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Jo 17Recently, I did something I have never done before. Each day for one whole week, I deliberately chose to do some special activity I have wanted to do for some time but always had a reason not to. On top of that, I did not cook dinner any night that week. Instead, we ate out or bought takeaway. You see, the whole thing was a unique birthday present for me—and what fun it all was!

Originally, my husband had wanted me to enjoy a few days away somewhere by myself—to relax, recharge and spend time with God. I thought about this lovely idea and even looked up various venues online but did not feel settled about any of them. Then one night, it came to me. I did not want to go away anywhere. Instead, I wanted to enjoy different, interesting experiences within reach of our own beautiful unit, then come home and not have to cook dinner! A win-win situation, don’t you think?

In the end, we called this wondrous week ‘The Festival of Jo-Anne’ (!)—and I thoroughly enjoyed it all. I went shopping, twice over. I went to the movies. I had coffee out. I had a massage. I read. And in between, I had time simply to sit and be and reconnect with God. Yes, it was all very good indeed.

But one reason I enjoyed it even more was that, two weeks earlier, I had finally finished the first draft of my latest novel that had languished on my laptop for over three years, waiting patiently for me to unfold the rest of the story. This special week of mine then was also for me a time when I came up for air, so to speak, when I allowed my poor brain to rest, when I graced myself a little more than usual—and when I sensed God’s love and grace being showered on me from every angle. It was a lovely, hiatus period—a time to gain clearer perspective, not only on my novel, before I plunged into all that necessary editing, but on my life in general.

At one stage in writing this particular novel, I wondered if I should keep going. Should I be content with the eight books of mine that have already been published? Was that where God wanted me to stop? But one day, I sensed God saying gently to me, ‘Jo-Anne, whether you write this book or don’t write it, remember I’ll be just as delighted with you either way!’ What gracious, loving, freeing words to hear! I did not need to feel pressured to produce in any way. Instead, I had permission to write the sort of novel I have wanted to write for some time and to leave the outcome in God’s hands.

Yet I think God was saying more than that too. I think God wanted to remind me that, all the time, whether celebrating the Festival of Jo-Anne or writing or speaking or whatever, I can rest fully in this amazing love of God that accepts me, no matter what.

How precious is your unfailing love, O God! All humanity finds shelter in the shadow of your wings. Psalm 36:7 New Living Translation

Maybe you too need to hear this reminder right now?

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That vanishing mist

Jo 17I wonder if you have ever experienced one of those days when it is brought home to you how short life really is. Last week, three events converged in one twenty-four hour period that highlighted for me the fact that our lives here on earth do not last forever.

The first event was my birthday. Now, I haven’t hit the big three score year and ten as yet—although I’m not far off! To be honest, I don’t mind growing older, for various reasons. For a start, I think I am finally learning some wisdom from life’s experiences and from what God has shown me over the years—and it feels good to be able to pass this onto others when I speak publicly or in the course of a private conversation, as well as via my writing. But secondly, it means I know am getting nearer to meeting Jesus face to face. With that in mind, things seem to fall into perspective in life so much more readily, don’t you think?

The second event that same day was our five year old grandson’s visit. He arrived, full of energy as usual, ringing the doorbell, then running and hiding, so that we had to say to his mum, ‘Oh hello! I thought you were bringing Zain today! I wonder where he is!’ Throughout the day, as I chatted to him, I was amazed at the way his curious little mind works. He is at an important threshold in his life, about to start ‘big school’, and I wonder what all the years ahead will hold for him. What direction will he choose to take in life? Where will his focus be?

The third experience my birthday held was an appointment in a nearby retirement village to inspect a unit. As we waited for the sales person, I glanced around and noted several elderly people engaged in various activities. They moved slowly—in stark contrast to our grandson, who wanted to run everywhere and was so curious about everything! Some smiled politely, but I wondered if our grandson was making far too much noise for them in this quietest of places. Sometime in the distant past, those people had been young too. They had been full of energy and curiosity, running around everywhere like our grandson—yet now life has slowed down so much more for them. What had they done in those intervening years, I wondered. Had their dreams been fulfilled? Had they lived for God? Were they looking forward to that day when they would meet God face to face?

In James 4:13-14, we find the following solemn reminder:

Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.

Yes, on my birthday, I was reminded again how nebulous and brief our lives truly are, when compared with eternity and when viewed from God’s perspective. So, before we vanish like that swirling mist, let’s live each day well, trusting God with all our tomorrows, grasping every opportunity to love and bless others and to shine God’s light wherever we are!

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At the moment, my husband has a broken arm.  He managed to trip while out bushwalking with a friend and, as a result, his arm is broken in two places, necessitating a full caste.  Now one of the key drawbacks out of all this is that he can’t drive – which definitely ‘clips his wings’!   And of course there are other smaller drawbacks as well – like the inability to tie shoelaces, cut up food, mow the lawn and so on.

At first, my husband didn’t know his arm was broken.  He knew it hurt, but decided to wait until things settled down and he could describe exactly what was happening before seeking any medical help.  In fact, after walking home, he chose to keep his promise to our granddaughter to take her to the movies – after all, he’d already paid for the tickets online!  So he then drove her to the movie theatre, sat through ‘Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang’, had a milk shake and drove home again before deciding to go to the doctor.  A visit to the hospital then ensued and a few hours later, his arm had duly been x-rayed and encased in plaster.

Now I’m sure my husband has learnt a lot through this experience.  But as I have watched him struggle with various tasks and also deal with some degree of ‘after-shock’ and fear of falling again, it has caused me to reflect on how many times we all go about with ‘clipped wings’ in some form or another in our lives.  We might know we aren’t functioning fully as God would want us to – but we can’t say exactly how.  It may be we just don’t feel right – that we’re struggling in some area that once was easy, that we don’t seem to enjoy things as much, that we are dispirited or frustrated.  But we can’t put our finger on the exact cause of our pain or discomfort – so we just put up with it, perhaps deciding that this is the best we can hope for.

Or perhaps we know exactly what’s wrong – that our ‘arm’ is in fact broken and not just bruised or strained.  But perhaps we don’t want to face up what it will mean to have our broken parts attended to.  Or maybe we honestly don’t know where to find the help we need or even trust that the treatment offered will be effective.  On the other hand, perhaps we have actually learnt from past experience that the best course of action possible is to head straight for the ‘hospital’, to the One Who knows and sees exactly what the issue is and can do something about it.  And as we honestly admit to where it hurts and trust in the help God offers us, then we will truly be healed, strengthened and enabled to ‘fly’ again.  As Isaiah 40:30-31 says:

Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.  They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.  

And that’s wonderful news, don’t you agree?  So may you spread your wings fully this week and soar with all the strength God provides!

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