I love all that is new – beginnings, first editions, babies, seasonal changes – almost as much as I like all that is old – vintage, classic, routine and familiar. I guess I think of a challenge as a marriage of opposites: ‘Fresh Avant-Garde’ meets ‘Timeless Old-World.’

Every year I like to tackle a different challenge. In the past, some were quite random, while others were the logical next step – like putting my youngest through her final year of school. Some constituted a single event, yet left me overwhelmed and fragile. Others were major, all-consuming projects, like climbing Kilimanjaro in 2012. While it made deep inroads into my soul, it also left me light and whole.

 

How to make sense of all this? It seems that much of the joy of any project is locked up in the company we keep – fellow pilgrims who laugh, help, warn, mentor, confront, encourage, and comfort us along the way! Sometimes they are childhood friends with kindred spirits; other times, they are strangers whose fleeting touches remind us of visiting angels.

Then there is the secret of breaking up any project into bite-size pieces. Small steps, tiny stitches, daily stops! And before you know it, you have climbed your mountain, crossed your bridge, fulfilled your promise.

The final secret to a successful challenge is obedience to God’s gentle, quiet whisper. When He nudges, calls and commissions us, then we know He will also faithfully guide us across the finish line. With these three in alignment, I can almost guarantee success!

The joy of having my grandparents and in particular, my maternal grandmother as my primary caregiver between the ages of four and six, has always made me deeply grateful to God for my unique circumstances. Grandma Darling was a sincere and devout Christian. Her daily walk with God was real, her love for His Word, legendary and her genuine concern for all of God’s creation, truly remarkable. It was in her house where I saw love in action, for Grandma was a giver. She was not rich, neither was she learned, yet she understood the basics of her faith and lived with a simple wisdom that I have always admired.

Whatever gifts she received, was seldom kept for herself. What she was given in the morning from visitors who loved to enter the house from the back door, she would place into the hands of those who dropped in for a visit in the afternoon and preferred to enter from the front door. And vice versa. Breadcrumbs were daily put out for the birds and milk was given to a variety of cats who regularly came to visit. When neighbours went away, she watered their houseplants and took care of their small gardens.

One day my sister-in-law came upon Grandma, visiting with a group of women. Caught unawares by the Western Cape’s cold and wet winters, they were trading their beautifully handwoven baskets for much needed blankets. Grandma opened her home, her heart and her cupboards. At one stage my sister-in-law tried to gently intervene, for she realized that Grandma was going to give all her blankets away, but to no avail.

‘Gran, what are you going to do with all these baskets?’ she wanted to know, for Grandma really had no purpose for any of them.

Unfazed she kept trading until every woman had one or two blankets. Then she said, “Give them away, of course!” Yet, Grandma lacked nothing. Never.

Her life reminds me of the only miracle mentioned in all four gospels – the feeding of the five thousand. After Jesus gave thanks, He distributed the five loaves and two fish among the people. When they had enough to eat, He told the disciples to gather up all the leftover fragments. They filled twelve baskets. In honour of a sincere and humble woman who paid if forward all her life, this year’s challenge is called 12 Baskets Full.

Every month we will minister to someone else, by blessing them with a basket – generously filled up from the overflow of our own lives, pantries, gardens, and experiences. Books to read, organizations to contact, playlists to download, recipes to make and Bible studies to dig into, all according to the theme of the month. Yes, 12 months, 12 baskets, and 12 different themes will make up our 12 grace challenges this 2021.

The idea is that we will venture out, armed with a basket put together with love and care, and as the Holy Spirit prompts, bless another person, another family, or another organization.

Read about 12 Baskets Full HERE…