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Posts Tagged ‘labour of love’

IMG_20180410_101220307One morning recently, I drove across town to speak at a women’s event. When I arrived, I saw at once how much work the organisers had done. Everything looked perfect—all the tables were beautifully decorated and there was a mound of food ready for the women to enjoy. Later, I was told one lady had made all those scrumptious delicacies herself—her labour of love and gift to others.

Then I noticed one table that looked a little out of place. It was piled high in a kind of haphazard way with balls of wool, ribbons, pieces of lace and containers of buttons of all shapes and sizes, plus a few other decorative odds and ends. Had the ladies organising everything forgotten about it?

After the meeting began, someone explained to everyone why that unusual table was there. This group has undertaken the project of knitting ‘mitts’—thick  hand warmers, sometimes called ‘twiddle mitts’ or ‘fidget muffs’ made of different textured yarns, with all sorts of beads, buttons, ribbons, lace and other interesting objects sewn onto them which dementia sufferers can ‘twiddle’. These mitts often help sufferers stay calm and overcome restlessness, which are common symptoms of dementia. They may also prevent some from pulling their clothes or scratching their skin and can help trigger memories too.

What a lovely idea, I thought—such a good way for ‘crafty’ people to use their gifts to benefit others! And such a good way to use up those odds and ends of wool, ribbons, lace and other bits and pieces too.

Then it was my turn to speak. At one stage, I showed a photo of my lovely ‘soul friend’ Joy and mentioned the fact that she now sadly suffers from dementia. The point I was making was just one among quite a few—but someone was listening carefully with a caring heart and came up to me later.

‘Please choose one of our knitted mitts for your “soul friend”,’ she said quietly. ‘We wouldIMG_20180422_173401196 love you to take one to her.’

I was touched by this lady’s thoughtfulness—not to mention the hours of knitting and sewing on of buttons, beads, ribbons and laces someone had spent making the lovely mitt I chose. What a wonderful treasure to be able to give my friend!

As I drove home, the following verses came to mind:

Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 4:10-11

While I used what I believe is my God-given gift of speaking, others had served via baking, decorating the tables beautifully, making cards and gifts for each person attending and of course knitting those calming mitts. In short, we had each in our own way enjoyed the amazing privilege of being ‘faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms’, of enabling that grace to flow through us to others.

How wonderful to be involved in such labours of love and hopefully to bring God praise in the process!

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There we were, the whole family seated at the restaurant, waiting for our meals to arrive. The moment had come for me to open my birthday gifts. The first was a small, slim parcel in purple tissue paper and ribbon—my favourite colour. Inside, I discovered a beautiful, handcrafted pair of earrings, chosen for me by one of our daughters—a special gift I now wear with pride. The second was from our son and his family—an intriguing looking box with a brightly striped ribbon keeping the lid in place.

As soon as I lifted that lid, my senses were assailed by a wonderful mix of interesting perfumes. I peeked inside—and there lay an array of beautiful soaps, bath salts and other similar items, of all different shapes, sizes and bright, contrasting colours. It was a delight to pick them up one by one and enjoy those different aromas—mango, orange, peppermint, vanilla, rose, lime, lavender. I loved them all—each one was so intriguing and unique. Again, I had been given a gift I truly love.

‘I chose all them,’ our big, burly Maths teacher son told me then. ‘I spent ages in the shop—the ladies there were laughing at me because I took so long to decide! And did you notice the purple and black tissue paper in the bottom of the box? I had to find just the right colours to go with it all. The box had to be the exact right size as well–and I wanted the ribbon to match all the different colours of the soap too. It looks good, don’t you think?’

I assured him I loved it all. Yes, I laughed, along with everyone else, at the way he was so proud of his gift and the story of how long he had taken to choose it all. But I was touched as well at his labour of love on my behalf.

I open that box again now and admire all those special little gifts it contains. I wonder then if I will have the heart to use them. At the moment, my carefully chosen gift is just that little bit too precious—precious in that it speaks not only of a human love that will go to such trouble to select a special gift for me but also of God’s extravagant love for each one of us. It reminds me how God created us with such care and intricacy—each unique, with our own special shape, size, aroma and flavour to offer this world as only we can.

You created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. Psalm 139:13-14

And God has given each of us gifts with which to bless others, as Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 12, and to enable them to function as God intended them to. As God’s children, created in God’s own image with God’s own Spirit living within us, we have all we need to make a difference in this world and to take that light and love of the Lord everywhere we go—surely a labour of love we can all approach with thankfulness and joy.

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This is the time of the year when I am most grateful for a gift I was given over forty years ago now.  I was married in January, 1969, as was my older sister – we were teachers, so both of us naturally chose the school holidays for our weddings. You can imagine our mother’s state of mind, however, as she coped with such a scenario.

But somehow, in the midst of it all, she found time to make my sister and I a very precious gift – one that cost her many, many hours of patient effort.  You see, my mother decided she would write out by hand most of her tried and true recipes for each daughter in four separate ring-bound books, so further recipes could be added.  And I still use these same books today.  My blue plastic-covered book contains good, old-fashioned recipes for cakes, slices and biscuits; my green plastic one contains dessert recipes; my black plastic one holds soup and main course recipes, along with instructions for a hotchpotch of things such as pikelets, scones, fruit punch, homemade glue and a cure for hiccups!  Then there is a smaller black book containing Mum’s wonderful coconut ice recipe, along with other sweet treats and icings.

I can only imagine her feelings as she wrote these out twice over.  I’m sure at the time I thanked her for her efforts, but to my shame, I cannot even remember noticing her sitting down painstakingly writing and writing.  In my mind I was probably quite dismissive – with my twenty years of never having really looked after myself, I would manage.  Now, however, it’s a different story.  Now, looking back, I can almost feel her pain as she sat and wrote, alongside the pride that she was creating something of value she could pass on to us.  Mum did not work outside of the home – in fact she never had the opportunity for much school education – but she knew she could cook.  Yet there must have been pain too – after all, my sister and I were her only two children and her life largely revolved around caring for our Dad and us. So our getting married must have left a yawning gap in her life that again, I never fully appreciated.

Love is costly at times, isn’t it?  My Mum loved my sister and I enough to pour her life into us and then, as we left, was determined to perform one last labour of love.  So as I turn the pages that are rather brown and dog-eared now to find Mum’s tried and true Christmas cake recipe, I think of her with love and gratitude.  But I think too of an even greater love that came to earth at Christmas – a love that is beyond imagination, a love that is priceless, a love that fills me with wonder and awe.  And I am so grateful.

To us a child is born, to us a Son is given

And the government will be on his shoulders.

And he will be called Wonderful Counsellor,

Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.  (Isaiah 9:6)

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