Wednesday, December 28, 2005

The English Language (and something free)--

One can't ever assume that the English language is same around the world. Take South Africa, for example. When we first arrived here no one could understand my accent (Was I really the one with the accent?) And in turn, I missed about fifty percent of conversations around me. Not only was the accent differant, but the words were differant. How could this be? Weren't we all speaking the same language?

Well, not exactly.

Yesterday, I rushed through a zebra crossing, barely stepping on the breaks of my bakkie. Craning my eyes to watch for pedestrians, I hurried through the next robot, then up the tarmac toward my friend’s house. I was late and hungry. Of course, time in Africa runs slower from my high-paced American schedule. People actually take time to sit down together for rooibos and scones with jam, or perhaps some homemade rusks. This was exactly what I was looking forward to.

Arriving at my destination, I grabbed a plate of homemade chocolate biscuits out of the boot and hurried into my friend’s house. “Thanks,” she said with a smile as she took the goodies from me that were covered with a serviette. “That looks laaker.”

Get the point?

Another intersting thing is that my children completely lose their American accents at school and become 'South African.' When Mariah started kindergarten, her teacher didn't even know she was American for weeks into the school year and she happened to mentioned she was from Texas.

In my next post you can look forward to finding out exactly what a rusk is, how you can make some, and why you just might want one with some rooibos.

And by the way, the first person to translate the above senerio correctly into American English gets one of my books--free. Now you can't beat that, can you?



Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Encounters with a Black Mamba--

Moving into our house has been, to say the least, quite an experience. There’s been a multitude of things that have needed to be fixed or replaced, from shower heads, to the oven, to the leaky roof, to broken windows. One of the things we felt that was very important to do was to clear out the overgrowth in the yard (we live in a subtropical area) as well as areas we’ve been told that are the perfect hiding places for snakes.

And we’ve found this to be quite true. In the past couple of weeks we’ve found six snakes hiding in dark, quiet spots around the house. The last snake found was the notorious Black Mamba.

The week before, Scott had found a snake in the garage. It had reared its head up and hissed at him before he was able to grab the hoe and take care of it. Now, while ripping down an old brick wall that was part of an old BBQ, the masons broke into the hiding place of one of Africa’s most notorious snakes--the Black Mamba. Just the thought of it is enough to send shivers up my spine. I’ve heard stories of Black Mambas chasing people for miles, their heads upright as the victim runs in terror, and rumors that they are the fastest moving snake in the world.

One of the Africans helping with the project quickly grabbed one of the tools and disposed of the snake before anyone got bit. With nerves a bit rattled, they finished tearing down the wall. The count was already two snakes that day (the Black Mamba and another unidentified snake) and no one wanted to have an encounter turn ugly. Thankfully we live two minutes from the nearest hospital.

Once the work was done for the day, I decided to look up snakes on the internet. Turns out, Black Mamba are the fastest moving snake in the world as they can reach up to 23 m/h. They can also hold their heads up to three feet off the ground while striking. And did you know that Black Mambas aren’t really black? Most have a dark olive, grayish brown or grey color. I also read that bits to humans by Black Mambas are rare. A comforting thought to say the least.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the verse in Mark 16:17-18 where Jesus tells his disciples to go into all the world and preach the good news. He says, “And these signs will accompany those who believe; In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all. . .”

Only God knows what the future holds for each one of us, but I know one thing--God is in control. He can calm a storm with one word from His mouth. He rules over all the kingdoms of the nations. Power and might are in His hand and no one can withstand Him. (Ps 10:16)

He is the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen. (Rev. 15:3).



Monday, December 26, 2005

A South African Christmas--

I was struck yesterday, as I sat around the Christmas dinner table, just how incredible God is. We recently moved to the Tzaneen area, leaving an incredible network of friends that God had blessed us with in Johannesburg. Leaving, for me, was hard. I knew it had been God’s hand who had brought us together with a core support group while we lived there, but would He do it again in our new home? I shouldn’t have ever doubted.

It all began the weekend we drove up to Tzaneen to look for a house earlier this year. We had the name of a realtor, but missed the office and had to go around the block. In passing another office, I suggested we stop there. No one knew we were coming, so it didn’t really matter which realtor we went to. We just wanted to ask some questions. God, though, had a reason in mind. At the office, we were sent back to speak to a woman and her daughter who would answer our questions. It turned out that the daughter’s husband was a minister. Immediately, we had a lot in common. It was the beginning of a relationship that not only ended with us buying a house, but was the start of growing friendship.

Yesterday, we spent Christmas with our realtor’s family. But she’s no long our realtor. She and her family are our friends. We enjoyed a South African Christmas with all the trimmings--roast, potatoes, vegetables, salad, and a variety of puddings (desserts) as they call them in South Africa. My friend’s family was there--in-laws, brothers, sisters, and a dozen children. With this expanded circle of friends, besides Christmas, we've already enjoyed sharing meals together, laughing together while playing games, praying together, and are even taking James Dobson’s Bringing up Boys together in a class. All of this, from one trip to the realtor’s office.

Surprised? I shouldn’t be. My God is incredible.



Coming next. . .Encounters with a Black Mamba.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Christmas Recipe and Book Recommendation!

If you’re needing something to do (besides reading my blog, of course) how about a Christmas recipe for when you’re watching your favorite holiday movie. These can also be used as Christmas ornaments!

Popcorn Balls

12 C popped popcorn

1 ½ C sugar

1/3 C water

1/3 C corn syrup

2 T butter

1 t vanilla

Preheat over to 250 degrees. Grease a large shallow pan and add the popcorn. Set in oven while making the caramel mixture.

Place sugar, water, and corn syrup in a heavy 2-quart saucepan. Stir over low heat until sugar has dissolved and mixture comes to a boil. Continue to cook over low heart, without stirring, about ten minutes or until candy thermometer measures 280 degrees. Sugar crystals that form on the sides of the pan can be brushed down with a pastry brush that has been dipped in warm water. Remove from heat and stir in butter and vanilla until smooth.

Pour syrup mixture slowly over popcorn, turning to coat kernels evenly. Set aside until the mixture is cool enough to handle, but still warm enough to shape. Lightly butter your hands, then quickly press warm mixture into 2-inch balls.

Let cool and enjoy!

And the book recommendation? I confess to a shameless plug. This recipe is from Undercover Cowboy, my story in Tyndale Publisher’s novella collection COWBOY CHRISTMAS. If you want to extend the Christmas spirit a bit longer, pick yourself up a copy and enjoy my story along with Catherine Palmer’s and Linda Goodnight’s contribution.

Here’s the back cover blurb of my story: Pinkerton detective Cole Ramsey has been hired to investigate a rancher suspected of sabotaging his neighbors’ property. But Cole’s investigation may be compromised when he falls for Abigail Covington, the rancher’s daughter.

Don’t forget to check back often for more recipes and book recommendations!

Coming next. . .A Real South African Christmas



Friday, December 23, 2005

Merry Christmas!

Shopping has never been my favorite past time. Shopping around the holidays is even worse, but sometimes it has to be done. The grandparents have all given toward a jungle gym for the kids’ Christmas this year, but I wanted to pick up a few last minute gifts for under the tree. (Yes, four days before Christmas is very last minute. Blame it on a leaky roof, a book deadline, snakes in the garage, and. . .well. . .you get the picture).

I drove twenty minutes to the only mall near us (the word mall being loosely used here), and being the holiday season, the shops were, of course, crowded. Needing a few groceries first, I pushed my way around the other shoppers, as well as the stockers who were unloading goods onto the empty shelves. No, they don’t stock the shelves at night--that would be too easy. It’s all done during the busiest part of the day.

With the temperatures rising outside, and no air-conditioner inside, I began to get hot and irritated. They were out of half of what I needed, and the other half I couldn’t get to without bumping another shopper out of the way. Looking for presents for the kids wasn’t any easier. There is no Toys R Us in our town, or in any town nearby. Instead there’s the equivalent of the dollar store with New York prices. It didn’t take me long to realize that except for a couple of videos, I wouldn’t be buying any presents for my kids in town this year.

By the time I reached the car two and a half hours later, I was beyond frustration. (Okay, it wasn’t quite as bad as when I went shopping and found a cow’s head in a deep freeze at the local grocer, but that’s another story). The entire morning, had, it seemed, been a disaster of sorts, leaving me anything but in the Christmas spirit.

Then it hit me as I drove home. Christmas isn’t about presents, or what everyone is getting this year. It’s about one crucial event in history.

“For unto us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6

That’s what it’s really all about. Growing in our relationship with our Heavenly father because He loved us enough to send His only son to earth. This year, our kids might not have as many presents under the tree, but they instead are getting the chance to build a deeper relationship with their earthly father as they work together to build a jungle gym. A deeper relationship with my Heavenly Father is what I want to desire most of all this coming year.

May the peace of God our Father surround you this Christmas season!


Thursday, December 22, 2005

Finding Peace in the Midst of Grief

I had a funny story to share this morning that tied in with Christmas, but have decided to post it later. We found out this morning that my husband's aunt passed away last night and his family is really grieving right now.

With the holidays upon us, it's made me stop and think about the thousands of people who are also hurting right now. Maybe it's your next door neighbor, or a close friend. The woman at work, or the person you see in the check out line at the grocery store. Or maybe it's you. Death of a loved one, an illness, problems with a teenager or a spouse, divorce, miscarriage, loneliness. . .the list could go on and on.

I won't always focus on difficulties on this blog, but how do we find peace in today's fast paced and often chaotic world we live in? Paul talks about a peace that surpasses all understanding in Philippians 4:7, but is it even possible to find?

Several years ago I embarked on a spiritual journey that would change my life forever. Struggling with bouts of depression from the heartache of infertility, I felt that the presence of God had left me. Instead of stopping and listening to His voice, I cried out to Him in anger and frustration feeling as if He'd left me. Didn't God promise rest to the weary and peace for the soul in need? God had becoming nothing more than a distant figure who had left me to deal with my own humanity and confusion.

It was at this time that a friend challenged me to dig deeply in the word of God and discover for myself who God is. I was forced to answer one challenging question: Did I believe God was in control of everything, including every aspect of my own life? If He wasn't, there was no reason to continue to follow Him.

Peace did not come over night for me, and it certainly didn't come easily. It took years of God teaching me, molding me, and helping me to grow. My search led me through an intense study of scripture and ultimately to the point where I can now "hold unswervingly to the hope I profess." (Hebrews 10:23)

Yes, there are times when I still stumble, but then I remember that HE is in control no matter what is happening around me. Psalm 29:11 says, "the Lord gives strength to his people; the Lord blesses his people with peace."

God is faithful no matter what happens today, and with His strength we can overcome our grief and live a life filled with His spirit. It’s never relying on our own strength to get us through difficult times, but leaning on the mighty arm of God and being continuously filled with His Spirit. There will always be painful situations to deal with in life. And God will always be there for His people.

Jesus said in John 14:1 "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, trust also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I'm going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am."



Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Greetings from South Africa!

With Christmas in four days, we are enjoying a break from the hot weather. Since our return home from the States, life has kept us busy with a leaky roof, no land line, a broken cell phone, two visits to the dentist for two of our kids, and snakes. (Yes! Snakes!)

It's good to be home.

This year started with the decision to move from Johanasburg farther north near the Zimbabwe border. The changes have been good, but have also brought with it the expected ups and downs. We've found the people of northern South Africa very welcoming and look forward to settling down here for the long term.

Our work with African Outreach Ministries continues to keep us busy. We are expanding our orphan program and look forward to seeing what God will do in that area. The need is so great as we strive to make a differance in the lives of orphaned children. A number of ministry trips were also made into Zimbabwe, Zambia, Mozambique, and Malawi, as we continued with the leadership training that we are involved in.

As for my writing, it's been an exciting year. I have three books coming out next year and am busy trying to finish up the last in a three book series for Heartsong Presents, Adam's Bride. This story has been an emotional journey as it deals with prejudiceness, but also if full of laughter and especially romance. Book two in the series will be released in March and it's one you won't want to miss, especially if you enjoyed Michaela's Choice. Rebecca's Heart is the story of Eric and Michaela's oldest daughter.

I'm also looking foward to working finishing up work on several other projects in the next few weeks including a cozy mystery that promises to be alot of fun. Check out my website at for more. . .

I plan to add to this blog often, so if your interested in Christian fiction and life in Africa (which trust me, is never dull!), check back often and take a journey through the heart of Africa with me!

Merry Christmas!