Thursday, April 14, 2011

Far Above Rubies

My daughters turned me on to something cool. It’s called Project 365 and it involves posting a picture every day for a year on Facebook. It’s basically a visual journal of your life. I thought it was a great idea after viewing theirs for a few weeks, so I decided that I would do it. Keeping up with it isn’t as easy as I thought it would be, but it has been a lot of fun so far. I’ve only been doing it for less than a month but I’ve already noticed a pattern emerging. My pictures aren’t about work; they aren’t about the drama that sometimes takes place in my life; they don’t show the mundane drudgery about which I complain (although, there is one picture of my out-of-control ironing pile), and there aren’t pictures of problems that inevitably come up during my day. They are pictures of things I love, like my crazy, wonderful family, my precious Bible, my Kindle, which holds hundreds of books, the steaming cup of coffee my hubby brings me every morning, helping my daughter make a beautiful cake, crispy roast chicken, motorcycle trips with my man, days at Disney with my grandsons, the quilt I’m making and other visuals of things that are important to me. Of course, I try to choose photos that I think people will like. I think long and hard before I push that button. Facebook, for all its good, can be quite evil if used for the wrong reasons. But I began to see that the pictures I chose to portray “me” to my “friends” reflect who I really am as a person.

When my grandmother died several years ago, I traveled to Mississippi for her funeral. Actually we called it a celebration service, and celebrate we did. My grandmother had nine children and I am the oldest of 26 grandkids. There were hundreds of people in the church auditorium that day and most of them were family. We took up the whole middle section. Hundreds of southerners singing “I’ll Fly Away” is not something you usually hear at a funeral, but she would have loved it. I had been asked to give the Scripture reading on behalf of all the grandchildren and, though I have the gift of gab on paper, I am terrified in front of a large group, even if it is family. But I agreed to do it, because Mamaw would have tanned me if I refused. I knew I had to find just the right passage for my grandmother. I LOVED my Mamaw and she loved me. I knew she did because she told me so and showed me in so many ways. She taught me how to sew and told me that she “could beat anybody at blind hemming.” She helped me learn how to be a good cook, though it was always hard to get an exact recipe out of her. She would say, “oh I just put a little of this, or a smidgen of that,” but her biscuits and homemade jam were to die for. To this day, when I’m making collard greens or blackeyed peas, and my kitchen smells like hers, it takes me back for a minute and I can feel her presence. She would get up at an ungodly hour and make a full breakfast for whoever was in her household at the time. Waking up to the smell of bacon and coffee in her kitchen is one of my most revered memories. Whatever time you sauntered in, she was ready for you, but you had to sit down and talk to her and read “Our Daily Bread” with her. No sooner had she finished the breakfast dishes, with my help of course (laziness was not tolerated), than she started on lunch (or dinner, as we say in the south- supper is the last meal of the day). If you wanted to eat, you had to help her pick veggies from her garden and either shuck, hull, snap, or perform some other technique before they could be cooked. Many times I accompanied her to folks’ homes to deliver her homemade goods. She was generous to a fault and modeled it to me. She treated each of her nine children as if he or she were the only one, yet they were all responsible for each other. I remember many nights singing together and the sounds of familial voices were, no doubt, a pleasing aroma to the Lord she taught us to love. Hours were spent playing board games and card games. They never had much money, but she somehow figured out a way to get everybody a Christmas present, and I always loved that she thought of me (even if it was socks or giant, white, cotton panties). And she adored my grandfather. As a matter of fact, she was healthy as could be her whole life but did not live long after he died, a common occurrence for couples who have been “one” for over 60 years. I could go on and on and on about my beautiful grandmother and how much she meant to me. As I thought about all these things in preparation for her celebration service, I turned to my Bible and it plopped open to Proverbs 31. I read it, and looked no further. This passage was about Mamaw!

“Who can find a virtuous and capable wife? She is worth more than precious rubies. Her husband can trust her, and she will greatly enrich his life. She will not hinder him but will help him all her life.

She finds wool and flax and busily spins it. She is like a merchant's ship; she
brings her food from afar. She gets up before dawn to prepare breakfast for her
household and plan the day's work for her servant girls. She goes out to inspect a field and buys it; with her earnings she plants a vineyard.
She is energetic and strong, a hard worker. She watches for bargains; her lights burn late into the night. Her hands are busy spinning thread, her fingers twisting fiber.

She extends a helping hand to the poor and opens her arms to the needy.

She has no fear of winter for her household because all of them have warm clothes. She quilts her own bedspreads. She dresses like royalty in gowns of finest cloth.

Her husband is well known, for he sits in the council meeting with the other civic leaders.

She makes belted linen garments and sashes to sell to the merchants.

She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs with no fear of the future. When she speaks, her words are wise, and kindness is the rule when she gives instructions. She carefully watches everything that goes on in her household and does not have to bear the consequences of laziness.

HER CHILDREN STAND AND BLESS HER. HER HUSBAND PRAISES HER. There are many virtuous and capable women in the world, but you surpass them all!

Charm is deceptive, and beauty does not last; but a woman who fears the Lord will be greatly praised. Reward her for all she has done. Let her deeds publicly declare her praise” (Proverbs 31: 10-31, NLT).

When I got to the church, my Uncle, Mike, asked me if I wanted to read from her Bible, and he handed it to me. I had to sit down because my knees buckled a little. I’d seen her reading it many times, but suddenly it held such power. I knew that it had been her light and her salvation, her strength and guide. I opened it and began to touch the pages that her hands had touched and I wanted to touch those hands again. I noted the verses that she had underlined and read the little notes she had written in the margins and wondered how in the world I would be able to get through my reading. Sorrow and love flow mingled down. As I got to the stage and sat down next to my dad, who was giving the message for the service, I told him I felt unsteady and if he noticed my knees shaking to catch me if I fainted. He encouraged me to be strong, so when it was my turn, I stepped up to the podium with my Bible and hers underneath it. The shell of her precious body lie just beneath me, and it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. As I read, I interjected some humor, which is the only way I can get through something like this, and the crowd seemed to respond, but I kept my head down the entire time for fear of making eye contact with my mother or my uncle, Steve, or my aunt, Lynn, or any of those grieving their own mother’s death, thereby sending me over the edge. When I got to the verse that said, “Her children stand and bless her” I felt movement and out of the corner of my eye I knew something was going on, so I looked up and all nine of her children had spontaneously jumped to their feet and blessed their mother. Thank God there was only one verse left. That was one of the most amazing and poignant moments of my life. It was not rehearsed. It was nine children who honored their mother for the godly woman she was and for whom they publicly declared praise.

That moment was a turning point in my life. I decided right then and there how I wanted my life to be celebrated when it is over. I want my husband to be able to trust me; I want to greatly enrich his life. I want to help him and not hinder him my whole life. I want to be an energetic and hard worker, making sure my family is warm and fed and taken care of. I want to help others. I want to laugh with no fear of the future because my hope in is God. I want to be wise and kind with my instructions. I want to help my husband and my children and grandchildren reach their fullest potential and I want with all my heart for them to “rise and call me blessed.” I am certainly not there yet, but I am passionate about getting there. When I looked back over the pictures that I posted on Facebook, I felt like I was getting closer. Think about the things that are important to you. Will yours be a funeral or a celebration service? If you’ve placed your hope in Christ, it will be a celebration of your home going. Picture your celebration service and the things that people will say about you, especially your spouse and your children. Will they stand and bless you? What do the pictures of your life say about you? I’d love to hear from you.


  1. This made me cry. What a beautiful testimony to your grandmother, Phyl. I wish I had know her, but truth is, I do know her a little bit because I know you. Thanks for sharing such a meaningful message.

  2. What a beautiful story. Just like you and your children and husband. It is a privilege to know all of you.


  3. Thank you Melissa, that is the best compliment you could give me. I bawled the whole time I was writing it:-) And you would have loved her.

    And thank you David, we feel the same about you and Beverley.

    Can't wait to get to heaven to see her again!

  4. I hope our grandmothers, did not take all those values, gifts, talents and godly convictions with them. Seems like so few of the young women today find value in family, meal preparation, serving others and setting a virtuous example. Instead independence, feminism and career seems to dominate their time and efforts. May our daughters and sons, see the values in us that we see in our grandparents.

  5. I bawled reading this because I remember it so clearly. You described Mamaw perfectly and I can see her doing all of those things. I also remember her funeral and your speech. I remember the shakiness in your voice, but moreover, I remember how powerful it was. It was a perfect testimate to her life, and evoked the perfect reaction from her children. One could only hope and pray that they leave a legacy like she did, and that one of her own legacies would be able to culminate their life in a speech the way you did. I love you!