Sunday, June 3, 2012
A little background on this story...well, that's a bit difficult because really there are no words to do any such fill-in justice if you aren't a member of my extended family or close to it. It's hard to comprehend or express and even to do so seems kind of cheap. But nevertheless, my family on my mom's side rolls about 35-40 people deep (the number just keeps growing) with 19 of us being grandchildren and many more now added through marriage, and we all would drop everything in a heartbeat to help out another. Every. Last. One of us. No stragglers. Just last weekend a group of us flew into Colorado to celebrate Scotty Bear's wedding (my first cousin who is one month younger than me). Three and a half days spent in the Rocky Mountains together at a YMCA lodge, celebrating a wonderful occasion. No TV...just time to really spend time together and...drink coffee haha. I know, sounds mushy. But it was just what the doctor ordered for me, and I would assume, for most of us.
So, just in the last week alone I have had a lot to think about and process, and I promise that trip ties into the title and main point of this blog post if you stay with me ha. In the email from my mom this morning there was an exchange where a couple of my Aunts responded about their beloved Mother and man, it just really hit me hard. I immediately ran to the website with the list of archived Charles Spurgeon quotes, because I remembered one about "legacy" that I thought expressed my thoughts perfectly (as Spurgeon usually has a way of doing). It was this one:
"Let us be banded together as one man; let us contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints; let us pray with fervour, let us live in holiness, let us preach constantly, and preach with fire, and let us so live, that we may impress our age, and leave our footprints on the sands of time." -CHS
Wow. I'm a bit speechless right now at just how dead on that sums up my Grandmother. Anyone who came in contact with her would be incapable of objecting to that statement. She had a rough upbringing from what I was always told, and yet, there came a point in her life where the Lord saved her and gave her the gift of faith in her perfect, risen Savior. It was from that point on that my Gram, by grace alone, made a decision to contend earnestly for that faith that was delivered to her, and thus, to spend the rest of her life praying with fervor, living in holiness, preaching constantly and preaching with fire. But let me get one thing straight as well, the point of this is not to sit here and make my Grandma out to be a perfect saint. A saint, yes, but perfect, hardly. None of us are. Simply sinners who, save the grace of God, would be left slaves to sin and bound to our depraved nature. I say all of this about my Gram with the disclaimer that she would have a fit if I was speaking of her in this manner, but would perhaps oblige as long as I made one thing clear: it was not her doing this, but rather it was Christ in her. Galatians 2:20 "I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." She would speak of herself in no manner other than Paul did in his testimony in Philippians...chief of sinners who was saved despite herself.
But with all that in the forefront, what we have been left with, what my family of 40 and I have been left with, is a legacy described above in Spurgeon's quote. A legacy that impressed her age and left footprints on the sands of time. Absolutely incredible and beyond words. Gram, you did it. You finished strong. You suffered 8 long years of a disease that robbed you of your memory, but not of your faith. You went out of this world suffering no doubt, but no more than your Savior did. I believe you considered it pure joy to suffer on behalf of your King. Pleasant and painless? No. But joyful to the core of you, I have zero doubts. Never fading and never unresponsive to the scripture and prayers of your family who loved you so.
The faith of my Grandmother, a faith unapologetically based on Christ and His finished work on the cross for our sins, has built a foundation strong enough to hold up an entire family, even beyond her years on this earth. I don't believe that is an overstatement, and I don't believe it is a stretch to say that the faith of my Grandma affects most of what I and the rest of my family do on a daily basis. Raising up 5 kids in the Lord, who went on to raise their own kids in the Lord...do you see the effect? We are who we are, largely, because of those who reared us and Grandparents set the tone for that (reminded of 1 Timothy 1:5), and praise God for the faith of my Grandma (and Grandpa) who started it all. We all have our own stories about Gram giving us godly advice, or praying for each one of us every morning by name, or speaking her mind, or even being there when she shared her faith with a stranger. But this became even more evident to me this past weekend when we were all sitting around talking and catching up in Colorado. My Gram was mentioned by name a lot, for instance I heard: "Grandma Sue always said, never date a girl that drinks a beer out of a bottle...it's not classy. MAN. That always stuck with me haha!" but I also heard her in different ways too. I heard one of my cousins explain that the scripture is the guideline in which he abides by in life, and that if he reads it in the Bible then he is ready and willing to defend it the rest of his life. Wow. I saw my Gram in the way that we fellowshipped with each other...how our talk, for the most part, was void of superficiality and yet we laughed and had fun with each other. How we truly cared about one another and genuinely feel that the goal is to see each other grow in holiness and faith in the Lord even if it wasn't explicitly said in words. We didn't turn a blind eye to the realities of life or the weariness we often face in this world. We have been through a lot together. We have been through a lot together with our Grandma. To waste time pretending everything is perfect and not deal with reality...is just that, a waste of time.
Have you any idea how valuable a family like this is? Certainly not, because there is no price tag. Far greater than any material thing on this earth is a family in which the understood, underlying goal is to go through life together, strengthening each other in Christ even when you know it isn't easy. And once again, this is not to portray my family as perfect by any means. HA. We would all laugh at the thought. I am also not trying to idolize family, because often times we can do that. I just wanted to take the time to write with gratitude about the blessing my family has been in my life. We don't always get along, we don't always see eye to eye, we aren't all best friends, and we think differently on a lot of issues, but the common bond of Christ crucified unifies us above all else. Draw lines in the sand of truth and we will all be lined up on the same side, together. There is no doubt in any of our minds that the faith of our Grandma Sue is not to be thanked for that. Perhaps I feel the strongest about this bond because I am the furthest away from my family in miles, and yet am still able to feel connected to them because of this. And the bond that I am describing is no different than any brother or sister in the Lord. Even if you don't have any relatives who you share this with, this is no different than how the body of Christ works. I am just blessed to have a microcosm of the Church right here in my own family.
Sundays, even when not the one year anniversary of my Grandma's passing, are always that day in which the superficiality and distractions of the week burn away and I am left feeling empty by the world and thirsting for the truth of scripture to revive my weary soul. Sundays, even without the sorrow of remembering my Gram's beautiful life, are always the time when I tend to miss my family the most because my eyes are opened to see that there isn't much in this life that matters outside of faith in my Lord, my loving husband and his fellowship, and my brothers and sisters in Christ which includes my family who lives on the other side of the country. Therefore, on these days, I miss them so. No palm tree or sunny beach can relieve this. But oh so much more did I miss them on this day in which I longed to just sit with the ones who knew my Grandma like I did. Who, without words, could remember her and her legacy with me as we comfort one another.
Bless my husband's little heart, he wasn't prepared for today either haha. By 1pm I was a hot mess as the reality of my Grandma's one year of being with the Lord sank further in. My heart longed for someone to share my sorrow with, and as much as he wished he could comfort me, he didn't know my grandma like I did. The time he had with her was special, but it was mostly after she had gotten sick. So he did the next best thing, and called my mom to talk to her and get her on the phone to talk to me. He said it was what I needed, and what a blessing to have a husband that is sensitive to that. Sure enough I got on the phone with my mom and it was just what I needed. She was the FIRST one to remind me that Gram wouldn't want me crying or upset over any of this. She told me that Gram would have said something like this "Stop that. No need to cry. You have a loving husband and a great place to live. You aren't in the hospital. Now if you were in the hospital, THEN I would be crying and feeling sorry for you." HA! That is exactly what Gram would have said, and hearing my mom say that made me laugh. You could tell my mom had gotten that speech many a times as she also has lived away from her family for the last 20 years. What a blessing it was as my mom and I talked and remembered my Grandma together.
I would like to also add that my Grandma doesn't NEED anyone to honor her or her life on this earth. The chief end of mankind is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. Gram, the moment you left this earth, that was fulfilled to the maximum for you. You now are glorifying the Lord and enjoying Him forever in the purest form imaginable. You don't need us to honor your life here on this earth, but your legacy lives on regardless. And there is really no better way of honoring that legacy than continuing on the things that you lived for and that Spurgeon so plainly spells out as the only true way to leave a lasting one: contending for the faith delivered to us, living in holiness, praying with fervor, and preaching constantly and preaching with fire. Wow. There IS no better way to live this life than that, and it just so happens to be the legacy my Gram left us with. Let us, by the grace of God, go and live this, for the glory of God alone. That is why Gram did it. For His glory not hers.
So in closing, I remember my Grandma Sue's last years in which she persevered in the Lord through the weariness of Alzheimer's disease. I remember how she finished strong and how she was being sanctified through the fiery trials until the very last breath, just as we all will be on this earth. Her suffering also sanctified those around her and drew us closer to the Lord. What a reminder that is for me when I deal with my own trials, like today when dealing with the sorrow of being far away from my family. I remember the life of my Grandma as well as the many saints in the Bible and how the point of this life is not to have personal peace and affluence (as we are reminded by Francis Shaeffer). That is not the message found in the scriptures. But instead the point is to glorify the Lord and draw near to him as we are molded into the image of His Son, until that final day when we will finally be perfected in glory. We are to press on as the ones who came before us did despite their trials, just like my Gram, and stayed faithful and consistent in the little things, day in and day out until their final days. Not perfectly, but with fervency, nonetheless. They denied themselves for the sake of their Savior. In the end, what else matters? May that be the legacy we continue on as we remember our loved ones who paved the way for us. I write this, for the most part, so that I myself may never forget. Soli Deo Gloria.