Easter

Am currently in the States and drive a rental car. A really nice new Hyundai something or other. It’s got this feature that takes a little getting used to… lane control! If you drive a little over the lines on the road, the car automatically corrects that. You have to indicate early or it won’t let you smoothly turn!

That got me wondering… especially since it’s the Easter weekend. How handy would it not be if our lives would get automatically corrected if we veer off course! Or would it be? Would it be just like the car I drive… a little scary?

Yesterday we remembered Jesus was condemned to death and was nailed to the cross. Tomorrow we celebrate we worship a living King who conquered death. The Easter message. This should set the course of our lives.. the message in the Bible our lane control and the fact He lives should be enough to want to know Him more.

Psalm 8 says this: Lord, our Lord,
    how majestic is your nameA)” style=”font-size: 0.625em; line-height: 22px; vertical-align: top”> in all the earth!

You have set your gloryB)” style=”font-size: 0.625em; line-height: 22px; vertical-align: top”>
    in the heavens.

Apparently that was the inspiration for Swedish song writer Boberg who wrote the hymn ‘how great Thou art’. I inserted the second verse as that is so appropriate for Easter…

And when I think of God, His Son not sparing
Sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in
That on the Cross, my burden gladly bearing
He bled and died to take away my sin
Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to Thee
How great Thou art, how great Thou art
Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to Thee
How great Thou art, how great Thou art

I need lane control in my life, just like I need it when driving and my distractions push me over the lines. The message given to us in the Bible is my lane control and I remember the message of Easter this weekend extra to remind myself I serve a living King whose lane control I want in my life.

How about you?

Happy Easter! The Lord is risen, He is risen indeed!

Friend of God

For years one of the more popular worship songs we sang a lot was ‘I am a friend of God’ by Israel Houghton. A very catchy tune (https://youtu.be/4OZZyBBFCMc
) and the lyrics are beautiful. Who am I You are mindful of me, that You hear me when I call… and the chorus … I am a friend of God, He calls me friend…

The lyrics of the song seem to be taken from the book of John 15 verse 15 where it says:

No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.

It’s only been very recent that the concept of friend of God means anything to me. Ofcourse I knew what I was singing, but now I have a greater appreciation of what it means to be called a friend. Friendship is a 2 way street, it’s a relationship where both parties put effort into. It’s where only the best is wished for the other. Where a word or a look is enough to know what the other is thinking. Where you know the other has your back. You have a true relationship of trust and mutual respect.

That is what God wants with us. Not a servant relationship where you can loose your status if you do something wrong. Not a fear relationship, punished when not obeyed.

I listened to an old recording of pastor Maxwell, who did a week of prayer at Stanborough Park church in the early nineties. He brings out the above points so nicely. He encouraged to see the character of God in each bible book and to read on if it seems God is not relational.

Oh to be called a friend! That’s how I want my relationship to be with God. Much like my relationship with my earthly friends like Althea who is burying her mum next week. I can’t be there but in thoughts and prayers am with her every step of the way. That’s how God wants to be our friend too. To be able to spend time and care for us the same way we would care for Him.

I am a friend of God…. you?

Twists and Turns

Life is unpredictable sometimes… unexpected twists and turns, stuff that happens even if we did not expect it…. good and bad!

My sister in love turned 50 this week… a milestone birthday, not given to anyone. For sure cause for celebration, even if at a distance! My own 50th birthday was the end of last year… my father in law died 2 days before my birthday… not really a cause of celebration… still, I made the milestone birthday and am still here. My friend Althea’s mum is a woman of each day… we do not know how long she still has…

A recent student missionary from Stanborough Park church is getting married in a few months… Melody’s friend Felicity had a baby girl a little while ago… and on and on it goes… those that have a facebook account and browse through these pages see all sorts of happenings in the lives of those we call Facebook friends… weddings, births, sickness, deaths…..all twists and turns.

Just the other day I watched the Dreamworks Animated movie ‘the Prince of Egypt’. The story of the people of Israel, who were freed from Egypt and under leadership of Moses dwelled in the desert until they could enter the promised land. Moses, the rescued Hebrew baby, adopted by the pharaoh and raised as a prince, discovered who he was and who he needed to be through a life full of twists and turns. The most prominent experience was at a burning bush, where he was commissioned to be the leader of the Israelites and lead them out of Egypt. God spoke with him through that bush that burned, but the fire did not consume it. Moses life can be divided in blocks of 40… each next section of 40 brought another twist. 40 Years at the courts, 40 in the desert to purify and become the leader he needed to be and another 40 years leading the people to Canaan. He had amazing experiences, being face to face with God, but also many lows.. when he battled with temper (and who can blame him when the people he rescued did nothing but complain…. asking for food, asking for water… lamenting ever leaving Egypt and slavery). As result of his temper when he hit the rock instead of spoke to the rock as instructed by God, he was not allowed to lead the people into the promised land.

Why do I find that story so intriguing? There is the beautiful song sang by Miriam, the sister of Moses, and Moses wife ‘there can be miracles’…the song reminds us that despite all the twists and turns life gives us, we should not give up believing. That’s what gives us direction, and sustains us so we can navigate that which life throws at us. Moses life was a good example … yes, he died, but because of his believe, and the relationship he had with God, he lead a tremendous life and is spending eternity in heaven.

Something to keep in mind… navigating the weird ways life sometimes goes…. there can be miracles…..

There can be miracles

When you believe

Though hope is frail

Its hard to kill

Who knows what miracles

You can achieve

When you believe somehow you will

You will when you believe

Wild and Free

The weekend was spent in the New Forest, a small national park in the South of England. The scenery is breathtaking and a huge bonus, bordering on the sea!

My peace and calm is found near the water. The waves crashing, finding shells, the wind blowing away cobwebs… I love it all!

Melody was in her element too, taking artsy pictures, identifying every part of left over crab.

A tradition is for us to drink an afternoon tea.. although this time I was quite happy with a cream tea instead! Delicious scone with just the right tangy jam and cream. All in a lovely little cafe near a farm shop.

But it was not really the ultimate destination of our trip. We wanted to explore the New Forest, and see the wild ponies!

So after a night in a nice hotel, overlooking a cricket stadium, we set off.

After a little driving around, we finally spotted some ponies, and then more! Such beautiful animals! And all roaming free in the park. Most were standing around in little groups. We were able to get quite close.

What an awesome life they lead! A whole forest to roam around, able to go where they want to go. Sleeping, eating, walking. No rules… well, almost no rules.. in order to keep the flock healthy and manageable we read that the free ones are all female. Males are only around a few months a year, as they don’t want the flock to grow beyond about 3000. Still, they are able to roam and enjoy!

Reminds me of the invitation Jesus gives to all of us. We can all be free! Free from bondage of sin. All we have to do is accept His saving grace. It will allow us to change and be like Him. Free!

I was born in a world of sin, but am now free, just like the ponies in the New Forest. What about you?

New Year…New Opportunities

So it has been a while since I posted anything. The last couple months of 2018 was spent recovering and taking time for myself (check out ‘Living with a hidden…not so hidden illness’ if you haven’t already).

Post surgery life has been pretty boring, but I will talk more about that in detail another day. But it is a new year. 2019…Now I don’t know about you, but I cannot set new years resolutions without failing within the first week. So this year for the first time, I haven’t set any. Instead, I’m taking this year one day at a time.

I have to say, the prospects that are on the horizon for this year, do have me very excited to see what adventures lie ahead of me. What I do know is that this year I will be focusing on this blog and all things creative in my life! Whether that is more crocheting and knitting or trying my hand at painting again. Another major aspect that I will be working on this year is my mental health. As you are probably aware if you have read my blog posts throughout 2018, you will know that it was a very hard year for me. But 2019 is the year that I am really going to work on it! There is that saying of ‘new year, new me’, well it might be a cliche but I really am going to try to better myself and not let the past get me down anymore!

So what about you? Have you set any new years resolutions or goals for 2019?  Any tips to help with mental health?

Whatever this year brings, I hope it will be filled with happiness and love for all of you!

Week before Christmas

It’s a week before Christmas.. well… almost anyways…the volume of people in the shops is a very big clue.. the Christmas music playing in every store… people frantically searching for the perfect presents for cousins once removed, or the distant aunt whom is only thought about cause her Christmas presents already arrived under the tree.

I love Christmas, don’t get me wrong. I love the lights, the thought of peace.. the tranquil spirit shown in every magazine and shop window…

However, as I sit here drinking a cup of tea I can’t help but remember that story about Jesus clearing out the temple because He disagrees with what His Fathers house should look like. Did He know 2000 years ago how commercialised Christmas has become and how the most important element to remember at Christmas is all but forgotten about? Am sure He is sad about that.

Jesus came to this world as a little baby, which we are privileged to remember at Christmas time. He did not stay a baby… he grew up and showed us unselfish love when He died on the cross… which we remember at Easter.

I wonder what would happen if we all slowed down and took the commercial aspects out of this period of the year. Would we truly have that Christmas atmosphere every song sings about?

I hope I will be better about it all this year… yes, am in a shopping mall, but I went to look at the fishes… they remind me about the verse in the Bible were it says ‘don’t worry about tomorrow’… I know those were birds.. but it’s winter, cold and the fishes were available to look at.

Merry ‘Christ’mas!

Living with a hidden (not so hidden) illness…Part 3

So here we are…a couple months after the last update and what a couple months it has been!

So after the hospital visit and finding out my surgery date, I have been busy getting the house and office pod ready for my recovery and getting mentally prepared for what was going to happen. Mum and I also planned a trip away for before the surgery as a distraction.

This trip was the perfect thing and exactly what I needed. We first as a family went to Holland to see the rest of the family for a couple days, and then mum and I went on to Paris and Disneyland Paris for a week. We came home only 2 days before my surgery so I didn’t give my brain the chance to panic too much. The day before my surgery was just spent buying the last few bits that I would need in the hospital and stuffing my face at Yo Sushi.

The morning of my surgery started early…the alarm going off at 5am so that we would arrive at the hospital for 7am. It was a bit of a blur once the hospital gown and compression stockings were on, a blur of blood draws, blood pressure and heart rate monitoring and questions. Before I knew it though it was time to walk to the operating room.

So now for the details…I panicked a lot before my operation and actually needed to go on oxygen for about 15-20 minutes before they could put me under anaesthesia. When I came back out I was in the recovery room and I remember falling asleep a lot. One of the times I was awake, I remember the doctor came to see me and all I remember was her telling me that there were more fibroids than they had thought and I asked them if they were able to save my womb, which they did!!! I fell asleep again and before I knew it, I was back on the ward waiting for my parents to come in.

When they came in they both told me how worried they’d been. The surgery was only meant to be about an hour…however, I had been in for 4 hours. I was also super pale as I had lost a lot of blood during the surgery and had had 1 transfusion. The pain was unreal and I felt super nauseous. I also had no appetite and only ate a little bit of a yogurt and a few sips of hot water.

The next day was horrible. It started with another blood draw at 5:30 in the morning, followed by multiple blood pressure and heart rate checks. This was followed by the nurses telling me that they want to get me up into the chair so that they could take the catheter out and change the bedding. For anyone that has had abdominal surgery (my incision was through the abdomen from my belly button down) you know that it is incredibly painful to move your stomach muscles. I was told to use my arms to push me up out of bed however, I still had my catheter in and on my right hand I had a canula with 3 ports which pulled when I moved my arm, so using my arms was hard. But somehow with the help of the nurses, I managed to get up and into the chair. I tried to eat a bit of toast with jam and some hot water but I instantly regretted that. I felt the waves of nausea build and I tried to hold it in as much as possible. However my body had a completely different idea. Before I knew it I was reaching for the sick bowl. The pain that followed was unbelievable, my pain killer pump didn’t even make a dent.

Several hours later, my parents came in along with Althea (essentially my second mum), however I cannot remember much of what happened at all. I was still so out of it. All I remember is that I had another 2 transfusions but my levels were still very low. They were still very worried about my heart rate and blood pressure.

The next few days were a bit of a blur of more blood tests and blood pressure readings. But before I knew it, I had been taken off my pain pump and put on oral pain killers. I was able to walk a little more and able to walk to the toilet on my own. But after 3 nights I was ready to go home. The plastic bedding and no air movement just meant that I was boiling hot all the time and severely uncomfortable. So Monday morning I was convinced I was going home. I felt well enough to go home. However, my haemoglobin levels were still very low and they wanted to bring it back up to what it was pre op before I could go home. So one final blood draw was done and several hours later I was ready to go home!

Now my recovery is far from over. Walking goes at a snails pace and stairs still have to be taken slowly. But I’m getting there, pain is almost nonexistent now and every day I’m able to do more and more.

So when they opened me up, there were more fibroids than they thought. They reckon there were close to 100 fibroids in total with 5 large masses (15cm each). They also estimated that my fibroids had taken about 45% of my total blood supply and I lost around a litre of blood during the surgery. The best news though was that they were able to save my womb! I can still have kids!!

But for now…there’s still a long road to recovery but I am on the way 🙂 So far…this is the end of this chapter!

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Turtle Spotting Do’s and Dont’s

So I thought I would start a series on the do’s and dont’s that are associated with wildlife. For the first one I thought I would go with turtles. Now as you may know, I am a marine biologist with a huge love and passion for conservation. This has led me to take multiple trips around the world with focus on conservation and eco tourism. One thing that I noticed a lot was animal eco tourism trips and specifically those with the focus on sea turtles.

So over the years I have been on multiple trips where turtle spotting has been part of it. Whether it was working on a turtle conservation project with Archelon in Zakynthos or turtle spotting in Tobago. I have picked up certain behaviours from tourists that inspired me to write this.

So lets start with the Dont’s:

  1. If you are fortunate enough to see one in the ocean whilst on a boat…do NOT go near it with the boat…keep a safe distance and don’t drive over them!
  2. If you see one whilst swimming/snorkelling/diving…again keep a safe distance. Turtles can be very quick swimmers so if they get stressed by you, they will swim away but always give them space. DO NOT touch them!
  3. If you encounter an adult on the beach, give her space as it will most likely be an adult female who is getting ready to lay her nest. This will occur at night (or very rarely at sunrise) so do not shine your torches as that stresses them out and again give them plenty of space. Do not use any light at all, this includes phone lights, flashes from cameras and normal torches.
  4. If you are lucky enough to see hatchlings coming out of the nest. No matter how tempting it may be. DO NOT pick them up. They use their journey from the nest to the ocean to ‘learn’ where to come back to to lay their own nests.
  5. Don’t litter…This is an easy one. Even if you aren’t seeing any turtles, the litter you drop on a beach will inevitably affect a turtle at some stage. Whether its an adult or a hatchling, they all are effected by litter on the beaches and in the ocean.
  6. Do not buy turtleshell products when travelling. They are normally caught by poachers and are always illegally and inhumanely sourced.

Now for the do’s:

  1. If you are fortunate enough to see them…enjoy the moment! Do it responsibly but enjoy it none the less! They are beautiful creatures and I will never get bored of seeing them.
  2. If you spot a hatchling going the wrong way…pick them up and turn them around. If it is during the day…try and shade them so that the sun doesn’t roast them. And if it is at night, try and block out the lights that are disorientating them.
  3. Do a beach clean every time you go to the beach. Even if you only pick up 5 pieces of litter each time it will make a huge difference.
  4. If you decide to go on a turtle spotting boat…make sure you go with a reputable company that is known for its eco tourism. If you aren’t sure which company to chose, there are companies in most countries that are there for the sole purpose for turtle conservation, such as Archelon in Greece and Save our Turtles in Tobago, they will be able to tell you companies that they recommend.
  5. Use recyclable straws or reusable straws. Straws are some of the biggest culprits of turtles dying. Making a small change to reusable straws or no straws at all will make a huge difference.
  6. Eat locally sourced sustainable seafood. Companies that are locally sourced tend to use better fishing techniques so less turtles get caught in fishing lines. The sustainable companies will use more turtle friendly fishing gear.
  7. Last but not least. Donate to local turtle conservation projects. Most are NGO’s and need the money to keep running. If you can’t give money, maybe you can give some time and volunteer with them. I can’t recommend that enough. My time volunteering with Archelon in Zakynthos was one of the best summers I’ve had. The information I learnt then have stuck by me and have changed my daily habits.

Overall, enjoy them! They are truly beautiful creatures, so lets protect them so that we and the future generations can still enjoy them!

Camera 14MP-9PC
Camera 14MP-9PC

Cousins

My grandfather used to say ‘the sun does not set over the Knopper family’. The reason was that his kids spread to corners of the earth. One to Australia, one to America… and my dad stayed home in the Netherlands…

The consequence of this was that family reunions were just with very small portions of the family. We grew up without knowing any of the cousins.

There is a picture of 1971 where we were all together… apparently.., I don’t remember it..

A few years ago, my Australian cousin met up with us in Luxembourg.. so nice to meet! A familiarity immediately there.

Last year I met up with my American cousin… same thing… I wrote an earlier blog about that.

As I am regularly in America, I finally was able to arrange to spend some time with my cousin. Catching up on uhm… some 47 years of missing history… he remembers stories about my grandparents from what I don’t remember or was too young for.

A drive into the Smokey Mountains was the setting for all this..

Below a few pictures of that…

I know the sun will continue to shine over the Knopper family and not set.. as cousins have families, equally spread out in their respective countries…

One day we will have that total family reunion…it may have to wait till we are all Home with Jesus though!

Life Unexpected

People get sick… we know that, can see it all around us…. sometimes you browse through the Facebook news feed and suddenly you are struck by another person battling diseases or tragic events. As it’s someone else’s life, you comment with a sad emoji or a short message.

These things happen to other people … not in the own family circle.

My uncle recently passed away, brain cancer… the word no one wants to be associated with..

Very sad indeed…

The bomb shell really came Friday though…. my father in law…. lung cancer…

how is that even possible.. he does not smoke… never ever smoked…

Incomprehensible… and sad

Jesus told us the story about the little birds… those no one really notices anymore.. they are not colourful or rare… He said ‘look at those birds… they don’t worry about tomorrow.. they don’t worry where their next meal is coming from…’

‘Please you do not worry either… The Father knows you’

These are the words of Tommy Walker on the song ‘He knows my name’

I have a Maker

He formed my heart

Before even time began

My life was in his hands

He knows my name

He knows my every thought

He sees each tear that falls

And He hears me when I call

And the YouTube clip:

Life is tough sometimes… all you want to do is curl up and let the day pass…. no matter how unexpected life can be and no matter what each of us is going through… He knows us! Our lives matter!!

We do not know what the future holds for my father in law…

All we can do is pray..