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Letter - December 2015

  • 28 November 2015
  • nanda.groenewald

Dear Congregations

Don’t sweat the small stuff. In the light of what’s going on in the world, that’s an expression that can be very meaningful in many a household, especially this time of year – a time that is supposed to be filled with joy and peace, but for some strange reason can sometimes be very stressful.

I love Christmas in Scotland, in the cold weather. There’s something just not right about an artificial Christmas tree with fake snow on it in the scorching December heat in South Africa. Christmas here FEELS like Christmas. And because this excites me so much, I usually can’t wait to get the 4 of us in our Christmas jumpers and send a photo to the family abroad, you know, of our ‘cute, happy family’ at Christmas time. The problem is just that my eldest has now decided that he’s not wearing a Christmas jumper anymore. He’s 8. That’s not cool. “What?!”, I went. “Of course you’re wearing your jumper! We live in Scotland now, that’s what people do.” “No.” “Yes.” “No.” Heated argument.

Until I took a step backwards and realised what I was doing. I was forcing him to do something that is so insignificant in the bigger scale of things, that I couldn’t believe it was important to me in the first place.

Because we are an amazingly lucky family – to be able to live here in this safe and lovely country, among loving and caring people. My boys are healthy and happy. And cute. Even without Christmas jumpers on!
When Jesus was born there was nothing cute about the “season”. “Mary gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn” (Luke 2:7). No Christmas jumper for baby Jesus. Cloths – because there was nothing else.

Sometimes we can get so worked up about the small things, that we lose perspective of what is really important. If we could see past all the Christmas decorations into the rest of the world – how many families are there that are torn apart because of war, where children have nothing to wear and no gifts waiting for them under the tree, where Christmas will just be a day like any other? How many people here among us hide heartache behind a smile and a gift this time of year?

Don’t sweat the small stuff. Don’t worry if your turkey burns or if you can’t find the perfect gift… We’ve got so much to be thankful for. God loves us. So much that he sent his son to die for us.

Let’s focus on the real meaning of Christmas this year, and the peace that only God can bring, the peace we so desperately need in the world today.

May God bless you all this Christmas.

Nanda

November 2015 Letter

  • 31 October 2015
  • nanda.groenewald

Dear congregations

So there I was getting myself ready to go to Aviemore with my family for the October break… And we ended up in Corfu! What a lovely surprise! André planned it all to the finest detail (behind my back!), and we had an amazing week of unexpected sunshine, leisure and exploring on the island.

Now that’s the kind of surprise everybody likes to get – sunshine instead of rain; swimming in the sea instead of walking around in your thermals… But you know what the most rewarding thing of this whole holiday was? To see the sheer delight on André’s face when the boys and I enjoyed everything he planned for us. It gave him so much pleasure to know that he was making us happy.

And this made me think about our relationship with God. Sitting there on the beautiful beach, looking at the sun setting, I thought that God gives us so much… Very often he surprises us in good ways too, but apart from that he takes care of us every single day. That is the one thing we can always rely on in our ever-changing lives – that God is always there. But does he ever see joy on our faces for that? Or do we ask for our daily bread and expect a huge big slice of chocolate cake? (Matthew 6:5-13)

How happy would it make God if he could see that we appreciate everything he does for us – the big things as well as the small things?

Let’s challenge ourselves to say thank you to God for one thing every single day this month, so that by the time there are no leaves left on the trees, we will realise that in contrast to that we have more blessings than we can count.

May God bless you all,
Nanda

October 2015 Letter

  • 1 October 2015
  • nanda.groenewald

Dear Congregations

It’s beautiful outside at the moment. The sun is shining brightly on the red, orange and yellow leaves on the trees…

I know lots of people don’t like autumn very much – because autumn is the sign that winter is just around the corner. I always find it quite amusing that the warm colours of autumn, the reds and yellows and browns, signifies that the colder weather it on its way! It’s as if the green leaves change into something spectacular before they fall off and die.

To me it almost feels as if nature is reflecting something that is going on in my heart at the moment. Because this past month has been difficult – there have been so many funerals in our two congregations.

I visited somebody a couple of evenings before she passed away. I’ve seen her lying in that hospital bed many times before, but when I walked into her room that night there was a radiance about her that I’d not seen before. Her skin looked soft and smooth, her cheeks were glowing a healthy red. And I thought: she’s getting ready to meet her Maker. The green leaf has turned yellow. And that made me realize that something we dread, dying, is just a part of life, and it can be beautiful too.

Although staying behind after someone you love has passed away is possibly the most difficult thing anyone here on earth will ever have to go through – it feels like being dropped in the middle of winter without a coat on – I think being blown off that tree in a gentle breeze and landing in the arms of God, must be quite spectacular.

In Ecclesiastes 3 we read: “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance…” May God help us to find the beauty in the difficult times too.
May God bless you all, in all the different seasons of your lives.

Nanda

September 2015 Letter

  • 1 September 2015
  • nanda.groenewald

Dear Congregations
We’ve had an amazing summer – a trip to the USA where we met up with good friends, spent time with Mickey and Minnie Mouse, and then of course the fabulous holiday club at Polbeth Harwood Church…
But the summer holiday is over now (not that it ever really was summer this year!!), and although it was special to do lots of exciting things with the boys, it’s also nice to be back into a routine again. With the start of the new school year, also comes the time for a new start here at church. And I am so excited about everything we are going to do before next summer!

When we were in the USA, we visited friends that we’ve known for 10 years, but we’ve not seen them since 2008. So although we were super excited to see them again, we were a little nervous too, because what would it be like after all this time? But from the minute they welcomed us with open arms at the airport, we felt as if we were with family. They made us feel special and almost treated us like royalty! Even the rest of the extended family, whom we’d never met before, treated us as if they had known us forever.
We treasured every minute spent with them, and that made me think that we as a church should be exactly the same. If somebody comes through our doors, whether they walk through these doors every Sunday, only once in a while, for the first time in 7 years or for the first time ever – we should make them feel like family.
Because that is what we are – brothers and sisters in Christ. In Luke 8 we read:  19 Now Jesus’ mother and brothers came to see him, but they were not able to get near him because of the crowd. 20 Someone told him, “Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to see you.” 21 He replied, “My mother and brothers are those who hear God’s word and put it into practice.”
 
When it was time to leave and we were saying ‘goodbyes’ to our friends, we were already started making plans for when we would meet up again. Because we had such a lovely time we can’t wait to spend time with them again. And that is the way every single person who exit our church doors should feel – excited about coming back again soon!

As the cold is creeping closer, slowly but surely, let’s make sure our churches are places of welcome and warmth – even warmer that the summer sun in Florida!

May God bless you all.
Nanda

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