Freedom is a State of Mind

I am learning a lot lately from a friend who by conventional definition is living in bondage; yet he has claimed power and freedom in a way that inspires and instructs me, because it transcends his circumstance. His choice to live purposefully calls to my mind similar lessons from the Israelites, Joseph and Paul.

Captive

Although God led the Israelites out of captivity in Egypt, they continued to live with a captive’s mindset. They even fantasized about their days in bondage: “There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out in the desert to starve this entire assembly to death.” (Exodus 16:3)

To embrace the freedom God offered came at a price: they needed to trust and obey him:

To fear the LORD you God, to walk in obedience to him, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to observe the LORD’s commands and decrees….” (Deuteronomy 11:12-13)

We tend to view laws and rules as restrictions of our freedom, not gateways to it; but God’s laws lead to freedom as they lead away from the bondage of sin. We need look no further than our own lives to know that greater freedom is found in:

  • relationship with God than in seeking satisfaction in the world
  • nourishing gratitude over comparison (i.e., covetousness)
  • speaking life over giving voice to gossip, deceit and mischief
  • seeking peace within relationships rather than tolerating discord
  • offering forgiveness rather than bearing the burdens of anger and resentment

The God “who brought you out of Egypt” reminded the Israelites that to walk with God is to experience his goodness in abundance:

But the land you are crossing the Jordan to take possession of is a land of mountains and valleys that drinks rain from heaven. It is a land the LORD your God cares for; the eyes of the LORD your God are continually on it from the beginning of the year to its end. (Deuteronomy 11:11)

What thoughts, ideas or mindsets hold you captive, deceive you into victimhood or keep you stuck? Will you invite God to transform your mind so that you may “be confident that you will see his goodness in the land of the living”? (Psalm 27:13) 

Capitalize

I wrote about Joseph earlier this year (Big Dreams); he, like my friend, rejected a captive’s mindset. For “while Joseph was there in prison the LORD was with him; he showed him kindness and granted him favor in the eyes of the prison warden. So the warden put Joseph in charge of all those held in the prison, and he was made responsible for all that was done there. The warden paid no attention to anything under Joseph’s care, because the LORD was with Joseph and gave him success in whatever he did.” (Genesis 39: 20-23)

Joseph did not wield power over his fellow prisoners; instead he was a servant leader, extending himself to help them in times of trouble, including the baker and the cupbearer. Yet even when they forgot him, God was with Joseph. Joseph held onto that truth and resisted despair by trusting the Lord’s timing and purpose.

Joseph capitalized on his situation to be who God called him to be…not at some future date, but right then and there, and each day after throughout his life.

What situations, circumstances or forces of opposition restrict you?What are you waiting for? Will you trust that God is with you, and step out in victory to walk through this day and each day knowing that the Lord works all things for good for those who love him? (Romans 8:28)

Captivated

Paul miraculously transcends imprisonment, brutality and persecution by embracing his identity in Jesus, proudly describing himself as:

a slave of Christ Jesus, chosen by God to be an apostle and sent out to preach his Good News.

Romans 1:1

He explains the paradox of his situation this way:

For the one who was a slave when called to faith in the Lord is the Lord’s freed person; similarly, the one who was free when called is Christ’s slave.

1 Corinthians 7:22

Paul began life as Saul of Tarsus, a scholarly and devout follower of the Law, who later repents of persecuting followers of the Way and becomes not only a follower of Jesus, but one persecuted relentlessly for his beliefs, a veritable slave to his faith.

Yet even when the doors of his earthly prison cell were opened miraculously, Paul chose continued imprisonment as an act of love for the guard who arguably was both his enemy and persecutor. (Acts 16:16-40)

Paul wrote half of the New Testament, mostly behind prison walls. He shows us by example that freedom (and bondage) are a state of mind. In dismal circumstances Paul suffered joyfully for the opportunity to extend Christ’s love to others and to use his suffering for God’s glory.

Paul lived in the knowledge that freedom is found in a relationship with Jesus, who accepted the death penalty in our place, and through his resurrection broke the chains of sin and death for anyone who accepts his free, yet priceless gift.

Will you invite Jesus to reveal his purpose, his promise and his great love for you, so that you may experience the freedom he won for you right here, right now?

Will you pray that others in your life in bondage to thoughts or circumstances also will discover the freedom found in Christ alone?

 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.

Romans 8: 18-21

Foolish Hearts

My nephew is the ultimate Daddy’s boy; in his three-year-old way he makes it clear that he is only interested in his father’s time, attention and opinion. It sounds and looks something like this:

“Son, would you like to have special ‘Mommy Time’ today?”lukey

“No thanks, I’ll wait for Daddy to get home.” 

Or:

“Mommy loves you so much. Do you love Mommy?”

“Nah, I just love Daddy.”

You’re laughing; I know you are. I am too; I can’t help giggling every time I hear these stories, mostly because the little guy has no idea what he’s talking about!

He only has the luxury of his perspective because he has such an amazing momma. What he fails to see through his toddler eyes (maybe it’s his gorgeous long eyelashes getting in the way) is that she makes his world go round: She makes his bedroom cozy, prepares his meals, gets him to and from school, takes him to the doctor, and shapes his experience of the world on a daily basis…not to mention that she loves him to the moon and back.

Excruciating

At the risk of sounding like a “Jesus Juke” the analogy of my nephew came to mind  as I was contemplating Jesus’ suffering on the cross and how we as humans have no idea what true separation from God would look and feel like.

But we can glimpse it through the work Jesus did on the cross. For the longest time I only saw his physical suffering because it was so excruciating. (In fact, the word excruciating is derived from two Latin words: ex cruciatus, or out of the cross. Crucifixion was the defining word for pain. (Ravi Zacharias))

But that’s not the full story. Jesus took on the sins of the world (1 John 2:2). Having existed eternally in perfect union with God, Jesus experienced total separation from God in our place. Because it was spiritual in nature–exiting outside of time and space–he experienced it eternally with infinite pain. And he did so once for all of us. (Hebrews 10, 1 Peter 3:18, Romans 6:10)

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

Matthew 27:46 (NRSV)

It is by Jesus’ example that we can come to understand that true separation from God renders all other suffering trivial and irrelevant by comparison. Paul grasped at this:

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.

Romans 8:18-31

Easter People

The fullness of this truth is still remote to me, just barely perceptible, and yet it is changing me.

It provokes me to consider how many people, myself included some days, go about life as if we are of this world, in control, and God is simply a useful and occasional accessory.

When we do so we display the same naïveté as my young nephew–but on a spiritual scale. Like fish who don’t know they are wet we often seem blissfully ignorant to the God who created the world and all that is in it, the one who shapes our experience of the cosmos and gives life to each breath we take.

For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.

For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man.

Romans 1:20-22

We only have the luxury of our delusion because of Jesus. Thanks to him we never have to experience true separation.

Evangelism

I worry that an insidious passivity is creeping into our culture when it comes to God. Similar to baseball, God is being rendered as a sweet, nostalgic idea that belongs to generations past, yet enjoys some lingering support out of sentimentality for an innocence that has long since passed away.

But just as my nephew’s momma loves him too much to cajole him with all the good things she does for him, how much she loves him and how lost he would be without her, God expresses His love for us with similar patience.

Each day He allows us to choose anew whom or what to worship. But one day we will make our choice for a final time; one day we will choose  life and love or separation from God–the source of those things–for eternity.

If I am aware that people are fooling themselves into living as if there is no God, what am I willing to do about it?

Fools say in their hearts, “There is no God.”

Psalm 14:1 (NRSV)

 

The bottom line is if I really grasped Christ’s suffering on the cross I would make a fool of myself if it meant ensuring that even my worst enemies got every opportunity to see and experience the good news.

We are fools for the sake of Christ, but you are wise in Christ.

1 Corinthians 1:10

The Real Homeless Crisis

This post is dedicated to my friend, Stephanie Vasso, the best role model I know for serving Pillars of Hopehumbly and loving abundantly the physically homeless in her East Texas community. Her work reveals  hidden beauty both inside and out, and makes the world a better place.

Whenever the weather turns harsh and I am nestled in my home I can’t help thinking about those who do not have the safety, protection or comfort of home. What does it take to reach that point of desperation, let alone to endure it?

Homelessness is about more than lack of shelter, and overcoming it takes more than providing for a person’s physical needs.

So it is with spiritual homelessness, only in this case the homeless are dangerously unaware of their plight.  Those who call this world home will sooner or later discover that it offers weak protection against the elements of evil and is a cold abode, devoid of love, hope or meaning.

Jack Higgens, author of the best-selling novel, The Eagle has Landed, was once asked, “What would you like to have known as a boy?” His response, “That when you get to the top there’s nothing there.”

Today, 26 percent of adults say Jesus  was only a religious or spiritual leader, like Mohammed or the Buddha, while another 18 percent say they aren’t sure if Jesus was divine. The situation is more concerning among the next generation: Millennials are the first generation in which fewer than half believe Jesus was God (48 percent). (Source: The Barna Group)

How can we begin to serve these spiritually homeless if, like Higgens, they are not yet aware their poverty? Part of the answer can be found in this passage:The LORD’s curse is on the house of the wicked, but he blesses the home of the righteous. Proverbs 3-33

According to Blue Letter Bible the first word “house” refers to a physical structure, but the second reference, home of the righteous, comes from the Greek word for the “abode of shepherds or flocks, pasture.” The Greek also backs up what we know to be true of the wicked vs. righteous in this world:

  • “The wicked are those who are guilty of sin, hostile to God” (There is no one righteous, not even one. Romans 3:10)
  • The righteous are “justified and vindicated by God.”

God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:21)

This is about more than a future promise of heaven, it’s about the kingdom available right here, right now. As James explains so eloquently:

If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to him, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,’ and yet you do not give what is necessary for his body, what use is that? Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead.

James 2: 14-16

Perhaps the spiritually homeless you know simply missed the invitation or they haven’t been quite ready to accept it, or most unfortunately, they were turned away by religious institutions that told them they were no longer welcome.

Communities usually rally to meet the emergency needs of the physically homeless when weather conditions threaten to become severe.

Similarly, the spiritually homeless are in greatest peril when life’s storms arise. At such times their circumstances become dangerous and often unbearable. Without a path to safety they can be overcome by despair.

Whether physical or spiritual solving the homeless crisis requires something more from  those who desire to serve. It requires them to risk something in order to approach the situation with humility and the awareness that “there but for the grace of God” this situation could be theirs. It means meeting those in need not as rescuers, but as peers and really listening to the shared experiences in their stories. And it requires unconditional love, absent of judgment.

Then, and only then, do you earn the trust to share your own story, and the opportunity to invite, or better yet entice, the homeless in out of the cold.

I’ve been captivated recently by David Crowder’s song, “Come and Listen,” which echoes this idea beautifully:

Come and listen, come to the water’s edge, all you who know and fear the Lord.
Come and listen, come to the water’s edge all you who are thirsty, come.

Let me tell you what He has done for me.
Let me tell you what He has done for me,
He has done for you,
He has done for us.

  • Who are the spiritually homeless among your family, friends, coworkers and neighbors?
  • Have you listened to what happened to lead them away from home?
  • What holds you back from inviting them to share in the fruits of the kingdom that you enjoy today as a believer, and in the eternal promise of home (Revelation 21:4)? 
  • Who is in greater poverty, the spiritually homeless or those of us who fail to serve them?

Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Matthew 29:19

 

From the Lives of Babes

Mother and son

In your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you. 1 Peter 3:15

Wisdom of childrenToday is my son, Trevor’s, 17th birthday. Coming just a week after my oldest son left for college I find myself particularly reflective and nostalgic on an otherwise unremarkable, Monday birthday. 

Trevor has been content to be the “wind beneath his brother’s wings” for most of his life; no, more than content, fulfilled. It began when they were toddlers; Trevor would take on a pack of plastic plant-eating dinosaurs knowing full well that his brother’s carnivores would defeat and eat his in short order. Whatever his big brother took an interest in Trevor enthusiastically followed, from Pokemon to skating. What became clear throughout their growing up time together was that Trevor had a singular focus: unconditional love of his big brother. The other thing that became clear was his unique ability to love without expectation. Not that he didn’t receive love back, but it had no bearing on Trevor’s abundant, wholehearted love for his brother. It’s an approach to love that Trevor extends to others in his life as well.

That brotherly love cultivated a core to Trevor that has shaped the man he is becoming. He is a rock both physically and in his character. He said to me recently, “I like to be someone people know they can count on.” I was so moved and humbled by his statement and the simple truth of it in my experience of him.

Trevor’s greatest life passion right now is for athletics. A notoriously heavy sleeper, he will pop out of bed at 5:30 a.m. to go work out. Part of that drive is his accountability to his teammates. This big strong boy has been reduced to tears when he has felt his performance has let his teammates down. And when asked to lead he carries that burden heavily because he believes he must work twice as hard to be a worthy model. He doesn’t say these things out loud; I know them only because I get to edit his school essays and then watch him live them out. Trevor values trust more highly than anyone I know. He knows  it is an unspoken foundation to loving relationships. He has worked hard to earn and keep our trust, even when it has come at a cost. 

If all of this sounds like Mother Glow, it certainly is, but there are two things that make this gush worth sharing. The first is that these heartfelt thoughts about my son are not where my eyes lead me to focus on a day-to-day basis. I see the messy room, the stinky sports gear and the child who cannot get out of bed with alarms blaring and me yelling his name until I’ve reached the target TPS (“Trevors” per second, his term). But now that my oldest has flown the coop I am committing to be more intentional about taking time to seek joy in the many blessings my children offer as they grow up.

Second, I realized in this process how much I have to learn from my son, and I invite us as parents to take a fresh look at our children as not just receptacles for, but sources of, wisdom. Beneath the shell of this typical teenage boy lies a heart that knows the Lord, and one who strives to live in a manner that provokes others to question the “reason for the hope that is in [him].” Here is the wisdom I’m borrowing from my son today:

  • Live positively. Trevor’s words for other people are almost always filled with grace and positivity. He chooses to spend his time in laughter and encouragement with his friends. He expends little energy on people or situations that are not positive, and that helps ensure he almost always is.1510517_10206639821971678_6662163685608386182_n
  • Love abundantly. I encouraged Trevor one time to guard his heart so as not to open himself up to being hurt. He looked up at me through tear-filled eyes and simply said, “I can’t.” That’s not how God made him. He loves as hard as he hugs.
  • Think deeply, live simply. Trevor thinks deeply about the issues that count, what he believes and struggles with about God, life, family and living out his faith. He has surprised me on more than one occasion with the unusual perspective he brings to such topics. And yet he lives them out simply in his approach to each day.
  • Don’t worry, be happy. Finally, while I have always envied the absence of worry in his life, the car accident Trevor experienced last summer deepened his awareness that all he has is today and it is a gift. He is a 17-year-old who lives with the end in mind. 

I close this post by sharing a final secret for the few of you, other than his grandmothers, who made it this far: With every post I write I strive to find eternal truths in my life experience that can encourage or support others. Today that goal is there, but I also needed to write about how wide and how deep is my love for this boy. On the day he was born my father said to me, “This boy is going to bring you a lot of joy.” And indeed he does, every, single day.

Happy birthday, Trevor Nelson Kirsch.

Love,

Your Momma

An Open Letter to Daughters-in-Law: Take a Page from Ruth and Naomi

mother-in-law

(Originally written as a gift to my mother-in-law for Mother’s Day 2001)

Today I am one of you, a daughter-in-law, but tomorrow I will be one of them…a mother-in-law. As the mother of two sons, I encourage you this Mother’s Day to make a decision to love your mother-in-law.

Josephine Kirsch
Josephine Kirsch

Through 10 years of marriage it was not until I had sons that I began to see things from my mother-in-law’s perspective. And with that awakening I’ve been able to push aside the trivialities that divided and instead enhance my life with another close female friendship and another perspective on motherhood from a woman whose parenting I have come to deeply respect.

You can — and should — do the same for yourself, your husband and your family. Here are some things my mother-in-law has taught me:

  • Your children grow up, and quickly. My mother-in-law always said that she wished she had her babies back. I used to wonder why she didn’t just move on. Now I know. She has moved on, but even when you love every day of mothering as she did — and I do — the days fly by too quickly. Before you know it your children are walking, going to school, dating and leaving, and that’s if you do your job well. And when it’s over, most of us, given the chance , would do it again in a heartbeat.
  • You never stop being a mother. I’ve come to appreciate that my mother-in-law simply wants to share in the lives of her adult children in whatever ways she can. There is nothing she wouldn’t do for any of them. In return for that unconditional love I make a conscious effort to involve her in the little things in our lives that help her stay connected — the photos of her son and grandchildren, the one-liners our preschooler comes up with, first steps, first teeth and firsts in general. I understand that motherhood thrives in the little things.
  • We’re not the same, but we share the same pains and joys. I always joke that women have nothing to say to each other until one of them leaves the room. While men seek common ground it is the territorial nature of women to focus on differences. As she has slowly shared her life and experiences. I’ve been humbled and awed by the adversity over which my mother-in-law has triumphed. She has shown me that while we may be very different people, as women we share life’s joys and pains in a unique way. And after all, no one’s husband is more like mine than hers.
  • Mothers just want their children to be happy. Maybe I wouldn’t have been her choice for her son; maybe I would have. But at the end of the day my mother-in-law wants her son to be happy. That’s it. If her children are happy she will have the peace of knowing her life is a success. So, the most important thing I do to love my mother-in-law is love her son.

To read this you may be tempted to say that I’m just one of the lucky ones who got the rare, tolerable and even lovable mother-in-law. I think so. But I also think that attitude can be a cop out. It’s easier to focus on the reasons your mother-in-law drives you crazy than to make a proactive decision today and every day forward to love her.

My goal each day is to be the type of daughter-in-law I want my sons’ future wives to be for me. That decision to love has given me the opportunity to get to know an incredible woman for who she is. I will always treasure her unique place in my life. It’s been one of the greatest and most rewarding surprises of my married life. I urge you to give yourself the same gift this Mother’s Day.

Secrets of a Domestic Goddess

domestic goddess

Banana BreadI am from a generation of women called to careers outside the home. While this movement creates valuable advancements in the form of economic independence, personal achievement and financial reward, it sometimes devalues the role of a woman in defining and sustaining her family’s experience of home.

As a result, we now refer to cooking, cleaning and laundry as chores, and they certainly can be. But, I must confess that I experience a sort of guilty pleasure when I make a fabulous dinner, get all the laundry done (a short-lived milestone) or beat back dirty socks and dog hair to create a spotless living space (even shorter-lived).

Fortunately, the Lord has put in my path a few Godly women who, while they all work outside the home, possess an unabashed passion and prowess for home work. They are among the ranks of those I fondly refer to as domestic goddesses. Here is a brief glimpse of these women at work:

  • Meg starts her day by rising before her husband to make fresh brewed coffee and a breakfast sammie for his commute. She cuts fresh fruit for her boys, and makes sure their lunches have something homemade.
  • In between conference calls, Lynne packs snacks for her son (and his friends) to enjoy after soccer practice. She always has freshly made salsa in the fridge and pumpkin bread in the oven.
  • Tricia makes flashcards to help her daughter study, and has been known to crank out an extra set for her friends. She made 80-plus fleece scarves for her daughter’s band fund-raiser. And she sews her own curtains.

Why do they do it? They have come to know and treasure the secrets of a domestic goddess:

1. Providing nourishment is one of our first and primary roles as women.

Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? (Isaiah 49:15)

2. As mothers, we are the embodiment of Christ’s love to our families.

As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you; and you will be comforted over Jerusalem. (Isaiah 66:13)

3. We are called to serve one another, a calling that begins at home, is modeled for our children and then ripples into the world around us.

Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord. (Ephesians 6:7)

Serve one another humbly in love. (Galatians 5:13)

This is not to say that every woman is obliged to do such things and love them. And it is not to say that men can’t find similar satisfaction in them.

I simply seek to lift up and celebrate these women who quietly reign over their domains with benevolence and good cheer, providing comfort and wonderful memories for their families.

So friends, no more sweeping your domesticity under the rug. Stand proud of who you are and what you do, and know that other women see, admire and seek to share in your secrets. (I can hear those pans rattling in your honor!)

Grandma’s Hands

grandma's hands

grandma's hands

Adapted eulogy from the memorial service for my maternal grandmother, Olive May Nelson (1/09 – 6/07)

My brother told me right after she died that when he thinks of Grandma Ollie he thinks of her hands.

Grandma’s hands were delicate and pretty, her thin, pale skin and blue veins accentuated by the simple diamond band she wore from my grandfather. Her hands are the perfect metaphor for who she was. Diminutive and always delicate in appearance, she rarely topped 100 pounds, inside was a tough, scrappy constitution.

As her family, we remember a woman (and hands) in motion. She could discredit your statement with a flick of her wrist, poke fun at your idea with a her pointy little index finger, or punctuate your joke with a hearty clap, which she did most often.

Those were the hands we held when we slept in between her and Grandpa Eddie’s twin beds during visits as kids. Those were the hands we held to walk her back to her apartment across the street after he had passed. And those were the hands that tapped gently, reflexively, and so comfortingly any time they were held.

We laughed at how those tiny hands could wring a sopping dishrag virtually dry. Or how their viselike grip on your shoulders punctuated her threat to shake you out of your shoes if she was cross with you. Those hands helped her conjure words like “Gatorade” by making an alligator with her thumb and forefinger.

Olive was strong and fiercely independent. She was on her own at the age of 15. She told us stories of how she had to work as a nursing student to pay for any thermometers she broke. Graduating first in her nursing class, she opted to live the first years of her married life in secret so she could continue to work during the Depression, a feminist before the word was invented. She gave birth to our mother at 33, then lost three babies to Rh factor. She lived 35 years after her husband died; alone, but never lonely. Until dementia stopped her, Grandma was a voracious reader and an intelligent listener.

She was fiercely loyal. She had friends from first grade with whom she exchanged Christmas cards until she could no longer write. She followed the New York Mets faithfully, staying up late to watch them play on the West Coast, clipping and neatly storing their box scores from the newspaper, and earning a bouquet with a bat in it when they finally won the World Series, a passion she passed on to “The Best Boy in Town,” her youngest grandson.

In fact, she never missed his games either growing up, and was baffled as to how they could call him for “traveling” in basketball – “How else was he to get from one end of the court to the other?”

She picked on you if she loved you, and she loved none in this world more than our mother.When we moved to Erie, Grandma was there to help unpack. When my mother had her fourth child, my grandmother was there for us (willing to do everything but cook). And when my mother was hospitalized for brain surgery, my grandmother again was there to meet our needs, and only after that did she excuse herself to go home and cry and pray for her only child.

We cannot remember a Christmas Eve when Grandma didn’t sleep at our house, just so she could be there when we awoke at 7 a.m. to open our gifts. It was the only day of the year she saw the sun rise in the sky, although she usually left by noon for a nap.

Her ideas may not all have been conventional, but they were hers, and she wasn’t about to change. She believed in God and never missed the Pope’s midnight Mass, but she was fascinated by the book “Communion” and the idea of alien life, and entertained us all with her theories on reincarnation. Yet at the end of every day, we knew Grandma was on her knees to pray at the side of her wooden bed (She was terrified of lightning and refused to sleep in a metal bed.) Why tempt fate?

Ollie loved to laugh. She and Mom would play a game of “ha, haha, hahaha” and end up in tears. I remember watching The Absent-Minded Professor with her when she got hysterical over the basketball players flying across the court with flubber. My sister recalls walking her across the street one rainy night when a car drove by, hit a water-filled pothole that soaked her from head to toe. My grandmother belly-laughed all the way home.

Grandma loved a party! Whether it was eating smoked almonds and drinking soda at her place on one of our many sleepovers, or holding court for generations of friends, Ollie was a fixture in our home and a fixture in our lives growing up.

When I met my husband in 1990, he was immediately drawn to Ollie’s charm and baseball acumen. She quickly informed him she was on her way out. He said, “Grandma, you can’t die, I’m just getting to know you.” She responded, “That’s your problem, I’ve been around a long time!” Little did she know, she still had 17 years to go.

While we lost a lot of Grandma to dementia in her last years, I wouldn’t be surprised if she awoke just after midnight on each birthday to be sure she made it, just like when she turned 80.

One time Grandma said that sometimes she’d catch her reflection in the mirror and be amazed by the old woman staring back because that was not how she felt inside. I speak for us all when I say that’s not ever who we saw either. We saw a strong, smart, independent, funny and loving woman who was always on the ball and forever vibrant and energetic.

Grandma was a great example to her granddaughters, cheerleader to her grandsons, and unwavering supporter of her daughter. When all was said and done, she knew what mattered in this life: faith and family, and she lived accordingly.

We are so blessed to have grown up with her across the street and to have these and so many other great memories to treasure for the rest of our lives.

With Grandma’s passing, we are sad to lose what little of her remained on this earth, for even so diminished by disease, hers was a great spirit. She leaves behind a legacy to be admired: her daughter and son-in-law (always did like that Ed, she said recently) have been married for more than 40 years.  Her four grandchildren are healthy and happy.  She boasts two great-grandsons and seven great-granddaughters.

The locks may be off at her nursing home now, but I have to think that St. Peter is looking at some security updates for the pearly gates.

Hail to the Cardinals! Love you, Gram.