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The Best Response to Stress

29/03/2016 22:10
A few weeks ago, I decided to make a quick trip to the city to spend a 20% off discount voucher at my favourite bookstore. Living with fibromyalgia means I need to be extremely wise in how I spend my scant energy resources. I’d usually not even consider a trip to the city on my grocery shopping day. But being a little stronger since my B12 injections began last year, I thought I’d risk it.
 
I soon realised what would make it even more do-able. I could drive to the village, park there, take the O bahn to the city, return to the village and then do my shopping. There are more buses to the village than to my home, so it sounded a great idea to make it one long trip rather than two separate ones. On Monday morning, I woke up feeling rested. Not too much pain or fatigue. Thank you God. I took off two hours later than planned, at 10.30 a.m. Never mind. I would make it.
I parked in the village, picked up my handbag and got out of my car. Before leaving home, I’d removed my bus pass from my purse and had lodged it in an outer section of my bag, to make it easy for me to access it. But when I looked where it should have been, I couldn’t find it. Oh dear. I checked all the  compartments of my capacious bag, muttering a few prayers under my breath—but it wasn’t there. I checked the car seats—not a sign of it. I opened the car boot and peered inside my collection of empty shopping bags. No, not there either. Sigh. I would have to buy a ticket after all. Very annoying!
 
I trundled off to the bus stand, hot and agitated, but was glad to see a bus was ready for take off. As I reached, waving my hands vigorously, willing the driver to wait for me, the bus took off. Not my lucky day apparently. I walked all the way back to my car and decided that I may as well go back home to hunt for my bus card. It had to be there. Once home, I checked every room methodically, even the bathroom! No bus pass anywhere. Grrr! I phoned my son—perhaps he’d taken mine accidentally. Nope.
 
I’d wasted one full hour in the pursuit of my prized metro card. My stress was fast rising, like a swelling river after torrential rains. What I’d imagined would be a blissful day; riding on the O bahn listening to praise music was turning instead into a very frustrating one. Sigh! But then, as I got into my car, I realised what I needed to do. To stop giving into my frustration. To flip my mind’s channel to a more peaceful one. So at once I made the choice to be happy. I told myself to be thankful that I hadn’t lost something more important, like a credit card or my house keys. It was just a bus pass after all, with only about 10 dollars credit on it. No problem. All the way to the village this time, I sang praise songs to Jesus.
I thanked Him for His goodness. I thanked Him that life was beautiful—that I had the energy to go to the shops and to even take a trip to the city. As I parked the car again, I asked God for His help. “Lord, it would be lovely to find that bus pass even now. Please help me. If I don’t find it, that’s OK too.” Immediately, I was led to the boot of my car. I opened it and I took out the shopping bags one by one. And yes, there was my bus pass nestling inside one of them. Hooray! I found it.
 
I was one happy girl as I boarded the bus to the city. I had missed yet another bus but it didn’t matter. A faster bus arrived soon after. I got to the city in record time, made my purchases and went back to the village for my shopping. I was exhausted by the end of it, but I’d achieved what I’d hoped for and was still alive to tell the tale. I sifted the events of the morning that night as I went to bed. I knew the exact moment when my pear shaped morning had been transformed into a cracker of a day.
Before I'd started praising God, I hadn’t been in the right frame of mind to listen to Him. Even if He did speak to me, my mind had been too filled with noise to hear Him. But once I’d quieted myself in praise and worship, a miracle took place inside of me. And then I heard His still small voice. Life can often be difficult. But you know what? My attitude to the problem is more important than the problem itself. What’s the best response to stress, I wonder? Ah! No need to wonder. I know. Praise, thanksgiving and resting in Him are the order of the day. Every day. Every. Single. Day.

 

Why don’t I do that more often?

 

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus." 1 Thess 5:16-18

 
 

 

Seeing the BIG PICTURE

17/03/2016 21:24
The 18th of March has been a significant day on my calendar as far back as I remember—it was Mum and Dad’s wedding anniversary. Today, 70 years since March 18th 1946, my parents are celebrating LIFE in their heavenly mansion and I’m so glad they are together again. Their offspring are dotted around the globe—all 35 of us! We comprise 14 children (including 7 spouses), 16 grandchildren (including 5 spouses) and 5 great grandchildren. We live in America (New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Washington), Australia (Sydney, Blue Mountains, Adelaide, Darwin and Whyalla), England (London) and of course Sri Lanka (Colombo and Kandy). My parents may have physically left the world but we remember them with thanksgiving every day and their legacy lives on.
 

Here’s a quick look back at 7 decades:

70 years ago: Mum and Dad were married.

60 years ago: I was a twinkle in my Mum’s eye, being conceived shortly after.

50 years ago: I was a carefree 8 year old growing up in sunny Sri Lanka.

40 years ago: I was an 18 year old, just out of school, tasting the big wide world.

30 years ago: I was 28, starting a new chapter of life, with my new husband.

20 years ago: I was 38, bringing up a lively 6 year old in the Land of my birth.

10 years ago: I was 48, raising a teenager in this beautiful Land Down Under

Today:  I’m 58 years young, enjoying life under the umbrella of God's goodness and care.
 

The years seem to have disappeared in a flash. It seems just the other day when …

  1. I was a child, just starting this exciting journey we call life
  2. I was found by God and life exploded in joy and purpose

  3. I spent 12 exciting years in Youth For Christ, thriving in its ministry
  4. Prince Charming whisked me away to live happily ever after

  5. I became a Mum. Oh happy day.
  6. We arrived in this lovely Land Down under

  7. I was called of God to become a writer.
The book of Ecclesiastes reminds us that life’s journey is made up of many different seasons. 

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven. Eccl 3:1. 

Some of those seasons are exciting, others are downright miserable. But you know what? As I look back now, I can view the big picture at last instead of the small baby screen I've zoomed on during the different stages of my life.
 
There’s a great thrill in achieving one’s dreams, in finding with relief that one has made it through the storms of life and reached safe harbour. When my son was little, helping him navigate life was far from easy. But we did it one day at a time. Likewise, I believe we built our marriage, not overnight but just one day at a time. It’s not that challenges didn’t abound. They sure did— in fact, often trials and tough times rained on us, thick and fast, unrelenting. But as I look back, I realise that those difficulties created deeper satisfaction and deeper joy. If life was all too easy, there would be no sense of achievement, would there?
Are you in the midst of a squally season? If so, please do hang in there. 
Although it may feel like it would last forever, this too shall pass.
And here’s a little exercise that might help you:
 

1.      Think of a time when God brought you through a tough time.

a.       Recall the relief you experienced and revel in it.
b.      Give thanks to Him for bringing you through.

2.      Bring to mind special people in your life who’ve blessed you.

a.       Celebrate them. Write a letter to appreciate one of them.

3.      Ponder on this blessed season, lent, and what it is all about.

a.       Kneel at the cross and adore your Saviour.

4.      And finally … zoom out of today.

 
 
Now, picture your life in five, ten or twenty years time, as you hope it will be. Aim at getting there with God’s help. Stay in that happy place for awhile. Once your heart’s been blessed and saturated with hope, return to your daily walk, renewed in the knowledge that He who cares for you, will never leave you nor forsake you.
 
God is still God and always will be. His goodness will permeate every chapter of our lives. 

His love is eternal. His faithfulness abounds to all generations.

 

“So don’t be anxious about tomorrow.

God will take care of your tomorrow too.

Live one day at a time.” Matthew 6:34 (TLB)

 

 

Missing the Obvious

02/03/2016 13:06
Recently, I found a photo sent a few years ago by my friend Jeff. Jeff’s a wise, compassionate pastor, who’s blessed me and my loved ones through his ministry. He is also many other things—a gifted photographer for one. This picture had been taken during a pastor’s retreat on the Murray River. Scenes of water always invigorate me, so the picture grabbed my heart. Jeff must have clicked it at twilight because of the soft colours it portrayed. I loved its cool shades. I loved seeing the trees and the skies mirrored in the water. I placed it as my desk-top-photo-of-the-day and then got busy with this and that.
 
A bit later, when I came back to my computer, Jeff’s exquisite picture called out me. It was only then I realised that I’d not noticed something—glaringly obvious now—a little crescent moon drawn skillfully by God’s fine art pencil in a picturesque evening sky. That tiny slice of moon completed a perfect picture. How could I have missed it? I dipped my soul in the picture’s loveliness and continued to enjoy it throughout that day. 
Thank you Jeff. Great photography!
There are times I miss glaringly obvious revelations. Many decades ago, when I was young and innocent and waiting for Mr. Right, I remember looking around me and praying “Lord, please manufacture a man for me. There is no one around”. Did God answer my prayer? Of course. Well ... not exactly. He simply opened my eyes to an amazing man I hadn’t ‘noticed’ before. Shan had been a good friend for four years. In the blink of an eye, God whispered into my heart that here he was—my Mr. Right. How could I have not realised it? Now, 32 years later, I thank God every day for my awesome husband and rejoice in our journey through life together.
In my battle against fibromyalgia, I've leant on John 10:10 as I claimed healing. ‘Lord, this intense pain and fatigue are too hard to cope with and are not the abundant life you promised. Please heal me Jesus, so I can serve you better.” One day last year, as I prayed desperately for healing, two verses from scripture bopped me on the head. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. The knowledge of the Holy one is understanding.” (Proverbs 9:10, 11). The latter verse struck me forcefully and I read it over and over again. But … what exactly did it mean in my particular context of fibromyalgia?
 
As I continued to suffer with fibro symptoms over the next few months, I also battled deep discouragement. “O Lord, I can’t go on anymore,” I whispered. And then it all came to a head.  I found that what God required of me was total surrender of my illness. To worship Him in my struggle – not only if it came to an end. And so, I made a battle plan. My bad fibro days now became a unique training ground for “praise in spite of”. It was a schooling in trusting Jesus and in embracing those tough times through His strength.
What a difference it made! I still do experience bad fibro days, but life has improved dramatically. You see, I don’t battle discouragement any longer. I understand at last what God was saying through that verse.
That understanding God and who He is was the key to my battle.
That God’s ways are often different to ours. That He doesn’t always answer prayers the way I’d like. That He is more interested in my character than in handing out a life of ease. That I can ask Him for healing but not insist on it on my own terms. Because healing will come in His time not mine, in His way and not in mine. He is God, not I.
 
How did I miss the obvious? Perhaps because God’s answers are not always obvious. His ways have often to be sought out like a fossicker scouring the desert in 40 degree heat for gold (ask my friend Jeff—he’ll tell you!) Didn’t Jesus often hide God’s truth in parables so that its real meaning had to be diligently sought after, in order to be understood?
O Lord, help me discover your hidden treasures on life’s journey.
  • It’s not always obvious that God showers His love during my tough seasons …

Oh but He does.

  • It’s not always evident that God is in control of the world …

Oh but He is.

  • It’s not always clear that God can solve every problem I face …

Oh but He will

  • It’s not always apparent that our Enemy is a defeated foe …

Oh, but he is

  • It’s not always obvious that God is with me through my trials …

Oh but He is! Oh yes, He is.

 

“Christ is God’s ultimate miracle and wisdom, all wrapped up in one. Human wisdom is so tinny, so impotent, next to the seeming absurdity of God. Everything we have—right thinking and right living, a clean slate and a fresh start—comes from God by the way of Jesus Christ. That why we have this saying, “If you are going to blow a horn, blow a trumpet for God.”” 1 Cor 1:25, 31 (MSG)

 

“But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all surpassing power is from God, not from us. For our light and mometary troubles are achieving for us, an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.”  1 Cor 4: 17

“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him.” 1 Corinthians 2:9

 
 
 

You are Cherished

11/02/2016 14:38
I was sitting in church a few Sundays ago, when I felt uncomfortably warm, so I reached for my bag and pulled out a little fan. I opened it and waved it briskly near my sweaty face. Ah! Delicious breezes cooled me. That was better! Much better. I could now concentrate on the sermon. I confess though that my attention was divided. As I listened to the wise words emanating from the preacher’s mouth, I couldn’t help sneaking a few admiring glances at what was in my hand. I was surprised by its loveliness.
 
The little trinket had cost me only 3 dollars, but it’s value was much greater. For one thing, it never failed to deliver refreshment when I needed it. And then there was the aesthetic side to it. Pretty purple flowers and dainty green leaves stood out in a silky white background. Little undulating wooden ‘sticks’ in contrasting colours of black and white held the fan together. I marvelled at it. You might think ‘marvel’ is too strong a word, but it’s true. It was so eye-catching, that I looked at it, twice, thrice and more.
 
 
I wonder what your Valentine’s day was like? Did your Valentine marvel at you and your beauty? Shan and I have never paid much attention to Valentine’s day because, you see, a more important event always followed it. Today, the 15th of Feb 2016 my husband and I celebrate 30 years of wedded bliss. Isn’t that something worth shouting about? Don’t worry, I shan’t bore you with sloppy gooey stories or shock you with too much fascinating detail. You won't need to cover your eyes and ears, I promise.
When we were engaged, a couple who’d been married a few years told us we’d soon get bored with each. Bored? Surely not? I’m happy to share with you now, that after 3 decades of marriage they have been proved wrong. It’s not that life’s been perfect. While we’ve oft been walking in lush green meadows hand in hand, sipping the nectar of the gods, that’s only been some of the time. We’ve also had all kinds of rugged pathways to trek through, perilous mountains to climb, obstacle courses to circumvent. Tough times? Of course. But bored with each other? Never. That vital spark is still very much alive in our marriage. I’m thrilled to report that my beloved is still TBHAGEH (The Best Husband A Girl Ever Had), my confidante, lover and best friend.
 
I am deeply grateful to Shan for many things: The good life he’s provided us with, through his perseverance and hard work. His empathy, sense of humour, gentleness and understanding which never cease to bless me. For the amazing, one-in-a-million kind of  Dad he’s been to our son. Mostly for the the myriad ways he still makes me feel loved and cherished. When I think of Valentine’s day, I envision a mushy kind of love, one that doesn’t endure the ravages of time. Marriage vows signify something deeper and more trustworthy than a fancy ring, a bunch of flowers or a dinner for two once a year on Valentine’s day. The dictionary tells me that cherishing another has many facets: To adore, love, care for, be devoted to, revere, esteem, admire, appreciate, protect, shelter, keep safe, support, nurture. Aren't we all created to be cherished?
If I could marvel at the appeal of an insignificant little fan, what do you think God does when He looks at you, His creation? That fan cost me 3 dollars. So how much do you think you are worth? 30 dollars? 300 dollars? 30 milion dollars? What a silly question! Who can ever put a price on a human being, crafted by the One and Only Creator God, the One who lives forever? I thank God today, for His faithfulness showered on us these 30 years and I wonder afresh at his immense love for us.
 
 
Special occasions like Valentine’s day could often leave one feeling sad and alone, a little bird sitting atop a creaking branch, watching the Eagles’ grand launch party from a distance. But don’t forget! No matter what your circumstances, you’re never alone. You are deeply loved and always will be. And not just by any old someone either. You are loved by the Majestic, Eternal Holy God who created you so that He could lavish His great love upon you. Jesus paid the ultimate price to secure your freedom and mine. Those who walk in His ways are kept safe under His wings. 
 
Cherished by Him for all eternity.

"For as high as the heavens are above the earth, 

so great is his love for those who fear Him." Psalm 103:11

 

"See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!" 1 John 3:1

 
 

How PATIENT are you?

28/01/2016 14:05

During the past few years, my son’s strong arms have helped carry my weekly groceries up our steep driveway. I’d park at the bottom and the two of us would do two or three trips up to our house, carrying a few bags each. This year, though, Asela’s working hours were extended, so he wasn’t around whenever I returned from each grocery shopping spree. I decided it was worth paying for a home delivery.
 
The first time I tried the service, it didn’t work out quite how I’d anticipated. I had to wait patiently for more than an hour before my phone rang. “Your front door is closed” said an unfamiliar voice. I opened my front door and stood there like an expectant little bird with her beak open, waiting to be fed. I waited. And waited.  After 10 minutes, there was still no sign of the truck, so I called back. No answer. Grrr! It was a hot day and I had things to do. What a relief when the man did turn up, groceries and all. Apparently he’d been at the right house number but on the wrong street.
The next time, I asked for a 5-8 p.m. delivery and returned home by 5. I was exhausted but didn’t dare lie down even for 10 minutes in case my groceries arrived. But once again, I played the waiting game. 5 …5.30 …6.00 …6.30 … 7.00. Should I call to check, I wondered. But no—I must be patient. 7.30 … 7.45 …and my patience ran out. I called. Sorry, they said. There had been a mistake. They’d called the number I’d written for them but couldn’t connect. My squiggly handwriting had let me down.
 
The grocery man (and the goods) finally arrived 15 minutes later, replete with a host of apologies and two large boxes of Lindt chocolates to make up for their lapse. So was it third time lucky, you ask? Not a chance. This time, I printed out my address and phone numbers, so they would read my details correctly. I completed my shopping before 2 p.m. for a 2 – 5 delivery time but had more things to do in the village, so asked if they could deliver at 3 p.m. No problem they said. Ah! But there was a problem.
 
I was on my way back at 2.30 when my phone rang. I couldn’t answer it because I was driving. I guessed who it might be, of course. Would the delivery man wait? My car screeched to a halt, (not really, I’m just being dramatic) and I pounded up my driveway. “Hello” I said. A man stepped out of a truck.
“I’m sorry you had to wait” I uttered between breaths. “I did ask for a 3 p.m. delivery.”
“That doesn’t work you know. We can’t promise a time.”
“Thanks for waiting” I said, relieved that my groceries hadn’t been whisked away before I arrived.
 
And what of the fourth time? Believe it or not … it worked. Hooray! No more trudging up our driveway with heavy bags. I think the money’s worth it, don’t you? In this instant age, we often expect too much too soon. We demand perfection of ourselves and of others before we (or they) can deliver (please note the pun!)  But growing an Oak tree takes 20 or 30 years. Growing a mature man or woman isn’t any different. Learning life skills, takes an entire lifetime, at least three score years and ten, I reckon. Very few commodities in life turn up perfect, as we snap our fingers. Besides, those times of waiting are often a God-planned part of our journey.
Even God’s answers to our prayers often operate on a different timeline to ours don’t they? I've been praying an earnest prayer for 25 long years. I'm sure God would love to respond with a resounding YES to that prayer, but ... I’m still waiting. Meanwhile, He’s growing me. He's also doing plenty of worthwhile work behind the scenes which only eternity will reveal. I’m fast learning that seasons of waiting are a natural part of God’s order for me and for His world. Who knows, I might be cultivating patience as I wait. Wouldn't that be nice?
 
Have you been disappointed in yourself and in blunders that you've made? Do forgive yourself. You will get there, you know. Are you impatient about  people in your life and the time they're taking to "grow up"? I'm sure they will surprise you one day. So give them time. Are you waiting on God's answers to your heart's cries? God's never in a hurry, I believe. After all, eternity is at His fingertips. But be assured that His answers will arrive. Let’s turn our seasons of waiting to grow deeper roots into the rich soil of kingdom living. Let’s use the extra time to sprout wings, wings that help us fly to new lands of opportunity and freedom. And let's cultivate the fruit of patience in our souls as we wait.
“Better a patient person than a warrior, one with self-control than one who takes a city.” Proverbs 16:32

 

“Love is patient, love is kind.” 1 Cor 13:4

 “Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him.” Psalm 37:7

 

 

Forever means FOREVER

14/01/2016 14:22
On many occasions last year, the pain and fatigue of fibromyalgia were too intense to allow my evening walk. A sorry state it was. I’m happy to tell you though, that as 2016 dawned, I’ve been walking more (praise God) and have been loving it, as I contrive to bring a few contours back into my shapeless waist and to the bulging rest-of-me. One evening last week, when I approached our neighbourhood oval, the skies were singing praises to their Creator. I stopped at once to take a few pictures. Click. Click. Click went my camera. Wow Wow Wow went my wide-open-eyes. O Lord You are amazing said my heart.
 
A few seconds later, I trotted out into the Oval and a cheery sight greeted me. Couples sauntered by, hand in hand. Children raced by on scooters. A few folks walked their dogs. Families were out for exercise. A young man flew a kite which flapped merrily in the breeze. And all the while, the heavens proclaimed God’s handiwork in flamboyant splendour. What a flaming sunset that was—streaks of reds, yellows and bright orange splashed boldly across the sky with an expanse of grey above that contrasted beautifully against the brighter colours. On the other side of the oval, a large pink cloud resembling a giant dog leapt across an expanse of azure sky.
I've always loved watching sunsets. They usually last a short time, maybe ten minutes at most. On this particular evening, though, each time I walked around the Oval, I’d stop to take more pictures because the sunset continued to blaze. For ever it seemed. After five rounds (and 45 minutes of walking), the sky invited me—even challenged me to do one more round. “We can keep up, you know” it seemed to declare brashly. I believed its promise, but was too tired to check it out. And so I went home. Looking back at its beauty. Smiling.
 
You and I know that a lot of things in life don’t last. Gadgets break. Friendships dwindle. Relationships fizzle out. People die. It’s a sad old world sometimes. But that evening sky reminded me that some things do go on forever. Like God’s love. Like God Himself.
 
It will be 17 years tomorrow, (19th January 2016), since we arrived on the shores of this beautiful Land Down Under. We are very grateful to its friendly people for welcoming us, for blessing us with a home away from home. The years have disappeared in a flash. My son was 8 when we arrived; he’s now a mature 25. During those years we have seen lots of change. In the world. In the community we live in. In ourselves. After all, change is perhaps the only unchanging factor in our lives ... or so it seems.
But wait. As we step into a New Year, let us remember what the Word tells us: ‘Jesus is the same, yesterday, and today and forever,” (Hebrews 13:8) In a world where few things remain constant, it thrills my heart and refreshes me; a spring of sparkling water that will never run dry. So take courage my friend. Every new beginning spells fresh hope.  And even better, we know the One who will never change. So walk boldly forward, remembering with joy, that though life is fleeting and good times disappear, the One who flung the stars into space, the One who created you, knows you by name. He will never change. His love lasts forever. And yes, forever means FOREVER!
 
Psalm 136: 1-8;25-26

1. Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good.

        His love is eternal.

 
2. Give thanks to the God of gods.
        His love is eternal.
 
 

3. Give give thanks to the Lord of lords.

        His love is eternal.

 
4. He alone does great wonders.
        His love is eternal.
 

5. He made the heavens skillfully.

        His love is eternal.

 
6. He spread the land on the waters.
        His love is eternal.

 

7. He made the great lights.

        His love is eternal.

 
8. The sun to rule by day;
        His love is eternal.

 

25. He gives food to every creature.

        His love is eternal.

26. Give thanks to the God of heaven!

        His love is eternal.

 
 

 

New Year Resolutions

09/01/2016 13:33

by Anne Abayasekara

Today, I have great pleasure in welcoming a Guest Blogger to my website – none other than my Mum, Anne Abayasekara, a journalist for over 70 years. This article was first published 55 years ago in the Sunday Times of Ceylon 1961 (and later in her book ‘Hurrah for Large Families’). It was penned when Anne was aged 35 with seven young children aged 11, 10, 9, 8, 6, 5, and 3.

 

And now, without further ado, I give you ...

New Year Resolutions by Anne Abayasekara  - 15.01.1961.

We were having dinner in the garden and out of long habit I found myself shouting instructions to the children: “Sit properly Ranil”; “Don’t talk with your mouth full, Sarla”; “Stop arguing boys and eat”, etc. etc. Suddenly I listened to myself and felt somewhat ashamed. I looked up to find my husband smiling at me and I said,

 

 “I must have changed a lot in fifteen years.”

“How do you mean?” he asked.

“Well, I expect I must sound quite ‘bossy’ now, after managing seven children. I must have been different when I married you at 21.”

 

He continued to smile, wisely making no comment.The next day, we had to attend our daughter’s school prize giving and Husband said he would meet me at the school straight from work. Almost without thinking I said: “Then you had better change your shirt at lunchtime and for goodness sake, brush your hair down before you come.” Husband chuckled. “There you have the answer to your question of last night—how you have changed.” He grinned. “You wouldn’t have spoken like that 15 years ago. You sound positively managerial.” We had a good laugh together over that, but I've felt inwardly chastened ever since. And among the New Year resolutions I have made,

 

No.1 is TO BE LESS ‘MANAGERIAL’ IN 1961.

It may be old fashioned to make New Year resolutions at all, but January is an appropriate time to take stock of ourselves and our families. The children are making new beginnings in new classes and new schools and parents have had a hectic time with school entrance tests, new books and helping children to unfamiliar places, faces and routine. When I finally wave the children off to school in the morning, I flop into a chair at the breakfast table (which has been left in a fine state of disarray). “Peace and quiet for the next eight hours and time to get things sorted out”, I say to myself. And sometimes as today, while I get busy picking up clothes putting out towels, airing mattresses, tidying shoes, putting away books, my mind too becomes active, dwelling less on the children’s deficiencies than on my own shortcomings!

 

Life is such a rush for the modern child. The day hardly seems long enough for all they have to do. Unconsciously, we urge them on all the time, from one thing to another. From the time they are woken up in the morning - we dare not let them get up when they please – it’s a case of “Do hurry up—you’ll be late.”

 

Children seem to have precious little time for relaxation, no time at all “to stand and stare.” And I guess I am not the only mother who in my anxiety, am guilty of nagging a good deal. Children are not left in peace even to perform their natural functions. I bang on the bathroom door with the eternal “Hurry up—you’ll be late!” Even when they come home tired from school they cannot dawdle over their tea. They must wash and change quickly and dash onto their next assignment—music, elocution, dancing or just extra tuition.

 

When mother starts to feel a mental wreck just to get the children off in time for everything, it is also time she paused awhile to consider whether she might not be driving them nuts eventually unless she slows down the pace. So that’s another of my good resolutions for 1961:

·        TO GO SLOW WITH THE CHILDREN THIS YEAR

·        TO NOT EXPECT TOO MUCH OF THEM.

·        TO LET THEM ENJOY LIFE WHEN THEY ARE YOUNG.

On a Christmas visit to friends who have no children, I was happily surprised when our host and hostess both commented on our children’s good manners. “They all say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ remarked our friends in evident surprise. “That’s after years of dinning it into them”, I said. “But so few parents seem to trouble to “din it into them today” our hosts replied.

 

I don’t know if that is so, but I have another aspect to this matter of teaching children good manners; in their eagerness to turn out polite, well mannered citizens, many mothers are guilty of discourtesy and impoliteness themselves. I know I am.

 

Instead of setting my children a gentle example of courtesy in my daily dealings with them (and alas even with their father), I tend to shout precepts at them in an impatient tone. I forget to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ in daily intercourse with family, I am a bad listener. I interrupt children’s conversations. I break up their games. I shout at them with scant regard for their feelings. I am often rude.

 

I remember once, my eldest daughter related a rambling account of something that happened at school and all the time I was thinking that her teeth looked yellow. The moment she finished, I said “You must brush your teeth properly”, and she replied in disgust: “Oh Amma, you never listen!”

 

I seldom conceal my irritation at their constant questions. Even husband has now become accustomed to receiving impatient answers to simple queries, though he once mildly observed that I was much more polite when we were newly married. So it is no wonder that my third New Year resolution is:

 

TO BE MORE POLITE.

 

I have one last and final resolution too, one that I sincerely mean to try to keep, even if I fail with all the others. 

 

TO BE MORE LOVING.

 

It is a harsh complex world that our children face today, with conflicts and problems that are not of their own making. Today’s children are aware of racial and religious antagonisms, of class conflicts, of all kinds of issues in which their parents are involved, of the great ideological differences that divide mankind to opposing camps, of the possibility of extermination through nuclear warfare and of man’s general inhumanity to man.

 

If I can help it, I should like my children to grow up in a home where love is the binding force and where they see in concrete form that if there is any way to soften this human heart, to kill evil and hatred and all that goes with it, it is not through hatred and cruelty, but through charity, love and understanding.

                                                                       Anne Abayasekara - Sunday Times of Ceylon, 15th Jan 1961

In conclusion, I’d like to add, 55 years on, that Mum's aspirations have been amply realised. I know I speak for my brothers and sisters as much as myself, when I say we are deeply grateful to God for Amma and Thatha, for all they have been to us over the years, mostly for the secure foundation they gave us in a very happy childhood. Our parents' unconditional love for us was the binding force in our home and the cornerstone of our lives. 

 

And after all, love is the key to life isn't it?

 

We love because He first loved us." 1 John 4:19

 

"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres." 1 Corinthians 10:13:4-7

 
 
           

A Light that still Glows

30/12/2015 12:41

Jan 1st 2015 - Australia

An evening walk in Adelaide. The air is still. Warm. A magpie warbles. And then I see it—a thick wall of smoke beyond the trees. Is that fire? I race home and put on the TV. Yes, scary news. Bushfires are burning very close to us—far too close for comfort. We’ve lived 16 years in Australia, but this is a first … for us. The phone rings. There’s more bad news. Mum’s gravely ill in Sri Lanka. But I’m oceans away. My looked forward to New Year turns into a walk in a forest of dread. Early next day Shan braves the extreme temperatures to hose down our home. The fires gain momentum. We pack a bag in case we have to flee. Far away in Sri Lanka, Mum’s entered hospital. I long to see her, but I can't leave my family when our home is at risk. My head aches and fear grips me, a bull terrier grabbing my ankle and not letting go.

 

Will Mum be OK? Oh God, please take care of her. Should I go? Should I stay? My mind races in circles—and I am a mouse trapped in a maze. On Sunday, at church, a friend prays with me and I find comfort. Thank you God. Back home, I rush to check my emails but it's the news I didn’t want to hear. Mum’s dying.

 

My hope flickers; a lone candle in a storm, about to be snuffed out.

Fire. Mum. I remember another day … another time.

July 25th 1983 – Sri Lanka (32 years before)

We cross the road, Mum and I, furtive, hurried, holding hands. The key I clasp in my right hand cuts into my palm but I don’t feel the pain. A loud crackling noise erupts and Mum’s eyes widen in fear. I turn my head. A blaze engulfs shops on the main road—large orange flames, gigantic tongues greedily devouring everything in its wake. My heart stops; my breath escapes in shallow gasps.

 

Mum touches my arm. I look at her. She smiles encouragement, but worry lines paint her forehead. I breathe. I open my neighbour’s front door. We enter the flat. As I move my arm to turn on the light, Mum draws me away. Oh! I’d forgotten the curfew. Mum switches on her torch and we find the kitchen. We open the larder. Mum pulls out a sack of rice and I grab several tins of food. I open the fridge and find some tomatoes and carrots. A vehicle whizzes past. A police car? I freeze. Would they find us? Would they arrest us as looters?

 

My heart thuds so loud, I’m sure Mum hears it too. We get what we can and finally … we leave,  our arms laden with heavy bags. The streets are deserted and an eerie silence prevails. Fear envelops me like a python wrapping itself around its prey. I’m glad of my rubber soles. One little step at a time, we make it home. I step indoors, relief flooding over me.

 

That black Monday in our beautiful Sri Lanka, the unthinkable happened. Race riots broke out and numerous people lost their lives. Houses were burnt to the ground. Ours was almost set alight by a mob who stampeded down our road, incensed, screaming; intent on destruction. It was a world gone mad. In our home, we sheltered 23 neighbours whose home and lives were in danger. Mum and Dad reached out as always to those in need of a safe haven. That was what they did. Feeding our guests was a huge challenge—hence our foray into their houses at dusk braving the curfew. Keeping them safe was even harder. It was surreal. Like being in a movie. I look back in wonder. Did it really happen? It was a dark time in our nation's history and I am very grateful we got through it. I'm deeply thankful that the war finally came to an end.

 

I’m so glad of Mum and Dad’s example all through our lives, THAT PEOPLE MATTER!

Jan 7th 2015 – Sri Lanka
The plane lands at 12.05 a.m. I reach home bleary eyed and tearful. The van zooms towards the home of my childhood. I can’t do this. I can’t see Mum in a coffin. And yet, I must. I hug my sisters, my throat catching; not daring to speak lest the dam bursts. I walk in, enter the hall where her beloved body is laid. That’s not Mum? She looks so different. I burst into tears. My sister cradles me. I go up to my beloved Mama’s body and kiss her. I stroke her precious face. It is cold.

 

Jan 13th 2015 – Sri Lanka
The days disappear in a blur. People are kind, sending us delicious meals, caring for us in thoughtful ways. We’ve spent bitter-sweet moments together as family, bound together by our parents’ infinite love. Smiles, tears, hugs, remembrances. Sharing together, sitting around Mum’s dining table. One final time.
On Election Day, a miracle occurs. Mum has always been a courageous journalist, one who ‘told it like it is’. And now … a new era has dawned—one Mum would have rejoiced in. In an instant, the truth grabs me. Mum’s work was done. Peace envelops me, her own sweet smile reaching down into my heart. Hers was a voice of hope for the future. And now, the future she strived for had arrived. 

Hope flickers within me; a tiny candle that has overcome the darkness.

                                                                                                  

Jan 14th 2015 – Changi airport
I book into a hotel room for my 15 hour layover. After a  4 hour sleep, I am awake. I splash some water on my face, then I make myself a cup of tea. Sitting up in bed, I sip it slowly, waking from my stupor. Then, I remember . Quickly, I jump out of bed and rush to my bag. “This book is for Anusha when I am gone. 4/5/07” What a precious gift—thank you Mama! I turn its pages, careful not to spill any tea on it. I soak in Mum’s journal, filled with wisdom and humour, enjoying its poetry and prose, all copied neatly in her own dear familiar handwriting. And then … and then ... the dam bursts and tears begin to fall, soaking my nightdress. I grieve. Deeply. I miss her so.

Jan 4th 2016 - Australia
It’s one year today since Mama left this world for eternity. She was my special friend and my favourite daily email correspondent of 16 years. How can I share all the love I have for her and all the love she's given me? AAA—Annette Aurelia Abayasekara; known to most folk as Anne Abaysekara. A devoted wife to her beloved Earle. An ever present Mum to her 7 children and their 7 spouses. A beloved Mum, Grandmum and Great grandmum to all 35 in her clan. A courageous journalist for over 70 years. A friend and counsellor to many. Living life as if every moment mattered. Caring deeply as if each person mattered. With the zest of a 21 year old at the ripe age of 89. She and Dad loved our country passionately. And loved people even more. She was a light that death could not snuff out. 

A light that still glows.

Her love affair with books and writing made me what I am today—a Christian writer. Her generosity of spirit enabled us, her seven children to follow our dreams. The security of her love gave us wings. I am warmed by a plethora of precious memories; wrapped soft around my heart in a mother’s sweet embrace. I know she’s still with me. I see her smile each time I think of her. I hear her voice whisper in my heart. I know I am loved and always will be. I look forward so much to our reunion. What a sure and confident hope it is for all who believe! Jesus sealed it for us through His death and resurrection bringing life and freedom and joy. 

Now, as I read her countless loving emails, I feel as if she's in her study, chatting to me as of yore.

22/11/14

 

“Dearestest & Sweetestest of Anu-girls,

 

 Thank you for yours which I have just read with pleasure, as always………

……………………………

…………………………..

 

 I reciprocate all your love a thousand fold.  Holding you close in heart always,

                                            Your forever friend,

                                                Mama-girl

                                                     

The email she wrote when she became gravely ill on the 30th Dec 2014 held no clue that it would be her last letter to me.

Anu-kins, My Precious Darlint,

………….…

…………….

Don't worry about me - I'm sure I'll feel okay tomorrow.   Your farmhouse sounds the ideal place for a family get-together.  More tomorrow, darlintest.

 

                                                           All my love forever,

                                                                  Mama-kins.  

What a shock it was then that "that tomorrow” never arrived. But I am now at peace. Death might steal those we love for an instant. But like the glowing embers of a fire which refuse to be extinguished, or a candle that pierces thick darkness, we in Christ can rejoice, because we know that relationships endure beyond the grave.

And the love between a Mother and daughter is forever.

 
 

“Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all. 

Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised." Proverbs 31:29-30

 

Your Father cheers you on

26/12/2015 13:19
I was enjoying my daily Quiet Time with God while my son was rushing around getting ready to leave for work. He emerged wearing a pair of smart black trousers and a long sleeved shirt. But when he checked the day’s weather forecast, he discovered it was going to be warmer than anticipated. So he ran back to his room to change into a short sleeved shirt. In spite of the delay he managed to leave in time to catch his bus. 
 
I stood at the doorway seeing him off. It was a beautiful day. The air was cool and fresh. The sun beamed down in warmth and glory. A few parrots screeched in joy as they raced one another. I watched my son as he walked down our driveway, onto the road and then as he disappeared from sight. Images of my little boy filled my mind, a kaleidoscope of special moments. I felt a lump in my throat and my eyes filled with tears. I was so proud of him. I see him now as the cute chubby three year old he used to be, off to nursery school for the first time, with a small backpack and a blue drink bottle in hand, wearing his cheeky little-boy-grin. I see him next as a five year old beginning primary school, in dark blue shorts and a spotless white shirt, with a class full of 40 other boys dressed in identical attire. A big moment.
He was seven when we left for Malaysia—and spent a year in the Melaka International school in green shorts and yellow shirt, in a class of only seven children. An interesting experience. I picture him next at age eight, after we arrived in this beautiful Land Down Under. His uniform then was black shorts and maroon T shirt with a legionnaire’s hat to protect his neck from the warmth of the South Australian sun. A year 4 boy.
Asela was 12 when he entered high school—decked in grey longs and a white shirt, a green checked tie, a red jumper and a smart green blazer. It was at the Kings Baptist Grammar School that he spent the longest years of his education. They were good ones. I see him next as a lanky 19 year old with a much larger back pack than that once-upon-a time-three-year-old, off to Uni this time. Today, 6 years later, Asela is a quiet thoughtful 25 year old, out and about in the big wide working world. His father and I are very proud of him.
 
 
I breathe thanks to God for the way He has cared for my boy over the years and has blessed us immeasurably. Asela has faced plenty of challenges and jumped over numerous obstacles over the years. But he has overcome them all to reach where he is today. Hard work on a daily basis and millions of challenging moments are behind us now— minutes, hours, days, weeks, months and years. They seem to have disappeared in the blink of an eye. Where has the time gone? I ponder on the way my baby has grown and my heart is filled. Thank you Lord. 
When God looks at me, I know He sees through His loving Daddy-God eyes. He perceives my faltering steps; he watches my growth. He sees me when I stumble and especially if I fall. When I cry out to Him, He picks me up. He loves it when I turn to Him in repentance and  start over again. I'm so thankful that He's a God of the second chance. My walk with him has been an invigorating journey over four decades. And yet, I am still an infant in arms in many ways. I glimpse the smallness of my own heart and the largeness of His and I am filled with remorse. But He is patient, He is kind. A doting Parent. Loving. Arms outstretched. Always there for me. His love has been my hiding place. My refuge. And my strength.
 
Another year has flown past. What thoughts grab you as you look back on it? Gratitude? Sadness? Guilt? Shame? Don’t forget that your Heavenly Father is very proud of the steps you’ve taken forward. No matter where you’ve been, it’s the future that matters. He looks at you with a Father's tender gaze. His smile is ever present, his arms are open. His heart is filled with hope for all He desires you become. He knows you better than anyone else. He smiles His approval over everything you’ve accomplished this past year, and delights in the way you've overcome all those challenges. He’s pleased at your faith and your trust in Him. And most of all, He loves the fact that you seek to honour Him through your life.
But what of your mistakes? Your sins? Your waywardness? No, He doesn’t condemn you. Instead He invites you to open yourself to the Holy Spirit for a makeover. A new start in 2016. Yes, your Father cheers you over the finish line of 2015 and welcomes you into the brand New Year, rich with possibilities in His Presence.

Are you ready? The best is yet to be.

“But one thing I do. Forgetting what is behind and straining to what is ahead, I press on towards the goal to win the prize for which God has called me homeward in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:13, 14

 
 

A large helping of GOOD NEWS!

18/12/2015 17:52
Dec 19th has always been one of the most significant days on my calendar, especially when I was little. It was my beloved Dad’s birthday. And what a grand affair it was! Mum took charge. She ensured that not just her seven children, but all our friends, relatives and neighbours joined in the extravaganza.  For weeks preceding the event, we children would be stifling giggles in the kitchen, practising in hushed tones, (so Dad wouldn’t hear), a nativity play and other novel items for the Show of the year. Dad constructed an elaborate curtain. Mum typed up attractive programmes to hand to our guests. She even composed a new song each year. Here’s one of them, set to the tune of “Marching to Georgia”.
 

“Oh we are the young Abayasekara Seven, very glad to see you here today.

We may not appear to have stepped straight from heaven,

But we did, and are happy to stay...

 
We hope that you all will come year after year, this glad day with us children to share,

It's a Big Day for us in the season of cheer, and right now we are proud to declare,

That our Thatha has been quite the bestest of Dads,

And we wish him with love and with pride,

May his dreams all come true as his Seven grow up,

And our love hold whatever betide.”

When the big day arrived, our home would overflow with family and friends. There was joy and celebration, feasting and fellowship. At the tender age of 3, I played the part of an angel, announcing the good news to the shepherds. “Behold I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be to all people. For unto you is born in the city a Saviour who is Christ the  Lord.” A bachelor friend of my parents was enchanted by my performance and made a prediction about yours truly—that I’d be a ‘Florence Nightingale’ and would stay single and serve humanity. Alas, his hopes have not been realised.
 
After a scrumptious dinner, we'd enjoy a lively session of carol singing. An uncle and aunt, versatile players of clarinet and piano, provided the music. Those were glorious evenings, filled with the joy and wonder of Christmas. As the years passed, inevitably my older brothers and sisters grew up, got busy and left home, so the number of actors and actresses gradually diminished. I was sad—I’d have liked those concerts to last forever. There was one year when there was just two of us left. The play we chose had more than two characters. So what did we do? We kept switching roles, (wasn’t that clever)? In one scene, my brother was the king and I was a subject. In the next, I was the king and he was a shepherd. In a third, he was the king and I was a servant. The mind boggles. It must  have been a totally bewildering experience for our audience!
This week we reflect afresh on the Christmas narrative. There's Mary and Joseph, travel weary but with full hearts and tear filled eyes as they gaze in wonder at their beautiful baby. A brilliant star illumines the little tableaux. The shepherds hurry in excitedly. Baby Jesus opens his eyes and the shepherds falls to their knees in adoration and worship. Wouldn’t it be fabulous if you and I could tiptoe into that stable? Which of the Nativity group would you like to be this Christmas?
 
Would you choose to be …
  1. The donkey that Mary rode on—blessed by the precious load he carried?

  2. The Inn keeper—stunned to hear who was sleeping in his stable?
  3. The Angels, praising God and thrilled to perform their part in God’s story?

  4. The Shepherds who viewed the glory of the Lord and heard the amazing News?
  5. The Wise men who sought for so long ‘til they found Him?

  6. Joseph, willing to trust God no matter that his wife had carried Another’s child?
  7. Mary, gathering treasures of a unique kind and pondering over them in her heart?

It would be a learning experience to walk in each of their shoes,  wouldn’t it? But I can't stop there. Let me don our Lord's cloak of humility; put on His Royal Crown of Love. Let me slip my feet into my Saviour’s sandals and follow Him. Let me touch the lives of the grieving, the sorrowing and the lost, those for whom He came. Will you join me?
 
And here’s the thing. It was the greatest show on earth, but it was the littlest of them all, only a few hours old who was the leading STAR! Over 2000 years later, He’s still the STAR! He is the One who makes our world turn on its axis. He who threw off His King’s royal cloak and changed into a a poor man’s attire. He who created the universe and all who live in it. He who flung the stars into space and breathed life into us. He who is the Light of  the World, the Bread of Life, the Door to Eternal Life. He who died a cruel death on a cross so that you and I might find our way back to God. Today I'd like to offer you some good news. The best news ever. No matter how bleak your situation, the messsage of Christmas never dims. Jesus came into the world to bring you life. And joy. And hope. And peace with God. Would you like a large helping of that?
 
So come, let us go together to worship the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords, born in a lowly stable—but the Christ, the Saviour of the World. And as we worship Him, may we be transformed, so that like the shepherds, we too will hasten away, filled with elation and wonder, to share the good news of great joy with all the world!

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; 

on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned. 

 

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." Isaiah 9:2

 

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