Monthly Archives: May 2013

Post 70. Grace

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India was still very much in our conversation but I was struggling.   I had two beautiful daughters and an amazing husband, but something had died inside.  I just couldn’t pull myself out of it.  There I was, living my dream, being a pastor’s wife but I wasn’t happy.  Life was full and I was busy with kids.  I had made the decision to breastfeed any and everywhere so I wouldn’t miss out on anything, but that didn’t help either.

I had lost all spiritual passion.  There just didn’t seem to be time to sit and pray or read the Bible; and if there was time, I had no idea where my Bible was.  I hadn’t read it for about two and a half years.  There was no desire.   Tony would ask me to pray with him and I didn’t want to.  He started to wonder if he needed to stop being a pastor.  It just didn’t seem to be working.

There wasn’t really anyone to talk to about it.  Everyone was busy and there wasn’t much they could have done anyway.  I couldn’t explain it and I couldn’t get out of it.  On a couple of occasions, I went up for prayer after a meeting and the only way I could explain how I felt was, “Something has died.”  I was holding things together, counselling people, having friends around for dinner and was generally a nice person in public.  With Tony and God, I was cool and indifferent.  We just weren’t connecting.  We were living on different planets.

On one of our trips to Durban to visit Wilf and Val, Tony “dragged” me to Victory Faith Church to hear a man,  Michael Eaton.  I really didn’t want to go.  I was so switched off,  but as I listened to him speak about the grace of God, something started to change in my heart.  It started to warm up and I felt a movement that I hadn’t felt for a long time.   Grace was the thing I needed.  So much of what he said cut deep.  Simple things like, “If you never read your Bible or prayed again, God’s love for you would still be the same.”   I had become hard on myself and forgotten the love of God for me.  I had put too much emphasis on me doing instead of me being.  If I couldn’t do, I couldn’t be. I had it all wrong.  I cried all the way home in the car.

I was running a ladies coffee morning for moms with young kids.  I had all the right words for them and they always left encouraged.  I always left feeling empty and spent.  I invited Jean Guthrie to do an “Inner and outer beauty,” talk on one of the days.  She did make-up demos and talked about beautifying our inner parts.  After the demos she prayed for any ladies who wanted prayer.  I watched from a distance; happy that my friends were getting touched, but feeling that God had left me forever.   I had asked for prayer many times before and nothing had happened.  It wasn’t for me.

I was clearing up cups, trying to look busy.   Jean called my name and I pointed at myself and said “Me?”   There was no other Linda there.  She asked me if I wanted everything that God had for me.  Like a good pastor’s wife, I said, “Yes.”  She looked at me in the eyes and asked, “Really?”  My eyes welled up and she gently put her hand on my head.

My mind went back to Pastor “Banana Fingers” who would lay hands on us and push us to the floor.  I would firmly put one foot in front of the other and resist falling down with all my might.   Somehow, I knew this was different.  As Jean prayed, I felt a warmth go from my head to my toes.  As that happened she said, “See, Linda, that is the Holy Spirit.”  I knew it was.  I had missed Him.  It had been so long and my heart had been so cold and hard.  I relaxed and took it all in.  He gently put me on the floor where I lay, unaware of anyone or anything else.

It was as if all my fighting had stopped.  I held up my white flag and surrendered to the grace of God.

 

See Post 66 for more background on my spiritual struggle.

Post 69. Zoe Ray

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Ash and Zo

Ash and Zo

We found a flat in the Waverley area.  It was a two bedroomed place and just perfect for us.   Asha was 22 months old and our baby was a few days overdue.  I did everything in the book to bring on labour but nothing was happening.  On 22 July, Tony and I were watching the evening news and a broadcaster started speaking Afrikaans.  Tony was trying to copy her and went off in his Kiwi accent; I laughed so much, my waters broke.  Laughter had worked again.

Someone recommended naturopathic Caulophyllum drops for an easy birth.  I had started taking it 7 weeks before my due date.  The midwives said it worked for 99% of the women who took it, so I went for it, hoping I wasn’t going to be in that unfortunate 1%.

We took Asha to Sue.  Sue was her favourite person in the world.  Tiffany happened to be staying with us again so she sat at the flat, waiting for news.

By the time we arrived at the hospital I was in a lot of pain.  While Tony was filling in forms, I was having very strong contractions and getting irritated with all the questions.  The lady at the desk was way too calm.  What I really needed was someone to panic with me.

We went into the active birth unit armed with a guitar, music and snacks, ready for another long labour.  The midwife examined me and told me I was already three cms dilated but had at least another 2 hours to go.  I should just try to relax and be prepared for a long night.  The pain was so intense that against everything I believed about doing birth naturally, I decided to go for an epidural.  She looked at me with that, “What a baby, ” look,  in her rolling eyes.

We were told to wait in the lounge.  15 minutes later, I needed to go to the toilet.  I walked there with some assistance and had a huge contraction on the loo.  The nurse shouted at me and told me to not do that again.   No babies born on the toilet in THIS hospital, thank you very much.   I said a sarcastic “Sorry” but couldn’t make any promises.

The anaesthetist had his needle ready and I was lying on my side like a good girl.  Tony was holding my hand like a good boy.  Another huge contraction came and the midwife turned around to shout at me again.  Instead of shouting at me she shouted for help.  “Help! There’s a baby coming!”   Nurses came from everywhere and it was all on.

A couple of big pushes later, I was holding my beautiful little girl.  We were so happy.  The suddenness of the birth and all the blood was too much for Tony.  It had all taken 20 minutes and we had planned the whole night out.  He slipped down against the wall and squatted with his head between his knees.  I patted his head and kept saying, “It’s ok, babe, it’s ok.”  The birth was rapid and I lost a lot of blood so I was put on a drip overnight.   After feeding her she  was taken to the nursery.   I cried for her the whole night.  I felt so lonely and I missed Tony and Ash.

When she was brought to me the next day I cried again.  She was so beautiful.  The only girl’s name we had thought of was Leila, so we called her that for a few days.  It just didn’t suit her.  She looked like a Japanese baby and Mallie suggested Suzuki or Sukiyaki.  Those didn’t work either.  I called Sue and asked her what names she remembered me liking.  She reminded me of a gorgeous little girl called Zoe who stayed in one of the houses in Rolleston Place.  I always loved that name.

So, Zoe it was; God’s life.  It suited her perfectly.  Her second name was Ray, as in a ray of sunshine.  She was born with bright red cheeks; from all the ruby grapefruit no doubt.

Post 68. Another baby!

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Waverley Church bought a house on a 5 acre property in Linbro Park and started one of the first multi-racial Christian schools in South Africa; The King’s School.  It had started in a double garage in Lombardy West with Ryan and Leigh and a few of their little friends.

We were given half the house to live in.  It was beautiful.  Asha took her first step when she was 8 ½ months old and within a month she was tottering around on the huge lawn outside our house.   We loved having people around and enjoyed the constant sound of the kids next door.

I had some good friends from church and made some more at the baby clinic where I took Asha for her weigh-ins.  Those times always upset me.  She was tiny.  On a scale of 1-10 (1 being the lowest) she was a 1.  I was told she was undernourished and Wilf even suggested she might have Kwashiorkor.  I stopped going and I stopped listening.  She was happy, she slept well and she did eat, just not huge amounts.    She had a passion for babies and we would have to stop whenever she saw one.   She was obsessed.

Leonie was one of my best friends.  Her and Terry were struggling to fall pregnant.   They had been trying for four years and her gynae told her it wasn’t going to happen.  She had lost a baby and was starting to wonder if she was ever going to have one.

Asha in Linbro

Asha- 1 years old in Linbro Park

Ash had just turned a year and I started to feel really sick.  I thought I was dying.  I suffered in silence and misery for a while and then it occurred to me that I might be pregnant.   I weed on the stick that never lies.  We were so excited.  We were going to have another baby!  I was so happy but  didn’t know how to tell Leonie.  I felt so awful that I had two babies and she couldn’t have one, but she was really happy for us.  She had faith that God was going to answer her prayers.

I really wanted it to be a girl.  I loved having Sue as my sister and friend.  I wanted Ash to have one too.  Tony was convinced it was a boy and he already had a name for him; Jordan.  I wasn’t convinced and I was secretly hoping I was right.

We had been in Linbro for a year and the school was growing.  They needed the house we were in to make more classrooms, so we had to move out.   We moved in with Hillary who had run Little Lambs pre-school where  the Kings School had started.  We stayed in a tiny room; just enough space for a bed and a cot.   It was quite an adjustment after living on 5 acres.

Three months after I fell pregnant, Leonie fell pregnant.  Her Jewish gynae made a comment something like “ The Man upstairs really wants you to have a baby.”  It was a miracle and we were SO happy.  Our babies were going to be friends.

I was addicted to ruby grapefruit and I went through bags of them.  I also got chronic migraines for the first time in my life.  It would start with numbness and tingling on one side of my face, little lights in my eye, blindness on that same side; Then a massive headache.  I would spend three days in a dark room trying to get over it.    It was awful.  I wondered if it had anything to do with the grapefruit but I kept eating them.

One day as the numbness started in my nose, I went to Tony and told him it was coming.  I was so fed up with them and I knew I was going to be wiped out for days.  We were both so angry at the whole thing and we let the approaching migraine have it.  We prayed and told it to go and not come back.  It listened.  It went and never came back.  That was my last migraine.

Post 67. Around the world

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Asha was 6 months old and Betty was desperate to see her.  She sent us money to buy tickets to New Zealand.  We found “around the world tickets” which were the same price as going straight there.   We were on a very low budget but we had so many friends all over the world.  The plan was to stop and visit them on the way.

The cheapest tickets we could find were with Alitalia.  Our first stop was Rome.  We stayed with someone who knew someone.  They wanted to take us to see the wonders of the city but we chose to potter around the local markets so see how they lived.

The trip was long and we had a few bad flying experiences that led to 5 years of aerophobia for me.   As we were taking off from Rome, the plane screeched to a halt on the runway.  The airhostess came running to the exit right near me and found that the door wasn’t closed properly.  I spent the entire flight worrying about all the other doors.

We met our dear friend Robin Glass and his lovely Brazilian wife Tati in London.  We stayed with them for few days.  Tony and Robin made lots of music and sang all their old songs from their Doulos days.  Our take off from London was amazing; straight up into the air and so smooth.  Everyone was smiling and commenting on how good it was when suddenly it was as if we had hit a wall in the sky.  The plane dropped and everyone screamed.  There was no explanation or apology from the captain and I sat in “stiff position” the whole way to Auckland.

Being with Betty and Tony’s family was amazing.  Ben was the one who had prayed for Tony during his hippy, India, searching days.   I had heard so much about him and it was nice to finally meet him.  Tony’s sister Jan and her husband, Allan had two gorgeous little girls, Hayley and Libby.  They loved their new little cousin, Asha.  Betty had found life in South Africa and it was so lovely to see how much she had changed.

Betty babysat one night while we went to see the movie “Cry Freedom.”  I cried from beginning to end.  Watching how black South Africans lived while I was climbing trees and swinging in the park was too much for me.   So many husbands and wives were separated from each other.  Children lived on farms with their grandparents while their parents tried to make a living in the cities.  Kids grew up not knowing their fathers.  Husbands found new wives in the cities and no longer felt at home in their villages.  I knew it was happening but had never seen a movie on it.  I was beside my self by the time we got home.  Before I went to bed I wrote some words, which I titled “African Woman.”   I imagined her singing something like this to her estranged husband.

African Woman* 

Haven’t seen you in a while

And the firelight in your eyes

Can’t melt the coldness I find growing there

It’s been so long and things have changed

No longer do you love the sun

On your naked skin

Or the rough ground under your feet

My fire can’t warm you anymore

You’ve found more and I’m losing you

Things have changed

See the wide eyes in the dark

Small hearts beating strong

Wondering where you’ve been so long

Growing fear it’s been so long

And things have changed

It rained for weeks in Auckland. We didn’t have much money to travel around but we spent lots of time with Tony’s family.  There were lots of tears when we left.

Our next stop was California.  Some of our Doulos friends had planned a reunion in Lake Arrowhead.  Brock Grigsby’s friend gave us the use of their huge house right on the lake.  There were twenty of us and we had so much fun.  We sat around the fireplace at night and sang old songs and shared memories that made us laugh and cry.

From there we flew to New York and visited Mike and Debbie.  There was a lot to catch up on and it was fun hearing about how things had worked out for us all.

Ash was such a good traveller.  She slept in suitcases and drawers and wherever else she was put.  As long as she was with us, she was happy.  When we got home, she had no idea we had been in the sky or circumvented the earth.

* Tony put music to this-  also on our Colours  album/cassette

Post 66. Paying baby off

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Tony had his heart set on an Ovation guitar.  They weren’t available in Johannesburg so he got another make he liked.  Around the time Asha was born,  he went back to the music shop to have a look around.  The guy was surprised to see him.  The exact Ovation Tony had been looking for had been brought in the day before.  He had no way of contacting Tony to let him know.

It was good and so pleasing.   It just wasn’t perfect because he didn’t have the money for it.  It was R 1,500. He told the guy he would get back to him.  It was taken off the shelf and he was given 24 hours to decide.  That day someone gave him R500.00 and Peter bought his old guitar from him for R500.00.  Another friend gave us R500.00 towards our hospital bill but he was happy for us to use it however we needed to.  We were on the lowest rung of income earners so the hospital agreed that we could pay R 50.00 a month.   That meant that Tony could go to the music shop and pay for the guitar.   It all happened in 24 hours and Ash was going to be paid off in instalments.

Walking out of the hospital with our baby was one of our proudest moments.  Tony, known for driving on the wild side, drove about 20 kms an hour along the highway.  I sat there smiling and wondering how long it would last.  It lasted until we got home.

Tony took two weeks off work and people from the church brought us meals every day.  We were so spoilt.  We didn’t have a TV but we watched the series “Roots” from beginning to end whenever Ash was asleep.  The midwives had taught me how to get her to sleep four hours at a time by fully feeding her.  I never fed her without my clock right next to me and I was determined that she was going to sleep through the night by 6 weeks.   Between bouts of mastitis and happy hour every day from 5-6 pm we didn’t give up.  When she struggled to sleep we put her in her carrycot on top of the tumble drier.  She thought she was in the car; it worked every time.  She was sleeping through the night, in her own room, by the time she was 6 weeks old.  It was nice to have our room back.

Life was stretching.  Tony got busy with his prison and church work.  He was a great dad but somehow I got resentful of his freedom to come and go as he wanted to.  I wasn’t used to being left out of anything.  Suddenly I couldn’t attend meetings and when I did, I had to take my crying baby outside.  I couldn’t see the point.   I started to withdraw and lose my intimacy with God.  I was consumed with feeding, bathing, consoling and sleeping.  I loved it all and I loved my baby, but I just couldn’t seem to love anyone or anything else.  I became more and more negative and spiritually disconnected.

The community in Buccleuch wasn’t working.  No one was prepared to really commit to it so we shut it down and we all went back to Waverley.  We had made some good friends.   It was good to experience what it was like to start a new community but we were very aware that there was so much more we needed to learn before we tried it in India.

Post 65. Asha

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My check ups had been going well at the Johannesburg General Hospital. The only concerns were my low sugar levels and the combination of our blood groups.  They were incompatible.  I didn’t understand it all, but went for lots of injections and blood tests.

I had decided to be a “midwife’s patient” and to have a natural birth in the active birth unit.   It was a lounge area with lots of big cushions, comfy chairs.  There was also an area for tea, coffee and snacks and we couldn’t wait to try out the jacuzzi.

One Sunday evening we were all in Bryanston listening to a very funny preacher called Gerald Coates.  I laughed so much that my waters broke.   We went home to pack my things and to wait for the right moment to go in.  Tiffany was staying with us at the time and she helped to calm us down.

We went in too early but the room was ready for us.  It was lovely lounging around between contractions.  Tony found it so comfortable that he fell asleep.  I wasn’t happy with that and I let him know.  He saw a different side to his lovely, sweet wife.

The midwife kept checking on me and insisted that I drink a litre of Pepsi before I could give birth.  During one of her examinations she found that the baby wasn’t in the right position.  I got into the Jacuzzi with the jets right on my back and it wasn’t long before it turned around.  Tony serenaded me with his guitar while I went from one contraction to another.

It was a sixteen hour long process.  When the time came, all the pretty décor disappeared and before I knew it I was on a sterile bed with 6 medical students watching me giving birth.  At that stage I didn’t care who was watching.  All my dignity had long gone.  I just wanted to see my baby.  Tony stayed calm while I told him his breath stank.

Our little girl was born on 21 September 1987 weighing 3.23 kgs.  She was beautiful.  Her eyes were unusually huge.  They were like pools.  We were so happy,  we cried more than she did.

Tony liked the biblical name “Asher” but thought it sounded like a boy’s name.   He changed it to Asha thinking he had made it up.  Her second name was Christy.  Like mine.   An Indian friend was staying with us and asked what we were naming our baby.  When Tony said “Asha” he said, “Oh do you know that’s an Indian name?  It means ‘Hope.”

We had no idea.  NO idea.

Song for Asha:

“Two swirling pools of life swim in front of me,

Drawing me into caring for you

Am I given an option, maybe a choice?

What if sometimes I don’t feel like meeting the demand?

Would it make a difference?

Would this tug towards you go away?

The memory of pain is dying

The depth overwhelms

I want to swim

I want to dive

I want to get into the deepest part

The source of the great demand

And live there always

(Song written by me.  Tony put music to it and recorded it on his album – Colours)

Post 64. Prime cuts and prison

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We had run out of money again.  There was enough for a few litres of petrol and one more meal.  To make it to the end of the month, we needed R 400.00.

We went to church, secretly hoping that someone would take us out for lunch or bless us with some money.  Neither happened.   I asked Tony to ask Rig to lend us some.  His response was, “One day we are going to be in India and there will be no-one to ask.  We have to learn to trust God now.”  After the meeting, we stopped at a supermarket.   There were lots of people from church buying lots of lovely things to eat.  Tony had heard a story of someone who had no money but filled up their trolley anyway.  As they got to the till someone offered to pay for their groceries.  He didn’t have such faith so he came out with a loaf of bread.

We got home, made sandwiches and lay down to have an afternoon nap.  It wasn’t long before the phone rang.  It was someone from our church.

“Hi Tony.  I have been trying to rest, but the figure of R 400.00 is going round and round in my head.  I am going to bring it to you now, so I can get some sleep.”

The church couldn’t pay us a salary so Tony taught guitar and applied for a position as a prison chaplain.  He had studied at a Baptist Bible College in New Zealand so he approached the Baptist Union to ask about being a prison chaplain for them.   He was accepted.  To our surprise, the Prison Services of South Africa paid him to do it.

South Africa had the second largest prison population in the world next to Russia.  Tony got a chaplain post in Leeuwkop Maximum Security Prison.   There weren’t many white chaplains applying for jobs in there.  Most of the men were political prisoners.

On his first day, Tony was taken through one gate after the other and led into an open courtyard where 300 men were waiting for him.  Some were on death row. There were guards with machine guns patrolling the walls but there was no safety in that.   He knew that men sentenced to death have no fear of dying twice.  They could have killed him right then and their consequences would have been the same; death.  He was really scared.   He prayed.  God took the fear away and replaced it with love.

Every day he went in and out of the many hospitals, solitary confinement cells and wards sharing his story.   He shared the story of Jesus for four months without asking for a response.  The men kept asking what they needed to do and he would tell them to wait.  On the 1st Jan, they knew all they needed to know and Tony asked them to respond.  150 men gave their broken lives to Jesus.  It wasn’t long before Maximum Security was the best section to be in.

Prisoners from all sections signed up to do a Bible Correspondence course and Tony had 1,500 students to take care of.   He was in his element.

In the meantime, I was nauseous and in my element.  I loved our new house.  We even had a baby room.  Someone gave us some bright yellow curtains, which fitted perfectly.  We were too poor to be fussy.  Things started pouring in.  Before we knew it, we had everything we needed for our baby and we hadn’t bought a thing.

Food was still a bit of an issue.  One day we put our hands on our fridge and asked God for some vegetables.  We didn’t want to be too demanding.  Only vegetables.  That afternoon a friend called us to say they were moving house.  Could we pop in to pick up some things?  They opened their deep freezer and told us to help ourselves.  We drove home with so many bags of frozen vegetables there was no room for them in our small freezer.  We started to think of who we could give them to.

While we were happily boiling our vegetables, another friend knocked on our door.  She was standing there with a huge prime fillet in her hands.  “ I thought you might enjoy this.”   She had NO idea how much we were going to enjoy it.

We were sitting at our little dining table, tucking into our prime fillet and yummy vegetables and the God who knows hearts so well whispered, “You can have vegetables, but you can also ask me for meat.”