28 June 2011

Remembering Lucille Johnson

This is what Stahler and I read at her Celebration of Life.

We want to tell you about someone who taught us so much about life and love.

This special person—funny, witty, hilarious, and always quick with a smile—rode jet skis with us on the Elk River, zipped across the 100-foot zip-line in the backyard of the house we grew up in, took annual roadtrips to the beach—“just the girls”—and traveled all the way to Alaska and the University for family. This woman was none other than our grandma, Mary Lucille Gann Johnson.

We shared a name—Lucy—and, I’m happy to say, so much more. She was at every dance recital, play or musical, function, ball game, dinner soiree, and parent’s weekend, for as long as I can remember. Driving well into her 80s, she never missed a family occasion. But that’s not why I loved her—though it was certainly and added bonus. I love her for the woman she was—the woman she represented—and the woman she raised my mother and me to be.

She was classy—in the real, genuine sense of the word. She was a child of the Depression, yet she completed higher education—which, for a woman, was before her time. I never questioned her wisdom or counsel. She had advice for every situation—often packaged in zingy one-liners! A few of our family favorites are, “You’ll poke your eye out,” “You’ll freeze your ding dong off,” “Pretty is as pretty does,” “You’ll attract more flies with honey than vinegar,” and, “Kill them with kindness.” Just this week, she told me to be somebody, like my mama and my daddy. She was still encouraging us and comforting us to the end.

She let me sleep over, stay up late, eat peanut butter on everything, beg for water to get out of bed (100x). She taught me the great joy that comes only from eating cornbread with a spoon out of a glass of cold milk or sipping a cold “Co-Cola” straight out of the bottle (the little bottles are the best).

She let me climb too high in the magnolia tree in her front yard, and ride my bike too far through the neighborhood. She let me stay out until twilight in the summer months and would help me chase fireflies with a mason jar well into the moonlit hours of evening.

I wanted to know everything she knew and do everything she did. We spent many days and nights cooking, baking, and exploring the lost arts of crocheting, knitting, conversation, and card-playing. My grandmother was something else. She would teach you how to play a game, then beat you at it all night ;) All in good fun. She also claimed that she wasn't a very good bridge player—though her regular weekly bridge crew would beg to differ.

She was humble. She was generous. She would give and give and give and then give some more if you’d let her. She would fill our mouths full of food, our minds full of thought, our hearts full of love, and our pockets full of treasures. She once gave me one of her dearly beloved Herman’s WWII medals without blinking simply because I’d asked.

When it came to the most important things, Grandmama never held back. Kind words and warm memories were shared around the table as freely and expectedly as fried okra, green beans, boiled new potatoes, asparagus casserole, pot roast, biscuit, and chess pie—a few family favorites. There was a freedom that came when she was near—a comforting safety—that was both merciful and empowering. She taught me much of my basic Bible stories—not in any formal setting, but while we were stirring boiled custard at the stove or washing dishes in the sink.

Her house was like one huge adventure zone for hiding, discovering buried treasure, finding things lost or forgotten, and counting coins. She had a lot of mechanical iron piggy banks, but what intrigued us more than the antique collectors items were the coins inside. She had an awesome collection of pocket change, and we used to get in the floor, all five of us—me, Lucy, mama and daddy, and Gram—and count coins and talk.

I can honestly say I’ve never known any one who valued her family more. This is a priceless gift that she’s passed onto her daughter, her grandchildren, and the rest of her legacy to come.

There is so much to remember, so much to be treasured, and so rich a heritage represented in her life—well-lived and well-deserved. We now have the opportunity to join in with heaven as we celebrate her relationship with Jesus—all glory to God. She is now standing before Him, seeing Him face to face. What a God we serve that He would have mercy on us that, when we were yet sinners, Christ died for our salvation. Death has lost its sting in Christ’s resurrection and we can walk fully in that hope and resurrection power to fear not, for Christ has overcome this world; the grave is not the end, but the beginning of the next and better chapter of our lives, as we dwell in the presence of the Lord eternally.

It will never be the same. We will miss her dearly and will continue to feel the absence of her in our lives, but we’ve been changed for the better because we knew her and she will live on in our thoughts, in our memories, and in our hearts.

She has held and will forever hold an irreplaceable piece of my heart.

We love you, Gram.

22 June 2011

Daily Dose of Truth

I must say, the whole "ask and it shall be given unto you" thing is true, you know (whether you like it or not... as in my case). I have been really praying about the purpose in Gram's painful-kind-of-half-life at this point and God woke me up with answers.

He basically said that He's teaching each of us what we need to learn. For me, that's appreciating the PROCESS of things--all things in life. We live (and I am so geared this way) in an instantaneous world where major decisions are tweeted back and forth and huge things are created and passed on in seconds, it seems, always with the end result in mind. But the growth of a tree, the opening of a flower, and most things in nature take TIME and are a PROCESS. It's like He said to me, "Who the heck cares about the end result if you can't say you witnessed or were a part of the process? The process is your story. The process is your road map. The process is whole deal, and if you miss it you're missing everything. Jesus taught along the way; if you'd have been a disciple, it's like you'd rather have hopped in the car, gotten on the phone, read a blog or sent a message, picked up a starbucks, and then met them and Jesus at the next conference--and MISSED the most intimate teaching times. What the heck?"

Um, ok. Ouch.

So I'm learning about the truly organic, life takes time, joy in the journey PROCESS that makes life worth living (even in death, which is... a process).

He's also teaching me about how selfish I am. So selfish. It's ridiculous, actually. I wonder how mothers purge themselves of this selfishness to be self-sacrificing for their children... then again, it's probably a PROCESS :). At least 90% of my concern for the "timeline" of everything happening to Gram was about her--her pain, her anguish, her ability to have a certain standard of living and keep her dignity. But if I'm honest... hate that... As much as maybe 10% was me. It's too hard FOR ME to be there. It's too difficult FOR ME to think through and participate in. It's taking too long for what I THINK should happen. It'll be a whole different ballgame when she passes, because THEN I'LL begin the grieving process... Ugh. Sin is gross.

So within 2 minutes of that precious, semi-awake morning sleep that happens right before you consciously wake up, God spoke truth into me and lovingly convicted and reprimanded me. And I feel relieved and better about the whole deal, with a new perspective--not only on Gram and all that, but on the darkness lurking in my own heart. Yuck. And praying through removing that with Jesus's help.

The first step? God provided that, too. He's so faithful when correcting us, not to leave us in that pit of yuck. He reminded me of this quote, which I posted here few days ago:

"Let us touch the dying, the poor, the lonely, and the unwanted according to the graces we have received and let us not be ashamed or slow to do the humble work." --Mother Teresa

SERVICE breaks the bondage of SELFISHNESS. My daddy has told me that for years... "Wanna know how to feel better and quit your own pity party? Find someone else who needs something done, and serve others. You'll forget about yourself and will feel more connected to others in the process." I love my Dad. Anyway, now my Father in heaven has to bring this back to light. So my new thing is, "What can I do for you today?"

I'm working on it... I'm a fussy mess of a work in progress, but such is life--and that makes it better, not worse, believe it or not. Anna read me an excerpt from the book, Jesus Calling today {Thanks, Anna!!}. It says, "Thank Me today for your suffering and your hardships," for in the intimate vulnerability they bring, I can teach you the true gifts of humility and compassion.


13 June 2011

Mother Teresa

What a lady - pairing words and wisdom together.

"Be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies."

"Even the rich are hungry for love, for being cared for, for being wanted, for having someone to call their own."

"Words which do not give the light of Christ increase the darkness."
{ouch - that hits close to home!}

"If we have no peace it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other."

"Each one of them is Jesus in disguise."

"If you can't feed a hundred people, then feed just one."

"Intense love does not measure, it just gives."

"Let us touch the dying, the poor, the lonely, and the unwanted according to the graces we have received and let us not be ashamed or slow to do the humble work."

"The hunger for love is much more difficult to remove than the hunger for bread."

"Our life of poverty is as necessary as the work itself. Only in heaven will we see how much we owe to the poor for helping us to love God better, because of them."

"Love is a fruit in season at all times, and within reach of every hand."

"We need to find God, and He cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature - trees, flowers, grass - grows in silence; see the stars the moon and the sun, how they move in silence. We need silence to be able to touch souls."

I want to...

I want to be thankful everyday.

I want to be faithful in the little things, pay attention to the details of life, and soak in the minutia that will never again exist.

I want to see Jesus in every person.

I want to make time.

I want to find something to love in every heart.

I want to be present.

I want to visit every piece of earth God created and discover the truth and beauty in each culture.

I want a global perspective that is so much bigger than me.

I want to embrace as many arms, kiss as many faces, and hold as many hands as there are orphans.

I want so much more than this life has to offer, but I want to seek and find as much good as there is to witness in this place.

Yet I am confident I will see the Lord's goodness while I am here in the land of the living - Psalm 27:13

09 June 2011

Making a Cake

For our anniversary I cooked a simple but tasty dinner. I had some time before Grant came home, so I was just idly looking through our kitchen cabinets and found a box of cake mix. I had never made a cake—ridiculous, but true. I looked at the box and thought, How hard can it be?

So I mixed the few ingredients together, got out my spring form cake pan, and dug up the cake stand wedding gift we’ve never used. As I checked on the timer and peaked into the oven, I thought, This looks and smells really good. Maybe I can pull this off!

For whatever reason [perhaps I neglected to grease the non-stick pan…] the beautiful cake I pulled out of the oven would not free itself from the container.

It stuck.

And stuck.

And stuck.

By the time I finally scraped the majority of what was formerly known as the cake from the “non-stick” pan, it existed as a heap—a mound of yellow goodness—on the overly adorned cake stand. Ridiculous.

It was not pretty. In fact, it was quite ugly. Trying to ice it only made matters worse.

I was figuring out what to do next when Grant walked in and—much to my surprise and pleasure—began to laugh hysterically! It was perfect. Laughter is salve to the soul. Having never made a cake before he lovingly assured me, “It’s the most beautiful cake you’ve ever made me.”

It tasted like a cake—moist, warm, sweet, and thick. We savored every bite as we ate it in hand fulls through giggles and globs of icing standing barefoot in the kitchen together. Delicious.

This whole cake-making process is such a reflection of our lives together.

We have this awesome adventurous idea of something. In a moment of spontaneity, we set out with determination, learning as we go. Then something ridiculous happens that—if we were other people in another marriage, perhaps—would ruin the whole thing.

It does not look pretty.

It does not turn out the way we thought.

But we laugh.

We have fun through the process. We enjoy it together. And it still tastes just as good—if not better.

Because appreciating the un-perfect, the disappointing, and the minor flaws in our plans is somehow more beautiful than we ever could have planned or made for ourselves.

You see, with us, God has this delightful sense of humor that blesses us in the midst of perceived failure, and as a result, we trust Him more, we love each other more, and we laugh a whole lot more along the way.

That cake was some of the best I’ve ever had. And, for what it’s worth, the best I’ve ever made.

06 June 2011