No, you are developing your legacy right now. How’s it looking? What do your children and their children need most from you? Do they need more stuff and a nicer house? Is that what makes a great legacy?
How about a value for a lasting marriage and a stable home full of unconditional love that understands that mercy and consequences are both healthy components in life?
What about a strong work ethic that says, “I’m going to give more to society than I take?”
Or maybe they need an example of someone whose values are non-negotiable who puts other’s needs ahead of their own even to the point of sacrifice?
Are the intangible gifts that remain after we are gone more needed by our offspring than material things?
We all leave a legacy, however small or large, depending on the lives we touch. While we and our children are constantly barraged with the shiny and exciting and newer and better, our families need something far more valuable from us.
THE HUMBLE GATHERING PLACE
My grandparents lived on a very humble farm in rural Iowa and it just happened to be a favorite place for all of us grandchildren. Like other women from her era, Grandma Melton raised a big garden, hung her laundry on the clothesline to dry, and was faithful to re-purpose most everything – from the bag that bread came in to whipped cream containers.
Most Wednesday nights after church we’d go to Grandma’s to have ham sandwiches (often from a hog they had butchered) and homemade applesauce. She loved the color pink so her over-sized family kitchen was Pepto-bismol pink for years, until the grown children thought it needed a refresher and they painted it sunshine yellow.
Since money was tight for my grandparents, presents at Christmas or our birthdays were usually a two-dollar bill. Even as a kid, that didn’t bother me at all because I knew they gave us unconditional love, lots of praise for hard work, a sense of belonging, and so much more. Of course I didn’t identify those gifts by name, but I knew how they made me feel and I knew that their genuinely sacrificial love for all of us was infinitely better than “stuff.” They also passed on a heritage of an unwavering commitment to God, marriage, family, and community that I am especially grateful for today.
Hard work provides children a wonderful sense of self-worth from accomplishment and being needed.
I always left from each visit with a full heart, full stomach, and memories of new adventures on the tree swing, walking to the pond, exploring in the barn, or playing with the old toys that were stashed in the upstairs bedroom.
Grandma and Grandpa didn’t just model good values, they insisted on them from each of us grandkids, values such as hard work, keeping our word, giving sacrificially, being humble enough to serve others joyfully, and loving Jesus with total abandon.
This gathering place represents what kids really need growing up: clear boundaries and values, time for adventure, lots of unconditional love, and generous praise for hard work.
A big box television with rabbit ears sat untouched in the living room of their farmhouse except for the thirty-minute nightly news and weekly for The Lawrence Welk Show, the Billy Graham preaching hour, and The Dukes of Hazard. Ha! I caught you off guard with the Dukes of Hazard thing, huh? I looked forward to every Friday night when we would eat chili with cornbread and then head to the living room to watch “the Dukes and Roscoe P. Coltrane.”
To be honest, as a child, I didn’t look forward to watching Billy Graham and I wouldn’t sit and listen for very long but my Grandma was always glued to the screen to hear that southern drawl booming across a huge audience of people, telling of a God who came to earth to save people from their hopelessness, ending in a massive wave of people heading toward the stage to pray with Billy and accept Christ as their Savior. My Grandma was a big-boned German woman with a personality to match (I definitely inherited both of those traits) but when she’d listen to “Billy” she’d set aside her many life-concerns and, for a few moments once a week, her mind wasn’t on being mom or grandma or wife or church member; she was enjoying the Good News of the Gospel. She’d have her Bible on her lap and I’d watch that strong woman wipe away big welling tears. She loved the Word of God and she loved to hear it preached by Billy Graham.
For decades both Americans and citizens of the whole world would listen to this man share the Good News of the redemption that is available through Jesus. Sixty times Billy Graham was in the top 10 of Gallup’s annual poll of America’s Most Admired Man. Sixty times! In a final evangelistic crusade at age 83, 230,000 people came to hear him speak over three days.
My grandma and Billy Graham shared the same birthday, November 7. She was born in 1921 and he was born in 1918. A poor woman who rarely traveled out of her state of birth, and a famous man who traveled the world, two very different people, both leaving an unending imprint on the world.
Grandma’s imprint was certainly smaller but, even as simple a life as she led, she is having a global impact (most of her grandchildren have participated in international missions) and the ripples of her spiritual legacy, currently four generations deep, include ministers, missionaries, professors, writers, musicians, those who have adopted, those who donate large amounts of time and resources to be the hands and feet of Jesus to the world around them, business owners and many mothers who are impacting the world one child at a time.
I’m sure she couldn’t have imagined the legacy she was building; she just thought she was being faithful to her Heavenly Father and to her husband and children. (Grandma and Grandpa raised five children on that farm and had seventeen grandchildren).
As parents we must remain alerted to the fact that our repetitive daily actions, the environment we provide for our children, the boundaries we set, and the ideals we model are building a bridge to the future.
What kind of bridge are you building?
Where does it lead?
Is it a safe structure for the journey of those you leave behind?
Yesterday, February 21, 2018, Billy Graham passed away at age 99; Grandma passed away in 2008. It gives me goosebumps to imagine heaven this week when Billy meets Jesus after all these years, and when Grandma is meeting Mr. Graham in person as well.
Even though the masses no longer flock to his crusades, and even though Grandma didn’t get to meet some of her great grandchildren and none of her great-great grandchildren, the lives those two did touch touched other lives and those lives are touching more lives. How can you calculate a legacy?
The legacy of our finite life is measured in eternal digits and in the ideals that we pass on to future generations.
This moment is your legacy; spend it wisely.
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