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Look at the stars,
Look how they shine for you,
And everything you do,
Yeah, they were all yellow.

tbV and i have been home [back to South Africa after a three year journey in Americaland starting in Philadelphia and ending up in Oakland, outside San Francisco] for just over a week now.

after a really frustrating trip involving two and  half hours of fighting to try and get me on to the plane i had a ticket for, having to leave a box of paintings behind in SF, having the airline leave a bag of ours behind in Washington, losing movie capability for the last 8 hour flight after the refuel in Dakar…

and after a fairly frustrating week of disconnection in terms of trying to get phones and internet unlocked and set up and working [which we still largely haven't, besides my dad's old doesn't-even-have-predictive-text-capacity Nokia which we have managed to get some air time on]…

we had the most excellent 5 year anniversary celebration at a place called Monkey Valley, which looks something like this:

but even more specifically, something like this [containing my very special someone]:

mv3

while there was both good and bad [and fun and difficult and crazy and amazing and ridiculous] about our time in Americaland, one interesting thing that stood out to me in both Philly and Oakland was the lack of stars… now i’m sure Americaland has stars [and i DEFINITELY got to see them in boatloadsfull on the houseboat trip i got to do on Lake Shasta] but i remember every time i came back to South Africa [which was twice during our stay] it was the biggest thing that stood out to me [besides the edible and tasty mayo, of course] – the fact that i could see a whole lot more stars than when i was over there.

i imagine it had something specific to do with the two places in Americaland we ended up staying, but it was one of the things that i remembered missing a lot when we were over there. and so it is so good to be back – and this weekend was ridiculous because we were high up on a hill and had a huge window next to our bed and so could lie in bed and see an amazing array of stars.

i have my own star constellation called ‘The Horse’ [because it looks like a horse, duh!] which a few of us discovered about 15 years ago on a youth camp [beyond 'The Horse' i seriously know Orion, the Southern Cross and on a good day can maybe point out the Big Dipper so not big on the constellations] and as we arrived back from our meal Friday night to the house we were staying in, i looked up and immediately saw it, and even better, the beautiful Val [tbV] looked up and spotted it straight away too.

just so good to be back. still not connected or plugged in or properly transported. and those things might take a while to get right. and missing a lot of people from Americaland for sure. but the stars are back. and so everything seems just a little bit more alright.

It’s true,
Look how they shine for you,
Look how they shine for you,
Look how they shine for,
Look how they shine for you,
Look how they shine for you,
Look how they shine.

Look at the stars,
Look how they shine for you,
And all the things that you do.

 

“Na-Nu Na-Nu”

Robin McLaurin Williams, born July 21, 1951 in Chicago, Illinois.

[died August 2014]

robin

 

i knew his as ‘Mork’ in the comedy sitcom ‘Mork and Mindy’

i laughed and cried at/with him in ‘Dead Poets Society’, ‘Good Morning Vietnam’ and ‘Patch Adams’

i was completely blown away and broken by his performance and the hecticness of the movie ‘What Dreams May Come’

i was inspired by his turn in ‘Good Will Hunting’

‘The Birdcage’, ‘Mrs Doubtfire’,  and ‘Jumanji’ were all personal favourites of mine…

and just the other day saw him on the big screen in the trailer for the upcoming ‘Night at the Museum III’

 

[i was even one of the fewer fans of the little appreciated 'Death to Smoochy']

 

and of course he completely stole the scene, or scenes, or quite possibly the whole of ‘Aladdin’ as the genie…

and… and… and…

As i look down his filmography on IMDB i keep being reminded of yet another movie and a different performance that thrilled or moved or inspired me.

Robin Williams had a definite gift.

In fact, when i think of him, this clip of him doing ‘Pygmy with a Stutter’ on Jay Leno’s show is the one that instantly comes to mind…

RobinWilliams seemed to often carry a deep sense of personal sadness with him, especially as he grew older, which could occasionally be glimpsed through his eyes in interviews. As the man who for a decade or two was definitely deserving of the title of ‘Funniest Man Alive’ this was something that always seemed so deeply real and yet so completely out-of-place. It is a tragedy, and one that spills over into the world, that his life ended the way it did.

There are never the ‘right words’ when someone dies and so i thought i would just bring some small honour to the life of a man with a very special gift through some pictures reminding us of a few of his moments which brought the laughs or the tears or the inspiration or the amazement to us all.

Thank you for the entertainment.

Thank you for reminding us all to Carpe the Diem… Seize the Day.

What is your favorite Robin Williams movie, moment or memory? Let’s share some of these in the comments section to celebrate a life…

Wow. This is my favourite hymn ever and just heard this rendition that just gets drummier and drummier as it goes on [if that's a thing] – i imagine that even if you don’t like christian music or hymns that you may still be able to appreciate the amazingness of this piece – Enjoy! The percussion group is called Stikyard. Boom, here it is:

Now sings my soul…

If that’s not your thing, or even if it is, this is the latest worship song that has captured my attention just in terms of the energy and vibe the band, Rend Collective, has in delivering it so if you have not seen ‘Build Your Kingdom Here’, give this a watch as well:

 [And if lyrics are more your thing, check out these powerful words by Tim Hughes, in a song that acknowledges life can be hard]

So assuming i got the right aircraft and these aren’t just for the first class toffs [so fine if anyone wants to bucketlist bump us up to a different class for fun] this is the selection of movies i have available for our first flight to Washington D.C. in which i can watch 2 to 3 movies if i work it right. What would you watch? Hoping to get enough votes so that i can compose a top 3 out of movies i have not seen yet so try and factor that in if you can… What would your top five be from this list… excuse the squinting – this is the best i could do… and GO!

watch4

 

Minus 200 points for even suggesting Anchorman 2 – STOPPIT!

UPDATE: So this was kind of a non-starter with the list NOT being the list of movies available on our first flight where we got a sum total of ZERO movies offered and no food and then on the big international flight i watched MILLION DOLLAR ARM [So Great!] and NOAH [What a load of bollockses] and half of Monuments Men [yawn!] before we landed in Dakar to refuel after which, for the longest section [8 hours] of our flight, tbV and myself and maybe two other people had no working tvs/movies at all so SAD FACE United/SAA – thumbs down… have been looking forward to the movie part of the transition for a while now and you let me down completely [and still have one of my bags, but that's another post]

 

oh we Christians can be a hated bunch. and rightly so in way too many times and spaces [although almost always when we say or do things that aren't particularly Christ-following in nature]

this week i was called a ‘reprobate’, told i have no spiritual teeth [i am not quite sure what that means but i think i was meant to be offended] , a ‘coward pastor’ and i think there was an insinuation that i am evil [when i said i was going to watch a movie with friends, the response that followed was ‘Even the evil love their friends and family.’ [and all this from someone who calls herself a 'fellow believer'] all because i mentioned on facebook that i didn’t feel i had the authority to share effectively on the situation in Gaza because i am not up to speed on everything that is happening there.

34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” [John 13.34-35 New International Version]

this did not feel like that.

last nite, tbV and i attended a wedding of some friends of ours in Americaland… this is four days before we leave the country where we have been living and working in non-profits and return to South Africa… also about two months ago they weren’t even engaged… there was an engagement and then a sense of ‘You’re leaving when?’ and then a scurrying to make a wedding happen so that we could be there before we left for SA. i was invited to MC at the reception after the wedding and we just got to spend a fun and fondu-filled evening with church friends and especially be there for a significant life event for some friends we have gotten to know and love over here.

34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” [John 13.34-35 English Standard Version]

this felt a lot like that.

on the way home from the wedding, my beautiful wife Val told me a story of the way that some friends of ours really went above and beyond in terms of showing love to another friend of ours who was in a really bad place and feeling completely low. a welcome at the airport with some of her significant and favourite things and a week of just showering her with love and friendship and special attention. in a completely tired and shattered state, driving us home after the wedding and just so ready for bed, this story lifted my spirits immensely and gave me huge hope and was really not the hugest surprise knowing the people in question.

34 A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another; even as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.

35 By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another. [John 13.34-35 American Standard Version]

arrive home from the party and discover an envelope that a friend and someone who had worked alongside me in the youth ministry had slipped into my hand at Friday’s farewell party that other friends of ours [that we hadn't even spent crazy time with] had offered to throw for us – open it and read amazing and encouraging words in a card but also an immensely generous gift from someone who had spent so much of last year out of a job… catch a glimpse of the photo/message book that another friend of ours [again, someone who we hadn't spent a lot of time with] put together for us to map out significant parts of our journey in Oakland and remind us of the people we loved and who loved us along the way… close my hand around the wad of cash my bossman gave me towards buying a new computer when we get home [before this one completely catches fire and burns up from overheating] and smile again at the pics of our visit to a place called ‘Bacon Bacon’ which could only be the best place to take me to celebrate the end of working for him…

34-35 “Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other.” [The Message]

all of those things felt a lot like this.

don’t get me wrong. there are definitely times to call people out and to challenge people when they are not living up to the message they are proclaiming. Jesus had a field day with the Pharisees and the people in the temple and on many occasions even His own disciples. there is a time for harsh words and sometimes even harsh actions.

But the first 3 verses of 1 Corinthians 13, remind us of this important principle:

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Which is followed by this reminder of the kind of choice Love that often takes a little bit more effort, and personal cost, and perseverance, to achieve:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails.

If the person or the thing or the event, does not have love, then it is not of God.

The Love of God is the tattoo of the Christian. It is the mark by which we will be known and recognised.

It will hopefully do the job of helping attract other people towards God.

Who is the Source of all that is Love and Good and Right.

Thank you to all of those who have loved us well in the whole of life, but especially in these last few weeks and days… it has been muchly appreciated!

A few weeks ago, tbV and our two housemates Aaron and Sarah went for a meal and games-playing evening [yes, Settlers of Catan] to our friends from church, Mike and Leah.

Aaron and Mike have at least one thing in common in that they both work in what must be one of the best jobs in the world – teaching young children engineering concepts through Lego [or Legos if you're Americanese!].

So before we went to visit we came up with a plan to legonap some of Mike’s lego people and hold them hostage for a bit of fun.

Sadly, when we got to their house his Lego men were all safely hidden away and so our plan seemed thwarted.

Until i had to make a restroom call and met these friendly creatures:

adultducks

The wedding ducks were perched on the top of the Smiths toilet and so i secretly pocketed them and let the others know as we drove home that the mission had not been completely compromised.

We then got to work with TYPING [of course] a ransom letter and taking pics of their ducks being guarded by Aaron’s Ninja Lego men:

Sent it to them. Great laugh. And you’d think the story would end there, right?

Well it was until Val and Aaron and i went to play games at our friend Bruce’s house. Great evening of games, amazing snacks, and good company and all going relatively routinely, until i happened to need the bathroom and when i went i happened to spot these guys [as part of a larger group of five on a rack in the shower]:

smallducksphone

Pretty familiar-looking right… that is until you see this other picture taken with my phone for scale appreciation:

dckswithphone

Wait, What? Did i step into Inception here? No you did not. Turns out Bruce and his family have a set of 5 ducks, including two very similiar wedding ducks, but of the little tiny baby duck-sized variety…

So naturally i pocketed them [for a guy big on honesty, i don't seem to have too many qualms for stealing it seems...] and took them home and we came up with plan B.

bothsets

Which involved another coincidental dinner party at Mike and Leah’s where i left the two tiny wedded ducks on their toilet…

And then another regular games night at Bruce’s where i ‘SNUCK’ the two giant ducks into the throng:

newfamilyducksYeah, they just fit right in there, huh?

I’m not sure if the moral to this story is ‘Don’t invite Brett and Val to your house for games’ or maybe just that you should look a little better after your toys and play companions when you do.

All i am suggesting is that life is too short not to ‘kidnap a set of plastic ducks from your friends while playing board games at their house and creating a ransom note from letters cut from magazines and typing the envelope address and then kidnapping a different set of smaller ducks from your other friend’s house while playing board games and switching both sets of ducks and replacing them at the opposite plastic duck house’… or something…

Do you have any similiar stories involving friends’ figurines, stuffed animals or works of art? i would love to hear them…

 

Taylorraephotography.com

Photo courtesy of Taylorraephotography.com

I’ll be the first to tell you that I suck at marriage. Let me give you an example.

A few weeks ago we were sitting on a bench outside a perfect little neighborhood boulangerie in Australia, eating pain au chocolat in the sunshine when Jonathan told me he was thinking of applying to grad school so that he could potentially start a program when we return from Korea. “What do you think?” he asked me.

Do you know what the first thing out of my mouth was? I’ll give you a hint – it wasnt “I think that’s great and I support you in your dreams of getting your Masters,” and it wasnt “Where do you want to apply? Let’s start thinking about how we could make that work.” It was (imagine this with an extremely whiny voice), “But if you start grad school right away we won’t have time to do any traveling after our contract is over because you will have to go back right away for school, and traveling is basically the entire reason I came to Korea!” I actually said that. While we were sitting on a sunny bench on an idyllic tree-lined street in the trendy part of SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA.

I suck at Marriage, but my Marriage doesn’t suck – Lily Dunn

Of course, when I came to my senses later I apologized sincerely for how selfish and spoiled and inconsiderate I’d been. But the point is…that’s still the stupid first thing that came out of my mouth. Everyone knows that one of the first rules of relationships is to show support of the other person’s dreams and goals. But seven years into this relationship and I still can’t seem to manage that simple task. I think we can all agree that this was a fail.

*****

Sometimes I really suck at marriage. I have unrealistic expectations. I am moody and unpredictable. I am unsupportive. I am bossy. I am lazy. I am inconsiderate. I am whiny. I am demanding. I am terribly selfish. Jonathan is mostly perfect, but every once in a blue moon he loses patience with me too. He hurts my feelings. He pulls away because I’ve become too prickly to handle. We are broken people and we fail to love each other well in so many ways.

 And yet, we have an extraordinary, impossibly beautiful marriage.

*****

We aren’t the oldest and most experienced of married couples. We don’t have a perfect marriage. But we’ve learned some things along the way. We’ve learned we don’t believe in molding our marriage to meet anyone else’s expectations. Everyone seems to have an opinion – that we got married too young, that we should have kids by now, how our home should be run, who should be “in charge.” And we shake our heads and laugh. Because we aren’t interested in what anyone else thinks our marriage should look like. We aren’t interested divvying up our roles according to some chart or in having children based on someone else’s timeline, and we couldn’t care less about who is “in charge.” People say, “You’ve been together since you were nineteen? Aren’t you afraid that you’ve lost who you are?!” And we laugh again. Because we haven’t lost who we are. Together we are becoming the people we are meant to be.

Because our marriage isn’t about keeping score. It’s not about who’s pulling their weight or who’s in charge or who’s loving the best. It’s about heaping grace on one another until our marriage is dripping with it. It’s about soaking in that grace, from God and from each other, becoming so heavy with it that it overwhelms our disappointments, our failures, our hidden ugliness. It’s the kind of grace that changes us.

Our marriage is about understanding that every day of our lives together we are living out a miracle. It’s the miracle we wrote in our wedding vows, “I choose you, today and every day…” The miracle is not just that we fell in love when we were nineteen. And it isn’t just that we made these vows four Junes ago. The miracle is that when I come home from work each night Jonathan wraps his arms around me in a hug so big it lifts me up off of the floor. It’s that I chose him on my wedding day and I chose him again when I woke up this morning. That I will choose him tomorrow and that I will choose him on the day I die. The miracle is God giving two broken, unfaithful people the measure of grace necessary to choose this kind of love on a daily basis. The miracle is that after being together for seven years, I am still in awe that I get to choose him.

Sometimes I suck at marriage. But my marriage doesn’t suck.

Of course, when I came to my senses later I apologized sincerely for how selfish and spoiled and inconsiderate I’d been. But the point is…that’s still the stupid first thing that came out of my mouth. Everyone knows that one of the first rules of relationships is to show support of the other person’s dreams and goals. But seven years into this relationship and I still can’t seem to manage that simple task. I think we can all agree that this was a fail.

*****

Sometimes I really suck at marriage. I have unrealistic expectations. I am moody and unpredictable. I am unsupportive. I am bossy. I am lazy. I am inconsiderate. I am whiny. I am demanding. I am terribly selfish. Jonathan is mostly perfect, but every once in a blue moon he loses patience with me too. He hurts my feelings. He pulls away because I’ve become too prickly to handle. We are broken people and we fail to love each other well in so many ways.

 And yet, we have an extraordinary, impossibly beautiful marriage.

*****

We aren’t the oldest and most experienced of married couples. We don’t have a perfect marriage. But we’ve learned some things along the way. We’ve learned we don’t believe in molding our marriage to meet anyone else’s expectations. Everyone seems to have an opinion – that we got married too young, that we should have kids by now, how our home should be run, who should be “in charge.” And we shake our heads and laugh. Because we aren’t interested in what anyone else thinks our marriage should look like. We aren’t interested divvying up our roles according to some chart or in having children based on someone else’s timeline, and we couldn’t care less about who is “in charge.” People say, “You’ve been together since you were nineteen? Aren’t you afraid that you’ve lost who you are?!” And we laugh again. Because we haven’t lost who we are. Together we are becoming the people we are meant to be.

Because our marriage isn’t about keeping score. It’s not about who’s pulling their weight or who’s in charge or who’s loving the best. It’s about heaping grace on one another until our marriage is dripping with it. It’s about soaking in that grace, from God and from each other, becoming so heavy with it that it overwhelms our disappointments, our failures, our hidden ugliness. It’s the kind of grace that changes us.

Our marriage is about understanding that every day of our lives together we are living out a miracle. It’s the miracle we wrote in our wedding vows, “I choose you, today and every day…” The miracle is not just that we fell in love when we were nineteen. And it isn’t just that we made these vows four Junes ago. The miracle is that when I come home from work each night Jonathan wraps his arms around me in a hug so big it lifts me up off of the floor. It’s that I chose him on my wedding day and I chose him again when I woke up this morning. That I will choose him tomorrow and that I will choose him on the day I die. The miracle is God giving two broken, unfaithful people the measure of grace necessary to choose this kind of love on a daily basis. The miracle is that after being together for seven years, I am still in awe that I get to choose him.

Sometimes I suck at marriage. But my marriage doesn’t suck.

[To read more of Lily's writing, make sure you check out her blog, 'Such Small Hands: Searching for Purpose and finding Grace']

Photo courtesy of grainandcompass.com

Photo courtesy of grainandcompass.com

[To read the next Marriage Year 5 post by Lindsay and Nate Brown, click here]

[To return to the beginning of the series and get glimpses from 45 years of marriage, click here]

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