Tag Archive | memories

A Mood

James B. Pollard  (10/1/1920 – 1/22/89)

This piece was written during my paternal grandfather’s time in India in World War II – as part of a journal he kept. I had this read at my wedding, which he did not live to see. He was a hero, a gentle and gracious soul and I still miss him all these years later.

J.B. Pollard (WWII pic)

My Grandpa in 1944

Nightfall is once more preparing to enshroud Assam in its blanket of pitch darkness. An American soldier sits alone in his tent on the edge of his canvas cot, his heavy G-I shoes unlaced to cool his burning feet, a cigarette smoldering listlessly between his fingers.

He gazes out at the lengthening shadows in the nearby jungle. He listens to the weird cry of the small jungle wild life – and the insects. He becomes aware of the steady purr of the diesel generators which run constantly day and night supplying power for the small garrison.

Outside he hears the crunch of the guard’s boots on the gravel path as he starts his first tour of duty around the area on his long night vigil keeping his sleeping buddies from harm.

He hears the steady drone of jeeps and trucks racing back and forth on the nearby Stillwell Road. A G-I in a nearby tent is strumming a guitar and singing Western songs softly, while another next door makes a feeble attempt to blow some jazz out of a squeaky clarinet.

The generator coughs and sputters, then catches again and continues on and on with its steady rhythm.

The soldier’s eye falls to on a picture of his family, of which he has been thinking. The children’s locks of hair are in the little frame. He looks closely at it, then back at the picture. He wipes the mold from the leather frame and replaces the picture in its spot on the crude rough cupboard he has made. He continues to look at his pretty young wife and sees many things – First, the woman he is so deeply in love with. His mind flashes quickly back over the few preceding years and he is doubly homesick. He also sees the mother of his children – the financial wizard who makes ends meet somehow on a meager monthly sum. He sees the wonderful cook, who in happier days planned and prepared his menus. He sees many things in that wonderful wife. In his children he sees the happiness of days past and in those to come.

The tent door slams and the Sergeant from Tennessee appears, whistling loudly, “Flying Home.” He reaches over the rough table, snaps on the light and suddenly becomes quiet. His happy mood has been killed by the sullen expression on his friend’s face.

“What’s the matter ‘J.B.’ . . .  homesick?”

A dull reply of “Yeah. . . “ and the cigarette is ground into the concrete floor. For a moment, silence, except for the sounds of nature – and the machinery.

The Sergeant breaks the spell again, “Let’s get out of this rat trap, wander over the day-room and I’ll beat the pants off you in ping-pong.”

The door slams – the two men walk down the narrow path together, staring into the black jungle ahead. Neither man speaks. . .they are thinking. . .

It is nighttime in Assam.  . . .

A Letter to a Dying Pastor

I haven’t posted in a long time as we prepare for  move to a new home. But Mark Steele was not only a pastor but a friend and mentor and employer for years and had a huge impact on my life. We served for years together at a church plant called Stonebridge Community Church. He is now in heaven after a short battle with cancer and my heart grieves. Here’s part of a letter I wrote to him a few days before he died. Not sure if he got to read it or not. I pray that somehow God can use me in the lives of others like He used Mark in mine.                                                                                                

June 1, 2011

Dear Mark,

I want you to know how much I appreciated you and the time and effort you put into mentoring a young woman in grad school who had been hurt by a previous church experience.  I learned so many things at Stonebridge. You just happened to be a large part of those memories although God was always the One doing the work. Thank you for your investment in me.

I remember the first time you ever asked me how my relationship with God was. I felt a little on the hot seat, like I was going to be taken to task for any slip up. But that was not the case. I soon learned that you asking about my relationship with God was an expression of love and a desire to help me continue to grow in my faith.  Over the years I have had so many people ask why I get up so early in the morning – but it is because that is one of the few times in my day when I can be alone with God and my thoughts and prayers. I still have so much further to go – but have come so far by His grace and patience with me. Thank you for caring enough to ask.

I remember when we did our Sunday mornings at the YMCA and we would pray and see God do amazing things. To see people come to Christ. To see them serve in their area of giftedness and passion. To see sacrifice and joy in the tasks before us. We were a family – one that I am still a part of in so many ways. I’m blessed to still have friends from those days who are intersecting with my life, some on facebook now and others in person at times. How amazing it all was.

I remember learning to “stay engaged through the pain.” If that wasn’t an axiom of Mark Steele I don’t know what was. I so often wanted to run when the pain got to be more than I thought I could bear. But you never let me. You didn’t tell me I couldn’t, but you let me seek God and entrusted that HE wouldn’t let me run. And He didn’t. Ministry is tough. Leadership can be lonely and painful, but you taught me that integrity was priceless and to persevere anyway. Not that I didn’t make my share of mistakes as I “grew up” in our Stonebridge family, but I learned from them and moved on and “I will never be the same again, I can never return, I’ve closed the door. . . “

Songs: “Saddle up Your horses – we’ve got a trail to blaze!” “Fear Not, for I am with you, fear not, for I am with you. . . “ “Be bold, Be strong, for the Lord Your God is with you!” (I remember Allison yelling out those words loud!), ‘Leave a light on for me. . .” oh, and so many others.  Those songs are Stonebridge to me – a precious moment in time I hope I never forget.

I remember an orange van that we painted burgundy. I remember loading that van over and over and over again!

I remember music rehearsals taking place in your home late into the night on Mondays.

I remember meeting at Hardees and later at Mayfair mall food court for our “staff meetings”.

I remember getting paid $1 for my first year of employment!

I remember you coming through a colored curtain a la Johnny Carson!

I remember being taught about protecting a marriage with firm boundaries.

I remember when you debated whether or not to shave off your mustache – and you did it and never went back!  Right after that we had more men in our church with mustaches and beards than ever before! Too funny. (You have a mustache in our wedding pictures!)

I remember you liking cherry pie.

I remember after a conference, how you would always quiz us about what we learned and took away so that our experience would stick and not just be a moment to be forgotten (I do this with my kids now!).

I remember fearing your return from study break because I knew you would come back refreshed and full of ideas that I would somehow have to put legs and feet to.

I remember your hugs. You were always a hugger. I loved that. I miss your hugs.

I miss the synergy of what we had as a team on Sundays.  There was, most of the time, something very precious and beautiful that happened.

I remember having to make sure you were presentable before going up on stage – and one day asking if your fly was zipped – and surprisingly enough you found it wasn’t!  I hadn’t noticed personally – it was just part of the routine! (giggling)

Many people will criticize Stonebridge for having been seeker-targeted. I don’t. It opened up my heart to the reality of hurting people who needed Jesus and trying to make a place where they would feel welcome. It’s a value I carry with me today.

I learned about the dangers of triangulation. I learned about confidentiality. I learned about the value of a pastor who “has your back” when times are tough.  I learned about authenticity and perseverance and spiritual warfare. I learned to submit to godly leadership (even if I didn’t always like it.) I learned to accept change better. You always said I would kick and scream at first (metaphorically) and then settle in just fine! I learned about the power of encouragement.

I learned that even serving with a limp (depression) is something that can bring honor and glory to God and no matter how unacceptable we feel we are – the church is blessed when we come and step up in faith to serve our glorious King.

I learned more about worship at New Community than I had ever learned before.

I see my time serving with you at Stonebridge as a series of life-defining moments.

I remember laughter and tears and prayer walks.

I remember camping.

I have learned it is sometimes better to take a risk and fail than to always play it safe. I learned that pushing the envelope can be a very good thing if God is behind it.

I learned that none of us are “normal!”

I remember that you always loved to be on the cutting edge of technology and always knew “just enough to be dangerous.”

I have seen God redeem pain in amazing ways. I have taught many women master’s level theology and leadership classes – and some of my lessons don’t come from a textbook .  I found that I love to teach. Because of what I have learned at your feet, Mark, I have strived to be a blessing to the leaders at the church where I serve. I’ve been blessed with leaders who strive to be “healthy.” I continue to learn so much but fear that if I hadn’t had the foundation for it, which you helped me build as a leader, I would not be as nearly effective for the kingdom.

Because of you, I value more than ever true life change – that process of sanctification we all should be embracing but many Christians don’t.  I have raised a higher standard for women in leadership that involves godly character (not as easy to find as some might think – leading women is much harder than working with men in my opinion!).

You have definitely left your “mark” on me for sure as well as on many others. (pun intended!)

I continue, Mark, to pray for your healing. Yet I felt that if God chooses to favor you with the joy of His presence face-to-face while the rest of us wait in a pain-filled sinful world, that I couldn’t not let you know, once again, how much you have impacted my life for the better.

Okay – I am sure I could write more. Heck, I write novels but you probably wouldn’t have the strength or patience to read that much! There is a nice pile of Kleenex next to me to give  testimony to the grief in my heart over what you and your family are suffering through. I know God gives grace for the journey and my own tears are more selfish than anything.

I will continue to pray for healing – even knowing that God’s view of that might be ultimate healing that comes from being in eternity with Him.

With much love and fondness, as your sister in Christ,

For His glory alone,

 Susan

 

Strange Grief

So I haven’t posted here for a bit, because my 89 year old mother-in-law was dying. Regular visits, encouraging family members, providing taxi service to elderly relatives, listening to stories and shepherding my three kiddos through the process of death, dying and grief have sucked up much of my time.

She had been in a nursing home for close to five years and had Alzheimer’s disease so in many ways, she had left us years before.

The interesting thing about holding vigil over someone who is dying, is that you have the opportunity to say “good-bye.” An opportunity you don’t have when there is a sudden death. We knew it was coming at some point. Christmas was celebrated with her at the nursing home because we knew – this was her last Christmas. I actually missed that little party as I was home sick with influenza. I got a quiet Christmas – and my kids got a memory with a Grandmother they have never really known without the specter of Alzheimer’s. 

 I knew my mother-in-law for 27 years and yet through all of this, I felt kind of like an “out-law” instead of an “in-law.” My role was more supportive and I have found that my grieving process is hitting me on the back side of things. While most are feeling a relief that the waiting is over, I still have to deal with other areas of fall-out from her life and legacy. That part is not fun. I won’t go into details. I’m sure every family is different and it is interesting how people will revert to less than functional behaviors when they are under stress. Some of that is hard to deal with and move past, but I am trying.

The next few months will be challenging too. My mother-in-law would have been 90 in just a few weeks. Her birthday will pass without her here. Then Mother’s day and my husband’s birthday. The homestead that she raised her family on with her husband, who died many years prior, is due to be demolished by the end of summer to make way for a much needed, safer highway. We live on that homestead currently. I think moving will be really hard for my husband especially.

So we grieve. We laugh, shed a few tears and remember. Last night we heard our son talking to his siblings and the words he was saying we realized were exactly the kind of thing Grandma would say. In this case it was not a good character trait! Oh, the DNA runs strong and true in his veins!

I’ve been trying to give my kids some memories that they can’t recall so they have some connection to this woman called “Grandma.” I’m going to post a very old video of a song she once taught my son when he was all of 4 years old. He came home from a visit singing this, although I remembered slightly different words. It’s a memory I will cherish. Maybe it will give you a smile and if you love someone, maybe you’ll have cause to sing it too. . .

Memory Lane

Christmas memories accumulate like snowflakes, or ornaments on a tree. This year was the first that all three children decorated the tree by themselves. Every year they get an ornament, and I write their name and the year on it. It was fun this year to hear my 10,8 and almost 6 year old exclaim as they would hang their own treasures on the tree: “Oh, I remember this one!” and “Look! I was __(age) when I got this!”

The funniest part actually came before the ornaments, when my daughter said “Can we hang the garlic now?” (She meant garland). No vampires for our Christmas!

I remember the year after we moved, and we brought in our artificial tree from storage only to find that mice had made a home in the box and peed all over our tree. Oh, did that ever stink!  I figured it would be a tree-less Christmas until my hubby came up with the bright idea of soaking the tree in buckets of pine-sol in the bathtub. Yup, a disinfected tree that really did smell like pine!

I remember the Christmas after my daughter was born six years ago. We had been at Children’s Hospital for a week. I got to bring my precious daughter to church on Christmas Eve. I was overjoyed at this marvelous gift from God who let us keep her after her medical nightmare.  That was also the year we were blessed to be a part of the “Family Tree” at church and were given a gift card that was extravagantly more than expected.

Or how about the year when I got the tree up and my little girl managed to not only tip it over but break it in the middle? Irreparable. Had to get a new one. Totally would have expected one of my boys to have done this.

Or the year I invited a friend and her four boys over to bake and decorate Christmas cookies with us. Seven children and two adults in 7oo sq ft of space! One boy said “Wow, this is a lot of work!” It was also a lot of fun.

The kids look forward to Santa Claus coming at Grandma and Grandpa’s house. He didn’t make it last year. Something about falling out of a tree and breaking a leg. Thankfully my kids know the truth about Jolly Ole’ St. Nick and weren’t too terribly disappointed. Before you scold me on that, just realize, they still enjoy the tale and the imagination of it all even though if you ask them “What do you want Santa to bring you?” they will give you a blank stare.

2010 is a lean year. Usually there are gifts already piling up under the tree.  I put gifts under the tree as they arrive and get wrapped. We have no place to hide them. It adds to our enjoyment to see the colorful packages under the tree. So far there’s nothing there and the kids are beginning to get a bit worried! There will be something there by the end of this week, not a huge amount but something none-the-less.

My favorite part of the holiday is this: We slow down. We leisurely enjoy Christmas Eve with our church family, and celebrate the magic and wonder of Jesus coming to earth as an infant. We see the lights around town and go home to bed. In the morning we wake up when we are ready, and eventually we make a big breakfast. By 10 or 11 am we might sit and talk again about Christmas and what it means and then open gifts. Maybe later in the day we will visit with family – but generally the best times are just us celebrating our Savior together.

“Every heart that knows His name, lift your voice and sing

To the praise of God with us, this child Redeemer, King

There’s never been a greater love since the world began,

God the Father sent His Son and we held Him in our hand.

He wrapped His love in flesh and blood and took the form of man.”

(Bryan Duncan, “Form of Man”)