Tag Archives: legacy

Christmas Everlasting

Her name was Charlotte.

I’ve wanted to write about her for such a long time but I couldn’t find the words until now. I’ve desperately wanted them all to be so honorable and right, full of grace and love— just like she was.  I confess I didn’t know or appreciate her half as well as I wish I had, but I know she loved me and I’m certain she knew I loved her too.

And… I won’t lie; we didn’t hit it off right away— I really wasn’t her type of girl. I might have scared her. Heck, I scared myself.   Thank heavens, she tried and kept on trying.

While she’s been gone for 6 years, so many things around our home continue to keep her memory alive. Especially at Christmastime; her most favorite season of all. Gosh, how she loved Christmas! Partially because she flat out thrilled at any chance to celebrate, decorate or arrange something. Seriously, she was the kind of woman who had a tablecloth and matching paper products on hand for every season. I used to tease her about belonging to the “Potholder of the Month” club for that reason alone! Yes, she loved a holiday but Christmas was her time to shine.  Charlotte understood as deeply as possible the real joy we have for celebrating the birth of Christ: Jesus was her Savior.

In her earthly lifetime, Charlotte was the classic “Southern Lady”- private, proper, loving and loyal. Hospitable and generous too— you’d have to work hard to out-give her and after she was gone it amazed us to discover how charitable she had been with her meager retirement income.  Whether caring for her aging mother, children and grandchildren, or serving her church, retirement center neighbors and community through delivering Meals on Wheels— Charlotte spent herself wholly in the name of Christ.   What a legacy.

Charlotte was forgiving— at least as forgiving as humanly possible and willing to pray for the strength to forgive better when necessary. Despite the pain and betrayal that singed her heart terribly, somehow she managed to never let it interfere with the way she lived on a daily basis. Pain just didn’t define Charlotte or her relationships with others—Christ did.  She taught me by these examples and her life is teaching me still today. Especially at Christmastime.

I vividly recall her last Christmas with us. We didn’t know it was the last one we’d have together and certainly she didn’t either.  There we were— crowded together in her tiny apartment visiting, sharing a modest but plentiful meal, and opening up thoughtful and silly gifts, much like we’d done the year before.

However, this year she had also decided to gift some of her precious Christmas dècor. She’d already done some considerable downsizing in order to move into the center, but now she was ready to decide what she wanted to keep and, to capture the spirit of her words, she “wanted to give it as her own choice”.  Because she knew that this life and these lovely things were only temporary, she happily gave the very things she treasured. That was Charlotte.

So, again this year, as I’ve carefully unboxed and unwrapped our family Christmas items, many which once graced her own humble home, I can’t help but remember my sweet mother in law with a special fondness for her steadfast example of what it means to truly love, truly serve and truly live to give of oneself.  And not just at Christmastime; her legacy is the every day sort of stuff meant to be applied each and every moment.

I have to ask myself why this year remembering Charlotte seems to matter more to me than ever before.  To be honest, it’s likely for a variety of reasons but mostly,  I need the anchoring in these solid memories to help me know how to move forward through this ever-changing season of my life and most importantly— why.

Also because, among these other things, this year also finds her four sons in the throes of trying to respectfully care for their aging father. 

The differences between the two of them are like night and day but Charlotte would not want me to dwell on that. However, the life-lessons are clear:  how Charlotte gave, he withheld; what Charlotte cherished, he dismissed; where Charlotte released, he spent his life gripping all the more tightly. Sadly, in choosing a much meaner course of life, this poor man put them all on a trajectory that might have ensured no one would be around to stand in the gap for him at this late and most difficult stage of life.   But God.

Because this is where all of Charlotte’s love and Christ-like example is bearing the best fruit and an everlasting example. Simply put: the way she raised her sons and lived out her life before them was so thoroughly saturated with God’s protective and sheltering grace, that they are emboldened and equipped  to do the very best they can for their father despite the fractured relationship that has existed most of their lives. Because Charlotte loved Jesus the most, she loved her sons well and out of this love they are now able to show love to one another and for this man, their father. In courageously caring for their father, they are honoring the memory of their mother and surely, God is pleased.

So alive and unshakeable for me this Christmas— so real and profoundly true, these things of God matter the most. As I look around our home today, I see a handful of things she passed along but my heart clings to the real treasure that doesn’t fade  and one we are attempting to pass along to our own children—  it is the Holy Spirit’s everlasting gift of witness showing us the path to follow in the weeks and years to come. 

This is Charlotte’s gift to us– the  truly, everlasting message of Christmas and I’m so grateful that it’s mine to share…now… with you.    Merry Christmas!


Dear Children… About Your Inheritance…

“I need something.”

The cryptic words from College Son flashed across the screen. After 3 weeks of minimal contact, this could mean almost anything. Historically speaking our relationship dictated this typically meant some research advice or proofeadery.

“What?” I replied while  bracing my jetlaggy brain for a challenge.

“Your recipe for spice cake.”

I stalled.

Ummm….  Seriously?

Inheritance Title

See, this is no ordinary recipe for no ordinary spice cake. I’ve been making and perfecting this dreamcake for over 20 years. This is my closely-guarded recipe for THE spice cake  I’ve kept tucked under my (ahem) “belt “ all this time.  It’s the kind of recipe a Ninja-Chef really must have in their personal arsenal for special occasions and surprise guests, new baby welcomes and potlucks. Savory, spicy-sweet and best of all: sinfully simple. I don’t part with it easily.

My daughter asked for it a year ago. Unbeknownst to me, she entered a contest and won a 250-dollar gift card to Ikea. She bought a chair. A chair. (Isn’t that like selling your birthright for stew? Never mind.)

Something they’d grown up with, now it was College Son’s turn to ask.

“Never.” I teased. Emoji-smiling, he explained that his girlfriend (the one I am trusting God to make my DIL someday!) wanted to make it for him.

At least she can cook.
From scratch.
My mock-resolve melted.
I sent it.

“There.  Now you have your inheritance.” I said Emoji-winking back. Digitally, we exchanged smiles, hugs and kisses and he was happily on his way with a piece of his family history. Truly, as silly as it sounds, he now possesses a solid piece of his shared inheritance.

Doesn’t seem like much, does it?

It’s no surprise though that if you took any of our children aside and asked them about their inheritance, three out of three times, their first response would be a mixture of low-toned laughter and chagrin. They know, by the worldly definitions, we’re “broke” and planning to be “broke-r” before it’s all over with. At least this is the current nature of our estate in terms of dollars and not a whole lotta sense!

Love And Marriage

Still I have a strong feeling in the pit of everything within me that their next response will be a knowing and satisfied smile. Because in reality, they know we have given them everything we have to give and oftentimes it’s been far more than anything our parents were able to give to us.  They also know it’s never been about money in the bank.

Make no mistake: it’s been a touchy subject through the years as they’ve reached the ages and stages where their friends were given cars, educations and luxury items we never were able to afford—at least not the way most people have done it. There have been many tears and tantrums on both sides of the equation. But we’re here. We’ve made it and we’re better than intact: we’re whole.

And while we pray there’s still plenty of time to amass more “wealth” to add to their inheritance, there are many things besides a knockout recipe for spice cake we’re striving to leave as our legacy– solid and eternal things we hope they’ll always treasure and, if Jesus tarries, preserve and pass along to many future generations.

The Family Bible

I hope they’ll find treasured comfort in knowing that we not only loved them and each other to the highest best of our ability but that it was a love deeply rooted in our shared love for God.

I hope they’ll find great inspiration in how we found this God-love so wild and wonderful that it was worth risking our place in a world-driven status quo to spend an adventure-filled lifetime stumbling along the lesser travelled path towards His greatest good.

I hope they will hold close and share often the stories of these adventures–many spent with them– and discover this same courage in themselves to step out in new directions to spend and experience their one beautiful life serving our one amazing God.

Humbly I hope they’ll cling as tightly to Jesus as we have because they’ve witnessed time and again how His grace, mercy and forgiveness have seen their two imperfect parents through many…  many….   many times of failure.     And every success.

I hope they’ll talk about how their Mom “trusted God and sought to pray the hell out of any situation!”, how their Dad was never so afraid of failure that he wasn’t willing to try—fail and try again and how both of them together fought arm in arm against the enemy who came to seek, kill and destroy their marriage and family.

And how through that same powerful grace from God, together… they won.

The Great Commitment

So that here now and in the future when they’re possibly surrounded by little ones of their own and telling the “once upon a time” portion of our newly-written family history— when they talk about the things they share together, most of the story will be told from the perspective of vast wealth and riches— of lives that were shaped and held together by God— all the while knowing and communicating that their inheritance from us was never merely “enough”:    it was always everything.

That’s our prayer.

And that amazing spice cake?
Well,  that was simply a bonus.

Lorretta signature

One Brave Dude

Personally, I know very little about this man.

No doubt,  there are others whose feats of bravery are recorded elsewhere in more glorious detail than is generally tolerated in a simple blog post. Still, in the course of 20 minutes one evening, this dude deeply impressed me  with a type of courage rarely seen in men of his position and stature. So much so that months later, it hasn’t left my mind.

One Brave Dude

Fact is, he could have said far less and made a simpler and yet equally effective point to satisfy the requirements as the speaking “guest of honor” at this gathering.

Instead, he choose to go deeper, taking his listeners higher and brought a level of honor and humility to what was likely one of his most embarrassing personal and professional failures. More than doing his duty; to the room full of young cadets assembled for this ceremony, he represented a level of achievement and success they could aspire to. The sight of him alone was enough to inspire awe. But what he wanted them to see that evening would take them far beyond the glossy shoes, crisp uniform and chest full of ribbons standing at the front of the room. He had something much more awesome to offer them.

He told his story in more detail than I can recall but the “once upon a time” gist of it placed him in command of an intelligence detail stationed in a well-known place of conflict. He and his team were responsible for gathering and disseminating information and intelligence, and then producing reports used to give guidance to the following day’s activities.

Highly classified information was gathered, processed and released to various other offices while other bits were sanitized to be released for more public consumption.  His rank and position placed him very near the top of the dog pile— the “buck” stopped almost at his door with only a small leap to the next person in charge. Not a bad place to be when things are going well.

Courage as Virtue

His job was slightly more than supervisory and managerial. He was responsible for checking and clearing each detail and for making sure the information went where it needed to go— and no further. He explained the tremendous pressures to produce each night while others slept, which sometimes outpaced the amount of time and space given to his team.  As things got “hot” the need and pressures would intensify exponentially but the job was still theirs to do by dawn.

He’s not sure how it happened— how the rhythm and details of the flow got interrupted in such a way that would have led to a breakdown in the system. But it did.

One slip.
One forgotten check and double-check.
One  non-secure transmission of highly sensitive information flowing to a wide array of open media outlets would leave his team facing a security breach of catastrophic proportions.   There it was in black and white:            


Not in the sense of putting lives directly at risk but in the compromise of trusted information channels and relationships. Years of carefully maintained partnerships built on trust and mutual respect were now damaged undeniably with the hasty click of a button.

Of course there were other people involved in the mess. Everyone  knew the protocol— there were others who could justifiably bear the blame and shame seemingly with far less to lose in these matters. Power, position and rank could have shifted the cosmos just enough so that the stars to fall that night could have been far less bright. Blame shifting, finger pointing and diversion of details for the sake of self preservation.

It happens all the time.

On this particular evening, in front of this group of cadets, this man wanted them to know the truth about good leadership; the truth about being an excellent leader from start to finish. Standing handsome and tall in his smart uniform bedecked with ribbons and displaying an ease you wouldn’t expect— this man owned it all. 

He explained that as the leader of his team, it was not only his responsibility to bear the burden and take the heat for that devastating error, but in the wake and fallout to follow, it was his privilege as leader to lead them beyond that moment— to do the hard work of repair and restoration, to rebuild morale, faith and trust while the job was still his to do.

He stood there, every eye fixed on him in rapt attention and confessed:
“I screwed up. It was my fault and I was going to lead my team to make it right.”
The room was silent as we processed what he had said.

Failures Forgiven

What a leader.
What a Godly man.

There are many fine leadership qualities exalted in our world today with many strong and capable people willing to stand tall when the lights of glory and success are shining brightly upon their accomplishments. Then there are the fewer in number, like this Airman, who with the utmost candor and humility testify to what it takes to lead during, through and beyond failure.

To rise from the ashes of disaster and own their position as the one in charge of the box of matches.

I don’t know exactly what anyone else saw that night but in the conversations that followed, you could sense that much like me, everyone was grateful to be in the presence of a man of honor and integrity— a well-trained soldier, a truly great leader setting an example these cadets could follow.

I’m glad our son was there.

I had no idea then that his own young son was present looking to join this group of cadets. Somehow, this doubled the weight of his speech in my eyes because, no doubt— this man was intent on leaving a lasting impression and legacy in all the right ways.  I hope this boy was proud of his dad.

I know I was because as far as I can see, his father is one brave dude.