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Posts Tagged ‘Joy Crawford’

Recently, I scattered some parsley seeds in the garden near our front door. The seeds were quite old, but I scattered them anyway, thinking I might as well try. Lo and behold, now I can see tiny, green shoots poking through the soil there. It is a miracle they have survived, but I suspect some moisture from the underground watering system nearby has helped, along with the recent rain.

It never ceases to amaze me how the trees and shrubs and plants around us spring from such tiny, nondescript seeds. This thought came to mind again last week when I attended the funeral of my lovely ‘soul friend’ Joy. It was a special time, made even more special by the unique gift each person received—a piece of soft, thick paper containing various flower seeds (see photo). Attached was a label bearing Joy’s name on one side. And on the other was a thank you note from the family, along with the following explanation: Embedded in the paper are seeds of summer flowers so that you can plant a bit of joy at your place—cosmos, love-in-a-mist, Californian poppy.

I am looking forward to planting my seeds and seeing which flowers hopefully emerge. In the past, Joy often gave me various plants and cuttings from her interesting cottage garden, including one I particularly loved growing. It was an old-fashioned plant whose round, filmy seed pods were often used in dried flower arrangements—and this plant was called ‘honesty’. I loved its purple flowers and also those filmy seed pods. But most of all, I loved the idea that I could actually cultivate a plant called honesty in my garden. To me, it symbolised the virtues of honesty and integrity that I value in others’ lives and seek to maintain in my own and was to me a gentle reminder from God of how important these qualities are.

Joy planted many other seeds in my life too—seeds of courage, seeds of love, seeds of strength in God. And as I reflected on these God-given seeds this week, both literal and spiritual, I began to wonder how well I had allowed them all to take root and grow and whether some had been neglected of late.

In the process, Jesus’ parable about the farmer who went out to plant some seeds also came to mind (Luke 8). Some seeds ended up being trampled underfoot and eaten by birds. Some died in rocky ground through lack of moisture. Some were choked by thorns. But some landed in fertile soil and went on to produce an amazing harvest. As Jesus explained, this is a picture of what can happen with the Word of God. I can listen to what God says—or I can turn away and let those precious words fall by the wayside. I can nurture them carefully and allow growth to take place—or I can let them die. I can give them space in my heart and mind—or I can crowd them out.

God has graciously planted so many seeds in my life through the Word and through people like Joy. So Lord, as I plant my little paper-embedded seeds, may I in gratitude allow those other seeds to grow too and flourish, blessing others in turn.

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This past week, I received the news that my lovely ‘soul friend’ of previous years, Joy Crawford, had passed away at age ninety-one. On my last visit to the nursing home where she had been for some time, she did not stir or recognise me. Wondering what to do, I wrote her a little note which was eventually found on her bedside table by her daughter. And I sat and prayed and remembered, just as I have this week, after hearing of her death.

Joy and I met together once a month, first during my time at theological college when I needed a mentor—or spiritual companion, as Joy much preferred to be called—and then on into my years in local church ministry. After that, we kept meeting when we could, until she became too frail and unwell. Joy made a huge impact on my life, so much so that the dedication in my very first novel, Heléna, published in 2007, reads: ‘To Joy Crawford—my lifesaver’. I still also have a card Joy sent the day I finished the very first draft of that novel where she wrote: The Book! Well done, dear Jo-Anne. Congratulations—and my prayers and love for the next phase. Joy. Joy always believed in me, encouraged me and supported me in prayer and practical ways—and it was an absolute delight when, in 2012, she was able to share in the launch of what we called ‘our’ book, Soul Friend: The story of a shared spiritual journey, an account of our years of meeting together and the many ways Joy helped and encouraged me in that time.

Joy was doubtful at first about putting parts of our many conversations into print, but I think she would be delighted to know Soul Friend is still selling today and ministering to those who read it. Just last week, a friend told me how much Soul Friend had impacted her and how glad she was it had been written. I am so thankful Joy’s voice can still be heard in this way and that her gracious wisdom can go on blessing others.

On occasions, Joy would email me, although she was much more comfortable sharing face-to-face in her beautiful study at her home in the Blue Mountains. I included some of these emails in Soul Friend and have just glanced through them again. Even her greetings there speak such love and grace to me—‘Very dear Jo-Anne’; ‘Dearest Jo-Anne’; ‘Dear friend’.  What a privilege to be called a ‘dear friend’—especially by someone who we know truly means it. Joy would also use these words often as we parted at her front door. ‘Go well, dear friend!’ she would say in her gentle voice, as she gave me a warm hug—words of blessing, words of comfort, words of love.

Yes, Joy was my lifesaver, in the midst of some choppy seas in my life. But above all, she was my dear friend—a friend who truly mirrored to me the deep friendship Jesus offers each of us.

Lord, may I be such a friend to others too.

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. 1 John 4:7

Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. I John 4:11

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Jo 23‘Nanna, why do you say ‘love’ all the time when you talk to me?’ our six-year-old granddaughter challenged me last week.

‘Pardon?’ I asked, wondering what Maxine could mean.

‘Why do you call me ‘love’ all the time?’

Before I had a chance to respond, she answered her own question.

‘Maybe it’s because you love me!’ she said in a satisfied tone.

‘Yes, I do!’ I told her, ‘so I like to tell you that.’

She went on with her day then, quite happy with herself and the world in general. But this little interlude set me thinking. Yes, I do love her—and her brother, who was also often called ‘love’ that day, as we looked after them. But I know too it has been a habit of mine for years to call lots of people ‘love’. Now the word slips out without my even realising. And now too, on those occasional ‘seniors’ moments’ when I forget someone’s name, it can be a handy substitute—as long as it’s appropriate enough!

Later, as I thought more about it all, my mind jumped back to the beautiful way my special ‘soul friend’ Joy used to greet me, each time I arrived at her door:

‘Oh, hello, Jo-Anne—dear friend! So lovely to see you!’

On the odd occasions too when she would email me, she would often begin with the words, ‘Dear friend’ or perhaps ‘My very dear Jo-Anne’. Somehow, those simple words touched and encouraged me, even before I read on. By them alone, I knew she loved me and valued our friendship. I felt treasured. I felt significant. And I also knew that, whatever her email was about, her words would have been written with much thought and care and with a heart to bless me.

The way we address each other can be so important, don’t you think? But I wonder if you have thought about how important it is to know how God addresses us—to hear and take into our hearts the words God loves to use when speaking to you and me. If others can touch our hearts and encourage us via a few loving words, how much more can God do the same for each one of us?

One evening many years ago, when I was in quite an exhausted state, I believe God gave me a picture of Jesus, holding me in his arms as a baby and looking down at me with the most amazing love and delight shining from his face. And all he kept saying was, ‘Wow—Jo-Anne! Wow!’ Through that simple yet utterly profound experience, I knew deep in my heart that Jesus saw me as his precious creation, that he was so delighted in me, that he valued me and that he would always love and care for me. I can hear his voice even now, as I write this—and that beautiful voice still has the power to speak such love and grace into my spirit.

May you too, even today, hear that gentle voice speaking clearly to you, calling you by name and letting you know you are indeed God’s much-loved child, so valued and treasured.

See how very much our Father loves us, for he calls us his children, and that is what we are! 1 John 3:1 NLT

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Jo 17Sometimes we need a gentle reminder of what life is all about, don’t we? I know I can become so focussed on what I am doing from week to week that I can easily forget the bigger picture. And that bigger picture is important because it helps me sort out my priorities in the best possible way and reminds me why I am doing what I am doing in my life. In short, it shows me my life from God’s perspective—and that always gives me much food for thought.

Last week held one of those big picture moments for me. One day, I decided to drive up to the Blue Mountains to see my lovely, older friend Joy, who is now in a nursing home. I crept into the room she shares with another older lady and found both of them sound asleep. So what to do? I did not want to wake my friend and perhaps disorientate her, so I decided to sit and wait—and reflect.

It was peaceful in that room. At one stage, a kind staff member came in and we chatted for a few moments, but apart from that, all was quiet, except for my friend’s gentle breathing and that of the other occupant. Joy looked so small and fragile and somehow defenceless as she lay there, yet she also seemed at peace. Around her in the room, her beautiful family had placed photos of themselves and pictures of the flowers Joy loves, as well as other items she can enjoy touching or looking at. As I sat there, I remembered how much she had enriched my life and the lives of so many others too, over the years. And that is the sort of richness that really counts, isn’t it—the richness of drawing others into a closer connection with God, of passing on the utterly gracious, forgiving love of God to others?

I know that, when the time comes, Joy will be filled with delight that she is finally in God’s presence, just as I believe God will be to welcome her home. She does not have great earthly riches, but her soul is so rich in God—and that richness has been shared with so many others along the way.

That very morning before leaving home, I read the following:

Do not be overawed when a man grows rich, when the splendour of his house increases; for he will take nothing with him when he dies, his splendour will not descend with him. Psalm 49:16-17

… But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. 1 Timothy 6:6-7

My friend Joy, and all of us, came into the world as defenceless, little babies, bringing nothing with us except ourselves. And all of us, including Joy, will leave this world equally defenceless, through age or illness or injury, taking nothing with us except ourselves. How important it is then for us to be rich in the things of God, to know deep within ourselves that we are God’s beloved children and to be content with loving and serving God and others! That indeed is ‘great gain’—the only sort of gain that really matters, when all is said and done.

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Sometimes it’s the simple truths that have the most profound impact on people. I learnt this lesson all over again last week—and I hope I remember it this time.

I had just finished speaking at a meeting when, in response to a question, I decided to share a brief story of something that happened many years ago now. The ladies present had all been patiently listening to my input, but their heartfelt reaction to this story I shared almost as an afterthought opened my eyes again to the simple, powerful truth it demonstrates.

The events in this story took place in a small group during a short ministry training course. There were five women in our group, including our wonderful facilitator, Joy, who counselled and prayed for us with such gentle wisdom and insight. As we took it in turns to share any difficulties we might be facing in applying what we were learning to our lives, Joy listened carefully—to both God and us. This was never more obvious than on the day one older group member told us how she had never felt loved as a child, particularly by her father, and how that had affected her so much throughout her life—and still did. I can’t remember now all the conversation that unfolded in response to what she shared, but I clearly remember what our facilitator suggested we do.

‘Mary, would you like us to hold you and sing to you? Perhaps Jesus loves me, this I know?’

I remember how strange I thought this suggestion was at first, but I soon changed my mind.

‘That would be lovely!’ Mary immediately responded.

As a group, we gathered around her and our facilitator held her close. Then we began singing together—

Jesus loves me! This I know,
For the Bible tells me so.
Little ones to Him belong;
They are weak, but He is strong.
Yes, Jesus loves me!
Yes, Jesus loves me!
Yes, Jesus loves me!
The Bible tells me so.

‘Oh, that’s so wonderful! Sing it again, please!’ our friend cried out, when we finished.

‘Oh, please sing it again—it’s so wonderful!’ she repeated several times over the next few minutes, whenever we stopped singing.

I will never forget the ecstasy in her voice as she begged us to keep going and the joy and delight radiating from her face as we did just that. She almost literally shone, as the love of Jesus and of our perfect Father God was poured into her by the Holy Spirit. How healing it was for her to have us sing this simple little song over and over again to her! I know that she too remembers this event to this day, around twenty years later.

As I recounted this story to the women at the meeting last week, I expected to receive some rather puzzled looks. After all, what I had described was rather unusual and I feared they might not understand. Instead, it was almost as if a gentle, collective sigh spread across the group. Most women responded with warm smiles—and some seemed quite touched and a little emotional. As I stood there, I realised this story was probably the most significant thing I had shared with them that day. It was the simple truth they too needed to hear. God had brought it to my mind, I believe—and I felt very humbled.

Jesus loves me—this I know!

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I have to confess I don’t like hearing or seeing a recording of myself in any shape or form! I don’t even like reading my own writing out loud, as I have had to on occasions. And despite owning my first three novels in audio book format, professionally narrated and recorded by the Christian Blind Mission for people with visual impairment, I have never listened to them myself. I know I would cringe and want to edit severely. I would rather remain in blissful ignorance!

So when my publisher suggested I make a book trailer to promote my new non-fiction book Soul Friend: The story of a shared spiritual journey, you can imagine I was a little underwhelmed, to say the least. Besides, it all seemed too hard and too much trouble. I hadn’t done anything like that for my five novels—did I really need such a thing for my new non-fiction book?

However, as I thought about it and viewed other promotional trailers, some ideas began to form as to what I could include in my own. Of course my mentor Joy would be involved, since my book Soul Friend is about her part in my spiritual journey of the last fifteen years. I could also ask someone I have mentored for many years to give her perspective on the topic. And I myself would need to explain various aspects of the book. Throw in a few book endorsements—and I felt that maybe we could come up with a book trailer after all!

It was a challenge at first finding someone to film us and an even greater one getting us all together on the same day, but eventually it happened. And when we later viewed what had been filmed, we were all happy. But as I sent our efforts off to be edited in Brisbane, I was still a little wary. Would the whole concept really come together? What would be edited out? Would it flow as I envisaged and look and sound professional enough?

But I am delighted with the end product—or products—which arrived this past week. You see, I have ended up with a both a long and a short version, which will be very useful in different situations. Please click here to view the short version on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Br2eAB1ojDE&feature=youtu.be.

To find the longer interview, please click on the following link to my new website:

http://www.soulfriend.com.au/watch-the-soul-friend-book-trailer.html

This whole experience has highlighted two things for me yet again. Firstly, God is so utterly faithful.

Praise the Lord, all you nations; extol him, all you peoples. For great is his love toward us, and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever. Psalm 117:1-2

Where I was so faithless and doubting mine and others’ abilities to produce these trailers, God faithfully unfolded the whole process and showed me it could be done.

Secondly, I saw again how the Body of Christ is meant to work together, each gladly and graciously doing his or her part (1 Corinthians 12), as exemplified by my publisher, Rochelle Manners at Even Before Publishing, my video man Daniel Fewchuk, my film editor at Highshots, my endorsers, and my friends Joy and Alison. Thank you all for enabling this little project to come together so well.

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This past week, I enjoyed another interesting experience in this writing journey of mine. À la Kath and Kim, for a few brief moments, I became a ‘filum star’! You see, I had agreed to make a little book trailer/promotional video for my non-fiction book Soul Friend, due for release next month. I invited two of my very good friends to take part and engaged a young photographer to film us. We laughed a lot, as, one after the other, we sat in front of that camera, trying to speak as naturally as possible. But in the midst of all the fun, some deeper thoughts also surfaced for me.

As I observed my lovely spiritual mentor Joy, now over eighty years old, bravely sharing her feelings in front of that camera about my writing a book featuring her role in my spiritual journey, I felt so humbled and grateful for her support in it all. Then when my younger friend present—someone I have mentored for many years—took her turn and shared how helpful our relationship has been, these same feelings almost overwhelmed me. Again I glimpsed God’s amazing grace at work, as we have each fed into the lives of the other, through God’s leading and enabling.

But later I realised that, represented in my lounge room, were four generations of committed Christian believers—my spiritual mentor in her eighties, I in my sixties, my younger friend in her forties and our wonderful video person in his twenties. God has gifted us all in a variety of ways and each of us is endeavouring to use these gifts as best we can at this stage of our journey. The opportunities my older friend Joy now has for ministry are different from the many she had earlier. Mine too have changed over the years, as I have moved through various careers into my current writing and speaking role. My younger friend is giving herself totally by serving overseas and is home only for a visit. And our young photographer friend is poised on the brink of doing wonderful things in his field, I believe. Whatever our age, God is using each of us as we step out in faith.

Now I am sure I am not cut out to be a ‘filum star’! I have spoken publicly many, many times—but sitting in front of that camera is a different experience altogether! I knew I couldn’t ‘run off at the mouth’, as I tend to do on occasions. Our time was very limited and we had to watch our words. And that’s why I was so thankful when, as we waited for our other collaborators to arrive on the day, my friend Joy, who felt somewhat the same as I did, quoted some encouraging words from Scripture out loud and prayed for God’s wisdom and peace for both of us.

And God does not let us down, we discovered yet again. God rescues, God guides, God gives wisdom and peace—even in front of a camera.

For who is God besides the Lord? And who is the Rock except our God?

It is God who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect. He makes my feet like the feet of a deer; he enables me to stand on the heights. (Psalm 18:31-32)

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