Thursday, March 20, 2014

So Much Sorrow, but With Hope

My Nanny is dying. I call my mother's mother "Nanny". I was twelve before I knew that a full time, paid childcare employee was called the same thing.

My oldest daughter is named after her. Margaret Sarah. Nanny's name is Sarah Lou. She had red hair most of my life and was the most competent woman who ever lived.

My grandfather made a habit of starting businesses, getting them stable, then moving on to the next thing. Nanny would run them and do the books until they sold the business. In this manner my grandfather made plenty of money, but he couldn't have done it without Nanny.

At one point when I was a kid, Nanny had my sister and I for the summer, took care of her elderly mother, taught Sunday School, grew a garden and ran a used car lot, a gas station and an electrical supply company.  She graduated from Samford when I was ten.

When they decided to plant a church,  before it was fashionable, Nanny kept the nursery every Sunday for years. Paw Paw would preach the sermon to her on the way.

Nanny always had a kiss for us, even if they were the wettest kisses on the planet. She always licked her lips first. She always kissed Paw paw the most though. She adored him until the Alzheimers stole him from her. They did everything together. Their rv saw almost every state in the continental United States. I can still picture her scratching his head and kissing his cheek. Or making him a sandwich that was half wrapped in a paper towel.

Nanny taught me how to be a wife. Never did a husband have a better, more dedicated help mate. He valued her opinion and sought it out. He recognized that his ministry to the poor was possible because of the dedication and servant's heart of his bride. He knew how to tease her to laughter when she took things too seriously.

I remember a million things about her. The way she would wash my feet before I went to sleep on clean sheets. The way she would keep calling my name until I remembered to say, "ma'am?" The crunch of her homemade pickles and the gag factor of her sweet n low tea. The funny noise her nose made when she sniffed and the sound of her voice singing while she worked. The smile on her face when she saw me. Her favorite flowers planted in the front garden.

I will miss my Nanny. I'm sad that my children never experienced her the way I did. But I know that she's ready. She is ready for heaven and to see her Savior. She's ready to see her husband and her daughter and her parents. She's ready, but I am not.

I will miss her terribly.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014


There's something very different about seeing a place in pictures and going to that place in person. The first time I went to Culcheth, England I wanted to see everything, memorize everything. I paid attention to street names and businesses. I looked at maps and absorbed all I could. ... I did this because one of my best friends was moving there. I wanted to have a picture in my mind when she told me about her day.

"We went to the Cherry Tree for Sunday roast." - I can picture it in my mind. I know where the bathrooms are and what the paintings look like.

"I met a lady in the check out lane at the grocery store." I know where the cereal aisle is and where to find the cheese section. I remember the smell of it.

I can navigate in my mind's eye from the pitch to where the new Quench Cafe sits. I know where my friend Sue's guest toilet is located in her house and what her banafe pie tastes like and where she keeps the plates in her kitchen.

All of these things make England a real place to me. When I think of England, I have memories, not knowledge.

So many preach brokenness and for a long long time I really, truly thought I understood them. I KNEW that I was broken and couldn't save myself. I KNEW I needed a savior. I KNEW God was ever present. I'd seen the photos, read the verses. I knew and trusted to the best of my ability.

Then God showed me himself and all my gift packages and strengths and strategies melted before him. My heart trembled out of terror at my inability. I couldn't pray, only plead. I couldn't minister, only show up. I looked at all my hard work and realized it didn't matter a bit; it wasn't sufficient. It couldn't save anyone, myself included. I felt desperation. A desperation for God, for his presence, for his breath on my face.

When I hear someone speak of brokenness now, it is a memory, a present reality that I plead never goes away.

My complete lack of ability takes me so close to the very throne of God that I can feel his whisper in my ear. He doesn't need my strengths, his are better and stronger and infinite. He doesn't need me to plant a church; it's his bride and he pursues her with a zeal I cannot imagine. He doesn't expect me to be him. He is enough in himself.

I pray that when I feel pretty good about myself, when I think I have something great to offer that is not HIM, I pray that I will remember the smell, the images, the street signs of that blessed brokenness when I had nothing but him and he was more than enough.

"But my grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in your weakness."