The Atmore Family show you how we ‘shmodel’…and a fantastic offer you won’t want to miss!

Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear, I have completely neglected this blog! Call it a new job and extra commitments, but somehow I’ve found myself taking an unintended blog hiatus.

Anyhoo, trusting that you accept my apologies, I come baring a little gift – an apology offering you’re going to want to take me up on, I promise!

A few weeks ago, my family took a little trip to Tokai Forest so that the amazingly talented Tiffany Burnham could take some photographs of us being silly. The last professional photographs we had as a family (excluding the few taken at our wedding) were studio photographs taken when we were very little -you know, the kind with photographers who had rooms in the mall and you came in matching clothing and sat on elevated boxes covered in black cloth. My mom celebrated a special birthday this year and I thought it would be lovely to gift her with new, slightly less cheesy, family photographs. I asked Tiffany and she agreed! Some of you may have seen some of the photos Tiff took of Terence and I for our second anniversary. We loved them, so asking her to take these precious photos was a no-brainer!

We had 2 hours of pure fun and sillyness. It had rained the whole week, but thankfully the sun come out for a few hours and we took advantage. Tiffany was, of course, an absolute pro, keeping us relaxed and all looking mostly in the right direction.

Here are some of my favourites from the shoot.

Scroll to the end to end to see the little gift Tiffany is offering you.

My lovely Gran and Mom

Three generations

Mom’s only girl 🙂

Three crazy brothers

Mom and her boys

27 years of marriage and counting…

This little boy loves his mommy!

Dad’s boy too!

It’s a guy thing…

My parents are loons! 🙂

Such a handsome husband

Siblings

This is one of my favourites

Hiding

Gorgeous little monkey

Michael’s ‘blue steel’ impression

No Atmore shoot is complete without ‘bunny ears’ creeping into a photo

We’re dorky and we know it

Terence is too cool to jump

Happy Birthday, lovely Mom!

I’ve received quite a few requests for info on Tiffany’s photography packages since I posted a few of these photos on my Facebook account. I spoke to Tiff and she has kindly agreed to give anyone who books a family shoot with her in the next month a R200 discount (I can feel you smiling already)! This is a fantastic offer, and I promise you, a Tiffany Burnham photographic experience is one to remember. Whether you want family photos with your extended family, or just you and your spouse, or maybe even some photos of your preggie belly or newborn babe, Tiffany does it all! (Of course, her wedding photos are superb, too)

All you have to do to qualify for this discount is quote the reference code, CaramellaClan, when you contact her.

 Do yourselves a favour and book this busy lady now. You won’t regret it!

Advertisements

Being Silly

Today I had this little munchkin over to play. We’re busy working through a home O.T. programme, which basically is an excuse for us to spend an hour together each week playing really fun games and bouncing on an exercise ball 🙂

Since my posts tend to er on the side of ‘wordy’, I’ll leave you these photos of my favourite little boy doing his thing.

I was showing him some photographs I took of him at a recent family lunch. He told me he thinks his silly faces are really funny. I tend to agree, so I thought I’d show you some so you can decide if you agree with us.

I wonder where he gets it from…

My boys are all kinds of silly

The silly stare-down

Take a guess how many people have asked us if Zaz is Terence’s son…

Apparently being silly is contagious 🙂

 

A letter to your mother

Sweet baby J, it’s been a month since you left our home. The time has moved too quickly. I had to return some of the clothes you wore and so I was forced to wash and sort through your wardrobe. Your scent is no longer here and it makes my heart sad. Terence is sad, I am sad. We miss you more than you’ll ever understand. Some may wonder why I write to you here on this blog. I do so for a few reasons. Firstly, because I believe my words to you are echoed in the hearts of many women experiencing loss; secondly, because I believe your story can teach us things I don’t yet fully understand, and thirdly, because I serve an awesome God who can perform miracles if He chooses and I pray that somehow when you’re older you will stumble across this blog and know in your heart that I’m talking about you. Children who are adopted often wonder about their early days. Were they loved? Were they cuddled? Did they like to sleep on their side or on your chest? Were they sung to? Baby J, I want you to know that you were loved and cherished and that your space in my heart will always be there. Eventually the hurt may pass, but you will never be forgotten.

Today I want to honour the first woman who truly loved you. I have never met her and yet I know me previous sentence is true. Here is my letter to her.

To Baby J’s mother

We have never met. I am not even sure if you were ever told my name. When your daughter left the hospital she came to stay with me. It was the biggest privilege of my life.

Since the moment I found out about her, I thought about you. I have never given birth and I have never had to make the sacrifice you made, so I won’t pretend to know what you went through. However,there are some common threads in our stories and so I feel a strange connection to you.

I wish I could invite you over for tea.

Experience has taught me that tea is a powerful thing. We would sit on my couch and I would let you talk.

I would listen to you, because I wonder how many times someone has just listened without judging you first. I would probably struggle not to ask you a million questions and if I got ahead of myself, I would pray that you knew it was coming from a caring place.

I would tell you about your daughter and ask you if you wanted to see photographs of her first weeks. I would tell you the story of how your daughter gave me a mother’s heart and showed me things women aren’t supposed to be privy to before they become mothers. I would tell you that your daughter made me love my husband even more than I already did, and that looking into her eyes each day filled my heart with praise for God and His creation of her beautiful little life. I would tell you that I knew you were beautiful even though I hadn’t seen you, because only a beautiful woman could have brought such a lovely daughter into this world.

Perhaps we would share our dreams for ‘J’. Perhaps we would cry together. Perhaps I would muster the courage to tell you that my hearts’ desire was, and still is, to mother your daughter and that when she left I experienced my darkest day. How does one ask to parent another’s child? Sometimes I wish I had the opportunity to meet you in those early weeks of ‘J’s life, when Terence and I dreamed of our family with her and thought it might be possible. Would I have had the nerve to ask you if we could keep her? Would you have deemed us good enough to be your daughter’s parents? Would you even like me?

I know you requested photographs of your daughter. All I have now are photos too, and I wonder if we are ever both looking down at that beautiful face at the same time and wondering what could have been.

I know you love your daughter. My heart broke when I saw the special clothes you had chosen for her and the beautiful name you had given her. I really love her name. It suits her very well. I want you to know that you have broken my heart for birth mothers and that because of you, I will do my best to never allow judgement to pass my lips or my heart, no matter what stories I hear.

I want you to know that we pray for your daughter every day and that our experience with her has made us rely on our heavenly father to protect her and show her His character and His love and His plan for her life. I pray the same things for you.

I want you to know that I miss her everyday and I can only imagine that you miss her too. Missing her is something that connects me to you. I want to assure you that my experience with her hasn’t made me bitter, despite the flaws in the ‘system’. She has reminded me why we do what we do, and what a privilege it is to have share any part of  a child’s life.

Your daughter has already touched so many peoples lives.

I pray that your heart will be soothed and that you know you are loved and thought of often.

And if we ever meet in person, I’d be happy to tell you all these things again.

All my love,

Julie

Surprise, surprise, I’m twenty-five!

Oh little blog, how I’ve neglected you! I’d love to make the excuse that I’ve been too buy living life…and well, yes, that’s mostly true, but the real truth is that I’ve been lazy and so I wouldn’t be surprised if you’ve all unsubscribed over the past month.

That was a long sentence!

On to something happier.

Last month I turned 25, and depending on whose reading this, I’m either really young or really old. As you know, the last few months have been a little crazy in the Mentor abode and so I only really remembered my birthday was coming up the week before. Terence asked me what I wanted to do to celebrate and I said ‘nothing really’. Thankfully he had the sense to ignore my pity party and do something completely awesome. He threw me a surprise party. And I truly was surprised!

Terence put so much effort into making the party fun for me. He invited all my dearest friends and family, added splashes of ‘pretty and pink’ into all the details and ordered something I’ve always dreamed of having for my birthday since I was a little girl… an ICE-CREAM CAKE!!! It was such a relaxing afternoon and a ‘medicine’ for my grieving heart.

I’ll leave you with some pictures taken by my wonderful friends, Melissa and Gareth Heuer…because I was too busy being the birthday girl 🙂

My special friend, Kirsty and her husband, Leighton,hosted my party in their beautiful home

I'm so grateful for work friends who remain dear friends even when you know longer work together

Beautiful Leah...sorry, Zoe, you got chopped out of the photo 🙂

Oh Sadie, you hold a very special place in my heart!

The lovely Madison-rose. There were lots of babas in attendance...it was a Julie-party after all 🙂

Yay! It's an ice-cream cake! And before you ask, no, I'm not 3 months pregnant even though I look it...(blush and suck in tummy)

My ice-cream cake, and it didn't disappoint!

My gorgeous Zazi-mouse not-so-baby brother...swimming in his undies because that's how the Atmores' roll!

A relaxing afternoon with great company = a successful way to celebrate a birthday

Dave is wearing pink!

My brother, the rock star!

Gabi, that face! 🙂

So blessed to have such fun Christian friends

Fun in the pool...It was a scorcher of a day

Lovely friends

Presents! I was truly spoilt

Thank you so much to my wonderful husband. You really know how to make me feel special and loved!

Caramella Clan goes to the US of A

I’ve been featured on We Are Grafted In. This is by far my favourite ‘adoption blog’ as it features stories written by adoptive and foster moms (and dads) from across the world.

If you read this little blog, you’ve already seen this post, but if you’re keen, check out its American debut, y’all 🙂

If you’re thinking about adoption and want to read real stories from real people with no sugar-coating, head over to We Are Grafted In. Be prepared to spend your evening glued to your screen (the kiddos on this blog are absolutely adorable) and keep your tissues handy. God has really used this blog to grow my heart towards adoption over the past year that I’ve been reading it, and it really is an honour to be featured today.

Head on over there now and give this blog some love.

Go on, I dare you.

Waiting for Isaac

I want to start this post by thanking everyone who has supported Terence and I over the past two weeks. We have felt so loved and uplifted by our family and friends and it has been like a balm for our weary hearts. I am so grateful to be a part of such a fantastic Christian community.

It has taken me a while to sit down and write this post, but I believe the hesitation is linked to a very important lesson God wanted to teach me today.

I have been wrestling with my feelings and wrestling with God. There are so many ‘unknowns’ to this story and I have struggled to trust God with the answers. I’ve asked Him repeatedly why He allowed J-bug to fit so perfectly into our family and then have her taken away from us? Why something ‘felt’ different about this precious child and yet that ‘feeling’ led to empty arms? Why He gave me a ‘mother’s heart’ and yet I feel unable to use it? I cannot adequately describe the pain I felt watching my social worker drive away with Little J. The heaviness of my heart clashed against the emptiness of my arms. The quiet that night was deafening. The little world I had created dissolved before my eyes.

We never set out to adopt this baby. I know that. She was supposed to stay with us for a short time only. We allowed ourselves to dream and fall in love and I allowed myself to play ‘mommy’ in my mind. We foolishly ‘created’ a family of three when that was never the plan. How I wish that was the plan, but evidently, despite trying everything, our princess had to move on, as she was always meant to do.

Even though I know all of this to be true, I have struggled to find any peace about the situation. When my other three babies left, I felt incredibly sad and yet I knew they were meant for other families and so my heart was at rest. This time, my heart was at war with logic and it did a real number on my emotions.

Do I believe Terence and I would have been fantastic parents to little J?

Yes.

Have I been allowing myself to dream that maybe my social worker would phone us and bring J back, or J’s birth mother would somehow find out about us and want her daughter to come and live with us?

Yes.

Do I realise that by holding on to these futile dreams, I am harming myself, upsetting my husband and trying to manipulate God?

Ashamedly, yes!

On Sunday night, Terence and I had a heart-to-heart. It was good and it was hard. I needed to hear my husband’s wise words. I realise that by fighting the process I am robbing myself of the time to properly heal and feel sad about missing J. I am allowed to be sad. I am allowed to miss her. I am allowed to cry. I am not allowed to torture myself and undermine God’s plan in this situation by refusing to acknowledge His sovereignty. I refuse to undo the wonderful thing that happened in our home, where a little girl was loved and cherished and given a good start to life, and where we were blessed abundantly by having her with us. I refuse to allow the hurt to mar this process  and prevent us from caring for other children in need. I will not let what we did be in vain.

This brings me to today’s lesson. God is showing me His grace in many ways, dear friends. The Monday after J left I started another part-time job. My boss is a Christian who has a passion for the vulnerable and the lost. God has used him to help me understand His nature better over these past few weeks and I have been very blessed by our conversations. Today I admitted to my boss that I just didn’t understand why I couldn’t be J’s mother and why, despite my gifts in this area, I am not a mother at all.

And then he said something very profound.

“Julie, you need to ask God to give you an Isaac and you need to be willing to wait for him. You cannot create a family your way. It has to be God’s way.”

boom, light bulb on.

Sarah and Abraham were desperate for a child. They doubted they would ever have a son and yet God gave them Isaac in His perfect time, despite their doubts and yet acknowledging their desire to be parents.

I realised that I tried to create a family with J in it, based on what I want and not what God wants. I have refused to trust God and have allowed myself to forget that He is good to His people. I diminish the blessings God gives me by comparing myself to others. I have been wearing clothes of entitlement, believing that I deserve a child because I’d be such a good mother (I’m embarrassed to have to type that last sentence). And I have been unfairly angry at God for not giving me the desire of my heart on my schedule.

pfft…lesson learnt, God. You are clearly a better organiser and life-planner than I am 🙂

And so I am going to pray for my ‘Isaac’.

That the Lord will bless us with a child/ children through adoption or the old fashioned way when He desires. His timeline, not mine.

That I will trust in His goodness.

That I will be patient (Julie weakness alert!)

And in the mean time, that He will draw our hearts nearer to His.

That He will allow me to expand my definition of ‘mother’ to include a role so much bigger than our nuclear family.

And expand my capacity to love people.

To be used for His glory.

And to be content.

Precious baby feet

Heartbroken

I’m not sure how to put into words what my heart is feeling as I sit at my desk tonight. The past month has been the most joy-filled and dread-filled. I have experienced the highest highs and the lowest lows and right now I’m feeling a little bit numb. I’ve been retyping and deleting my words for the last 30 minutes, unsure of whether to publish this little chapter of my life – it’s definitely a little darker than my normal posts, but it is my life right now and sometimes it’s cathartic to spill it out. Maybe this experience will be helpful or encouraging to someone reading it? I’ve been attacked on this blog before by mean-spirited comments and it was tough to accept, and while I realise that publishing on the internet invites differing opinions, I beg you to be gentle with my fragile heart just this once.

I did something an emergency mother is not supposed to do…

I fell in love with the baby placed in my care. Not in the ‘oh she’s a cute baby’ way, but in the deep ‘I want to be your forever mommy’ way. Within days of meeting this precious baby girl I felt a connection so strong that it literally brought me to my knees. And for the first time, Terence felt it too. Baby J is our 4th baby, and whilst I’ve loved each baby dearly, I always knew they belonged to other parents and it was my joy to prepare them for their forever families. This time felt different. I’m not sure if it’s because she looks like our baby, or if it’s because we are moving towards a different space in our lives and little J felt like the perfect fit for our little family. She came to us at the craziest time. We had weddings and bridal showers and family commitments. I almost told my social worker that we wouldn’t be able to take her, but I also knew she had no where else to go as all the other emergency moms had babies. Terence and I spoke at length, we worked out our finances, we spoke to our family, we prayed and as each puzzle piece seemingly fell into place, we believed it to affirmation that little J could be ours.

And then we approached our social worker…

And soon our ‘perfectly organised plan’ started crumbling. We were told it would not be possible for us to adopt little J. We were crushed. We pleaded with the Lord to work a miracle and we asked our friends and family to pray to. We sought advice from other social workers and pleaded with ours and yet the doors continued to close. I’d like to point out that we love our social worker very much, and a lot of what she says makes sense, but when you’re looking down into those sweet blue eyes, all you want to do is scream at the policies and procedures that are taking this child away from you.

And so we are here – the night before our little J-bug goes to a new home – bracing ourselves for the inevitable  pain coming tomorrow and also trying to make the most of every cuddle, kiss and precious moment we have with our little gift. That is what this month has been for us. An unexpected, undeserved gift and privilege to have cared for this baby girl straight from the hospital. Through my grief I know that God continues to work for the good of those who love Him. I love Him dearly, even though I feel so out of control and so uncertain of His plan for our lives, I know that He loves Terence and I and that He loves our little J and has a perfect plan for her life.

I’ve been thinking about some of the things that God may be trying to teach me through this process – things I wouldn’t have learnt if I hadn’t said yes to taking little J. I have learnt that children are a blessing from the Lord; a true, undeserved gift. One that truly belongs to the Giver. It is so easy to feel like we own our children and can choose to care for them as we see fit. Being an emergency mom has helped me to keep focused on who these babies really belong to. Not me, not the social worker or even the biological or adoptive parents, but God. I wish I could fully understand why God has not chosen to give little J to us, but I have been forced to acknowledge that she belongs to Him and He is good, all the time.

I have also grown in empathy for birth mothers. It is so easy to judge a woman for giving up her child and I have been guilty of doing this in the past. I don’t know who little J’s birth mother is, but I know that she loved her daughter, enough to do what she felt is the best for her despite the cost to herself. I have been humbled by her sacrifice as I look at this baby and face her leaving me too.

I have learnt that I love being a mother and am amazed at the incredible joy children can bring to ones life. By nature I am a box-ticker. I thought I could only be a mother when Terence and I had a house with a garden and a fancy car and a cushy life. I believed that would bring me joy, and yet I was content being a mom in my little flat with no garden and a car with no 5th gear. I have learnt that if I link motherhood to material wealth I may be missing out on motherhood for all the wrong reasons and for a very long time.

I have learnt that my husband is going to make an incredible, God-fearing father and this warms my heart more than you can imagine. Very few women have the opportunity to have a glimps into their husband’s character as a father before he actually is one. If you know my husband, you’ll know he’s not the baby-crazy type, but I have seen his heart soften towards this baby and a protectiveness develop that has made me fall more in love with him. I know that if little J had stayed with us she would have been the luckiest girl to have a daddy like him. I feel honoured to call him my husband and so excited to have a family with him one day. This last month has been a confirmation that God has chosen the perfect partner for me.

I have been reminded of why I love adoption. God redeems, dear friends. From trauma He brings restoration to the children He loves so dearly. Adoption is such a beautiful picture of our adoption into God’s family. My prayer is that more people would pray about adoption as a way to add to their families. It is hard, but it is good. I hope to add to our family through adoption in the future.

And now it is time for me to feed my little J her bottle and savour every second of it. Thank you for your love, prayer and support over this passed month. We have been so touched by your messages on this blog, on facebook, via sms and email. Please keep praying for little J and her future family. And if you have a spare prayer, please pray for strength for us for tomorrow and the coming days.

If you’re a mommy or a daddy, feel blessed today because you really are.

Love Story…Julia and Kim

Yes, yes, I know… we’re no longer in February. But as is my style, I’m a little bit behind with these posts (what’s new). The love can extend into March, right? 🙂

Read this one – it’s a goodie.

Today’s love story belongs to Julia and Kim.

It is an honour for me to call these awesome people my friends. Julia is one of the most organised, creative, thoughtful people I know. Over the years I have been blessed by her creative spirit in many ways, but most significantly, with the planning and co-ordinating of our wedding. I hesitate to think what our wedding day would have looked like if Julia hadn’t been the calm force making sure everything happened as planned. Yes, it would have still been special as the focus was always on us getting married, but I doubt it would have looked as beautiful as it did without Julia’s special touch. The talented Jules has gone on to co-ordinate other weddings, and is, in fact, co-ordinating the lovely Tamalin’s wedding this Saturday!

Julia and I are different in many ways but we share a pet peeve… we hate it when people get our names mixed up! Julie is not short for Julia, mkay! And Julia is not to be shortened to Julie. If in doubt, call us ‘Jules’ 🙂

Both Julia and Kim share my heart for vulnerable children. Watching them love and care for their precious Lihle is so special. They are very special people, indeed. Visit Julia’s blog over at All things Julia.

Julia and Kim…

It all began with a harmless crush. Like a school kid having a crush on his/her teacher. Harmless, pointless and one that will soon fade with time/age.

After being horrified with my laziness and terrible eating habits in the holidays after my final matric exams, I decided that my only salvation was a gym membership at Kenilworth Virgin Active.  After gyming (regularly) for a few weeks, I was finally comfortable enough with all the equipment and my routine that I started paying attention to the other happenings around the gym. This is when I spotted Kim.

Kim was a Fitness Consultant at the time and definitely lived up to his title. I mean he was ripped man. 6 pack, huge guns, major HOTNESS. Some really good eye-candy … and so the crush began). (Please note that at this stage I had never even spoken to the guy).

True, he was completely out of my league, but I enjoyed going to the gym everyday and getting a little excited when I spotted him or a little sad when he wasn’t there. It was a little game I played from a distance, knowing that he doesn’t even realise I’m alive. To be honest I quite liked it that way… I was way too shy to even dream of having a conversation with him. But then he had to put a spanner in the works.

One very average day when I was on the bike minding my own business, listening to a little music, Kim appeared in front of me and wanted to have a chat. (Can you hear my brain say, ‘Oh my goodness, what on earth is this? I am not prepared for such an encounter! What do I say?) I played it ultra cool. Answered his questions and let him talk (a lot). Secretly I was dying inside because I was trying to spin as if it was easy for me, but my legs were killing me and I really wanted to pant like a dog.

I don’t think I expected Kim to be a Christian, but I guess part of me was hoping. When we chatted at the bike I told him that I was currently studying Theology. He promptly asked what it was and I said ‘I am at Bible College’. ‘Ah’, he said, ‘you studying to become a nun!’ Ummmmmmmmmmm NO. I guess this dude has no clue.

We greeted each other from time to time. He was very friendly to me… and then I realised he is actually that way with everybody (I was a little disappointed). Then suddenly he was gone! For about 3 months I didn’t see him until one day he came to the gym in his normal clothes i.e. not a uniform. He had just come from a funeral, but all I was thinking is ‘Yes, he has style!’ All too soon he was gone again.

I would go out with my friends and wonder ‘what if Kim was here? What would I do? Would he even notice me?’ Those thoughts would be fleeting, but I did have them almost every time we went out.

A few months later I went out with friends on an evening that I really, really just wanted to be home, but my besty wasn’t a very happy chappy so I decided I would go with her to be a support… and who should I spot? KIM! He had a whole crowd of people around him. Without thinking I just shoved a few of them out the way, tapped him on the knee and gave a cheesy wave and a smile. I then ran away…nice one Julia.

We went to the dance floor and my besty spotted him and forced me to go chat with him. We chatted and danced together for quite some time. He then invited himself to my church. (I had no idea he would ACTUALLY make good on that one). Later we wanted to swap numbers and that’s when my besty and I realised our phones had been stolen… my first ever argument with Kim. He gave me a whole lecture about how irresponsible we were… and he still gives those to me today.

So low and behold, he CAME to church on Sunday (albeit late). It was way awkward. Afterwards he wanted me to go for coffee with him and the friend he brought along. I wasn’t sure whether I could completely trust him so I brought Byron along as my wing-man. (Yes it’s the same Byron who Cindy took along for her first coffee with Seth).

Byron and Kim spoke to each other most of the time. I was totally uninterested until he mentioned that he had given his life to the Lord when he was 16. Hmmmmm, maybe this is worth exploring a bit more?

Kim started attending my church regularly and eventually re-committed his life. He got involved in a Bible Study and started making friends with my friends. There was a definite flame there, but until I was convinced that he was a true Christian and not just doing the motions to get me, we were just friends. After 3 months I was convinced that his change of heart was real. He asked my Dad if he could date me and so began our courtship.

Dating

4 years and 2 break-ups later, we were married. As we are both only children from broken homes, our marriage prep lasted over a year. We ‘adopted’ a godly Christian couple as our role-models. By being completely transparent with them and looking to God as our anchor, we realised that although marriage will be hard, we are willing to do what it takes to make it work with God’s help. After 1 year of marriage we introduced Lihle to our home. He is an orphan who we help foster over the weekends and assist with his medical needs. We love him like he is our own.

We're engaged!

Our wedding day

 

On 11 January 2012 we celebrated our 4 year anniversary. In these past 4 years we have grown closer and closer to one another. Our bond gets stronger everyday as our roots entangle.

Precious Lihle

I love my Kimmi! We are completely different, but we compliment each other so well. I look forward to spending many many more years with you as we grow our love and our family under God’s awesome leadership.

Mr and Mrs Quickfall

Beulah-Joy and Graham…

I am so excited to share today’s love story with you. These two people are so special to Terence and I and it is such an honour to feature their love story on my little blog. If you’ve had the privilege of meeting Beulah-Joy and Graham in person, you will agree with me when I say they are two of the warmest, wisest, most loving and gentle people I have ever met. Their love for Jesus is made visible in everything they do – most specifically in how they treat the people they meet. I will never forget the love and understanding they showed us when Terence’s dad passed away, or the special quilt Beulah-Joy gave us when Zazi joined our family.

When we found out they were joining their family in the USA we, along with the whole of St James, were so saddened. Thankfully, Beulah-Joy is an avid Facebooker which means we still get to ‘chat’ and she is still able to send words of encouragement when we need them the most.

I’ll let Beulah-Joy tell you how they fell in love.

Beulah-Joy and Graham 

“Have you ever thought of going to Bible College?”  I had just finished High School and was visiting friends who were missionaries in the Zambezi Valley.

“Yes” I replied,” probably in a couple of years when I have some other training behind me…

…and so I began working  in a Laboratory as a first step to doing something useful that could be used on a mission station. However God’s ways are not our ways and six weeks later I got really sick and spent the next five months flat on my back. Just as well I had chosen not to go to University in South Africa, it would not have worked. As I finally slowly started getting better my life was made up of going to work, coming home and sleeping. Weekends I prepared my Sunday School lesson and Sundays it was Sunday School and church  It was all I could manage to do at first and it became my way of life.

My friend returned from Cape Town University for the July vacation and asked if I would like to go with on a camp with several other young adults from various churches- but it felt like just too much effort. However my mother persuaded me ”You never go anywhere , never do anything- you should go” so grudgingly I went along.

I had actually heard of the McGuinness brothers five years earlier and at this camp I met Graham. I remember seeing him on the Sunday morning taking part in the church service we attended and then in the evening we sat chatting for quite a while. He told me that the following Saturday there was a Youth For Christ sponsored walk, TWENTY miles, and would I like to come. I said yes, even though I was petrified, not having done any exercise since my illness.

We set off bright and early and after 100 yards I had a stitch. What a pace they were going. How would I ever keep up? But I persevered and kept up with the whole group . At the ten mile mark I knew I had serious blisters and the one girl said she was going on ahead as we were too slow. The others said they were either going to give up or slow right down. That left Graham and myself and we were deep in conversation by then. We discovered that he knew my relations and that our Moms had gone to school together and in fact my one uncle was born in his Grandmothers house.  He then told me that he had applied to go to the Bible Institute of South Africa and had just heard that he had been accepted. Bells and whistles went off in my head. It was almost 2 years since I had said I would go.

My private prayer had been “Lord send me with someone, please, I don’t want to go on my own”. B.I was the only Bible College I knew about. My two uncles had trained at B.I. and now here was a young man going. I told Graham my story and the next ten miles flew by. He had actually planned to go two years earlier, but had deliberately disobeyed God. Now we had met and were both excited about going. God can use even our rebellion to work out His purposes, as had he gone, we would probably not have met.

On that walk when I heard about B.I. I knew that this was the man I would marry, even though I hardly knew him. Having spent five months on my back I had learned many lessons in patience and that was needed while I waited for Graham to come to the same conclusion. The first six months at B.I were extremely difficult for both of us and our relationship went through some difficult times. Reading the Bible together, studying and praying together as well as serving together it came right and we made plans to get married when I had completed my two years.

Long distance wedding planning is not easy. We missed our train going home for the July vacation when we planned to get engaged and do all we needed for our wedding. In those days there was one train a week to Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) and when we arrived Graham was really sick with the Flu. Time was running out and I needed my wedding dress made as we would only be returning 10 days before the wedding in December. My mother had been in a car accident the day before we arrived and so my Dad came with and we went off to choose fabric for my wedding dress. My mother struggled through making my dress with bruised hands and arms and a black eye and yet it was almost completed before Graham was well enough to come and ask my Father if he could marry me!

We went back to Cape Town engaged and so happy, leaving the parents to do the rest of the wedding arrangements as they saw fit. They did a great job and we had a wonderful wedding before returning toCape Town. The plan was for me to work while Graham continued with his studies. God provided a perfect little bachelor flat in Fish Hoek and we moved in.

Our wedding day

What I earned had to pay our rent, his fees, our food and anything else we might need. There was no money for anything else and we kept a notebook where we wrote down every cent we spent.  God provided in that some other students needed their fridge, dining room table and washer stored. So we were happy to do that for them. We did not really have lounge furniture so we covered our tin trunks with fabric and added a cushion or two and we had seats. I made a curtain to close off the alcove that was our bedroom.

We often had students to visit- those who needed advice, encouragement or were lonely. A pattern was set. We lived very simply, used what we had to share with others, encouraging God’s children and going after the lost and wayward- trying to show them the love of Jesus.

Over Forty years have passed. The girls God gave us have grown up, married and have their own families. We still live by the same principles we started out with. We still live simply, try to encourage God’s children and look out for the lost and wayward to show them the love of Jesus. We have had many twists and turns along the way- faced heartaches, happiness and surprises. We have learned to live one day at a time and always pray together every day.

Do you believe in “They lived happily ever after”? Looking back it seems to me that if you live life according to the way God spells it out in the Bible, it works, it really does.

Sledding in the snow

Our three precious grandkids

Beulah-Joy, thank you so much for sharing your special story.

Beulah-Joy doesn’t have a blog (perhaps this will change, hint-hint :)) So please send her some love over here as encouragement.

Love Story…Zoe and Corne

I am alive, I promise you. Looking after a newborn whilst working and planning a hen party has put me in zombie mode, and somehow this little blog always takes the knock. I am quite amazed with my friend, Cindy as I’ve never known her to miss a week of posting. Hats of to you, my friend.

Anyhoo, I still have 3 Love Stories for you and I’m quite aware that February ends tomorrow (thank goodness for the extra day…). Here’s the first of three.

Today I’d like to introduce you to the lovely Zoe. She blogs over at Chasing the Wind where she documents life with her husband, Corne, and delightful daughter, Leah. Please pop over there and send her some cyber-love.

Zoe and I have been friends for the past 4 years and she is one of the sweetest ladies I know, always having an encouraging word for you just when you need it the most. She also has a little sass – just enough to make her sweetness plausible, and it’s one of the reasons I like her so much 🙂 . I’ll never forget the one coffee date we had at Mugg ‘n Bean about 2 and a half years ago. Zoe told me how she became a Christian. It’s an amazing story. She touches on it here, but if you get the opportunity, ask her to share it with you.

It was such an honour for me to see Zoe become a mommy last year. We had the privilege of meeting little Leah at the hospital the day after she was born, and my goodness, what a pretty newborn she was! Over the past 9 months, baby Leah has grown cuter and sweeter. I’m so excited to see her grow up.

Now, enough babbling from me…

Zoe and Corne

Our love story begins way back when in 2001…in a hot, stinky classroom full of new faces and a brand new school uniform! I decided to change schools at the beginning of my Std 9 year for various reasons (mostly friendship fall outs that turned nasty) and start afresh at a school where my bestest friend from pre-primary had gone. Groote Schuur was co-ed, duel medium which was totally different to my previous school, Wynberg Girls – single sex, English medium. Besides the glorious fact that there were BOYS it was a much smaller school, there was approximately 70 Std 9’s (Grade 11). This meant I would actually get a chance to speak at least once to everyone in my grade, something quite unheard of at Wynberg. Anyway back to the point of this … so there were most importantly BOYS as mentioned already… however it was ONE particular boy that caught my fancy – but he (Corne) was attached at the time. Besides I was determined to make my feminine mark and NOT be distracted by these boys as my Wynberg teachers warned me would happen. I was not going to school to get a boyfriend, I was going there to get an education! It started off well, I managed to stay single till February where I had a short relationship which ended in the fact that he was too much of a good friend for me to be seriously interested…however there was another boy that caught my eye (I know this sounds like a soapy but I was only 16 at the time so you can forgive me)… but this guy was still unavailable and out of my reach. He was one of the cool dudes that skateboarded and got up to mischief. But I was determined to make friends with him and suss him out! At the time I was good friends with one of his friends Harshad (we did drawing class together) and I would subtly gain all my “intel” from Harshad about Corne.  Corne was a painting student at the same Art school I attended, slowly but surely I said a few words to this cool dude at Art and ended up taking an extra subject in Art to join Corne’s painting class…because you know I really loved painting too, it had absolutely nothing to do with the fact that I slightly fancied the cutest guy in school!

We spent many art lessons joking, chatting…and painting of course (mostly Corne doing my paintings for me) and gradually grew a very close friendship. During that time I was a non-practicing paganist (yes witchcraft … or at least I wanted to be a witch-no jokes) I wore black, had the pentagrams etc, when Corne very bravely asked me about this “religion” I was involved in. He took a chance and gave me a tape (yes we still did tapes then) on a sermon by Bishop Frank Retief and asked me to listen to it and tell him the next day what I thought. I thought it was quite weird but I liked this guy and decided to at least listen to some of it…maybe fast forward a bit and give him some feedback …it might even help with me securing a date with this gorgeous boy. So I listened and I honestly do not even remember the sermon (I think I fast forwarded a bit too much)but it got us chatting about what Corne did on his weekends. Friday nights were out for date nights as he went to Bible Study?? and Sunday was youth and church! This guy thought I was mysterious but to me he was more of an enigma!

We started dating officially at a friend’s birthday party on the 28th September 2001. I am pretty sure we would still have been only friends now had it not been for another one of our sweet friends Jenna who asked Corne if we were in fact an item as we spent a lot of time together but did not do the holding hands boyfriend/girlfriend thing. Corne said to her (apparently) “Yes, if Zoe wants to be” this message was then relayed to me… and I was like “HELL YES!” So we ended the night not just as friends anymore but as boyfriend and girlfriend. Thanks Jenna 🙂

 

Sunday night date nights happened at senior youth before Church. It was the only time (Corne was a busy boy) that we could spend together other than at school, so I reluctantly went to church just to be close to my sweetheart! How God’s hidden hand was at work. I went to church listen to sermons and it never really impacted me until one particular sermon that changed my life forever. The 4th November 2001, Bishop Frank Retief was preaching about the Pharisee and the Tax collector. I don’t want to sound strange but it was the first time in my life that I finally came to realise the great gift I had been offered through Christ. A salvation that I did not deserve, could never attain through my own efforts but totally free if I wanted it, all because God loved me. For the first time in my life I realised that I did not have to be perfect goody two shoes to be accepted by God (as nobody is perfect…even the Pharisee) That night I gave my life to Jesus and it has been the best decision I have ever made (marrying Corne comes a close second place). It wasn’t however that Corne and I lived happily ever after and never had any issues or that I suddenly changed overnight. We had many fights as I tried to put off the old and put on the new, lost many friends…but it was worth it!

The next stage of this love story continues when we got married (I am skipping about 5 years because otherwise this would end up being a book!) I married my best friend after dating for 6 years on the 1 December 2007. It was the BEST day of my life (until recently when Leah was born it became the 2nd Best day of my life) and I love the fact with Christ at the centre of our marriage, we would always have Him governing our marriage.

And then there was three of us in our new little family. Leah was born on the 9th May 2011 at 07:28am on a Monday morning. She has been and still is a blessing in our lives, she has given us another purpose in life and has brought such joy to our lives that I never knew could exist. At her tender age of 9 months she has taught both of us things that we could never have imagined! The intense, unconditional love we have for her, self sacrificial love that we have for Leah has taught me on  a minute scale the type of  love the Father must have for each and every one of His children, is truly mind blowing! Life as a Christian family is one with a heavenly perspective, realising that all that is, especially the blessings come from Him who graciously gives and we can only be humbled and fall to our knees in thankfulness, none of it I could have ever imagined or dreamt of or even deserved yet here I write still utterly amazed at how God worked in our young, immature teenage lives so that we would ultimately glorify Him at the end.

Our love story continues with a three way love affair, one I wouldn’t trade for anything!

'Aunty' Julie commenting here - how flippin cute is this girl?

Thanks so much for sharing your love story, Zoe!