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Posts Tagged ‘Leaving a Legacy’

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“What’s that lovely perfume you’re wearing, Mom?” I exclaimed while greeting my mother-in-law with a hug.

“It’s called White Linen,” she responded. “I like it because it’s crisp and clean and not too heavy.”

The scent stayed with me, but I didn’t mind. Not only did the perfume have a pleasing aroma, but it belonged to one of the sweetest, most generous women I’ve ever known.

The apostle Paul taught that we should leave a pleasant scent wherever we go. But he wasn’t talking about perfume or cologne. He meant that our very lives ought to emit the fragrance of Christ:

“Through us, [God] brings knowledge of Christ.

Everywhere we go, people breathe in the exquisite fragrance.

Because of Christ, we give off a sweet scent rising to God,

which is recognized by those on the way of salvation—

an aroma redolent with life.”

(2 Corinthians 2:14-15, The Message)

 I’ve been privileged to enjoy the exquisite fragrance of a number of saints over the years:

  • My grandmother, who loved and served Jesus with a passion. She demonstrated kindness and thoughtfulness, and never raised her voice. (At least not that I heard!)
  • My parents, who lovingly guided me, and demonstrated what a Christian marriage should be:  two people committed to the best interest of the other.
  • A youth pastor who showed personal interest in each kid, and whose prayers were so heartfelt, we knew this guy was up-close-and-personal with God.
  • A professor and his wife at the seminary Steve attended, who took us under their wings and lovingly mentored us with great wisdom.
  • A mother of three who led the first women’s Bible study I attended.  She provided strong teaching, but better yet, an example of what it means to be a godly woman of excellence.
  • An older couple who listened, supported, and encouraged us as Steve began his pastoral career.
  • A younger couple who came alongside us in ministry over thirty years ago and are still caring friends to this day.
  • A choir director who taught by example what a calm and gentle spirit (2 Peter 3:4) looks like.
  • Countless friends and acquaintances over the years who have loved on us and prayed for us.

Some of these wonderful people have already departed for heaven. Yet their beautiful fragrance lingers in my life to this day—a memorable blend of selflessness, generosity, and grace.

And I wonder, Where would I be without their enduring examples providing strength and guidance?

To be honest, I would surely have ruined my life with poor choices, spurred by emotional immaturity, and spiritual depravity. But God provided all these saints and more, that I might acquire even a faint aroma of Christ. 

And now I plead with myself, YOU serve Jesus by being a sweet fragrance for others, redolent with the life of Christ. YOU be the listener, encourager, and grace-giver. YOU provide the example of Christian maturity. 

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Oh, Father, I thank you for the countless people you have brought into my life, whose positive impact provided wisdom, direction, and inspiration. Guide me, I pray, to live just as fragrantly, spreading your love, grace, and joy wherever I go.

 

Whose exquisite aroma lingers in your life?  Tell us about him/her in the comments below.

 

(Photo credit:  www.etsy.com.)

 

 

 

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DSC_7445-X3 (My mom & dad with their great-granddaughter, Sophie, 2011)

 

“What we leave behind

is not what is engraved in stone monuments,

but what is woven into the lives of others.”

— Pericles (495-429, B.C.  Greek statesman, orator, and general of Athens)

I love that word, woven. It speaks eloquently of the way my mother, Geraldine Claire  (November 5, 1928-October 9, 2014), influenced my life. Woven into the fabric of my being are memories of Mom’s words and example that still have impact to this day.

Many of those memories involve Mom and Dad because they were such an inseparable team. They even wallpapered together.

Now marriage experts will tell you that completing home improvement projects with your spouse can be detrimental to your relationship. But that was not the case for Mom and Dad. Amidst the measuring, pasting, and hanging, my brother, John, and I saw cooperation and patience in action.

Once the wallpaper was hung in the three homes of our growing-up years, Mom was ready to entertain. Hospitality was definitely one of her gifts. In fact, the last dining room table Mother and Dad purchased could seat fourteen people.

Mom became adept at organizing large gatherings by writing lists, doing everything she could ahead of time, even labeling the serving ware so each item on the menu would have an appropriate bowl or plate. Little did I know then how often I’d be following her routine and recipes, as Steve and I began to entertain.

Mom’s legacy included wise advice. One time I was heartsick over a low report card grade in math—my most challenging subject. She quickly gave me perspective for the tragedy, saying, “Just remember: this grade will not matter in ten years.”  And, of course, she was right.

Countless times over the years as disappointments and difficulties have occurred, I’ve heard Mother’s voice reminding me to consider events with a ten-year perspective.

But that doesn’t mean she accepted excuses. Instead, Mom fostered independence and personal responsibility .

I’m remembering the Sunday School Christmas program from second grade. My part was to recite six verses from Luke, chapter two, about the angel visitation to the shepherds. “This is too much to memorize,” I complained.

Mother replied calmly, “Well, just tell Mr. Faircloth that you can’t manage it, and he’ll ask someone else.”

Mom did not take control of the situation; she left it up to me to decide what course of action to take. Wise mother, indeed.

But perhaps the most astounding aspect of her legacy is the way she exhibited all features of the fruit of the Spirit, listed in Galatians 5:22-23.

For example:

LOVE — Mom lavished love on family, friends, and stranger alike. She could strike up a conversation with anyone, and was always ready with a warm hug.

JOY — Mother was a woman of gladness. She laughed easily and often.

PEACE — Mom and Dad created a peaceful, secure home for John and me.

PATIENCE — She exercised great patience, especially when dealing with my fluctuating moods of early adolescence.

KINDNESS — Mother demonstrated kindness in many ways.  I remember one house where the old wallpaper was in process of removal when Mom and Dad took in a missionary who needed a place to stay.  We have home movies of  that missionary, Miss Hunt, standing in front of  the glue-encrusted plaster.  Another time when a different missionary family stayed with us, Mom did all their laundry while they attended to other affairs.

GOODNESS — Mother’s goodness was also expressed in numerous ways.  In my mind’s eye, I can still see Mom at her desk at Scripture Press, where she was executive secretary to the Vice President of Editorial.  (The visualization is easy to conjure; I sat directly across from Mom, most of my seven summers as an editorial assistant.)  Frequently people stopped by her desk to share a need and ask for advice.  We used to tease her about being the psychologist of Scripture Press!   

FAITHFULNESS — Mother’s faithfulnesss to God never wavered for the seventy-five earthly years she knew Jesus as her Savior and Lord.

GENTLENESS — While John and I were growing up, Mom could be plenty firm with us.  Yet, when we were sick, hurt or experiencing trouble, she readily soothed us with comfort and hugs.

SELF-CONTROL — I have to admit:  I provided Mom and Dad with plenty of parenting challenges.  And though Mom did become angry sometimes, she never lost her temper with me.

For these reasons and so many more, John and I “arise and call her blessed” (Proverbs 31:28).  Mother did indeed weave godly integrity, wisdom, and faith into our lives.

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“I even wash aluminum foil so I can use it again–if it’s not too messy,” joked a friend.  “My son makes fun of me, but that’s what my mother did, and I just picked up the habit.  Seems so wasteful to throw away a perfectly good piece of foil, just because it has a bit of goop on it.”

We were discussing the frugal habits passed down to us from our parents. They were children during the Great Depression, and learned to conserve, reuse, and make do.  Now, eighty years later, the effects of that difficult time are still impacting many of us today.

Might the same effect occur in the spiritual realm?  Might our spiritual habits not only impact those around us, but even generations to come?

Legacy-Postcard

An anonymous psalmist alluded to our long-reaching influence:  “Blessed is the man who fears the Lord, who finds great delight in his commands.  His children will be mighty in the land; the generation of the upright will be blessed…his righteousness endures forever” (Psalm 112:1-3).

James Moffatt (1870-1944), theologian and professor, also spoke poetically of our ongoing influence:  “Death is never the last word in the life of a…man. When a man leaves this world, be he righteous or unrighteous, he leaves something in the world. He may leave something that will grow and spread like a cancer or a poison, or he may leave something like the fragrance of perfume or a blossom of beauty that permeates the atmosphere with blessing.”

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Who has left “something like the fragrance of perfume or a blossom of beauty” in your life?  I am surrounded by the examples of:

  • my grandparents’ perseverance
  • my father’s wisdom
  • my mother’s resiliency
  • a favorite teacher’s sense of humor
  • a choir director’s positive attitude

To name a few.

When I was a small child, our family’s pastor called each of us girls “Little Miss Sunshine.”  I found myself trying to live up to the name.  Now, decades later, I still feel the influence of his affirmation.

As a teenager I benefited greatly from the examples of various youth sponsors.  One married couple in particular took me under their wings and mentored me.  Their example of integrity, service, and caring, lived out in a loving home, remain with me to this day.

And so many more!  We really are composites of the countless influences we’ve absorbed.

Now, it’s our turn to pass on a worthwhile legacy.  We mustn’t give in to the notion that Generations X and Y will always find us irrelevant.  One day they’ll realize older persons have the benefit of experience, and experience gives rise to wisdom.  And whether we are present on that day or not, our example will be.

Most of what they absorb will not be the words we have spoken.  They will remember our actions.  Kids watch and learn–sometimes intentionally, but most of the time not.

learning-by-observing

We are the ones who need to be intentional, living out a legacy of character and faith, to be a perfume of blessing.  If we do, the fragrance of our Christian maturity will permeate the atmosphere for years to come.

We can also be encouragers.  Others will remember positive affirmations.  At least one Little Miss Sunshine can attest to that.

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Please leave a comment below.  I’d love to hear from you!

(Photo credits:  www.jeaninemurk.com ; http://www.telegraph.co.uk ; http://www.inspiredwednesdays.blogspot.)

 

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