Where feet fail.*

Memories from a time gone by.

T was a slender girl with fine features, average height and mid length ebony coloured hair that flirted with the wind as she walked. She had a cheerful, shy smile that more often than not she was very self conscious about. Everything about her spoke of a young woman who had a sensitive and tender soul. For me, it was her eyes that always drew me in. Eyes the shape of tear drops and the colour of rich pools of melted dark chocolate glistening with either, mischief, wonder or happiness. On very good days, that sparkle often transformed itself into soft contagious giggles. T never liked attention even though she had a way of brightening up a room without even trying.

For every moment that she warmed the hearts of those around here, there were even more days when life’s painful struggles would draw her into very dark places. Her eyes would change into ominous dark pools of pain, anger and bitterness. Sometimes we as friends shared hope infused words that would draw her out of her miry depths. A few times she was too far gone that our rescue efforts fell on deaf ears. On such days, I fervently prayed for her, imploring God to step into the depths that I could not reach. Ours was a friendship that was dominated by the constant game of tug-of-war between life and death. A fight to see who would be the ultimate victor, the few simple joys of her life or deaths hypnotic pull.

The last time we played the game, summer was almost upon us. The sun played hide and seek with a few of the scattered clouds but at the most part, they preferred to be left alone. It was not too hot and the afternoon air had a chill that warranted a light jacket. A perfect day to spend an hour at the local lagoon and that’s what we did as five friends. The car was filled with girly chatter and laughter as I meandered the villages roads riddled with treacherous muddy potholes. It was only when we sat by the lake and looked into each others eyes that I realized she was not well.

Even though I was grateful for the trust she had for us, her candid words describing her deep pain that afternoon frightened me. Even more so the state of her eyes, foreboding maelstroms of hopelessness that shook me to the core. I had never seen her so far gone. Our circle was pulsating with palpable anguish and yet the scenery around us was of picturesque serene beauty, very common to those parts. The lakes navy blue waves tenderly interacted with the shore whilst the wind intermingled with the birch trees. Its gentleness encouraging thousands of fresh green leaves to unfurl themselves for summer. Everything about the lagoon spoke of peace. It almost made me believe that everything would be alright.

One by one the four of us reminded her of the gold she had and the treasure she was to us. As we talked, It felt as if I was walking on razor thin ice, aware that one wrong step would unravel the protective bonds of hope that we as friends lovingly wove for T. As the conversation continued to flow, I watched as her eyes began to change and by the time we left the lagoon, the choking hold that despair had over her was gone. Her eyes shone.  Only then did I allow myself to believe that death had lost.

Two days later, she hang herself.

I now know the unique grief that comes with suicide. I understand the battle that rages in the mind as my heart is bombarded by a myriad of questions that I know will never be answered but my mind still clamors for a response. I have struggled to cope with the irrational guilt of not doing enough and the pain. Dear God the pain. Often I would welcome the numbness that enveloped my heart and gave me respite but even that was short lived as the pain would always pierce through my flimsy defenses. It felt as if, suicide had marched right up to me and ripped my heart out without remorse, leaving a gaping hole where my heart should have been. It was excruciating for months.

T left us two years ago, the pain has turned into a forever ache and I have learned repeatedly to lay the guilt and questions to rest. Tender and delicate tendrils of hope are now growing in the places that death left scorched and barren.

T,  I miss you, I always will.

‘I remember my affliction and my wandering,

   the bitterness and the gall.

I well remember them,

   and my soul is downcast within me.

Yet this I call to mind

   and therefore I have hope:

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,

   for his compassions never fail.

They are new every morning;

   great is your faithfulness.

I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion;

   therefore I will wait for him.’

Jeremiah the prophet.

https://youtu.be/dy9nwe9_xzw

Just keep swimming.

 If you have followed this blog for awhile, these girls must look familiar to you. My friendship with them began 3 years ago when I moved to Pikangikum.

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The desire to keep to myself in the first few weeks of arriving in a new place is very strong. Especially when I don’t know anyone and I am the only black person for miles! Because of this, I push myself to do the very opposite of what my mind is telling me to do. I purposefully put myself out there and go make friends. It is with this determination to make friends that I walked over to their home unannounced, not quite sure how I would explain my sudden appearance. By the time I was at their doorstep I had decided to go with the typical greeting that everybody back home will use when they rock up announced, ” I have come to visit.” I wasn’t quite sure what to say after that but my determination to make friends was stronger than my fear to stay away.

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These girls decided they did not like me the moment they saw me. Their first reaction to seeing me was a lot of screaming, crying and hiding away. The panic lasted awhile but their grandmother was very accommodating and in the midst of the wails and calls for grandma to come to where they where we tentatively held a conversation of two people getting to know each other. I must have spent an hour in their home that day and thankfully by the time I left, the girls had calmed down completely. Even after they realised I was quite harmless, they would not come any closer to me. I  assured grandma I was not bothered and confidently told her, eventually, the girls would warm up to me.

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I made a point of visiting the family once a week, a month went by and the girl’s reaction remained the same. That month turned to two then three, rolled into four, passed five and still the girls would not accept me. On my part, I did not impose myself on them, I waited. It was sometime in my sixth month of knowing the family when the change occurred,  by this time grandma and I were very comfortable with each other. That afternoon, I walked into their home fully expecting the usual cries but instead, I was greeted with three toddlers joyously shouting my name, running towards me each clamouring to give me a hug. I was amazed. I knew there and then, I had just made life long friends.

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I have often times found that we long for the fruit that comes with genuine friendships but we cringe and hide away from the work that needs to be put into making community happen. Obviously, my case with these adorable girls is extreme but the lesson is still the same. Healthy, long-lasting relationships are hard work, there is just no way around it. Most times pursuing friendships takes patience, sometimes it is messy and occasionally the temptation to walk away is strong. The Bible shares an incident when one of Jesus friends asked him how many time he had to forgive his friend.The Bible does not give a back story to his question but I can only assume the man was deeply offended with his friend and wanted nothing more to do with him. Jesus answer raised the bar for any of his followers, his response to the question was, he had to forgive 70 times 7. In other words, you never stop forgiving and you never tire of loving.

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When was the last time you stepped out of your comfort zone and pursued a friendship that you know would stretch you to the limit? Sometimes some of the best relationships are made when we courageously step out in faith even when we are afraid and have no control of the outcome.

Today

It’s a: “Dear diary kinda post!”

This morning was spent teaching grade fours; in one, we had a game of tic tac toe  so that the class had a fun way of learning how the Bible is divided and how to look for books and chapters. In the second class we had an epic game of musical chairs, I look for fun ways for kids to memorize scripture, they have been working on Psalms 23 and are one verse short of memorizing the whole chapter. We had lots of good laughs.My final class was the most fun!

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They have enthusiastically taught each other Psalms 23 when I am not there, even insisting that their teacher make a chart of the Psalm to stick on their wall so that they can memorize it quicker. I was so glad to hand them the freshly baked tray of choc chip cookies that I had promised them. We read about King Josiah, the boy King who loved God and His Word and I encouraged them to stand out and be positive difference in their community. One does not need to be an adult to change the world!

After classes, I visited with Colleen for a bit just catching up on what is going on in our lives and in Pik, we always try to find a few good laughs!

On my way home I realized that I had not heard my youngest sisters voice this year even though we text each other regularly. So as I prepared to make bread, I called her, we talked and laughed. Have I told you how much I enjoy making bread? Kids were happily playing by the lake, birds were singing like there is no tomorrow, a gentle breeze cooled my trailer as the sun shone gloriously. A fine day to make bread if there ever was one!

After talking with my sister and leaving the bread to rise, I had my lunch (Don’t judge, its leftovers) and worked on my newsletter, it usually takes me two days to put it together and I finally sent it this afternoon. Then it was back to the bread.

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Seeing as it had risen perfectly, I shaped it into a cinnamon wreath left it to rise a second time and went off to visit my friend Virginia. I was meant to be there for 30 minutes but time flew by and I ended up staying an hour, thankfully the bread was still in good shape.

Then it was off to have dinner with friends and enjoy this yummy, yummy bread!

All around good day wouldn’t you say ?

Best cinnamon wreath EVER! I had some left over cream-cheese frosting that I made last week and it accompanied the bread wonderfully!

How was your day ?

Apple picking

Can you imagine how beautiful this road will be in the Fall when the leaves change colour?

Can you imagine how beautiful this road will be in the Fall when the leaves change colour?

This summer had a lot of highlights for me, apart from going home, on my way back to Pikangikum I spent 4 days in southern Ontario. Please don’t ask me where I was 😀 all I remember is, it was on the outskirts of Toronto city. I made some wonderful friends and one of them took me apple picking.

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OK so I probably spent more time gawking at the scenery, eating apples and taking pictures than actually picking them hahaha! But my friend didn’t mind. If you remember last year I went blueberry picking, I am finding out that I am that kinda person who would thoroughly enjoy spending many hours in the summer picking fresh fruit.

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On my rather random wishlist is going salmon fishing and to walk through a street lined with maple trees in the Fall…maybe next year ?? hahaha.

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Thinking apple picking would be the highlight of my four days in southern Ontario (It doesn’t take much to make me happy) I was pretty content with my pictures until I was taken Niagara Falls … Cannot wait to share the pictures with you. Absolutely FANTASTIC!!!

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Feast your eyes

Had I the heavens’ embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

W.B YEATS.

We all have dreams, some we confidently share with those around us and others we keep close to our hearts for fear of being ridiculed or made fun of. One of my dreams for the past 4 years is having a home were I can  have all types of ridiculously fun dinner parties 🙂  I find great pleasure in forming friendships and strengthening those bonds by the simple act of sharing a meal. I have said this before, my life is often very uncertain, sometimes I can only make plans a week at a time. Often it is difficult to hold on to hope and believe that a simple dream such as practicing hospitality in a place I can call my own is even remotely possible but the fighter in me just doesn’t let go of hope … how about you friend, what simple or extravagant dreams have you discarded? Maybe the time has not yet come for you to give up on them.

Food glorious food.

Just in case the collage starts giving you the wrong ideas :p, let me set the record straight, I made 3 of the items above. I am not an amazing chef, my younger sister most definitely takes that title but I do enjoy cooking a lot!

That’s what friends are for.

Remember Heather? I posted a blog about her in April last year, well long story short after her 3 week visit to South Africa, she came back in August last year to set up her organisation called Hope of Africa.  Upon my return from Zambia I stayed in Mozambique for a week then she wrote and asked if I could come help with her project so I packed my bags once again and made my way to Malalane South Africa,a mere 2 hour drive from Maputo. Heathers’ organisation is not only based in South Africa but also in Kenya and Uganda. In South Africa she is involved in establishing mentoring program that is helping disadvantaged children get through school right up to university. My responsibilities are to help in the mentoring and to help short-term volunteers from the USA  make sense of the sometimes confusing African culture 🙂 Also, I pretty much do whatever needs to be done at any moment, I am not sure how long I will be here for, I figure that will sort itself out eventually.

I hope to post more pictures of what we are up to in the days to come but tonight I will leave you with this one:

Nellie, Heather, Me, Danielle

Nellie, Heather, Me, Danielle

It was taken on my birthday on the 23rd of this month that turned out to be an epic girls day out 🙂

Gnite friend,

P.S  Nellie and Danielle are here as short-term volunteers and we have become good friends. I am coming down with a horrible cold, I don’t understand why since its been so hot here…oh well…misery loves company!

best friends

Luke and I
Luke was my first real friend.  We became friends when I was 3 years old, my mother says she doesn’t know how we communicated in the beginning cause I spoke Bemba and him English.The way I see it, were there is a will, there is a way :D. Soon after, my parents decided to start speaking more English in our home so that I learned it faster and make it easier to talk with my best friend Luke. Luke is Scottish, sometimes when I think about those days I wonder if I spoke English with a tiny bit of a Scottish accent because we spent so much time together 🙂 ( his parents worked at the church together with my parents)
I don’t know what Luke remembers from our friendship but I am told I did not allow anyone else to play with him when I was around 😀 poor guy! I also remember having this Scottish coat and dress that were my favorite outfits that his mother gave me. If I had my way I would have permanently lived out of that dress. I would force it on even when it was too small for me to wear, that’s how much I loved it!
We were friends for 3 years and then after that his parents went back to Scotland, we never kept in touch. Who knows maybe one day we will randomly meet and reminisce those silly toddler years.
Luke and his parents had such a positive influence on my life it’s no wonder I have always had a desire to visit Scotland one day!
Now you know friend, it was a little boy from Scotland who inspired me to learn the English language!
(FYI I was born and spent the first 6 years of my life in Zambia).