Then and Now

When we were home last, my sister-in-law passed along a sweet little outfit that belonged to Adam’s dad as a baby.

I believe that PawPaw and every Rice boy born since has had a picture made in this outfit.

Or in L’s case, 50+ pictures made in the outfit. Because I have a picture problem when it comes to my child.

Adam gave me a little lecture about how the value of my pictures of L decreases as I continue to make more and more: It’s just basic supply and demand, Sarah! The more we have, the less they mean to us. 

{Ok, seriously now? I think he’s just on a rant because our computer is almost out of space.}

It’s funny how we get conflicting opinions from people about who L resembles most.

People who knew me as a baby say that we really favor. And while he really looks nothing like me now, it’s true that you can see a definite resemblance in the baby pictures.

Then, people from Adam’s hometown say things like, “Oh my gosh! Is he not just the image of Adam?!?.” 

After seeing their pictures side-by-side, I have to agree. He is most definitely his daddy’s child. And that is fine by me! 🙂

Granddaddy

My heart is heavy tonight because my Granddaddy is sick. So very sick. The cancer has taken over his body, and it has happened so fast. He doesn’t have much time left. Cancer. . . it’s a devilish thing.

It seems that losing grandparents has become too frequent an occurrence for us over the past few years. It’s so hard watching family–the ones you love–grow old and sick and die. Each loss has been so hard. When you lose someone who has greatly impacted your life, it feels like you’ve lost a little piece of yourself as well. But this loss will be especially hard for me. Because when Granddaddy goes to be with the Lord, that will mean that both my mom’s parents are gone. Our chapter on this earth with Mama Grace and Granddaddy will be closed. . . the ending of a very sweet and precious season. And, even though I rest in the knowledge that I will see them again, it makes my heart hurt.

Jenny, Will, and I have always had a special relationship with Mama’s parents because we are their only grandchildren. And, oh my goodness, they’ve always treated us as if we were the most precious children in the whole wide world. I still have stacks and stacks of cards they sent in the mail for various occasions, always reminding us how proud they were of us. Oh, how they loved us and made us feel it. Throughout the last few days, my mind has been flooded with memories. Little things. Things like outings to Camper Park and Smoothie King and Chesterfield’s in Hattiesburg. Things like playing dress-up in their living room in Mama’s old ballet tutus and Mama Grace’s costume jewelry { And Will always wearing Granddaddy’s hats}. Things like vanilla wafers always in their kitchen cabinets and coke with big round ice cubes in tervis tumblers {we didn’t oft get cookies and coke at our own house, so this was a big deal :)}

I can’t remember a Christmas morning when they didn’t stroll into our living room a few hours after we had gotten up { at the crack of dawn} to listen and observe as we excitedly displayed our Santa loot.

Mama Grace and Granddaddy were truly made for each other. Both teachers, they were true academics and lovers of learning. They were both extremely smart. They were soul mates and the epitome of a faithful marriage. Granddaddy took faithful care of MG for years as her physical and mental health declined. It wasn’t easy, but he never loved her any less. Not for a second.

After Mama Grace died {almost four years ago}, we grew very close to Granddaddy. His life was no longer consumed with the complete and total care of another. He was still in good health at the time, and we really got to know him in a whole new way. While he was truly heartbroken to lose his soul mate, he firmly believed that God had him still living on this earth for a purpose. After she died, he grieved deeply. But he didn’t curl up a die as well. Granddaddy embraced his life. He sought to know God deeply and to be used by Him. He has been such an example to me of how to handle great loss and grief.

After MG died, He continued teaching {up until a month ago, actually}. He also tutored struggling students. He has stayed active in our lives as well. He never missed a Christmas at our house. At 84 years old, he traveled through the night to Louisville with my family to be there for Luke’s birth. {I love when he asks me how his favorite great- grandson is doing!} He befriended the most unlikely people and sought to reach them for the Lord. Picture an 84-year-old, straight-laced, academic inviting a 25-year-old struggling drug addict to church. Imagine them sitting beside each other on the pew—two men as different as night and day— one worshipping and one searching. Imagine that elderly man writing that younger man letters in prison—letters filled with truth and hope and encouragement. While it’s only one example among many, that’s a picture of our Granddaddy. That’s the kind of person he is. He’s an inspiration to us all.

So, if you think of our Granddaddy, please lift him up to the Father. Pray that God would grant him mercy even in his death– that he would not suffer or feel any pain. Pray that he would not feel any anxiety or fear but only peace. And pray for us too. We will surely feel a void when he leaves this world, but we do not grieve as those without hope. We rejoice that, when Granddaddy leaves this world, he is going somewhere better. He is going to a place where he will be healed. . . a place where he will get to hug his Gracie again. . . a place where he will see JESUS face-to-face. And we rejoice that this is not really the end. We will see him again too.

Father, thank you for the gift of Granddaddy–the gift that you have given me for 25 1/2 years of life. Thank you for using his life and his love to impact and bless me in more ways than I even know. Father, I know that all good gifts come from your hand, and I bless you for the gift of Granddaddy to me—to all of us. You are so kind. 

Granddaddy and me—circa 1988

Rehearsal dinner—December 2008

Grandy’s Homecoming Day

One year ago today, our precious Grandy went home to be with Jesus. Today, I’ve been remembering her—the person she was and the legacy she left. What a beautiful woman, inside and out. I’m so thankful.

Grandy with her grand-girls {minus Jenny and me} at my bridesmaid’s luncheon.

All of us.

She looked so beautiful at our wedding.

Say a little prayer for my Papa today. I feel sure it will be a hard day for him.

Well Done!

Well done, good and faithful servant. 

Aren’t those the words that every true believer prays to hear upon meeting the Father in Glory?

I am quite confident that Gene Rice, Adam’s beloved “Papa,” was greeted with those words when he entered the presence of his Heavenly Father early on the morning of January 25, 2012.

I honestly didn’t know Papa as well as I would have liked. By the time I became a part of the Rice family, Adam and I were practically grown and in the real world, and we only made it back to the farm in Mississippi once or twice a year, usually around the holidays.  A few days out of the year didn’t afford me much time to get to know this precious man, one of my husband’s greatest heroes.

What I did know immediately after meeting him was that Papa had a sweet, sweet spirit. His heart was controlled by the Spirit of Christ. You couldn’t miss that, even if you only spent a minute with him.

During the funeral service, Papa’s pastor made the comment that he was “a prince of a man.” My brother-in-law expounded on this by saying, “he was a prince of a man because he made everyone else feel like princes and princesses.” This was true. He made you feel important and loved, even if he barely knew you.

I was always greeted me with a big smile, a hug, and a chipper, “Hey Gal!”

I was truly struck by the depth of emotion and grief expressed by the family at Papa’s death, particularly by Adam and his brother Bo. These young men were greatly influenced by their grandfather, more than I ever realized. They loved him so much. They love him still. Of course, all families grieve the loss of a loved one. But this grief and this respect were so deep, so heartfelt.

On our way back to Kentucky, Adam expressed to me how much his Papa’s life inspired him to be a better husband and father, a better student, a better worker, a better Christian.

And it wasn’t that Papa necessarily did anything “great” according to the standards of this world. From what I gathered, he was a rather simple man. Oh, but he was steady and strong. And he was faithful. He was faithful in his work. He was faithful to his family. Most importantly, he was faithful to his God. He loved deeply and he loved well.

And isn’t that all that really counts? When we get to the end of our lives, is it going to matter how educated we were or how much money we made? Is it going to matter how many places we traveled or how much stuff we accumulated? We so easily get caught up in seeking after these things…these things that seem most important right now.

But none of that matters a bit if we aren’t touching lives, loving deeply, and passing along a legacy for Christ. The rest of it is going to burn. Death has poignant way of reminding us of this truth.

In preaching the funeral, Bo continually stated that his Papa was “a man of great influence.” And each time I heard this, my heart resonated, Yes, this is true! And thank you, Lord! Because this is what really matters in life.

Though my children will not know Papa, they will be influenced by him because their own father knew him well. My Adam is a hard worker, a loving husband, a wonderful dad, and a faithful follower of Jesus because he learned it from his father, who learned it from Papa. Papa’s influence has great ripple effects into future generations.

And for this, I know the Father is well-pleased. I can just imagine Papa meeting his Jesus… big smile on his face, blue eyes twinkling, set free from sickness and sin. And I can imagine the Lord greeting him with these words: ” Job well done, faithful servant. Life well lived. Enter into your eternal reward.”

Thinking Generationally

Nothing in this world made my Mama Grace more proud than her three grandchildren (my two younger siblings and myself). And, trust me, she had plenty else in her life to be proud about. Boy, she loved to show us off.

I remember one particular holiday season quite a few years ago when she dragged the three of us, donned in adorable  Christmas sweatshirts, to an Olan Mills studio to have Christmas pictures made. Nobody, besides Mama Grace, was happy about this little outing. In fact, my little brother was so unhappy about having to endure this photo shoot that he refused to pull down the sleeves of his Charlie Brown Christmas sweatshirt for the pictures.

A 16×20 of the three of us from that day still graces my grandparents’ dining room wall. Let me just say, we are a sight to behold in that picture—me with my overlapping  buckteeth (pre-braces days), Jenny with thick bangs straight across her forehead, and Will with his sweatshirt sleeves pushed above his elbows and bright red cowboy boots on his feet. Wow.

We had taken better pictures before. We have taken better pictures since. But Mama Grace didn’t care. That picture was going on her wall. I grimace a little every time I see it, but she thought it was absolutely beautiful. She was proud to show us off, regardless of what we looked like. She loved us so much and would have done anything in the world for us simply because we were her grands. Mama Grace always made us feel as if we were the smartest, most talented, most special children in the world. Goodness, she was a precious person. I wish she could have met Luke.

I also wish Grandy (Dad’s mom) could have met my boy. She knew he was coming. When I told Grandy I was pregnant, she told me she had recently been “praying generationally.” I think she knew she didn’t have much time left on this earth and was thinking about the legacy she would leave in and through those who came after her. I know she was praying that each of her future “greats” would come to know the Lord intimately, as she knew him.

Over the past week, I have really been thinking generationally (if I may tweak Grandy’s phraseology). Adam’s Papa is very sick, and we expect that it will not be very long before the Lord calls him home. I’ve been thinking a lot about the fact that, in most families, we simultaneously celebrate the beginning of new lives and mourn the ending of older lives on this earth. As Luke’s little body is growing, developing, and coming alive more each day, his great Papa’s body is starting to slow down and shut down. Luke is just starting to wake up, and his Papa is about to go to sleep.

Papa is one of the sweetest men I have ever met in my life. He accepted me as a member of their family from the first moment he met me. When I’m with him, I see so many of the qualities I admire in Adam. I know they were Papa’s first…passed down. We grieve the ending of life on earth for those who are dear to our hearts—those like Papa— because it is so hard to bear their absence. At the same time, we celebrate lives well lived, legacies passed along, and deep heritage.

I am grateful for the generations who came before us in our family. This week, I am feeling particularly grateful for our grandparents—Mama Grace and Granddaddy, Grandy and Papa, Mommaw and Papa, Granddaddy, Grandmother, and Grand Don. They have all loved us well and given to us generously. After we got married and moved to Louisville on faith (without a job prospect in sight), Adam and I lived off a generous financial wedding gift from my Granddaddy and Mama Grace for a few weeks. Our grandparents haven’t  given to us only financially, though. They have given us a heritage of faith. They have given us more love than we can stand. They raised our parents to one day become godly, loving parents to us, that we may become the same kind of parents to our own children. I think that’s what Grandy might have had in mind when she said she was praying generationally.

Luke’s baby gift from Papa and Grandy (my Dad’s parents) was an antique silver napkin ring from the 1800’s that happened to already have his name engraved on it. It came from the antique market where Grandy shopped when she was in the business of buying and selling antiques. My aunts picked this gift out for Luke from Grandy and Papa after Grandy had already gone home to heaven. They explained to me that, although it was not a practical baby gift, it was meant to be a reminder of Grandy—the person she was and the legacy she left. She prayed for my Luke. She loved him before he was born. Though he will not know her on this earth, she is still influencing his life through her legacy. Praise God for generations. Praise God for generations of faithfulness and love.