The Jesus you see in me is the direct reflection of the Jesus I saw in you.

The Jesus you see in me is a direct reflection of the Jesus you allowed me to see in you.  The Jesus you introduced me to, even when I was not aware.  You couldn’t help it.  He is as much of you as the air you breathe.  His power and influence drive your decisions.  Your wisdom.  The love the flows from your heart for his people, both lost and found.  I was just blessed to have crossed your path.

It must have been a mistake that you came into my restaurant that day.  I was 18 and newly married.  An assistant manager at KFC.  I was going places.  I likely knew everything there was to know about life.  You didn’t let that stop you.  Day after day, you and your wife came in about 2pm.  It was the quietest time of the day.  You would have the buffet and give me a hard time, or try and sell me your joke of the day. You would ask about my life.  Day after day, you really got to know me.  You invested in me.  I’m not sure when I realized when you were the pastor of a little country church, but I remember the day you came in to tell me you were headed to Russia for a week.  You went every two years for missions. When you came back you brought me a wall hanging native to Kostroma.  You shared stories.  You invited me to your Sunday evening service so I could see pictures and hear about your trip.  I remember making it a point to take off early so I could make it.  You meant as much to me as I meant to you.  I just didn’t see it at the time. I remember the day you told me I had to take responsibility for my own salvation.  It was my choice.  That stuck with me.  You later moved on to another community.  I couldn’t begin to know where to find you now, but I want you to know that I found him.  I accepted Christ to be my Lord and Savior.  I never miss church if I don’t have too.  My kids know him too.  Because I meant something too you.  You never pressured me about missing church.  Instead, you brought Jesus to me each and every day and introduced me to him over chicken, coleslaw and conversation.  The Jesus you see in me is a direct result of the message of salvation that you allowed him to carry through you.  I just wanted to say Thank you.

You were the patriarch.  You sat proudly at the head of the pew, dressed in your Sunday suit jacket and skirt.  Vintage broach and an cocky grin.  You were gentle spoken with a back bone of steel.  Most families attend church on Christmas and Easter.  Not us. When we attended, it was for Mothers day or your birthday.  Afterward, we would go out to the country club for lunch and a few good laughs.  I respected you so deeply.  You were the first one I told, after David, that we were going to have a baby.  You were so proud of her.  The first Sunday we attended church with her, you carried her around to every Sunday school class in the building.  The Jesus you see in me is a direct result of the love I saw flow through you.  Unconditional and deep.  You taught me that to love deeply is not weakness, but strength.  You taught me to strive for gentleness and wisdom in my home.  Your example makes me want to live God’s best everyday.

She was a physics professor at EIU. She saw potential in me during a women’s bible study that she led.  I was intimidated as heck.  She cruised up in her Chrysler convertible and bounced in with a basket of handouts and goodies.  I loved her oversized jewelry and bright style.  I never understood why she chose me to take under her wing.  She spoke life into me.  She encouraged me in my discovery of God’s word.  She told me to tuck his word away in my heart. She taught me how to apply God’s word to my life. She taught me to teach others.  She encouraged me to further myself and chase after my dreams.  She kept regular appointments with me.  Lunches.  Sunday afternoon picnics with my family.  She sent my husband care packages while he was over seas.  She sent me surprise letters of encouragement and DQ money while my kids and I were waiting at home for his return.  The Jesus I saw in a beautiful bible teacher showed me that my life has worth and meaning.   A purpose in his kingdom.  The Jesus you see in me lives, truly lives because of the Jesus I saw in her.  No more stinkin’ thinkin’.  Just baby steps of obedience in whatever direction he calls me to go.

The Jesus you see in me would never be without the influence of those who have followed him before.  Those who have stories to tell, love to give and applications to teach.  Those who invested their time, their prayers and their obedience to follow God in order to reach a girl who had big dreams, minimal resources and no confidence.

The Jesus you see in me is an investment of God’s willing people mixed with Gods word. His Holy Spirit and His perfect time.  He still has a long way to go in my life.  But I hope  the Jesus you see in me will be as profound and intentional as the Jesus I saw in them.

 

 

Dear Grams

Grams,
I just received word that you went home to be well with the Lord tonight.  To be honest, I feel as though you had been taken from us long before now.  I laid in bed tonight, overwhelmed with the memories of who you were and how you touched my life in so many ways.  Yet, had I told you, I don’t know that you would have understood in your final days here.

When I was little, I couldn’t imagine life without you.  The traditions you worked hard to create.  Your home always felt like my respite from the storm.  Even as an adult, I looked forward to just stopping in to spend the day.  It always brought me back to a simpler time.

I remember the excitement about spending the week with Grandma St. Germain.  Meeting in Champaign to eat at Bob Evans.  Singing Jesus Loves me in the car along with all of the other crazy fun kid songs you had.  The collection was endless.  Walking to the restaurant for pancakes in the morning with your daycare kids.   You always let me have soda while everyone else had to stick to milk or juice.  I remember putting money in my Moola Moola savings account.  Sitting at the drug store and munching on penny candy while you caught up with Ruth at the counter. You introduced me to everyone you knew.  “This is Sam.  Can you believe how big she has gotten?”  I remember driving by the whiskey barrels in Kankakee, shopping at the farmers market and rooting on Jim McMahon and the Bears on their way to the Superbowl.  Darla and I had the Superbowl Shuffle down.  And when Grandpa would fall asleep watching TV, it was always so fun to turn it off on him and hear him proclaim, “Hey, I was watching that!”  It was the thing to do, every evening just after the 10 o’clock news.   You would snooze on the sofa and I would camp out in my sleeping bag on the floor.  And the summer you taught us to stand and walk on a rolling trash barrel down the hill.  Yep, I still can’t believe I came away from that unscathed.  We both know how graceful I am.

At Christmas, I remember Santa delivering my gift.  He would stop to smile for the camera before coming in the front door, a quick pose in the front picture window.  And I remember us running into him at Santa’s Village when I was around 12. It was just as I had stopped believing that we walked into Santa’s house and he called us all by name.  What a funny moment of surprise that was.  He became the National Lampoons Santa.  And he used one of your pictures on his resume.  Yep, that is still my favorite Christmas movie.

At Easter, you hid baskets for kids and adults alike.  I remember wandering through your yard and the neighbors, looking for our Easter treasures.  And then, of course the hunt for the last few eggs that we always hid so well.  But more than anything, I loved to hear the stories around the table. Easter could not pass by without Jello Eggs from Liz or Sugar Cookies from Darla.

Have I mentioned the cousin’s pictures yet?  Yep, those were a hoot.  You decided to do those shortly after I was married.  It was a bit awkward being the only adult in the cousin’s pic.  I never told you this, but it is next to impossible to find bib overalls for an adult.   My absolute favorite picture is the one we got for free.  No one was posed for the camera, so we all had our relaxed faces on and we were looking in different directions.  That picture hung proudly on my wall for years. Mostly because it is the only one in which I was smiling AND having a good hair day all at the same time.

I loved that you loved my husband.  I still cherish our corner cabinet and cradle that Gramps made. What pressure you put on David, to get that cabinet home safe.  He has never driven slower on the interstate.  The day you told us about our handmade cradles, I had just started to suspect I was pregnant with Chloe.  I remember telling you a week or so later and you giving me such a hard time about holding back important news.  You felt so guilty about not coming down the day she was born.  Yet, we passed you on the way home in the hospital parking lot.  You and mom had already been by our house and decorated with yard signs and pink balloons.  You were there when I laid Chloe in the cradle for the first time.  And when Lucas was born, you were right there to cradle him on as soon as you could.  He was the first grandson in the family, after all.  I love that you would remind me that I was a good mom.  That David and I were raising our children right.  That God would honor the decisions we were making in regard to our family.

When David went to the guard, and particularly when he was deployed, you were always faithful to check in.  You prayed.  You made sure he got his birthday and Christmas gifts all the way overseas. You sent him a used cellphone because you heard the troops had a way of being able to use them to call back home.  We never actually figured out what that program was, but he brought the phone back home because it had a picture of grandpa on it and he didn’t think you would want to get rid of that quite so easily.  We probably still have the phone tucked away in a drawer somewhere.  I never could bring myself to talk you out of the ideas you had, especially if you thought they were helping the greater good.

The hard part is that this is just the touch of the iceberg of the memories you have left behind.  I remember you showing me the family bible.  The playhouse in the backyard.  Snuggles, Lokie, Sable and Bailey.  I remember mom and I dognapping Lillie after your mastectomy.  She is doing well, but now has a little sibling rivalry going on with her new brother, Gus.

You have left a legacy of strong women behind.  Daughters,  Granddaughters and a Grandson that will carry on to make a difference in this generation and the one to come.   We will make you proud, I have no doubt.

I love you and miss you.  You took a little part of my heart with you today as you said your final goodbye on this side of Earth.  I am thankful you are healthy and at peace now.  That you have reunited with those whom you have loved so dearly.  I will never forget how you have impacted my life.  Thank you for everything.