Monday, January 31, 2011

Soaking It In

List making, closet-clearing, worship-leading, sermon-preaching, desk-sorting, paper-shuffling, paper recycling, schedule minimizing, attention averted, picture-sharing, recipe-collecting, exercise-avoiding, holiday-taking, sun-soaking, Bible-studying, suitcase-finding, plan-making, friend-connecting, excitement sharing, anticipation-holding, sadness-hiding...

These are just a few of the things I've been "doING" lately.
 I am finding that with each passing day and each passing task, I am drawing more near the final time I will be "doing" these things here. In this place. With these people.

And somehow, while I'm sad to be leaving, I am also beginning to greatly anticipate whatever is "next." I look forward to answers to that question soon, hopefully as soon as this week. And while I look forward to that, I also realize that I have learned in the past few weeks that it is possible to love a place and long to stay, but also to consider the alternative: that the time has come to go.

So I am working hard this week to continue on "do"ing, but also seeking to "be." To be present. To take a little extra notice of my surroundings. To smile and laugh more, and to soak in all that I am surrounded by now that I know I will greatly miss when I return to the US in just over a month's time.

Perhaps the next few weeks will bring with them photos of some of these people and places and sites and views that I am soaking up so that you can share the beauty I am surrounded by with me.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

The List

A few months ago, Lisa and I made a list of people, places and things we would like to see before leaving Cape Town (I leave at the end od next month, she moves in December). With time drawing near, we're continuing to work on that list.

Near the top of that list for me were two things: Camp as much as possible, and visit Cape Agulhas, the southernmost tip of Africa where the two oceans officially 'meet.'

Today is a peaceful and perfectly beautiful day, and I am grateful to be doing both of these things. While Jessica and Greg take a nap, Lisa and I sit in the sun reading our books while a cool breeze blows over us. The only sounds to be heard are from the waves crashing against the shore 100m away, birds singing, or the occassional laughter from the few other campers nearby.

Life is good.

Monday, January 24, 2011

The "G" Word

Saying goodbye is something I have never liked doing.

In fact, I more than don’t like it: I’m completely opposed to it.

I used to say goodbye to people and places in my life, and every time, no matter how hard I would try not to, I get all worked up about it. Because when one says goodbye, it feels like there is a finality to it that just makes me uncomfortable.

So I don’t say goodbye anymore. And so far, this has worked out well for me. I bid people farewell, and say things like, “until we meet again,” but I don’t say goodbye.

I can’t, really, because it either hurts too much or feels like a lie, as I have a hard time believing in the finality that I unintentionally attach to the word.

Because on more than one occasion, I have bid someone “goodbye” believing it was likely we would never meet again. Friends who live overseas are sad but realistic examples of this. And yet, here I am in South Africa, living with a family that has become my own, proving my point precisely: when I left South Africa for the first time in August 2007, I did not believe I would ever return. I figured I would never see them again.

But then: God certainly does have a sense of humor, and here I am.

And so, as I prepare myself - my whole self - for a parting of ways when I return to the USA in a few weeks’ time, I am not preparing myself for saying goodbye. This time, I believe we will meet again, whether it is in person or in spirit, or through email or photos or perhaps through my dreams when I miss this wonderful place so much. And so, for all of these reasons, I am searching for ways not to say goodbye, but to say “thank you” for all this country - her places, and most importantly her people - have offered me.

Sunday, January 23, 2011


The one thing that I stressed about or perhaps even least anticipated during my time here in Plumstead was the preaching. For the first time in my life, I was asked to preach at the church/in the circuit regularly, slowly moving from once the first month into every two weeks and finally every week: including Christmas Day and Watch Night services.

Where I come from the US (or more specifically the UMC), you don’t preach often unless you’ve been ordained. So while I did learn a bit about preaching while in Seminary, I haven’t had a lot of opportunity to practice.

Well, here I am, and here is the good news: I survived. Better news? I LOVED it! (shhh!)

As it turns out, this big, scary, exciting opportunity to preach and lead worship regularly, is something that I love to do! I cannot begin to describe to you how great it is to feel affirmed in this huge piece of my calling into ministry.

The truth is, I was intimidated and nervous and perhaps even anxious about preaching (enough that I actively avoided opportunities to preach in the past). Plumstead changed this only because there was a need that I could help to meet: and how does one say no to that? Yet what started as a need led me to discover that the more I was preaching, the less it felt like a “task” - and the more it has begun to feel like a “calling.”

Just as I’ve begun to fall into routine and realize the joy I receive from this type of ministry, I came to another realization:

This morning was my last Sunday preaching at Plumstead Methodist Church. and I don’t know how long it might be until I’m in a post that allows me to preach regularly again.

There are many, many ways my time in Plumstead has been a blessing to me. Today, I am grateful for this opportunity - and this revelation.

So though I was not ready to say goodbye to you today when you surprised me with a parting gift, to you, Plumstead Methodist Church, I say: Thank you.

Thursday, January 20, 2011


I feel like I finally have a routine. No, a rhythm. Like all is well and good in the world. I’m loving my work, the people I live, work, and serve with. I’ve grown in leaps and bounds and its nice to see some of the painful process of stretching, finally pay off.

And now. Now that it finally feels like I am in the right place at the right time with the right people. Right when it feels like that: it is time to start preparing to leave. I am trying not to count days or weeks, but its hard, especially knowing that tomorrow marks 5 weeks until my departure.

I’m not ready to leave, that much is certain. And yet, as I read through the Gospel stories set before us for Epiphany, I am reminded that when we are called - when we are asked to “follow” or “come” or “believe” - we are not asked to do so on our own time, in our own convenience, or in our comfortable spaces.

We are not called to come at our leisurely, comfortable paces, but “immediately,” as the disciples did when Jesus first called them.

So I must also acknowledge: our God who called me to South Africa, is now calling me home. I still do not know what lies ahead of me. and I have no idea where my next placement will be or what I’ll be doing.

But I trust.

It will not be easy. I know that wherever I end up, it will take me a while to find my rhythm again, and to make it feel like home. And yet I also know, deep down inside, that though I do not think I’m ready (or want) to leave, it is right.

And though it is not easy, I must trust in that knowledge. For if there is one thing I have learned or been affirmed in over this past year, it is this: to always trust my God-given instinct: even when it is not easy or comfortable or “safe.”

Right now that instinct is reminding me of my call and commitment to return to the US. To the US where another adventure of another unpredictable 18 months awaits me…

But until then, I shall remain here. Taking in every moment of joy, every breath of the fresh ocean breeze, every extra view of the extraordinary Table Mountain.

Today, I am happy to be where I am. And so, rather than focus on where I will be, today I choose to acknowledge but not focus on the fact that I am leaving.

Today, I choose to find joy in my growing gratitude for being here, and being able to just be.

Saturday, January 15, 2011


I’m at that place in life where lots of my friends are either getting married, or are already married and having children. A very exciting time.

Today, my dear friend Emily has exchanged vows with the love of her life, Michael.

I wish with all of my heart I could be there to help them celebrate. To see in person the smile that I know only Michael can bring to Emily’s face. To share in the joy they will exude today as they make official their pledge to share their lives with one another: with the one person who makes the other happier than any of us have ever seen them.

I could not be happier for you, Michael and Emily. And today, I say, with all of my heart and from across an ocean: Congratulations Michael and Emily! I love you!

Sunday, January 9, 2011


Growing up, we didn’t go on holidays out of town. Instead, we would spend summer weekends at the local lake, or my Mom would take us to the zoo. Trust me: that was holiday enough as that 90 minute drive (once 3+ hours because she got lost) was plenty of time for my poor mother and her 4 squabbling children.

So, with one exception of a road trip to Minneapolis with 8 of us piled in a van, I didn’t grow up going on family holidays.

Now: fast forward to my present life. I live with a family that has taken me in as one of their own. As Pete was moving to Pietermaritzburg, a road trip was in order to take a few things there, including his motor bike and the truck. So: roof tents in order, back packed with amazing precision by Jess, and into the bakkie 5 of us went, with poor Pete struggling to keep awake as we slowly made our way from one side of South Africa, to the other.

It has been an adventure learning to fall into the natural rhythm of the family’s holiday “routines” - if you can call them that. Their “routine” basically includes plentiful coffee (and thus toilet) breaks and stopping off for petrol or to take photos or to see unique shops or anything else that is felt like in the morning.

As long as you understand three things, life will be grand when on holiday with the Grassows:
Visiting and drinking freshly roasted Terbodore
Coffee was definitely a highlight!

    1. Holiday begins the moment you leave the driveway.
    2. Coffee is important and should be consumed regularly.
    3. Nothing and no one moves faster than a leisurely pace.

Needless to say, I’m having a great time!