Long-Distance Love

Long-distance grandparenting – ouch! Sadly it’s the norm for many families today.

Some families move across town, some across the country, and some across the globe.

Our only two grandchildren live literally on the other side of the world. Our son and daughter-in-law work for a non-profit humanitarian agency whose home leave policy is three months at home for every year on the field. Most families in their agency save up leave to come home for an entire school year. For us that year was last year, ten months packed with intentionally made memories large and small, from camping at the Grand Canyon to geocaching in the parking lot of our neighborhood drugstore to just plain babysitting so our son and daughter-in-law could have real “date nights,” a hard-to-come-by commodity when they were on the field.

So much fun meant so much heartache saying good-bye. Though our grandchildren were only three and six, they knew they were going back to another far-away country and culture. The anxiety of leaving family spilled out of our grandson’s heart, eyes and conversations during the final month of their home visit: “Grandma, I wish we could stay here with someone until Mommy and Daddy are finished with the work they have to do.”

“You can stay with us!” my heart cried silently, protesting the words coming out of my mouth, “I know, but you’d miss Daddy and Mommy. I’m sure your friends there have missed you, too, and can’t wait to see you again!” Over my heart’s objections, true love told me I needed to do something to help our grandkids make the transition, so through my tears I wrote a poem – with a bow to Dr. Seuss – to tuck into their carry-on bags along with toys and treats for their 32-hour journey – a fun surprise for them and therapy for a grieving Grandma’s heart!

I’ve been blessed to visit them three times since, to see where they live and share in some of their adventures and favorite places in the towns they’ve lived in. I am so proud of my son and daughter-in-law for providing love, grace, shared faith, strength and the stability of love for both of these kids we share in family love, wherever they are!

back on good bed at Suan Bua

Home is Where the Love Is

On the grandkids’ moving day, they were scared to move away,

So Grandma called them on the phone to say, “You’ll never be alone.”

“No matter where the road may wind you, know my love will always find you.

If you move to Timbuktu, I’ll still come visit you.

If you fly to Zanzibar, my heart won’t think that is too far.

If you’re as close as Nacogdoches, I’ll come hug you so ferocious!”

“If you wake up in Jingxi, you both mean the world to me.

Take the bus back to Nanning?  Call on the computer and we can sing.

I’ll send you packages in Key Largo, even though it’s farther than Fargo.

If you drive to Jodrell Bank, my love will fully fill your tank.

If you stop in Honolulu, my love won’t stop; it will pursue you!”

“Ride a camel to Kyrgyzstan, and I’ll still be your biggest fan!

If you get hot in Madagascar, Gram still thinks you’re cool – just ask her!

Sail a boat to Truk or Yap? My heart won’t even need a map.

Cruise the Strait of Kattegat? My heart always knows where you’re at.

Stuff your backpack for Hong Kong? You’re carrying my heart along.

Forget you in Ulaanbaatar? No way!  My thoughts are where you are!”

“Across the globe while you are sleeping, I’m awake; you’re in love’s keeping.

When I sleep and you’re at play, your hearts are just a dream away.

Around the world we’ll rendezvous because I think the world of you!

It’s true, no matter where you dwell, your Grandma loves YOU. Can’t you tell?

From east to west, Cape Town to Nome, where family love is, there is home.”

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All I need to say

Rose in green chair 54Oh, this morning overwhelmed in and by the righteous, Blood-washed robe we stand in. Who are we to be so loved and treasured, sought and fought for and bought and paid for? The better question is who is this ONE who loves, treasures, sought, fought, and bought us? It’s all about Jesus- all we do is surrender to that LOVE and wash his feet with our grateful tears.

THEN we can serve out of pure motives, all for love.  He is the Hebrew Groom who gives all to his Bride. She (we) simply say yes, put our hand in his, and walk with him forever.

 

Jesus found me when I was four years old, looking at his picture on a paper fan from a local funeral home in the back pocket of the hard wooden seat in front of me in a tiny church in Indiana. My great-grandparents’ names glowed in stained glass on one of the simple stained glass windows they purchased, to keep rain out and let sunlight in. Their light was in my life, and I don’t doubt at all that their prayers were, too, even though they would never see me or the little boy who would become a missionary among their offspring who came forth from me, my glorious and humbling blessing, the inheritance of their faith and prayers.

 

Today all I can say is I am loved, grateful, sought and bought, and in awe of whose robe I wear.Stained Glass Window Heisler Etna Green EUB ChurchMiner Family reunionMy beloved Grandpa and sweet, godly Grandma Miner, whose name I’m often mistakenly called, “Ruth,” and I say thank you every time someone calls me by her name. I know my Boaz is speaking to me.

Sandwich Hugs

Children speak so eloquently straight from the Spirit.  Smelling the cinnamon rolls my older son was baking for breakfast, I showered and dressed for church on Mother’s Day morning at his house. From the master bedroom I heard my six-year-old granddaughter’s invitation, “Grandma, come and cuddle!”  She’d spent the night in the big king-size bed with Daddy and Mommy so I could sleep in her bed overnight, and that’s where I found her curled up against my daughter-in-law.

Dressed or not, how could I refuse such a wonderful request? I crawled under the sheet and snuggled up next to Elsa for a big hug.

“Hey, we’re making an Elsa sandwich,” I laughed. Elsa is well acquainted with sandwich hugs, securely squished between Daddy and Mommy, and often with her brother Evan as part of the “filling.” Sandwich hugs were part of our family ritual on weekends when my boys were growing up, too.

On guided tours, night camps and during summer camps when I worked at the Zoo, we always made “instructor sandwiches” to keep the groups of children safely between us adults so no one got lost. I told the children they were the peanut butter, jelly, lettuce, tomatoes, cheese, pickles, salami, onions, olives, mustard, mayonnaise – whatever they wanted to be, and they always called out plenty of disgusting combinations to make things fun. I enjoyed encouraging them because it built camaraderie between us. No, we didn’t bunch up into one big hug, and granted, the “filling” tended to ooze out the sides, but we never lost a camper when they stayed between us.

I asked Elsa what kind of filling she was, and she replied, “Cream cheese.” We put our heads together, literally, and tried to decide what Evan might be. “Jelly? Or bologna (or rather, baloney)?” I joked. We tried to figure out how to fit the entire family into one sandwich hug and decided the best “bread” to be between is God our Father and Jesus the Bread of Life.

“One day we all WILL be!” I offered. “Hmm, but what about the Holy Spirit? Are we a triple-decker sandwich? ”

“Oh, he’ll be sprinkled on top of us like poppy seeds,” Elsa smiled, “or like olive oil!”

What a hug that will make with the oil of the Holy Spirit poured out on us! And yes, I do believe in a God so intimately loving as Father that he probably can’t wait to have us all safely in his arms. I suspect that’s where we are in this life too, when we make him our Father, whether we feel it or not.

Let the beloved of the LORD rest secure in him, for he shields him all day long, and the one the LORD loves rests between his shoulders.  Deuteronomy 33:12

Then Jesus said, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty . . . All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day.” John 6: 35-39

Because I live, you also will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you . . . He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.”  John 14: 20-21.

Do I feel lonely since I lost the man I loved? Yes, of course I do, painfully so sometimes, and I long for arms to wrap me again securely in faithful love. But till that time, and even after, I sometimes do truly feel God’s presence and always will believe the one with me is the One who reminds me, “The one the LORD loves rests between his shoulders.” He doesn’t want any of us lost.

I call that a hug to be cherished, don’t you?

Six-year-old arms are pretty wonderful, too: “Grandma, you and Mommy are blueberry bagels today.”

A “ . . . BUT . . . “ to move:  God, I feel so alone sometimes. Even in the middle of a crowd, and even in the middle of family, still I long to truly feel your arms around me. I want all my family with me in that hug, BUT no matter how far they are or how far I feel from you, I’ll let you be the bread of life and dare to believe that you want to ____________________________________________________________________________________. Scandalous intimacy, I know, but a scandalous love wraps me in an eternal sandwich hug!

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Ruth’s Blessing

(The photos are my Grandma Miner, aka Ruth, with two of her five daughters, Helen and Bonnie, and Ruth and Bram with 24 of their grandchildren circa 1965. This post references last summer’s post The Beauty of the Opal, but this take on that experience is a further revelation to me, to be followed by yet one more! I pray this blesses all the Grandmas in the blogosphere!)

Rose Jackson © 5/20/2010

Here it comes again!

“Hi, Ruth . . . er- I mean Rose.”

“I want to introduce you to Ru . . . er– Rose.”

“Nice to meet you, Ruth . . . oops, Rose.”

I hear it from friends and from strangers: people consistently call me Ruth instead of Rose. I understand the mistake from women at our church – our director of ministry to women is named Ruth – but from total strangers? It used to frustrate me. Didn’t I speak clearly enough? Were others just not paying attention when they met me? I couldn’t fault casual acquaintances too much. I have enough trouble of my own remembering the names of people I’ve just met unless I say their name over and over in our first conversation, but this was happening so often that I started wondering what the problem was!

My internal dialogue went something like this: “Granted, my grandmother’s name was Ruth.”

“No one on this end of the continent knows that, though.”

“Grandma died 25 years ago, and now that I’m a grandmother myself, surely no one who knew her knows me.”

“No one outside of my family, anyway. So what’s the deal? Why is this happening so frequently that it’s almost laughable?”

Then last year life plunged me into the darkest days I’ve ever known. Knowing this, my friend Charity gently touched my hand one morning and said, “I want to take you on a journey through ‘The Father’s House’. It’s a spiritual journey into God’s heart, looking for Jesus there. A friend of mine took me through this when my marriage was in trouble, and I found such a breakthrough for my own heart. Let me know when you’re ready.” Tears glistening in Charity’s eyes told me she was speaking from the reality of a powerful encounter with God in her own life. Searching for light, hope, and meaning from the tragedy threatened to overwhelm all my identity, I eagerly took up her offer.

Two weeks later I sat beside Charity and her mother Sharon, one of my best friends. “Please, God, I don’t want to conjure this out of my own imagination,” I silently cried, trying to remain aloof from the influence of my own presuppositions. Sharon and I voiced what we were envisioning; she described a beautiful mansion in vivid detail. I was having some trouble, my analytical brain questioning whether what I was sensing was me or God. Sharon’s words were awash in love and amazement as she narrated her journey across marble floors through gilded rooms.

All I sensed was a deep desire to go “out back,” and in a flicker of faint remembrance (in my imagination surrendered to the Holy Spirit) I caught the musty but somehow secure odor of an ancient porch. My hand felt worn wood as I pushed open a shabby screen door and was enveloped in the pungent sweetness of my Grandmother’s apple tree. I hadn’t smelled that in over forty-three years! As Sharon envisioned glorious flowers ablaze in color and a river filled with sparkling gems, I sat on the smooth board swing beneath green apples and leaves that cast dappled spots of shadow and light, and felt someone pushing me. Could I dare to believe this was Jesus? Was that his laugh I “heard” as I sensed someone pushing me high, running under the swing? So natural, so common, so ordinary . . . so wonderful!

Then I sensed Jesus beside me as I sat in the grass edging Grandma Ruth’s garden. The whole town agreed she could plant a stick and get a gladiola! Fragrant lilac, fresh dill and mustard scents and rich, warm earth mingled with the redolence of green growing things. A thought flashed into my mind, “Jesus – am I getting this right? You liked cucumbers?” I couldn’t suppress a chuckle. Grandma Ruth made the best bread and butter pickles in town, if not in all of Indiana. I heard the breathy, soft “squeaky toy” giggle of my Grandma. What simple joy and pure, rich faith she had, and how much love for all of her 35 grandkids! I can still hear her gentle, low voice calling me “Rosie.”

“Oh Lord!” A sudden flash of realization swept over me. “When I’m called Ruth, it’s Grandma’s blessing coming down to me!”

I marveled at my heart so drawn to hers across six decades, even though I saw Grandma only five more times after we moved across the country when I was six! Such is the enduring power of a grandmother’s love: a legacy of blessing, belonging, and delight, all of who she was, so treasured even by God that he used my Grandma’s laugh and garden sixty years later to touch my heart when it was breaking.

Can I be that for my grandchildren? Oh, I hope so! The two I have, now three and six years old, live literally on the other side of the world. I visited them for one month three years ago and one month this year, and had the exquisite joy of them home for ten months two years ago, but it will be another three years before they can come home again. Till then I treasure Friday night voice-over-Internet games of Battleship with my grandson Evan and chuckle as my granddaughter Elsa wonders how I can read the picture book in her lap over the computer (we both two copies of several books).

I treasure and I worry: will they feel how very much I love them? Will they recall our carousel rides here and elephant rides over there? Will they remember making grape and cheese-triangle sailboats on the trays of their highchairs here, and making homemade tortillas (with the five-pound bag of corn flour I carried in my suitcase) together over there? Is that moment I so clearly remember with Evan – holding him cheek-to-cheek on his first birthday as he growled his new word “Wow” and I growled right back – safely secured in his memory for the day he’ll need to know he’s amazing and “wow”? Will they know who I am? Will that matter? Will I make a difference for them?

And then I remember Grandma Ruth, an ordinary, uncelebrated woman, her life and self still so much a part of the fiber of mine even after I moved away. The sweet, green and growing aroma of Grandma Ruth wafts into my heart whenever anyone “mistakenly” calls me by her name. Now I know it’s no mistake; it’s her blessing!

Will Elsa ever be mistakenly called Rose? I doubt it; Evan certainly won’t! But I pray who I am and how I love will be a lingering aroma in their lives that takes them by surprise some day to a remembered place of delight, security, and joy – a place like my grandmother’s garden, accessed through that old screen door of the ordinary times we’ve spent together. I hope their days will be graced with joy, not sorrow, but if they find themselves in a “dark night of the soul,” I hope my prayers today will draw their hearts to a place where Jesus meets them with his healing love.

For all of us Grandmas, Grannys, Grams, Nanas, Mimis, or whoever we are called, Ruth’s blessing is the truth that, no matter how small our grandchildren are, where they live, or how infrequently we may see them, the fragrance of who we are will leave a legacy of blessing that transcends distance, circumstance, and decades.

Fire in the Ashes

Rose Jackson © 8/3/2009

Some journeys take you to unexpected discoveries in familiar places. Walking through the most difficult time of my life through the smoking ruins of a destroyed relationship, I find Jesus waiting to meet me. . Recently my friend Sharon’s daughter, Charity, told me she wanted to take me on a journey through “the Father’s house,” a spiritual journey into Jesus that had given her a breakthrough in a challenging time in her own life. Hungry to experience God’s presence more deeply, I sat with her in Sharon’s bedroom and lifted my sanctified imagination to the Holy Spirit’s voice.

“Please, God, I don’t want to conjure this out of my own imagination,” I silently cried out. Long ago I had sat beside my then boyfriend in a “spiritual” Sunday evening church service, the hair standing up on my arms, my spirit filled with the suspicion that the “spirit guide” the pastor was listening to absolutely was NOT Jesus. I wanted nothing to do with that kind of experience ever again! But I know Sharon’s and Charity’s heart and faith, and my own as well, so this day I could sit in confidence believing that Jesus guarded my thoughts and nothing of the Enemy could enter. So I set off in my mind’s eye up a long driveway. We talked about what we were “seeing,” and my friend described a beautiful mansion in vivid detail. I was having some trouble, my analytical brain questioning whether what I was sensing was me or the Lord, but I pressed on in faith, believing God truly did want to speak something to my heart. Crossing polished hardwood floors, walking into large rooms whose vague details disappeared as I tried to focus on them, I just wasn’t getting anything. The idea is to “walk” through God’s house to find Jesus. My friend’s words were awash in love and amazement as she narrated her journey.

Hmmm . . . . No such experience for me. Why was I getting nowhere? After much mental wandering, I decided to follow the tug on my heart to go “out back,” and I pushed open a worn screen door and smelled my Grandmother’s apple tree. As my friend saw glorious flowers and a beautiful river filled with gems, I sat on the old wooden tree swing and felt someone pushing me. Ah, could I dare to believe this was Jesus? So natural, so common, so familiar, so ordinary . . . so wonderful! What I was experiencing wasn’t at all like the things Charity had seen in her own walk, wasn’t like the things her friend who’d first shared the journey with her had seen on her own walk, wasn’t like the splendor my friend was seeing now. So simple. So free.

Now Jesus and I sat in the grass on the edge of my Grandmother’s garden, and I smelled dill and rich, warm earth. “What does Jesus want to give you?” Charity asked.

“That’s a good question!” I thought. Nothing was coming into my vision as my hands dug beside Jesus’ hands in Grandma’s deep brown, moist soil. Ha! My hand playfully put a smudge of black dirt on Jesus’ left cheek, and I sensed -or maybe dared to believe – it pleased him. This wasn’t the grand spiritual adventure, the overwhelming breaking in of the Holy Spirit that I had hoped to receive. This wasn’t Acts 2 in the upper room. This was sitting on the grass with my hands in dirt, my hands beside another set of hands, feeling completely at peace and joyfully loved. This was awfully ordinary for a powerful spiritual encounter.

“Jesus wants to give you something. What is it? Ask him,” Charity gently encouraged. Vaguely I sensed something like a gold brooch in an extended hand, sensed rather than saw, and I got the impression the gold setting held an opal. He was holding it against my chest. “Ask him what it means,” Charity offered.

“Uumm . . . . ,” I was determined NOT to attach any meaning that wasn’t absolutely of God onto this experience. The still small voice of God was so quiet, more a trickle of understanding seeping into my mind. Sharon wasn’t sure what opals looked like. I know many precious stones are mentioned in Revelation 21 where John describes the foundations of the walls of the New Jerusalem, but I wasn’t at all sure opals were among those stones. “Opals – really pure, beautiful opals – are fiery,” I recounted. “Maybe – maybe Jesus is saying, ‘Don’t let the fire go out in your heart.’ Or maybe, ‘I won’t let the fire go out.’”

Tears erupted from my eyes. My heart is under siege – has been for the past six years. This wasn’t the encounter I wanted with the splendor of God, but a sweet communion with the passionately loving heart of Jesus, and if he wanted to run under me on my Grandma’s swing and wear a smudge of dirt from my hand, that was more than fine by me. He was telling me there was no place he’d rather be than here in my heart.

Wow! Sharon and Charity may have been a bit puzzled and underwhelmed, but I was overcome. I remembered I have a small opal pin at home. I checked both my jewelry box and my concordance as soon as I got home. Yep, there was the pin with four small opals, though the tiny white stones in it aren’t very fiery, and nope, opals aren’t mentioned in the Bible. Did that mean my experience had come solely out of my own imagination? I left a message asking about the significance of opals with a friend who’d spoken a year or so ago about gems in scripture to ask her about opals. When she returned my call, Amy said nope, it was a mystery to her, too. The Bible doesn’t mention opals. She did go on to explain some information she’d found on opals, and my heart soared as God’s assurance settled deeply in. This information wasn’t in any of the geology books we had at home:

Opals are semiprecious stones treasured for their fire and light. Very fragile, opals deteriorate in heat and cold. They contain water, but lose water easily in dry air and become brittle, so opals need to be worn next to flesh so the oils from the body can seal in their moisture. To clean an opal, you must wash it in pure water. Left to dry, an opal will crack and lose its brilliance and beauty.

There it was, God’s word to me: my heart is like an opal, and just as fragile. He washed and cleansed my heart in pure water, the Living Water of Jesus. My heart is meant to be – God WANTS me to be – filled with Jesus, my heart pressed close to his so it doesn’t dry out and lose its fire, brilliance, and beauty. There is absolutely nothing common or ordinary in that truth!

In this dry, hope-sucking valley of the shadow of death that I walked through where the Enemy is working to destroy my heart (are you walking that valley too?), God wants above all else for my heart (yours, too!) to be whole, beautiful, and filled with his fire, pressed against his chest in a place of safety, sustaining, and love. No one els’ed experience of the love of Jesus needs to be yours. he loves you too much to let you be less than the person He created you to be. Yes, Jesus is the only way to
eternal life, the only one whose blood was costly enough to buy you back from the hand of Satan, but the road He has to lead you to himself may be more like the screen door out to green grass than ivory columns and marble floors. Don’t let anyone impose the counterfeit forms of religious obligation on you when what God wants to do with all the you you are and in all the you He created is conform YOU to a reflection of the  likeness and love of Jesus.

I clasped my opal pin on the chain of a necklace I haven’t worn in over 30 years. The pendant on the chain is a gold-colored, jagged-edged half circle inscribed with these words from Song of Songs 2:16: “I am my Beloved’s.” Surprisingly, when the opal pin hangs on the chain, it looks like a cross . . . .

A ” . . . BUT . . . ” to pray: Oh, Abba Father God, my heart feels crushed, ground into the dust, broken, BUT your word says, “All beautiful you are, my darling; there is no flaw in you.” (SOS 4:7) and you promise I can count on your love and power as “(I) wait in hope for the LORD; he is (my) help and (my) shield. In him (my) heart rejoices, for (I) trust in his holy name. May your unfailing love rest upon (me), O LORD, even as (I) put my hope in you.” (Psalm 33:20-22) Restore the lustre, beauty, fire, and water to my heart even in the driest place with the Living Water of your love, Jesus. Thank you that my heart is precious to you and you hold my heart close to yours! You created me with all of this in me ________________________________________________, the good and the flawed, the simple and the complex, the  humble and the royal reflection of you in my talents to ________________________________________________________  and my desires to ________________________________________________________, my limitations of ________________________________________ that are the possibilities for you to ___________________________________________ out of your strengthened power to bless _______________________’s life and to bless the world by you doing ___________________________________________ in me and out of me anyway!  Open the screen door for me,Jesus, to hear you say ____________________________________________________________________________ to me today. ” . . . BUT . . . ” Abba, Father, Beloved, my heart is weighed down with ________________________ BUT I know you desire to restore my heart, so I give you ______________________________________________ and I receive your _________________________________________________. Take me to that place where your heart resides in me. Amen!