Della.

From Della to Mr. Gore, July 2007…

Jackson Energy ERM 9

If you had told me two weeks ago that my first outing with Baby Shepherd would be to Ms. Della’s funeral, I wouldn’t have believed it.

But such is the nature is death…

if we knew when it was coming, we would spend every waking moment in bedside vigils, hanging onto the ankles of those we knew would soon be departing.

As it was, they were so habitual and ordinary, I don’t even remember my last words to Della.

I know we were probably standing either in the dimly-lit church sanctuary or in the fellowship hall, where we crossed paths Sunday morning after Sunday morning after Sunday morning, for as long as I can remember.

I would have told her how beautiful she looked.

(She always looked beautiful).

She would have asked how I was feeling and might have exclaimed over how much Betsie has grown or how handsome Gideon looked in his dress clothes or how Rebekah’s hair is getting so long.

(She always took time to notice the kids and ask how I was doing).

We probably hugged, and I am positive that I felt happy on the inside just to see her for that brief moment before we moved on to our respective Sunday School classes.

(Della always made me happy).

But whatever greetings we swapped during our last meeting on this earth, one thing is certain: I had no idea they would be my last to a woman who meant so much more to me than a passing hug, and who I admired for so much more than her physical beauty.

If I had known…

I would have cradled her beautiful face in my hands and told her that she was dearly loved…

I would have thanked her for consistently exhibiting to me those Christian fruits that are most admirable in a woman of God…

I would have asked her to tell me all of her funny stories one last time so I could write them down for safekeeping…

I would have recorded her speaking voice so I could listen to her rich and indescribable tone anytime I wanted…

I would have asked if I could come over and learn how to make her to-die-for homemade rolls…

I would have told her that, during the toughest days we’ve had in the ministry, her unswerving faithfulness, gentle guidance and genuine words of encouragement helped keep us going…

I would have hugged her tighter, I would have memorized the lines of her face, and I would have sat beside her at worship…

I would have asked her to wait just one more week, so she could hold my new baby…

And I would have promised her that I would miss her every Sunday and at every women’s fellowship and everytime I drove past her tidy, yellow house for the rest of my life.

Della was not a relative of mine, and if it were not for our like faith, we never would have known each other…

but when the grace of God reached down and plucked her from the road that leads to destruction to place her on the path to life, and then did the same for me years later, all of that changed; by the world’s standards she wasn’t my grandmother or my great aunt or even a distant cousin — she was just a “little old lady” who went to the same church as me.

But my redeemed heart knows better…

she was my sister. My mother. A vibrant, intrinsic part of my family.

And though I know we will spend forever in the same place, my humanity weeps bitter tears at the thought of saying goodbye.

Tears that bring to mind a day, half a decade ago, when Mr. Gore and I were discussing our future and weighing the pros and cons of him applying to be senior pastor at the church I had grown up in; to say that things at the time were messy and complicated would be an understatement. And although my husband was inexperienced and fresh out of seminary, he was a brilliant man with accolades and references galore; he could most likely have found work anywhere…

but “anywhere” wasn’t the story God had written for us. He wanted us here, and He tuned our hearts and our passion to stay, no matter how difficult the road ahead seemed to be.

The church was in turmoil, the budget was limited, and due to an unfortunate church split five years prior, well over half of the remaining membership was over the age of 65. There was one baby in the nursery and he was ours…

But it didn’t matter. We were in love.

“I just can’t leave them…” Mr. Gore said, with conviction. “I want to be their pastor. I want to walk them through the rest of their life. I want to preach their funerals…”

My heart agreed, most vehemently.

But here we are so many years later, and my, those funerals are hard…

Each lifelong friend who leaves us for “Beulah Land” leaves a huge vacancy in our hearts, not to be filled until we meet once more in our forever home; God has only caused our love and tenderness for them to multiply, and while our initial dream of walking these dear saints through life has come true, it carries with it a pain that we couldn’t have imagined…

The day before Della’s funeral, Mr. Gore went to her viewing at the funeral home. Finding himself very much alone with the body our friend left behind, he sat and wept. Della had ministered to him in ways no one else ever saw, giving him godly advice, sending him encouraging notes and cards, praying for him

much like our sister Thelma and our brother Richard, the world might not have known the tiny little lady in the little yellow house, but she mattered, and her role in the Kingdom was vital and beautifully performed.

Since the day we pursued this ministry, God has been so faithful to us and to our church. The division we inherited has flown the coop. Old wounds are being healed. Our membership, though smaller, continues to grow purer and purer. Love abounds. And while our budget is still limited, God has met every single need.

If the thought ever crossed my mind that we would be giving something up to “lay down our lives” for a church that was tiny and troubled and, frankly, not-the-coolest, five years with Della (and so many like her) has proven me stupid…

we have gained the world, drinking in priceless wisdom and encouragement from some of God’s very best, and learning what it means to be the body of Christ.

We grieve over the precious and important member we lost this September…

even as we thank God for the gift of knowing her at all.

~

Della, holding Baby Rebekah at our women’s fellowship in 2009

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Want to know more about Della and the sweet people in our church? Read one of my favorite posts: The Early Birds

Gideon’s “Life Day” and a Puppy Named Jake (Part One)

We had huge plans for Gideon’s 6th birthday.

I mean, aside from the awesomely vintage Word War II-inspired birthday party we hosted for him…

But as it turns out, building complicated backyard fences and finding the perfect puppy take a little bit of time.

A LOT of time, actually.

So the dog we intended to present to our firstborn on his 6th birthday in March didn’t actually join our family until two nights ago, the last Monday in July, at 7:00 p.m. I’ll tell  you all about it, but first I have to pose a couple of questions…

Do you believe in the sovereignty of God?

Do you believe that God cares about even the smallest details of our lives?

Call me crazy, but I really do.

And, even though this puppy is seemingly joining us at the worst possible time, one month before my due date, one month before homeschool starts and two months before Mr. Gore’s back surgery and 3-month recovery (I’ll explain later…), I can’t help but recognize the hand of God in this entire situation.

If you’ve been a reader at Mrs. Gore’s Diary for very long, you know that I am pretty big on “moments”. Few things are done around here without intention, and while most of our days at home are very simple and boring and nondescript and familiar, the big days are…well, BIG. I dream about them, I pray about them, I plan everything out with painstaking detail, and most importantly, I wait. One of my biggest fears is that I will introduce my kids to every good thing in life before they are cognizant enough to realize, remember, or appreciate it.

Thus, presenting Gideon with his first dog has been something we have anticipated for years. We wanted him to remember this day. We wanted him to be ready for it. We wanted his extremely tender little heart to be in exactly the right place to receive this monumental gift. And we have been praying for a long time that God would intentionally use his first dog to build something substantial in our son’s heart…a deeper love and compassion, a sense of responsibility, a wellspring of gratitude…

but I honestly never dreamed that God would make this moment even sweeter and use our first puppy to teach our son about the sanctity of life. Let me explain…

It has always sort of bugged my husband that mankind, in general, and Christians, in particular, only celebrate the BIRTHday of a baby. “If we really believe that life begins at conception,” he would say, “then why do we ignore those 9 months in the womb? Why do we say a child has been alive for only a year when they have been very much alive for a year and 9 months?”

He mentioned it often, and as these thoughts continued to ruminate in his mind, he finally came to me with a suggestion a few months ago. “Let’s start celebrating our kids ‘life day,'” he said. “Nothing big, and we don’t have to have a party or stop doing regular birthdays, but I just want them to know that we were celebrating and anticipating them from the very beginning…”

You know I loved the idea. Another day of the year for celebrating? Sign me up! And seriously, how amazing would it be for our kids to grow up with an awareness of the fact that, 9 months before they were born, God was already knitting them together, forming their specific features, crafting their unique (and whackadoo, in our case) personalities?

After a little bit of discussion we decided that we could commemorate their “life day” with a really special and thoughtful gift each year… something that would make them feel expressly cherished and special. So get this…

Gideon’s “life day” was in July.

Right about the time we finished our backyard fence.

A couple of weeks before the Golden Retriever puppy our friend found for us on Craigslist would be old enough to come home with us…

And as it began to dawn on me that the presentation of this HUGE surprise to our most beloved boy would coincide with his “life day” and would serve as a testimony to the graciousness of God in crafting his very existence, the tears started flowing.

I couldn’t even think about this day without breaking down, sometimes in the car, sometimes in bed, and one time talking to my husband in the backyard; I just laid my face down on our new fencepost and started sobbing.

But if I’m being completely honest, I think I would have been crying without the added bonus of “life day”. I love my son. I love his tender and complicated heart. And I’ve known for a long time that, while owning a pet would be a special thing for any of our kids, this was going to be a true rite-of-passage for Gideon. The thought of what this puppy would do for his heart did CRAZY things to my own…

And the most exciting thing of all is that Gideon had absolutely NO idea what was coming. Even though we built and painted a huge new fence for him. Even though Grandpa and Grandma delivered a giant kennel to our backyard. Even though there were cans of dog food hidden in the pantry…

he was in for the surprise of his young life!

And because I obviously have a sickness, I decided to just go ahead and make this into a bonafide event, complete with matching clothes, a photographer, and a 4th of July theme, so we would always remember that Gideon’s “life day” was in July. Life isn’t “all about the pictures”, but if you’re going to observe a monumental occasion, and one of your very favorite photographers goes to your church, you might as well take advantage of the blessing, right?…

And believe me, when you see the photos that Benjamin Grey Photography captured for us, you’ll be so glad that I’ve decided to keep my disease for at least the unforeseeable future. I can’t wait to share them with you…

Tomorrow! (Read Part Two here).

~

Want a sneak peek? Alright. You twisted my arm.

To help your children understand the sanctity of life, start celebrating the time of year that God starting knitting them together!  A VERY special family observance.

A Baby’s Worst Nightmare

I dreamed my life went backwards…

My children, playing in the front yard, their laughter filling the air and warming my heart.

A quiet hospital room, holding my baby boy for the first time.

My wedding day, the world as close to heaven as it had ever been.

My last college final, 4 years of hard work and study completed.

That night in my parents living room, hearing him say “I love you” for the first time.

Our first date, hands clammy, voice shaking, future so unclear but full of hope.

The first time I laid eyes on him, heart shifting in his direction.

My adolescent mistakes, and learning the hard way that I didn’t have the world figured out.

High school, a blur of excitement and fun, the world opening up before me.

Middle school, finding my voice and developing my talents.

Elementary school, waking up to the great, big world around me and loving every minute.

Playing in the creek with my brothers, deliciously cold water running gently over my bare feet.

My Granny and Papa’s house, the smell of sweet honeysuckle drifting by on the wind.

My first kitten, soft and tiny and all mine.

My childhood, one simple day after another, surrounded by family and familiarity and love.

My wonder, picking wildflowers in the pasture, captured by the beauty of creation.

My infantile love for Mama and Daddy, my entire world wrapped up in their faces.

Safe, in her womb.

But then my dream turned into a nightmare, and my world was turned upside down…

Mama was different.

She was scared.

She was selfish.

She was a victim.

She was deceived by her culture.

She was duped by the experts.

She did not want me.

They killed me and sucked me out of her body and threw me in a trash can.

My life – with all of its potential beauty – was over before it had even begun.

~

Abortion is a nightmare that millions of children every year never get to wake up from. Wake up, America. Choose life.

(source)