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Posts Tagged ‘Olivia Berthelsen’

Sometimes at a funeral or when someone’s death is reported on TV, as I hear all the positive things people say about the person who has passed away, I often wonder if these same things were ever said to them during their lifetime as well. Could these things have perhaps made all the difference to this person no longer with us and encouraged them along on their journey so much more?

Last month, during ‘The Festival of Lionel’, which we held for around ten days to celebrate my husband’s eightieth birthday, I thought about this again often. In that time, Lionel received many, many positive and uplifting greetings that I suspect almost blew his mind. Some were spoken to him face to face, some via phone calls from family and friends. Some were written by hand inside special birthday cards. Some arrived via text messages and emails. Then there were the more than 150 birthday greetings and ‘likes’ posted for him on Facebook—he thought they would never end! It was all a little overwhelming at times, but wonderfully encouraging too. 

Yet there were even more encouraging words ahead for him to hear and read, as we celebrated his final birthday event with a small family party. Our son Andrew and his family had thought long and hard about what to give Granddad for his 80th and came up with two excellent, creative ways to commemorate this milestone. The first was the fun poster below, put together by our two older granddaughters. The only thing is, while those chocolates and lollies are very tempting, we are loath ever to dismantle such a special creation!

As well, the whole family brainstormed their ideas to create the lovely framed gift below, ‘80 things we love about you’.

Can you imagine how moving it was for Lionel to hear all these read aloud? For a moment, I thought he would burst into tears. He could not take it all in at first—or even later at home as he read through the entire eighty little comments. But how affirming they were for him to see, including the classic ‘That you will count these to check there are really 80!’, along with others such as:

Being generous

Granddad and granddaughter date nights

Always being there for me

Taking me to the best parks

Your love for your family

Your strong faith in God

For buying me ice-creams

For being a positive person

You make good dad jokes

Picking me up from school

You make people feel welcome

Always having nice things to say

You are trustworthy

… The list goes on.

What a clear reminder to me all this has been about the power of encouragement, both in word and deed! No wonder we are exhorted in Scripture to encourage one another whenever we can.

Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. 2 Corinthians 13:11

So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing. 1 Thessalonians 5:11 NLT

Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another … Hebrews 10:25

May we all take these words to heart and be the best encouragers we can be!

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In recent years, I have learnt a few things from our grandchildren. They are all wonderful, of course! Our oldest, Amy—eager, out-going, energetic, blonde and beautiful. Our second oldest, Olivia—warm, a little more introverted, quick sense of humour, brown-eyed and equally beautiful. And our youngest, Zain—almond-shaped eyes, black curls from his Ghanaian dad, gorgeous grin and yummy, milk-chocolate skin! It is a delight to watch them all grow and develop.

Each of them is unique and has had a different reaction when visiting us, we have noticed. When Amy, now ten, was around twelve months old, I well remember her parents walking into our home, holding this cute, blue-eyed little girl who stared solemnly at us. We stared back, absolutely spellbound. We could not take our eyes off her. Eventually, she would frown heavily, scrunch her whole face up, reach out her arm and point her finger in some other, distant direction. Clearly, she was ordering us to take our gaze elsewhere! She did not appreciate being such an object of curiosity and wanted to make her feelings known. Even then, she was mastering the ancient art of deflection.

This picture of Amy came to mind last week, when I read the account of Jesus’ meeting with the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4). I love this story for so many reasons. I love the way Jesus treats this woman with respect, even merely by speaking to her. I love how he cares enough about her to offer her ‘living water’. I love how he tries to break it gently to her that he knows all about her. And, most of all, I love how he chooses to declare to her who he really is—‘I who speak to you am he.

But my heart goes out to this Samaritan woman, as she interacts with Jesus. Can you imagine how you would feel if some stranger told you everything you ever did, as this woman herself puts it later (v39)? No wonder she seems to grasp at any straw and chooses to dabble big-time in that ancient art of deflecting! No wonder she, just like little Amy, tries to point Jesus in an entirely different direction and wriggle out of the situation!

Perhaps her question about the right place to worship was serious and important to her, perhaps it wasn’t. Whatever her thoughts at that point, I can relate to them. With stunning clarity, I see myself in this woman’s response to Jesus. Even when I know much better, how many times do I try that same ancient art of deflection? How many times do I know what Jesus is saying to me, yet I seek to centre his attention elsewhere, foolishly asking him other questions that don’t matter nearly so much?

At last I sit still, listening to the One who knows all about me. Now I put down my arm and stop pointing elsewhere. Now I give him space in my day and in my heart and mind to be who he really is—the Messiah, the Christ, the Saviour of the world sent from God to set us free.

I hear him say to me today, ‘I who speak to you am he.’ And, like the Samaritans of that town, because of his words, I believe.

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We have begun a new tradition in our family. Whenever a grandchild turns seven, he or she receives a homemade DVD of themselves, made up of a variety of photos taken and movies made throughout their short lives. Along with these are captions here and there, plus a cute online version of ‘Happy birthday’. And all this is lovingly put together over many hours by Granddad.

It all started when our older granddaughter Amy turned seven. She loved her very own DVD in which she herself was the star and has watched it many times since. She even told her Granddad that her seventh birthday was her favourite, because of this special DVD. So guess what Granddad had to come up with when her younger sister Olivia turned seven? That event took place just this week in our family.

It seems P1040175Olivia loves her very own DVD too, judging by the delighted look on her face as she opened her present and watched it along with us. The photos and movies captured all sorts of events from Olivia’s life—the moment just after she was born; various birthday cakes over the years; special musical performances; times of helping Nanna make cakes and eating the mixture; blowing bubbles and chasing them in our backyard; playing crazy games with her sister; visiting playgrounds with Nanna and Granddad; reading a book about dogs to her own beloved dog Bella, who lay there patiently through it all.

‘She looks so tiny!’ her mum kept exclaiming, as we watched. ‘That’s so cute!’ we all said often.

Now Granddad is preparing for the next special DVD due in our family for our grandson Zain. It’s not needed for a long time, however—our Zain hasn’t even turned one yet! But Granddad is very much keeping it in mind, as he films Zain’s various milestones. Already he has captured that first cuddle at the hospital; that first real smile when Zain’s whole face lit up; the first time he sat up by himself in our lounge; that little mischievous look he has when he reaches out to play with forbidden objects such as the remote control or the phone. And this week his first unaided steps in our home were recorded, as Zain wobbled his way across our lounge room.

Have you ever thought about how God watches each one of his children—how God sees our first staggering steps as new believers and observes us grow and mature as we confront the various challenges in our lives and pass this or that milestone? If we celebrate with our own children and grandchildren and also agonise with them at times, how much more must God be right there in those moments with us? In Isaiah  49:15 we read:

Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!

I am picturing God now in the person of Jesus, watching the DVD of my life, clapping his hands in delight at some spots, closing his eyes at others, gazing at me with such love and pride at times, but crying along with me at others. God has been with me through all the milestones that have marked my life and is still with me now, smiling at me and encouraging me as I take each new, staggering step.

I find that hugely comforting. How about you?

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