Living Legacies

“I thank my God upon every remembrance of you,”

Philippians 1:3

It is strange, the coexistence of love and grief.

To experience such pain, grounded in the purest joy.

The sound of your voice on a recording, a picture with your smile from a happier day…

My heart fills and is full as my stomach drops and feels sick beyond measure.

Sweet memories tinged with bitterness yet now more valuable than any treasure imaginable. Regardless of the pain, remembering you is one of my favorite things.

I believe there is a part of us that will never fully accept that you are gone. I believe there will always be a piece of us that is shocked at the sentiment that you are no longer here.

And I believe it is because deep down you are not gone- deep down our soul knows that this life is not the end and that one day we will be reunited- in a place with no more tears and no more death and no more goodbyes. In the core of our being we have the vaguest inclination of eternity and while we cannot fully grasp it and all its wonder- we know.

We know that this is just part of the journey home.

We all have been sent on our journey and will take different roads home. The duration of our journey may vary, some will take longer and some will arrive sooner- but we all seek the same destination.

And we will collect our souvenirs. Our experiences and blessings we have acquired on the trip, some welcome and unwelcome. More importantly though, we will leave some pieces of ourselves behind.

We will sow seeds and give from what has been given to us; our talents, gifts, words, hope… These things given freely are given in love. And seeds sown in love grow into legacies. Legacies of light, hope, compassion, care… all grounded in love.

And long after one is home, their legacy continues to grow- more often than not in ways unseen, too small to notice yet too large to measure- carried on by those they left to continue on their journey. The seeds they had planted beginning to take full affect as their loved ones seek to fill this world with as much love and joy as the sower afforded them.

Mom, we miss you. We were not, and still are not, ready for your journey to be over. How we wanted you to stay.

You are home, at the home, but it is not the home that we know- it is not the home we have shared.

We hear the echoes of your laughter in our memories and home videos though no longer in the room. We hear your comforting words of wisdom buried in our hearts but no longer on the other side of the phone. We see the physical evidence of the beautiful life you led here on your journey, though we no longer have your physical presence.

And it hurts, God, it hurts so bad.

But Mom, though it was too soon, it is universally acknowledged that generally one cannot have too much of a good thing. The reality is that given five more minutes… we would always want five more minutes. And you mom, you did not leave us with nothing, but with the greatest of somethings, your legacy. Your light. Your laughter. Your smile. Your heart. The seeds were sown and they took root and we remember.

As we prepare to celebrate you today I pray that we can carry your legacy proudly. That we can love and serve as you did. That when we finish our journeys and reach the final destination, we can look at our adventures and point at some of those moments and say “That, that I learned from my mom” and in which God will respond “I know and I knew. For I always have a reason.”

Though our earthly hearts cannot always fathom divine reasoning, I continuously thank God for you at every remembrance. There are days when the memories are harder to weather than others. Days when the grief saturates every memory and turns laughter into tears. However, behind those tears lies the greatest of joys, for those tears only exist because of what was once so wonderfully happy. Truly happy.

No, I wouldn’t change a thing. For the happiness of one moment with you far outweighs the unbearable pain of the days ahead without you. Always my heart remembering, that this is not the end just our final and temporary goodbye. And what is time compared to eternity?

Until then, we will walk our journeys, your legacy firmly rooted in our hearts and in the love you gave to us.

 

Jamie & Jesus

A picture is worth a thousand words.

Everywhere I can fit a photo frame has a photo frame. My reasoning- I love to be surrounded by the smiling faces and moments which have shaped my life. My parents and sisters, best friends and cousins, nephews and new adventures.

Alas, I believe many of you will agree with me that you could never fit every photo you have taken in your home. At least not neatly. In today’s world we take a massive amount of photos every year, if not within a single month depending on what events are taking place. However, it is alright because we have a solution to this problem – Facebook.

Personally, I love to look through photos on Facebook. To me it is such a great reminder of where I’ve been, where I am and where I am going. It reminds me just how many times I have been blessed, that God has brought me through and never failed. And sometimes I need that reminder. I look back and see all God has done and is doing; graduations, weddings, babies, careers and just life. And it astounds me because there was a period of time where I didn’t have the hope these things would come to pass.

That story is for another day, just know that I have a best friend named Jamie and she passed on May 9, 2011. For two years after her passing I struggled to stand in my shattered world. Then one day Jesus called. And here we are… which leads into today’s story –

It started out as a mere Facebook break and then God surpassed every imaginable thought in less than 48 hours.

Facebook breaks are mandatory amidst heavy homework days, and so I had wandered onto the site and after checking up on everyone’s current status started to go through my albums. Pictures, hundreds of pictures, over several years. I started with the most recent and ended up back in the late 2011s. And as I looked through the photos I was overcome with an unspeakable amount of gratitude and thankfulness and joy.

I couldn’t tell God how full looking at those photos made me because I do not know if a word has ever been invented to convey such meaning by a mortal tongue. Knowing how dark that period had been and seeing how much God had been working in our lives, even now just thinking about it I am setback in awe. And as I continued to wander back into the high school years I just found myself perfectly and completely content.

Eventually I downloaded a few photos to my phone, since I was going to be beginning a social media fast soon, and prepared to get back to homework. But as I clicked out of the Facebook pages and pulled up my assignments I had a thought. If you could have any picture from any time and place of anybody, what would it be? And it really struck me as a thousand ideas came to mind.

But then I had the one. If I could have a picture of anyone, anything at anytime. I thought

God, I have all these pictures of so many wonderful moments, of so many wonderful people. You have brought us through so much, it is overwhelming to think of everything we have done over the past 7 years, especially when at one point I didn’t believe in a tomorrow. But God if I could have one more picture… it would be of Jamie after May 9th. I have all these pictures of us and how You have blessed us and our lives have grown. But I would want one picture of her, after that day. 

And as I this conversation was passing through my mind in prayer I was full of joy and excitement. Because it wasn’t possible for me to even imagine what that picture would look like. I explained to God, that it was okay that I couldn’t have that picture because the mere fact that Heaven was a place too great for us to comprehend, too far beyond our imagination and wildest dreams – and the fact that was where she was – filled me with joy beyond explanation.

And so I settled back into doing my homework. End of story.

Wrong. What I wasn’t aware of at the time was how much I underestimated God’s love. I knew God was good. I knew God loved me. I knew all we have to do is ask. But for some reason I didn’t expect that he would listen to such a little conversation, a conversation which for me was little more than a fleeting thought process. Knowing it wasn’t possible, that one picture didn’t exist and never would and that was okay because I understood why. That why caused me joy, overflowing joy. I was at perfect peace and contentment.

Later that evening, homework finished, I jumped back on Facebook. Because you know, right before bed is a good time to do that (now you may realize why the social media fast was important.) And as I am scrolling I begin to think to myself how I had read all of this before and needed to go to bed. I decided on one more scroll and then it was lights out. That last scroll had me sitting straight up in bed.

It was a painting titled “First Day in Heaven”. It didn’t include the name of the artist but it was of a young girl hugging Jesus. And all I could think of was this was my picture. For twenty minutes I stared at it, I thanked God and even cried a little. Because it had been so random, and it was so perfect. I saved it to my phone and in absolute awe and peace and love laid back down.

As I began to sleep though I had a thought, what if I could have someone recreate the painting with Jamie as the girl hugging Jesus? Not possible. I had never heard of anyone having such a thing done. I had heard about having a photograph turned into a painting but I didn’t have a photograph just an idea and two “photographs” if you will that needed to be combined. I wouldn’t even know where to start. Go to sleep.

But sleep wouldn’t come. So at 11 pm I was on Google proving to my inner self that this wasn’t a thing, at least not anymore. And if it was, it had to be expensive. And Google proved me right. So back to bed I went.

Ten minutes later I was on Etsy. This is it. I will look just so that my mind will slow down. Expecting the same results I had received on Google, I am proved right once again. Except that the first result is about a pet portrait. Odd I thought, I didn’t want a pet portrait but everything else was – just how it had been on Google – a photograph to painting ordeal. As I continued to scroll the pet portrait link kept appearing at the top of the results.

So being late and slightly amused I clicked the link and began to read the artist’s bio. About to hop off, a statement catches my attention “we can discuss what background you would want for the portrait…”. She can improvise a background or scene. … Well that would work. But does she paint people? Dogs, yes. Really quite spectacularly. But people? Further investigation needed. The investigation proves fruitful, as I find she has done various projects from wedding portraits to portraits of athletes.

Thus, during the later part of the 11 o’clock hour I write her a message explaining the summarized version of the whole story along with the picture of the painting and some of the photos of Jamie which I had downloaded that day from Facebook. Because you know, I had downloaded the perfect photo which one would need in order to paint her into that painting, a random side profile shot during a ride home from our friend Katie’s.

Thinking I probably wouldn’t hear back from her for a couple of days and uncertain of what her answer would be I finally sank into the best sleep ever.

The best sleep ever ends waking up to a reply. She could do the painting. She would be honored to do the painting. And it would cost me almost exactly what my bonus check had been that month. All that is left is to decide on what size I want the portrait to be and for her to upload a personalized link for me to purchase it on. By the end of the next day the painting is ordered and paid for, and is just a matter of waiting out the next several weeks.

Over the next several weeks I kept the painting between God and I. While I wanted to run around and tell everyone this amazing story and that I had commissioned a painting… from Canada!… I stopped. I knew I would struggle to wait, did I really want to pull everyone into my struggle with me? And what if it didn’t look right? At this moment there was another thought, why couldn’t I keep it between God and I? Why couldn’t I spend the next several weeks turning to him every time I wanted to talk about it? Why couldn’t he be my go to while I waited? So for 6+ weeks I prayed over the painting, the artist, my family and friends reactions and joy and just celebrated how amazing and faithful and loving He is.

And we have never been closer. As excited as I was for the painting, a part of me was reluctant to see the super secret surprise conspiracy end. And then I realized it didn’t have to end. It was just the beginning.

Upon receiving the painting I titled it “Jamie and Jesus” and shared it with our family and friends. The joy it has created is beyond what I could ever imagine. We ordered three more for other family members and friends. Someone who never met Jamie is now intimately aware of her legacy and love. Her light is as bright as it as ever been.

Most importantly though, this painting is a continuous reminder of how deeply God loves us. Of how greatly he truly cares. Father we are beyond blessed, and you are not done yet. Such a small thing, unexpected, and yet such a mighty reassurance.

It’s not so much the painting but the story behind it. A picture that’s worth a thousand words. Words declaring his love.

“If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:11)

Shout out and a huge thank you to MissysPortraits for creating the beautiful paintings!