so? what are the differences?

24 02 2015

We were told a few months ago, regarding China: “One who has been in China for 3 months is an expert on China. One who has been there for 6 months knows a good deal about China.  After a few years one knows a thing or two about China. After 10 years in China one knows nothing about it.”

Right now, after just 6 months here in Northern Sweden, I feel like I know nothing. 

All I do know is I long for a walk on a hot sunny stretch of sand, with  flipflops in hand and a wide-brimmed hat across my face.  That is not going to happen really soon. We are also learning that the best way to take things is just day by day.  And see the differences we can see and feel from our own experiences.

Like right now, reeling out from under the fourth bout with flu/cold in the last 6 months. And this was VIKING flu.  With strong, bulky arms that held us down for a few days. 

It was not easy to stay in bed on the first days of flu when we had seen good sun for a while… to be kept under sheets trying to kick off muscle pain. But the view out the window was blue skies and green leaves, which was not too awful.

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That right there is a big difference. 

Seeing all white before us.  And having to dress in layers to go sit in the sun.  And to dress in several layers not to sit in the sun but just to go and get the engine heater on, or throw out the trash. 

But I have learned to value each ray of sunshine and the heat it brings. And each ray rocks.

 

So here are a few other differences we have experienced for ourselves:

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This is something we did not experience in Africa.    Where on earth do dust bunnies come from?

Huge piles of fur gather all over the house. We have no pets.  We do not shed (well, not that much).  We have considered if Deon should take up another Masters degree or pursue a PhD in the Proliferation and Unexpected Exponential Rapid Growth of Hyper-social Communities of Spontaneously Generated Micro Fiber.

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See how it congregates in mass assemblies?  Every few hours.  Just like that.  Such things do not exist in Africa. 

There you just get dust. 

DSCN5712 (Small)This difference is especially for our SA friends.  If you want to, you may print it out and paste it on the fridge.  Or IN the fridge, to see what a light in a fridge looks like.  We have working lights.  And plugs.  Not one single outage since arriving.  This is very strange after our time in Uganda, Tanzania and most recently SA where regular power outages occur. 

We so appreciate this phenomenon and do not take it for granted.

Just to keep us in touch, we have had water issues.  We cannot have it all.

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Following tracks looks rather different. 

Typical Farm experiences in SA

We loved tracking what had been around us in the dust.  Now we look at tracks in the snow.  At the end of the link above we show a dear SA rodent. 

These are some of our dear daily visitors now. 

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He is not normally so shy… Come on out…

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Such gorgeous little friends!  And where we had huge diversity in our SA garden, now we relish the birds that come feed so regularly.

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The domherre (bull finch) and nutcrackers we see are now OURS.  We do not simply share them with others.  Others might feed them too, but we so delight in the visits of blåmes (blue tits) and taltittas  and the other regulars that they are ours.  And we do not share the view out of our side window with any other person.  (What bliss!)  so the birds are ours while we see them. 

And we even had these beauties visit for a while the other morning:

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Reindeer!  The third image is to show you the view from inside the kitchen… Reindeer to the right of the image. 

We had hoped for such views when we moved up to the ‘Wilderness’ of Sweden, but have not seen much of the bigger stuff in the forests yet.  This was a wonderful surprise to view, after our days of being spoilt on the farm with a variety of antelope coming to drink just in front of us.

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Do you see this difference?  Along our road:  not one single fence.  Not even a teensy tiny one.  Definitely not an 8 foot high, electrified one.  No (constantly locked) security gates.  No burglar bars in the windows.  The school has an alarm system because of its equipment, but there are no fences there either.  We have been told that on really cold days people leave car engines running when they go into the store, and nobody remains in the car.  We have been out walking at 11 at night, with no fear for our wellbeing.  This is the safest county in Sweden, where the police are in the office 2 mornings a week… because they do not really need to be in this town more often than that.  There is crime, but it is dealt with and the amount is not nearly what we have been used to.  A friend had a cash box returned after it fell off the car roof: all money still inside, key in the lock.  The police helped locate the owners from the slips inside, linked to a store reward system.  There are still people like this, who show great integrity.  We appreciate it, relish each moment of being able to live in such security, but still lock our doors and keep all valuables out of sight.  Just in case.  (We are ingrained Gautengers)

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We have new kinds of constantly evolving garden decor.  The sculpture outside the kitchen window has taken on new forms with the wind and melting days, and has also been a fun playground for the squirrels to run through.  Icicles are not a common sight in Jo’burg itself ( Meyerton and  down SOUTH are not Jo’burg). And we would NEVER see them in Hoedspruit!  This selection of icicles is just amazing! 

And we get amazing new sunset and sunrise views. 

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We are at the phase of our emigration where we are longing.  For sunshine, yes. For biltong, YES! Even more, for the daily life that was so ‘normal’ – in South Africa, Uganda and in Tanzania.  We had 3 month stints in East Africa, and had a 3 week break from the ‘madness’ of the unknown.  We have been here for over 6 months, and are longing for that 3 month break… or just a weekend of quick camping in a game park.  But our reality is very different now.  Language still frustrates me terribly.  Although I am half Swedish in heritage, this is NOT ‘my’ people, that I have grown up with.  I miss “kulumaing” (speaking) Zulu with the ladies who pack the groceries in Africa.  Here Deon does the packing while I pay (we have a finely tuned system) and the people running the cash registers do not get it if I throw a ‘Sawubona Sissie.  Kunjani?’.   

But we know we cannot return to SA.  And there is a reason for our being here.  So we will wade through dust bunnies and snow piles, enjoy each squirrel’s visit and each precious sunbeam, while we know that each moment is working out for something eternal. And I am sure rather soon we will be considering this as our beloved new ‘normal’ (Whatever that concept means…).  

For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  (2 Cor 4:17)

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winter weekend wonders

16 02 2015

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We have been here in Vilhelmina for 6 months already, can you believe it? 

We are amazed at how time has flown by.  have got so much right in this time, but also the time has gone too quickly to achieve all that we wanted.  Our aim is to just take things step by step, which we have done… so then we cannot complain! 

After the warmest week in about 160 years (yes, records are kept!) we were all rather worried. 

This past weekend was Vilhelmina WINTER Weekend.  Usually mid February is a good wintery time: low temperatures and thick snow for all of the wintery activities of the weekend.  This last week has seen us, sun-loving-lizardy Africans wishing for the deep minuses and lamenting each dripping iceblock, like all the locals.,,,

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So that this creation could stick together and be used for its purpose, and that all the other icy events could proceed! 

Each day we would see the progress of the ice chapel and get  so excited.  It was looking so amazing. 

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(Photo taken from the Vilhelmina Lions Club facebook page.  They are the ones who undertake this project every year and do a brilliant job of making it all run smoothly). 

But that steeple just would not stay!  It all dripped away!  The ice chapel was insulated against the heat(!)  to the best of the builders’ abilities, and we all hoped for the cold to come back… and it worked!  The scheduled wedding went ahead, the ice chapel was open for visitors and we got to step into an amazing beautiful little space. 

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(That was how close it got to falling apart)

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Just catching the light playing in different ways through layers of water was a beauty to experience! 

The weekend was about various competitions:  fishing competitions, snow sculpting competitions, skiing competitions, and the most bizarre:  Ice-pole sitting competition. 

From 11:00 on Thursday until 11 on Saturday, the aim was to sit out on a pole of ice,  In the open.  With no cell phone for boredom relief.  And only a few short toilet and food breaks.  This is all just too wild and crazy for a heat-loving ADHD lizard like I am…

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There is a good piece of reindeer skin between their butts and the ice.  And the rest is good clothing, as the Swedes confirm works so well, and patience.  Lots and lots of patience.  There were 6 who were due to begin, but there were 3 who made it all the way through to the end.   

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School kids did many of the ice sculptures.  They were rather good!  But not nearly as good as our own school’s contribution of an igloo. 

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From the slippery tracks before the door it looked like several kids visited.  It had gorgeous lights in and glowed at night (video on this link here)  and although that was also touch-and-go at one time, the kids and Gunnar did it, and our school impressed! 

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No Norrland event in the winter would be complete without snowmobiles.  Old, new, scratched, shiny, big, small.  We saw this weekend that there really are snowmobiles /snowscooters for EVERY  fancy. 

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(Even the kugels from Sandton might find something to go with the leather bomber jackets, doll…)

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This one took the fancy of SEVERAL people.  Even Deon!  I mean the big orange one, in case you were wondering.  The benefits there is a place to escape from the cold. And that it  looks like a good overlander from Africa on the inside, might just have something  to do with it too.. .

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We ambled around and enjoyed eating waffles, visiting with new friends and old, and having our Ugandan friend Dianah visiting for the weekend.  I contemplated some of the new tracks we have come to appreciate: the squirrels and hares that come to visit, and the way that snow has become the new normal in our lives.  We are very used to identifying African animal tracks in the dust.  Now we figure out how the new snowy substrate changes with different temperatures, winds and  falls as we adjust to the crunch beneath us. 

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Even in icy places, the Light can shine.  The tracks on the heart can be left.  While we reassess that after 6 months we know we are where we should be, by happenstance and God-incidence.  Where are you?  What are you doing despite situations around you? 

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And find something to say thank you for each day.  There are always a few moments to relish if you look for them! 

Why not consider popping in for WWW2016?  Here are some facebook links and websites to get you thinking. 

South Lapland airport facebook

Lions club Facebook   Take a look at their chapel photos! 

Visit Vilhelmina Website

VALKOMNA! 





gold and diamonds

7 02 2015

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Do you see it there?  In the same shot?  Just waiting to be relished for what it is?  Diamonds and gold in abundance…

I have been excited about all the diamonds here, but it only struck me yesterday, that we have gold too.  Can you see it?

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Just the day before those trees were covered in snow.  This is just about 2 meters from the angle of the shot above, taken on Thursday:

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Yes, it IS the same place.  We wanted to show you, especially our friends in Africa, how much snow has fallen recently.  There is well over a meter scraped up, and I reckon about a meter lying thick under the trees. Our car IS trying hard to camouflage into the background too.   And I have been loving this view, out of our kitchen window.  The snow hangs heavy on the branches, and if the sun shines the white is almost astonishing. 

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But the view on Thurdsay morning, after a very windy night, was disappointing.  Until I really looked. 

You can see it better in the top picture, but it is clear in the picture here too. 

We had to be taken away from Africa,which supposedly brims with diamonds and gold;  away from Deon working as a geologist, for us to see how we are surrounded by diamonds and gold, even shining in the trees, and all around, if we will just see it.

 

About twenty or so years ago, a very valuable lady prophesied into my life that God saw me as a diamond.  And He would bring jewels into my life. As a beginning of that she gave me this ring, below.  This came just weeks after a painful engagement break up, and just a day after Valentine’s day.  (No joking.  I don’t know how many people get this kind of Valentine’s gift from the Holy Spirit??)but this came at a time that I really needed to know God in a fresh way, and He became my Constant Companion.   20150207_193612 

Not only did He give me flowers once in a while, but every single time I saw flowers they were from Him. He didn’t just take me out for dinner once in a while: His supply ensured that I had dinner, and breakfast, and lunch with Him every single day.  He would never drop me off at the door and go home.  He would be with me always.  The ring was a tangible reminder of a precious deepening of relationship that kept me strong and encouraged for several years. 

And diamonds have always been just that bit more special to me than other stones:  it is my birth stone, but God also showed me diamonds can be in so many places.  The glistening of water shimmering millions of diamonds.  Raindrops caught in a light. Often I would look up and say, *I know that was you. Thanks, God!*.

I got the chance to visit an abandoned diamond mine once with Deon. In the heat of the Northern Cape, some people were going through all the old tailings, looking for diamonds they may have missed in the first search. 

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This re-investigation was time-consuming and tiresome.  The heat would definitely make the standing unpleasant and there were far, far more little stones than uncut diamonds.  It is probably the case that one might find only four or five diamonds in a day in this kind of search. 

Yet finding these few diamonds a day would make the search worthwhile. 

Moving from the heat of the past back to our sights up in the chilly northern reaches. 

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On some days it seems like the diamonds just fall from the sky! 

We recently had a united prayer week for the town, and had several chances to pray at different churches across the town.  Deon was helping with sound, and I got to sit between a believer friend from Cameroon and a new friend from Eritrea, who has recently become a Christian.  My heart rejoiced, and the diamonds were falling, as we stood at the end and sang together. 

I saw the many times when I was doing Missions training  years ago in the Andrew Murray Centre in Wellington, South Africa.  I sat beneath a very large map of the world and spoke of all the countries I wanted to reach out to.  Eritrea was on the wishlist, and I have been concerned for Eritrea for a long time as it is one of the ten most difficult countries in the world in which to be a believer. But because of this difficulty it is not possible to enter the country.

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So, God brings the Eritreans to the little rural town far away from any big places, and far away from hot African sunshine, to the same town as we are in in Sweden.  And He brings them to salvation here. And there are those who are praying with and discipling Eritreans here.  And a group of them are some of the most committed prayer people we have in the town, rising early in the morning to pray.  For this, their new secular home country.  For this town. For fellow countrymen to know the truth. For the rest of the world.

And I got to sing loudly, in praise, next to one of these powerhouses, and I grinned up at the One who had just given another diamond moment, and say thanks.

But other days it just feels like the slog, bending over a hot wagon full of stones and there do not seem to be any diamonds.  Or digging, with labourers shovel loads of sand, to find the next little bit of gold.  But we have to go through all of the dirt to eliminate it from the process, and to get to the next precious discovery.

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The children at school can sometimes seem very unpolished, but I am reminded of the saying: A diamond in the rough is a diamond sure enough.  Perhaps there needs to be a bit more grinding, or a bit more polishing, but the diamond IS there.

And when you see only deep muddy trails around you, or piles of dirt:  the gold is available if you look for it.  But it does require one to look in new ways and there will always be a search.

And it takes time.

Then there are also the treasures to be discovered within the Word of God, as Eph 3:8 promises.  These are available to all, as Paul boasted of having the privilege of sharing these jewels with the Gentiles.

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So when your expected view gets shaken, and what you were longing to see for a while is no longer there: look beneath the shaking.  Ask for God to show you the blessings He has.  and not everyday is a 4 or 5 diamond day.   Somedays you are preparing for the next day’s great discoveries.

But then there are days when it seems like the blessings fall from the skies, like diamonds.  IMG_4065 (Small)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then do not hesitate to stop, look up and say, “Thanks, God.  I know that was from you!”