Saturday, May 10, 2014

Her Children Rise Up...

“…do not forsake your mother’s teaching.” Proverbs 1:8b

Psalm 147
selected verses

“Praise the Lord.”

“How good it is to sing praises to our God, how pleasant and fitting to praise him!”

Time at my Granny’s house included good food, laughter and singing. She always made fudge just for me. It would be on a plate, with plastic wrap covering it on the bottom shelf of the fridge. Delightful!
My Granny Money suffered through strokes and their effects in the final years of her life. She lost the use of many things, including her recollection of words.
But she could always sing every word of her favorite song. I can still hear her voice and see her pat her left hand in time to the music.
The song was "Amazing Grace."
We sang it often together with her as a family.
We live it together still. 

“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.”

My Mom has lived this verse. She spent her career in Child Protective Services, working long, arduous hours to right some wrongs for the brokenhearted. She served among heroes. She, herself, was a hero to many. She showed me where and how to follow Jesus. Among the suffering, with dedicated persistence.
My Mom also carries this verse in herself. My calling has become her sacrifice too, leaving her brokenhearted in tender places. She has journeyed far in our service here. I deeply appreciate her love for me in the midst of the surrender this work requires of us both.

“He determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name.”

One consistent memory Jeff recalls of his Mom is her singing over him as a young boy. 
“Can You Count the Stars of Evening”
Jeff grew up fully confident of God’s awareness of Him. Of God’s love. He knew that because he belonged to the One who numbers the stars, he could confidently shoot for them…with bold courage.
He does. Every day. And his mom’s song still sings over him and the children he is raising to live with courage too.
Every single time we sit outside and watch the African night sky, Jeff speaks of the song and of his Mom. Her faith and deep love for African missions (all missions really) is a vibrant part of where we serve and raise our family today.

“the Lord delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love.”

I spent more time with Mam-ma than any of my other grandparents. Her influence in my life remains deep and strong. She pursued God with passionate dedication. She obeyed and deeply respected His commands. Her Bible was always at her right hand. On the end table. The bookmark moved daily. She read His words as if her life depended on it. Her life did depend on it. I knew that full well. I delight in considering her entrance into her eternal home. What joy for her when she realized, face to face, the depth and breadth of Christ’s unfailing love for her. I can’t wait to be with them both.

“He covers the sky with clouds; he supplies the earth with rain and makes grass grow on the hills. He provides…”

Grandma Rose loved flowers. She always had a beautiful garden. One of the gifts we honor in our home is a picture of flowers that she painted. It reminds us of her and her knowledge of the blooms she adored.  She knew the names of them all. And she knew Who provided them for her enjoyment.
As Grandma Rose served alongside her husband, AJ, in ministry, money was pretty tight. She was well practiced at making the most of what she was given. Conversations with her always included stories of the ways God provided for her in her life. And time with her consistently yielded arms full of blessings and gifts that she loved to provide for us.
The beautiful wedding ring I treasure speaks daily to me of God’s provision to her and God’s provision to me. The testimony of Grandma Rose’s life echoes in our home every day.

“He strengthens the bars of your gates and blesses your people within you. He grants peace to your borders and satisfies you with the finest of wheat.”

Nona Cash is one woman I long to know! She went to be with Jesus before I joined her clan, but never have I heard a woman spoken of with such adoration and esteem as this one. She is very well remembered.
If I could sit with her over coffee today, I would celebrate with her the beautiful ways God has strengthened the gates of her Cash family, how He has stayed with us in the places where we come and go.  We could number the ways He has blessed us within those walls of belonging. We would rejoice over how large the family has grown—delighting in each new, beautiful life. We could look at our borders and see that even in our most vulnerable places God is kneading peace.
We could discuss long how faithfully He has remained among us, satisfying us with the finest of wheat—the Bread of Life where we need Him most.
I would thank her for her endurance and her witness of Christ’s love.
Her beautiful heritage is mine now too.

“One generation commends your works to another;
they tell of your mighty acts.
They speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty---
and I will meditate on your wonderful works.
They tell of the power of your awesome works---
and I will proclaim your great deeds.
They celebrate your abundant goodness
and joyfully sing of your righteousness.”
Psalm 145:4-7

On this Mother’s Day 2014, I will proclaim and joyfully sing of His goodness as I meditate on the heritage of faith in these beautiful, Godly women.

They commend God’s works to us, speaking and telling of His splendor and of His power and of His abundant goodness.

We rise up and call them, “Blessed!”

Praise the Lord!

Monday, May 05, 2014

The Wedding Ring

A post from the archives. It is good to remember...

I love my wedding ring.

It is just what I wanted.

Jeff and I were not making very much money when we began wedding plans. We were students and set on living our life in Africa once our programs of study were completed.

I decided that a plain, simple wedding band would suit me just fine. I love diamonds but financially and practically it didn’t seem the time for diamonds. We could save and invest in some gems later.

Jeff decided differently.

One time he asked me what kind of ring I would want if I could choose. Shape of diamond? Yellow gold or white gold? Solitaire or in a larger setting?

Honestly, I answered, “Heirloom.”

I had developed a fondness for antique/old jewelry. Especially, if said jewelry came with a story. A happy one, preferably.

But, I quickly brushed this discussion aside. Plain bands. We had decided.

About a week before my birthday, Jeff began to verbally stress out over my empty ring finger. He said that every girl deserved an engagement story. An engagement ring.

He said that he felt like a bum.

I prayed for him.  I asked God to help him be content.

I assured him that I was satisfied with waiting for a diamond ring.

My birthday rolled around with big plans for a whole day together. Jeff asked me to dress up and said that we would have a nice lunch at a restaurant of my choosing. He was to meet me after chapel. (I was still in college).

The singing group I was in was singing that day in chapel and towards the end of our presentation, I noticed Jeff walk in the back of the auditorium. He was dressed in a suit.

This made me very happy. It was going to be a nice date!

During announcements, I tried to leave out of a side door, anxious to meet up with my knight and begin our day of romance. Just as I reached the door, my roommate grabbed my arm and pulled me into the chair beside her. I complained and she said, oddly, “Don’t you want to hear them wish you happy birthday?!” (birthdays were announced in chapel daily)

No. I did not care to waste my romantic day waiting to hear my name said over a microphone. And then, I noticed Jeff. He and his roommate were walking down the aisles of chapel. They were both wearing suits, dark sunglasses and had earpieces, like the Secret Service.

I began to feel very nervous. And if my roommate hadn’t had such superhuman strength at that moment, I would have successfully escaped out the side door.

I was scared all of a sudden.

Jeff went up on stage and called me to the front. Things began to go fuzzy. My face felt on fire. What in the world was he doing?! I was handcuffed and escorted outside for questioning.

I don’t remember specifics of the next bit of time. Humiliation blocks memory apparently.

I was blindfolded, driven all over Lubbock, switched from car to car and finally told to remove my blindfold to discover I was in the middle of nowhere West Texas being driven by Jeff’s roommate, also named Jeff. We were turning into a private airfield and there was a helicopter waiting.

A helicopter? We were quickly informed that the helicopter couldn’t fly. Too windy. (In Lubbock? Wind? Shocking.)

Roommate Jeff shifted to Plan B and drove me to Boyfriend Jeff who was waiting on a dock near a pond in a park with a table, chairs and birthday cake.

I chastised my love. He had shared many elaborate date stories from his own college experiences. But our dating life had, up until this moment, remained pretty low key. I accepted the events of the morning as they were meant. A birthday surprise and a lot of hoopla to cement a memory and have some fun.  My embarrassment was just icing on the cake.

Cake. Jeff had made a strawberry cake and we sat down to enjoy it.  I assumed all the excitement was over. Jeff served my piece and it looked a little odd.

It looked a little odd because it was not a piece of cake at all, but a ring box, iced into the strawberry cake.

I was shocked.

And my mind raced. Where did he get the money for this? How did he do this? What did it look like?!?!

He ceremoniously got down on one knee, opened the ring box, took out the ring and began to speak.

“Will you….”

The world seemed to stop for a minute. THE moment was before me. The words and event romanticized and play acted by little girls for generations.

The Proposal. It was happening. I was trying to take it all in.

I was wrapped up in the exhilaration of surprise and expectantly held my breath.

In that flash of an instant…my dear suitor… dropped the ring.

Dropped. The. Ring.

In slow motion I watched the ring bounce off the deck and into the water. With a tiny little plunk that seemed to echo for several minutes.

Jeff tore off his coat and tie and jumped into the pond. I stared in disbelief.

Who does this? Who drops the ring? Who loses THE moment?

Was it a sign?

I felt sick.

The water of the man-made pond was as thick as the silence around me.

We were supposed to be celebrating by now, tears of joy pouring down our love struck faces. But instead…

Jeff came out of the water overwhelmed with apology. He said we needed to go get his scuba gear. I didn’t have the heart to speak the obvious truth. The ring was gone.

Why did I feel such loss when I didn’t even have my heart set on it in the first place?

We began to load the uneaten cake and the small table and chairs into the car. There were two other presents under the table, wrapped with beautiful bows. He had asked my shirt size the day before and so I assumed he had bought me clothes. 

He asked me to open those presents, at least. He continued to apologize and lament.

I unwrapped the first box, pulled back the tissue paper to see…

A ring box.

A. Ring. Box.

I looked up to the twinkling eyes of my very mischievous boyfriend who innocently said, “What’s this?!”

While I stared at him, incredulous, he took the box, opened it and got down on one knee again.

He spoke eloquent words that swirled around me as I tried to regain control of my breathing. I truly can't recall his speech, but I did hear him say that I would never lose his love and then “Will you marry me?”

He finished all those words. And the ring was still in his hand. And he was waiting hopefully with laughter in his eyes. 

I paused longer than he expected.

But then I decided it was safer to get the ring on MY finger before he dropped it again.

I said, “Yes”, which was a decision I had already made through a series of long talks, heart sharing and prayers. Good thing for him. This proposal was turning me every which way but loose.

He gently placed a beautiful, old fashioned, heirloom ring on my finger and then I punched him in the arm. Repeatedly.

Jeff confessed that the first ring was a set up. A Walmart $3 ring he purposefully tossed in the water.


Well. That’s just how he rolls.

The writing was on the wall for me.

This man was a mess. A MESS. He would always surprise me, never be boring and never outgrow his propensity for losing things.  (sigh)

But he wouldn’t lose me. True to his word, he would hold on and persevere and beautifully treasure me through the life we would build together.

The ring was gorgeous. Perfect.

His grandmother’s. She was one of our first phone calls after my heart started beating again and I had stopped punching him.

She was thrilled to share the story of the ring. As I remember, she said the ring was given to her and AJ (Jeff’s grandfather) by a friend. AJ served as a minister and they never had a lot of money. Her original wedding band was simple and inexpensive. When their friend presented them with this ring, she and AJ were so thankful and thrilled. Grandma Rose wore it for many years.

Jeff’s Mom shared with me once about her Mom and Dad (Rose and AJ) enjoying a cup of coffee together every day when AJ came in from work. Phyllis remembered that as their time. The kids were not allowed to interrupt. Phyllis saw their friendship and their adoration for each other in those coffee moments. And in many other moments too.

When AJ passed away, Rose, grieved so much. Their relationship had been faithful, deep and precious. Losing him was devastating to her.

Some years later, Rose met Francis and he asked her to be his wife. At that time, she passed on this wedding ring to Phyllis. Phyllis had in mind for the ring to go to her daughter Kristi.

When Jeff decided to marry me he asked his Mom if she knew of any heirloom jewelry in the family. Phyllis asked Kristi, who said she would be happy for Jeff to have the ring, and sent the ring to Jeff.

And that is how I came to have Grandma Rose’s wedding ring.

It represents love, faithfulness and the generosity of loved ones. It also represents many sweet moments over coffee.

Jeff and I have been incredibly blessed by the heritage we have in our grandparents. All four sets, loving each other “til death do us part.” Their marital faithfulness and devotion has encouraged and spurred us on as we continue to learn and grow together. We don’t take this heritage for granted.

All of our grandparents have now moved on to be with Jesus. They are Home, but we still miss them here. We know we will see them again.

Until then, we have many wonderful things to hold on to as we journey.

Grandma’s ring and what it represents is one of those things for me.

A heritage, that we will never lose. An heirloom ring with a story.

A happy one.