We flew from London to Cape Town seven weeks ago. Lily fell into a deep sleep for almost the entire flight and Willow slept so fitfully I begged for morning light. We arrived, carrying babies and bags, got a taxi. The airport was so close to Manenberg, the community we were moving to. If only then I could have said to my heart, be still. It’s a few minutes away, but a few months away. Be still.
We heard of a place to rent in Manenberg. It was everything messy. Upstairs, no garden, no furniture, no security, near the gang zone. But, in Manenberg! And a church couple for landlords, and promises of better security, and we could furnish a flat in a day. So we moved from place to place and waited for the flat to be ready. We lived by the sea, we played in the sand, and waited. We moved to housesit for friends, we drank tea in the winter sun, we lived from our suitcases and waited.
Problems arose – tenants not moving, drug addicts next door. We hung on in hope, but with a week to go the whole thing fell through. Homeless with no plan, we drove around Cape Town trying to find anywhere to sleep. Steadily, softly explaining to the girls what we were doing, when inside I had no idea. And back in the place we adore, that little corner of Fish Hoek, by the sea, we found the perfect flat. It was spacious and light and available for four months, yes we said.
The day before we moved in – in the midst of cleaning and packing – we received the message that the money had still not arrived from the UK. We could not move in. Homeless again, racing around trying to find somewhere, anywhere to sleep. When would it stop? When would we rest? I began to wonder what it was like to wake up in a home, with a long, predictable day ahead to mother and wash dishes and see friends and it felt like an unknown dream.
During this messy renting process we searched for a home to buy. We found one. A sweet little 2-bedroomed cottage on Manenberg Avenue. An eighty-year-old widow had lived and prayed in those walls for nearly fifty years. It was a humble place and had lovely light and a garden and I could see with my eyes, it was right for us. Nick and I got home and talked about it all evening. God showed me lovely things. The next morning, so excited, we called to put in an offer. And I couldn’t believe – how could it be? – that somebody had got there first.
And it was then I lay face down on my bed and wept.
And the only forward was to see with His eyes. So I asked for His sight.
And He showed me. Think on the promised land, He said. Hope. So I began to imagine it, the streets of Manenberg, the ones always filled with clothes drying in the sun, and I saw them filled with yellow light. It was beautiful, shining on and on. This was what I longed to see. My tears slowed. It was absolutely enough for me, to see as He saw, to have my eyes filled with light. I got up.
Still the moving took it’s toll on our bodies and hearts. Willow stopped sleeping, stopped napping, started waking at 4 a.m. to begin the day. Some nights we were awake for hours and hours in the depths of the night. I don’t know if it was the cold of the Cape Town nights or the moving or if it was just a stage for her. I don’t know. But I knew we were struggling to grip onto everything, and sometimes we looked ugly towards each other. We were stretched, money tight, sleep consistently broken, no home. And I began to question, in the stillness of the night, if we were really ready for all this, if Pemba had been enough for us, if we should just fly back and be welcomed into the bosom of the familiar.
But if there really was a promised land ahead, the streets of light, shining and healing, we couldn’t stop. We needed to cuddle and pray and love and walk. And just like the Israelities, we needed to see miracles in this place. Because there were many. Water out of the rock, fire at night, cloud by day. Bread falling from the sky. There were many miracles, here in this place. I leantin, learning from Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts, about joy and gratitude and seeing beauty with my eyes. Everywhere. I was a hunter of beauty in the mundane and the painful, and He was the gift-giver, the intimate One, who was everywhere.
I started scribbling them down on paper, these gifts, these miracles buried like treasure in the mundane. Sticky chocolate faces. Still, quiet blue sky. Playdough in the afternoon. Sweet scent of the white candle. Like water out the rock, like fire in the sky. Miracles in the desert. I began to see.
I woke. It was the last morning of our intense moving season. It was the day we would move into our Fish Hoek for four months. Four whole months of being and loving and building towers and making chocolate squares and gathering up empty tea cups, always so many tea cups. Iwoke up in ourquiet B&B that Sunday morning, and tiptoed out of bed, the girls still lay asleep next door. And as I sipped tea in the cold morning, the morning kissed my head. Scarlet red sky, burning above the still, lapping violet ocean waters. The mountains, a delicate black outline, slowly warming and showing their faces. The sun rising and cascading golden glitter over the waters. Joy, joy in the morning.
And I sat, surrounded by beauty and He spoke. Enjoy Me, and My creation. He had whispered it for months now. That I could see His miracles anywhere, in mess and transition and struggle. And now I saw it with new clarity, in the scarlet sunrise. So many gifts surrounding me like magic. Hot baths for little bodies. Cream on dry hands. Salty sea air in my lungs. Willow asleep in my arms in the dark. Miracles everywhere as we walk.
I would read it later in Voskamp’s book, this quote from Teresa of Avila:
Love once said to me “I know a song,
would you like to hear it?”
And laughter came from every brick in the street
And laughter came from every brick in the street
and from every pore
in the sky,
After a night of prayer, He
changed my life when
We exist in the middle of transition. We parent, we work, we wait. We wrestle, we pray, we surrender. I slowly open my frustrated hands to receive the daily wonder He gives. Because I know, even when we finally arrive in Manenberg, there will long patches of desert to walk through before we get to some of the shining streets He showed, so I want to learn joy today. We walk towards the promise. I open my eyes. And I see miracles all day, all night.