to remind me of the care it (and our relationship) would need to flourish. It rewarded us with quite a few seasons of dainty yellow roses balanced on delicate stems. It never seemed to really flourish though and I decided to put it in the garden amongst the other roses, to have company and stretch its roots a bit. That was a near-fatal exercise. Not having it under my nose outside the door, caused neglect and it was too exposed to the elements. So back into its pot it went and with nervous pamperings I manage to coax it back to life...

Then came the big decision to move to the mountain village of Hogsback, of which few people at the time knew much, if anything at all. What was meant to be a gentle process of planning and mental adjustment was rather accelerated by the sudden sale of our property. Our little rose shrivelled a bit amongst all the packing and flapping, but was content with a little hurried watering now and then.

Two days before the beeg move, after a tearful tearing away from friends and family members, disaster struck. Just after midnight, on our way home from the anniversary concert of a fabulous brass ensemble called Atempo (of which my brother is a shining member!) a drunk driver slammed into my husband's side of our newly acquired 4 wheel drive, mountain proof "bakkie" My life was put on hold as we grinded to a halt and I saw my husband's still body slumped over the steering wheel. 

Even if this was a traumatic experience for us both, the hand of our Lord was over us all the time. My husband suffered a blow to the head, which caused a minor concussion, and we both had a few bruises and aches, of which we both recovered fully. We were taken home after three in the morning, shaken up but grateful to be alive. We held each other tight, thanked God for preserving our lives, and fell asleep with the comforting snores and snorts of our animal family at the time.

A few days of intense personal challenges followed as we scurried around trying to find another vehicle. The move could not be postponed so we had to see our whole household drive off into the sunset without being able to follow it to its destination. I had many reservations about the way our earthly possessions were handled that day, especially my family of plants - including the fragile wedding rose. These were stuffed into a cramped dark space at odd angles, resting atop and against each other. (Oh, and then there was the minor incident of the double bed smashing through a bedroom window as clumsy hands fumbled to get everything into the truck before dark etc. etc.) That night we slept on a borrowed mattress in an hollow, echoing house.

At dawn the next day my husband left for Hogsback to receive the removal van. Only it did not arrive... After many fruitless phone calls, I received a call from a nervous sounding man who announced that the truck was "lost" and a yet few phone calls later another stuttering voice announced that it had been involved in an accident. Another tale of woe - my faith and nerves faltering and recovering as I realised, we still have each other. This was after all for better and for worse. How much worse could it get?

The truck was finally found, stranded next to a dirt road close to Cathcart. BUT: the trailer with our belongings had tumbled down a rather steep drop and was lying dent and bent in the veldt. A recovery vehicle was sent to the rescue and it must have been with much trepidation that my poor husband started helping the crew to unload. I still remember the hope in his voice when he phoned to let me know "We are offloading, most of the pots and pot plants are broken, but I found the wedding rose, it survived".

This chapter also had a merciful ending, we lost the odd plate or glass, scratches and dents were discovered later, but the rest of our household was intact! The amazing shelter of His wings was still there, steadfast and sure.

Now, after four and a half years in Hogsback, through wild stormy nights and heavy snowfalls, the wedding rose is still on the wide deck attached to our cabin. I don't like seeing symbolism in everything around me, I find it distracts me from the real truth, which I find, without fail, in the living Word of God and quiet time of surrender in God's presence.

Having said that I cant help but thinking that this rose still serves as a reminder if not so much a symbol, of what our life together has been and still is.

As I look out the window, I can see it, a generous spray of tight little buds held on ever so slender stems. It appears delicate and has faced severe challenges, painful prunings and times of "near death". But its roots are intact, its soil ever fertile as we dig deeper into re-establishing our roots in His promises. Our little ones love watering it and know that it is Mamma and Dadda's special plant. They have helped nurturing it with their laughter and light. Us or the rose? I think both.

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Under a wing and a prayer

Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the Shadow of Your Wings. (Psalm 17:8)

This journey began in the shadows. For a while it was a dark, threatening shadow of uncertainty and fear. But there was a promise of Light... Just a chink, a glimpse. Enough to give hope, to trust. I often watch as the jackal buzzards soar and dip overhead, their calls faint and haunting. They seem so free, so light. When I was little, I often dreamed of flying. At the time when we moved into our mountain cabin, I recall standing on it's amazing deck - offering me an eagle's eye view of the mountain, the bluff opposite and the surrounding forests. I lifted my arms and closed my eyes. It was just a breeze, but I felt myself lifting onto tiptoes; and then something like a rustling of feathers passed. So nearby - I could touch it. I knew then, as I know now that there will be a time, when I will crawl out of this hiding place, as sweet and warm as it may be.

And soar.

As early as the book of Ruth in the Bible we find the blessing of Boaz to Ruth as she gleaned the fields behind the harvesters: "May you be richly rewarded by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge". Then the Psalmist uses the exact image in Pss 17, 36, 57, 61, 91 and in 63:7 David sings in the shadow of His wings, while he was in the Desert of Judah. In Matthew 23:37 Jesus Himself says with a longing heart: "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem....., how often I have longed to gather your children together as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing...

Our family (my husband and I plus two adorable boys) live in the Hogsback Mountains, named after the ruggedy ridge atop these three mounts. We came here in search of solace from the city, an over familiar theme for many city "refugees". Nowhere else have we been more fiercely challenged, faced stronger doubts and fears, individually and as a family. A charmed country life is mostly an illusion reserved for sneak peeks in magazines and travel media. Yes, it is real and good and mostly wholesome. We breathe pristine mountain air, have access to clean ground and rain water, are surrounded by an awesome natural environment, as well as breathtaking parks and gardens. We even have the marvel of snowfalls, blindingly beautiful and such fun! (That is before the sludge and freeze of the morning after). I have grown into a deep love for this strange little village and its colourful community; and would find it incredibly hard to adjust back into any fast lane.

I feel that I may have a humble story to tell. Fractured as it may be, it will hopefully shed Light, bring encouragement and with a lot of grace bring a smile once in a while. My story has only one hero: Jesus Christ of Nazareth. I find refuge in the Shadow of His Wings, entrust everything into His care, and hope to write words from His heart to yours. For anything else will be fleetingly entertaining, with little sustenance, honesty or eternal purpose.

"I know nothing, except what everyone knows - if there when Grace dances, I should dance." W.H. Auden