Thursday, 30 June 2011

It's the little things...

Reflections on blessings in my preparations for Oxford

Leaving home for the first time is never easy. And when it means, in addition, moving country, hemisphere and continent, it's all the more difficult.

Yet, I've noticed so many little things that have happened to make the transition and preparations easier. Below is a list of these little things. I can see God working daily, and constantly confirming and affirming decisions I make. It's these little things that give me the confidence that God is in control of my plans and helping me every step of the way.

When replying to the offer of a place at Worcester College in March, I had to give them a date by when I would know whether or not I had a scholarship. I had not been told when the Emma Smith scholarships would be awarded, but assumed they would be sorted out by the end of April. For some reason, however, I put down "end of May", just to be safe. After the delay caused by my application getting lost, that was exactly the date by which I could confirm that I had it.

One of the issues in applying for a place a Oxford, is that you have to choose a college on your application form. Other than having heard names of colleges that famous people belonged to (e.g. CS Lewis - Magdalen), my knowledge of Oxford colleges is poor, how can I make such a decision? In email communication with a lady from the Linguistics department, two colleges were recommended to me. Initially I was going to choose the other one, but after examining the college websites, had the sudden impression that I should choose Worcester instead. The next email I received confirmed that impression because the lady mentioned that Worcester was specifically keen on linguistics students. Worcester also happens to be very close to the linguistics department, meaning travelling to lectures will be easy. I have since been told that Worcester is one of the most beautiful colleges at Oxford - and well I believe that. It even has it's own lake! O.o

Another thing that had been worrying me about going to Oxford is health issues. I was uncertain whether or not I would need a medical aid (insurance) and how I would be able to get my chronic medication for my insomnia. It turns out that since my course is longer than 6 months, I qualify for NHS health care, and have nothing to worry about! :-)

Another major concern for me was finance. The scholarship I have been awarded is a little different to most in that you have to tell the committee how much money you need (as opposed to them having a fixed amount that they award). It's an amazing privilege to be able to do that, and is in itself a blessing. The scholarship covers fees, accommodation and living expenses. If it had not been a full scholarship, my family would hardly have been able to make up the difference. But drawing up your own budget it's also a frightening responsibility. Using information on the Oxford website and help from other Oxford scholars, I came up with a basic budget for my application form. When I received the acceptance letter from Worcester, it had an estimate of what my fees for the complete course would be. The amount was almost identical to that which I had calculated. Perfect confirmation that I was on the right track!

Once I was awarded the scholarship, I was then tasked with drawing up a more detailed budget for my first year of study, which, if approved, would be the amount given to me. I was worried, because the Financial Guarantee form requests proof of finance for both years, but my scholarship will only be renewed in the second year following a satisfactory academic report. I have since been told that this would not be a problem, as long as I could provide proof of finance for the first year. The revised (one-year) amount, once again was almost identical to that which I had requested for the first year.

It might have been just short, but the Rand-Pound exchange rate has dropped since I first made my application. At that time, the exchange was £1=R11.50; it is now £1=R11.00. That 50c makes a significant difference when you are dealing with such large amounts. As a matter of fact, the exchange rate has just dropped below 11 for the first time in months! Another one of those "little things" that makes a big difference ^.^

When my parents asked what I would like as a graduation present for this year, I asked for a camera to take with overseas. I had just been through the difficult process of finding a digital camera for my dad's 60th birthday, and knew it was no easy task finding the right one. We went on holiday to the 'Berg in the first week of June and I used my brother's old camera to take photos. I decided after that that I wanted a Canon because my brother's camera, despite its age, takes the most beautiful pictures. The next week, we found a Canon on special. Confirmation that that's the make I should get. I am extremely pleased with the camera I got.

My trip to Oxford is the first time that I will be flying in an aeroplane. Two things have already happened that mean I will not be taking that flight alone. To begin with, one of my friends from Church, may be flying to the UK in September. She says that if our schedules coincide, she will be happy to fly with me. That may not be necessary any more, though. My mother has just had a pension policy mature and been paid out a significant amount of money. There is enough to buy a ticket for my dad to fly over with me and help me settle in (and there will still be money left over for my mum's own use)!

One of the big issues when I get over there will be finding a church. I already have been promised an introduction to two different churches in Oxford. The friend in the aforementioned paragraph lived in the UK for a few years. She has a friend that lives in Oxford who is coming over to South Africa for a holiday in July/August. She has promised to introduce me to this girl who will in turn introduce me to the Brethren Assembly in Oxford. Another couple known to our family has promised to put me in contact with an evangelical Anglican church in Oxford.

These are some of the more major "little things" that have happened. There are many others: I have never owned one of those CD storage wallets, and was thinking I ought to get one rather than carting my CDs over in their separate boxes. Yesterday, I found a nice one for R15 on the throw-out table at Pick 'n Pay! A couple months ago, my brother got a new laptop. It came with an alternative cable with a UK plug end. I tested it the other day and it fits perfectly into my netbook's charger! I was looking for a travel bag the other day. Although I haven't bought my bag yet, it was a successful hunt and it turned out that one of my friends used to work in a luggage shop, and could give me some additional advice. The list goes on, and I'm sure this isn't the end.

Although the number of people who live in England whom I personally know is rather small, I have a really long list of contacts (more than I need). Many people who have heard I am going, have said: "Oh, I have a brother, uncle, sister, friend who lives in Oxford or London - I'll give you their contact details). I'm no longer even surprised when I hear something like that, or relating to any of the other countless "little things" that have happened. God is awesome in that he cares about every aspect of our lives. His omnipotence is made clear as he works through and cares about not only the big things, but the little things, like clothes I need to take, the bag I carry them in and the plug I use for my laptop.

What an amazing God we serve :-D

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

My Cabbage Patch Dolls (1)

When I was in Primary School (in the mid-90s) Cabbage Patch Dolls, which had been popular in the 80s, came back into fashion. Five of my school friends and I all had our own Cabbage Patch Dolls which we'd acquired from different sources. Some were the new imported ones, some were the South African variety - slightly cheaper and different in design, but with the legitimate label and signature. Some were inherited from mothers or sisters. Between us we all had at least a CP Kid (the older kind with fully-covering woollen hair) or a CP Baby (the smaller kind with a tuft of fake hair) or both. We played with these dolls fervently, as though they were our own children; taking them to the make-shift "park" (in our garden,) where the wash-line and a coat-hanger made a useful fufi-slide), sending them to school, holding birthday parties for them (complete with presents and miniature snacks), and making costumes and choreographing dances for their ballet concerts. We didn't seem to care that most girls our age had given up on dolls long ago. These dolls were our lives and we thrived on them.

It's a pity that in the 90s, taking photographs was a harder task. and it is these days. It was the pre-digital camera decade, and photographs of the dolls and their escapades are rare. How I'd love some pictures of all those ballet costumes we made.

Over a decade later, I still have my dolls. They sit prettily on a shelf in my bedroom observing me as I read, study, compose essays and struggle over Greek or Latin conjugations. This is something of a tribute to them and the role they played in my childhood life.

Meet Allysan 
(pronounced like "Alison")

Allysan's birthday is on 21 November 1997. She was my first Cabbage Patch doll and there is an interesting story behind how I came to get her. I was in Grade 4 and I had just got braces to push back my "buck teeth". I was one of those unfortunate kids who also had to wear a "headgear" at night. At the same time, my mum found Allysan in a toy shop. She is a South African made Cabbage Patch doll and came complete with her own set of braces (also a headgear). Why she needed it for her one tooth is beyond me, but that, coupled with the fact that she was far cheaper than the imported variety meant that my mum couldn't resist buying her for me.

Unlike the imported ones, mine did not come with a name. I chose Alison, as it was the second of two names my parents had considered for me. When I was born, they decided I looked more like a "Sonja", and Alison was cast aside. The unusual spelling came later, and will be explained in a later post.

Allysan had a number of close friends (my friends dolls who were also CP kids): Brianne (one of the new imported kind) was her best friend and lived just down the road. The others were Gabby and Rosie (80s style CPKs) and Anita (a South African one like her). She also had a cousin named Arabella, my sister's doll. My mother also has two South African CPKs called Hannah and Theo (the latter being one of the few boys).

Allysan went to Sunshine Patch Preschool and was in Mrs Honey's class. Her favourite animal was a pig (don't try to figure out a 9 year-olds logic in assigning a favourite animal for her doll) and her favourite colour yellow. Every night she would sleep with her favourite toy - Owly (a knitted owl I had made in school about the same time that I got her.)

Allysan has performed in various ballet concerts, as well as Christmas and Easter plays (often written by me). When I reached highschool and stopped playing with dolls, she has continued to be present in the annual Nativity Scene which I set up at Christmas. She has played numerous rolls including that of Mary and of one of the Magi. Since all but one of the dolls owned by my sister, mother and I are girls, and all but one of the roles in the nativity scene belong to men - the poor girls are frequently given men's roles for the scene. Thankfully they accept this gracefully.

Ally and Theo as Mary and Joseph (2005)
Ally as Mary (2006)

That's all I've got to share for now. In the next instalment you will meet Lilly, my Cabbage Patch Baby.

Thursday, 23 June 2011

On first meeting Aslan...

Musings from The Horse and His Boy, by CS Lewis (Part 2)

The Horse and His Boy is a unique book in the Chronicles of Narnia series. In this book, all four main characters (two children and two horses) have spent most of their lives in Calormen, the pagan land to the south of Narnia. As a result, they have grown up knowing very little, if anything, about Aslan. When each of them meet him, their response is different, and yet meaningful. These scenes shed light on who Aslan is, and by extension, on the One he represents.

2. Bree (Breehy-hinny-brinny-hoohy-hah)
the meeting

Unlike Shasta, Bree has some knowledge of Narnia and Aslan, having been brought from Narnia to Calormen when he was still a young horse. He knows the name Aslan, and thinks he knows who he is, but is largely mistaken in his understanding. A meeting with Aslan reveals to him just how little he understands and humbles his misplaced pride in his knowledge.

Aravis asks Bree why it is that he swears "by the Lion" and "by the Lion's Mane" when in fact he hates lions. Bree replies:
"So I do...but when I speak of the Lion, of course I mean Aslan, the great deliverer of Narnia who drove away the Witch and the Winter. All Narnians swear by him".
"But is he a lion?" [asks Aravis]
"No, no, of course not," said Bree in a rather shocked voice.
"All the stories about him in Tashbaan say he is," replied Aravis. "And if he isn't a lion, why do you call him a lion?"
"Well, you'd hardly understand that at your age...
While Bree is speaking, a large lion, Aslan himself, appears from behind. Bree cannot see him, but Aravis and Hwin do.
"No doubt," continued Bree, "when they speak of him as a lion, they only mean he's as strong as a lion or (to our enemies) as fierce as a lion. Or something of that kind. Even a little girl like you, Aravis, must see that it would be quite absurd to suppose he is a real lion. Indeed, it would be disrespectful. If he was a lion, he'd have to be a beast, just like the rest of us. Why!" (and here Bree began to laugh) "If he was a lion he'd have four paws, and a tail and Whiskers!...Aie, ooh, hoo-hoo! Help!"
For just as he said the word Whiskers one of Aslan's had actually tickled his ear...
Bree got such a fright he ran quickly as far away from him as he could, till he was stopped by a high wall. Hwin was the first to address Aslan, whose conversation I will discuss in a later post. After that, Aslan turned to Bree.
"Now Bree," he said, "you poor, proud, frightened Horse, draw near. Nearer still my son. Do not dare not to dare. Touch me. Smell me. Here are my paws, here is my tail, these are my whiskers. I am a true beast."
"Aslan," said Bree in a shaken voice, "I'm afraid I must be rather a fool."
"Happy the Horse who knows that while he is still young. Or the Human either."
what we can learn
There are a couple lessons we can learn from Bree. To begin with, we like Bree often have our own ideas of who God is and what he is like. These may be based on half-memories of things we've heard about him. Or, like Aravis, they may be based on rumours we have heard (the rumours of Aslan in Tashbaan of which she speaks make him out to be a dangerous demon in the shape of a lion).

When we come face to face with the truth about God, as revealed in his Word, and as we experience Him in our lives, we learn that most of what we thought we knew or assumed about him is untrue or only half true. He is something much greater, wilder, safer and more wonderful than we ever imagined.

When we realise this, we, along with Bree can only confess: "I'm afraid I must be rather a fool."

Aslan's reply to that is equally revealing. It echoes the words of Scripture that speak of foolishness and wisdom.
For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, so that no man may boast before God. But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, so that, just as it is written, “Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord.” (1 Cor 1:27-31)
Happy the human who realises their foolishness in the eyes of an all wise God while he or she is still young.

The other thing this passage points to and reminds us of is what, from a human point of view, is the most foolish thing God could have done. And yet "the foolishness of God is wiser than the greatest wisdom of men". Like Bree, we would never have guessed it, but like Bree it is because we don't really understand God.

For Bree, it was unthinkable that the Lord of all Narnia could be a beast like him. For us, it is unthinkable that God would leave his power and throne in heaven, and come to earth as a mortal man. But that is exactly what he did. Jesus put of all his godhead, and put on full flesh and mortality, knowing he would suffer the most brutal form of suffering in that flesh.
Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Phil 2:5-8)
I mentioned in the post on Shasta the scene where Jesus appeared resurrected to his disciples. They doubted that it was really him risen in a new human body. But he convinced them that he was not a ghost or some insubstantial human-like spirit. He proved this to them by eating food in front of them.

Thomas was missing from that reunion. In the same way that Bree refused to believe that Aslan was a real Lion, Thomas refused to believe that Jesus was really risen. I'm fairly sure CS Lewis had this passage in mind when he wrote the words "Here are my paws, here is my tail, these are my whiskers. I am a true beast."
And after eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, “Peace to you!” Then He said to Thomas, “Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.” And Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:26-29)
See Also (other reflections on HHB)
On first meeting Aslan (Shasta)
On first meeting Aslan (Aravis) 

Summer Challenge 1 
Summer Challenge 2 

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Secure in His hands

We had a wonderful Church service this morning. So much happened, I can't even recount it all. It was lots of little things that people said - the Spirit of God was moving.

The missionary Patrick Mulenga, shared with us a little of what the Lord has been doing in their church and then recounted the amazing story of how he was brought back from the brink of death that he might continue to serve the Lord. Glenn shared with us some small lessons from the lives of David and Solomon.

One of the most amazing things he pointed out is that when David ask if he could build a house - a temple - for the Lord, he was told by Nathan the prophet, "The Lord declares that he will make a house for you—a dynasty of kings! For when you die and are buried with your ancestors, I will raise up one of your descendants, your own offspring, and I will make his kingdom strong. He is the one who will build a house—a temple—for my name. And I will secure his royal throne forever. I will be his father, and he will be my son." (2 Sam 7:11-14a, NLT)

I always thought the prophesy was about Solomon, and it was, but it's also, more importantly, about Jesus, David's descendant who would "build the temple" three days after it was destroyed. Wow!

But before we even got to this part of the service, there was something else that spoke to me on a personal level, and it was in two of the songs which had been selected for us to sing. I share them below and what they meant to me...

As I head off to Oxford in three months time, there is a lot for me to think and worry about. I am both excited and scared of everything that has to happen, and has to be done, and of what it will be like when I'm there. My fears are few, but real. The one is general paranoia that something will go wrong before I even get there. That an Icelandic volcano will erupt, cutting me off from Europe, or worse, leaving me stranded in some place like Dubai. I also fear how I will handle the cold and rain, after living in sunny sub-tropical climes my whole life.

Another of my fears is deeper, more spiritual. I've heard stories, enough to make this fear real - will my faith be enough to sustain me when I am off on my own, in an unknown place among unknown people? I've lived under the watchful eye of parents and church my entire life. Now I enter, the "big bad world", alone with temptations aplenty and those to hold me accountable few. I like to think that it will, that I am strong enough. I survived teenagehood and a secular university unscathed. I have not yet fallen down the path of rebellion which many Christians wander along at some point in their lives, if even for a little while. And so this continual fear hangs over my head every time I'm presented with a new challenge in my life. Will this be the time that I fall?

Only time will show my faith for what it really is, but I ask all my friends to uphold me in prayer. It seems almost a selfish request, that I should be spared when others aren't. Yet surely there is not harm in it: May I be spared once again.

As we sang this chorus this morning, I found the hope and strength I needed to allay these fears for a time, real though they may be:

If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
If I rest on the far side of the sea,
Even there, your arms will keep me warm,
Even there, your loving hand is sure to guide me.

The wings of a plane; an island, not only on the far side of the sea, but of the world; a place that will be far colder than anything I am used to. The words could not be more appropriate, had someone written the song especially for me. And what makes them extra special, is that the first two lines come straight from scripture (Psalm 139).I think this ought to become my key refrain, the words I say as I wake and sleep.
From your Spirit where can I go,
From your presence where can I flee,
You are there in the oceans far below,
I go up to the heavens,
You are there beside me.

You have searched and you see,
All of me, all of me,
I will give willingly,
All of me, all of me.

Oh, may those last two lines be true. Not only for the next two years, but for the rest of my life.

The next song we sang was equally appropriate:

I'm so secure,
You're here with me,
You stay the same,
Your love remains,
Here in my heart

So close, I believe
You're holding me now
In your hands I belong,
You'll never let me go.

May I feel and know the security I have in the Lord, and may I always stay safe 
in His hands.

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Me? Obsessed with hedgehogs?

Whatever gave you that crazy idea?

Apart from my actual collection of hedgehog ornaments and plushies, I have also collected a number of other hedgehog things over the years. I blame it mainly on my mother, who has a knack for finding these things. And when you're trying to find presents for someone - what better way (if they are fond of hedgehogs) than to get them some more hedgehog stuff?

I'm not complaining, just trying to defend myself - to argue that I am not completely obsessed. At least not yet. And to prove it, I will be leaving many of my hedgehogs and hedgehog stuff behind when I head off to Oxford. If I was really obsessed, then I wouldn't be able to. So there. Are you convinced?

My Bed

My Pyjama Tops

My Jewellery
(necklaces and earrings)

My Book Ends

Toilet Roll Holders

My Doorway

Garden "Gnome"

See also
My Hedgehog Collection - Part 1 
My Hedgehog Collection - Part 2

Friday, 17 June 2011

On first meeting Aslan...

Musings from The Horse and His Boy, by CS Lewis (Part 1)

The Horse and His Boy is a unique book in the Chronicles of Narnia series. In this book, all four main characters (two children and two horses) have spent most of their lives in Calormen, the pagan land to the south of Narnia. As a result, they have grown up knowing very little, if anything, about Aslan. When each of them meet him, their response is different, and yet meaningful. These scenes shed light on who Aslan is, and by extension, on the One he represents.

1. Shasta
the meeting

Shasta is the first to meet Aslan. He has been sent alone on a mission to warn King Lune of Archenland that his a country is about to be attacked by the Calormen prince Rabadash. After meeting Lune on a hunting party and passing on the warning, he is separated from the party by a sudden mist. Left to wander alone through these foreign mountains, he suddenly realises that someone is walking beside him...

Terrified, he eventually plucks up the courage inquire who it is that is following him:
"Who are you?" [Shasta] said, scarcely above a whisper.
"One who has waited long for you to speak," said the Thing. Its voice was not loud, but very large and deep...

"You're not - not something dead, are you? Oh please - please do go away...Oh I am the unluckiest person in the world!"
...He felt the warm breath of the Thing on his hand and face. "There," it said, "that is not the breath of a ghost. Tell me your sorrows."
He goes on to tell the creature of all his adventures since he left Calormen. Of how he met Aravis, of the adventures in Tashbaan and the crossing of the desert. Of the numerous times they were chased by lions.
"I do not all you unfortunate," said the Large Voice.
"Don't you think it was bad luck to meet so many lions?" said Shasta. 
"There was only one lion" said the Voice...but he was swift of foot...I was the lion. I was the lion who forced you to join with Aravis. I was the cat who comforted you among the houses of the dead. I was the lion who gave the horses new strength of fear for the last mile so you should reach King Lune in time. And I was the lion you do not remember who pushed the boat in which you lay, a child near death, so that it came to shore where a man sat, wakeful at midnight, to receive you."...

"Who are you?" asked Shasta.

"Myself," said the voice very deep and low so that the earth shook: and again "Myself," loud and clear and gay, and then a third time, "Myself," whispered so softly you could hardly hear it...
As they had been walking and talking, the mist had begun to rise. Shasta saw Aslan for the first time and was not afraid - or at least not afraid as one would be of a lion though he did experience the fear of another sort. Their eyes met for an instant, and then He was gone.

At first Shasta thought it was all a dream. But then he spotted a large deep paw-print in the ground. The paw-print began to full with water. The water overflowed from it and became a small and refreshing stream. Shasta drank from it and washed his face. He knew it was not a dream.

what we can learn
There are a number of things about this passage that remind us of our Lord.

When people first meet Him, they are not always sure what to make of Him. He can be something of an enigma. Like Shasta, the disciples, on seeing Jesus risen from the dead, were slow to believe it was really him. Some, like Shasta, feared that He was a ghost - something insubstantial and mysterious. Something not of this world, and perhaps even dangerous.

Jesus, like Aslan to Shasta, comforted them by showing them that he was Real. God though he was, he was still human - physically human; not some insubstantial spirit:
Then the two from Emmaus told their story of how Jesus had appeared to them as they were walking along the road, and how they had recognised him as he was breaking the bread. And just as they were telling about it, Jesus himself was suddenly standing there among them. “Peace be with you,” he said. But the whole group was startled and frightened, thinking they were seeing a ghost!
“Why are you frightened?” he asked. “Why are your hearts filled with doubt? Look at my hands. Look at my feet. You can see that it’s really me. Touch me and make sure that I am not a ghost, because ghosts don’t have bodies, as you see that I do.” As he spoke, he showed them his hands and his feet.
Still they stood there in disbelief, filled with joy and wonder. Then he asked them, “Do you have anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he ate it as they watched. (Luke 24:35-41)
The second part that reminds us of our Lord, the the part where Shasta asks Aslan who he is. His triple reply, among other things, is a direct echo of what the Lord says to Moses, when he asks him his name:
And God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And He said, “Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’”Moreover God said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the children of Israel: ‘The LORD God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you. This is My name forever, and this is My memorial to all generations.’ (Exodus 3:14-15)
Thirdly, the passage where the paw-print becomes a flowing stream, speaks to us of Jesus as our living water:
Jesus replied, “If you only knew the gift God has for you and who you are speaking to, you would ask me, and I would give you living water... Anyone who drinks this water will soon become thirsty again. But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life.” (John 4:10, 13-14)
There is a similar scene when Jill Pole first meets Aslan in the Silver Chair.

Another beautiful link, which I happened to notice is the fact that before the mist lifts and Shasta sees who Aslan is, he refers to him as The Voice. This is not the only time this title is given to Aslan. It is the name by which he is called in the Magician's Nephew, when he is first heard singing the world into existence. I can't but help think of The Word, when I see this title.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. (John 1:1-5)
But of all these little links and suggestions, there is one aspect of this scene, that above all others, speaks to us about who God is and how he works in our lives: It is the part where Aslan reveals that he was the only Lion in the whole story, and that he was there with Shasta throughout his journey, even though he did not realise it.

Everything that had happened in Shasta's journey, even some of the apparently bad things, was ordained and overseen by Aslan. Though they thought they were fleeing lions, Shasta and Aravis were brought together to accompany one another. Though they thought that they were running for their lives, the horses were actually being urged on to save the lives of the Archenland people.

I think this passage, and the story as a whole, reminds us that God is with us throughout life; every step of the way. And sometimes, what seems like the worst misfortune is actually a blessing of unmeasurable value (ask me, I know a little about that).

And it is not only for the important and scary events that the Lord is with us. Sometimes the smallest, seemingly insignificant thing, like a cat to comfort you when you are alone in a scary place, has been placed there by God to get you through the night.
And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their pre-appointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us... (Acts 17:26-27)
The more I dwell on this passage, the more I realise just how full of truth it is... soon I will post more about the other characters and their meetings with Aslan. I can't wait to see what we can learn from them...

See Also (other reflections on HHB)
On first meeting Aslan (Bree)
On first meeting Aslan (Aravis) 

Summer Challenge 1 
Summer Challenge 2 

Saturday, 11 June 2011

My Hedgehog Collection - Part Two

Here is the second lot of photos of my hedgehogs (the one's that don't fit on my desk shelves).

1. Plushies
This is a picture of some of my "fluffy" hedgehogs, that sit on top of my desk shelves. The yellow one is a punk hedgehog named Spike and the one that looks like Mickey Mouse, guess what...Mickey!

2. Home Made
These two I made myself. The one on the left was made from a kit (yes, she is in one of the previous photos). Her name is Hannatjie (diminutive of Hannah - which was the name she came with, but I already had a hedgehog with that name). The one on the left is completely knitted with a pattern my cousin bought me. She's called Elle, after the brand of wool I used.

3. My bookshelf
Firstly, book ends, a door stop and some others. The mottled one on the left is made with wire and beads - a traditional South African souvenir (though hedgehog wire animals are rare).

4. Normous, Tween and Nute
These three have an interesting story. My mother ordered them for me as presents over the telephone one year. When they asked whether she wanted small, medium or large, she said "one of each". The price obviously indicated that they'd be roughly the same size as normal hedgehog toys.

But they weren't. Apparently when the box arrived my family were mortified and didn't know where to hide them. They succeeded however, and I knew nothing until I opened the present containing the large one on my birthday. It was a huge laugh, as my mother explained to me how she had managed to accidentally buy such a huge hog. The fact that he was orange (an important colour to me) added to the humour. You can only imagine my further surprise, when 4 days later, I opened the present containing the medium and "small" sized ones for Christmas.

The silver thing underneath them is a 30 cm (1 ft) ruler; they are sitting on an average sized bed pillow.

I named the first one "Normous" (short for E. Normous) the day I got him. To follow the pattern the others are called Tween (for In B Tween) and Nute (for My Nute).

To read read more and see pictures of my other hedgehogs - click on the link below

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Fanfiction Update

So in January I started writing my first ever fanfiction. I'm not much of a fiction writer, but Geoffrey F from TLC encouraged me to have a go. The story got put on hold for the semester, but now that I have some free time, I can work on it again.

The story tells of what happened to Susan Pevensie, after The Last Battle. This is the last book in the Chronicles of Narnia series. Susan had abandoned Narnia, and refused to beleive that it was anything more than a game which she and her siblings had imagined. When the rest of her family and the other friends of Narnia are killed in a train crash, Susan is pared. This story tells of her quest for answers when she finds herself alone, bereft of her closest family and wondering if there was more to Narnia than she had been willing to remember.

Click here and scroll down to the last post to read my latest update.
Click here to read from the beginning.

All comments are welcome. If you are not a member of TLC, feel free to comment here on the blog.

Monday, 6 June 2011

The Dragon Mountains, a baboon and some throat sweets

This weekend, we went away on a family trip to the beautiful Drakensberg Mountains (nicknamed by locals, "The Berg"). It was an unusual trip, since we don't usually go away for just a weekend during term time (the rest of my family are not yet on holiday), and also because it was not just my immediate family going. My mother's eldest sister and her husband, who now reside even further South -  in Australia - are currently visiting South Africa. So we made the trip with them and another one of my mother's sisters and family (she has three in total).

We stayed at the Drakensville resort, with its beautifully kept gardens, wedding chapel and (joy of joys) heated indoor swimming pool! Since those are fairly rare around here, the swimming pool was a welcome novelty. I can safely say that it was the first time in my life that I swam in June - and not only that but in June and in the icy Drakensberg.

We arrived there on Friday afternoon. On Saturday we took the short drive to The Royal Natal Gardens Reserve. We were going to have a picnic beside the dams where my cousins were fishing. While the rest of the family went for a walk to the other side of the dam, my brother and I stayed to look after the bags. We had not locked up our car, or even shut the windows, since we were soon to unpack the picnic things, and my family had not been planning to leave the site - they were called away to see the view from the top of a small hill.

My uncle then came back and said that my brother and I were wanted for photographs. We were reluctant to leave the bags, but I eventually I went on, when my sister returned to the picnic site. As I walked along, a very considerate duck, made a beautiful pose, so I was able to take some photos of it.

When I climbed the small hill, I realised why they had wanted us to come. There was not much of a view from the picnic site itself, as it was in a hollow and had tall grass behind it. But when we climbed the hill, there was the most magnificent view of the part of the Berg known as The Amphitheatre. We stood there for a while, enjoying the view and taking photos.

Suddenly my Uncle shouted, "Your family are being attacked by a baboon!" My dad and I ran back to the picnic site to where my brother and sister were watching the stuff.

While they were sitting there, a baboon had come up to our car (which was just behind them). They heard a noise coming from the car, and turned around to see a baboon jumping out of the window with a pack of Halls throat lozenges in its mouth. It then snatched up the packet of salt-and-vinegar chips which my siblings were eating and ran off. By the time we got there, it had vanished.

The Halls lozenges had come out of my handbag which I'd left in the car. I'm not sure whether I had zipped it up properly before leaving it, but he had managed to get into my handbag and remove two sets of lozenges. I had two sweets loose in a plastic packet. He had torn them out and left the plastic packet in the car along with one wrapper. Then he had also taken my new, unopened pack, which he had in his mouth when my brother saw him. What mystifies me the most, is that he succeeded in doing all this without removing anything else from my bag!

My hope is that, on eating the lozenges, the poor creature will not know what hit him, and will never steal from humans again. I'm also hoping that he was not too impressed by the vinegar on the chips. Someone in our party joked that the baboon would be barking very loudly that night, after having such a clear throat!

We are often warned not to feed baboons, as they become unafraid of humans and therefore dangerous (in some cases the rangers are forced to shoot them because of the threat they become). My prayer is that this baboon will not suffer such a fate.

When this incident occurred, a game ranger came to see what had happened. We were able to eat our picnic in safety under the watchful eye of the ranger.

That afternoon we had a party for my sister, whose birthday fell on that day (complete with the cake that she and I had baked and was, after all, not a flop). In evening we had, according to South African holidaying tradition, a braai (uh, barbeque). There was even some fresh fish my cousins had caught, though we were already full by the time they had finished gutting and preparing it.

It was on all a short but enjoyable holiday. It was a little tense at times (as tends to happen when family gets together), but we all survived and made it safely home. That was my last trip to the Berg before I leave the country for two years, I'm glad I had the chance to see it one last time.

Thursday, 2 June 2011

The term is over!

Quite literally this time round. After four and a half years of studying at the same University, yesterday closed that chapter of my life.

As I left the exam hall yesterday evening, it occurred to me that the next exam I write will be in Oxford. Oxford! The idea still brings chills (both figurative and literal ;-)). I've referred in previous posts to going to Oxford as as a dream, but the dream is fast becoming a reality. I have four months to get everything ready. The thought of packing is especially scary. How do I decide what to take and what to leave behind? Do I buy stuff here and take it over, or wait and buy stuff there? So many questions, so much to do, but I am excited, and nervous and petrified O.O and impatient (all at the same time).

I'll never forget UKZN, even if I am in that beautiful place called Oxford. I'll miss my musty office, the winding passages of MTB, the clinical rooms of Shepstone, the freezing Classics museum, and most of all the beloved Library. That library was my second home and place of refuge for the first two years (before I had my own office), the views of the harbour and city were my constant companions (and what beautiful views they were). And the books in that Library. One of the first and most exciting things I discovered there was a three-volume complete set of The History of Middle Earth. After years of searching for the various volumes - there they were just sitting on the shelves. As I advanced in my studies I lost count of the number of books I borrowed. Even if they were (my lesser preference) non-fiction books, they contained treasure troves of Classical and Linguistic information. Some of those books (like the Loeb transtlations) hadn't been taken out in 30 years. Some weren't on the electronic system - but they were precious, and I always felt a thrill, leaving that Library with another treasured book (or pile of books) in my hands.

Then there's my lecturers, classmates, colleagues, students and friends. I'll miss them the most, but that's for another post on another day.

That stage of my life is over, and a new one awaits. New (and probably older) hallways, new libraries, new colleagues and friends. A new chapter is starting, even better than the one before, and I can't wait to live it...

Dear Lord, I praise you for the life you have given me and the adventures I have faced. Please keep me strong as a prepare for the next adventure. Be my guide and my light, and keep me safe by your side as I venture into the unknown. Never let me slip out of your hands, for you are my strength and salvation.