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Granddad’s House

 

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Granddad’s House

“Ain’t gonna need this house no longer.”

Mothers’ Day 2014.

My mom had been diagnosed with Aortic Stenosis. It’s serious. It would kill her. Eventually it would cause heart failure. Nobody knows how long she had but statistically someone with severe AS lives two years or less. How long it take for the hardening of the aortic valve to get to the point where it caused heart failure was up to the Lord.  In the meantime, Mom’s attitude was great. She was ready to go to the Lord when he called her. While she waited she prayed through her alphabet lists.

My sister-in-law, Marlene,  was visiting for Mothers’ Day. She wanted to go see “Granddad’s House.” I had not been back there for years. I even avoided driving by it. But  Marlene wanted to see it, so Tim and I loaded Mom in a wheelchair and we took her.

The house had been vacant since we sold it in 2005. The new owners had been taking care of the yard and keeping the place looking nice, but the house had recently sold again. The new owners had not been keeping it up. The place looked awful. The lawn hadn’t been mowed for weeks, weeds clung to the sides the  building. The paint I had so carefully applied years ago, hung in shredded fragments or lay scattered under the ragged shrubs and roses. My grandmother’s favorite yellow rose bush outside the dining room window had climbed all the way to the second floor. A single crumbled bud still clung to the vine.

Marlene got out of the car to take pictures. I sat in the back seat hurting and stunned.

This had been the house where my grandparents had lived. Every summer when I was growing up, my family would drive from California to spend time with my mother’s parents.  They bought it in 1946 when they returned from 25 years on the mission field in China. My mother had been a student at the University of Washington then. My grandparents had lived in that house until they died–my grandmother in 1977 and my grandfather in 1980.My husband and I bought the house from Granddad’s estate. We had it as a rental house until 1994 when we sold our home in Ferndale, paid off our debts and moved in to it.

At the time that Bob and I moved in our marriage was failing. We were divorced in 1996. When everything else in my life was chaos and pain, I found comfort in being in that house. The one place in the whole world where I had had unconditional love as a child.

I built a white picket fence around the house. The fence had been to contain my border collie puppy, but it had much deeper significance to me. The fence marked my boundaries, my place. This is where I belonged.

As I looked over Drayton Harbor from my quiet time place in the front room I told the Lord I would like to name the house.

“What shall I name it, Lord?”

“Harbor House”, I heard.

That same day I painted the name on the mailbox.

A couple of days later a friend stopped by and asked me if I were opening a bed and breakfast.

“No,” I laughed in reply. “That’s just what I do, not my job.” It was true. I nearly always had people staying with me. My future son in law called them my “waif collection”.

But the Lord had plans. A couple of years later I did open a bed and breakfast there. That is a different story.

I loved that house. I told my friends that I expected to live there the rest of my life. Apparently, the Lord had other plans. In 2005 my new husband and I sold the house to develop our business elsewhere. That is also another story.

Tim had found a piece of property about 10 miles away, on a busy road, where he felt our goat dairy business could prosper. I could not imagine selling Granddad’s house. One morning as I stood in the front room Drayton Harbor looked as if it had molten gold poured over it. The Canadian mountains stood as a snow peaked backdrop. I worshipped the Lord with my hands raised. I praised him for the beauty of the place where I he had brought me. Then I heard his voice.

“Are you willing to give this up so someone else can learn to worship me here?” He said.

Without hesitation, I answered, “In a heartbeat.”

“I have a plan,” He said.

“OK,” I answered.

I called a neighbor who had told me that if we ever wanted to sell it, let her know. In less than 30 minutes the house was sold. Cash. Full price. No inspections. We could take all the time we needed to move. I could not help but see the hand of God in that.

Even though I believed that the Lord had arranged the sale and had us move to the new location on the Birch Bay Lynden Road, I grieved the loss of that house, every day. From the new house I had a view of the busy road. Not only did it have no beauty, it was also noisy. Conversation was impossible on the front porch because of the road noise. I told Tim even before we agreed to buy that property that it would not be permanent. It was not a home. It was business. I grieved the loss of the water view and a place to be quiet before the Lord.

As business prospered through the years. The noise level increased. I fed all the employees at lunch time. They used the house as their break room throughout the day. Customers drove in the driveway. Trucks came in and out. Change was the only constant.

Then in the fall of  2015 Tim and I  moved to this condo on the other side of I never have to move again. But I am the Lord’s bond servant and He may yet have another plan for me.

I still don’t know what his plan for Granddad’s house is. It has been vacant since we moved out 12 years now. It would have failed any inspections in 2005, now it is in ruins.

After Marlene got back in the car we drove down to Semiahmoo, thinking that we would have lunch there. But I was in too much pain. I really could not think about lunch, much less a Mothers’ Day Brunch celebration. We drove back to our place on the Birch Bay Lynden Road.

The next morning while I on the treadmill I heard this song.

“This Ole House”

by  Stuart Hamblen

This ole house once knew his children
This ole house once knew a wife
This ole house was home and comfort
As we fought the storms of life
This old house once rang with laughter
This old house heard many shouts
Now she trembles in the darkness
When the lightnin’ walks about

(Ain’t a-gonna need this house no longer)
(Ain’t a-gonna need this house no more)
Ain’t got time to fix the shingles
Ain’t a-got time to fix the floor
Ain’t got time to oil the hinges
Nor to mend no windowpane
Ain’t a-gonna need this house no longer
I’m a-gettin’ ready to meet the saints

Ain’t a-gonna need this house no longer
I’m a-gettin’ ready to meet the saints

 

As I listened, I thought about Mom’s failing body. She would not need it much longer. The song gave me joy.

When I shared the song with Mom and Marlene, Mom told me that she had painted a picture of a house and put that song title on the picture. She found the picture. The house wasn’t Granddad’s House, but it was on Drayton Harbor Road. The view behind it could be the view from Granddad’s House. The house in the picture was in as deep a state of disrepair as Granddad’s House is.

The picture struck me.

“Ain’t gonna need this house no longer,” it says.

Truth, suddenly, set me free.

“I ain’t a gonna need that house no longer, I ain’t a gonna need that house no more.

“Ain’t got time to fix the shingles, ain’t got time to mend the floors. . . .

“I’m a getting ready to meet the saints!!!”

 

With the truth in my heart, not just my head, I was set free.

With the Lord’s perfect timing he used my fading mother, my sister-in-law’s curiosity, an old song, and a water color painting to set me free of that old house.

When the Lord has set you free, you are free, indeed. Praise God!

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And She Laughs . . .

My daughter’s moving eulogy to my mom, her grandmother.

The Deepest Love

“And she laughs at the time to come,” Proverbs 31:25

Rebecca Terry

The last time I spoke with my grandma, late on an August afternoon, she had labored all day with chest pain and asphyxia. She closed her eyes for the last time just hours after we hung up the phone.

While we spoke, she marveled at the love of her family and caregivers; she blessed me and expressed her joy that I had started a new job; she said something light-hearted about her transfer to hospice; and she told me she loved me.

I told her I loved her too, but I couldn’t find any other words. I didn’t know how to say goodbye. The conversation lasted less than a minute. Death, laughter, eulogy, hope, courage

But in that sixty seconds she gave me, distilled, the treasures of her life: self-forgetting gratitude and light-hearted courage.

Self-forgetting. Grandma held her life lightly. Free of self-importance…

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It’s Always a Glorious Day in the Lord

IMG_1787On this day after the official day of giving thanks, I would like to tell you about a lady I met a long time ago. She knew how to live in that place of constant praise, in spite of losing everything. Her name was Gertrude. Gertrude means “spear” and “strength”.

It’s always a glorious day in the Lord.

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

                     I met Gertrude in a nursing home in Blaine. I had gone there to meet my friend, Daphne,  one of the staff members of the nursing home, for lunch. I took a seat in the foyer to wait for her. Gertrude sat across from me in a wheelchair. She had only one leg. I said something to her about the weather and I don’t remember if the weather was good or bad, but the Gertrude answered, “Oh, it’s always a glorious day in the Lord!”

Wow, I thought. Here is someone I need to get to know. I moved over next to her and introduced myself. She told me her name and that she had lived in Blaine a long time.

“You might remember my grandparents,” I told her, “Mary and Myron Terry.”

“Oh,” she exclaimed.  “I knew your grandmother! She painted a head of Christ for me.”

“I remember when she did those,” I said. “She made one for my sister, too.”

“I used to have it hanging in front of where I sat and did my quiet time,” she said. “I loved that picture. But I don’t have room for it here.”

“What happened to it?” I asked.

“I think my kids gave it to the church when they took my apartment apart.”

“When did they take your apartment apart?”

“A month ago,” she said. “I started having some heart trouble and had to go to the hospital. While I was there I got this problem with my leg and they had to amputate it. That’s why I had to move here.”

“Oh, dear,” I said, “you lost your leg just a month ago?  That must be so hard for you.”

“The hardest part about losing my leg,” she said, “was that they couldn’t give me a general anesthetic when they did it because of my heart. So I was awake!  I couldn’t really feel what they were doing, though.”

“Oh, dear,” I said again. “I am so sorry. What a rough time you have had .”

“Oh, it’s not so bad,” she said. “The only thing I really miss is my large print Bible. I don’t know what my kids did with that.”

“Well I am sure we could find you a large print Bible around here somewhere!” I said.

“It wouldn’t do me any good. My glasses are broken anyway.”

Gertrude told me all of this, after she had started by our conversation by saying, “It’s always a glorious day in the Lord!” She had lost her leg, her home, her independence, her portrait of Jesus, her quiet time place, her Bible and her glasses!! I am not even sure what order of importance she might have given to all those losses.

She amazed me. She became my hero, and my friend. I visited her often after that—whenever I came to the nursing home to meet Daphne.

Daphne got her glasses fixed for her, and found her a large print Bible.

I went to the church and found the head of Christ my grandmother had painted. I took a snapshot of it. (This was long before we had digital cameras). I had a tiny print made and put it in a little frame.   She carried that picture in her pocket for the rest of her life. The picture she gave to me I will also carry for the rest of my life.

Update March 20, 2017

I just added a snapshot of the picture my grandmother painted. Just today I received the picture from a friend who received it from the church where it had been hanging since Gertrude had to give up her apartment about 25 years ago. My grandmother painted in in about 1953. Thanks be to God that he care about things like this and the picture is now in our family. Thank you Nancy Dement for sending it to me!

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What are we going to do now?

“When God made Adam on the sixth day, Adam arose on the seventh day and said to God, “What are we going to do today?” God responded, “Nothing. I want you to learn immediately that everything we are going to do, we are going to do from rest.”

I just read this in “Operating in the Courts of Heaven”. It is almost word for word the last conversation I had with my mom. Of course, I didn’t know at the time that it was my last conversation. It happened on Friday August 12, at 6:45 PM. It is also significant that this was the beginning of Shabbat, sundown Friday evening, the day of the sabbath rest. (The Hebrew day starts in the evening. Genesis one shows us this pattern: there was evening, and there was morning, the first day. All the days of creation are marked that way.)

I was standing next to Mom who was lying in her bed at Hospice House. She had been there a couple of hours, and had been in great distress. She struggled to breathe, moaning and tossing in agitation.  The hospice staff had started a morphine drip into one leg, and an anti-anxiety medication drip in the other.  They had told me that it would take about four hours for the medications to stabilize and she would feel better. I had been standing next to her, stroking her head with one hand and talking to her. I was also trying to keep up with all the texts that were coming in to my cell phone.  I realized that my phone needed to be charged so I crawled under the edge of Mom’s bed to plug it in.  I stood up and  had my back to Mom when she suddenly spoke to me. She had not spoken since arriving at Hospice House, nor had she for several hours before that at the hospital.

            “Hello, Grace,” she said, clear as a young girl’s voice.

            I turned around, surprised, and so pleased, “Hi Mom!” I said.

            “Did you make a special trip to bring the phone?” She asked.

            “No, I have been here,” I said.

            Then so cheerfully she asked me, “What are we going to do NOW?”

            I smiled and said, “We are going to take a nap.”

            “Oh,” she said, “that sounds REALLY nice.”

            “There’s my bed, right there,” I said, pointing to the day bed next to her. “I will lie down right there next to you.”

            “That sounds really nice,” she said again.

            Then her face changed a little and she said, “Are we at Hospice?”

            “Yes,” I answered.

            “How long have we been here?”

            Before I could answer she went back to the anxious groaning.

            She left her body behind 24 hours later, at the end of Sabbath, 6:35 Saturday night.

            She has entered the greater rest.

Hebrews 4:9-10, and 4:11

So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God. . .

Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by. . .disobedience.

 

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The Lord Knows My Name

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The Lord Knows My Name

The Lord called me from the womb,
from
the body of my mother he named my name. Isaiah 49:1

“Mom,” I asked, “did you ever have the sense when you were pregnant with me that I should have had a different name?”

She said, “Yes, I wanted to name you “Grace” after my grandmother, but it didn’t go with “Svensson”. ‘Grace Svensson’ was just too hard to say.”

I asked my mom that question after meeting some people who told me that they waited until the Lord told them what their child’s name was before they named him.

The Lord knows my name. He calls me by my name. But what if I had been given the wrong name? What if I changed my name?

My name for the first 49 years of my life was “Jonnie”, pronounced “Johnny.” My mom had been a big fan of Louise May Alcott and she liked the idea of having a family full of girls with boys’ names. My mom was raised in China where baby girls were abandoned in “baby towers” outside the cities, or killed by drowning, as soon as they were born. Girls had no value.

That is the lie I grew up with.

“Were you supposed to be a boy?”

“Was your dad hoping for a boy?”

“What’s your real name?”

“Were you supposed to be a boy?”

How does a child answer these questions?

I guess so. Why else would I have this boy’s name? Nobody ever told me it was a good thing to be a girl, or that girls were special, or that girls had value, or that girls could be loved. I guess I was supposed to be a boy. I am wrongly made. By whom? Who decided that I would be male or female? Who is the force behind the “supposed”? Who decides what is “supposed” to be or not to be? I don’t know. I’m confused, unloved, unwanted, have no value.

What’s wrong with girls?

Everything. Nobody wants one. It’s wrong to be one. I hate them. I hate me.

I’m angry.

I’m scared.

Who cares?

Nobody.

Girls don’t matter.

Boys matter.

I hate boys.

I hate girls.

Why?

Because girls don’t matter.

Girls get thrown away in China.

Girls get thrown away here.

Really? How do you know?

Because I got thrown away.

By whom?

Everyone.

Girls don’t matter.

It doesn’t matter what we think, what we do, what we want, where we go, or how we feel.

Girls don’t matter.

This was my war but I didn’t know my enemy. I didn’t know the one “supposed” that I would be a girl. I wasn’t “a girl”. I was something else that was “supposed to be a boy”. (I told a counselor my story recently and he said, “It is a good thing that you are not going through that now. Someone would give you a sex change operation.”)

I did everything I could to not be a girl. I hated curls and dolls and dresses. In those days girls had to wear dresses to school so when I got home I ripped off my dress and wore my jeans. I played with stick horses and I wandered the hills of California with my dog.

I didn’t know the Lord then, but I somehow “prayed” when I was about 10 years old that the things that happened to girls’ bodies as they grew up would not happen to me. I refused to look at my body. When I was about 12 my mom took me into the bathroom to teach me how to shave under my arms. I didn’t know I had hair under my arms. When I got my shirt off, she said,”Oh, we need to get you a bra, too.” I didn’t know I had breasts. That experience in the bathroom mortified me. I did not look at my body again, at all, until I was in  my mid 30’s when I forced myself to stand in front of a mirror and look. By that time I had been married for 12 years and had two children.

I blamed my name for lots of troubles I had in my life.

In my 40’s I thought, “If I were to change my name, what would I change it to?” I thought about Bible characters who had changed their names after an encounter with God, and I thought, “Grace”. I would change my name to Grace. It is only by his grace that I am where I am today.

And where was I? I had been walking with the Lord for 20 years. I was living in the house that had been my grandparents home. My marriage was disintegrating. My daughters were both in college. I was a student, too,  at Regent College, a graduate theological school in Vancouver, BC. I had met a girl at Regent named Grace. As I worked my way through much inner healing I realized how much grief my name had given me throughout my life. If I had been treasured as a girl, and a woman, I am sure I would not have had such a hard time with my name. I blamed a lot of my troubles on my name. I didn’t seriously think about changing it though, not then.

But later, when I married Tim, I struggled with my name in another way. “Jonnie Lukens” just did not work. I couldn’t write it; I couldn’t say it. I couldn’t make a signature out of it. My mom and Tim both encouraged me to go ahead and change it. I was 50 years old. Changing your last name when you get married is one thing. Changing your first name, the name people call you, is a whole different matter! But with Mom and Tim’s encouragement, I decided to do it. I would become Grace Lukens.

Then the problem of a middle name came up. What would I give myself as a middle name? Since Grace has one syllable and Lukens has two, I figured that my middle name should have three syllables, but I couldn’t think of anything that I liked. Elizabeth? Annemarie? Eloise? No. Then I remembered one of the lectures I heard at Regent. Gordon Fee pounded on the podium as he taught from Galatians, “Grace, plus nothing, equals right standing with God!”

Grace plus nothing. (Now, “plus nothing” has three syllables, but that’s not what I thought!) I thought, “I didn’t need a middle name.” Grace Lukens was enough. Very well. That would be it.

So, I went to the courthouse and filed the papers to change my name to Grace Lukens. I was given a court date five days later.
That same day I dropped off a computer to be fixed. When the technician asked me my name, I told him “Grace.”

“Very good, Grace, we will call you when it is ready.”

Wow!!! That was amazing! He called me a feminine name! He didn’t ask me how to spell it. He just said it! I floated out of that building as if on air. For the first time in my life I felt like my name fit. Indescribable.

Then I went home and starting writing letters to my siblings to tell them what I was doing. As I wrote those letters I realized that my three sister each had feminine names: Nora Nylund, Christine Elaine, and Gloria Jane. Gloria Jane was Janie. When Christy and I were little we couldn’t say, “Gloria” we said “Glowy” so Mom decided that we would all call Gloria, “Janie”.

“Gloria” I thought as I wrote the letters. “Gloria” has three syllables. Gloria goes well with “Grace” and it would be a wonderful tribute to Janie to name myself after her. Janie had died 14 years earlier. She had been the first in our family to become a Christian, and she prayed me in–even while I mocked her. I would be “Grace Gloria Lukens.”

I thought about going right down to the courthouse to change the papers, but decided that I could do it on Friday when my “case” would be heard. I was excited.

I had a friend who was also excited about my name change. She had changed her name by adding a middle name. I had called her when I first made the decision to change my name. She didn’t know anything about my struggle and decision over the middle name. She just knew that I was going to change my first name to “Grace.” She asked me to meet her on Friday, for lunch, before the court date. She told me that she had something I “had to see.”

When we were seating across from each other she pushed a book across the table at me. “You have to read this,” she said. The book was “Hinds’ Feet in High Places”. The book is an allegory, the story of a young woman making her way to the Lord. The part of the book that Mary Kay wanted me to read was at the end when the young woman is making her final climb to the Lord. The Lord hands her something and says, “Your name is no longer “Much Afraid”, your new name is “Grace and Glory.” Hallelujah! What a beautiful confirmation from the Lord for me. Your new name is Grace and Glory.

So now I am Grace Gloria Lukens. When I first started thinking about changing my name I had looked up the meaning of Jonathan, the closest thing to Jonnie. John, Jonathan, means “gift from God” or “God has been gracious”. Indeed. I realized that I had had the correct word for my name, just the wrong translation. The Lord knew my name. He still does.