This thankful heart

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In light of Lindy-Ann’s Christmas post last week, and my ingrained American tradition of waiting for all things Christmas until after Thanksgiving, I thought a post on thankfulness was in order. Funnily enough, my college buddy, Russ, was visiting last week and among all the lists of big topics we were processing together, gratitude was one them. We come from very different spiritual backgrounds, however we agreed that being thankful within any circumstance can truly change one’s perspective and help to live in present.

Being in the moment used to come a little easier for me. I reckon “adulting”, and definitely parenting, gets in the way, which is sad as it may be in this season when it is most critical that we bask in the moment and be thankful. Over the past few years I have attempted to join in daily thankfulness and gratitude challenges that tend to pop up this time of year.  I go strong for for the first week (if I’m lucky), but life gets busy and I forget…to be thankful. Can I get an amen?

That said, in the days leading up to Thanksgiving, as I discuss thankful hearts with my boys, I start to overflow with gratitude. For the little things, like the way my youngest calls cuddles “huggles” and my oldest still calls me “Mom-Mom,” even though he is seven and a half. I am, of course, also thankful for the big things like productive days, a wonderful village of friends in our expat life, and the technology that keeps us connected to loved ones back home. I’m thankful for memories of family Thanksgivings and traditions, as we make new ones and participate in ‘friendsgivings.

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I have come to the conclusion that it really is heart and life changing to remain in a state of gratitude and have a thankful heart. To find the ‘silver lining’ in every situation and focus on it will help you through life’s storms peacefully, and maybe even with a smile on your face. To live life as abundantly as you can.

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Don’t worry, I won’t challenge you. Not in this post anyway. However, I would encourage you (as always) to try finding something to be thankful for. I will recommend One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voscamp if you are seeking a way to train yourself to find the joy of your everyday life and discover the “miracle in the mundane” as Ann says.

Lastly, I am thankful for you, our readers and our community. Thankful that you allow us into your lives and let us help you grow in your creative journey. Lindy-Ann and I feel so abundantly blessed by your comments and your encouragement and hope that we can continue to inform, challenge, educate, and even make you laugh. That is what it’s all about for us: joy in the process as we grow together.

With a grateful heart –

kdg

 

Here’s to the Volunteers

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This post is dedicated all those mamas and papas who volunteer on behalf of their children. To those of you coaching little league, helping in classrooms, volunteering with the PTA, and the other countless and thankless tasks, we salute you.

We are huge supporters of our children’s schools and both volunteered at many events thrown by our fearless parent associations. We know first hand how disheartening  negative people can be, especially those who also never seem to step up themselves to help. It can be defeating, frustrating, and just plain sad. It’s in the spirit of cultivating kindness that we had to write this post to say THANK YOU.

Thank you to all of you who have at some point borne the brunt of the naysayers and negative feedback. Who’s hard work and hours spent was ignored by the Monday morning quarterbacks and playground mom-squads.

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We also challenge those of you who have stayed on the sidelines thinking your positive thoughts were known, we encourage you to say something. Tell your people you appreciate them. A little goes a long way, and you never know who may need a little affirmation on the day you cross their path. Their hearts need to be filled up and appreciated and your words of kindness and encouragement will be welcomed!

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Anne Taintor

We also wanted to share our most recent experiences with our respective International Days. Expat communities really know how to host a good International Day! They are colourful, lively, and educational. It is a fantastic day for our kids to share in, and  learn to appreciate, other cultures and countries. It breeds tolerance and acceptance, which we all know this world could use a little more of.

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Funnily enough, we shared similar roles of logistics and graphic designers at our respective schools’ events merely a week apart. There was drama and unintentional hurt feelings, but, for the most part, both events were successful and the children, for which they are ultimately for, had a fantastic time and learned a great deal. That really is all that matters in the end, right? It’s why we volunteer for our little people. For them to have a good time, but also to show them how to serve.

International Day 2017 – Kuwait Style

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International Day 2017 – Tel Aviv Style

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We are all called to serve, in one place or another, and our children need to learn that lesson and look outside themselves, as well as recognize and appreciate the efforts of others. It would be amazing if we could teach our kids that it’s not always what we get out of this world, but it’s what we can give back to it, that matters most.

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So here’s to all of you volunteers.  We are cheering you on and supporting your efforts! A special shout out one of our favorite volunteers and crafty friends, Kate: as always, anything for you friend!

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In the spirit of John F. Kennedy’s famous words, the next time an opportunity to serve comes your way ask not what it can do for you, ask what YOU can do for your others.

Don’t forget to thank a volunteer today, they will really appreciate it!

xoxo,

la-kdg-signature

Colours of Africa – The Alexa Kirsten Story

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When my friend Kerry casually dropped 6 books on a table amongst friends, she said “Oh, I have a few books of my mom’s story, if anyone wants to read it.” I’m pretty sure I elbowed our other friend Robin out the way to be one of the first ones to read it. Sorry Robin.

The book Colours of Africa – The Alexa Kirsten Story was written by Debra Hunter and published by Hunter publishing, New Zealand, in 2013.

“We shall not cease from exploring, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time” – T.S. Eliot

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Background:

The books goes into detail of how this family started their African journey back in 1938. When Alexa’s mother, Lexie, and her best friend Faith arrived in Cape Town, South Africa from England, to start their epic adventure travelling and hitch-hiking through Africa. The British pair had very little money, but a whole lot of heart, and this was my first insight into the strength and character of the women of this family.

During the war in 1943, Lexie was a qualified physiotherapist when she met South African solider, Charles Campbell Elliot. It was love at first sight and the pair were married within 2 weeks in Tripoli, Libya. On 27 July, 1952, Alexa Helen Jessie Elliot was born in Port Elizabeth, South Africa to this remarkable couple. She was their 3rd child, and first daughter. Tich, Alexa’s younger sister followed 18 months later.

When Alexa’s family moved to Knysna she met her would-be-husband, Steve Kirsten. In 1973 the couple got married in The Holy Trinity Church in Knysna.  Fun fact: this was the first building to be designed by a female Architect in Africa.

From Knysna the couple then settled in Wellington after the birth of their first child, a daughter, Kerry. Once there they went on to have a second child, Ben, and 10 years later Luke made his appearance.

“God, send me anywhere, only go with me. Lay any burden on me, only sustain me. And sever any tie in my heart, except the tie that binds my heart to Yours” – David Livingstone (1813-73), explorer

Monday morning, 7 February, 2005

Alexa heard a scream coming from the neighbours house and ran over to investigate. She entered the house calling out, but there was no reply. And then she saw him. A short dark male figure emerging from the shadows. He said nothing. Alexa slowly turned around and walked back towards the back door and then she felt it. She has been hit alongside the head with an old iron door stopper. She staggered and then fell to the floor. He then went on to stab her in the back of the neck 17 times. She was left for dead.

But she was not gone. She very clearly recalls herself leaving her body and rising up above the scene with a complete sense of freedom and peace. She was completely calm and pain free in that moment. But she felt something holding her down, she describes it as the Hand of God, not allowing her to rise any further. But it didn’t last, she found herself back inside her body once again, the fear and pain returning, she could see the figure running away. Her neighbour had been killed in the attack. Alexa was taken to hospital and began her very long road to recovery.

She ultimately testified in court along with many witnesses and her attacker was sentenced to life in prison. Alexa, has chosen to live a life free of hatred, filled with forgiveness and overflowing with courage. She now does public speaking, helping women who have been through crisis to bring comfort and support and she also speaks at prisons, helping to shed light and conform (I can only imagine the courage it must take to go there).

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Her Art

Alexa has always had a love for art, but even more so since her attack. Her colours are even more vivid and her illustrations even more charismatic. She is also a remarkable story teller. The biography features letters she has written to her neighbour since the attack as a form of therapy.  It’s through these letters that you start to see the true artist behind artwork. She is a very talented writer and painter.

You can view her cloth work on her Facebook page Colours of Africa Cloth or via her website.

I can’t wait to commission her to create a memory cloth for my own family; it’s a beautiful way to hold onto our stories and memories.

Thanks

My thanks go out to Alexa Kirsten for sharing your story with such strength and grace. You are truly an inspirational woman and one simply cannot come across your story and remain unchanged.

Debra Hunter, for writing Alexa’s story.

My friend Kerry for boldly sharing her mother’s story with us.

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” I begin to understand a little more of why God allowed me back and gave me another shot at life – this is indeed a violent, fearful and angry land. With so much bitterness and hatred, it is so easy to become part of the negative talk and situation. I was able to put this to these men, the fear and hatred that abounds outside the prison walls – from people who have been violated and traumatised by the things that they had done – their crimes. The ordinary people live in fear – fear for themselves and their loved ones, people who are shocked by the terrible, unbelievable awful things that happen these days.I pray with all my heart that my story, told to these, the most unlovely of men, might touch their hearts and that they may turn from their old lives, that they may make restitution with those whose lives they have destroyed, with themselves, and ultimately with God himself.” – Alexa Kirsten

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The Kirsten family still lives happily in South Africa and cherishes everyday, even Great- Grandmother Lexie is doing well at 103.4 years old!

I hope this story has inspired you as much as it did me.

xoxo,

la