Tag Archives: Fiji

Guest blog: Missing my Granny

By NATASHA JACKSON             

 

I didn’t realize until the other day that I am still grieving the loss of my Granny Nola. Of course I cried when she died. I cried a lot. And I cried at her funeral. But I had a lot of peace about her going because I wasn’t the one taking care of her when she got really sick. I was in Fiji. And I wrote her a “good-bye on this earth” letter while I was there and my mom read it to her. I didn’t see her at her absolute worst. And I’m so thankful that I didn’t.

But a few weeks ago, I went to a senior assisted living center in Warrensburg and played and sang piano for the sweet old folks. To me, I did horribly. My voice was cracking the whole time because I was getting so emotional. When I played the hymn, “Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross,” there was an elderly woman in the front row who started singing along to my poor piano skills. She sang so loudly and clearly. When I looked up at her, she had her eyes closed and was smiling so big. It really touched my heart. When I started to play and sing “Amazing Grace,” my emotions took over and I broke down. I had to stop playing. I was sobbing in front of 30 or so very elderly people. I felt so ridiculous. I mean, who breaks down like that in front of people they don’t even know?

I felt so rude. I had come to bless these people with my musical gifts, and I couldn’t even get through it. Of course I had to tell them what was up. I told them that my great-grandma had passed away and we shared a very unique bond over the Gospel and old hymns. No one understands that side of me better than my Granny Nola did.

The night before her funeral, I had a dream that she was whole, beautiful, and healthy. She was singing “In The Garden,” one of our most favorite old hymns. She loved roses. And she loved Jesus. Granny was so ready to go and be with Him where she could walk and talk with Him. She expressed to me several times how ready she was to go Home. The first verse and chorus:

“I come to the garden alone, while the dew is still on the roses; And the voice I hear, falling on my ear, the Son of God discloses. And He walks with me, and He talks with me, And He tells me I am His own. And the joy we share as we tarry there, None other has ever known.”

Granny is with Jesus. Experiencing joy incomparable to anything anyone on earth has experienced. Instead of mourning that she is gone, we should be rejoicing that she is there. And I do. But I miss her.

My Granny got me the most thoughtful present I have ever received. For my birthday one year, she gave me a book that had something like 9 or 10 CD’s in it, and they were all instrumental hymns.

At the assisted living center, I had to stop playing hymns and switched to contemporary worship songs. I apologized for my breakdown, and they were all more than understanding. I thought that I was going there to bless these people. But really, it was the other way around. I was blessed, because being there with them helped my heart continue to heal and go through the grieving process.

I thought I was done hurting about my Granny being gone. But apparently I wasn’t, and being at that center was exactly what my heart needed to heal. When I was finished, I went up and talked to the lady who had sung along when I played the old hymns. Her name was Virginia. She asked how old my grandmother was when she passed. “84, almost 85” I said. With a big smile and a tear in her eye, she proudly stated, “I’m 85.” She also played the cello when she was my age. She was delighted to hear that I had and asked me to come and play for her sometime. I told her I would come and help her to relive some memories. Her smile couldn’t have been any wider.

I sensed Granny’s spirit in that place. Not because it was a home for “old people,” but because it was a place where the Lord was worshiped and they loved their old hymns. Just like Granny and me.

Journal Note: Here’s Alan Jackson performing “In The Garden.”

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Overcoming words that sting

Note: Due to a technical glitch, the guest post scheduled for today by Natasha Jackson has been delayed. (Hey, Tash: Send me that story in the body of an email).

Meanwhile, let me share a couple of photos of our youngest daughter: Natasha’s senior picture with her cello (circa 2005) and a much more recent photo (July 2012).

You’ll read in this upcoming guest post about Natasha playing her cello at a nursing home. She earned a cello scholarship to attend the University of Central Missouri (graduated 2011) and played in the orchestra. There’s a much longer story here with incredible scenes about Natasha going to Cameroon and Fiji to spread the Gospel and to share her awesome heart. The story would include sad scenes where some tried to trim her edges, to get her to fit in a theological box, and generally became exasperated — maybe even disappointed? — that Natasha has always rejected being cut from the cloth of conformity and tradition.

She is most definitely cut from a different piece of cloth. The sadness is from the breath-taking blessing that box-stuffers and edge-trimmers miss when they don’t see her heart.

Natasha’s gigantic heart is both blessing and curse. She feels and experiences emotions in a profound, raw way. We’ve shared some of those moments of great laughter and giddy joy. We’ve shared the opposite of those pleasant moments. I’ve often told Natasha that she loves big and hurts big.

Now, just tell her she can’t do something …

Some of the most hurtful words came several years back from her cello teacher. Natasha arrived for a lesson with a folder of information and music that she needed to learn for her audition for a cello scholarship. The private music teacher — someone whom we paid a substantial sum of money over a period of three years — looked at the material and then announced, “You’re not good enough for this. You don’t have what it takes.”

I mention the “substantial sum of money” reference because — and all the music teachers out there need to hear this — you shouldn’t keep taking someone’s cash if, at some point, you believe the student just ain’t got it. You should end the relationship and move on. That’s the honest, dignified thing to do.

We ended the relationship ourselves, and shortly after, Natasha earned a “1” rating on cello at district music contest (and her school, Harrisburg High School, didn’t have an orchestra/strings program), and she also earned that cello scholarship.

Maybe the greatest lesson Natasha learned from that was not necessarily overcoming the words that stung, but now that she is giving private music lessons — piano and voice — she won’t pass on those words that hurt.

Finally … yesterday’s post about the coolest titles — godparent, uncle, Grandpa — completely left out the two most important titles that I cherish: dad and husband. (And one of our former foster sons still calls me “Pops,” which is pretty cool, too).

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“Then Sings My Soul …”

Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting is the mid-week topic for Jackson’s Journal, a memoir-in-progress of my life’s spiritual journey.

Sometimes, the best sermons were the ones that didn’t happen. Often as the pastor a small church (I pastored three of them) I doubled as the music minister. (“Music minister” is fancy for “song leader.”) More than a few times when the music was just right and the harmony was so “on,” we might just skip the preachin’ part and sing a few more hymns.

One time Mt. Zion Baptist Church had a weekend (three-day) “singing revival.” I invited a different guest speaker for each night and told him he’d have 10 minutes to preach, but just about as long as he wanted for singing. And it just so happened that the preachers I invited had wives and/or families with incredible musical talent. At Beulah Baptist Church, once or twice a year we’d have a Sunday afternoon hymn sing following a carry-in lunch. I invited an entire Mennonite congregation from Chamois to join us once for an all a cappella hymn sing.

The memory still makes my arms get all goose-bumpy. Mmmmm! Good stuff!

Yesterday’s post was a birthday greeting to our youngest daughter, Natasha. One of the songs I mentioned in my stream of consciousness was How Great Is Our God. It’s a song that seems to touch us both very deeply and in a way it’s our father-daughter spiritual song. I also mentioned that Natasha has been to Cameroon (Africa) and Fiji. Our oldest, Kishia, has also been to Africa (Ghana), and both girls have made mission trips to Mexico.

When your daughter is in Africa, you don’t really relax.

A few years ago when Natasha was in Cameroon, Kelly and I were out doing some shopping when my cell phone rang, and it was Natasha calling from 6,000 miles away. She couldn’t wait to get home to tell me: she’d learned to play guitar. Then she told me to listen — and she played How Great Is Our God.

Worship doesn’t always need preachin’. I stood in Wal-Mart listening on my cell phone as Natasha sang from two continents away. It was easily one of the most meaningful worship experiences of my life.

So take a few minutes, click the link here and worship with Hillsong and Darlene Zschech as they lead How Great Is Our God.

Some arrangements of that newer classic incorporate part of the old classic How Great Thou Art. I couldn’t find anything on the web that satisfactorily combined those songs, but I did find this slightly new, barbershop arrangement of How Great Thou Art. (Goosebump alert).

Finally, the best song services of yesteryear were the ones where the music minister asked for congregation favorites. So I’m taking requests for future Wednesday Night Prayer Meetings.

What’s your favorite hymn(s) or praise and worship chorus?

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Birthday girl! Natasha turns 25 today …

Grace.

That’s the one word I think of when I think of my family: Kelly, Kishia and Natasha. Next to my saved soul, the three most powerful, visible signs of grace in my life are my girls.

Kishia turned 27 on Feb. 26, just 11 days after giving birth to Kianna. Natasha hits the quarter-century mark today. Putting together a photo montage of Natasha verified a few things I already knew — it’s hard to find a picture of her without an animal somewhere in the frame, without a musical instrument, without a smile … and with her mouth closed. It’s true.

Here’s a short stream of consciousness describing our youngest daughter …

Pure; laughter; Fiji. The Music of the Night, Veggie Tales and cello. (And Mrs. Manulik said you’d never do anything with that cello. Hah!) Then Sings My Soul! “I just called to say hi, I’m on my way to class, and … oh, look, SQUIRREL!” How Great Is Our God. Cameroon, Nutella, Cindy Lou, and Kory; The Application Trail; Short Bus (the name of her car); guitar, drums, bass and piano; Sweet Hour of Prayer; Sweet Pea; The Boys; brand-new niece Kianna! Butterfly. Sister, daughter … friend. Soul-winner. Destined for the mission field, very likely a long, long way from her mom and dad. Campus Crusade. Tapped into Living Water. More laughter. Endless music, eternal sense of wonder and awe, and always ready to eat Double Stuff Oreos at midnight with her dad.

Love you, Tash. 

The following is from my sports column, “Sports of Sorts,” in the Wednesday, March 11, 1992, edition of the Gasconade County Republican:

“My littlest girl, Natasha, who will be 5 on Friday (the 13th), was stuffing herself with spaghetti Sunday evening when my wife warned her not to take such big bites.

“‘Don’t worry, Mommy,’ she reassured, mumbling with a mouthful of noodles and sauce. ‘I’ve got a pretty big mouth.’

Just like her Daddy.”

Happy birthday, Pokey.

 

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