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Posts Tagged ‘Tina’

The moment had come. For some time, I had planned to clean out a particular bedroom drawer that was stuffed to the limit with precious memorabilia—cards and notes I had received over the years, old school reports, certificates for music and academic achievements, programs from concerts and shows I had attended. It all seemed far too daunting, since I knew I would not want to throw any of it out. But I could not put it off any longer.

First, I tackled all those cards. Many were beautiful thank you notes from groups where I had spoken or from readers who had appreciated my books and taken the time to let me know. Others were special birthday or Mothers’ Day cards from our granddaughters, some handmade, with lovely messages inside written in wobbly letters. After reading them all again, I decided it was pimg_20170211_103120558-2robably time to throw away most of the thank you notes at least … but surely I could keep those precious Mothers’ Day cards?

I dug deeper and found more home-made Mothers’ Day cards from our own children, including one that said: ‘You will like this … and it only cost $1.49!!’ I found some funny notes as well: ‘Dear Mum and Dad … could you please make sure that in the morning Tina does not, I repeat, NOT wake Andrew or me up and play the piano? Thank you. Warning: If Tina does do these offensive things, you will probably not live to regret it—that goes for Tina too!’ From your loving daughter, Jane.’ Still another was in distinctly grovelling mode: ‘Mummy darling dearest, if you are in a fantastic mood, PTO. If not, don’t bother!’ How could I throw such gems out?!

I kept digging and soon found many more cards written to me at key points in my life. Cards for key birthday celebrations. Cards when moving on from jobs. Cards congratulating me on my graduation from theological college. Cards on the death of my mother. Cards on leaving our church. Cards for no reason at all—except simply to encourage me. So many words written just for me. So many words expressing so much love and heartfelt thanks for things I had said or done, some of which I now have no memory of saying or doing.

As I completed my mammoth task, I felt quite sad and nostalgic. I sat still for a while, trying to let all that love and affirmation people had expressed sink in. And in the quiet, I sensed God saying, ‘Remember my words to you too and take them to heart.’ Then those precious snippets came flooding back—words I tend to forget so often:

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

I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving kindness.” Jeremiah 31:3

Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. John 14:1

I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. John 14:18

You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last. John 15:16

I love reading those heartfelt words from family and friends. But these are the best heartfelt words ever, don’t you think?

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In my life, I’ve had three real babies and five ‘book babies’. Even now, I can remember the challenges of deciding on names for our real children. And I can certainly remember the dilemmas of what to call my ‘book babies’ too. With three of them, I opted for the names of their main characters. For another, I chose a phrase from Psalm 23, All the Days of My Life. And for my most recent novel, I decided on the name Heléna’s Legacy¸ since this summed up the main thrust of the plot. Besides, it has a nice rhythm to it – plus a bit of alliteration and assonance thrown in!

There’s a lot to think about, isn’t there, in choosing a name? Just this week I witnessed firsthand two people’s struggles with choosing names for their babies. In the first instance, our daughter Tina is struggling to find just the right name for their first child. She likes a certain girl’s name, but her husband thinks it’s a little old-fashioned. And as for a boy’s name, they are tossing up between two options. To complicate matters, her husband is Ghanaian—and it’s common practice amongst Ghanaians to choose the day of the week on which a child is born as one of the names for that child. Hence our son-in-law’s name is Kofi, which means Friday.

The second instance involves an author whose book I have just finished editing. I thought the current title of the manuscript was not the best and he agreed. It was a friend’s suggestion, but he himself had always had something different in mind. The only trouble with his ‘something different’ is that, while many of his potential readers will relate to this title, a good proportion, in my opinion, won’t. In fact, they might even be somewhat offended by it. So what to do? Will this author go with his initial idea?  Or will he play it safe for the sake of possibly gaining more book sales?

While thinking about these dilemmas this week, I noticed a manger scene featured in a large shopping centre. Yes, with Christmas approaching, these sometimes still do pop up, despite some people apparently feeling that mentioning the real meaning of Christmas spoils it all for everyone! Later I reflected on the fact that Mary and Joseph were left in no doubt what their baby was to be called. In Matthew 1:20-21, we read how the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and made it clear:

She [Mary] will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.

Jesus, we are told, is the Greek form of Joshua, which means ‘The Lord saves’. But in the same chapter, we read that Jesus will also be called ‘Immanuel’, which means ‘God with us’ (1:23)—a name given to the Son of God hundreds of years earlier by God himself through the prophet Isaiah (Is 7:14). Well, they are both wonderful names, don’t you think? Yet many people at the time rejected this man called Jesus, their Messiah, the one anointed by God to be their Saviour. Some acknowledged the truth of the name ‘Immanuel’—but others refused to believe God was indeed amongst them.

I hear such love in both these names – Jesus and Immanuel. They epitomise God’s heart for us—God reaching out to us, knowing full well these beautiful names might be ridiculed and even used as curses. But God chose the best names ever, from my perspective. I need a Saviour. I need God with me.  Those names for me are so full of meaning—and I think they’re absolutely perfect.

How about you?

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If you’re wondering right now what on earth a croquembouche is, then please check out the photo opposite. This one was a gift from our elder daughter to our younger daughter Tina and her husband Kofi for their recent wedding celebration – and what a work of art it was! It was created by Jean-Francois Perron of ‘Choco Cannelle’ (www.chococannelle.com.au) and is a French celebration cake made from profiteroles filled with crème patissiere. The profiteroles were dipped in toffee and the whole creation liberally decorated with more toffee and a sprinkling of nuts and sugared almonds. Along with some separately baked profiteroles, this croquembouche (literally, ‘crunch in the mouth’) was the dessert for around a hundred guests at the wedding reception.

It was an extremely generous gift from one sister to another, but the journey of obtaining the croquembouche was not without its hiccups. Jane thought she had understood exactly how many profiteroles would be in the croquembouche. However, to our horror, her sister discovered only the day before that there would not be nearly enough to go round our guests. Yet all was not lost. After some panic and tears and a quick visit to the patisserie to pay for extra profiteroles, the problem was solved. And on the night, when everyone had finished oohing and aahing and taking photos, the kitchen staff pulled our croquembouche apart and we proceeded to munch our way through it.

Some days later, for some odd reason it occurred to me that this is how we often treat God’s creation around us. We see or experience an amazing mountaintop view, a breathtaking sunset, the lushness of a rainforest, the clear blue of ocean waters, the delicate fragility of a tiny wildflower, the intricacy displayed in the body of a small insect. We admire it all – then so often, with or without thinking, destroy it. We forget to treasure it and care for it well, as good stewards of God’s creation. Just as with our croquembouche, which was proudly delivered to the venue with extreme care by its maker himself, so, way back in the beginning, God delivered something that was perfect in every way – our created universe that God himself declared in Genesis 1 to be ‘good’, in the full sense of the word. Yet it wasn’t long before that creation was marred. It wasn’t long before we as human beings ignored God’s instructions and took things into our own hands.

The misunderstanding about the size of our croquembouche was not a matter of life and death. It was only a cake, after all – albeit a very special, expensive one! But treating God’s creation as if it’s unimportant is in another league altogether. This truly is a matter of life and death. Who knows how much longer this planet will be able to hold together with the treatment it has received from us?

So I ask myself … how carefully am I treating God’s wonderful gift of creation all around me? In fact, how am I treating God’s greatest and most costly gift of all – Jesus Christ, the perfect Son of God? Am I truly treasuring him and honouring him each day in my life as he deserves? Or am I indifferent, even despising and rejecting him, as described in Isaiah 53?

Most of our croquembouche is gone now – just a few pieces of toffee remain. Our world too may not last much longer. But ‘Jesus Christ is the same yesterday today and forever (Hebrews 13:8). And that’s what really matters.

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I have been thinking a lot about faces recently for several reasons. Firstly, my fifth novel, ‘Heléna’s Legacy’, is due for release in about a week – and featured on the front is the face of one of the main characters in the novel. This was something I vowed and declared I would never agree to with any of my novels. I like my readers to imagine their own heroes and heroines. After all, many of us have no doubt been disappointed in how the main characters in our favourite books are depicted when seeing the movie adaptation of the stories.

Yet on this occasion, the particular image chosen by the graphic artist seems to convey something of the conflicting emotions my character, Doctor Susan Curtis, experiences in the novel. There is a kind of pensive, wistful air about her that appeals to me – and I hope to my readers as well. (For more information, please visit my website, www.jo-anneberthelsen.com).

My second reason for my focus on faces is that this past week, a rare event occurred for me. I was treated to a blissful facial at the salon where our daughter works! Such things usually come my way only by virtue of a birthday or Christmas present – but I do enjoy them. I experienced the tender, loving care our daughter took of my skin and other facial features – and I must admit I was ashamed of how little I do in this regard. After all, I am made in the image of God, as Genesis 1:27 tells me, so I need to do what I can to honour God through my appearance as well as through my life and the words I say.

But my third reason for thinking of faces – and the reason for the above facial – is that our lovely beauty therapist daughter, Tina, celebrated her wedding last Saturday evening. She was married overseas in February but this was the first opportunity she and her husband, Kofi, have had to celebrate with friends here. Someone commented recently that Tina and Kofi are a ‘shining couple’ – and they did both looked radiant on the night. Their faces clearly displayed their happiness at being together and their joy that they could celebrate with friends and family.

So these events caused me to wonder just how much my joy at being a child of God and the peace and happiness I have as a result truly show on my own face. I know outward appearances aren’t everything. They don’t seem to matter much to God, who, as 1 Samuel 16:7 says, prefers to look at our heart instead. And of course all of us go through difficult periods when it’s hard to look particularly joyful. But if my face is completely miserable most of the time, or has a hard, critical expression, surely that doesn’t convey a very positive picture of God to the world at large?

Some of us have more interesting and attractive features than others – and there’s little we can do about that. But I hope I do my best with what I have to shine forth God’s love and grace to those around me. I hope in some small measure that I mirror the face of God to them, so that no stumbling block is put in their way and that they will long to seek his face themselves with all their hearts (Psalm 27:8; 105:4).

How about you?

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The discussion flowed back and forth in our lounge room. Our son had just maintained to us that he does not fear God. What he meant, he hastily assured us, was that while he does stand in awe of God, he does not ‘fear’ God in the way we usually understand this word. God for him is a loving, forgiving Father and a close Friend whom he can approach at any time.

Also present in our lounge room was our new son-in-law, who comes from Ghana. And Kofi was determined to have his say too. He and our daughter Tina had just returned from a few weeks in Ghana, so the memory of what they had seen there was fresh in their minds. In Kofi’s hometown, all the houses have bars around them to stop people breaking in. And any showers, toilets etc outside the houses have locks on them – otherwise if you go out there at night, people can hide there and attack you. Yet virtually the whole town closes down on Sundays as most people go to church – and there are plenty of churches to choose from.

So what is going on here? Kofi explained that when his people still had their old gods, everyone could leave their houses unlocked and nothing would disappear. You see, the people were really scared of these gods and the power they had to bring down curses on you and punish you if you did wrong. But once they had their ‘new’ God, things changed. This new God was, and is, different – this new God is loving and kind and forgiving and understanding. So it seems the people aren’t scared to do wrong things because they know if they confess them, they will be forgiven. In their new-found freedom, they have forgotten about the fear of the Lord – and they have also overlooked what Paul says in Romans 6:1-2:

What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?

But I suspect it isn’t only some people in Kofi’s hometown who live this way. How often have I myself had thoughts such as ‘Well, I’ll just go ahead and say that cutting comment or pass on that juicy bit of gossip. God won’t mind!’? Of course it’s wonderful that when we do repent and ask for forgiveness, God freely gives it to us. Yet surely it is right for us to remember who God is and that one day we will all stand before this awesome God and be called upon to give account for our lives?

Recently I read a comment written by Australian man working in the Middle East: In the West we’ve largely forgotten God’s wrath and chosen to focus on His love. We’ve created a one-dimensional cardboard cut-out God, who can only have one emotion at a time – and only the emotion we like. Yet the Bible continually reminds us that God is angry with those who rebel against Him. Hmm …  And I am also reminded of Hebrews 12:28-29:

Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our “God is a consuming fire”.

So may we all continue to live our lives filled with awe of God – but also with the grace of God.  Let’s ‘fear’ – but not fear. And hopefully one day in heaven we will understand fully how God holds both of these in perfect tension.

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It has been brought home so shockingly to us all this past week how uncertain life is and how, while we might think we know what 2011 will hold for us, the reality might turn out to be quite different. As we have watched the TV coverage of people’s homes and livelihoods being destroyed by the floods in Queensland and elsewhere and heard of the loss of life involved, I am sure that, apart from feeling deep grief for those so badly affected, even the strongest of us must have experienced some personal inner quaking and questioning. What if this happened to me? What would I grab if I had to leave my home in a hurry? What really is important to me in life?

I also experienced uncertainty of a different kind this past week, as we farewelled our younger daughter Tina at the airport on her way to Ghana. Her fiancé, who is Ghanaian but a permanent resident here, is currently in Ghana visiting family, and Tina has travelled to join him for around a month. In that time, they plan to get married – but when she left, our Tina was still unsure if this would happen or not. Communication is difficult between Australia and her fiancé’s hometown – and besides, she knows weddings in Ghana aren’t the big, costly events they are here! Well, Tina seemed fine about it all. In fact, she was very much looking forward to all the new experiences ahead – and of course to seeing her fiancé again. It is her mother who is feeling the uncertainty!

And then there is the ongoing uncertainty I should be used to in relation to writing novels and getting them published. After working hard on a book for months, there is no guarantee anyone will want to publish your ‘baby’. Even if they eventually do, there is no guarantee people will flock to buy it! On top of that, I as the author need to do my part in promoting the book – but there is no guarantee these promotional opportunities will be easy to come by either. ‘Don’t give up your day job’ is a piece of advice authors hear very often.

Perhaps you are facing a quite different uncertainty in your life right now. Maybe you are unsure about your job situation or how some difficulty in an important relationship will be resolved. Perhaps the following words from Scripture will resonate with you as they did with me this week:

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. (James 4:13-14)

We can’t ‘boast and brag’, as James goes on to say, about what is going to happen for us, as if we are in complete control of our lives. God, the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End, is the one who has ultimate power and authority and the one to cling to in times of uncertainty. And when our best-laid plans unravel and things fall in a heap around us, God will always be there for us, both now and on into eternity. Yes, we are called to be God’s people in this world, but the best ‘treasure’ we can have, the one that moth or dust – or floods – cannot destroy is the treasure of a rich relationship with our God in heaven, as Jesus himself points out in Matthew 6.

May God strengthen, support and comfort you in this uncertain world.

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Around six years ago, I finished writing the first draft of my very first novel. It had been a dream of mine to write for so long that when I completed that very last sentence, I could not believe I had actually done it! It was a surreal moment – one which I had to share with a dear friend of mine who had supported me throughout my college and ministry years and now my writing journey. I remember even now picking up the phone with a hand that shook and announcing to her in a breathless voice, ‘Guess what? I’ve finished my novel!’

Two days later, a card arrived in the mail from my friend. I still have it to this day – and this is what it says: The Book! Well done, dear Jo-Anne! Congratulations – and my prayers and love for the next phase.

My friend knows how to share unreservedly in another’s joy – how to savour that most precious of moments with someone when that is exactly what is needed. Her response made me feel loved and respected – and yes, empowered. I knew she believed in me and in what I could also go on to do in the future.

Earlier this week, I recollected this experience when our younger daughter Tina announced her engagement. She walked in with a decidedly pleased expression on her face and a very large white gold ring adorning her left hand – so needless to say, we were impressed! We warmly congratulated her, but later I felt we could have been more joyful and enthusiastic for her. The truth is, I have had two very busy, exhausting years of writing, releasing novels and speaking on more than sixty occasions. Right now, I am looking forward to winding down a little over the Christmas break, but that is no excuse for short-changing another and not sharing fully in their joy. So since then, I have put my mind to it a little more – and yes, we do plan to celebrate and truly enter into the moment with our daughter and her fiancé in the next few days.

I am aware too that Tina has been very touched by the well wishes of so many of her friends and family members. An older church friend sent her a card the very next day, as did an aunty, and I know she was moved by the speed at which they congratulated her. Text messages have flowed every which way – Tina has waited quite a while for this moment and I am both delighted to see others sharing in her joy and also challenged to do better myself.

In Romans 12:15, we are encouraged to ‘rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn’ – to truly enter into the depths of another’s feelings and to walk the journey with them, whether it be one of joy or sadness. Paul also writes about those in the body of Christ in particular that ‘if one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honoured, every part rejoices with it. (1 Cor 12:25-26) So that’s how I want to respond to those around me. I want to get past my own self-centredness, however tired and busy I am, and have a much more generous and loving heart towards others.

How are you doing at ‘rejoicing with those who rejoice’?

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