Tag Archives: Childhood

When Time Flies By and You Never Even Knew…

I don’t know how it happened. I really don’t.

Somehow, when I wasn’t looking, this first grandson of mine managed to turn five years old, swiffed his blonde hair to one side, and knocked on the doors of kindergarten.

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Gone are the days of painting at grandma’s and singing songs at the library together. Gone are the alphabet rhymes and the sensory bags filled with birdseed and pasta. My boy is grown up.

I picked him up from after-school for the first time just yesterday. I was there when the doors swung open and he jumped down from the yellow school bus, laughing and jostling and chatting with his little kindergarten buddies. I watched him swing his back pack onto his shoulder, his laces all undone and his blonde hair blowing in the wind.

He didn’t see me for a few minutes as I glimpsed into his new world. But then, his eye caught mine… and there he was after all, my little grandson running, running, and squealing with joy.

Gandma!!! he squeals in delight.

(Yes, that’s right… I didn’t mis-spell that word. He still calls me Gandma  sometimes).

And I swing him high into the air, back-pack and all, and hug him close. All is not lost. This little boy still loves to see me, and he’s not embarrassed to show it… yet.

This is my Gandma Glenys, he announces loudly and proudly to all his friends, and hugs me tight around the legs as if I might escape. But where would I go… if not with him?

I tuck him into bed that night, and I tell him:

I love you to the moon and back.

He thinks for a minute, before he responds: I love you to… (a little pause here) the mountains and back.

How did he fill my heart like that? I kiss that little blonde head as he snuggles under the covers and closes his eyes.

And I think to myself, seize this time Gandma. Hold on to it like it’s the last thing you’ll ever have, because that gorgeous autumn tree, that one you took a photo of just the other day? It’s leaves are almost all gone. 

And if I could hold on to a season, I surely would… before the ground is covered with what was once so lovely.

 

Where’s God?

So my husband said something from the pulpit that bothered me. Don’t get me wrong…. his sermons are great (okay, I’m a little biased).

He was talking about where we find God and how, with the advent of Facebook, we’re able to share our precious God-given moments with the world.

Our sweet granddaughter in Portland, Oregon, just started walking. He said. She’s adorable! Her parents post pictures all the time, and when I look at her, I think I see the face of God.

Of course he does. So do I. Just look at her….who couldn’t see God in those blue eyes and that big, toothy smile?

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But last week on Facebook, I saw another child’s face.  I didn’t want to see it. (That’s the trouble with Facebook…you end up seeing things you never wanted to).

It wasn’t my sweet smiling granddaughter. It was the boy everyone’s talking about, the boy everyone’s writing blog posts about, the Syrian boy covered in dust and blood, sitting motionless with haunting eyes. The boy who didn’t look like a boy at all.

When I first saw that image as I scrolled through my news feed, I just quickly zoomed right along. What on earth was that? I thought, in shock. Was that a doll? That couldn’t possibly have been real. I pushed it to the back of my mind. I didn’t want my thoughts filled with horror like that, I didn’t want my mind seeing those images. I didn’t want my nice, joy-filled day interrupted like that. So I didn’t even read the headline.

His name is Omran. The image of him, bloodied and covered with dust, sitting silently in an ambulance awaiting help, is another stark reminder of the toll of the war in Syria.

Whatever that was, it must be someone’s idea of a sick joke. I thought, and continued scrolling until I came to my smiling granddaughter again.

But it wasn’t a joke was it? It was real. This little boy is real! His name is Omran Daqneesh. He was pulled out from under the rubble of his home in Syria. He is five years old, the same age as my eldest grandson, the one who just moved to a beautiful new neighborhood surrounded by trees where he rides his bike with his brother.

Omran’s brother died yesterday from his injuries.

And even though I’m a strong believer I just can’t help asking….. where’s God in all of that?

Why do some children die and some children live?

Why is it that my grandchildren can ride their bikes in safety while other children are blown to bits in Syria?

It’s so easy for me to see God in the happy, smiling face of my granddaughter, but where’s God in the haunted face of Omran?

If I believe that God is in every child, (which I do), then God can’t just be in the face of the happy – God has to be in the face of the hopeless, and the haunted, and the hurt. God IS there… in the face of little Omran.

God is there, crying in silent agony for what was meant to be a beautiful world where babies die and children are bombed.

I don’t know the answers to all my questions. But I do know that I can help.

I don’t understand God. But I understand my responsibility.

I cannot turn away. I am called, ALL believers are called, to be part of the healing in whatever way they can.

Only healing can take away the hurt.

*****

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The Inspiration Behind Snuggle Time Psalms

I’m only about six or seven years old, but already I know that I love to write. I love to read too.

My brother and I, we sneak into my dad’s study and pull the big heavy book from the shelf. We huddle together and turn the pages. Already we’re giggling.

It doesn’t take long to find what we’re looking for… a photograph of a fat bird with a huge, puffed out red chest protruding from under its chin like a ball. The Apple Bird we used to call it. It seemed to us that this strange bird must have swallowed an apple and the gigantic fruit had somehow made its way outside the bird’s skin. We couldn’t believe that such an exotic creature existed… it was so unlike the tiny red-breasted English robin who hopped around our front garden, waiting for my dad to feed it.

This big book of wonder was only one treasure in a room containing many. The shelves in my dad’s study were bulging with encyclopedias and classics and poetry books and bibles.

And something else….

In a tiny corner, in the smallest of spaces, sat a little desk… containing notebooks and paper and pencils. And a chair. It was my desk. And it was all I needed.

I think it may have been at this desk, surrounded by my father’s books and bibles, that I began to write poems. And even though I inherited my dad’s passion for poetry and his love for God’s Word, I never, ever would have thought that fifty years later, I might be able to combine the two in Snuggle Time Psalms.

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And all I can think, when I leaf through its pages, is how much my dad would chuckle to see it, and how much he would love it so.

And maybe one day, there’ll be two little children, who will lift it from the shelf, and giggle over it together, and wonder at our great God, who made Apple Birds and English robins, and brothers and sisters, and all things good.

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The Check I Never Wanted…

It was sitting quietly in the mailbox one misty morning. Waiting for me to find it. I knew what it was before I opened the envelope.

International Special Delivery, the important stamp said. I normally love mail from England… it’s always family-sent. But this one was different.

I opened it slowly and pulled out the contents. An impressive logo announced, ‘Zurich Bank’.  So here it was…. the check I never wanted.

Dear Mrs Nellist, Paying the claim on your father’s Adaptable Life Plan, the words said in bold.

Your. father’s. Adaptable. Life. Plan. 

I had to read those words three times and still I didn’t want to believe them. Is that my father? The one with a twinkle in his eye and a love for life?

2016-01-13 22.41.27The one who taught me how to swim, and played badminton with me on holiday?

The one who walked with me through the woods, and taught me how to spot glow worms in the dark?

The one who held my hand when I was in the dentist chair, and read books to me every night?

The one who taught me the name of every insect and every tree?

The one who happily gave away everything he owned, and the only things he ever saved for himself were acorns in his pocket?

Do you mean my father? Surely not.

Because if you do, then I don’t want this check.

What I want is for my wonderful dad to see what I’m seeing… which is a fiercely protective robin, who labored long to build a scraggly nest in a ladder outside my front door; who carefully laid four little blue eggs in there; who chases away every naughty chipmunk that dares to go near her home; who sits on those eggs every minute so that her young can have the very best future possible.

Who, when those babies are born, will watch over them, and love them, and feed them, and nurture them, and teach them everything they need to know about the world….

just like my wonderful dad did for me.

And if I could hug him again, and laugh with him again, and walk with him again, and show him the robin building her nest, I would gladly rip this check to pieces.

But it’s his way, my wonderful father’s way, of caring for me, even though he’s gone.

He’s gone.

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I Wish You Knew. (A Tribute to My Mum)

Her name was Isabella. She hated it, and preferred to be called Isabel. But she hated that too. She thought it old-fashioned.

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I wish she knew now how popular that sweet name is, and how, when I meet that little girl called Bella, she always makes me think of her. But there’s a lot I wish she knew now.

I wish she knew that I married David, whom she adored.

I wish she knew that he became a pastor…how surprised and thrilled she would have been!

I wish she knew that I had four wonderful sons, that my family has grown to welcome three daughters-in-law, and four adorable grandchildren.

I wish she knew that I went into teaching, and eventually became a children’s book author.

Because it’s really due to her.

Those who know me well would never, ever believe that I was a naughty girl at school. But I was. My poor parents were constantly hauled into the headmaster’s office, as he tried to rein in my unruly behavior.

I remember one of those occasions more than most.

I’m sitting in his office, while he glowers at me from behind his big important desk. His black gown is as dark as his mood. I’m sure I deserve to be there. I probably deserve to be shouted at too, but I can’t remember what I’ve done. Perhaps I got caught smoking again, or perhaps it was the time when I nicked someone’s bike from the bike shed and rode off down the road with my best friend. But we had only sneaked away from boring science class to get some fish and chips… what’s wrong with that?

Whatever it was, I’m upset. And that’s unusual too… because I’m a bit of a rebel, and I have a hard exterior. But the headmaster in the black cloak has no hope at all for my future; in fact, he thinks I’m heading for failure.

And perhaps I was.

But that’s when I hear Mum come to my defense. To be honest, I can’t remember her exact words, but they went something like this:

But did you know, Mr Ellis, that she is SO very good and patient with children? I wish you could see Glenys at home. She takes her little niece, stands her on a chair, and they bake dozens of wonderful fairy cakes together. They line them all up on the kitchen table, and fill them with custard and jam. Glenys is so good with her! I just know she’s meant to work with children.

Mum didn’t know that she had just sowed a seed in my heart, that I would one day become a teacher, and out of that, my love for writing for children would grow.

She didn’t know because she took her last breath the day I sat my final exam at college. She never saw me wear the cap and gown, or pick up the pen to write Love Letters from God.

Mum has been walking those gold-paved streets for thirty-five long years. This month, I will turn fifty-seven, the age she was when that cruel illness stole her from us.

I wish she knew how thankful I am, what a privilege it was to be raised in that wonderful home, a place full of laughter, and busyness, and song.

A place where a hard-working lady called Isabel did her best to raise eight children, and saw the good in them when others couldn’t.

I wish she knew.

Why Your Church Needs to Celebrate Children’s Sabbath

She could have been at home, watching cartoons or playing outside.

She could have been out shopping with her mama, or enjoying a pancake breakfast in the restaurant on this Sunday morning.

But instead, she’s here, this little girl with the blonde hair and the big pink bow. She’s here, breaking the bread, and smiling, holding it out at arm’s length well before we’ve even reached the altar, as if it’s really important, as if to say:

Come and get this! It’s just for you! Its special!

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And it was.

In fact, my whole morning was special.

It was Children’s Sunday in this United Methodist Church, a special day set aside to celebrate the children in our midst.

Everything about this service said: We love children. Children are special to us.

From the bulletin cover,

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to the Call to Worship…

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From the prayers of blessing,

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to the benediction…

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everything involved children, and told them, over and over again:

You’re important here.

And so it’s not really surprising is it, that the little girl with the blonde hair and the big pink bow should be here at all? Because isn’t this the place where she knows she’s welcomed, and loved, and needed, and important?

I’m watching this little child.

I notice how she crouches down to one who is smaller than her.

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I see how she fixes her eyes on one who is older than her.

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And when it’s my turn, she gives me the biggest smile and tears off the biggest piece of bread, and she tells me, quite confidently and with no doubt in her voice:

 Jesus loves you.

I don’t know how many people received communion from this little girl.. but she managed to make me feel like I was the only one who mattered that morning.

I don’t know how she did that.

But she did.

No wonder that the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these.

***********

Eight easy ideas to include in Children’s Sabbath:

  1. Have a child design the bulletin.
  2. Use the Call to Worship included in this post.
  3. Have children read the scripture.
  4. Invite them to extend their hands during prayers of blessing.
  5. Have children lead the benediction, ‘Go in peace to love and serve the Lord’ in sign language.
  6. Let children serve communion.
  7. Decorate the altar with balloons and toys.
  8. Before the service begins, hand musical instruments out to every child and invite them to play along whenever music is heard.

My thanks to Pastors Mary Ivanov and Erin Fitzgerald for these wonderful ideas, and for reminding me in powerful ways to whom the Kingdom of God belongs.

My Dad’s Battered Bible

This is my dad’s Bible.

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The cover is not patterned, as my son first thought, and it’s definitely not pretty. The leather is terribly cracked, and wrinkled, and dry –  so much so that the words ‘Holy Bible’ are almost obscured.

I don’t know how long my dad owned this 1957 King James edition, or where he got it from, but I do know that he read it every day, that his hands turned the well-worn pages, that this was the most important book he ever owned.

As a Methodist local preacher, my dad preached every single Sunday, and like a faithful companion, this battered Bible accompanied him. It must have traveled for miles.

Whether lying on the front seat of his car, being carried under his arm as he walked, or riding in the panniers of his bicycle as he rode to his appointments, this book was at his side. It was, for my dad, the only text from which to preach.

As a young girl, I can remember coming downstairs early in the morning to find him sitting at the kitchen table, his head pored over this book.

This is a great text, Glenys. I just need three good points to preach on, he would say.

I don’t know how many pulpits my dad climbed, how many sermons he preached, or how many lives were changed because of his words, but I know mine was.

I found his bookmark, tucked, appropriately, in Romans 8:28towards the end of the New Testament. My four-year old grandson, when he saw it, said, in his wonderful, innocent way,

Oh Grandma, your dad nearly got to the end of his book. You’ll have to finish it for him.

There’s nothing I can do to finish what my dad began. But I can carry it on.

I can continue what he started, what he pursued so passionately in life. I can spread the Gospel – from the pulpit, or the page. I can try to put others before myself, be in love with the splendid world God made, always look for the good in everything, and live like Jesus lives in me. Because that’s what Dad did.

I hope I’ve inherited more from my dad than his Bible.

My dad died as he had lived – quietly, and humbly. He left this world like a whisper, without any fuss, or ceremony, or great reproach.

And it’s really no wonder that the heavens literally opened as we lowered him into the grave.

They were opening to let a great man step in.

Sam and the Red Balloon

It’s Sunday morning, bright and early. I’m excited to be here, in Portland, Oregon, to meet my wonderful new granddaughter and spend time with her big brother.

Sam is not yet two and a half. He is utterly adorable, and utterly sweet. I didn’t realize quite how sweet he really is until I got to spend seven precious days with him.

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We arrive at Montavilla United Methodist Church and jump out of the car. It’s cold and rainy in Portland this morning. We pull our coats up around our ears, put our heads down and get ready to scurry inside.

But Sam has seen something. He pulls on my hand, makes a squealing sound and points upward. He can’t quite say airplane yet, but I’m pretty sure that’s what he’s seen.

We all turn to gaze upwards, and we see a tiny red balloon, floating far, far away, being carried on the wind through Portland’s cloudy skies. It’s only there for a moment, and then it’s gone.

Wow Sam! We say. Good job! You saw a balloon!

And that’s it. That’s my little story. Except I think there’s so much more to it than that. I’ve thought a lot about that tiny red balloon since Sam saw it, less that a week ago. And I got to thinking:

Why did he see that balloon?

How did he see that balloon?

He was the smallest person there. My husband is over six feet tall, my sons are taller still. But Sam is only two feet tall. You could argue that us grown ups were closer to the balloon, and therefore, shouldn’t we have been the ones to see it?

But we didn’t. Sam did.

And the only possible explanation, the only possible reason, is that he was the one looking up. And why would he be doing that, if he wasn’t expecting to see something… something surprising, and wonderful?

And that makes me think about God too.

We grown ups, we think we’re the ones closer to God. We think we’re the ones who know more, who read the Bible, who know how to pray, who study the scriptures.

But maybe, just maybe, our children are closer to God….because they are the ones looking up, the ones expecting to see God, the ones knowing that God will show up in surprising and wonderful ways.

Like little Sam, who looked up one Sunday morning and saw that tiny red balloon, as it floated across Portland’s cloudy skies and far, far away.

Stealing From My Brother….

When I was a little girl I was a thief.

I used to steal from my big brother. I couldn’t resist. I knew that hiding in his brown wooden wardrobe was a stash of sweets. I would creep into his room while he was at work. It didn’t take me long to find them. If they weren’t at the back of the shelf, then I would simply feel around his jackets as they hung quietly in his closet.

I can still remember the joy of feeling a tell-tale bulge inside one of the pockets, and the thrill of discovering a bag of Raspberry Ruffles hidden inside.  Sometimes I would find liquorice…. the only sweets I ever put back.

My brother must have known that I stole from him. But he never challenged me. He was much too quiet, and forgiving, and unassuming.

And if you’d have told me that one day, this quiet, humble brother of mine would become a preacher, I never would have believed it, and neither would he.

John was never one to speak in public. Even though he went to church every Sunday, knew his Bible inside out, and read the scripture lesson when asked, he was always much more comfortable greeting people at the door, or handing out hymn books, or passing the offering plate.

John was utterly terrified of preaching. The very thought of having to stand in the pulpit and deliver a twenty minute sermon made his knees knock and his heart pound.

How could he go back to school and compose long, detailed essays, after forty years?

How could he battle through all that studying and reading when he had cataracts?

How could he become a preacher when he was over 60 years old?

But he did.

Because when the call comes, it doesn’t go away. We can ignore it, or walk away from it, or pretend we never heard it. But God is a pursuer. God is one who will chase you down and keep tapping on your shoulder, until you turn around and listen.

And John did.

I wish I could have been there. I wish I could have sat in that little church in England as my family gathered to celebrate. Like our dad before him, and our great Uncle Harry before that, my brother joins a long line of Methodist Local Preachers in our family who have answered the call…

Brother

and as I see John standing at that open door, I know that God opened that door for him; that God will walk ahead of him, opening doors in the hearts and minds of all who will listen to his message.

One day, the person listening will be me. I’ll sit in that pew as my brother preaches, and I will be proud of him. I’ll learn from his words and I’ll remember his bravery, his determination, and the sheer hard work it took for him to be standing there.

And I might just steal some of that courage, and perseverance, and obedience, like I stole his sweets all those years ago.

Look at me. I stand at the door. I knock. If you hear me call and open the door, I’ll come right in and sit down to supper with you. Revelation 3:20 The Message

It’s a Beautiful World Colette….

Dear Colette,

It will be many years before you can read these words. Little one, you are just one day old, wrapped up tight, a perfectly precious bundle of joy. You are only just beginning to open your eyes, to peek out in wonder at the world that has been waiting so long to greet you.

Colette Bundled

It’s a beautiful world Colette.

It’s a world of color, and love, and hope, and family. Just down the road, there’s a two-year old boy just waiting to share his toys with you. He doesn’t really know much about you yet. He doesn’t really know that his little sister is sleeping peacefully in his mama’s arms. But you will grow up together, and he will love you.

Much too far away, out towards the east, there’s a grandma and a granddad here, who prayed you into this world, and who are yearning to hold you… their first granddaughter.

And even further away, in a country called England, you have a great-granddad too.

Colette…you may never get to meet him. But if you did, I know he would laugh with joy. And with a twinkle in his eye, he would scoop you in his arms, lift you high on to his strong shoulder, nestle you there, and sing you to sleep. And he would be so proud of you.

This is your family Colette. And even though we may be far away, and the distance in miles may be great, as long as we have love, nothing can separate us.

Sleep well with your mama, little one. I will be there soon.

With Love,

Grandma

Natalie & Colette