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Monthly Archives: September 2015

So Long, Gramps

My Gramps passed away 4 years ago and a few days after his memorial service, I wrote this about him. I want to share with the world the wonderful person he was.

I could say “Rest in peace, Gramps” — but I know he’s not resting. He’s riding his horse and herding cattle like he did in the good old days.

I hope that each of my readers has had someone who, like Gramps, went to great lengths to show them how special they are. That is the thing I treasure about him and it’s what I hope I am to other people.

So Long, Gramps
Come with me to a time and place where things are simpler. Where you take life as it comes and you love the people in front of you, even if they’re kinda weird. Come with me to a place where you know no one will text anybody about who they saw you with and where it’s quite unlikely gossip about you will appear on Facebook.

Ok, so the only reason texting isn’t an issue is simply because there’s no cell phone service in this magical land. And 80% of the population is over 80 and don’t even own computers, not to mention that if they do own one, they don’t do much more than play solitaire and do jigsaws.

I’ve always loved this place. It’s quiet. Peaceful. You can walk everywhere in town in 10 minutes or less — and a woman can walk alone after dark and everyone knows she’s going to get where she is heading without fear of attack. I know this from personal experience. I have been known to walk from church after the candlelight service on Christmas Eve singing carols at the top of my lungs the whole way and no one ever said or did anything more than say “Merry Christmas!”

Welcome to the itty-bitty town of Pollock South Dakota.

I’d like you to meet my Gramps. He’s a quiet man. Doesn’t say much, but what he says matters. When I was little, his greeting went like this:
Gramps: how ya doing?
Me: good.
Gramps: whatcha good for?
Me: nothin’.

It was our thing. I think that’s the only thing I really remember him saying to me, aside from “pass the radishes.”

Gramps was a farmer. He had a piece of land in south central North Dakota that he loved. He was a farmer to the end — even after moving to the nursing home, he’d tell my many boy-cousins and my uncle (and even my mom!) to check on the tractor battery and whatnot. (When his meds made him confused, he told Grandma to get the cows out of the barley before they bloat!! Grandma said they never had barley, and hadn’t had cows in 25 years!!)

But the most amazing part about Gramps was that he was a servant. He did three church-building mission projects in his retirement. He was the oldest guy on the crew — and he was shingling a roof at the age of 74. Honestly, how many guys would work hard for 40+ years at farming/ranching and then sign up to build churches in retirement? But not only that, when he returned home after a summer of building a church, he would spend his winter mornings visiting shut-ins in the community. He’d play cards with them so their primary care-givers could get out of the house for a bit. One thing I know to be true: no one could accuse Gramps of being self-centered. He treasured people and let them know he cared. Even when he entered the nursing home, he asked every visitor to sign his guestbook — even the other residents that wandered in by accident — and he took the time to visit with each one of them.

In a lot of ways, Gramps is my hero. He risked everything for people he cared about. He even risked relationships with the most special people in his life in order to try to make things better for someone else. The someone else was me. And I am so humbled….

One thing about Gramps and the community of Pollock is that community is important. Grandma told me that for many years, she and Gramps and a few other couples would get together and play cards and celebrate life together. Oh, if the real world could be so…. Normal! In that community, no one would even whisper of what might be going on if two people hung around each other, provided that they had a good reputation to begin with.

Back to Gramps…. Last Sunday, my family told me he probably wouldn’t live. He’d developed pneumonia and congestive heart failure. I went to church that morning and the first passage the pastor talked about was 2 Timothy 4:7-8, which (paraphrased) says “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I gave kept the faith. Now is stored up for me a crown of righteousness which the Lord, the righteous judge will award me on that day.”

That was Gramps’ verse. And when he went to Jesus on Tuesday, September 21, I believe that he was welcomed to the Ranch of Righteousness — where the crowns look a lot like cowboy hats and where he saddled up to herd the cattle on a thousand hills.

I sang a song at the prayer service that talks about heaven being a place where blue is the bluest blue you’ve ever seen and roses smell redder than any other rose. How can we mourn our loss when their gain is so great? Of course, we are sad and we miss him. But if we could just see that place, we couldn’t cry for him!

So long, Gramps! I could see you smiling as I sang and I knew you were so proud. I love you so much and I’ll see you again one of these days.
XOXO
~your most favoritest oldest granddaughter

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Posted by on September 29, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

Eyes of Grace

While talking to Miracle Child one day recently, I asked “can you say ‘mom’? I know you can do it! You’ve done it before. And Mom would be really impressed if you said it!”

Miracle Child is nonverbal and just makes happy noises or sad noises for the most part. I encouraged him to say “mom” for a few minutes and then he squeaked out a tiny little “aaaaawwwwm.”

I was overjoyed, not because he did it perfectly and not because he did it well. I was overjoyed because he responded to my prompting and did the best he could. I was overjoyed because I knew that if he had the capacity to do so, he would have been yelling “MOM!” at the top of his lungs.

I Samuel 16:7
But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.

As I thought about this incident, the Lord was saying to me that my joy at hearing Miracle Child simply trying reflects His joy when I “try.” Sometimes I completely fail at what I feel He’s telling me to do. But man looks at the results of our effort. God looks at our desire to please Him. Man looks at the outward appearance. God looks at the heart.

Put another way, if you’re truly seeking to honor God, there’s no such thing as failure. The result of your efforts may not be stellar, but a heart that desires to please the Father is always a win.

I call it looking through eyes of grace. Grace sees the heart and is pleased when you want to — even when the only thing you can muster is a tiny little “aaaaawwwwm.”

 
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Posted by on September 9, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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The Heart Disease We Don’t Realize We Have- And The Medicine to Fix It

At one time, we too, were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. Titus 3:3

At one time, I, too, was foolish. Disobedient. Deceived. Enslaved.

I’m not saying that I have it all together now. I’m still foolish. Still disobedient. Still deceived. Still enslaved.

But now I realize it.

At one time, I didn’t have a clue.

I didn’t know that the reason my life was full of malice, hatred and envy was because I held so tightly to the things I thought were true, good, right, pure, lovely and fine. I didn’t know that sometimes people who are foolish wiggle themselves into positions of authority and then teach you foolishness. I didn’t know that while obedience is good, being completely surrendered to someone else’ plans for you was foolish — and dangerous. I didn’t know that that kind of surrender put people in the place of God and kicked God to the curb like He was about as valuable as a pile of crap.

I didn’t know that hyper-purity would bring intense longing for companionship and crushing loneliness.

I didn’t know that my knowledge of the Bible and dedication to my interpretation of it did nothing but drive others away, leading to further loneliness.

I didn’t know that my righteous works were nothing but filthy rags to God and that other people were just as turned off by it as He was.

My insistence that I was right and everybody else was wrong was a symptom of a heart disease that I didn’t know I had.

My understanding of pride was that those who refused to acknowledge that Jesus alone is good and Jesus alone can save you.

This is a true definition of pride. But what I didn’t know is that it went so much further than that. The idea that I could make God happier with me because of what I’ve done (or not done) was pride. I didn’t know that my going to extreme lengths to practice purity was pride. I didn’t know that my insistence that I was right and everybody else was wrong was pride.

I didn’t know that I had a heart disease — and I didn’t know it was killing not only me, but it was killing my relationships and it was damaging other people’s relationships (or potential relationships) with God.

*~*~*~*~*

In college, I was your typical “Ex-Fundie” student. I had left fundamentalism, but I still carried the weight of graceless justification on my shoulders. I worked. I worked hard. I felt pressured to be a “light in the darkness” — but what I really was, was an old smokey and sooty lamp that served no purpose but to make people take a second look and shake their heads muttering “Huh?!?” as they walked away.

I didn’t have any idea what “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith” meant. The part about it not being about us, but being a gift from God so that no one can boast about their own righteousness went completely over my head. (Ephesians 2:8-9)

But one autumn morning, everything changed.

It was a morning like any other — except for one thing. The night before, around midnight, two freshmen had been making their way back home for the weekend. One moment they were talking enthusiastically about their future together — they were high school sweethearts and very much in love — and the next moment, the boy lay lifeless while his girlfriend clung to life just long enough to get to the hospital.

Two lives ended as a result of a head-on collision somewhere in the emptiness of the Minnesota countryside that night. Two families devastated by the loss of children, siblings, cousins, niece, nephew and grandchildren. Many were devastated by the loss of friends, support systems and encouragement.

I didn’t know them. I had never heard of them until that morning when I was supposed to deliver the campus mail and I was told to set the mail for that Freshie in Porter aside.

I ended up attending the campus memorial service several days later. At the service, the families talked about how their brother and sister, their son and daughter, their niece and nephew had truly loved Jesus and their goal in everything they did was to point people to Jesus. They quietly loved Jesus. And they loved others like Jesus would. They had chosen Colossians 3:12-14 as their life verses. Their goal in life was to demonstrate the following to everyone they made contact with:

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if anyone has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues, put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

I had never heard those verses before. Of course, I’d read them dozens of times, but I hadn’t noticed them before. As the family talked about the ways their loved ones had demonstrated these verses, I began to realize that I was sick in the heart. These two young people had embraced grace and they did everything they could to extend that grace to everyone — not just the people who agreed with them. Not just the people who were kind to them. Not just the people at church and not just to their family and friends. They extended grace to sinners just as often as to saints. They extended grace to the broken just as often as they extended grace to the healthy. They oozed grace. They bled love. They breathed in Jesus and breathed out grace and love.

And I was sitting there, convicted of my own failure to love.

The family had given every person in attendance and paper with some pictures and those verses printed on it. Their prayer was that those who didn’t know Jesus would read them and come to know the God of grace and mercy.

I walked out of the building that day with tears streaming down my cheeks. I sat alone for a long time, reading those words over and over again.

Jesus asks us to be compassionate. Kind. Humble. Gentle. Patient. It’s supposed to be such a “thing” for us that it doesn’t just come out of our mouths, but it is something that we wear. It is visible to everyone, all the time, regardless of what we do, think, say or feel. We should be people who forgive quickly and love boldly.

Every day.

All the time.

That day was a game-changer for me. I could no longer identify with the Holier-Than-Thou Homeschooler I had attended class with. I could no longer identify with those who only had the capacity to love certain people.

It wasn’t about what I knew anymore. It was about who I knew. It was about knowing the love of Jesus. It was about finding ways to show that love to others. Every day. All the time.

Sometimes my heart has an irregular rhythm — where one moment, I rock it, and the next I’m quivering back and forth between doing it right and doing it easy. Sometimes my heart burns with envy and hatred. Sometimes it gets clogged with selfishness and unforgiveness. If I was diagnosed with heartburn or clogged arteries, a doctor would give me an antacid or a cholesterol medication. If I had a heart rhythm problem, I’d be given a pacemaker. But God’s medicines are a little sweeter than a doctor’s medicine, though sometimes it might be a bit harder to swallow. His medicine is:

Compassion.

Kindness.

Humility.

Gentleness.

Patience.

Forgiveness.

Love.

Above all, put on love, that binds them all together in perfect unity.

That’s God’s recipe for healing heart disease.

 
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Posted by on September 6, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Departure

When I was a little girl, every time I visited family for a weekend or a reunion or…. any other reason I might have been there, when it came time to pack myself up again and climb up into the van to go home, I’d freeze. I’d panic. I’d get sick in the tummy, I’d cry and sweat and sometimes I might have vomited.

I really don’t remember if I vomited or not.

I was anxious. I didn’t want to go home. Home wasn’t very…. homey.

I felt like no one loved me, no one wanted me. Nothing that mattered to me mattered to anybody else.

But when I was with the family, I was treated well. I was hugged and talked to and loved on and taken seriously. I craved the attention, the love and the support I got only from the people I didn’t see often.

Today it’s different. I have my own home. My home is a safe, warm, welcoming place. I’m surrounded by amazing young women who fill my life with joy. I love my home. I love…… love…. love it.

But….

There are people who come around who make me even happier. They make me laugh. They make me feel important, smart and talented. For a few hours, my heart is full. My mind is challenged. My soul is overflowing.

And then they leave.

And then I’m back to the old days when I used to get so sad and anxious when I left.

Back then, I was given a taste of what it was to be loved and accepted and then I had to walk away from what my soul desperately craved.

Today…. the thing my soul desperately craves walked out the door, leaving me back in the days of childhood. Wondering. Wishing. Will there ever be a day when I fall asleep content, cozy and soul-full and wake up feeling just as content, just as cozy and just as soul-full as I was when I went to sleep? Will there ever be a day when dreams become real?

Will there ever be a day when he decides that he just can’t bear to continue walking away?

 
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Posted by on September 3, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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