At Rest In The Presence Of The Lord

We laid my mother to rest today. I was up at 6 am this morning to start the preparations. I went to the cemetery, first thing, to lay the flowers and get it ready for our service. The sun was up, dew was still on the freshly mowed grass and a cool breeze blew. It was so very peaceful.

A verse came to my mind in the drive over. Romans 8:28. There have been many occasions where He has brought that verse to remembrance, mostly on occasions filled with anxiousness and uncertainty so I wondered how He would apply it today.

All things work together for good to them who love God, to them who are called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28

The headstone was placed on Friday. When I first saw it I was so emotional I did not realize until later that her last name was spelled wrong. Of course, they would replace it but not overnight. So I was inspired to look for a florist that sold headstone flower sprays. The very first one I called had just made two of them recently. I rushed over to pick one out and it could not have been more perfect. It was so beautiful and it hid the misspelling. Again I heard, “It will all work out.”

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A short time later I drove to the park to meet everyone who would help set up for our BBQ after the service.  I was thinking of how many times I have planned events months in advance. I would get to that day and my mind would be running through all the details, over and over, how I would manage and execute the plans made months or weeks before. This time it was different. There were plans but not the kind that would have to be orchestrated to the tee because a still small voice was saying, “It will all work out.” Or maybe it was my mom’s voice because she was always saying to me, “It will all work out.”

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Gary, the man doing the service messaged asking if there was an agenda. I replied, “I am too emotional this morning to say so I think we should just let the Holy Spirit do His work.”  And again the voice, “It will all work out.”

I had wanted to ask our cousin, Jeff, to sing but not sure he would be up for it due to some health issues. So I did not ask. But as soon as I saw him he told me he would sing a song for mom today! No words, God just working it out.

Special friends made the trip down to Desloge to celebrate my mother’s life with our family. It was her longtime friend and her family Julia, Jackie and Quinne, three generations loving on my mom and me and my family. Each of us recalling wonderful sweet and sometimes very funny stories of back in the day.

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Debbie, my sister Dannielle’s best friend from high school came. She kind of got lost and was heartbroken to have missed the service at the cemetery but made it to the park. She showed up and it made the day even sweeter.

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And then there is my sweet friend from my high school days, Penny. She came, even though she had just lost two very precious family members to cancer within a week apart this past month. She came for me! And that filled my heart to full! There were a few others that could not make it due to illness and life issues but sent their love and prayers for us today. And those I hold dear as well! I believe those prayers contributed to all the beautiful ways God showed His hand in our celebration.

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We met for the procession. We placed mom on the back of a dear friend’s bike for her last ride to her final resting place.  We lined up and began the drive. The US flag on one of the bikes furling in the breeze as we went. The oncoming cars pulled over out of respect.  One lady, who was not a part of the procession, pulled up alongside when we got onto the highway and put her flashers on so no one would pass us.  The people in the cars following the bikes stretched for a half a mile behind.  Looking in my rearview mirror, my heart swelled.

 

 

 

The sun was straight up overhead as we arrived at the cemetery. Friends and family gathered around to hear the message of Christ, to remember a woman who touched their lives in one way or another. We were there to honor the kind of person who said what she thought, cared about others with an honest heart and delivered her wisdom with a dry humor. The words spoke of her to me by others since her passing, “There was no better woman, I loved her.”

She loved bright colors, flowers and being among friends and family. I know she would have loved it all. I can say for certain her spirit was with us. I love what Gary said, she was not an angel sent to look out for us, to guard us. For angels were created to work for the Lord and each has a duty to do His bidding. She was not working today or any day. She is at rest in the presence to the Lord.  Shouting hallelujah and reunited with long-lost loved ones in Christ, whose headstones were representing, surrounding hers.  Perhaps she was looking down on us and smiling at the love and honor showed her this day, at least I would like to think so.

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We had the privilege of listening to a song sung by one of her favorite singers and mine, our cousin, Jeff. He has been there for our family through many wonderful events and sad occasions. He sang one of my mom’s favorites, The Lighthouse. At that moment, I was taken back to 1984, a moment when I had first heard it sitting beside my mother, in church, where Christ changed our lives.

And I thank God for the lighthouse,

I owe my life to Him,

Jesus is the lighthouse,

And from the rocks of sin,

He has shown a light around me,

That I might clearly see,

If it wasn’t for the lighthouse,

Tell me where would this ship be.

 

And for that memory and this day I was thanking Jesus for working it all out for good.

IMG_7519My sister, Amanda, and I left her a rose in honor of her but it also honored our sister Dannielle, who our mother was with today. I believe if my sister had been here she would have wanted to sing The Rose. She loved that song and loved singing it. She may have been singing it today for our mom, up in heaven, just maybe.

 

We ended the day with a lighted lantern. A good friend of hers surprised us with the lantern for Jo Jo.  It was a sweet and special moment for all of her friends for these past few years. And they wanted to honor her with a prayer sent up to heaven.

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Last but not least, which may seem insignificant to others, but it is a detail that no one else would know about but me and God. When we arrived at the park that morning to set up the pavilion, over to the right side was a US flag on a pole. It was up pretty high up and could not be reached. It was wrapped around the pole it was attached to. I had this uncanny desire to unwrap it and, to see it hanging correctly and flying in the breeze.  It was not until we were taking everything down and packing up that I noticed it was completely unwrapped and waving lightly. No small detail ever escapes God and He says in His word,

Psalm 37:4, ‘If we delight ourselves in the Lord He will give us the desires of our heart.’

I didn’t fret over the wrapped flag I thought to myself, it is what it is.

Before I left that place His breeze unwrapped the fabric of the red, white and blue. He blew it gently with his breath. He worked it all out.  For good.

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Rest in Peace, Mom.  Thank you for my life. Thank you for always being there. Thank you for showing me how to plan a good party! LOL

SIDE NOTE: she loved to text me at wee hours of the morning, 5 am sometimes, and one time her phone was broke and she could only type in capital letters. And when I type LOL I always think of her text

 

 

 

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I want to say thank you to Deborah Soucoucie, Dennis Sweet, Gary Leggans, Mel Brinkley, and Jeff Parsons for having a part in making this memorial happen.

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

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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! 🙂