Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Brown County State Park...

Candace, Riaan and I enjoyed a relaxing day exploring picturesque Brown County State Park last month. We had visited this state park back in February, but as it was winter then we didn't get a chance to hike any of the trails. We had a lovely picnic lunch and walked along two of the many hiking trails in Indiana's largest state park. It was a great day!

 Picnic lunch at the West Lookout Tower.
 Riaan and Candace.
 West Lookout Tower.
 Family selfie as we hike around Ogle Lake.
 Ogle Lake's dam wall.
 Pretty reflections.
 View towards the dam wall.
 Interesting caterpillar crossing our path.
 An ant dragging a spider on the trail.
 Pretty butterfly.
 Butterflies puddling.
 More butterflies puddling further along the trail. They're extracting nutrients from the dung.
 Bee on a flower near the Nature Centre.
 Interesting mushroom.
 Fungi and other growths on a fallen tree.
 Evidence of beaver activity.
 Heading down the second trail we hiked.
 Strahl Lake.
 Candace and Riaan crossing a small stone bridge.
 Making our way up towards the Nature Centre.
 Brown County State Park's Nature Centre.
 Abe Martin Lodge.
 Riaan with a big teddy bear. :)
Indiana State Parks turns 100 this year.

Sunday, 16 October 2016

Perspective Shift...

This time my blog will actually feature writing for a change. :) You see, I've recently had a healthy perspective change. I came to a realisation after talking to our neighbour several weeks ago. She mentioned to me how wonderful it has been to see all that God has done for us over the past two years - since we arrived in the USA together in 2014. We've been through a lot of "bad" experiences and yet we are still together, stronger and wiser than before. I've often nodded my head and agreed with this sentiment. God has done many wonderful things for us over the past few years. But something clicked during that conversation.

Over the past few months I've been increasingly negative as I reflect on our life in the USA. I've viewed every major decision or life-changing event as something bad. Something that has made a negative impact on our lives. And usually in terms of a loss of income or money.
  • We bought a truck back in September 2014 that I genuinely believed was the truck for me. We discovered this year that the whole frame was shot - rusting away. It was something that the dealership had covered up and were dishonest with us.
  • We put an offer in on a house in the middle of 2015, but then were both very anxious and pulled out at the last minute. We lost a lot of money.
  • Candace had major complications in the aftermath of the birth of our beautiful boy and she almost died at the end of 2015. Riaan almost lost his mother and the road to recovery was not easy. We had some large medical bills, too.
  • I developed pink eye (conjunctivitis) on my actual birthday (5th February) and had to go to the ER to get it sorted out since it was around 9pm on a Friday night - and we were going away for the weekend. It turns out that breast milk is a great cure, though!
  • After a year of working at the local pharmacy, standing on my feet all day, a pain in my groin area got increasingly worse. I had to have a hernia repair surgery in February this year, and that also cost money.
  • We bought non-refundable flights - for 24th September - to visit my family in South Africa. Riaan is a dual national and although he has a US passport, he has to enter South Africa on a South African passport. This was something we didn't realise when we booked the flights back in March. We rushed to Chicago in June and applied for his SA passport, but were told it could take six months to be processed - since it has to go to Pretoria and then come back here again. We prayed for a miracle, but his passport failed to arrive by the end of August and so we needed to change or cancel our flights. It was looking likely that it would be another costly expense - since changing the flights would cost around USD 700. Cancelling them was not an option.
We've been through a lot and in some ways I've viewed all of these experiences as negative, costly events. And yet this is not how God would have me remember them. We were able to sell my truck and cover what was left on the loan. We were able to pull out of the house and not be stuck in an unhappy situation having a house we both didn't actually want. We lost some money, yes, but at least we're not losing lots more money every month, being tied to a 30-year loan! Candace and Riaan both survived - and their story is one that has touched many hearts and that God has used for building his Kingdom in this area and around the world. My health issues and surgery are all in the past now. My hernia should never come back. There may be some discomfort, but it is part of the process. And then regarding our flights, we spoke to our travel agent and thanks to Delta changing our flight route in an unacceptable manner, we were able to cancel the flights and get a full refund. We didn't lose any money! This is definitely a God-thing. It's a blessing to us. And to top things off, Riaan's South African passport arrived this past Thursday and so we will be looking into rescheduling our holiday soon. :)

In all of these major life events, God has been glorified. None of them are negative. They were all there as opportunities for God to show his wonder, majesty and faithfulness time and time again. It's a pretty good, healthy shift in perspective at a time when I've been feeling rather dark and gloomy about life. So I pray that you will be encouraged and take heart from our testimony today. God is so much bigger than the biggest life event you can think of! And, as it says in Romans 8: 28 NIV:

 And we know that IN ALL THINGS God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

Large Grasshopper...

This small locust was sunning himself on one of the beams of the Barn. Locusts and grasshoppers are pretty common during harvest in southern Indiana. I've seen many of his friends - some of them squashed - on the road nearby. :)

Soaking up the warmth of autumn.

Friday, 14 October 2016

Majestic skies...

The beauty revealed in the skies is pretty amazing. These photos were all taken one Sunday evening. Large puffy clouds, a lovely sunset, and a lightning display lighting up the night sky. :)

 Large storm clouds south-east of us.
 A closer view as this storm system heads in a north-easterly direction - and away from us.
 Cool reflections in the pond.
 Sunset with more advancing storm clouds.
 Lightning to the west that same night.
The frequent strikes were lighting up the night sky.

Friday, 7 October 2016

Giant Praying Mantus...

I came across this large praying mantus while I was walking Rusty along the gravel road near our home. This one is much bigger than the small praying mantus I found on a flower earlier in the summer. It is the third large praying mantus that I have seen in recent years. The other two were seen in South Africa in 2010 and in Sierra Leone in 2011. They are pictured below, too.

Size perspective.
 Strange-looking praying mantus as seen at rural Appelsbosch, South Africa. This was in 2010, when the non-technical Mercy Ships crew were staying off-ship during shipyard in Durban, South Africa.
 Another large praying mantus seen sitting outside the Purser's office on the Africa Mercy, then docked in Freetown, Sierra Leone, in 2011.
A closer view of the Sierra Leone praying mantus.

Thursday, 6 October 2016

Red Admiral...

The Red Admiral is a rather striking butterfly, with very distinct markings. I saw one sitting on the trunk of a tree recently. It's quite camouflaged when it closes its wings, as you can see in one of the photos below.

 Camouflaged on the tree trunk.
Wings open displaying its pretty markings.

Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Sinister Cloud...

I don't consider clouds to be sinister. That was until I spotted this evil-looking cloud at sunset. With a little bit of imagination you can clearly see the right-hand side profile of a bearded man with a crooked nose and a piercing eye!

 The cloud started off quite innocently...
 Before morphing into this scary figure...
It then transformed, again with some more imagination, into a charging buffalo!