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Posts Tagged ‘Maxine’

I suspect I am getting a tad old. You see, these days I find I gain an inordinate amount of joy from the simple things in life. Of course I treasure the big, exciting events too. But how wonderful it can be to stop and truly appreciate those seemingly insignificant moments along the way!

One day last week, while in the kitchenware aisle of our local supermarket, I saw a large, metal cake cooler on special for around four dollars. Wow, I thought, it’s so much bigger and better than my old one I’ve used for all those forty-eight years of my married life. IMG_20171006_155427875This one has real wire mesh, so my biscuits won’t fall through and break and my cakes won’t end up with deep indentations on them! So with great glee, I placed that cake cooler in my trolley and headed for the checkout.

Such a simple item—yet how thankful I am for it. And what fun it was too to stare at the old and new versions on our kitchen bench and laugh at myself that I hadn’t bought a new one sooner!

But there were other simple moments in my week that brought even greater joy. OIMG_20171007_091749262ne special delight was to notice the first beautiful bloom on a rosebush I planted in our little garden beside our balcony, not long after we moved in here. To add to my delight, this particular rose is called ‘Just Joey’. How apt, when I was so often called Joey as a child, rather than Jo-Anne!

Another day while on our balcony, I found myself staring at the leaves on the nearby gum trees as they stirred in the wind against a backdrop of clear, blue sky. And one morning, I sat amazed at the myriad of different bird sounds I could hear coming from these same trees and nearby bushland. How easily I could have brushed off these special moments, in my preoccupation with everything waiting to be done inside!

Then one afternoon, I almost missed out again on something so simple, yet so priceless. I had arrived at our youngest granddaughter’s day care centre a little early to pick her up and the children were still playing outside. For a while, I stood and watched Maxine and her little friends. But then Maxine turned around and saw me—and, for a fleeting second, the most beautiful smile of greeting lit up her face. A moment later, she had obviously decided to be all serious again and pretended to ignore me. But I had seen that smile—and I knew she was delighted I had come.

As I reflected on these events, I thanked God for them. But I wondered if God wanted to teach me an even deeper lesson. How often in my busy life do I ignore those simple yet precious truths of Scripture and forget to rest in their power to keep me in a place of peace? Truths like:

I will never leave you nor forsake you. Joshua 1:5

I have loved you with an everlasting love … Jeremiah 31:3a

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. John 14:27a

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Hebrews 13:8

So simple—yet so profound. So easy to remember—yet so often forgotten.

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Jo 17‘What day is it today?’ I ask my husband.

‘It’s Thursday,’ he tells me, without comment. He is used to my strange ways.

‘It can’t be!’ I say, aghast. ‘What happened to Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday? Before we know it, another week will be over!’

It seems I am not the only one in our family who is familiar with this ‘before we know it’ feeling. Recently, after picking up our three-year-old granddaughter from day care, we chatted together as we drove along.

‘I fell over at my brother’s school and hurt my knee,’ she told us at one stage.

‘Oh, that’s sad,’ her grandad said. ‘Did you cry?’

‘Yes, I did,’ she replied, ‘but before I knew it, it didn’t hurt anymore!’

This concept of time passing so quickly seemed such an adult thing for a young child to grasp—but obviously Maxine knew what it meant. One minute that pain was there and the next, it was gone. And that’s the case with so many things in life, don’t you think? We think and act as if a particular stage of our lives will last forever—but it doesn’t. At times, we cannot see beyond the now. Yet when we step back and view things with a wider perspective, we realise everything is finite.

One of my favourite movies from years ago now is Dead Poets Society. A key thought the main character, innovative teacher John Keating (played by Robin Williams), often expressed resonated strongly with me—‘Carpe diem. Seize the day, boys. Make your lives extraordinary.’ I suspect I saw this movie at a time in my life when I felt a little restless and was wondering what God had ahead for me. I wanted to make my life count, in whatever way God had gifted me to do so. But time was passing, so I needed to grasp hold of those ‘God opportunities’ that arose, however challenging they might be. And I’m so glad God enabled me to do just that. Not long after this movie was first released, I changed jobs—and this change eventually led to my being able to attend theological college fulltime in my late forties and obtain my Bachelor of Theology degree, a dream I had had ever since I was around nineteen years old.

Now at this stage of my life, I wonder again what God has for me to do. Should I persevere with my writing and speaking? Or is God leading me into a different kind of ministry? Whatever the answers to those questions might turn out to be, I know I still want to ‘seize the moment’ and make my life count, because, before I know it, I will no longer have these opportunities. Even though we live in different times from the Apostle Paul, I want to heed his commands to do just that.

Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. Ephesians 5:16-17

Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Colossians 4:4

May God guide us all as we seize those moments we have been given and make the most of them.

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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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There are certain little members of our family who are adept at delaying tactics. At a family birthday celebration this past week, I watched as our grandson kept refusing to eat his dinner, despite the threat of no special dessert or lollies until he ate some of it at least. Eventually, he gave in and wolfed it all down in no time—we are still mystified as to what the fuss was all about.

IMG_20150702_144848558Then recently, his little sister discovered a very useful little phrase. She has started saying, ‘Not yet!’ in a definite voice to her mother when faced with having to do something she doesn’t want to do. Can you imagine a sweet little eighteen-month-old sizing you up with her big, brown eyes, then uttering those two powerful, little words?

Now how did our Zain and Maxine come to be so determined? Did they inherit this from their father, who readily admits to being very strong-willed as a child and getting into lots of trouble? Perhaps our daughter was responsible—or maybe even their Nanna! I well remember my mother saying to me as a child more than once when I would not listen to her or do what she asked: ‘I might as well speak to a post!’

Sometimes this childish wanting our own way carries on into our adult years as well. And, sadly, that was the case with me as a young mum when it came to my attitude to God—that is, until one Sunday morning over forty years ago now. I was standing in the crèche at the back of the church we attended, holding our baby son who was unwell. I had come because I wanted to hear the visiting speaker. Instead, God spoke to me so clearly through the Bible reading that preceded the sermon—the parable of the unmerciful servant from Matthew 18:21-35—that that was all I remembered afterwards.

You see, I was very involved in church activities at the time, but I knew I was neglecting my own personal relationship with God. So there I was, listening to the story of the servant who owed the king a great deal of money and couldn’t pay. And then came verse 26:

The servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘And I will pay back everything.’

I did not hear the rest of the story that day—how the king forgave the servant that huge debt and how this servant did not show similar compassion to others. All I heard was God saying clearly to me, ‘This is how you’ve been treating me, Jo’. In an instant, I realised I been saying to the King of Kings: ‘Yes, I know I need to spend more time with you, but I’m too busy right now. Just wait—just be patient and I’ll get back to you when I’m good and ready!’

It was as if a knife had been plunged into my heart as I realised the enormity of saying ‘Not yet!’ to God. That day I repented—and my journey with God changed forever. Yes, our God is gracious and longsuffering and so patient with us. But let’s think twice before we turn and say ‘Not yet!’ to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

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Maxine and glassesI had just picked up our two youngest grandchildren from day care and was making sure we had everything. Two large backpacks? Tick. Two lunch boxes? Tick. Two water bottles? Tick. Two jumpers? Tick. Two lots of shoes and socks? Well … almost. Only one pair of socks missing this time around—not too bad. Two children signed out? Tick. So off we headed to the car.

I managed to get everything in safely, children included, and drove off. A few minutes later, we were home. I proceeded to collect my own bags and get out of the car. My next task was to undo three year old Zain’s seat harness and steer him around the car onto the footpath, then inspire him to stand still while I put his bag on his back.

‘What a great help you are to Nanna!’ I told him, as he obliged.

Then it was Maxine’s turn to be extricated from her car seat. I decided she could walk the short distance to their apartment, so went to hold her hand and pick up both her bag and mine. But she was having none of it. At eighteen months, she managed to convey to me in no uncertain terms that she wanted to carry her own backpack, thank you very much! The only trouble was, it was not only about as big as she was but also rather heavy.

For a few moments, Maxine managed to stand upright, then—whoop—over she went backwards! It would have been funny if it wasn’t just that little bit cruel. Of course, I tried to take the bag off her—but she was having none of that either. She hung onto it for dear life and yelled! All I could do was walk along slowly beside her, trying to steady her and help when she fell backwards yet again.

As I thought about this later, I began to wonder how many times I have done something similar in my own adult life. How often have I tried to carry a big, pink backpack that was far too heavy for me? How often have I rejected help, wanting to do it all by myself? Have often have I turned a deaf ear to God’s gentle voice, showing me a better way ahead, offering me a much lighter load? How often have I worried and stressed too much over things when God was right there to ease my burden?

In Matthew 11:28-30, Jesus says:

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.

I wonder if, right now, some of you might be in a place of needing to take off that heavy load that is making you struggle and stumble. Is it time for you to take Jesus’ outstretched hand and allow him to help you move forward in his strength rather than your own?

May your load soon be much lighter as you journey on with Jesus. And may you—and I—carry just what he gives us. No more and no less.

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Maxine's 1st bday 2015 073eI know. I should never have tried to feed our little granddaughter while sitting on the lounge, but I thought it might work. Besides, her dinner was yummy spaghetti Bolognese—she was bound to like it. I tried to pop that first spoonful into her mouth, but she knocked it flying. I got the message. She was not interested—at all.

I decided to play a game with her. I picked up one long strand and dangled it into her mouth, but she was still unhappy. What she wanted, I realised, was to put her hands right in the middle of that spaghetti Bolognese and shovel it all in herself! She refused every other tricky manoeuvre I could think of to feed her and stubbornly hung out for what she really wanted to do.

Yes, you’ve guessed it. Her Nanna caved in! And a few strands did make it to her mouth. But lots more ended up on us both—as well as the lounge and carpet!

Not long after, it was story time. Our three year old grandson Zain picked out two books and was soon seated on the lounge listening intently as Granddad read the first one. I thought Maxine would happily play by herself for a while, but no. With an affronted yell, she grabbed the other book and, after glancing at me as if to say, ‘Ha! I’ve got a book too now!’, she ensconced herself beside her brother and howled. No, she was not happy sharing Zain’s storybook. She wanted Nanna to read her one of her own. And she stubbornly hung in there till Nanna once again caved in.

Now one might well say I should have let Maxine know at that point who was really in charge and not indulge her. After all, she needs to know she can’t always get her own way. Yet for some strange, perverse reason, I admired her strong determination to go for what she wanted and to persevere, despite my best efforts to deter or distract her. Part of me cheered her along—You go for it, girl! Make it clear to us what’s going on inside that little head of yours so we understand. Grow and learn!

You see, such thinking at certain times in my life has enabled me to overcome so many obstacles, return to study twice and get those necessary qualifications, as well as persevere in my writing journey of recent years. I know I could not have achieved all this apart from God. I would have fallen in a heap many times over, had God’s Spirit not strengthened me to stay focussed on what I believed I had been called to do. Yet I had a choice as well—to give in to the enemy’s lies and taunts or to stubbornly stand firm and resist, as the Apostle Paul urges us to do:

Therefore, put on the full armour of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place. Ephesians 6:13-14

Hmm—I think stubbornness has its place at times, don’t you?

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Maxine4We have a certain one-year-old granddaughter who has a knack of getting her own way—especially with her Nanna! Yes, our Maxine can now walk or climb or even run places. But sometimes it’s a different story. Sometimes she decides she wants to be picked up and carried—or simply held and cuddled, cheek to cheek, to her heart’s content!

At times, I can be working in the kitchen when she will come around the corner, whimpering a little, arms raised. Whatever I’m doing, she wants to be up there with me, seeing what is happening or merely being held. And when I try to meet her eyes, she carefully averts them, as if to say ‘There’s nothing wrong—I just wanted to be picked up! And I got my way—yay!’

There is one problem, however. I have yet to perfect the art of picking up Maxine in a way that does not damage my back any further. Yes, I know one is supposed to use one’s knees rather than bend at the waist. But … well, in the heat of the moment, I tend to forget. I bend and lift and bend and lift because … well, this is my granddaughter we’re talking about! Besides, she’s just so cute and cuddly!

There’s a lot of bending down involved in caring for young children, isn’t there? If it’s not picking them up, it’s getting them into car seats or helping take their shoes off or changing nappies or tidying up toys or cleaning up messes or doing any number of other tasks. One day they will be able to look after themselves—but not quite yet.

It was perhaps because of all this that I particularly noticed some beautiful, poetic words in Hosea 11:1-4 this past week about God’s amazing love for the children of Israel. God called them out of Egypt, strengthening them, teaching them and healing them so they could stand on their own two feet. Yet they still went astray and worshipped other gods. In verses 3-4, we read:

It was I who taught Ephraim to walk, taking them by the arms; but they did not realize it was I who healed them. I led them with cords of human kindness, with ties of love; I lifted the yoke from their neck and bent down to feed them.

What beautiful images these are of God’s ‘bending down’, as it were, in order to offer such patient nurturing to these Israelites! Here is God, the Creator and Lord of the Universe, pouring out such love on them, leading them to the Promised Land, setting them free, going to great lengths to feed them. And surely this is the same heart God still longs to show to each of us as we journey through life? How many times does God bend down to pick me up on a daily basis, hold me close, clean me up, set me on my feet again and help me walk forward in much greater freedom?

I hope I never take for granted God’s patient, loving nurture of me. This week, every time I bend down to pick up Maxine or care for her in some other way, may I remember to thank God for doing the same—and more—for me.

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