The Sweet Sound of Grace

The other day my friend posted a quote on instagram that got me thinking.  It said this, “What Sussie says of  Sally says more of Sussie than of Sally”.  Essentially what this is saying is that judgement of a person does not define the person but rather the one doing the judging.

I think that with out realising, I have fallen into the trap of judging others.  But not only am I guilty of judging I am guilty of worrying about the judgement of others toward me.  I often become consumed at the thoughts of others that I am left maimed, with time wasted and the life sapped from me like a moaning child would sap it’s mothers strength.

I know nothing except what everyone knows.

If there when grace dances, I should dance” 

– W.H. Auden

Here are some of my thoughts surrounding the notion of grace and judgement.

1. “Hurting people hurt people”.  If I am judging others it means that there is hidden hurt, emptiness or issues in me.  Perhaps it’s jealousy, insecurity, selfishness- whatever it is, being ungracious toward others will only harm me.

2. People are far too busy worrying about themselves to remember my issues.  We think that people care about our issues but they are actually far more concerned about their own.  There’s no point in being consumed with worry over what others might think.

3.  If I was perfect then I would have no need for God or growth as a person.  Striving for perfection and feeling like a failure when I don’t attain it is exhausting.  Expecting perfection in others is unrealistic.

4. Not everyone is going to like me. If we were all the same and had all the same interests and passions life would be very boring.

5.”A rich mans heart may be under a poor man’s coat”- Scottish Proverb.  Each person has their own point of reference, their own set of parents, strengths, weaknesses their own struggles.

Oh momentary grace of mortal men,

which we more hunt for than the grace of God.

– William Shakespeare

I once read a beautiful book called “Whats so Amazing About Grace” by Philip Yancey.  I will never forget the opening story.  It was about a prostitute he encountered that was renting out her two-year-old daughter to men interested in kinky sex as an attempt to support her drug habit.  Her child could earn more in an hour than what she could in one night.  This woman had hit absolute rock bottom and had nowhere to turn, she was asked, “why didn’t you go to the church for help?”  Her response was that of naive shock, “Church!” she cried, “why would I ever go there?  I was already feeling terrible about myself, they would only make me feel worse”.  In the bible Jesus was where the sinners would run to for grace, for forgiveness, for a second chance.  It is sad that nowadays some who are in the darkest, most sinful places feel that the church is the last place they would want to run to when in fact Gods heart is for the lost and broken, those needing grace the most.

Oh how I long to hear the sweet sound of grace both in the church and in my own life.

Wild At Heart- A Trip To Hluhluwe

Last weekend we were given the opportunity to join Dylan’s side of the family on a trip to the Hluhluwe/Umfolozi Game Reserve.  It was a much needed break as Dylan has been studying for the past 16 months and we have not had the chance to recoup for months.  We stayed at the luxurious (4 star) Hluhluwe River Lodge, just outside the reserve and it was awesome!

To anyone wanting to visit the bush I can highly recommend Hluhluwe River Lodge.  The rooms are spacious and comfortable, with air-con, a fridge, mosquito net’s, a large bathroom, 4 beds and more.  Every meal was delicious and the service…outstanding!  I think that above all, the kind and attentive staff were what made this lodge “shine”.  The setting is rustic, with eleven log cabins set in a forest, covered with tree’s and indigenous flora.  I truly got the feeling that I was in the middle of the bush; a perfect escape from the concrete jungles I have become accustomed to. The activities on offer at the lodge and just outside the lodge are abundant- it is a perfect hideaway for adventurous couples and young families wanting to go on walks, mountain bike rides, game drives and more.

What we loved most was the fact that our children were beside themselves they were so excited to be there.  They had plenty of room to run around and the lodge catered for their every need.  They had separate meal times and were served the most incredible, healthy and age appropriate meals.  In the evenings the lodge offered us an amazing baby sitter named Nomsa so that we could enjoy our dinner peacefully with the adults.

On the Saturday we went out in search of wild animals.  Our high hopes were satisfied when we came up close and personal with rhino, a troop of babboons, giraffe, a myriad of plains game, buffalo and more.  To top it all we came right in-between an enormous heard of elephants (about 100 for sure).  I must be honest it was petrifying as they were extremely close to our car. Click here to see the video I posted on Instagram of me nervously whispering to Dylan to GET GOING!

Here are some of the pic’s from our very special time there.  Spoil yourself and visit Hluhluwe River Lodge for a down to earth and humble getaway in the bush.

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Moist Chocolate Cake

As a part of my desire to spend dedicated quality time with Mila and Sam I have committed to baking with them as often as possible.  Last week we chose to make a delicious, moist chocolate birthday cake for my sister Chanelle who was inviting friend’s over for a birthday picnic.  Mila was away with my in-law’s in the Drakensberg (we stayed home because Dylan had to study) and so Chan and her boyfriend came over to bake with us.  It was so much fun!  Chan and Paul did most of the baking (Chan is an avid baker and Paul is a chef), Sam did most of the messing and I did most of the playing and snapping on my NIKON camera.

The recipe was found on Pinterest and I must say, the outcome was amazing.  The buttermilk and coffee used in this cake make it extremely moist and very decadent.  We then chose to make a ganache icing which was perfect.

Enjoy it… Below are some of the pic’s I took and remember, as Barney says “sharing is caring”.

MOIST CHOCOLATE CAKE
Author: Jennifer Hill
Prep time:  15 mins
Cook time:  35 mins
Total time:  50 mins
Serves: 12
Ingredients:
– 1¾ cups all purpose flour
– 2 cups granulated white sugar
– ¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
– 1½ tsp baking soda
– ¾ teaspoon salt
– 2 large eggs
– 1 cup buttermilk (or substitute by putting 1 tbsp white vinegar in a cup then filling the rest up with milk; let stand 5 minutes until thickened)
– ½ cup butter, melted
– 1 tbsp vanilla extract
– 1 cup hot coffee (or 2 tsp instant coffee in 1 cup boiling water)
Method:
  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees celcius. Grease and flour two 22cm baking pans and set aside.
  2. In the large bowl of a standing mixer, stir together flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, and salt. Add eggs, buttermilk, melted butter and vanilla extract and beat until smooth (about 3 minutes). Remove bowl from mixer and stir in hot coffee with a rubber spatula. Batter will be very runny.
  3. Pour batter evenly between the two pans and bake on middle rack of oven for about 35 minutes, until toothpick inserted in centre comes out clean with just a few moist crumbs attached.
  4. Allow to cool 15 minutes in pans, then run a butter knife around the edges of each cake. Place a wire cooling rack over top of each pan. Wearing oven mitts, use both hands to hold the racks in place while flipping the cakes over onto the racks. Set the racks down and gently thump on the bottom of the pans until the cakes release. Cool completely before handling or icing.
Ganache Icing: (found on the Martha Stewart site)
Ingredients:
– 250 grams semisweet chocolate, finely chopped (I used Lindt)
– 1 1/2 cups heavy cream (I used woolies double cream)
Method:
Place chocolate in a medium bowl. Heat cream in a small saucepan until bubbles begin to appear around edges (scalding); pour over chocolate. Let stand 5 minutes, then stir until smooth. Set aside at room temperature until cool but pourable, stirring occasionally.
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Mom: A Toast To The Perfect You

It’s Mothers Day in South Africa today, Happy Mothers day to all the beautiful mom’s reading this blog! As I sat down to write my beautiful mother a card, a myriad of thoughts surrounding the woman that I desire to be started to flood my mind.  I began to think about the verse in the bible that speaks about “The Virtuous Woman”.  Proverbs 31 talks about the woman of noble character and is a detailed metaphor of feminine wisdom in the context of a family and a community.  This verse is a toast to woman, honouring us for who we already are in the sight of God.  This verse was never written to keep us held with a noose around our necks as we live lives comparing, striving and feeling like failures when we “don’t match up”.

The intention of this verse was never to re-affirm our insecurities and have us feeling unaccomplished as women.  We are covered by the grace and mercy of God through Jesus Christ who loves us and, through our frailty sees us as beautiful, perfect, worthy, whole.  Perhaps this verse was meant to be an ode to who we already are.  As we live out who we believe we already are in the sight of God we will be more and more virtuous.  I believe that who we say and feel we are is what we will become in reality.  There is power in the spoken word and our words are an overflow of our thoughts.

Taken from Proverbs 31, this is who I believe you are:

– You lack nothing of value and are far more precious than jewels.

– The heart of your husband trusts in you and he gains from you.   You are reliable and have his best interests at heart.  You are a blessing to your family. – You have willing hands and your worth is far more than the money you bring to the table.

–  You provide hope for your family and are generous to the poor.

–  You are clothed in strength and un-threatened by the strengths of other men or women around you.  You walk your own path and are not overcome by “comparing”.

–  You are not driven by fear and anxiety or worried about the safety of your family.  They are safe in Gods hands and He loves them even more than you do. –  You take care of your inner and outer beauty.  You take pride in your physical appearance because it is a reflection of the inner you.  You are beautiful in your own unique way.

–  You are clothed with strength and worthy of honour and respect.  You can be joyful and laugh at the days to come.  The future is bright.

–  You encourage others with wisdom and you are kind.  You do not gossip and slander those around you.

–  You look after your children and husband well, you are not lazy. –  You are imperfectly perfect.  You are beautiful.   You are you.  

My mom, far left.
My beautiful mom, far left.

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My mom is the hot biker chick, second from the right.
My mom is the hot biker chick, second from the right.  She is and always been a hard core woman of adventure.
My beautiful sister and mom
My beautiful sister and magnificent mom.  I just love them!!

Lemon cake and the love language of quality time.

I am sure you have all heard of Gary Chapman’s book “The Five Love Languages”, if not, I can highly recommend this read for anyone wishing to love with intention, in a way that speaks to the unique make-up of the individual you love.  Chapman’s book outlines five ways to express and experience love: gifts, quality time, words of affirmation, acts of service, and physical touch.  Chapman uses the metaphor of a ‘love tank’ to explain peoples’ need to be loved.  To discover ones unique love language, one must observe the way your loved one expresses love to others, people tend to naturally give love in the way that they prefer to receive love.

Whilst I completely agree with Gary Chapman’s theory I truly believe that every child speaks or yearns to be spoken to in the love language of “quality time”.  I have noticed how Mila’s good behaviour diminishes when I am stressed and preoccupied.  When I am rushing from one meeting and task to the next and have not taken the time to engage with her, to talk and play with her, to look into her eyes and care for her emotional needs.  I am reminded of the saying, “if the devil cannot make you bad, he will make you busy”.  I have noticed that when I am too busy my tolerance levels toward my children become depleated.  It’s as if they call out through the whirlwind of life to be noticed, to be embraced.  Baking with a child is a time for imparting knowledge, giving affection and talking about life lessons.  Baking can be a time for thinking, breathing and being at peace.

So last Sunday we decided to bake a delicious LEMON CAKE.  This VERY simple and delicious recipe was passed on to me from my friend Janine Day who I am sure also received it from a friend, who received it from another friend.  It’s one of those recipe’s people will ask you to send to them.  The cake is so easy to make, its extremely moist and light.  Please feel free to share it with others as I share it with you today.  I hope you have as much fun baking it with your loved ones as I did.  This Sunday is my sister Chan’s birthday lunch and so we will be making a birthday cake on Saturday to eat on Sunday.

Here it goes…

LEMON CAKE

Ingredients:

-110 grams of Butter (room temperature)

-1 Cup of Castor Sugar

-2 Large Eggs (room temperature)

-1 and 1/2 cups of self raising flour

-1/2 cup of milk

-1/4 tsp salt

-Rind of Large Lemon

Method:

Cream butter and sugar and beat eggs in one at a time.

Beat well.  Sift flour and salt and add alternately with milk, add the lemon rind.

Pour into greased loaf tin and bake at 180 degrees for 40 minutes.

Remove the cake from the oven and place on a plate.  Pour over the juice.

The Juice:

1/2 Cup of castor sugar and 1/2 a cup of lemon juice.

Stir over heat to dissolve the sugar.

Pour over the hot cake and leave it to cool.

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To “three”, or not to “three”, that is the question-

As you may well know, “To be, or not to be… ” is the opening phrase of a soliloquy in William Shakespeare’s play Hamlet.  It is probably the most well-known lines of poetry Shakespeare ever wrote.  What Hamlet is reflecting on is the comparison between the pain of life (which he sees as inevitable), and the fearful uncertainty of death as he contemplates suicide.  This famous phrase came to mind after a long discussion with my parents over dinner regarding whether Dylan and I should have more than two children.  My dad’s words were, “if you are thinking of more, you are “mal”(mad in Afrikaans)”

I am one of five children and none of us were “mistakes”- my parents chose to have every one of us and I am so glad that they did!  My two brothers and two sister’s are a part of who I am, they are my story and were some of the tools God used to fashion me into the person I am today.  My siblings are my favourite people in the world, we have an unspoken loyalty to one another, an unbreakable bond.  My husband Dylan is one of four children and I know he feels the same way about his siblings.  There is strength in numbers and children add immeasurable joy and character, but in the same breadth, is life not a little different to how it was when our parents were having children 30-40 years ago?

The pace of life is extreme.  The cost of living is exorbitant and the pressure that is placed on children growing up in a digital age is relentless.  I feel as if it was christmas last week, but easter was already a month ago?  What is going on, am I dreaming?  Where is time going?  Everybody around me is talking about what type of passports they have and what their plan is should things really go “South” in SOUTH Africa.

The thought of how outside influences in this broken world will affect our children is enough to make people never want to have children, I have a few friends who feel this way and I can understand this point of view.  From xenophobia to thousands of people from Northern Africa floating in rubber duckies in the middle of the ocean searching for a better life, one feels depressed at the state of our world.  There is unemployment, poverty, the ANC and their myriad of false promises and insurmountable charges of corruption- this is just to name a few.

Negativity  is everywhere, but it’s nothing new and so surely we were meant to rise above it?   We cannot turn a blind eye but we have to be bigger, to choose not to be depressed and powerless as a result of it.  The time is coming and now is when people will stand up and speak up and do something significant.  I choose to believe in a God that has a bigger plan, a plan that is greater than what our minds can comprehend.  A plan that involves us and our children.

Isaiah 60 calls us to change our thinking and realise the impact we can make when we do.   I was inspired by these words.

“Arise and shine, for your light has come and the GLORY of the Lord rises upon you.  See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the Lord rises upon you and his glory appears over you.  Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn.”

The bad in the world is everywhere but we are given the chance to be light, we are not meant to blend in with the darkness by being overwhelmed and overcome by it.  We are given the opportunity to “arise”, get up out of negative talk and shine.  Could we perhaps be God’s key to transformation in the nations of the world?  Perhaps it’s just a new perspective on the role that our families and our children play that will have us outshining the darkness and living lives of significance.

When a light is turned on in a dark room it infiltrates every crevice.  I want our story and presence to be that light so that maybe some of the darkness that surrounds us will become light and people who are affected by the pain and sorrow of life will be able to see again.

In conclusion you are probably wondering whether we will be having more than two children.  My heart say’s yes, but my head says “it’s hard”.  Logic tells me to play it safe.  Then the joy and pleasure of raising children and the thought of the love we will share and the impact a larger family can make makes me really want another.

Every person has their own road to walk, their own point of reference, their own resources (very important reality) and so this is a very personal question.  I just think that if we do choose to have children, whether one or five, our perspective and vision for our future ought to be right.  I believe we are put here for a very specific purpose, to bring light into the world and infiltrate the darkness, to raise children who will have a meaningful impact.

There was an amazing sunrise at home this morning and so when these little ones woke up we went outside to take a video… Enjoy.

See the video here:

https://youtu.be/L0z2ibq4qmw