I Am From Country Towns …

I am from country towns, from main streets lined with shops and restaurants, from neighbours who chat over fences, share a cup of tea and the odd cup of rice.
 
I am from riding bicycles down dirt roads, from carrying butterfly nets and glass bottles to keep our collections in, a sandwich and drink in the basket on the handlebars.
 
I am from family drives out to the river on hot summer afternoons, from plunging into the crystal clear, cold depths, from feeling rounded pebbles under my feet, from smelling wet bark of river trees and freshness of river moss.
 
I am from visiting farms, chasing sheep around paddocks, bouncing over hills in land-rovers, hunting kittens in barns, milking cows in the dairy, and eating huge homemade scones with lashings of jam and cream.
 
I am from walking to school in all seasons, loving the crunch of frost underfoot, and the crunch of green mountain apple in my mouth. I am from the chance to see that handsome boy turning to look from the school bus as it rumbles by.
I am from the city, from the happy cul-de-sac where children play hopscotch in the street, rounders in the front yards and watch ‘Rin Tin Tin’ and ‘Superman’ on each other’s televisions.
 
I am from Christ-is-the-centre-of-our-home, from church every Sunday, from Sunday School anniversaries wearing new outfits made by Grandma, from Church picnics and camps.
 
I am from ‘integrity is everything’, from ‘always speak the truth’, from ‘be faithful in all things’ and from ‘family comes first’.
 
I am from Family Christmas lunches with coins in the Christmas pudding, once-a-year roast chicken and laughs a-plenty. I am from school days of challenges, canes and rote learning, and from fresh lunches bought at the tuck-shop on our birthdays.
I am from freedom and fun at Teachers’ College. 
 
I am from the Jesus Movement, from coffee shop outreaches, guitars and Bibles in the parks and on campus, Keith Green music and unstoppable passion to see the world saved for Jesus.
I am from coastal towns, from sandy beaches and surf, tropical islands and yachts and aquamarine waters. 
 
I am from barbeques, from songs around campfires, from ‘she’ll be right mate’, ‘stone the crows!’, ‘sheilas and blokes’, freedom and opportunity. I am from the Land Downunder.
I am from passion for family history.
 
I am from two grandfathers who fought in world wars, and from two parents who never fought.
I am from loved, and valued, and respected.
I am from 38 years marriage, with one amazing husband, two fabulous children and five perfect grandchildren.
 
I am from teaching in classrooms, and from pastoring in churches.
 
I am from making mistakes and from gaining wisdom, from messing up and from finding grace. 
 
I am from devastation. I am from restoration.
 
I am from never-give-up, from life-is-a-journey, from loved-filled-destiny.
 
I am from depositing into future generations.
I am from my Father’s heart.
 
 
 
Connecting with other writers around the world for “I Am From” stories:

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The Accountant and The Artist

               Accountants, I’ve discovered, tend to be rational, realistic, logical pragmatists. They live ordered lives based on predictable outcomes that they have reasoned are most practical and sensible, and the least likely to vary.
               Accountants love numbers, numerical calculations, spreadsheets and budgets. Predictability is their comfort zone. They find great satisfaction in balancing the figures at the end of the day, and providing a nest-egg for the end of their life.
              The Accountant loves order. His genius comes to the fore sitting at a desk which is arranged in orderly fashion with an in-tray and an out-tray, neatly stacked manila folders and a pen, looking out at filing cabinets conveniently aligned in alphabetical order along the far, unadorned wall. 
              Accountants pride themselves on being frugal. They waste nothing. When faced with the challenge of writing a birthday card for his daughter, even though he loves her dearly, the Accountant will more than likely simply write, “To Jule, love Dad”, for the sake of being economical with words. 
              The Accountant is in no danger of becoming a hoarder. He looks at each and every object and asks, “Do I need this? Will I use this in the near future?” ‘Minimalist’ is a term that comes to mind.
               Accountants are steadfast, reliable people who stick to the rules and are unlikely to ruffle any feathers. They like to plan ahead and to be prepared for any eventuality. They do not like surprises.
How do I know these things?
My father is an accountant.
               Artists on the other hand, tend to be imaginative, inventive, creative, idealistic dreamers. They like to leave options open, to explore all possibilities, to be spontaneous. Not  always content with the status quo, Artists love the challenge of creating alternative pathways in life, and find great delight in anything that looks or behaves out-of-the-ordinary.
               The Artist finds various means to express himself  – it may be through paint on a canvas, words on a page, actions on a stage, or solving a problem that has presented itself.  To this end he looks at every object that comes his way and asks, “What masterpiece is lying within?” and it’s this addiction to ‘possibility thinking’ that causes him to throw nothing away.
                The Artist is happiest when he is alone in his ‘creating space’. His studio / study is left ‘unordered’ so that inspiration can flow freely. Artists do not always appreciate helpful people tidying up for them. It can be challenging for the Artist at times to focus on the practicalities of life, when their creative mind is otherwise engaged. However, at the end of the day, their genius confounds us all, when it brings to reality those amazing things the rest of us can merely dream about.
How do I know these things?
My husband is an Artist.
                That’s right – I have both an Accountant and an Artist who feature prominently in my life. My father Colin, and my husband Ross, could not be more different, and I can’t imagine life without either one!
                 Yet, despite being poles apart personality-wise, they actually have a lot in common. It’s a commonality that springs from their personal faith in God.
                 For as long as I have known both my father and my husband, their steadfast commitment to Jesus Christ has been the focus of all they do in life. They have both spent a lifetime focused on knowing God, and making him known. They ceaselessly use their gifts and talents to build up their family, the Church, their local community and beyond.
                 Together in their differences they unite to present God’s image to the world – creative yet immutable, orderly yet unpredictable, faithful yet innovative, absolute yet infinite. Their indisputable love for, and commitment to, their wives and children bears witness to the heart of God for his creation.
                 I have to say I love both my Accountant and my Artist dearly, and that I am very grateful for the texture both these men bring to my life. I cannot overstate the remarkable contribution each has made to the personhood of me.
                 And thinking about it now, I guess the reason I manage to relate so happily with both, is because even though they are poles apart in temperament, there resides within my own (oft-times conflicted) DNA, attributes of both!  
                 Furthermore, I’ve come to see hints of both the Accountant and the Artist finding expression also in my children, and in my grandchildren. 
                 Or is it the image of God that I see?
 
 
 
 

The Great Basketball Challenge

We all decided to go to the park.
Ross and I needed the walk, our three grandsons needed the space to release their energy, and our daughter and her husband were keen on some exercise. We took a basketball.
 
We left the house, crossed the road and wandered down the pathway into the park while the boys raced ahead and claimed the basketball court. 
Then the game was on!
When it came to teams, I think it was basically Joel (son-in-law) against the rest of us (actually, them – I was the cheer-squad).
Which was SO unfair – for the rest of them. Joel stands well over 10ft tall and his wingspan must be several meters in both directions. AND he broke all the rules .. well, that’s the way this Nanny saw it from the sideline 🙂
There was a lot of running, shouting, puffing and panting, and laughing.
Rachel, reliving memories from her High School Basketball days, was amazing with her defence, securing the ball many times, and landing some outstanding goals! Even Pa managed to impress his grandsons (and me) with a few awesome shots.
The boys, Zion, Rome and Knoxie gave the game 100% and just kept up momentum hounding their dad for that ball. But he was too fast, too big, too fit. (and maybe a tad competitive?)
But after a while, the boys’ enthusiasm began to wane. There was less laughter, and tears of frustration began to emerge. Little Knoxie wandered off to play on the slide, and few comments like “it’s not fair!” and “you cheated!” began to change the tone of play.
And then the game changed.
Joel, after showing his boys how it should be done, now got alongside them to show them it could be done. 
They’d experienced enough failure, now it was time to experience success.
He ‘let’ them snatch the ball from him, and lifted them up so they could succeed at throwing the ball in the goal. It’s amazing how the boys responded  – suddenly there was hope!
A new energy came from somewhere, and the game regained its enthusiasm with shouts of “Yesss!!” as ball after after ball landed through the hoop.  Finally light began to fade and it was time to go home for dinner.
As I looked over my not-so-clear photos later I thought about how much our family basketball game reflected God’s heart when it comes to the game of life.
God has specifically designed a life-purpose for each of us, and deposited gifts within us to help us achieve that goal.  He shows us how to play the game, and comes alongside to help us reach our potential.
He loves to watch us ‘have a go’. Although He doesn’t expect us to get it right every time, He does expect us to develop our gifts and bear fruit from the investment He has deposited in us.
He positions us amongst more experienced people – parents, grandparents, pastors, teachers, friends – so we can learn from those who have gone before. 
And He places us amongst peers – our  family, the Church – so that we can learn the value of teamwork, and experience the exhilaration of living for a cause greater than ourselves.
Family times.
Life lessons
Purpose.
Success.

“Stories we have heard from our fathers, counsel we learned at our mother’s knee. We’re not keeping this to ourselves, we’re passing it along to the next generation – God’s fame and fortune, the marvellous things He has done.”
(Psalm 78) 

 

To Thelma, from George

      

The Mark Twain Birthday Book that sits amongst my collection of old and treasured books, once belonged to my great grandmother, Ellen Hayward.

This little book proved useful to my great grandmother for remembering birthdays of family and friends, and also for recording family weddings and deaths, and the occasional interesting family event. After Ellen died, her daughter Doris, my grandmother, inherited this little book and added to the record of our family history from her generation. My mother has also added her contributions and handed me the book a few years ago. Likewise, I continue to add to the family record.

I cherish this little book. Every now and then I take it off the shelf, make myself comfy on my lounge with a cuppa, and pour over its pages. Reading through the ebb and flow of generations of my family’s lives  always evokes something deep within me.

It’s a sense of belonging, a sense of having been passed the family baton, and a desire to play my part well in running this family race in my generation. 

The pages of The Mark Twain Birthday Book are now discoloured and stained with age, and some are no longer attached to the binding. Although in places the ink is fading, the beautiful handwriting is still visible, reminding me of an earlier age when life was not so rushed, and penmanship was a valued craft. 

Slipped in between its pages are yellowed newspaper cuttings. 
There are records of weddings – 
                         “… the bride was given away by her father and wore a white mousseline 
                          de soire, trimmed with lace and insertion, and an embroidered tulle veil
                          arranged over a coronet wreath of orange blossoms …” (19 Sept, 1900)
Of births – 
                        ” HAYWARD – April 20,1906, to the wife of George W. Hayward, Mildura,
                          Elswick St., a daughter, Thelma Jean.” 
Of deaths – 
                        “HAYWARD, Ellen, November 3, 1954, widow of the late George W. Hayward,
                          mother of… grandmother of … and great grandmother of …… and Julie..”

One newspaper clipping dated 1944 relating to my uncle is headed “U.S. Awards to Australians”, and reads :
                        “The War Dept. has announced the award of the Legion of Merit to six 
                         Australians for exceptionally meritorious conduct”.

Amongst this memorabilia there is one very special sheet of notepaper that I delicately open every time and it always moves me to tears. 

The edges are frayed in places and the folds deeply imprinted. This page has been opened and closed many times since it was written. There is a poem on the page. Handwritten. The handwriting is beautiful and the author has taken special care in writing each word, spacing them just so. The ink is smudged in places hinting that many tears have fallen on these words over the years.

The poem begins, To Thelma and concludes with from George. 
Thelma is the daughter born to my great grandmother in 1906, and George is her brother. Thelma was married to Alan and they lived in a little cottage in Leura, in the Blue Mountains, NSW. They loved their little home, ‘Birdswood Cottage’, with its beautiful garden that they spent hours creating together. Although they had been married for many years they had no children. 
Thelma’s life changed forever the day her beloved Alan died. It seems George was moved deeply by his sister’s grief, and put pen to paper and wrote her this beautiful poem.

                               To Thelma,

                               When sunlight brightened your garden,
                               With your lover hand in hand,
                               Came peace and love to this garden,
                               In a world that seemed so grand.
                               Now all alone in this garden
                               As the petals have left the rose,
                               The sigh of the wind seems to whisper
                               Like the voice of the one you chose.

                               You must live again in that garden,
                               With flowers so sweet and rare
                               Let thoughts be full of its beauty
                               And the love you had to share.
                               The birds may be hushed in the garden,
                               And the shadows near sunset fall,
                               With light and joy at the dawning  
                               Come memories that are shared by all.

                               The birds will awake in your garden, 
                               And their melody tune to the breeze.
                               His presence will ever be near you,
                               In the quiet of the murmuring trees.
                               He will come again in the moonlight
                               And gently press your hand,
                               For he’s just ahead in the gloaming
                               Of that far eternal strand.

                                                                  From George


Beautiful – isn’t it.

And isn’t it amazing that lives that were lived generations ago, still reach out and impact those of us who follow.

There is a verse in the Bible that I have memorised.

“When David had served God’s purpose in his generation, he fell asleep.” (Acts 13:36)

I have memorised this verse because I realise that God has given me a purpose in my generation and I want to be sure to fulfil it. 

One day my children will inherit the Mark Twain Birthday Book, and continue to write our family history within its pages.

 



I want to be vigilant in sowing good seeds today so that the legacy of my life will be such that their generation, and those following, will enjoy great blessing and be positioned to take all the remarkable opportunities that will arise for them to fulfil their purpose in their own generation.

To Thelma, from George

Birdswood Cottage at Leura

Thelma and Alan, with my young mother, Enid

Picasso Pa

Picasso Pa, by Zion Brave Bennett

Every parent asks their child the same question when they pick them up after school.
“How was school today?”
And every child gives one of two answers. 
“Good” or “Boring”. That’s it. Nothing more. End of story.
 
Then every parent follows up with a subsequent question.
“What did you learn today?”
To which every child answers, “Nothing.” Full stop. End of discussion.
Why we do this is, day after day after day, is something of a mystery. 
Yet we persist.
 
My daughter asks the same questions of her 6 year old son, and he answers with the same responses.
Until yesterday.
Yesterday was a day to go down in history.
No sooner had Rachel pulled the car in to the ‘Kiss-and-Drop’ zone (aka quick pickup lane) outside school, when Zion leapt into the car and blurted out,
“Guess what we learnt about today Mum!” She didn’t even have to ask THE question.
“What?”
“Picasso!”
“What?!”
“You know, the painter guy, Picasso.”
Zion then proceeded to enlighten his mother about Picasso’s ‘Rose period’ and his ‘Blue period’ and other interesting Picasso facts all the way home. He was totally excited about the whole thing, and had even done a Picasso painting himself which is now on display in his classroom.
 
Later, when Rachel and the boys came over for dinner, Zion presented Ross with a portrait of his Pa.
A Picasso Pa.
Ross being an artist himself knows all about Picasso, so dinner conversation tended to centre on the works of Picasso.
Rachel and I smiled at each other. Wow, maybe we have another artist in the family – yes!! Can never have too many creative types in one family I say!
 
This morning I taped Picasso Pa onto Pa’s study door. 
Then I proceeded to check up on Picasso via the internet – thought I’d better keep up with my grandson’s education. And as it turned out, I was grateful that I did.
 
Interesting man, unique artwork, can’t say I agree too much with his religious or political beliefs, but I did appreciate some comments Picasso had made throughout his life.
 
Comments like,
                        “Every child is an artist. 
                        The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.”
And,
                        “It took me four years to paint like Raphael,
                         but a lifetime to paint like a child.”
 
I love this revelation – a child has the ability to imagine, to wonder, to create, and to express life in such naive freedom. A child is spontaneous, open to new concepts, ready to try new things. 
I’m sure that’s what Jesus was getting at when He said,
                          “Don’t keep children away from me. Don’t ever get between 
                          them and me. These children are at the very centre of life in
                          the Kingdom. Mark this: Unless you accept God’s Kingdom
                          in the simplicity of a child, you’ll never get in.” (Mark 10:14-16, MSG)
 
The simplicity of a child. Openness, receptivity.
 
 Picasso said a couple of other things which also struck a chord.
                           “Others have seen what is and asked why.
                            I have seen what could be and asked why not.” 
And this,
                           “I am always doing that which I cannot do,
                            in order to learn how to do it.”
 
I love this too – Picasso striving to go beyond the expected, to stretch beyond boundaries, to explore possibilities, to uncover more of the potential within himself.
It seems this belief in himself, and this challenge to climb ever higher was fostered in his childhood . . .
                           “When I was a child my mother said to me, ‘If you become
                           a soldier, you’ll be a general. If you become a monk, you’ll
                           be the Pope.’ Instead I became a painter, and wound up
                           as Picasso.”
 
Parents, grandparents, teachers, leaders what amazing opportunities we have to water seeds of greatness in those entrusted to our care for a season. Great movers and shakers of the future, doing their best to make a positive difference in their generation.
 
So, I’m grateful to Picasso.
Grateful he fired up my grandson’s imagination and inspired him to step outside the box and try something new.
Grateful he’s encouraged me to keep “doing that which I cannot do in order to learn how to do it.”
Grateful he’s reminded me to keep on watering seeds of greatness into the upcoming generations.
 
It might also surprise Picasso to know that he reminded me too of the fact that God Himself has planted those seeds of greatness in all of us – and that He loves to help us discover them and use them to make a difference in this world.
 
 
Julie
 

Picasso Bird, by Zion Brave Bennett.
Currently on exhibition in Grade 1JP classroom