The Art of Tuning In

The Art of Tuning In

You don’t always get what you think you will.

Here’s my challenge: truly hearing His voice.

Yes sure, you can sit in church and hear what the pastor is saying through his sermon. And when it hits you right where you need advice, guidance or clarity you’re thankful for how He works in your life. Or a song during worship may expresses exactly what you feel and you have that ‘Aha’ moment of ‘this is where my strength is found’.

But what happens once you get home?

This morning I was praying for someone who I care deeply about. My prayers over the past few weeks have been of empowerment, protection and healing. All the right things. Right?

But I felt it wasn’t getting anywhere. I didn’t see what I thought was necessary in this person’s life.

Do you see that?

There are way too many ‘I’s in that sentence.

Once thing someone told me at church recently was that I will start hearing His voice more clearly. Kind of like tuning in an old-time TV that needed the knob set just right in order to get a clear image. Those words stuck in my mind. I’m praying for real change.

art of tuning in
Photo by Marc Schäfer on Unsplash

I wasn’t sure how the growth will take place. Let’s just say it’s been enlightening.

It Takes Time

Something in me—the Holy Spirit right?—constantly prompts me to listen. But not listen as I used to do. The old Christel loves rushing through things: I want to get as much done as possible in very little time. My husband calls it ‘cramming’…I used to cram our holidays and we just end up exhausted.

And yes, I even rush through my prayers.

Time
Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

That means mentioning clichés: blessing, power, wisdom…They could be powerful but what if these characteristics are not what a person really needs?

What is more powerful than praying cliches? Waiting to hear what He KNOWS they need. For me, that takes a moment of absolute silence in my mind before I start praying. When I stop my own thoughts for a moment His Words form inside my mind.

And that’s when I discover His heart for someone.

What Should Really Change?

When I get to this point He also surprises me in what I end up praying.

For months I was focusing on what divine wisdom this person needed. Surprise surprise! When I at last started tuning that dial, what I discovered wasn’t so much what I needed to pray over this person’s life that mattered to God at that moment. He actually prompted me to look inward; to myself.

My revelation (TV screen with clear image) was that ME changing could help this person get through a situation easier.

you
Photo by Etty Fidele on Unsplash

I was praying for a situation to change elsewhere. Meanwhile, what would have been really helpful to this individual was me simply being a safe space, a soft landing and a calm environment whenever we got together. I’m embarrassed to say I was quite the opposite for a long time; wanting to figure out the problem, find solutions and force everyone in a direction I thought best.

So what ended up changing when I started tuning before praying? I changed. Nothing else. But I think that’s what the person has been praying for all along.

My Will vs His Will

So this morning I’m seeing a new angle of what I can be as His ambassador on earth. I often want to be the force that helps people out of the ruts they find themselves in. And yes, I perceive that as a worthy goal. But it’s not always what people need at that moment.

Seeing His ways more clearly then—tuning in—may be that I stop applying general spiritual applications to all people’s lives. He caters in His Word for comfort, for power, for strength, for healing of sorrow sorrow and so much more. It takes Godly wisdom to determine which of these someone needs in a specific scenario. I often think I know what’s best. But who knows better than the One who made that individual?

me
Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

I surrender.

My will for Yours.

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10 Months in Port Elizabeth-10 Best Places to Eat

10 Months in Port Elizabeth-10 Best Places to Eat

Blue Waters

So I thought I would try something different today. We eat out a lot…

The benefit: We VERY QUICKLY got to learn about the best places to eat in Port Elizabeth (our home for only 10 months now).

(Note: it took me a while to publish this, so technically I have now been here for a year, but our list of favourites stay the same. )

Food

Now, this is me paying it forward:

  • For the restaurants that have kept us fed the past almost-year: Thank you and I hope someone else sees your name on this list.
  • For others visiting the area: Don’t miss out on these places. This is first hand knowledge doing the talking.

Without further ado…please follow my taste buds.

  1. Best Restaurant for Cake: Sherwood Gardens Centre

I put this one first because except for my regular work station (see below), this is the place my husband and I visit the most. Why? Because Cake.

We discovered the best baked item you’ll ever find and you can eat it in a stunning environment: Inside the centre your senses are entertained with quaint decor or you can sit outside where the nursery’s plants create a wonderfully refreshing space. As a bonus you can browse the book shop, the dress shop and other stalls.

But back to cake.

cake

It’s called ‘Try it’. And we did. And we were forever thankful that we did.

Layers of cake, meringue, cream, custard…and I don’t know what else (I don’t care) create the perfect dish to brighten any day. My husband doesn’t like cake the way I do and he is ADDICTED to this. It’s sweet, but not to sweet. It’s always fresh because it doesn’t get time to go stale. On a Saturday the last pieces disappear by lunch time.

So you better get there early.

2. Best Place for Pork Belly: Bridge Street Breweries

One thing we learnt in Port Elizabeth is that you should always stay open to new experiences. The thing that was your favorite yesterday may not be on the list anymore tomorrow.

I was 35 before I heard people going on and on about Pork Belly. For some reason, from the moment we arrived in PE, people mentioned it. So, being curious, I tried it. At more than one place. And I was thoroughly disappointed. Places where meat was the ‘specialty’ (I won’t name names) failed to impress me.

And then friends took us to Bridge Street. With a very interesting menu in front of us I was surprised that our friends both ordered the Pork Belly AGAIN. They did mention it more than once already but with so many options, why not try something new?

And then I tasted it.

And then I understood.

OUT OF THIS WORLD.

I loved what was on my plate too, but the PB was something worth returning for again and again. Divine and not too rich.

I get it now guys! Thank you for ruining my ‘favorite things’ list.

3. Best Coffee Shop for Lemon Meringue: Coffee Society

Okay, I will admit I’m biased here. This isn’t only my favorite place for Lemon Meringue but it’s also my favorite place to hang out during the week. Working from home is a blessing but at least twice a week I need to get out of the house. That’s when I head over to Coffee Society where free Wi-Fi, good coffee and friendly faces serve as my office for the day.

lemon meringue

But here’s why you have to go there and why you’ll thank me later: They got it right…the perfect balance between sweet and sour in the Lemon Meringue. I have honestly never tasted this anywhere else.

So do yourself a favour and get one (they’re small so you can order a whole one for YOURSELF) with some artisan coffee.

CS has a lot to offer, but I had to pick one thing for this list.

4. Blue Water Cafe for Sushi

Anyone who has been to Blue Water Cafe will tell you something different they love. The view. The atmosphere. For us: the sushi.

Sushi

Okay, I also love their Foccacia bread, but the Sushi is simply on another level. Always fresh and very original combinations. I can’t believe there was a time I didn’t eat sushi (yes it’s sad I know). I would have missed out on this and that would have been a tragedy.

5. Best Sauce Tasted at a Restaurant – Nanaga Farmstall

This isn’t a dish, but it should be with every dish you eat from now on. At least, that’s how it is in our house. My husband fell in love with Nanaga’s tomato chutney when we had it with our roosterkoek at the farmstall restaurant.

Luckily you can purchase it in the shop across the courtyard from the restaurant. Now we always stop for another bottle of this flavourful condiment if we’re in the area.

Okay, this place isn’t IN Port Elizabeth, but it’s close enough and when you’re exploring the area, driving a few kilometers shouldn’t matter. (Yes I love road trips)

6. Best Restaurant for a View: Sacramento

So this isn’t about a dish, but isn’t atmosphere part of every exceptional food experience? For that, I head over to Sacramento.

It’s near the sea.

It’s cozy inside and there’s a fireplace.

You can see the sea.

They welcome dogs.

You can look at the waves.

There’s some interesting decor relating to old ships and canons (Sacramento was a ship).

It’s right by the sea.

You can see where I’m going with this and they do have some impressive dishes on the menu.

Just go to the sea and thank me later.

7. Best Gin…and Other Things, You’ll Find at Coco Jo’s

So, I love chocolate and this restaurant uses cocoa (and its variants) in most of its dishes. You would think that’s why I recommend it. In the end, that wasn’t what blew me away.

While they have a beautiful setting overlooking a garden and I love that their pasta has flavour in each morsel of every bite (not simply a bit of sauce drizzled over bland carbohydrates), all of that comes second to this:

The most refreshing gin cocktail I have ever had. It tops anything I had in Johannesburg while I lived there.

Thank you to the manager who saw I needed that on a Friday and paired with their chocolate dessert I was in Coco heaven.

8. For Take Aways Just Go to Cassie’s

I think everyone in PE probably knows about this chain of restaurants, right? And rightly so.

It offers everything you expect from a takeaway restaurant. Even the Russian and chips meal is AMAZING. But this place goes one step further with fast food and even has some of the best ribs in town.

For dessert: Cassie’s makes soft serve the way I remembered it’s supposed to taste. That was back in 1989 when I was on holiday in JBay and had the creamiest ice cream near the beach front. Nothing ever came close to that. Until Cassie’s happened. Thank you dear take away outlet for recreating childhood bliss.

And yes, they have chocolate flavoured ice cream!!!

9. More Sushi – John Dory’s

Okay, I’m cheating because I’m mentioning more sushi, but there’s one thing John Dory’s has that has us going back for more. Okay two things:

  • Sushi dessert containing strawberries and chunks of cream cheese (yes CHUNKS).
  • Bean curd pockets filled with prawns and avo

Both of those get drizzled with delectable sauces. Together they make up another favourite meal (especially because it comes at half price on Wednesdays).

10. Fish! At Sunridge Fish Tales

I come to the end of my list and realize I almost forgot the most important thing to be had in any town by the sea: Good old fish and chips. We’ve tasted quite a few vendors’ versions of this famous meal. My neighbours tell me I still have a few places to go, but at the moment our favourite is found at Fish Tales.

A perfect weekend evening (or any evening for that matter) is this fish (fried for me, grilled for hubby) with perfect slap chips and the restaurant’s tartare sauce. Add a good series (Game of Thrones, right?) and a soft couch & I can face anything the next day.

Top 10 Best Food Port Elizabeth

I think that about covers it. This list is bound to change often, depending on where we head to next. But I hope it gives you an idea of where to start.

Please, if you have any more suggestions, leave a comment below. There are many Friday nights that need dinner destinations. Help me make my next 10 months in my new home town be as tasty as the first 10.

Now I’m hungry.

The Revenge of the Lemon Tree

The Revenge of the Lemon Tree

Okay, perhaps that title is a bit dramatic.

Maybe not revenge…definitely the return of the lemon tree. Or the revival of the LT?

Bottom line: My Lemon Tree is showing some guts and teaching me a few lessons. At the risk of seeming very cliche, it’s a metaphor for my life.

Bear with me.

My husband grew the tree from nothing. I mean: He didn’t buy a tree. He put four lemon seeds in the ground. I thought lemon trees are beautiful and so he wanted to give me one. He even bought a lemon but guess what: the ones in the store don’t necessarily have seeds. That’s bio-engineered fruit for you.

Anyway, so we got lemon pieces as garnish with a fish dish we ate at Blue Waters Cafe. He put the seeds in a serviette, brought them home and placed the wad of paper in a pot (left there by the previous tenants) filled with soil. We added some compost and hoped for the best.

Note: We didn’t plan this to the finest detail. We didn’t place the seeds in water and see if they would germinate like you’re taught to do in primary school.

We just winged it.

And it worked.

Stage 1: All’s Well

Here’s our very much loved little Lemon Tree after a few months.

lemon tree

Well, three trees I guess because three green shoots came up from four planted pips. lemon treeBased on the fact that they weren’t cultivated by professionals (neither of us have EVER done gardening…I mean, I’ve had cactuses that simply died due to neglect) we were pretty excited seeing it grow.

And it grew and it grew and it grew.

 

Somewhere it had to hit a snag, right?

Stage 2: Will This End Well?

I asked my neighbour (a passionate gardener with the most gorgeous flowers all around his house) what I can do to help my little tree. But he made it quite clear that even he would never grow citrus trees again. Why? Because they were difficult. In the past he could never get them to flourish.

I guess I should have taken that as a warning. I just kind of believed our LT (at the moment its name is Simon) is supposed to exist. So we kept watering it diligently.

And then the worms happened.

I saw three tiny worms on it one day, but didn’t remove them directly. I’ve had them inside the house on store bought flowers and all they seemed to do was turn into pupae. My flowers never got damaged.

No so with Simon.

A few days later I passed the tree, saw multiple leaves destroyed (I mean OBLITERATED) and two FAT worms looking very pleased with themselves.

I was horrified and felt kind of stupid that I let it happen.

(And even then I didn’t even want to kill them…because nature.)

I flicked them off, got a home remedy against bugs from a friend of a friend (FYI: Epsom salts work for anything apparently) and apologised to the tree.

But damage was done. Terrible damage. Most of the thin, top branches and leaves were gone. In the days that followed (unlike the previous six months) there was no change. Simon has stopped growing.

I was really afraid that I spoiled our chances of ever owning a gorgeous little lemon tree. I knew: what happens with a tree while it ‘grows up’ affects how it grows in future. What if it was damaged so much that it can’t recover?

I kept watched and watered and Epsom salted.

Stage 3: The Return!

First there were three tiny green shoots.

And then there were more. And they grew.

And then they GREW!

It felt like they tripled in height within a week!

lemon treeAnd oh, it was the most gorgeous green. Almost like a crown on top of the older leaves that came out before the worms, the new section was a strikingly beautiful hue.

It came back with a vengeance…and now I check daily to destroy any teeny weeny worm.

My lemon tree will live!

 

 

Stage 4: The Lesson

lemon treeSo, what does this matter?

Here we get to how this is a very apt representation of life. I’m not going to draw this out. I’m simply stating what I felt when I looked at my Simon after his battle.

So many times I have allowed wrong decisions (ignoring the worms) to break down aspects of my life:

  • Allowing people’s opinions to guide my decisions
  • Not moving when I know God is prompting me to do something
  • Feeling hurt after relationships of situations affect me emotionally

In the aftermath, I often wonder how I will ever get back on track again.

lemon treeBut from where I’m sitting now, with the Epsom salts of His grace, wisdom and ‘new mercies every morning‘ I’m in a better place than I’ve ever been. I love the hue of my life.

No matter how many leaves you lost this past year. Take courage. New Life is coming.

I’m waiting in anticipation of what Simon will become one day…and what He’s doing with my life.

It’s Not Too Late – 3 Things You can Still Do for This Country

It’s Not Too Late – 3 Things You can Still Do for This Country

On Wednesday we vote.

For all my fellow South Africans, you know what I’m talking about. It’s election time and over the past few months I’ve often heard these words: “We’ll see what happens after the elections”.

That means people have put their career choices on hold or waited before buying a property. We’re all waiting. For what?

For many the crime rates, racial conflict and corruption in the country have become too much. Large numbers of people are heading out of the country. I’ll be honest and say: that’s us. We would love to emigrate if the right door opens.

But at the moment we’re here. And for many, it feels as if the pressure is rising.

For me, the question is: ‘What am I supposed to do as His ambassador?’ That should be my first thought before making any decision. I won’t proclaim that I always get it right, but I want to get it right this time.

So here are my thoughts.

Pray

It’s not too late to pray. I realise I haven’t spent enough hours praying for this country. Instead of becoming immobile because of guilt, (which so often happens, right?) I simply started.

But what would prayer consist of?

In God’s ever-perfect timing I recently discovered a book on prayer (The Happy Intercessor) while unpacking our guest room because my sister in law is coming to stay. What does Beni Johnson talk about in the first few pages? Praying for a city/region/situation.

There’s a hill behind our house and from the top I can see most of our city.  I simply started praying for our area. THINKING about the plight of our country and city can leave me seeing only darkness and hopelessness. But those moments of praying for life, praying for the leadership and proclaiming Him as the God of the city left me with a different picture. Without even thinking I started asking Him to show me MY path in the future of the city. .

Here’s what happens when we PRAY instead of THINK (or COMPLAIN while gathered around the braai with friends): you tap into His thoughts.

Before, thinking of how I’m supposed to change my city simply left me feeling drained and depressed. But in conversation with Him you start seeing the divine way out of the situation.

Hope

Following close on the heels of this prayer and revelation you’ll find something else: hope.

South Africa hope

Let’s be honest and say our country is in a pretty dire situation. There’s no saying when the power problems of Eskom will be sorted out. How will the country recover after so much corruption and money wasted? But that doesn’t mean that we’ll never thrive again. That doesn’t mean we can’t find a way of living together in peace (which is more important than being a rich country in my books anyway).

Yes it may take some time. But we’re already living the miracle of leaving apartheid behind. I will say it again: every time I start losing faith in the fact that God has a plan for South Africa, He encourages.

Note: Maybe His plan is different than what we imagine…so instead of hoping for riches, perhaps we should simply focus on getting along?

We came together in 1994 and we didn’t go down. We can do anything. No matter how long it takes. But we have to keep on hoping. Not hope based on our plans, but on His.

All for His glory. (That’s another new thought which I will write about sometime in future)

Fight

So, I’ve mentioned that my husband and I would love to emigrate. For me: I would love to simply travel the world and experience different parts of it. And yes, sometimes I think another country may offer my children a better future than what they’ll find here in SA.

These are thoughts many of us have.

But I’m aware that we may live right here at the southern part of Africa for the rest of our lives. And if that happens, it means He has a purpose for it.

I believe life is valuable because of His goals for our lives. If He places me in a country He wants me to play a role there.

South Africa

Simply because I’m a believer doesn’t mean that I’m guaranteed an easy life. My prayers and my discussions with Him could lead to going overseas where life seems safer and there’s a better chance of finding work and good education…or I could find He has a purpose for me right here, to fight for His cause in SA:

  • Fighting for justice in a country where many people & cultures are oppressed by their leaders or where they oppress each other
  • Fighting for love between different cultures by living without prejudice or hate
  • Fighting people’s negative talks by showing others how it can be done His way, not our way
  • Fighting depression and hate by teaching others about the miracle of His healing, His type of forgiveness and the joy of serving Him

If that is His purpose for me, it would be an honorable purpose to pursue. And yes, I know I may even suffer as part of that journey. But where He’s taken me in the past has always been good (often hard, but with amazing outcomes), so once again I will submit to His bidding.

Yes, I’ve learnt that I can also make my own decisions and that He blesses where I decide to go. But in the big decisions of life, His prompts are always the best to adhere to instead of thinking MY way is the best way.

So, join me. Fight with your vote by picking someone worthy. Also fight where you are: Climb your own hills and mountains. Talk to Him about our cities, people and leaders. Let’s find our purposes in the communities around us, because it’s obvious that we can’t leave it up to our leaders to fix this country.

But we can make it better than it is now.

Will you fight with me?