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Thursday, March 9, 2017

Dear Grandmom

Dear Grandmom,

A few weeks ago on a Sunday morning. I stared at the row of dresses in my closet and listened to the wind whip against the house outside. I looked up to the heavens and gave you a sheepish grin and a quick apology as I decided I would wear jeans to church that morning. I pictured you turning to Pop and saying, "Well, I declare, Fred Allen, I never heard of such a thing."

I know you weren't happy about it, but I don't know if you understand this cold. It's not the kind of cold that we had in East Texas when the morning might start out a bit chilly, but by the time we headed to the "picture show" and lunch at Luby's Cafeteria it had become so hot that we were sure we were going to melt into a puddle. It's a cold that stays in your bones and makes you shiver all the way until you're well into the 3rd verse of "He walks with me and He talks with me and He tells me I am His own". And you think, "Sweet Lord, is it hot and humid in that garden with you? Because if so, I'm ready. Now."

Anyway, please forgive, but I wore jeans to church. That started me thinking about you all morning and how the world has changed since you left us. Lots of times people (including me) talk about how things were better back "in the day". And in many ways they were. And in many ways, they really weren't.

I've been pondering the course of your life and the course of mine. I wonder today what you would think. I wonder how you might have changed. I wonder, too, how we might have changed each other. In the last years of your life I was bogged down and intensely focused on my three babies and my life. I regret that I didn't give more time to you. I wish I'd taken the chance to talk with you and listen to you more when you were here. I think there was so much more to learn from you and I think, perhaps you could have learned from me, too.

Like the jeans thing? Well, you might have a hard time with what some folks wear to church today, Grandmom. But I'm going to tell you that it is so much easier to get the boys to church if they don't have to shove themselves into dress shirts and ties. And one of the most important things about our Jesus is that He wants us to come just as we are. Messy and broken and sometimes wearing jeans. It does help some folks feel more welcome at church, I think. Still, I miss the days when everyone dressed up for Jesus. It made worship seem special. It was more reverent and I felt like it gave God the respect and honor He deserved.

Remember when you'd give us white toast covered in Karo Syrup for breakfast? Grandmom, you cannot even imagine the judgment that would get today. The white bread alone is practically cause for Child Protective Services to be called. Now we have to look for bread with whole grains and without additives and preservatives and I'm not sure very many people even know what Karo is. It's exhausting to keep up with all the things we're supposed to do. I tell you what, though. I might need to serve that for breakfast this week some time. I will say when I pick up the white bread and Karo at the grocery store today, you can bet your boots, I'll hide it under the whole wheat bread and the pure maple syrup in my cart.

Remember how we used to have to be right in front of the tv at 12:30 to watch your "stories"? Well, now As the World Turns isn't on anymore, but I can pretty much watch whatever I want, whenever I darn well please. The thing is that when you think you have all the time in the world and all the options in the world, sometimes you choose no time and no option. And we miss sharing moments together because we figure we can put them off until it's convenient. It seems that all too often convenient never comes.

Back then after church we'd go to Luby's Cafeteria or through the drive through at the fried chicken place. Or we'd have that casserole with the egg noodles and some sort of beef and I can't even remember what else was in it, but we'd sit at the table and eat together when we visited you. And there'd be that lime or orange jello thing? And maybe pecan pie that you usually left in the oven a smidge too long or pound cake for dessert. And it seemed like you always had a little tray of those tiny, freaky pickles and I never understood what the point of those was.

Well, now during a lot of the year we go to baseball games on Sundays right away after church. And not just one game, but a double header. And really we usually have two kids playing on Sundays so if you do the math, that's four games right after church.

And Grandmom. You might need to take a seat on one of those puffy clouds in heaven when I tell you this, but there have been a time or two that the boys have worn their baseball uniforms to church on those days.

I know. You're giving Fred Allen an earful on that one.

So on Sundays after church, we usually grab Subway sandwiches and we stick them in a cooler and we eat them on the bleachers and in between games. And lots of times we aren't all five together. But, Grandmom, we've met some of the greatest people you could ever meet through the boys' sports. And I've chatted with mamas on those Sunday afternoons who have shared their hearts with me and I've shared mine with them. They love my kids and I love theirs. I think God put us together for a reason. And I wouldn't give them up for anything.

And that's another thing. This "sharing" business. You know, nowadays people will seem to tell you every darn thing that's going on in their lives. This new internet thing has given folks an opportunity to tell you every feeling they have every moment they have it. It's as if we've decided that the entire world should grieve the fact that the traffic was terrible this morning or should know that today we had a headache or that "someone" is on our nerves. Sometimes I think we need to cowboy up a little bit and just muscle through some things without having to drag everyone and their dog through our muck with us.

On the other hand, this sharing our hearts thing can be beautiful. We were fortunate that our family was solid and we loved each other dearly, but you and I know that we weren't immune to struggles. Many of our people suffered pain and addiction and sickness and broken relationships. And back then most people kept their brokenness close inside. They put on brave faces and pushed hurts aside. I wonder if you'd been able to talk more about some of the pain in your life if maybe it would have turned out to be not so sad for you. Sometimes when you take just a little bit of the burden of your own heart and let some one else carry it for you, your heart lightens a whole lot. There's a popular saying that "hurt people hurt people". Unfortunately, I think that's true, but recently I read a book which stated the opposite. Often, hurt people heal people. And we're pretty good at holding burdens for each other these days. We're pretty good at looking into people's pain and saying, "Me, too."

Grandmom, here's the most amazing thing I want to tell you. I remember that you loved your Sunday School Class so much. I think it was the Sunshine Circle or something like that. I remember that when Joe and Kyle were born they were tickled to pieces and they put an announcement in the church bulletin about the fact that you were a Great-Grandmom.

Well, for the past five years I've been in a Bible Study, too, but it looks different from yours. I've been in groups where there are so many different kinds of women that I think you'd be a little shocked. I've prayed with Asian women and Black women and Hispanic women and Indian women. They hug me and love me and I love them, too. So much. Sometimes I have a hard time understanding the accents and I think they might have a hard time understanding me. But we all love Jesus. We love Him so much. Some of them had childhoods completely different from mine and some were similar. Some were scary  - ones where they weren't sure when the next meal would come or whether or not they would have to watch their mamas get beaten. Some of them weren't told about Jesus from the moment they were born like I was. And when they met Him it was because there was nothing left to hold them up.

And every single time they tell a story my heart is busted open by the fact that their Jesus and my Jesus and your Jesus, Grandmom? He is the same one. The same one whose spirit filled the Wesley United Methodist Church while we sat in the pew in Texas is the same one that saved my friend from her abusive father. The same one that gloried in the hymns you played on the piano is the same one who made an unwanted little Korean girl feel loved and important and valuable. The same God who saved our loved ones from addiction time and time again saved a friend who lived on the other side of the country from the same exact struggles. The same Jesus that saved me from postpartum depression when your death and Drew's birth came crashing in on me within months of each other is the same one that saved another woman when she lost her child to a horrific, random accident.

And when I ask these women to pray? I know that they hit their knees for me. I know that they do. Just exactly like all the women in the Sunshine Circle did for you. Many of the women don't look like me, they don't dress like me and they don't sound like me, but they write my needs and my sorrows in their journals and on their hearts and they lift them up to the same Jesus you taught me about.

Because for all the changes good and bad over the course of our lives? For the good ol' days or for the good nowadays? Our Jesus remains the same yesterday, today and forever. The same for you, for me and for them.

I wish I could sit on the swing with you under the carport and talk about all of this, but I suppose it's not time yet. When I see you again, I imagine that swing will hold more people than either of us imagined it could. Maybe Jesus and you will scoot over and make room and pass me the bowls of green beans and corn from the garden. And we'll snap the ends off the beans and shuck the corn like we used to and talk some more about all of this. I can't wait to see you again.

 I love you a bushel and a peck and a hug around the neck.

Jennifer Lynne

1 comment:

Lisa C said...

Wow. You should have put a warning: tissues required. I could have written so much of this (but not as well). I remember when we moved to a larger town and my son was playing soccer for a really good team. If they won on Saturday, there would be a game on Sunday morning. He raised his hand and told his coach that he couldn't play, he went to church on Sundays. This was 2000, I believe. He said it because we always went to church on Sunday morning and because we'd never had an opportunity to play soccer on Sunday morning. It was a really learning curve for us as a family to choose what to do, why to do it, and what example we sat. And the jeans.... oh my. I remember the first time my mother wore pants to church - she was 75 (81 now) and it was cold (central Texas type cold). She really struggled with it but it was almost go to church and wear pants or not go. Worshiping her Savior was worth wearing pants. She still prefers dresses but pants are in the rotation. You've give me lots to think about today. Thank you!