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Posts Tagged ‘joy’

Jo 23‘I have HOMEWORK!’ our almost six-year-old granddaughter announced ecstatically, her big brown eyes wide with anticipation, as we picked her up from school one afternoon last week. ‘I’m going to do it right now!

Then and there, in the middle of the schoolyard, Maxine wanted to set to work. But I managed to get her to the car and then home at least before she tackled this wondrous new thing called homework. Last year, she had spelling to practise at home. But now being all grown up in Year One, she finally had those magical homework sheets in her hands.

First off, she tackled her spelling list for the week. She wrote out all her words in the column marked ‘Monday’ —then the Tuesday column as well, since she might not have time the next day. The Wednesday column soon followed and the Thursday one too.

But wait, there was more. As well, we completed some little ‘Maths’ exercises to do with measuring things and deciding which things were bigger or smaller than something else.

‘This is fun!’ she declared—until her granddad tried to help her draw a map of her bedroom. But she did not want help. She did not care if things weren’t in the right place or weren’t drawn to scale. What mattered to her was making that chest of drawers she drew bigger and brighter than everything else in her room and enjoying the whole experience of doing her very own homework!

As I watched, I found myself hoping she continues to be as enamoured with the idea of doing homework for a long time to come. After all, she has plenty of it ahead of her. But I began to think too how I initially embraced some things in my own life with passion and excitement, only for it all to die down a few weeks or months later. For example, I know I should walk regularly and I do enjoy it. I used to walk every day. But things happened—and now I resent the time I need to take from my writing to go walking. Then there are some books I have started reading too with enthusiasm, even taking notes as I went. But sadly, I soon became too busy—or too lazy—and lost interest in them.

I’m so glad God has enabled me not to do the same in my Christian journey. I well remember the joy and enthusiasm with which I embraced my new-found faith in Jesus Christ in my mid-teens. Over the years, while this joy and enthusiasm may have changed in degree or shape, even becoming a little dulled at times through the pressures of life, it has never left me. Today, many years later, I still rejoice that I am God’s beloved child, through the great grace God has shown me and goes on showing me. And, through God’s strength, I am still embracing with enthusiasm the things I have been given and gifted to do right now.

May that deep joy continue to flourish in my life and yours—and may we, like Maxine, embrace all God has for us to learn and experience with enthusiasm, whatever our age!

This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. Psalm 118:24

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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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I wonder how you are feeling as you look towards the year ahead. Apprehensive? Daunted? Bored? Overwhelmed? Even a little trapped? Perhaps you have no idea how you feel – or perhaps you are still in holiday mode and don’t even want to think about it at this stage. On the other hand, perhaps you are like my granddaughter who asked excitedly when her father joked how he would see her next year, as he put her to bed on New Year’s Eve: ‘So am I going to school tomorrow?’ She had been told for so long that she would be going to school ‘next year’, that to her delight, she thought the moment had finally arrived! Maybe some of you share Olivia’s excitement and anticipation at what the coming year might hold and can’t wait for things to begin.

Some of you who, like me, had a very big year last year might be wondering how you will handle another similarly busy year. As I get ready to launch into 2011 with both my writing and speaking, I find myself feeling a strange mixture of emotions. I have a fifth novel, ‘Heléna’s Legacy’, due for release in June. I have some speaking engagements and an interstate trip lined up, and no doubt more will emerge as the year unfolds. I have a half finished novel on my computer that I can’t wait to get back to – after all, I want to find out what happens in the end! I am thinking of beginning a work of non-fiction – something I thought I would never do. So I am excited about the prospects ahead. Yet I feel challenged and a little apprehensive too. Will my fifth novel find a ready readership? Will my sixth turn out to be my best writing yet, as I hope it will? Will it perhaps be the ‘breakthrough novel’ for me? Is what I write worth spending so much time on? Will it make a difference in anyone’s life? Will the things I say when I speak anywhere truly bring honour to God and impact those who hear?

I turn to Isaiah, one of my favourite books of the bible, and see these words in Chapter 51:16:

I have put my words in your mouth and covered you with the shadow of my hand – I who set the heavens in place, who laid the foundations of the earth, and who say to Zion, ‘You are my people.’

And then I find myself on firmer ground. Then I sit back with a sigh of relief, knowing I am one of God’s people and that these words apply to me too in 2011. God tells me here that I have his words in my mouth – surely as I stay close to God, these will flow both onto the page and into my listener’s ears. Even more than that, I know that as I step out into this year, God’s hand is overshadowing me and protecting me. Whatever the year might hold – success, fulfilment, disappointment, challenge, loss, joy – God will uphold, God will equip, God will comfort, God will watch over me.

And this assurance is there for you to take hold of too. So 2011 … here we come!

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Around six years ago, I finished writing the first draft of my very first novel. It had been a dream of mine to write for so long that when I completed that very last sentence, I could not believe I had actually done it! It was a surreal moment – one which I had to share with a dear friend of mine who had supported me throughout my college and ministry years and now my writing journey. I remember even now picking up the phone with a hand that shook and announcing to her in a breathless voice, ‘Guess what? I’ve finished my novel!’

Two days later, a card arrived in the mail from my friend. I still have it to this day – and this is what it says: The Book! Well done, dear Jo-Anne! Congratulations – and my prayers and love for the next phase.

My friend knows how to share unreservedly in another’s joy – how to savour that most precious of moments with someone when that is exactly what is needed. Her response made me feel loved and respected – and yes, empowered. I knew she believed in me and in what I could also go on to do in the future.

Earlier this week, I recollected this experience when our younger daughter Tina announced her engagement. She walked in with a decidedly pleased expression on her face and a very large white gold ring adorning her left hand – so needless to say, we were impressed! We warmly congratulated her, but later I felt we could have been more joyful and enthusiastic for her. The truth is, I have had two very busy, exhausting years of writing, releasing novels and speaking on more than sixty occasions. Right now, I am looking forward to winding down a little over the Christmas break, but that is no excuse for short-changing another and not sharing fully in their joy. So since then, I have put my mind to it a little more – and yes, we do plan to celebrate and truly enter into the moment with our daughter and her fiancé in the next few days.

I am aware too that Tina has been very touched by the well wishes of so many of her friends and family members. An older church friend sent her a card the very next day, as did an aunty, and I know she was moved by the speed at which they congratulated her. Text messages have flowed every which way – Tina has waited quite a while for this moment and I am both delighted to see others sharing in her joy and also challenged to do better myself.

In Romans 12:15, we are encouraged to ‘rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn’ – to truly enter into the depths of another’s feelings and to walk the journey with them, whether it be one of joy or sadness. Paul also writes about those in the body of Christ in particular that ‘if one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honoured, every part rejoices with it. (1 Cor 12:25-26) So that’s how I want to respond to those around me. I want to get past my own self-centredness, however tired and busy I am, and have a much more generous and loving heart towards others.

How are you doing at ‘rejoicing with those who rejoice’?

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I love Christmas for all sorts of reasons. I love the fun things like presents and great food and the company of family and friends.  I love the goodwill that flows from people, even in the midst of end-of-year tiredness and coping with summer heat.  I love the relaxing, holiday feel of this time – particularly the sound of cricket on TV!  Yes, usually there is some sadness, as I remember past Christmases and people who were important in my life but are no longer here.  But as I sit with my sadness, I can remember too in the midst of it the good things about that person and how he or she enriched my life.  I can remember past places with nostalgia where we lived and celebrated Christmas with friends we no longer see but also with thankfulness for what these people and periods in our life meant to us.  But however I’m feeling, there is one thing about Christmas that honestly brings me such comfort and joy.  And that to me is best summed up in the words of Matthew 1:23:

“The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son and they will call him Immanuel – which means, “God with us.”

What a gift to us!  Immanuel – God with us.  God come to earth to share our pain, to show us the way, to renew us and ultimately to rescue us.  No wonder we rejoice at Christmas, although for many the reason we do this has been lost.  No wonder we want to show love to others, since we have been so greatly loved by God.  That’s the perspective I want to keep at Christmas, no matter what’s going on around me.  I want to remember with sincere thankfulness and with joy that whatever happens in my life and in this world, God hasn’t abandoned me.  In fact God has come to us in the flesh in the person of Jesus Christ – Immanuel, God with us.  And that means God will never leave me or forsake me in this life or the next.

So I am looking forward this 2009 to once again celebrating Christmas with great thankfulness.  But I also want to take this opportunity to thank those who have supported me so well this past year in my writing and speaking journey: firstly my husband Lionel, who has provided essential computer and bookkeeping expertise; secondly my daughter Jane, who has helped so much with my website and blog; thirdly, the wonderful members of my email prayer team, who pray for me wherever I speak; and finally, all of you who have bought my books, read my blogs, emailed to encourage me and invited me to speak.  Thank you so much for all your love and support.

So happy Christmas to you all!  May you too remember the blessing of Immanuel – God with us.

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