Shadowlands – where the sun doesn’t shine – C S Lewis
It all produced a blank canvas for God to write on…Hallelujah!
Times when I was useful came to mind…
Remember how the whole world could not produce face masks, suitable to protect medical staff in quick time!
I was grinding my teeth in annoyance…
I felt like they needed someone like me who could buy products for the giant cosmetic house I worked for in South Africa. A leading, prestigious, fussy, particular about everything, American company. If Quality Control did not approve a product – it was rejected. Marketing people went nuts for lost sales – but QC was priority.
They loved me because when I ordered something, I chased, hounded, took no excuse, until the product landed on our floor.
I learned to scrutinize everything before seeking approval, proof read every word twice before submitting to marketing, who together with the CEO and directors, came to trust me.
I monitored right down to the time they would deliver.
Marketing had less loss of sales due to the ‘out of stock’ report I monitored daily.
Why couldn’t governments obtain life saving masks on time?
At least it got my writing juices flowing – on paper though, not up for blogging
The gloominess of lockdown actually helped me.
God cleared out my mind and showed me things which lifted me out of my despair. But I was slow in recovery.
I needn’t be scared to be me anymore – I’m okay…
A walk in the park – had a whole new meaning. That’s all I could do sometimes.
I needn’t climb the walls or talk to the wall like Shirley Valentine anymore.
God was always with me, guiding, teaching, cleansing, whatever it took, and bringing things to mind to encourage again…
Long ago in South Africa – Cape Town actually. I got off the bus and turned to walk away, when I saw a ‘homeless looking’ dark man – not young – grab the rail to climb the ridiculously high steps, the single decker busses have. But the bus driver pulled off!
I stood horrified – for a moment – then ran after the speeding bus, that carried the man hanging on the outside for his life.
Wearing a cream coloured Trench coat, which flared out behind me, as I ran along the road screaming to the bus driver; was quite the apparition to behold.
The man dropped to the ground – cars and people stopped and stared.
I ran up to him and lifted his bleeding head and face – rummaged for a tissue to wipe him – naturally he was stunned and hurt. I tried to lift him but failed – then a young white girl came up to help me – but the two of us could not lift this big man who was a ‘dead weight’ really …
“Oh Jesus please help us Lord”! I cried – then in a flash the man was standing on his feet – even before I stood up.
The dark skinned driver stopped the bus by this time and walked back to the scene.
I’m sorry he said – we’re not allowed to let them on the bus.
Don’t worry about that now I said and gave him money to take the gentleman as near as possible to his destination. And off they went.
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13
Praise Jesus my Saviour.
If you know Jesus – call on Him to help you help others, and be his hands and feet.
I’ve often wondered about my dad I never knew, over the years. Then later on coming to UK and watching all the Remembrance Day commemorations on the telly, I wondered what it was like for him during World War Two.
Did he and all the others think of their death at all. Did they cry out to God in their moments of despair and fear, did pain and suffering cause them to search their hearts for help from Him?
Some months ago during lockdown I read an article in a U3A magazine, by a woman who’d found a letter from a family member who’d been in the war as well and who’d visited a place called Talbot House in Poperinge, Belgium. A Chaplain had created a small chapel in the attic, where thousands of soldiers attended services, were baptised and took communion. After the Great War. It was no doubt a peaceful refuge for many.
I was greatly encouraged to have read about it. Perhaps there were many other retreats all over the world, for soldiers to have come to faith in their last hours, or in their hour of need. Faith comes by hearing, and its comforting to know there were those who were available to speak to them about Christ, and the joy of eternity with Him.
My father did come back but wasn’t taken care of. I wrote a little article for a local paper one Remembrance week-end – several years ago now:
Have we remembered them?
We have eyes like cameras that capture images and send them to our brain from the moment we open them in the morning; how precious they are and needful of protection. The bible warns us of not letting our eyes look at futile things. Yet our lives are bombarded with unwholesome things, bad news and things we might not choose to see and hear, perhaps too late to filter out the good from the bad as it’s in your face.
I can’t look at anything violent and then go to sleep.
What fortitude was shown by those who fought in the world wars, the horrific acts thrust on them daily went on for years. I can only speak of what I know. My grandfather, uncles and my father – lived broken lives thereafter. Dad lost his parents within six weeks of each other before he went to fight for the commonwealth. He never smoked nor drank then – but sadly ended up addicted to both for most of his shortened life. His marriage fell apart too as Mom – I suspect like the rest of the world was unprepared for dealing with wounded souls. That’s just one family.
I never fought in any physical war but looking back over my life; un-dealt with battles of Daddy’s mind fought on.
Abnormal use of drugs, alcohol, nicotine, various cravings; is all abuse – and it’s still raking in billions for the industries because people used it to forget – whilst their countries failed to remember them.
Jesus took on every pain and heartache known to man and nailed it…..to the cross, and rose victorious above it all.
We can honour them every day by reaching out to all who are still suffering the spoils of war.
Sometimes its tough motivating yourself to get up and go and feel positive when all around you seems to be crumbling, and your plans seem insurmountable, they don’t really work out as you’d hoped.
Praying and asking our Father to forgive our doubts and weaknesses can sometimes result in amazing turnarounds.
He reminded me of a time when my daughter took me to Venice a couple of years ago in non stop rain all the way from Heathrow. As we were nearing Venice, the captain announced that we were due to land soon, but unfortunately, they’ve asked him to divert as visibility is nil with all the rain. He also said, that we only had 20 minutes left of fuel and its not possible to divert!
Whooa that’s not good! I said to my daughter common lets pray. We asked our heavenly Father to save the Captain and all of us on the plane and make a way for us to land safely in Venice. We need your help right now and trust in your almighty power to save us.
The Captain suddenly announced to fasten seat belts we’re landing!
Taxiing to the airport buildings, he came over the speaker and apologised for the hasty change – but “there was a sudden 10 minute window of clouds parting and 4 planes landed – then closed up again”.
Matthew 8:25-26 And they came to Him and woke Him saying save us Lord we are perishing! He said to them, why are you afraid, you men of little faith? Then He got up and rebuked the winds and the sea, and it became perfectly calm.
O my Lord you are mighty. You are supreme and sovereign. Forgive me for allowing worldly things and unkind words and behaviours to knock my faith about, when all the while dear Jesus, You are near and in charge.
Praise You almighty God, my Saviour. Hallelujah! Who is there like you.
Many years ago I hung over the side of a beautiful balloon, feeling the wonder – the beauty -the warmth – the silence wrap around me and lift me up – what release.
I was on my lunch break from caring for someone, but my mind was full of anguish once again, going over the bossy, bullying attitude of others I had to work with. The constant lauding it over me and taking advantage of my silence.
The fabulous balloon I was on, was tethered unfortunately, so I wasn’t able to experience the dizzy heights I longed for, and instead felt bound.
I felt like the balloon, as I gazed across the beautiful scenery, tethered to guilt and shame, instead of focusing on the scriptures. 2 Corinthians 5:17 If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation, the old things passed away and new things have come.
Satan likes to remind us of our past mess ups. Satan means accuser – don’t believe his lies. Quote God’s word whenever the trials come.
Gosh how true it is to be away from hearing the word of God, and from Christian brothers and sisters who can admonish us, and fill us up when we’re running on empty.
We can be free and weightless and soar like an eagle, when we hold His truths in our heart. Keep me as the apple of the eye; Hide me in the shadow of Your wings. Psalm 17:8
When Jesus went ashore, he saw a large crowd and he felt compassion for them because they were like sheep without a shepherd.
I could relate. I’d been a Christian a dozen years or so and now living in UK. I was employed by a Care Agency back in Cape Town and journeying by train to the north to meet them for training.
London transport was terrifying. I had no idea there’d be so many stairs up and down all over the place. All my worldly goods were in the one suitcase I was lugging about in that rabbit warren.
People warned me to stand at the bus stop to board, otherwise they wouldn’t stop. There were so many buses shunting along I was confused. And busy London – they’re impatient. I waited obediently and waved to my bus pulling away – he hollered $%”£*?% vile language calling me a lazy something and pulled off. I was far sighted so wasn’t wearing my specs, I asked the time at the train ticket office, he yelled ‘avnt yer gotta watch?!
Wow the land of hope and glory – where were those from ‘Songs of Praise’ I’d seen on the telly – ‘twas more like ‘The Weakest Link’ – where ripping people apart with words flowed naturally.
No wonder my ex was – well like he was – if that’s all he learnt growing up. Poor kid.
The train ride though, was definitely England’s green and pleasant land. I loved it, and the fields with animals and ducks and swans on lakes – it was magical. I smiled when I saw horses with funny blankets on, and wondered if my horse Nevada, would have liked a blanket – nah – he would’ve yanked it right off and stomped all over it, such a naughty boy. I’m sure he thought he was a puppy – followed me everywhere. Right into our stable doored kitchen one day – stable doors are horsey doors after all. Funny how the mind travels. Another lifetime.
I loved my granny, she died when I was ten years old so I felt sure I’d be fine with caring for the elderly in their own homes. I had great respect for older folk and was looking forward to learning from them and finding out about my new adopted country.
We were told in training that all clients are different and some may enjoy companionship, whilst others, well, just do your job and stay out of sight. Most people were polite and courteous but definitely suspicious. It’s only natural I thought, having strangers in the house, besides, the silver and all that. Quite a scary undertaking especially when their health was failing. Heart-breaking actually.
The most important lesson I learned was understanding how black people felt in South Africa.
Living in – did mean being available – obviously. I didn’t mind. I wanted to make life easier and peaceful. But there was one who called for hot chocolate at 3am every night/morning. And most mornings it was still there – cold. I was often shouted at and treated like a slave, until one night I cried to the Lord for answers. I heard a clear voice in my mind – “How long are you going to put up with it?”
That was a good lesson for me. I had to stop being a doormat. I was in a new country and I was afraid. And my server nature led easily to abuse. When I told her the next morning to stop barking at me because I was there to help her, she treated me kindly thereafter.
Most of the Carer’s were from abroad, the agency said the Brits wouldn’t do it. But the one I handed over to, after me that morning, was British, and on my way home on the train, she phoned me begging me to come back as she refused to tolerate her. It helped me understand that it wasn’t me.
I scrubbed and cleaned to make sure my clients were hygienically safe as well. One very wealthy fussy lady was so impressed with my cleanliness she reduced the days her cleaner came! I had a lot to learn.
Quite a few arranged big meals and had guests round or afternoon teas and expected me to cook and wait on them. Even carry garden furniture around and lift wheel chairs into car boots. Some even begrudged my food which was part of the package.
I really did learn part of what it felt like to be treated like a slave like the blacks in South Africa.
I prayed for forgiveness all over again, and prayed often that all whites, in South Africa especially, would come to know Jesus as their Lord, so that they could understand the bible, no one can understand the bible without the indwelling of the Holy Spirt. It is Spiritually discerned. Then they would learn that all people are the same. The colour of one’s skin does not make a person any less or lower in life.
All people are born with sinful, blackened hearts, we desperately need Jesus to make us pure and white as snow in our hearts, by being born of His Spirit and to live righteously for Gods glory.
So, it’s not the colour of our skin but the colour or our hearts, that the world sees, in the way we treat others.
The Golden Rule – Jesus said in Matthew 7:12. In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you.
Create in me a clean heart O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Psalm 51:10
The staggering loss of lives is terrifying and tragic
Alone – contactless – no last goodbyes – no prayers – no funerals
The panic connected us again
And levelled the playing field
God in his mercy, gave us time to think. Some of us have been living like there’s no tomorrow, no thought or value for their lives (nor anyone else’s) at all – as seen in their behaviour around the world.
Thank God for the selfless ones who care.
God made us all equal you know – like it or not
God created Adam and Eve and their disobedience put the lot of us on the road to hell. But God so loved the world that he gave us Jesus who came down to earth to show us the way back to God through him. He died on the cross in our place for our sins to save us from death and rose again defeating satan forever.
He levelled the playing field – all who believe in Him can be reconciled back to God and be saved.
How did you do in lockdown?
In the beginning I thought I was okay. I was new to a church and didn’t have friends yet. At Easter the pastor and his wife kindly blessed me with flowers.
Gosh I missed my daughter terribly – we’ve always been so close, very lovey dovey – affectionately touchy feely…South Africans I think are, many people here told me that. I know its different here in UK – a sign of weakness to show your feelings some said. Stiff upper lip and all that. Traditions – tough nut to crack – it makes fellowship quite strained. That didn’t half make me depressed though. No real contact – no sense of sharing.
As the months dragged on, I thought I was going nuts.
Some days I felt as though I’d been through the wringer – flat – dead – bereft.
My doctors were wonderfully kind over the phone. I phoned them the first few weeks to see if they were okay, and to tell them I was praying for them. They stuck it out. God bless them. My digestive/health issues kicked off as well – eating disorders when I was younger. Nerves, sciatica, they all played up again.
I put myself on – The Ultimate Guide to the Daniel Fast – by Kristen Feola – 21 days. I’ve a history of comfort eating so that was extremely tough, but lockdown came at a time when I was just beginning to pluck up courage to start blogging and needed help and support. Now I was thrown off kilter and lost at sea. But I trusted God to show me the way and help me sort out / lay down all that was hindering me. I also switched the telly off.
I know God loves me…so what if I’m different…that’s the way he made me and there’s no no need to explain my existence. I slowly came out of my shell…with a little time…
I love flowers and arranging them, when we could go back to the shops, I bought some for my flat, I don’t have a garden, so it’s a treat for me to sit and admire Gods beautiful creations. I try and extend their lifespan for as long as possible; trimming down and changing vases – until I just have to throw them out. I’m saddened too sometimes when I find one or two buds broken off from careless handling by the time I buy them.
But even the broken ones deserve a place, so I find a tiny container to pop them in.
Sometimes in life we too are cut short by some unfortunate happening or interruption, and we feel robbed of an opportunity to express ourselves, only to withdraw and slip back under our shell – like a tortoise.
Lord, thank you that you teach us to forgive everyone like you did. “Father forgive them for they know not what they do” you said as you hung on the cross. And instead of rebuke, we pray for those who perhaps don’t yet understand. You remind us that we were once like that too, before you came into our hearts through belief and gave us understanding. You tend and care until we’re able to give you glory as you intended.
It was a warm, sunny Saturday, when my little girl and I were relaxing around the communal pool of our new accommodation. A young single parent strolled over to meet us with her little girl. She listened intently to my woes of recent events, and our ending up back in Joh’burg. Plus the three car accidents in Cape Town, and the one I had just suffered during that week. The sun and the pool were most welcome.
My mind was messy as I drove to collect my daughter from her first school. The blow of being made redundant again was bad enough, but transport being what it is in South Africa, I opted for a sales job with a company car. How was I going to fetch and carry now. I’d reached the middle of the crossing of the massive intersection, where her school grounds were on the corner. When out of the blue, a Paramedic car came screaming around the long bend, and ploughed straight into me. The impact left a huge hole, right through the metal of the passenger door. I spun round and smashed into a little car coming towards me. The young Paramedic driver was new on the job, and forgot to check the road was clear, they said. There were three of them, who all willingly admitted guilt straight away. They paid for all our medical check-ups and that was that. There were no injuries. The company collected the car they’d said I could use, until I was fixed with a new one.
When my new friend invited us to join them for church in the morning, I was delighted. I hadn’t been for years.
As we drove into the car park, I could see this was definitely a different kind of church. The car park sprawled all around the enormous grounds, and up towards the church on the hill. The whole site was enormous. As we walked up to the building, passing hundreds of people, who were all smiling and happy, they greeted us and welcomed us warmly into the church. The auditorium was huge…rows and rows of lovely seats in a half circle sloping all the way down to the front. We sat in a couple of the five thousand seats, a few rows from the back. We’d already taken the two girls to children’s church.
The band was lively and quite sensational, with words on the screens above so everyone joined in, until the place was full. The singing and music was electric, and had put me in another world by this time. When the pastor came to preach, silence fell and he prayed. He was very well dressed in a suit and tie with a kind face. I hadn’t seen that before. Just a man on a stage dressed normally and speaking from the bible. I liked that straight away, and relaxed. For the first time I heard words from the bible and understood. I didn’t feel judged, nor afraid, the jeering voices and fear, were gone. It was such a joy to understand. Being able to enjoy being taught something was foreign to me. The words seemed to make sense as he explained, I was taken in by it all. I liked the preacher too – he was a normal person, like us sitting in the seats. He showed he cared. No hint of being above us, that always put me clean off, and usually reluctant to believe or trust anything from insincere people. Whereas now, I was eager to know more.
He gave an alter call at the end and off I went. I forgot about being shy in crowds, and any kind of attention. I just floated all the way down to the front, in my long, ivory linen, summer coat, which stood out, but wasn’t bothered.
As the pastor prayed for us in the front, my head was hung low, my hair covering my face and tears. I was comatose as I stood there, with dozens of others. My whole body felt like a shattered windscreen, every inch of glass smashed, but still in place, held together by silken threads of grace.
The counsellors came alongside each of one us, and led us through the doors on the side, leading on into separate rooms. The two ladies with me were loving and kind, as one would expect, simply wonderful. I think I cried for an hour. I was broken and torn and very weak, everything gushed out. Who knows what I poured out onto those poor ladies, but Jesus took it all. He lifted me out of the skip, and made me whole again. I was no longer dirt and unacceptable. He loved me they said. Me…
I knew Jesus died on the cross and that was all. To know it was for my sin, my unbelief, my not knowing anything about what He really died for. He suffered in my place and took my sins – and there were many. I needed to repent and seek forgiveness, and turn away from them, and believe that He was punished in my place. He died for me, was buried and rose again and is now alive. He will take up residence in my heart and lead me into all truth through his Holy Spirit, when I believe. I certainly believed that day for the first time, because I hadn’t heard anyone explain that to me in any church before. To believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and be saved. Who knew what ‘saved’ even meant. I was saved from death because of my sin through Adam, the wages of sin is death, but now became a child of God, re-born into the Spirit of Christ.
By the time I left I had no make up on and red bulging eyes. My friend was with the girls outside looking quite worried. No one took that long normally she said smiling.
My counsellor Yvette, made appointments for me to return to the church every week for a few weeks. A dear tiny little person, with an enormous heart. She gave me scriptures to learn and hang on to. These are some of them – John 3:16, Joshua 1:8-9, Proverbs 3:5-6, Proverbs 1: 7, Matt 6:33, Ephesians 3:20, 2 Corinthians 5:17, Philippians 4:4-7, Romans 10:17.
I so enjoyed going in to the offices and meeting with her, she was so kind, everyone was actually. Pastor Ray was super, he made a point of always greeting my daughter and I. They arranged for a Home Group to include me in their weekly meetings, and even fetched me. Some times they’d bring a meal around or pick us up for church. I was one of them immediately, joined to the family of Christ. Being part of a family, was something I hadn’t experienced since granny died when I was ten. I never fitted in anywhere.
There were bible study lessons at night in the week too, and again was collected and dropped off home. During the very first lesson, I was sitting in the front, amazingly, with my bible my ex-husband had given me for our first wedding anniversary – I asked for a bible. Anyway, I had my bible on my lap like everyone else, listening to Pastor Ray. He asked us to turn to Habakkuk. Who?? I’d never heard of him, oh my, now what. Pastor Ray had glanced my way, my face must have revealed my terror, so casually added, it’s a few books back from Matthew. I flipped open my bible at exactly the right page. That was my first taste of knowing I was no longer alone. God was actually with me, and was teaching me to trust Him, even in the small things. A kind of father thing I imagined.
After my divorce, it took a while to realise what I was up against. This was still in my BC days. There’d be advertisements in the paper for jobs or accommodation, and they’d actually say no divorcees need apply or no women and children, no pets, and so on. That was the norm in South Africa at that time.
One of my jobs gave me a new company car. But after some months I heard various noises – I liked driving and noticed odd noises that didn’t belong – so along I went to the person who would need to know such things about company cars. He said he would look into it. I never heard. Then after some more weeks, the problem extended to the car veering to the side, plus, the brakes were making odd noises, which I told him. I also mentioned that some models like mine, had been recalled due to faulty brakes. I got the same condescending, rolled eyes look, as if I was bothering him, yeah, yeah, I’ll look into it.
One lunch hour I drove into town, to enrol my daughter in her first school the following year. On my way back to the car, I bought a few things for supper, my mom was staying with us for a bit, and macaroni cheese was on the menu. So, the shopping was eggs, milk, cheese etc. plus six dumpy bottles of beer. My Mom and I liked a beer. Travelling on the inside lane down the two-lane motorway, and noticing cars coming on up ahead, I moved across to the fast lane, to allow them to filter in. But the car immediately in front of me, coming on to the motorway, was an old beat up crock of a car, which crawled right across into the fast lane.
The road was still slightly wet from earlier drizzle, so I touched the brakes ever so gently, they locked immediately, and I had nowhere to go. I just managed to pull the car over on to the inner hard shoulder. Another coat of paint and I would’ve connected with the cars I was now skidding past at speed on my left. Thank God I didn’t hit any of them, and, that the middle of the motorway was still bushes, and not the metal barrier now in place. I continued skidding down the shoulder with locked brakes and holding the steering wheel as tight as I could, to stay on the shoulder, then the car flipped. Over we went, rolling along, then spinning on its roof, and down to the middle grassy bit, which dipped slightly, till it came to a halt, still on its roof.
I crawled out of the driver’s window and looked around and up, there were cars everywhere and people running up to me, plus two helicopters buzzing overhead and pickup trucks all over the place. I think I laughed. Wow this was a whole other experience! I couldn’t believe it. I called out my daughter’s name, then they all shouted OH NO THERE’S A CHILD IN THE CAR, and ran to check it out. It was surreal – like in the movies. No, no I shouted – she’s all I could think of, but she’s not with me, she’s at nursery school. Phew major relief on all their faces.
Bless them, everyone was so wonderful. They were very concerned and wanted to take me to hospital, but I was fine, not a scratch, I didn’t even ladder my stockings – look – I said jokingly. They helped me gather my things – the pick-up guys had turned the car upright, everything was strewn all over the car, but all intact. The eggs were still in the box unbroken, and the six beer bottles were scattered about – also unbroken! We all had a laugh. Then one of the pickup trucks kindly took me to collect my daughter and then took us to his garage, where we changed cars and then he took us home. The car stayed because it was a right off.
They let me use the phone first, to phone my boss. I knew they’d be peeved. I wasn’t popular with him or his secretary. I’m sorry to phone you so late, but I’ve just rolled the car and I’m in the garage. “Oh! So, you’re not attending the meeting then, he’ll be furious”! I felt like slamming the phone down, but just said no I won’t be attending the meeting, good bye.
Nothing was done about it, not that I knew of. Everything was insured so no loss to them. I was made redundant not long after that.
I wasn’t bothered in the slightest. In fact, relieved. All I knew, was that a miracle had happened, why me – a dumb nobody?
But I was in a very bad place back then, my divorce bore down on me long after the awful day back in Pretoria, and I wasn’t coping. I couldn’t do anything right. When you believe you are dirt, you just accept the dirt that’s dished out, because you’re guilty, everything was my fault. Besides, divorcees are damaged goods and a waste of space, rejected by society, they conceived and had babies all on their own. It was time I moved on. I was mentally, emotionally, physically spent. A right off – just like the car.
That was the third major car accident I’d had in the three years. And walked away from them all without a scratch. The first two were in my own car, and none of them were my fault.
Before I was married, I intentionally tried to roll my car late one night, racing round bends and carelessly doing insane things, but it never happened. Too good a driver someone said. I don’t think so.