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Posts Tagged ‘granddaughters’

Jo 23Well, who would have thought? Just last week, I heard the term ‘buddy bench’ for the first time. I discovered it is a seat in the school grounds where you can go and sit if you are sad and/or in need of a friend. So instead of wandering around feeling lost and lonely, any student can go there and know someone kind and understanding will come along soon to keep them company. Now how good is that?

One recent afternoon, our youngest granddaughter Maxine put her school’s buddy bench to good use when she could not find her mother or her brother anywhere. She had already been picked up from her classroom and the whole family was walking towards the school gate. But then Maxine became lost in the midst of all the other students when her mum was momentarily distracted as she tried to read something our grandson was showing her. Our daughter looked everywhere for her—even down the road towards their car. She asked the school janitor who stands at the gate and always gives Maxine a friendly wave. Then she phoned Maxine’s teacher and they all began searching. And at last another teacher found her, sitting on that buddy bench in the school yard and crying, so she took her by the hand and brought her back to her mum. Phew!

Now I might not have been familiar with the term ‘buddy bench’, but I can think of various challenging times in my life when I needed someone to come alongside me who would listen and understand and empathise. And thankfully, God provided those wonderful ‘buddies’ for me when I needed them most, including my lovely soul friend Joy, to whom I poured my heart out so often. Yet sometimes, especially earlier on in my life, I can remember feeling there was no one around with whom I would be comfortable to share what was going on for me. Sometimes, I suspect the problem was that I was unwilling to be vulnerable enough to admit my need and ask for help. Sometimes, my pride and sense of shame got in the way and kept me isolated, when others would have helped. But thankfully, God reached out and persevered with me, bringing much healing and renewal.

Yes, whatever our age, we still need those buddy benches at times where we can find those who understand and are able to help us—or at least point us to where we can find that help. But whatever our age too, we all need that wonderfully wise and perfect ‘Buddy’ even more, the one Jesus said would be sent from God to be available and alongside us at all times, the helper and encourager and comforter par excellence who will never leave us or forsake us.

But the Counsellor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. John 14:25-27

What a privilege to have such a Friend on our buddy bench every moment of the day!

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IMG_20180918_071052560I think I must be the Queen of Lost Earring Land. I lose all shapes and sizes of them with great regularity—just ask my family! I even have a little jewellery bag where I keep the one sad, remaining earring left behind, in the hope that someday it might be reunited with its partner.

Believe it or not, I have managed to lose one of my earrings pictured here three times over! They are not valuable, but I like their colour and shape. So whenever I have lost one, a big treasure hunt has ensued. The first time, my granddaughter found it behind the driver’s seat in my car. I’m not sure who was the most excited, but she was definitely quite pleased with herself.

On another occasion, as I went to get into my car one day and head out, I realised I had lost one of these same earrings again. So back I went to our unit, looking carefully everywhere. Finally, I gave up and walked rather disconsolately to my car again. And at that point, when I was not even really looking for my earring, I spied it lying on the footpath right in front of me! What a joyful moment—I could not believe I had missed seeing it earlier.

Then recently, I managed to lose one of these earrings for the third time. I searched everywhere at home, to no avail. When the granddaughter who had previously found my earring visited soon after, I even offered her five dollars if she could find it, but in the end, she too gave up. The next day, I decided to search down at our church, with no real hope of finding my errant earring. But just as I was about to abandon my quest, I checked one last room I had briefly entered the previous day—and there it was. Someone must have picked it up and put it on a table there so I could see it clearly. What a relief!

Each time I have lost and found my earring, I have remembered with feeling the parable Jesus told about the woman who loses a silver coin:

Does she not light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbours together and says, ‘Rejoice with me, I have found my lost coin.’ In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents. Luke 15:8-10

This coin the woman lost must have been very valuable to her, so no wonder she searches so diligently, using precious oil to light her lamp and sweeping until she finds her lost treasure. And that is exactly how God searches for us too. God sent his own Son Jesus ‘to seek and to save what was lost’ (Luke 19:10). How easily we can forget how valuable we are to God! And how lovingly God continues to seek us out, however far away we might stray, then celebrates with great joy when we are found!

It’s worth losing something, I have decided—even a favourite earring—in order to be reminded of God’s heart for us. And it’s doubly worth it when that something is found again!

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Jo 23One evening recently, our four-year-old granddaughter honoured me by inviting me to a special, imaginary event. Soon I found myself immersed in her pretend world and utterly charmed by the magic of the moment.

‘Would you like a cup of tea?’ Maxine asks in her best ladylike voice, as she looks up at me with her beautiful, brown eyes.

‘That would be lovely!’ I respond, stifling a laugh as she carefully arranges her little, metal tea set just how she wants it on the arm of the lounge, while trying to hold up her pyjama pants that insist on falling down.

She selects cups, saucers and plates for us, telling me she will sit next to me while we drink our tea and eat our food. I watch as she pours our imaginary tea into those little cups and wonder what she is doing when she places two small stones on each of our plates. But Maxine’s running commentary on everything soon fills me in.

‘This is our food. Do you like egg? This one here is egg. It’s not the right shape, but it’s still an egg. And this little one is a ‘wadish’ (Maxine has yet to master those initial ‘r’s’). Do you like wadishes?’

‘I haven’t had one for a while, but they look pretty, don’t they, with their pink skin and white on the inside?’

‘Yes, these are very nice. Here you are!’

So together we sit, sipping our pretend tea and enjoying our pretend eggs and radishes. Maxine chatters on—and as I listen, my heart melts and almost hurts for her.

But her imagination—and that of her brother—also serve another purpose. One afternoon a few weeks ago, Maxine asked out of the blue, ‘Nanna, do you know what heaven is like?’ An interesting discussion ensued—almost as interesting as the one we had with Zain on another occasion, when he asked, ‘Granddad, are you older than God?’(!)  Yes, our grandchildren’s vivid imaginations not only enable them to play wonderful, pretend games, but also help them get their heads around such huge concepts as God and heaven. Right now, they may not grasp all the theological ramifications involved—but they sure are adept at imagining what God and heaven look like.

I hope Zain and Maxine never lose their wonderful imaginations. Perhaps they will become the writers or artists or inventors or business innovators of the future—who knows? But I hope and pray God and heaven become firm realities for them and that they never consider them to be mere figments of human imagination. I hope and pray they both come to know Jesus Christ, God become man, and experience the amazing reality of being born again as a child of God. And I hope and pray that one day they will see Jesus face to face—and be in absolute awe of his splendour and majesty that will surely far exceed even their wildest imaginations.

And then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea. They sang: “Blessing and honour and glory and power belong to the one sitting on the throne and to the Lamb forever and ever.” Revelation 5:13 New Living Translation

Can you imagine being part of that gathering? I hope you can.

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pexels-photo-461252There we were on Christmas day, waiting for the rest of the family to arrive. I had put some cherries out for us to enjoy and offered one to our three-year-old granddaughter.

‘These are lovely, Maxine. Would you like one?’ I said.

She gazed at them for a moment, then came out with this profound statement.

‘I don’t like cherries because I’ve never had them before!’

Now that obviously made complete sense to her. After all, surely if her parents hadn’t given them to her before this, then those funny red things with stems must be yucky! I remembered too the response of one of our own children, when faced with eating something they hadn’t tasted previously. ‘I won’t like it!’ they would say, obviously fearful of what lay ahead.

Sadly, I suspect I can be like Maxine at times, or that child of ours.  Often I can be very picky—but more so with books than food.  I may find myself turned off by a cover I dislike or the quality of the paper or the size of the print. I don’t mind small print, but I do object when a large font is used and those lines are spread so far apart and the margins are so wide, making that book too insubstantial for me and not worth the money I paid for it! Yet some smaller books I own have turned out to be absolute gems, such as Henri Nouwen’s Out of Solitude or Eugene Petersen’s The Wisdom of Each Other.

Much sadder than pre-judging books, however, are the times I have pre-judged people because of their appearance or something different about them. The biggest lesson I learnt in this regard occurred around twenty-five years ago when I met a young woman at a prayer training course. At first, after discovering she was blind, I avoided her. I felt I would not know how to relate to someone who could not see. And, to my shame, I was reluctant to put myself out to help her. Yet God drew us together—and that young woman taught me so much about myself, about courage, about perseverance, about relating to those who suffer from any degree of vision impairment.

A few years later, I found myself at another course where most participants were from a different part of the Body of Christ. ‘They won’t be able to teach me anything much,’ I decided in complete arrogance. Yet their kind acceptance, attentiveness and intelligent conversation turned out to be a wonderful, healing gift from God for me.

Now I’m hoping there aren’t too many others of you out there like me who are practised pre-judgers.  I hope you taste those cherries or look carefully at those smaller books before making up your mind. I hope you listen to and accept others, however different they are. And I hope I do too more and more. But above all, if Jesus Christ is someone unfamiliar to you, I hope and pray that, in the coming year, you may not pre-judge or write him off too quickly but instead take time to get to know him, to experience his amazing love and to taste his absolute goodness for yourself.

Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him. Psalm 34:8

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Jo 12There we were, our youngest granddaughter and I, chilling out together on a beautiful, sunny day. She had come to visit, complete with her pink, plastic, three-wheeled scooter, so we decided to explore the nearby paths together. She is only three, so I was genuinely surprised at how well she could manage that little scooter of hers.

‘Wow, that’s excellent, Maxine!’ I told her. ‘You ride your scooter so well!’

‘I can only do my very best,’ she replied in a cute little matter-of-fact way.

‘Pardon?’ I said, taken aback.

‘I can only do my very best,’ she repeated in her most satisfied tone.

I was more than a little impressed. Where had she learnt such wisdom at her young age? From her parents? Her teachers at day care? One of her little friends? Some TV program? I could only guess—but I knew she hadn’t learnt it from me.

You see, I think I developed a rather warped idea of what doing one’s best meant as I grew up. I am sure my parents encouraged me to do just that in all sorts of things—keeping my room tidy, clearing the table after meals, doing homework, piano practice, choir practice and so many other areas of my life. But somewhere along the line, I managed to decide that doing my very best was not enough. Instead, I wanted to be the best. I needed to beat all those other children in my class when it came to those term exams. I had to come top. I had to be on that prize-winners’ list. And I needed to get that honours mark in practical music and theory exams too. In short, I became a bit of a perfectionist all round.

While I believe there are pluses in aiming high, even perhaps aiming for perfection, there are down sides too. We can become too hard on ourselves. We can become dissatisfied with our efforts. We may find ourselves unable to enjoy any of our excellent achievements. And we can also become far too hard on those around us, as we put our own expectations onto them. So what a joy to hear how our Maxine already seems to have grasped the concept of doing one’s very best and being content with that!

Some of you, like me, might have grown up with a parent who asserted that ‘if a thing’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well’. Yet, over the years, I have come to prefer the words of Paul in Colossians 3:23-24 so much more:

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.

I prefer these because I now know the Lord Paul talks about here. I have experienced his amazing heart of love, his grace, his forgiveness, his understanding. Yes, truly he deserves our very best. Yet, whatever happens, I know he will accept me. His yoke is easy and his burden is light, as the Lord himself has told us (Matthew 10:30)—and I know he will strengthen me and help me grow, as I seek to serve him.

Now that’s the best news any perfectionist can hear!

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Jo 23I think I have more or less come to grips with how various things work in our new unit. The clothes dryer was no trouble—and I have at last figured out how our oven and grill function. The fridge-freezer we bought to fit the space available has lots of great bells and whistles I hope I understand now. And the same goes for our new air conditioner. I have mastered the art too of using a remote control ‘fob’ for our garage door—and another to let myself into our Village Centre on weekends or after hours. I am beginning to feel quite accomplished.

Recently, however, our two older granddaughters and I decided to try the heated pool and spa in the Centre. That day, it happened that we were the only ones in the pool area—and what fun we had, trying to work out what switch turned on what! Was that one for the lights? Which should we push for the spa? And, most important of all, which one unlocked the door so we could eventually get out?

In the end, we guessed right, although we weren’t game to press one big button in the change room, since it looked distinctly like an alarm. But when I went to swim another day, I decided to risk it. Lo and behold, no one came running—it turned out to be a much-needed heater! All up, I was quite proud of myself.

But then my husband traded in his old car during the recent end-of-financial-year sales. I drove it too at times, but I prefer our eighteen-year-old Ford Fairmont that has clocked up around 250,000 kilometres! However, the car seats for our two younger grandchildren have always been in my husband’s car, so I knew I would need to familiarise myself quickly with his wondrous new vehicle, if I were to take our grandchildren anywhere.

‘Everything’s much the same as in the old car,’ my husband told me with great assurance. ‘Oh—except there’s no hand brake. It’s a foot brake instead—there’s an extra button-type pedal just to the left of the real brake!’

Hmm. I went for a drive—and I think it will take a few more hundred times before I do not grope at all for that usual, old hand brake!

Yes, sometimes I am slower to adapt to new things. Sometimes I want to cling to the old. After all, I argue, it works okay. And, more to the point, I am familiar with it. But these recent experiences with various material possessions have made me wonder if I do the same with the things of God. How often do I ignore some new challenge from God? How often do I refuse to trust God and try a better way? How often do I choose to wallow in the old rather than move on and embrace the new?

Through faith in Jesus Christ, we are made new—we become completely new creations. And as such, we can choose to step out in the Spirit’s strength each day into all the wonderful, new things God has for us to learn and experience.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 2 Corinthians 5:17

Are you up for the challenge?

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IMG_20150107_084323086I sat holding our one year old granddaughter as I fed her some dinner. Things went along smoothly at first—but then, as that spoon came close once again, she pressed her lips tightly together and turned her head away. Now I had experienced that tactic before—but it was what happened next that almost caused me to drop spoon and plate and all.

‘No!’ she declared, with great finality.

At first, I thought I had imagined it. Surely she couldn’t talk yet? Of course, I had heard her previous vague attempts at ‘Hi!’ and ‘Up!’ and ‘Boo!’ Now, however, she had said a word I could not dispute—a word she had clearly decided was most useful to have in one’s vocabulary.

I’m sure our little Maxine will have many opportunities to employ this word in the future—much to the annoyance of her parents at times! There will come moments too when it is important she does say it and turn down others who might lead her astray. Even with regard to eating dinner, she seemed to know when she had had enough. But the shock of hearing this tiny word emerge from her mouth caused me to reflect later on how I use it in my own life—for good or for ill.

I wish I had learnt years ago to say no to certain requests a little more often. On occasions, I have too readily agreed to do things—and almost burnt myself out as a result. Yet sometimes I have said no simply because I did not care about someone else’s welfare enough to put myself out for him or her or because I wanted to do something much more enjoyable. And what about those occasions when I have turned God down? How many times has God gently prompted me to take some course of action or challenged me to attempt something new and my immediate response has been a resounding ‘No!’?

I am not so fond of the word ‘obedience’, I have discovered. For some reason, if I am told to do something, I often want to do the exact opposite. I want to reach my own conclusions about what I do or don’t do. I want to weigh it all up and decide for myself. Yet, at this point in my life, I have also realised that, when God calls me to act in a certain way, it truly is much wiser to say yes rather than no. I know I can trust God to lead me well, as Psalm 23 clearly shows. And I know I need to learn from Jesus who always did what his Father called him to do, who chose in that Garden of Gethsemane to do his Father’s will and not his own (Mt 26:39), who did not say no but instead ‘humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross!’ (Phil 2:8)

I hope our little granddaughter learns to say no when it’s right to do so. But I also hope and pray she learns to say yes to the many things that will be good for her—and especially to God. And I hope and pray I continue to do the same.

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Last night, I had the pleasure of playing a game of ‘I spy’ with our two granddaughters when they decided to keep me company in my study. Amy is eight, but Olivia is only five, so I wondered how she would go with working out which letters started some of the words. Much to my amazement, they both did brilliantly. And whenever I was allowed to have a turn at ‘spying’, in most cases I had no sooner said my letter than one or other of them would immediately pounce and guess it correctly.

As our game wore on, I found it increasingly harder to ‘spy’ something different in the room. Yet time after time, Amy and Olivia managed to come up with new ideas – objects I would never have thought of or that had completely escaped my notice, despite my spending hours each day writing in this same study. How did Amy think of ‘b’ for ‘building’ in a picture on my wall I had not looked closely at for ages, for example? And how did it occur to Olivia to try using ‘w’ for ‘words’ she had noticed typed on a sheet of paper and placed in a frame in one corner of the room? It was an amazing experience to see my study afresh through my granddaughters’ eyes. But even more amazing were the excellent observation skills they exhibited. They searched the whole room for something tricky – not one nook or cranny seemed to escape their notice.

Later as I reflected on this experience, it occurred to me that while my granddaughters’ ability to see so much truly amazed me, God’s powers of observation are so much more amazing still. There is not one thing I do, one place I go, one word I write that God does not notice. Nothing escapes God’s eyes. No corner of my heart is ever hidden from God. And nothing that befalls me escapes the one who sees all things. Yet this is by no means a scary thing for me. Instead, I find it so comforting that God can see at all times exactly what I am going through. And just as Hagar called the Lord ‘the God who sees me’ so long ago (see Genesis 16:13), so I am blessed to be able to give God that same title still today.

Jesus himself clearly showed us this all-seeing aspect of his Father in heaven. He notices Nathanael under the fig tree and knows all about him before Phillip calls him (John 1:48). He sees the man who was born blind sitting beside the roadside and heals him (John 9:1-7). He does not miss Zacchaeus way up in that sycamore tree and speedily invites himself for a visit (Luke 19:5). And even on the cross, he is aware of his mother nearby and makes sure she will be looked after (John 19:26-27).

I’m so glad I’m just as visible to God today as these people were to Jesus. I can be at peace, knowing God’s big, all-seeing eye is on me every moment of the day, watching over my welfare with loving concern. Right now, God is smiling at me and saying ‘I spy with my big eye, someone beginning with J’. And I know for sure that ‘J’ stands for Jo-Anne.

How about you? Can you hear God lovingly saying your initial too?

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Our granddaughters seem to own lots of things that need batteries to keep going. Just before Christmas, our Olivia lined up an interesting array of Santa and Rudolf toys they own and began to demonstrate to me how these only half worked because they ostensibly needed new batteries. They looked a sorry lot, with glowing noses that didn’t quite glow, heads and hands that kind of half moved and voices that sounded very strange and tended to peter out miserably. Then there are the toys that don’t run across the floor anymore because they need new batteries or the cute puppy that no longer wags its tail or the fluffy kitten that has forgotten how to purr – not to mention the camera that won’t click or the keyboard that won’t play. And so the list goes on.

Well, I think I know how these toys feel! I related very well to that poor, tired Santa my granddaughter showed me who just couldn’t sing and dance around. But that was a few weeks ago now. Here I am today on the ‘other side’ of Christmas and heading through much quieter territory, momentarily at least. I have discovered, as I have let myself relax a lot more than normal, the joy of doing nothing for once – of putting aside speaking engagements, book promotion and yes, even writing, and letting those batteries run down completely. And again, I have been reminded that life is not a matter of always having to be productive – and certainly not a matter of ‘doing’ things to impress God or anyone else. God loves us completely and utterly. God understands and in fact has made us so that we need to rest at regular intervals and be renewed. In fact, I suspect God is delighted when we take time out to sit or lie back and just ‘be’, for a change. And as we put everything aside and choose to live ‘in the moment’, simply letting God hold us and ‘be’ with us, then that is when we can best hear not only God’s heart for us but our own hearts as well.

And that’s exactly what happened to me this morning as I took time to read Isaiah 40, forgetting at first that this is the chapter that talks about weariness and renewal! So it was a joy to find and read again what God has said on the subject:

Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. (Isaiah 40:28-31)

What an encouragement as we prepare to step into 2011! As we take time to focus on God, who never grows weary, and continue to ‘hope in the Lord’, then we will be strengthened and empowered to do the things God has put in our hearts to do.

Now that’s what I call a total battery recharge – don’t you?

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I have discovered that our granddaughter Olivia is becoming very wise in her old age. After all, she turns five this week! Recently when minding her and her sister Amy at their home, I suggested we tidy things up a little before Mummy came home. This comment was greeted very airily by Olivia, however, who announced with a wave of her hand in a somewhat exasperated tone:  Oh, don’t worry! It doesn’t matter!

I am sure she has heard older family members say this many times – including her grandmother! And yes, she’s probably right that some things don’t matter and aren’t worth ‘worrying’ about. I come from a line of great worriers, actually. My mother, bless her heart, spent a lifetime worrying about so many things that never eventuated. I used to think of her often when reading the final page of the Mr Men book ‘Mr Worry’ to our children. The author declares there that Mr Worry, having got rid of all his worries, is now worried again. And why is that? Because now he no longer has anything to worry about!

Well, I definitely don’t want to be like Mr Worry. Yet sometimes I do find myself tending that way a little – particularly when it comes to decisions about my novels and future directions with my writing. Thankfully, however, God steps in then, reminding me of certain Scripture passages on the topic. This happened in church just last Sunday, when one of our ministers preached from Philippians 2:6-7:

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

In Matthew 6, we find that Jesus also had some things to say on the matter. Why worry all the time about food and clothing? Since we are so valuable to God, these will be provided. And can we add a single hour to our lives through worrying? No, of course not, he implies. I love how Eugene Peterson puts verses 31-33 of this chapter in ‘The Message’:

What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God’s giving. People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.

It’s all about perspective, isn’t it? It’s about looking to God first and foremost, then seeing the world and living our lives from that place of deep security in our loving God – from that place of ‘rest’, as I heard last Sunday. Yes, these everyday things are important – but keeping our focus on God and not fussing over this and that or getting lost in it all is how we need to live.

Well, Olivia probably should have helped tidy up when I suggested it – but then again, I suspect the salutary reminder she gave me about not worrying was of much more lasting value! I hope and pray both our granddaughters will go through life functioning from that place of rest in God. And I hope and pray that, whatever concerns you may have right now, you too will know God’s deep peace in your heart in the midst of it all.

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