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Posts Tagged ‘mature age student’

Jo 12After thirty-two years of living in our little, weatherboard house here in Sydney, the week when we move is finally here. Most rooms are filled with boxes, waiting for that truck to arrive on Friday and relocate us just a few kilometres away. Over the past few weeks, I have slowly made my way through all my packing, stopping at times to reflect on memories associated with this or that possession, sometimes culling further, but also holding onto various bits and pieces that still have too much sentimental value to be thrown out.

In many ways, it will not be a wrench to leave. Our old, comfy house owes us nothing—it has served us well, even when our three children still lived at home and it was bulging at the seams. And it has served the next generation well too, with our two older grandchildren spending many Fridays here when they were younger. To me, it is lovely too that even our two younger grandchildren have memories to take with them from Nanna and Granddad’s old house. We hope and pray the next owners will be equally as happy here, perhaps raising their own family to run around the garden and attend school nearby.

Yet in other ways, it is sad to say farewell to a place where so much happened for each family member. For me personally, this is where I prepared all those lessons and marked those piles of exercise books, after returning to teaching when we first moved here. It was here many years later, too, that I returned to study and sat on a stool at our kitchen bench for hours on end at our big, old desktop computer, completing those assignments for my theology degree. Later still, I wrote my first five novels on my trusty laptop at the end of our kitchen table, packing up everything before dinner. Three more books emerged after I finally ended up with my own desk in our spare bedroom—the room where I am now writing this blog for the last time. These are just a few of the many memories I will take with me.

A few days ago, in the midst of this slightly surreal time in my life, I was particularly touched when God reached out to me yet again through the words of a psalm my mother used to sing:

How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord Almighty! My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God. Even the sparrow has found a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may have her young—a place near your altar, O Lord Almighty, my King and my God. Blessed are those who dwell in your house; they are ever praising you. Psalm 84:1-4

Yes, this psalm may well be speaking of a physical ‘house of God’. But it reminded me too that, no earthly home, whether old or new, can compare with being at home with God. What a beautiful place to live, enjoying God’s close, comforting presence each day! Wherever I am, I am in God and God is in me. And this is the home where I plan to stay put, both now and forever.

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Jo 23Last Saturday night, another historic moment occurred in our household. At 10.30pm, I walked out of my study and announced with a great sigh to my husband, ‘I’ve finished writing my book!’

‘I don’t know how you do it!’ he responded with feeling.

‘I don’t know how I do it either,’ I replied with even more feeling.

Now let me clarify a little. Because this is my eighth book, I know I haven’t exactly ‘finished’ yet. I know this is only the beginning of the next part of my journey with this particular volume. I finished the first draft some time back. Last night’s milestone marked the completion of a very thorough edit and rewrite. Next step is obtaining comments from my first reader/editor. Then it will be back to editing again—and on it goes.

I know all this, yet last night at 10.30, I felt great relief. This book, my second work of non-fiction, has proved difficult to write. I can’t even remember when I started it because so many things have intervened since then. I almost gave up on it once or twice. With so many interruptions, I became a little disconnected from it all and found myself having to check back often so as not to repeat myself. Yet I wanted to finish it because I felt the idea for this book was something God had given me. So I persevered. And I’m glad I did because I learnt so much yet again about God and about myself.

This book, currently titled Coming Home to Myself, has taken me on a journey through so many memories of childhood years, of years at university, of marriage and children, of university again, of returning to teaching, of other jobs, of theological college, of ministry, of writing and speaking. As I wrote and remembered, I tried to highlight how God persevered with me through it all, rescuing me, restoring me, helping me emerge and grow and learn, drawing me on to become more of the person I had been created to be. And, in the process, I have been brought face to face with my own weaknesses and shortcomings and slowness to respond to what God has been teaching me. But, once again, I have also been overwhelmed with the reality of God’s absolute faithfulness and patience and perseverance and longsuffering in so many ways.

‘I don’t know how you do it!’ I have found myself wanting to say to God so often in response.

Yet I do know. It’s right there in the pages of my bible and it’s written on my heart. In Jeremiah 31:3, God declares to the children of Israel:

I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness.’

And in Ephesians 3:17-18, Paul prays:

I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ …

That’s how God does it—by loving me without end with the most amazing, pure, self-giving, accepting love. And that’s how I plan to do it too—by loving God till the end and by letting this amazing love of God inform my writing and flow onto others.

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Jo 23There I was, working in my study and only vaguely conscious of the sound of the TV in our lounge, when one particular sentence jolted me alert. It was as if the words I heard were louder than all the others, demanding my attention.

‘She doesn’t have to worry—she’s got nothing left to prove.’

I soon realised the sports commentator was talking about a particular sportswoman at the Commonwealth Games who has won every medal and accolade there is in her chosen field. At this stage, she can simply enjoy the satisfaction of winning and not have to worry anymore about whether she can make it and be the best in the world. It’s what we often say when people have succeeded beyond anyone’s expectations and achieved great feats in their lives.

Why did this statement impact me the way it did? Because I had just read the following sentence in my latest book I am in the process of editing:

I was my own worst enemy in many ways, so prone to taking things too personally, so wanting to prove myself, so easily forgetting who I was in God and so often allowing others’ opinions of me to pull me down.

Yes, in former years, I was very much into proving myself. I wanted to come top of that class in primary school. I wanted to be among those prize winners at our high school speech night. I wanted to excel at uni. This was all good, but I did not realise then that trying to prove myself would not give me that deep sense of worth I craved inside.

I remember well a question someone asked me when I was about to head to theological college in my late forties.

‘So … what are you trying to prove?’

I was dumbfounded—I could not believe anyone would ask me such a rude question. Yes, I planned to put my heart and soul into all my assignments to get the maximum benefit from this wonderful opportunity to study once again—but not merely to prove myself. So I tried to muster up some grace and forbearance and told this person I was doing it first and foremost because I believed God had called me to, which was the truth.

No doubt at times I did fall back into my old ways of trying to prove myself at college. But, these days, I can honestly say that, just like that Commonwealth Games athlete the commentator was talking about, there is nothing left for me to prove either. Not that I have written that best seller or hit the highest peaks of achievement in ministry, by any means! But I know who I am in God. And I know deep inside I don’t have to earn God’s approval—because Jesus has made me totally acceptable, whatever I achieve or don’t achieve in this life. This has given me such a deep sense of security as I continue to write and speak and put myself and my books out there. I don’t have to prove myself—there’s nothing left to prove. All I can do is my best and leave the rest to God.

But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. 1 Cor 15:10a

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