when all you can do is move horizontally

30 05 2013

Today we had another real life lesson in the middle of our home-school lesson.

Mussa, the garden worker, proudly brought up the little Mr Tenacious (he knows I love all things natural. I did not know the Swahili words to tell him that I do not like all things natural brought out of where they belong!) 

The birds have been very vocal the last week or so and I have been out to see if there are perhaps snakes bothering them. It looks like it is just time for the little fledglings to get flying! This scary yet exhilarating time is happening all around us and Mr Tenacious’s introduction made it a bit more real.

Tris and I first admired the little dude, noticing that he showed no fear but sat bravely as we observed him. (see those very wide and bright bits on the side of his mouth? That is so the parents cannot miss when delivering food. Smart, hey?)  We then dusted him in sand to try and hide the human smell and take him back to where he was found. We put him as high as possible and sat from afar and watched a bit.

We could see the parents nearby, and heard the anxious calling. He fell off the perch, and Tris dusted him in sand again and set him right, in the tree this time.  He moved up about 30 cm. We rejoiced.  

Then he fell down and after trying to climb the tree stem (FYI: tiny birds do not make good climbers!) stayed on the grass.

The parent moved the bird into a little drainage line  (which was empty).

We wondered what would happen next, and here the lessons started.

When a sparrow falls:

The father never leaves the bird alone, but remains around, ever watching.

Even when there is only horizontal crawling about on the floor, and no upward thrust as is expected of birds, there is no judgment or condemnation.

The father constantly brought little pieces of food for the little one.

               * To strengthen the bird for that which has to come.

               * To remind the little one he has not disappeared forever

               * To remind the little one he has not given up on it, but still believes it can fly after several failed attempts

Each morsel of food comes with the literal inspiration, mouth-to-mouth breath of the parent.

The father does not decide that the bird can miraculously fly without the struggle of development. The struggles help to grow the muscles, wisdom and spryness needed for living as a mature bird.

No sparrow can soar on its first attempt out of the nest.

We sat and cheered Mr Tenacious on.  We were watching and willing his survival.

We were very wary, as often overhead we would see the shadow of a very real threat: Yellow billed kites spend a lot of time around here, and although it is small, a baby sparrow would make an easy meal.

wanza to dar June2012 032

We had to move away and get on with chores, but just before dark when I last checked up, Mr Tenacious was sitting on a heap of sand, about a metre up from where he had been before, with about 5 other sparrows flitting nearby.

I was reminded in a tangible way:

“His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me”.  (Matt 10:29 –31)

The LORD watches – Psalm 34:15, Ps 33:18

There is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus – Romans 8:1

We are not miraculously parachuted out of troubles, but are left to work through them. (John 16:33, 1 Peter 4:12,  2 Tim 3:12)

Our temporary troubles are building character, hope and wisdom.  (James 1:3, Romans 5:3-5)

God gives us available mouth-to-mouth in His living word (2 Tim 3:16)

Despite present dangers around us, there is a spiritual host cheering us on, encouraging us. (Heb 12:1)

Even when we feel small, vulnerable and far too weak, we are not alone.  Mr Tenacious hung on, looked danger in the eye and knew he WOULD learn to fly.


If you feel like little Mr T today, I pray that you would know that you have a Father who made you to rely on Him.  He longs to fill you up with His strength, to get through whatever challenges you face.

I want to thank The Father for the exquisite backdrop of today’s feature.  This beautiful Bauhinia Monandra  (Pink Orchid tree) looks just gorgeous and is putting on a superb show. 


ripe fields

23 05 2013

The rice is hanging heavy on the stalks.

Across from our house a glow of gold infuses our eyes with constant reminders: the harvest is ready.

Those who gather in rice here work incredibly hard to collect their food.  We can hear the groups early in the morning, when it is still reasonably cool, cutting off stalks and beating the heads against the ground, in big bunches, to set the grains free from their vegetative cocoons. 

I am so glad that I am not forced to work so hard for my food every day: the commitment and effort seems so extreme, and I realise huge blessings in my life every day.

And I am reminded of how the harvest, figuratively, is so ready. And we pray.

I am so grateful for our Monday group, who gather to pray for our city, for this nation, for the kingdom. We see evidence of answered prayers every week, which encourages us to persevere even when there is much opposition and difficulty.   We seek new souls and changed lives across the world.

(the nest in front was found in our boat, just as we were beginning to pray. New opportunities for growth are all around us!)

The last few weeks have been warm. The rains are over, and art with the younger ones can be restricting indoors so we have moved out for a while.

This week we did statue chalk art and the trampoline made this rather interesting! One  artist posed while the other drew the outline of the statue with chalk, and then the “posers” swapped out.

Then coloured chalk was drawn closer, and details were added.

Finished results were excellent examples of the absurdist movement in art.

I was also made to stand and model:

Isn’t the likeness remarkable?

The older group is showing some amazing progress. I love seeing how keen these young artists are and the talent they show. This week was about insects: big, carefully shaded and shaped.

Artclass insects

These artists are 9 to 12 years old, and I just love their keenness to do art. 

We are both enjoying the big blue skies, warmth (we deliberately avoid SA winter!) and have some rather exciting adventures coming up. We will let you know when we have a few more details, but the basic news is that we are going to fulfill a shared dream of living totally wild for a short while.   Scary, exciting, fun.

did you really want a report of doctors’ rooms?

14 05 2013

No? well great.  The reason we were silent for so long was that we did not want to share too much of doctors rooms. Or of shopping malls. or of the angst that most Gautengers live with day to day, as the threat of robbery and mayhem surround them.

Somewhere in all that is an apology for a long silence. We had three weeks back in SA, and it was busy, full. It is always special to spend time with family and we did get to be around for a few birthday celebrations, and squashed in an art lesson or two. We had an enjoyable stay in Kruger for a few days too.

Well, I should have blogged about this trip alone, sorry.  One of the ironies we love is that our internet access is far better in Tanzania than what we personally can get in SA… there is a legitimate excuse! 

A remarkable feature of our Kruger time was the huge amount of testosterone on show. The end of April, going into May is rutting season for several species and the rugged snorts of unhappy impala can be heard across the bush rather often. It amused Deon no end to watch how several males would assume the position (tail fluffed and up, chin lowered), and then go at any other male with speed and tenacity.

Deon camera Kruger april 2013 325small 

They lose all ability to think, and will lock ‘horns’ with thorn bushes, barbed wire fences or any other imposing looking thing at this time. We saw several bouts where 8 to 10 males would all get involved in the same rout.

Other species showing power on this trip:

Deon camera Kruger april 2013 214small

Deon camera Kruger april 2013 297small

There were a few other species fighting over dominance and mating rights now too.  Nothing like a good bit of action!

A highlight for me was a nightdrive we took. Unfortunately, we were in the park after some heavy showers and at a very windy time, which makes for poorer sightings overall. But we experienced some wonderful evidence of power and creativity.


Deon camera Kruger april 2013 452small

A magnificent experience was being surrounded by a herd of about 800 buffalo. We sat with the engine of the vehicle off, listening as they chomped through the grass, and watched the fascinated buffs staring at these odd creatures in a truck. I was so awed by the idea of millions of tons of raw energy surrounding us, yet we were safe and simply observing the opposite species.

Then, alas, it was back to dentist chairs, blood tests, x-rays… all to discover there is not anything hugely wrong, except for that which falls on all of is: heading to mortality.  Age is not kind to human flesh!

We were rather relieved to be heading back to Tanzania, and then we were not! In the days leading up to our return there had been a spate of crimes in the area. the place next door was broken into, we believe there were intended burglars on our roof, and some-one tried to poison our precious dog: twice. The brave canine soul survived well, and we are doing whatever we can to prevent further invasions. But the feeling is awful. Normally Tanzania is a fair deal safer than SA, so to be surrounded by crime here is simply no fun.

This week we are back into full Tanzanian mode. Deon is away on an exploratory trip in Arusha area again, and I am back to the usual prayer groups, art classes and helping school children.

Today’s art lesson with the young group was to take advantage of the amazing sunny weather:it was just far too nice to be indoors.

Before: big flipchart paper and several media set out: foam brushes, squeeze bottles, food colouring mixed with water, spray bottles, powder paint mixed, with cover-all t shirts and soap nearby.


Pour, spread, dab, spray, splatter, spill.

Notice some beautiful configurations as you work.


And have a huge amount of fun cleaning up (thanks, darlings, I did not have to clean it all alone…)

And they left with smily faces and wet pants! 

Despite the challenges, we still feel right to be here, as long as we need to. The joys of amazing friends, happy faces, and creative art keep us going. 

And we are so relieved that our doggy lives to enjoy it all with us too!