Sunday, October 4, 2009

Shipwreck Treasures

Shipwreck at Mossel Bay....This picture was taken just a few days before I left South Africa... little did I know then the change in direction our life's journey was about to take!

My Shipwreck Treasure

Sunrise over Mossel Bay... "This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it."

I never cease to be surprised by the lessons God teaches us with when we least expect them. This morning, as I was getting ready for church, I had one of those experiences. I'm writing about it so that I won't forget... also just maybe, it will be meaningful to someone else.

In Malaysia, I was introduced to Tradewind Treasures...a company that makes beautiful jewellery from historic porcelain shards which have lain for centuries on the bottom of the South China Sea. These shards were once part of the sunken cargo from ships that traveled along the Silk Route. The first time I saw the jewellery, I decided that I'd love to have a piece as a memento of my time in Asia. So before leaving, I splurged and purchased what I thought was a bit of Asian history. Little did I know then, that my pendant with the Double Happiness waves design recovered from the Desaru Shipwreck would have meaning and symbolism to me way beyond the 19th century Qing Dynasty.

Though I bought this treasure in April, I only just wore it for the first time this morning. To my surprise as I put it on, my mind was immediately flooded with analogies and symbolism of truths much, much more ancient than the 1830 shipwreck.This pendant is a perfect symbol of hope to me. Crazy that all that follows came from simply putting on a necklace, but praise God that he keeps encouraging me over and over with this most beautiful word...Hope!

First of all, the pendant came from a shipwreck which is exactly what my life would be without Jesus. Like a ship at sea, I can be blown to and fro by the stormy winds of life, and at times, even overcome by raging waters that threaten to take my last bit of joy... peace...even my very breath away. Without Jesus who is more than able to calm the most treacherous of storms in my life, I'd be going down without a prayer of hope... just like the covered wine bowl my jewellery was made of did in the cargo hold of the Desaru.

Next, I thought about how this porcelain a treasure, had once been lost... just like me! How blessed I am that Jesus values not only me, but each and every person in the whole world, and will stop at nothing to find his children and bring us home to be with him eternally. The parables of the lost sheep, Luke 15:4, and the lost coins, Luke 15:8, encourage me and help me to know this amazing truth.

Another analogy that came to mind this morning was how my life, just like my pendant, without God's grace was broken... full of sin and without the value it had been created to have. Fortunately, Jesus' sacrifice has made it possible for me to be beautiful and truly precious in God's eyes once again....simply illustrated just as this jewellery had been transformed by a craftsman from a mere shard from a common everyday bowl into a treasure worthy to be displayed in a national museum.

One last thought I had was about the pattern of "Double Happiness"....meaning even more than happy which just so happens to be the meaning of "blessed"! It truly is a gift from God to be able to experience hope and joy regardless of outward circumstances. We are truly "blessed" to be called his children, joint heirs with Jesus Christ. To God, no other treasures on earth can even begin to compare to his shipwreck!

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P.S. This post was written 3 months ago (October 4)... and never published as I wasn't quite sure... not sure what I wasn't sure about... I think I was afraid of sounding too preachy or something. As I reread it this morning (January 3)... the first time I've been to my blog since Sam was laid off and we've moved home... I decided to publish it with a prayer that maybe the truths God put on my heart then would encourage others as they once again encouraged me this morning. So much loss has happened in the short time we've been home... dear friends have lost mothers, granddaughters... friends of friends have lost wives, babies...lost jobs, lost relationships, lost opportunities...
Praise God that so long as the sun rises, there will never be a loss of HOPE.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

New Friends

It's October already which means it's time for a new travelogue. September did include some beautiful sights, and I do have some pictures that I promise to post very soon for the pleasure of my vicarious adventurers, but more than anything it was a month about people and relationships rather than about places.

All of our new friendships have been such a comfort and joy. Sam and I joined the American Association of South Africa in Capetown on an outing to a local winery and learned how to prepare a yummy winter meal. We've spent several Saturdays hiking with the Walk-a-bouts, a hiking club we were warmly welcomed into. Sundays have been special as we've found our church home, a vibrant loving part of God's family meeting at Common Ground Church. And finally, all of the Smith International families have returned from their holidays and we've enjoyed several fun gatherings as we strive to make new homes away from our homes.

Whew, all that by way of an introduction! Though these new friendships are special and deserve a blog post of their own, who I really want to write about today is my new friend, Maria, a beautiful Godly woman, delightful neighbor, and also the wife of a co-worker of Sam's who's been an incredible blessing to me this past month. It's hard to believe but the threads of our friendship and the hope and encouragement it has brought to both of us actually began in Singapore almost 72 years ago.

I know I may have lost you on that last sentence! Let me try to explain this amazing story of how God weaves our lives together..."working everything out for the good of those who love him and have been called according to his purpose" Romans 8:28

In September 2007, I accompanied Sam on a business trip to Singapore. He spent the week in classes while I spent the week exploring. It was quite an adventure for a rookie world traveler like me. I enjoyed museums, gardens, and shopping, but my favorite sight of all was "The Gate of Hope". There was just something about this place that touched my heart and ministered to my soul. Just before the trip, we'd learned that Vanessa was expecting our precious Riley Lynn...not unwelcome, but unplanned. Our hearts were heavy knowing how difficult the path would be. Strolling around the grounds of this former convent and orphanage that had been a home to so many children somehow comforted me and filled me with hope in a way I can't quite explain.

The Gate of Hope

Try to read the fine print on this plaque... you'll see why later in the blog.

The chapel on the convent grounds.

Fast forward to September 2009. As soon as Maria returned from her holidays in the states, we began getting to know each other, sharing as we walked along the seawall. One day she shared that her mother, born to a Chinese family, had been placed in an orphanage because of a superstition about girls who were born in the year of the tiger being bad luck. (Do you remember reading about that on the plaque above?) Her mom was later adopted by a Christian family. She then shared that her mom had married at a young age and immediately had 3 children. Maria was the oldest. Her parents had struggled and eventually divorced placing Maria and her brother in the same orphanage her mom had been brought to as a baby because they were unable to care for them. Maria, my new friend, had walked through The Gate of Hope when she was 6 years old and spent most of her childhood there.

Her story and my own Gate of Hope experience have once again given me just a glimpse of how purposeful random things in our life can be. My heart is filled with hope when I think of what God did to bless Maria, the daughter of an orphan and an orphan herself for a time. Truly, truly, truly, I'm so thankful for God's provision, encouragement, and faithfulness to keep his promises and cannot imagine life without the relationships with family and friends that he has blessed me with...both old and new.