Worth Far Above Rubies

Johanna Lee Pope.JPGYou know it is never easy, to sum up, a person’s life in a few short sentences or a list of words. I guess because when you lose them to the death your mind is flooded with memories from your very first memory to the last day. And as I think back over the years of my life the memories of a woman I called Mom are the woman who looked much like the woman in the book of Proverbs. While the woman the Lord speaks of is pretty much perfect I know my mother would say she was far from it.

I always described my mother as a pip. By definition, a pip is an excellent or a very attractive person or thing. And she was very attractive to many. “She was beautiful,” many have said to me. She was feisty, witty and could be stubborn when she needed to be. She loved to be with people. She definitely was a social creature. Whether at a party, a holiday gathering, playing cards, floating, camping, motorcycle rides or just sitting around with family doing nothing, she was happy.

She was loyal and loved her family. I saw my whole life how she cared for her mom and

1968 farmington

Larry, Wilma, Johanna, Elbert, Glenda Michelle and Dannielle 1967 Farmington, Missouri

dad. Her sister and brother. Her husband and her children. She was definitely a caretaker. She took care of us all. She always had a plan and she could make it happen. And I am pretty sure I got that from her. She loved, loved, loved having her family around her. I think that brought her the greatest joy. And just today realized I got that from her as well because having all my children and grandchildren surround me fills my heart to overflowing. I know that is what she expressed on her face when we all came home to visit her.

She was also a peacemaker. Always trying to encourage everyone to get along. We come from a loud and boisterous family. There were many years of turmoil and upheaval that were hard on her. But she never quit trying to make things better. I remember just before going into the air force my mom and Bob started attending church. They both surrendered to the Lord and I began to see a change in them, in their lives. That change influenced me to make some changes in my life as well. Those changes for me would lead me to a faith in God deeper than I have ever known. A faith I would need in the years that followed, a faith that would change the course of my family’s life.

She loved being a grandmother. I watched her hold each one of her grandchildren with such pride and tenderness. Other than adoration I never knew what was going through her mind when she was holding them and baby talking to them until of course, I became a grandmother. I remember asking her once how come she never told me how great it was to be a grandmother? She just giggled. So I guess that was her secret.

She loved her children. And losing one nearly took the life right out of her. That was a dark time for our whole family. She did say she told me that she could relate to me because she herself had lost StitchSCAN1385-SCAN1391.JPGher brother tragically when she was 19. But I could never relate to her losing a daughter. The pain of that ran very deep. The joy in this day is that she is reunited with a brother she has not seen in 55 years and a daughter she has not seen in 11 years.

She was forgiving and kind. Always saw people for how they treated others. She did not see color or status. Make no mistake she could sum a person up in a few minutes, she was good at telling someone’s character. And if they were a bad egg she would warn you. One of the blessings of this day is seeing the number of folks that loved her and hearing them praise her for her kindness and compassion she had for others. So many people respected her. Another word that keeps coming up is fun; she was just a fun person. What a great friend she was to others and how much everyone valued what she said. I think I heard the ladies at the VFW called her the “Mob Boss.” And the picture of my tiny mother as a Mob Boss is precious.

She was so creative. Oh my goodness, she could create anything out of nothing. I love that I got that from her. I remember, as a little girl, her sewing teeny tiny clothes for me and my sister Danielle’s Barbie’s. She made ice candles out of milk cartons, wax, and ice and then would put it on a plate surrounded by leaves she picked up out of the yard. She loved to decorate. And everything had to color coordinate, even what she was wearing. She could put together an outfit and look like a million bucks. Some of the clothes she sewed from her own patterns back in the 70’s were amazing!!!

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2016 taken at the Jewel Box St. Louis Forrest Park

A few years ago the Lord had put it on my heart to do something for my mother for Mother’s Day. I had not spent Mother’s Day with her since the 90’s. She had been in and out of the hospital and I just knew we needed to create some new memories together. I wanted to treat her like a queen for the day. I planned a weekend away in the city with my mother, my aunt, my sister and our daughters. I made the announcements including the itinerary and sent them off. First, we would have dinner with a very old friend of my moms. A lady she had not seen in many years. Then we would be swept off to the city for Mani/Pedi, a photography session at the Jewel Box in Forrest Park, a stay at an exclusive historic hotel, order room service dinner, catch the Sound of Music at Fox Theater and topped off the weekend with a Mother’s Day Buffet at the top of the Park Plaza Hotel overlooking St. Louis Forrest Park. When it was all said and done she said, “This is the best time I ever had in my whole life.”IMG_7686.jpg

And you know today it is one of the best memories I have of my mom in my whole life. The intent was to celebrate each other, as a mother, a grandmother, a daughter, a sister and an Aunt. We each played one or more of those roles, we represented 3 generations connected by blood but more importantly by love. It was priceless.

Yes, my mother would tell you she was far from perfect and I would tell her that in her imperfection she exemplified that woman worth far above rubies. Her husband trusted in her. She worked with her hands to create beautiful things. She worked hard in her life and never quit providing for her family. She knew how to grow things and make life beautiful around her. She would make clothes for herself and her family. She gave to those around her who needed help without a hesitation. Her husband was known in the gates because of her strength and honor. She opened her mouth with wisdom and in her tongue was kindness. She cared for her household always and did not waste her time with idleness. And because of these things

Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her.

Johanna Lee (Pope) Tomlinson

1943 – 2017

Online Obituary

Johanna was the direct descendant of the founding fathers of Farmington Missouri. Through Joel Zolman and Louisa Murphy.  See Pope Family Tree Page on Shell’s Space.

 

 

“It’s Uphill With a 75 lb Rucksack From Here” (dedicated to Esteban, my 1st born 3rd child) :)

This is it!

This is it!

Yesterday was the last day of my vacation and it is back to work on Monday. I am really wore out from all the planning, anticipation and the emotion of watching another child achieve a milestone, graduation. On reflection of this week the only thing that comes to mind is “Bless the Lord, O my soul and all that is within me!  Bless His Holy name!”

How do you thank God for the overwhelming goodness He shows us in our lives?  There are times in my walk with God where I have felt so very inadequate when saying thank you to Him.  This is one of those times.  Years ago, as a single mom, I did not know how I was going to take care of my kids, let alone get them through high school in tact. 🙂  I did not know how I was going to teach them everything they needed to know before going out on their own.  My head would spin having four of them to corral let alone imparting pearls of wisdom on each one.  I have found myself telling Esteban random things while driving him to school or taking him to the gym.  How to buy car insurance or making sure he understands how debit cards work.  LOL

But as each one has taken the step from being a student to adulthood it has reminded me of how much more God has had to do with it than I did.  I can say yes, I did not give up on them.  I can say yes, I faced each challenge that came with their transition while believing God would prevail in their lives.  But I could still see there were so many gaps. And I want to scream, “WAIT, I still have more to tell you!!”  And folks, that is where my belief kicks in.  God fills in the gaps or he leaves them to learn those things on their own. OH MY!

February 1995

February 1995

While two of my kids are grown, with kids of their own, Esteban is my third child and I have on occasion said that of all my children he is the ‘high maintenance’ one. I do not even have the words to describe what that entails just suffice to say, he has literally worn me out as a mom! I admit I have actually told him I could not wait till he was grown and on his own.  Yes, I have said that. And then immediately following I think I do not want those to be my last words.  So I would say, “I still love you!”  There is one exception, the day he was born.   He came out in distress and was not breathing.  It took them a minute or two but then I heard this little squeak. Air finally. I had a peace during those moments because I had felt him moving within me just before his birth.  I knew he was in God’s hands.  He certainly found his lungs by the third day.  After that he had a determination to do things his own way in his own time.

As mothers sometimes we have a tendency to overlook our children’s bad qualities.  I have often felt that I tend to focus too much on them.  I have prayed for the Lord to help me find the balance in observing the good and letting them know that I see it. I suppose I have focused on the bad instead of the good because of the many disappointments I have experienced throughout the years of being a single mother. Guilt is a huge hindrance in a single mother’s life.  And if one is not careful it can practically incapacitate you to the point of being too permissive or overindulgent.  I have to admit to being both at one time or another.  But thankfully God would snap me out of it quick enough.  Especially when they got into trouble.  OH MY!

The Graduate ~ 2013

The Graduate ~ 2013

I was reminded in watching Esteban march into the stadium last night that it wasn’t just Jesus and I raising him.  It was all the people who invested in him these past years of his life.  Friends from church, his family, the teachers and coaches.  Even when I was making the invitation list I was remembering those folks who had spent hours pouring into his life prayer, guidance, teaching or just loving on him.  Cheering him on. Showing up to his baseball or football games. Those who corrected him or praised him. Those who came into his life at an early age and those who just recently added to his quality of life.  Those who committed to support him.  There were even complete strangers, who at a very financially difficult time in our lives, invested into his life.

Marching in

Marching in

He marched along with his fellow students, smiling.  Smiling because he looked up to the right and saw his family sitting in the seats above.  All waving to him and yelling his name. He was genuinely happy.  And that made me well up with love.  He will be leaving in three months to go into the Army.  He wants to be an Airborne Ranger.  And I have no doubt he will do what he sets his mind to do and I truly believe God has saved him for something awesome!  Do you see a man skillful in his work? He will stand before kings; he will not stand before obscure men. Proverbs 22:29  When he leaves I will be going through waves of emotion again. Saying goodbye, sending him off to serve our country knowing that life as we knew it all these years will be forever changed.  He will in every sense of the word, become a man!

Praise God from whom all blessings flow. Praise Him, all creatures here below. Praise Him above, ye heavenly host.  Praise Father, Son and the Holy Ghost. Amen!

PS. If you are curious about the title, it includes several remarks made to him about graduation! I added the 75 lb rucksack because his father was an Airborne Ranger and I would watch him pack his rucksack and could not believe the amount of stuff he would put in there and still have to carry his weapon and other gear.  So basically, yeah that is what he is looking forward to in the Army! 🙂