Friday, August 29, 2014

In Which We Grieve & See Glory: The Humble Legacy of Miss Patsy

They married when they were babies, fifty-two years back into the days when a marriage licensee often preceded a high school diploma. Miss Patsy delivered her first baby girl before she even reached the adult age of eighteen. A year later, another little girl followed. Raising babies in the remoteness of her husband's ranching years must have been quite a challenging season. One which she approached with abundant patience and joy. All who knew her best, continue to speak of her gentleness and grace.

Such grace she wore, that when her husband received his call to foreign lands, it required she [as his wife] have had two years of college. She had none to speak of, so upon finding this out, he realized the deadline for enrollment in the local college was that exact day. Without having even yet mentioned to her of his call to go or her need for an education, he marched straight to that school to enroll her. When he came home that evening was when he clued her in--that he was called to go overseas as a missionary which also required she start college--today! I can picture this scene in their living room playing out. I see a smirk take over her face as though such a proposition was exactly what she expected him to come home with that day. No surprises, no fear, no hesitation--just great joy in this new way she could continue to serve alongside her beloved and see Christ magnified amidst each new flip of those textbook pages.

Upon Patsy's graduation two years later, this family of four moved to West Africa where they began their missionary journey. The region where they began serving was actually deficient of men with the ability to teach in the church. So Patsy often filled in and shared the Truth of His word with the local body until a suitable man could be trained. She taught sewing for a season but she came alive in the moments she got to story-tell her way through the gospels around the villages. He had created in her such a desire to share and out of her obedience to this call, hundreds are rejoicing with her upon her arrival in heaven this week, knowing their journey to such a paradise was sparked by Christ in Miss Patsy. What a challenging call that should stir in our hearts as we continue to walk as sojourns here, looking to the author and perfecter to use us. 

 The years on that soil also bear the weight of the greatest pain a momma's heart could possibly endure on this earth. The loss of Ray and Patsy's daughter Laura at the premature age of fifteen became the sort of trial James claims will teach steadfastness. This beautiful girl was buried on African soil, and surely a part of Miss Patsy was too. The younger of her daughters continues to raise a family and serve as a missionary on the southern end of this same soil. What a legacy, a testimony of faithfulness.

A journey that would lead to thousands of men and women coming to Christ, hundreds of churches planted which continue to thrive today, and thirty five years spent on two regions of African soil was probably not what Miss Patsy visualized the day God called her to Himself. In fact, such a legacy was probably not something she often thought about. As it was, there was continual needs to be met as wife, mom, friend, speaker of the gospel, daughter and missionary. She just lived life day by day, saturated by He who is more then able, abounding in love. And this just happens to be the lot He called her to in her role of fulfilling this grand story of redemption.

It may seem your role or mine could never "measure up" like Miss Patsy's. These early years of knowing Him have often left me defeated by all the have nots and never coulds and should bes but am nots that hail from comparison. Perhaps this is what I most wish to learn from Miss Patsy--simple faithfulness to what has been given and required, amidst great joy and great sorrow. Her trust never shifted. Just faithfulness to the Christ that lived in her, so that others might know of Him as well.

And isn't that where we all wrestle at some point?

Us twenty somethings, forty somethings, single, in the thick of raising babies or just recently graduated from college asking what? It's like we thrive off of comparison and fulfillment of the latest Christian thing. I don't see that in scripture. Instead, I see this: But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction:  for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.  It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. [Romans 3:21-26]

I have never left a funeral so encouraged as I did on Saturday. What a testimony to a simple life of faithfulness lived out by a woman who so desperately recognized the need for the gospel in the ends of the earth--and so faithfully offered it up. She offered up herself too. Her life, her family, her comfort and her heart.

We walked out of that church where I have spent hundreds of Sundays worshipping amidst my family and it was like a glimpse into the whole story, the bigger picture. A month ago I stood beside this pillar of faith as we sang praises to God best we could. And now, her body is empty and her whole self fully bowed at His feet forever and ever and ever singing 'Holy, Holy, Holy...' all of her fully restored to Him and whole.

And here am I, still standing bearing a weight of neediness and brokenness amidst a temple that desires everything of this place way too much in light of His glory and yet HE LOVES ME. He loves us, ya'll.

I mess up a lot and yet does my faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God? By no means! Nor have I spent thirty-five years on the ends of the earth or buried a child. I haven't sacrificed my family or too much of my own comfort. But His love remains all the same and nothing can ever separate me from such a love. In fact, whether in suffering or rejoicing, hope does not put us to shame because His love has been poured out into our hearts through the holy spirit, for all who are in Christ.

We don't have a thing to earn ya'll, no check marks ever sufficient to bear the weight of that cross. But that cross better compel us to speak of the only one who saves and by whose love and grace we have been given life--wherever He has us, because the wage of sin is death but the free gift of God is eternal life [Romans 6:23] and two-thousand years later there are still over two billon people who have not even heard of Jesus Christ. We must not be silent or grow complacent.

God wants the world to know Christ, believe in Christ, but also obey Christ. We must "look carefully then how we walk." [Ephesians 5:15] We must "teach them to observe all that I have commanded you." [Matthew 28:19-20] Not that we may earn some righteousness of our own, but that each person created in His image before the foundation of the world may worship Him with the glory that belongs to Him in the first place. I desire desperately to see unreached peoples know Him. But He is so worthy of all of our praises, glory and honor--I desire to see His name magnified among all--simply because of His greatness.

For several years, Miss Patsy has been steadily overcome by dementia as it's effects on her whole person have left her with many needs. Her beloved husband has cared for her day after day in ways that would make you weep with gratitude and awe that such love can still bind. Even amdist the loss of her ability to speak words, the two have continued to share the gospel side by side with the men and women around their assisted living facility these past few years back on Arkansas dirt. Their story has been the quiet, steadfast, persevering type and they wouldn't have it any other way.

These past two years have brought Mr. Ray and Miss Patsy near to my heart as I have been so blessed to get to spend time around them and do life alongside them in various capacities. It was a humbling introduction when I received a graduation card from them noted to their "granddaughter," a claiming of sorts that filled me with honor and gratitude. To look to them as adopted and spiritual grandparents has been and continues to be the greatest of gifts to me, a special legacy I am so humbled to partake in as long as His grace allows! 

These final weeks had left Miss Patsy fighting violently to leave a body that was only a foretaste, a glimpse of something far greater in the first place. Make no mistake, Miss Patsy understood that. She longed for a better country, a heavenly one. And celebrating her life makes me long for all of that too.

May our lives today reflect that better country, the heavenly one. [Hebrews 11]

Oh Lord, hasten the day we get to worship you in glory, fully and forevermore restored. But in the meantime, may you strengthen us to fight to walk in your presence and serve at your feet, cherishing the gospel with boldness as we simply proclaim to each corner and people you place us among. And at the end of it all, if the celebration of our reunion with you were to mirror even a glimpse of Miss Patsy's one day, well that would be a victory of which you receive all glory and honor and praise.

And may we pray with great humility, "Here I am Lord, send me. That to the ends of the earth, all may know, 'Your God reigns!'" 

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