I’ve been overrun lately with tasks and the tyranny of looming month-end. It has left me depressed, distracted and downhearted – and in truth – somewhat resentful. With each fire I put out, another one flares up. I feel that no matter how hard I try, the finishing line just keeps shifting. I have forgotten important details, misplaced important items and struggled desperately to fall asleep at night.

A crash of almighty proportions awaits me if I continue like this. And then… I found these comforting words in a file I was going through today. It’s a paraphrase of Psalm 23, written by a Japanese woman, Toki Miyashina. Here is balm for your soul in a week gone mad with deadlines, overdue projects, conflict, problems and burdens:

23rd Psalm, Japanese Translation

The Lord is my Pace-setter, I shall not rush;
He makes me stop and rest for quiet intervals.
He provides me with images of stillness,
which restore my serenity.

He leads me in ways of efficiency
through calmness of mind,
and His guidance is peace.

Even though I have a great many things
to accomplish each day,
I will not fret, for His presence is here;

His timelessness, His all importance,
will keep me in balance.

He prepares refreshment and renewal
in midst of my activity,

By anointing my mind with His oils of tranquility.
My cup of joyous energy overflows,
surely harmony and effectiveness
shall be the fruits of my hours,
for I shall walk, in the pace of my Lord
and dwell in His house forever.

. . . .

May this peace descend upon you, this oil of tranquility, as you take a moment to step outside your frantic haste and find your joy, wonder and balance again.



An early morning Sunday, the air clear but heralding the intention of heat later on. I’m spruced, I’m dressed, I’m breakfasting – signs of my intention to head off to church soon. I throw open my balcony doors to welcome the cool breeze before the day warms, and suddenly I hear desperate birdsong, panicked screeching. I look out and see cats surefootedly stalking a fluttering, vibrant-green parakeet flying from bush to bush. I hurriedly leave my eggs and juice to dash down flights of stairs, church dress flailing about me in my rush to save a little bird.

But all I can do is chase the predators away – I have no rescue plan, here on my own. And the frightened ball of feathers won’t let me near him and flies off to a balcony way beyond my reach. I’m late for church. I shoot off a prayer to the Creator of the bird, who made me too, asking Him to salvage this situation – but then I must rush to be on time for the service.

It’s a lovely time together, we sing a song about trusting Jesus in the valleys and the minister reminds us of belief and faith, to hope for things unseen. I make my way home, my heart fed and full.

As I get closer to my door, I hear it again –this time a stronger chirp from somewhere high above my head. I halt for a while under the tall trees outside my home, trying to find brighter green among a greater sea of swaying leaves. A woman makes her way to me – it’s her bird, and she’s heartbroken over his escape. Two pairs of eyes are now trying to pinpoint the location of the chirping, and we’re talking, talking as two women do in such a situation. I find out she attends church too. We exchange numbers. She invites me for tea sometime. I like her instantly, we laugh like old friends, and collectively cry out with dismay as her beautiful parakeet takes flight to a tree beyond our fences. Gone. I promise to come over in the week for that promised cup of tea, if only to commiserate with her over this loss.

It’s only later in the afternoon, returned from family visits, that the thought starts forming in my mind. We furiously pray against hurdles and adversity in our lives, banishing the negative with positive affirmations, visualising the glorious solution to all our problems – and call it faith. I don’t dispute the place of hope in our darkness, it is indeed what keeps the ship from sinking. But the escape of a bright little parakeet reminded me that there’s often an opportunity concealed in the folds of a hardship or event not to our liking, something that would not have come otherwise. Because today, I made a friend.

The tale has a joyful conclusion. The following day, the bird returned – and of own accord came to sit down on the top of his cage, in search of his mate inside. My new friend was able to quickly throw a towel over him, scoop him up and return him to safety. We rejoiced over our cup of tea that our Creator still cares for his creation!



It was the first Italian word I learnt on Italian soil from Italian lips. Up until then I had studied Italian from a book. I had just moved into Via Cassio Parmense with Adriana of the Crazy Hair. The doorbell rang on the first day I was there and she sang out loudly, ‘Arrivo!’ – I’m coming, I’m on my way. The English ‘arrive’ isn’t quite the same thing. Adriana could yell really well, evidence of optimum lung capacity. I am thoroughly certain whoever was waiting on the other side of the extremely thick and solid, well-made, fortified Italian door heard her clear as a bell.

Last Sunday marked the start of Advent, the time of anticipation and waiting for the celebration of the birth of Christ – observed largely by the Western Church. Advent is from the Latin adventus – meaning ‘coming’, much like Adriana’s arrivo. In Roman times the adventus was the ceremony of welcoming a triumphant emperor into a city. Adventus is the Latin translation of the Greek word parousia – you might have heard that before. Parousia is all about… well, I’ll get to that.

Exactly a year ago, we were also awaiting the arrival of not exactly an emperor (although I am led to believe he has his royal moments), but of a little baby boy far, far away. My sister was counting off her final days of pregnancy as my mom and brother flew over to visit her for two months. Tiny, adorable, beautiful – my nephew arrived a couple of weeks later, just two days after Christmas. A precious gift of joy to us.

And now, we wait again – this time for my sister’s little family to make the long journey of a day’s constant travel by plane to reach our sunny shores. Just in time for Christmas and just in time for the cutest nephew in the world’s first birthday. The anticipation is enormous. I am so excited, I could probably go into orbit with giddy glee. I haven’t seen my sister for two years, and I have yet to hold that little boy and plant a kiss on his beautiful little head.

The cutest nephew in the world

Over two thousand years ago, another young, expectant mother similarly travelled to visit a relative, who was also expectant, but not so young. The Message paints the passage in Luke 1:39-45 like this:

“Mary didn’t waste a minute. She got up and travelled to a town in Judah in the hill country, straight to Zachariah’s house, and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby in her womb leaped. She was filled with the Holy Spirit, and sang out exuberantly,

You’re so blessed among women,
and the babe in your womb, also blessed!
And why am I so blessed that
the mother of my Lord visits me?
The moment the sound of your
greeting entered my ears,
The babe in my womb
skipped like a lamb for sheer joy.
Blessed woman, who believed what God said,
believed every word would come true!”

Even while yet unborn, unseen, Christ stirred the spirits and listening hearts of those waiting for him. Those who were expectant. And we know that he is coming again.  This is parousia – the second coming.  And Advent is intended to remind us of his return. Advent has made me wonder – am I delighted about the prospect of his arrival? Am I all organised for his appearance? As I make mental lists of all the fun things to do with my sister, I ponder Christ’s return and its implications. As I contemplate how to baby-proof my home in anticipation of an impending visit from a curious, crawling little person, I ask myself if my King will find me ready?

And what will it be like (one of my favourite songs, sung by Mercy Me, is all about this – see the Youtube video a little further down)? When the One who knows me better than I know myself is finally here? Like the nephew I’ve never touched or held, will love overwhelm me when my Saviour and my Lord is before me at last? What will I do?  What will I say? I don’t know. But I do know he is coming again. Adventus. Parousia.



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For the longest time I have been in the darkest despair.  When my dad passed away early last year, I found myself ill-equipped to grieve graciously.  I was already struggling, emotionally asphyxiating.  Countless inner wounds had kept me tethered to periods of frustration, seasons of sadness, dark swirls of depression.  I had plodded on – that’s what a good soldier does.  I had learnt coping skills.  I had kept my chin up.  But losing my father sent me crashing into a wall of personal disorientation, my overwhelmed and crushed spirit unable to absorb the blow of death and loss.

I tried desperately to hang on to fraying threads of hope, but anguish pushed forward as a relentless surge, obliterating even the joyful landmarks of my inner landscape.  Lifejoy died that day on the study floor as I knelt beside my father’s still frame where he had collapsed from a heart attack – my words to my aunt, when she arrived, ‘He has fallen down and he will not get up again,’ were meant for my heart too.  Nothing would ever be the same again.

misrepresentThey say there are two kinds of people in the world – those who are wounded, and those who are liars.  Twenty years in the church had taught me that even those who profess to love Christ would rather shout ‘hallelujah’, wear a plastic smile on the outside, yet miserably stuff their sin, shame and pain into the dark attic of their barely-alive hearts.  When we misrepresent ourselves like this, we have no fear of God in us and we cause others to stumble in their faith and the world to call us hypocrites.  I didn’t want this for myself.  If Jesus came to set captives free, well then, I wanted my freedom!

I sought out some help and got down into the trenches of memory and pain, sorting through disappointment and doubt, grief and fear.  It turned out to be the hardest thing I’ve had to do.  Facing up to myself and the darkness that had hounded me for years took far more courage than I had.  I hung on to verses like ‘Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you,’ (Hebrews 13:5) and ‘As for you, I’ll come with healing, curing the incurable, because they all gave up on you and dismissed you as hopeless – that good-for-nothing Zion,’ (Jeremiah 30:17).  Yet, my terrors remained – looming large, springing traps on me.  Sleep became a problem.  I felt besieged, the enormity of my turmoil weighing me down.heb13v5

As the weeks slipped into months, my self-frustration grew at my lack of progress and shame started building as I then blamed myself for not healing sooner.

But I kept on digging.

Sick, exhausted and heartbroken, I wrote in my journal: ‘Do my remaining years here on this planet hold any good?  I DON’T WANT TO FIGHT FOR EVERYTHING MY WHOLE LIFE.’  And later: ‘The oppressive heaviness won’t lift.  It just stares at me all day and I stare backdreamsgone2, and so we sit, inert and lifeless, too worn down and weary to lift a finger.’  I recalled a line from a poem I had written many years ago at another low point in my life: ‘My dreams are gone, my hope is crushed / My aspirations turned to dust’.

I have a small book by Dutch Sheets called Hope Resurrected.  I’ve read it several times.  It is dog-eared, tear-stained, underlined.  He writes that the giants we face today will always be the biggest we’ve faced – and nowhere in God’s Word could I see evidence in support of running away from my enemies (only running to God).  So, I turned, planted my feet and let the fear and shame and pain and loss come at me.  And come at me they did.

For some freakish reason, they had grown in size, they were worse.  They were huge.  My desperation and depression seemed out of control.  I felt I had waded into hell.

I was encouraged to look up and see a world waiting for me, that I had something to offer – but I couldn’t lift my head, I just couldn’t.  My eyes were glued to the horrifying sight of the ground giving way under my feet.

I read in my book: ‘You don’t have to be well to hope, but you do have to hope to be well.’  As terrified and crushed and depressed as I felt, I simply could not allow myself to give up.  The stakes were too high.

hope wellThen one day, a very small and mundane thing happened.  Crying in my kitchen, soapy water and tears rinsing my dishes, I came to understand the verse from Hebrews, that God is always with me, even in this deluge of misery.  Holding my hand.  Not letting go.  And that others too had faced the losses I had experienced, and had somehow got through it.  So would I.

I spilled my worst shame and pain to someone who would listen and came home later that evening to a dark and cold flat, still filled with so much hurt.  The dam wall broke with such intensity then, collapsing on me, its waters drenching my cheeks, my clothes, my pillow.  I sobbed and wailed into the small hours of the night, and much of the next day too.  I couldn’t make it stop.  Pain welled up from deep inside and I cried like I cried on the day we stood at my dad’s coffin and said goodbye.  I thought the pain was going to kill me.  This time round, though, I was crying over the grave of a lost childhood, wishes and aspirations, longings and hopes – all burnt to the ground.  Curled up in a ball, I cried that no-one had listened to my dreams… but wait.  That wasn’t true!  It suddenly occurred to me that in going to Italy (a dream since age four), a loving God had heard a little girl’s sighs and made it happen for her.

It dawned on me.

I am his DAUGHTER.

He sits and watches me all the time.  He dotes on me.  He sings me songs.  He teaches me things. I BELONG.  I am HIS.  My joys and my sorrows are all his.  I have a place at the family table.  I’m part of the party, no longer hanging around at the edges in shameful shadows.  I have an EQUAL inheritance with my brothers and sisters in Christ.  I don’t need to stand back for anyone or anything.  I have his undivided attention when I speak to him.  He spends time with me.  He has not only saved me from my sin, but he has also saved me from my pain.  Saviour.

Now my immense pain has a day and a date that I laid it to rest.  I still cry, but the intensity is less, and I am assured that, in time, it will fade – eventually taking its proper perspective in the grand scheme that is my life.  I am not swinging from celestial chandeliers just yet.

But I am walking towards the light.

Arise [from the depression and prostration in which circumstances have kept you—rise to a new life]!  Shine (be radiant with the glory of the Lord), for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you (Isaiah 60:1 AMP).

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