Thursday, March 30, 2017

Legacy: Fran

Photo by:  Elena Prokofyeva
I knew Fran from the church where I worked for nine years.  When I found out that she had passed, I drove the 45 minutes back to the church to attend her funeral, because she was one of the sweetest people I have ever met.  Whenever I would see her in the hallways or the pews at church, she would always greet me with a smile and a hug.  In her Southern accent, she'd say, "Hi, Lisa," her sweet, shortened version for my name.  Fran was the grandmother of one of my youth group students and I always enjoyed greeting her and talking with her and her late husband Fred.  At her funeral, I enjoyed learning more about her life and her legacy.

When thinking about Fran's legacy, there are so many things that I could include.  The three things that stand out to me about her life are her relationship with her husband, the way she raised her children and her faith.

I loved hearing about Fran and Fred's relationship.  They met one day in an elevator at work and that led to an almost seventy-year relationship.  They were loving and caring towards each other throughout their lives.  I remember seeing them hug each other at church and I would smile and hope that I will still hug my husband so lovingly at her age.  She supported her husband in his career through her administrative skills and I'm sure with emotional support as well.  They seemed to truly have a partnership, that which good marriages are built on.  She and Fred were an example to us all of what marriage should be.

Secondly, Fran did an amazing job raising her children and being a part of her grandchildren's lives.  They shared that she was very involved in their lives and hobbies, never missing a play or ballgame.  She also made sure to celebrate each milestone and made their birthdays and holidays very special.  She cared for each one and shared with them her faith.

Fran grew up in the Presbyterian church and began teaching Sunday school at age 16.  I was amazed to learn that she continued teaching it for over 30 years!  One can only imagine how many children's lives she touched.  Her faith gave her a positive attitude and an excitement about life.  She wanted to share it lovingly with those around her.

In describing Fran, the words to "The Old Rugged Cross" come to mind:  "I will cling to the old rugged cross, and exchange it someday for a crown."  I can picture Fran up there in heaven, dancing with Fred and wearing a beautiful crown with many-colored stones.

May we all seek to be a little more like Fran.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Monday Meditation

Photo by:  Michael Ramey
"The closing of a door can bring blessed privacy and comfort- the opening, terror.  Conversely,  the closing of a door can be a sad and final thing- the opening a wonderfully joyous moment."  
~Andy Rooney

Monday, March 20, 2017

Monday Meditation

"Shout for joy, O heavens; rejoice, O earth; burst into song, O mountains!  For the Lord comforts his people."  ~Isaiah 49:13

Photo by:  Linda Xu

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Legacy: Betty

Photo by Elena Prokofyeva
For the second person in my legacy series, I'd like to write about my friend Betty.  Betty passed away in November in her 90's.  It may seem odd, but I still don't believe she has passed.  I know it in my head, but in my spirit she lives on.  It feels as though I should still see her walking down the halls of my old church when I visit.  I guess I haven't quite reached the acceptance stage of grief for Betty.
A huge part of Betty that will live on is her humbleness of spirit.  Even when she passed, she did not want attention drawn to herself.  A funeral was not supposed to be held to remember her, so we gathered for lunch in the fellowship hall of her church to celebrate her life through fellowship and shared remembrances.  In some ways, I felt a little hurt by this.  Betty deserved to have a full-out funeral and to be remembered for the amazing person that she was.  But, that's not what she wanted.  The time we did share was nice and I think she may have approved.

When I think about the legacy Betty left, I first think of the many people she touched in quiet ways.  She was a "worker bee" type who spent many hours volunteering at the church.  Being on staff at the time, I saw her at random times throughout the day and week, working on various tasks.  As a staff, we would often point out that we needed to try and make a list of all that Betty did in case she ever passed and we didn't even know all of the small tasks that we'd have to find someone else to fulfill.  That was her way of serving.  She had her tasks and she did them well.  She also loved the fellowship of being at the church, especially after her son passed.  Betty loved to talk and I had many conversations with her in the front office, in the hallways, or in my office, when she went up to check the balcony.  Conversations with Betty led to a wide range of topics.  It may start out with frustration about the copier, but she would end up talking about her past and her travels or how much she loved the kids in her neighborhood.  I have to laugh because some days I had to calculate whether I had the time to go down and make a copy when Betty was there, because a two minute task could turn into 30 minutes!  But I enjoyed talking with her and I knew deep down that even talking to Betty was ministry, because sometimes she just needed to talk.

To me, Betty was an encourager.  As the youth director at the time, Betty would always tell me what a good job I was doing and how important she believed youth ministry was for teenagers, especially in our area.  She really "got it."  Something that not everyone does.  She didn't believe teenagers were a nuisance, but people to be treasured and cared for.  This was evidenced by her taking care of the balcony, a frequent hangout for the teens of the church.  Instead of getting upset about the teens writing in the pew pads, she would read their notes and look at their drawings.  The drawings often tickled her to laughter.  The notes drew her to prayer.  A few times she shared them with me out of concern.  Youth ministry needs more Betty's.

Betty also encouraged those in her "inner circle" to step outside of themselves to care for her.  She would never say she wanted this or asked for it, but as a widow living by herself, she needed her friends and fellow church members to step up and help her when she had one of her falls or when she needed reminders to eat more or a ride to the doctor.  As a widow, God used many others to play a role in her care. I believe there is something beautiful in that.

A big part of Betty's legacy is her role as a military wife and a mother of an adopted son.  I don't know a whole lot about this area of her life, but I know she gave it all she had.  She took on the challenges of life as a military wife and worked extremely hard to make a good life for her family.  Even in her widowhood, she still kept that up in her stubbornness and not wanting to ask for help.  She had to do things on her own for many years through moves and deployments so why should now be any different?  I also don't know the depths of her relationship with her son, but I know that she loved him with abandon.  She worked hard to help him through all of his medical challenges and for years she spent most of her life taking him to and from doctors and dialysis appointments.  She loved him despite many challenges and worked hard for her son.

Betty's roles as a humble worker bee, encourager, a catalyst for care and loving wife and mother will live on.  She also really liked milk shakes from Chick-fil-A. Let's go have one in her honor!

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Meditation: Snow

Photo by:  Jonatan Pie

"Despite all I have seen and experienced, I still get the same simple thrill out of glimpsing a tiny patch of snow in a high mountain gully and feel the same urge to climb toward it." 

 ~Edmund Hillary

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Life Hack: Dry Skin

A little bonus for everyone.  I recently read this hack in a book for moms and it works really well.
If you have dry skin on your hands or around your nose from a cold, try Lanolin.  I have been using it all winter and it has worked really well and is safe for kids to use, too.  Lanolin is found in the baby or nursing section of stores.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Legacy: Part Two

Photo by:  Elena Prokofyeva

Several friends and family members have passed away recently and it has led me to think deeply about the idea of legacy.  (See Part One here: )  I love the idea that we have a great cloud of witnesses cheering us on. I believe we can learn a lot from their stories, both from their deep faith and perseverance and in some cases from their mistakes.  Story is so powerful as a catalyst on our spiritual journeys.

Today I will begin with my first story, perhaps the hardest one, about my mother.  My mom passed away suddenly on February 18th, 2017 from unknown causes after a several years long battle with mental illness.  Preparing to speak for her funeral, I thought back on her life and her legacy.  My relationship with my mom wouldn't fit neatly onto a Hallmark card, so in some ways it is tough to think through what her legacy was and is.  But, as I dig deeper, I find that several things stand out about my mom that will live on long after she has passed.

First of all, my mom raised us the best that she could.  Isn't that all you can really ask for from you mom?  My mom loved hugs.  She hugged us in the morning, when we came home from school, and whenever we said hello or goodbye.  She made sure we had food and clean clothes and a neat and pretty home to come home to.  We didn't eat too much candy and we had a strict bedtime every night.  We would eat dinner together as a family and enjoy stories of my parent's growing up years and the story of how they met each other disco dancing.  My mom taught us by example that no matter what you are going through, you can get through it with a sense of humor.

My mom's faith legacy will live on in our hearts.  She brought us to church every Sunday, rain or shine, sickness or health.  We were dressed up and shined up and excited to be there.  Church was a positive experience for me and I credit that in part to my mom.

My mom loved Bible study.  She loved fellowship with other women and encouraging them in their daily struggles.  I remember her walking a friend through her battle with cancer and talking to us about her Bible study friends.  She also led our church's Fellowship Committee for a time and helped to create beautiful coffee hours and receptions for the church.  Her example of faith and commitment to the church and to fellowship was an example to me of God in the flesh.

I recently received a sympathy card stating that I, as her daughter, am her legacy.  That struck a chord with me.  My mom's main job for most of her life was raising my sister and I.  Now that she has passed, I would agree that we are her living legacy.  She has passed on to me her love of music, dance and writing.  Her love for the beauty of flowers and decorating.  Her love for the Lord.

It's a big job to be someone's legacy.  I want to emulate the things she did well and to learn from the things she did not.  I sometimes worry that my mom got stuck in the process of motherhood and never really moved on to other things after we were grown.  She didn't always remember to have a life outside of it, to be her own person as well as our mother.  From this, I will remember to do these things.  To be the best mom that I know how to be, but also to be my own person.  To be who I am and to be it boldly.  To love with abandon, to live creatively in my context and to push beyond my limitations to reach for my dreams.

Her legacy will live on in my life and I will continue to unpack just what that means.  For now, I will remember to love and to laugh as we did together while watching Jay Leno and eating ice cream in front of the television.


Legacy: Part One

Photo by:  Elena Prokofyeva
“Do you see what this means—all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on?  It means we’d better get on with it.  Strip down, start running—and never quit!  No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins.  Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in.  Study how he did it.  Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way:  Cross, shame, whatever.  And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God.  When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through.  That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!” 
~Hebrews 12:1-3 The Message

I've been thinking a lot lately about legacy.  I've had several friends, acquaintances and family members pass away in the last few months and it has left me thinking about their legacies in this life.  I also saw the wonderful movie, "Hidden Figures," recently.  This movie challenged me to think about those who had an amazing legacy, doing something so important in our country's history, only to be recognized later.  

I also recently realized that if I live a full life, I may have already lived about half of it.  That scared me.  And motivated me.  What have I already done in my life and what do I still want to accomplish?  More importantly, what has God done through my life and what does he still want to do?  I will be spending time in prayer about this, asking "What's next?"  What does God have planned for my next steps in life?  

I love the quote above from The Message version of Hebrews.  Talking about Jesus, it says that "he never lost sight of where he was headed."  May that be the case for us.  May we not get so caught up in the everyday monotony of life that we lose sight of heaven.  May we keep in mind every day that we are living this life for God and that he isn't finished with us yet.  

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.  And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.”  ~Hebrews 12:1-2 NIV

I've always loved to think about this "great cloud of witnesses" who have gone before me, paving the way and pointing me to God in big and small ways.  Today I will begin a weekly series on legacy, exploring the stories of those who have taught me about faith, perseverance and strength in the midst of life's challenges.  

Join me as we take a walk among the clouds.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Monday Meditation

Photo by:  Tim Marshall

We arrange our lives as best we can,
to keep your holiness at bay,
with our pieties,
our doctrines,
our liturgies,
our moralities,
our secret ideologies,
Safe, virtuous, settled.
And then you –
you and your dreams,
you and your visions,
you and your purposes,
you and your commands,
you and our neighbors.
We find your holiness not at bay,
but probing, pervading,
insisting, demanding.
And we yield, sometimes gladly,
sometimes resentfully,
sometimes late… or soon.
We yield because you, beyond us, are our God.
We are your creatures met by your holiness,
by your holiness made our true selves.
And we yield, Amen.
Walter Brueggemann – Awed to Heaven, Rooted in Earth