Tribute to a Godly Woman. A Personal Memoire.

I was given the opportunity to share at my Nanny’s funeral today and the following is my testimony to her life – and a life well-lived, it was indeed.

As a child, I had the unique opportunity to come to Ottawa and live with Nanny, Poppy, and Shirley for a significant portion of each summer. As a result, I had the privilege of spending countless hours with Nanny, and I’d like to take the next few moments to share with you some of my fondest memories and personal observations of her character.

First off, Nanny was resilient. She encountered any obstacle that came her way with dignity and with grace. I remember asking her (I was very young at the time) why it was that she had dentures. She told me it was because she was so poor growing up that she and her siblings had only one toothbrush to share so she didn’t get to use one very often. There was no bitterness in her tone when she told me that. It was just the way it was. She accepted that.

Second, Nanny was courageous and brave! She somehow managed to stay at home with four young children while her husband was serving in Israel as a peacekeeper. She made nutritious meals on an incredibly low budget, managed her home, still attended church services every Sunday (with her and her daughters in matching dresses, which she sewed herself), and still found time to teach her children about the love of Jesus.

Nanny. Was. Frugal! Honestly, she could make many meals off a dime (or from all the food she kept in her multiple deep-freezes or cold room storage of canned goods…which she did all herself). I still remember newspapers spread across her kitchen table with the coupon sections cut out. One fond memory that still makes me chuckle is the time she came home from work at lunch and stated that she didn’t feel like cooking – a first for her! She informed me that she had some coupons for Burger King and asked if I would like to go there for lunch together. This was a BIG DEAL. Not only was Nanny willing to eat at a fast-food establishment, but she was also willing to pay to eat there. I remember being in utter shock at her suggestion, but excited, I quickly corrected my eyes which were wide in disbelief and said, “Yes!” What’s even more amazing about this story is that this happened the next day AND the next! By Day 3 I didn’t know what had happened to Nanny or who this woman even was. But I enjoyed those Burger King lunches, dodging Ottawa traffic each day to get there, and after one of those visits, going with her to the park, just walking around, and taking in the sights of the Rideau Canal, hand in hand.

Nanny was a hard worker. I still shake my head in disbelief when I think of how hard she worked, for so many years. I honestly don’t know how she managed to do it all. She cooked three meals a day, found the time and energy to grow and tend a large garden, can all the produce from the garden, hang the laundry on the line to dry, sew dresses and matching outfits, sew on buttons and hem items for her grandkids, work outside the home part-time, still manage to run home on her lunch break to make and serve lunch to Poppy before going back to work in the afternoon, pay the bills, mow the lawn, plant flower beds, and knit a plethora of items, just to spend every second Saturday at CARP – Ottawa’s farmer’s market – to sell her hand-knit creations. I enjoyed spending those mornings with her at the market. Sometimes, she would open her cash box and give me a bit of change to go buy snacks at another vendor’s booth. She may have been frugal – but she was also very generous. Not only with her money, but also with her time. I remember waking up one night just before midnight and, noticing the kitchen light still on, I made my way out to the kitchen just to find her sitting at the table, knitting a dishcloth – a common occurrence. Instead of being bothered by the fact that I was out of bed in the middle of the night, she just asked me if I was hungry and promptly made me a peanut butter and jam sandwich. I ate it while I watched her knit quietly. I asked if she’d be going to bed anytime soon since it was late, and she casually replied that she had about another 10 dishcloths to knit before market the next morning…so she’d be awhile yet. I just assumed that adults didn’t need sleep after that.

Finally, Nanny loved Jesus. And she made Jesus known. She taught Christ and His love to her children and to those around her. This is evident in the lives of her descendants and in the way she treated others. I remember vaguely her expressing frustration one day because a patient she had been assigned to sit with wasn’t receiving the level of care she felt her patient needed or deserved. To Nanny, the situation was unfair and unjust, and she was going to make her thoughts known to whoever it was that was in charge. She gracefully fought for justice when she could. She aimed to show Christ’s love and character to everyone. I distinctly remember seeing her Bible open on the kitchen table (amidst all the coupons) so very often. Before tucking me in at night, she would kneel beside the bed, gently brush her fingertips over my eyelids to help me sleep and would pray with and for me. I’ve never forgotten how loved that simple action made me feel. She was a very good Nanny to me. With fond remembrance, at times I still glide my hands over other sleepy, little eyelids, and I have to say, that trick still seems to work.

Nanny was by no means perfect. She had her faults. But I will always be grateful for the gentle and loving manner in which she treated me. I am forever thankful for the legacy she has left. She loved Jesus. And, if you knew her at all, then you know her life was evident of that.

To God Be The Glory…

My head is beyond full of frustration. Anger. A total jumble of words that are exploding. And yet…I can’t seem to type any of it just yet. Listening to music that gives God glory and praises Him is keeping me from spewing my frustration all over this blog. I’m angry. I’d possibly consider it to be righteous anger, except for the very unrighteous words that want to scream from my lips. But for the sake of my point here, I’ll reign in that frustration. Right now, I’m angry at Christians. Specifically, people who call themselves by that name, yet defame Christ behind (and some not behind) the protection of their keyboard.

I do not claim to be guiltless of this sin. Not at all. Let’s just be clear on that right from the start.

It’s one thing to have disagreement. It’s another thing to have disagreement when it’s not face-to-face. It’s another thing altogether when Christians behave in any manner BUT Christ-likeness when they disagree, in public, in private, and online.

Conflict is NOT bad. Did you know that conflict can actually be healthy?! I’m serious! But fighting, discord, and dissension…that’s different. And that’s why I’m typing faster than my head can even think.

When we call ourselves Christians, do we know what that means? It means we represent Christ. In our actions, in our behaviors (both public and private), and even in our attitudes! No, it doesn’t mean perfection. We are still sinners (and always will be, this side of heaven). BUT, we are called to a life of holiness and Christ-likeness!

“Be holy, because I am holy.”

– 1 Peter 1:16

Newsflash: This does not mean it’s OK to rip people apart, tear them down, or speak unkindly or disrespectfully to them – on any platform.

When we do this, our true colors show vibrantly. When we do this, the bottom line is: We lack humility, grace, and the ability to “count others more significant than ourselves”. (Philippians 2:3)

It is absolutely impossible, however, to behave in a way that represents Christ when we are so filled with self-righteousness. Colossians 3 is very clear on the matter of “putting off” our old self and what it looks like to the world when we “put on” Christ.

“PUT TO DEATH therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry…But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth…

PUT ON then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these PUT ON LOVE, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the PEACE OF CHRIST rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.  Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do EVERYTHING in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

Colossians 3:5-8, 12-17

In the book/movie, Sense and Sensibility, the character of Marianne Dashwood is immature and cares nothing about what others think, until near the end of the story (after she’s been humiliated and forced to grow up) her sister asks of her, “Do you compare your conduct with his?”, referring to an equally selfish and immature individual. Marianne astonishes the reader audience by her maturity when she responds, “No. I compare it with what it ought to have been; I compare it with yours.”

We cannot compare our sinful attitudes and behaviors to others. We must compare it to Christ’s.

Why is it so difficult for us to truly love others as Christ does? Easy answer? Because we lack holiness and humility in our lives. We get so hung up on being right and trying to make people see our perspective that we actually lose focus on the perspective we need to be having. The perspective of Christ’s.

When we stir up dissension or call people out, thinking we are being Christ’s warriors (regardless of the platform or circumstance), are we doing it out of a heart and attitude of love? I know I’ve been guilty of calling people out, not out of love, but rather frustration, hurt, and anger over what I have believed to be injustice. But we must remember that “Controversy for the sake of controversy is sin.” – Walter Martin

When we choose to be “keyboard warriors” (regardless of where we are and who we are speaking to), remember your audience and onlookers, for Christ’s holy sake. Think of what you are showcasing. Are you radiating the goodness, the kindness, and the character of Christ in your words and attitudes, or are you defaming His name and His grace for the sake of pride?

“If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain.”

1 Timothy 6:3-5

“Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge.  There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?”

James 4:11-12

Friends, let’s showcase Christ. Let’s let His grace and mercy and humility radiate from our lives, our lips, and our fingertips. It’s OK to disagree with one another! It’s NOT OK to slander or showcase hostility towards one another. As a friend shared with me recently, “Disagreement turns into dissension when we lose sight of our respect and love for the other person and their perspective. Is the point of your disagreement worth sinning for?”

When in doubt, pray. Hard! Seek the Lord. Ask Him to make you aware of your own sin…and repent of it before you dish out any kind of rebuke on somebody else. A prayer that I have been repeating daily as of late has been: Oh, God, show me more of Your holiness. Show me more of my sinfulness. Help me to hate sin and to love righteousness as You do. Grant me a deeper conviction of sin and a more thorough spririt of repentance. And make me holy as You are holy. (Holiness by Nancy Leigh DeMoss)

There is nothing wrong with disagreement. But there is evil in slander and dissension.

Are you filled with pride or humility? Are you truly seeking to bring the opposing person to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ? Are you giving God the glory in this situation? Or are you simply trying to win the argument?

 Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.”

1 John 3:18

In the words of Tim Neufeld’s song, Benediction, “To God be the glory, forever and ever. To God be the praise of all men. To God be the glory, forever and ever. To God be the glory, Amen.”

Forgiveness – The Unexpected Gift of Freedom

It’s springtime here. And it’s beautiful. We moved last September to a tiny, hamlet-style town just 20 minutes from the city. We love our new home…and neighbourhood. I have absolutely no green-thumb, but my yards are completely (and meticulously) landscaped (from the previous owners). Each time I bring the children outside to play, I’m constantly checking the shrubs and perennials that line our fence. I check often because I have no clue if I’m supposed to be pruning off the dead, stick-like stems of what were once beautiful flowers just months ago, or if I should leave them in hopes of a miraculous, life-like appearance once again. But each time I go outside, the signs of new life are everywhere. The trees are budding and tiny, green shoots are peeking through the rock beds. Each time I venture into my own backyard, I witness something new and alive. It’s beautiful. Miraculous!

It’s Sunday afternoon. The thunder rolled and the rain poured. The puddles are deep and wide. Peacefully, my children napped through the storm. After waking from her rest, my daughter took one look outside and her face awoke with excitement, eyes widened, a smile cracking, revealing an inner joy. To add to the already blossoming excitement, she saw her friend already outside jumping in the puddles on our cul-de-sac. I had the ultimate joy of sitting in my livingroom, watching the girls play on our street, running through the puddles and squealing as they chased their umbrellas which were tumbling around in the wind. For some reason my five-year-old thought that having her umbrella run away on her was the most hysterical thing in the world. I smiled, listening to the rain gently fall, and the squeals of glee, mixed with the all-out gutteral bursts of laughter coming from my daughter. Is there anything more beautiful and peaceful than the joy that comes from listening to the sounds of your child’s laughter, or to witness their pure and innocent joy and happiness?

When we witness the happiness of our children, it brings a rush of joy to our hearts and souls. Think about it. Why do parents go to the ends of the earth to find that lost teddy bear? Why do parents painfully pull out their wallets once again at the carnival when they see the pleading in their child’s eyes to play that game or ride that ride just one more time? Why do we lavish gifts on our children at Christmastime (or Easter, or Valentine’s day, or for the really bad ones…Arbour day? ;)) If you’re like me, chances are you’ve probably even thought something similar to, “OK, I mean it. This year, I’m going cheap. They have more than enough toys. They really don’t need anything! A couple small gifts each. That’s all they really need.” The next thing you know, you’ve spent $400 at Costco (on the kids gifts alone) and you didn’t actually think through how you were going to get all of your purchases home. Or maybe you’ve stood in line for hours (or days) on Black Friday awaiting the massive sales on toys – that special one your child has been eyeing for weeks. Of course, I always think it’s sad how we rush out to get more stuff after we just finished celebrating Thanksgiving – the holiday where we are supposed to be thankful for the things we do own…but I digress. Why do we put ourselves through all of that hassle? I think it’s because, sometimes, we live for that moment – the build-up – when they finally open that gift and you get to see their widened eyes, their mouths open in awe, sometimes with squeals of delight or sometimes with no words at all – that moment where joy and happiness radiate off of your child. At the core, we are selfish people. Yes, we want to bring joy and happiness to our children, but being able to witness it – that does something for us as well. It brings joy and happiness to us. We can’t help but smile. We might even shed a tear depending on the situation and we might even think, “Yup! It was all worth it.”

Basking in the moment of listening to my daughter’s joy, I had to wonder if that’s how God feels about His children. It only makes sense. Having a child tends to reveal a depth of love which I don’t think most of us know we are even capable of producing. The moment a child is brought into the world and placed into our care, instinct sets in. Regardless of the kind of parent you are, regardless if you let your kids watch too much t.v. or none at all, regardless if you let them eat only chips for supper or if you provide a full-balanced meal, regardless if you scream at your kids sometimes or are completely calm and collected all of the time (you’re a liar by the way), regardless if your baby has sat in that poopy diaper for 20 minutes longer than he probably should have or if your child was potty trained right from birth, regardless if you live with your child or only get to see them every other weekend, regardless of our failings or shortcomings, when our child is threatened or hurt, that also does something to us. We either rise up as an evil monster comes out of us to do whatever it takes to protect our child, or our hearts will break as we watch them suffer and learn the hard knocks of life on their own terms. We are connected to them because they are our own and we love them. Just like God is to us.

How He must hurt when we hurt. How He must wish we wouldn’t have made some of the decisions we did. How He must ache, draw near, and comfort us. How He must want to guide us in healthy directions, keeping us from harm. How He must yearn to take our place sometimes so we don’t have to go through the pain of learning or paying for our mistakes on our own. Oh, wait. He did. Over 2000 years ago, on a cross, on a hill called Golgotha. Because we are His own and He loves us.

Can you imagine how it must have felt to watch His only Son be tortured? Spit on? Mocked and ridiculed? To witness the false accusations against Him and sit by and say nothing?

How deep the Father’s love for us? How vast beyond all measure!

For sending His only Son to die a death that was never deserved, He sure doesn’t ask for a lot in return. As a loving Father, He seeks to steer us toward paths of righteousness – good things! He desires to keep us from the hurt that this world brings. He asks for our trust, our belief, and our obedience. If you think of God in any manner but a kind, compassionate, and loving Father, you must think Him to be demanding, cruel, and a keeper from a life full of fun and happiness.

But just suppose for a moment He is Who He says He is. Suppose for a moment that He actually is the way, the truth, and the life? What if He is good? What if He is kind? What if He is the best example of what a loving parent ought to look like? What if He actually tells the truth and means what He says? At first glance, what God asks for in return – our trust, our belief, and our obedience – doesn’t seem all that impossible. But when we take a closer look, these three little words have big implications on every aspect of our lives. But I want to look at one specific area of obedience that Christ calls His children to – an area in which God has been teaching me a lot about lately –

Forgiveness.

Do you cringe when you hear that word? Maybe you’re even thinking, “Oh, she’s going there? Nope!”, and proceed to exit this webpage. But if we haven’t fully forgiven, doesn’t it just mean that we aren’t spiritually mature enough to face that area of our lives? Harsh, I know! But nevertheless, true?

Two points I want to make right from the get-go:

  1. Forgiveness does NOT mean that you must continue in a relationship with somebody who has harmed you or hurt you. Forgiveness takes only one person.
  2. Forgiveness is NOT the same as reconciliation. Reconciliation takes two people.

So what IS forgiveness? Forgiveness is the relinquishment of your desire for vengeance and justice against the person who has wronged you. From her book, Passion Pursuit, Author Juli Slattery states,

You must understand that the forgiveness God has called you to, for yourself and others, does not compete with justice. The loving Savior who hung on the cross is still the judge who is seated at the right hand of the Father. He is still the Righteous One who says that, “Everything done in secret will be exposed.” (Mark 4:22)

But this righteous judge has another name: Redeemer. He brings redemption for one reason – because He loves.

Forgiveness brings freedom – to you. It has nothing to do with the person who has wronged you. Extending forgiveness releases your hold of anger, vengeance, justice, grudges, and hostility – on yourself. It frees you to be at peace. It does not mean that when something unlawful has occurred, you refrain from making a report to the local authorities or don’t press charges. It does mean that you:

Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor [perpetual animosity, resentment, strife, fault-finding] and slander be put away from you, along with every kind of malice [all spitefulness, verbal abuse, malevolence].

And instead, choose to:

Be kind and helpful to one another, tender-hearted [compassionate, understanding], forgiving one another [readily and FREELY], just as God in Christ also forgave you.

Wow! What a calling! And yet…when we stop focusing on the sin of others and “look at the log (the bigger sins) in our own eye” (Matthew 7:3), we slowly come to a place of humility. Before the perfect God in heaven, recognizing our own sin, we can’t help but fall prostrate in repentance. In that very moment, forgiving others from their “debt” against us, becomes significantly easier. But in that moment of our own sin recognition, we also come to a place where we realize that we must also forgive ourselves. I would argue that, most often, forgiveness of self is the most difficult kind of forgiveness we could ever extend. Upon realization of our own sin, self-forgiveness becomes almost impossible – because there are weights attached to it. It would mean the relinquishment of guilt. It would mean letting go of the shame we are burdened so heavily with. It would mean freedom from our own personal vengeance and justice – letting go of the self-inflicted need to suffer for our sins. It means letting go of your own pride – your independent desire “to settle your own score, pay your own bill, make your own way” (Passion Pursuit, p. 142). Let me be very clear:

WE CANNOT SAVE OURSELVES.

BUT, we can, however, place ourselves in a similar posture of the woman from Luke 7, before the ultimate Savior and Redeemer. Do you remember her? This is the woman who had “sinned much”. From Luke 7:36-50 (TLB):

36 One of the Pharisees asked Jesus to come to his home for lunch and Jesus accepted the invitation. As they sat down to eat,
37 a woman of the streets—a prostitute—heard he was there and brought an exquisite flask filled with expensive perfume.
38 Going in, she knelt behind him at his feet, weeping, with her tears falling down upon his feet; and she wiped them off with her hair and kissed them and poured the perfume on them.
39 When Jesus’ host, a Pharisee, saw what was happening and who the woman was, he said to himself, “This proves that Jesus is no prophet, for if God had really sent him, he would know what kind of woman this one is!
40 Then Jesus spoke up and answered his thoughts. “Simon,” he said to the Pharisee, “I have something to say to you.”
“All right, Teacher,” Simon replied, “go ahead.”
41 Then Jesus told him this story: “A man loaned money to two people—$5,000 to one and $500 to the other.
42 But neither of them could pay him back, so he kindly forgave them both, letting them keep the money! Which do you suppose loved him most after that?”
43 “I suppose the one who had owed him the most,” Simon answered. “Correct,” Jesus agreed.
44 Then he turned to the woman and said to Simon, “Look! See this woman kneeling here! When I entered your home, you didn’t bother to offer me water to wash the dust from my feet, but she has washed them with her tears and wiped them with her hair.
45 You refused me the customary kiss of greeting, but she has kissed my feet again and again from the time I first came in.
46 You neglected the usual courtesy of olive oil to anoint my head, but she has covered my feet with rare perfume.
47 Therefore her sins—and they are many—are forgiven, for she loved me much; but one who is forgiven little, shows little love.”
48 And he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”
49 Then the men at the table said to themselves, “Who does this man think he is, going around forgiving sins?”
50 And Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.

Did you catch it? “She knelt BEHIND Him, at His feet, weeping.” This woman was at the lowest of lows in her town, her social class, and probably even her self-esteem. She didn’t even feel worthy to kneel before Jesus’ feet; she knelt behind Him. What sorrow and brokenness she must have brought before the Savior! This woman had indeed, “sinned much”. But where there is much sin, there is much forgiveness. Where there is great sin, there is great redemption.

In order to forgive ourselves, we must believe that Jesus really is the TRUTH. If He is true, what He says is also true. Psalm 103:

vs. 3: He forgives all my sins. He heals me.

vs. 8-13: He is merciful and tender toward those who don’t deserve it; He is slow to get angry and full of kindness and love. He never bears a grudge, nor remains angry forever. He has not punished us as we deserve for all our sins, for His mercy toward those who fear and honor Him is as great as the height of the heavens above the earth. He has removed our sins as far away from us as the east is from the west. He is like a father to us, tender and sympathetic to those who reverence Him.

Do you believe it? If not, you are indeed calling God a liar. God longs to forgive us. “He is like a Father to us…”

Do you dare let go? Do you dare cling to truth? Do you dare believe that God forgives you and even calls you to forgive yourself? In humility, in brokenness, in repentance, dare to approach your “tender and sympathetic” Father. From 1 John 1:9,

But if we confess our sins, God WILL forgive us. We can trust God to do this. He always does what is right. He will make us clean from all the wrong things we have done.

God is that parent to us who longs to see us, His children, joyful and happy. He hurts when we hurt; but how it must bring joy to God’s heart when He sees His children living in the freedom that He offers us, the freedom that His only Son died to purchase for us. God delights in His children! Psalm 149:4 states,

For the Lord takes delight in His people; He crowns the humble with victory.

Choose this very day to put your stake in the ground. Claim the freedom and the miraculous newness of life that comes with forgiveness. Run through those puddles and let out those squeals of glee, because you know that your tender and sympathetic, heavenly Father says to you, just like he said to the woman who had sinned much:

“YOU ARE FORGIVEN. GO IN PEACE.”