I got some really great gifts this year, but by far the best was from my friend Alysa. She is creative and artistic and incredibly gifted. A week or two before Christmas, we bundled up our littlest children and met mid-way between our houses. She gave me two scrapbooks, one each for Lucy and Elaine, that she had made from the pictures Julie Kittredge took earlier this fall. She had asked me earlier for some verses for each girl, which she put in the books, but she found perfect quotes of her own as well and also wrote them a letter.
Here is what she wrote:
Dear Lucy and Elaine,
Your Manga is one of the most beautiful women I know. She is courageous and strong and gentle and kind. She is selfless and grace-filled. She is the Hands and Feet of Jesus. She loves her Lord Jesus more than life itself. And she loves you deeply, sweet little ones. I am confident that you will carry on, in both your Manga and your mother's footsteps, as a daughter of the King, living solely to please Him.
This quote, from Manga's favorite book besides the Bible sums up who she is:
"Suppose, then, you content yourself for the present with doing in a faithful, quiet, persistent way all the little, homely tasks that return with each returning day, each one as unto God, and perhaps by and by you will thus have gained strength for a more heroic life."
--Stepping Heavenward, by Elizabeth Prentiss
Your Manga has lived a heroic life, and I will always remind you of that. While her life here on earth is coming to a close, a large part of who you are is because of who she is. Her legacy will live on in you, sweet Lucy and Elaine.
If you ever want to know stories about your Manga and your mommy, you just let me know and I'll tell you all sorts of wonderful ways in which they have deeply touched my life.
I love you, sweet Lucy and Elaine.
Love, Auntie Alysa
Here are some of the pages she did--I didn't include all of them, just some so you can get a sampling. The caption for this page reads "Grandmas hold our tiny hands for just a little while, but our hearts forever":
This one has 3 John 1:4 "I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth."
This one has a quote from Stepping Heavenward that I absolutely love: "Mothers occasionally know more than their daughters do."
This one has the caption: "My mother had a slender, small body, but a large heart--a heart so large that everybody's joys found welcome in it, and hospitable accommodation"--Mark Twain.
This one has one of Lucy's verses; her middle name is "Nan," which means "grace": "Now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified." Acts 20:32
Elaine's middle name is "Frances," which means "freedom." Her verse is: "It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery." Galatians 5:1
In each book, Alysa left a blank piece of stationery on which my mom could write a letter.
Here is her letter to Elaine:
Dear Little Sweet Pea (my mom's special name for her):
Wasn't that fun--the day we walked in the Japanese Gardens, enjoying the last of a lovely summer?
It was October, remember? You and Lucy were wearing your new crocheted hats and your ponchos, and looked just like you walked out of a picture book! Oh, what a happy time I had with Mom, Dad, you girls, and God's beautiful world all around us.
Walk close to Jesus, my Precious. He makes every day beautiful.
All My Love,
Here is her letter to Lucy:
Dearest Sugar Plum:
I've never been in a lovelier garden, have you? I will always remember this day and your happy excitement in showing me your favorite spots. We found the frog and the turtle, and I watched you and Elaine feed the fish. How blessed you are to have this little spot of Heaven so near your home.
It reminds me of the Garden of Eden, where God walked with Adam and Eve. God's Word is like a garden with treasures hidden all through it.
Always love Jesus and walk and talk with Him every day. That is the Road to Heaven, Lovey. Keep on it always.
With all the love in I have,
At the end of each book is our family verse: "Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, 'This is the way: walk in it.'" Isaiah 30:21
I don't have words for how much these books mean to me. My girls already love looking at them, but I know they will be treasures of the heart as they get older. Their clear memories of my mom will fade with time, but they will have these tangible evidences of love and family to hold onto.
I know I still have the crumbling piece of Moody Bible Institute stationery that my grandma wrote her last note to me on, while she was in the hospital, dying of cancer:
My darling Alice:
I'm here in bed, looking at those pretty flowers you sent me. They make me very happy. Thank you so much.
I miss seeing you so much. Maybe pretty soon I'll be out of here and you can come to see me. Don't ever forget that Grandpa and I love you so very much.
Do you know what I've been doing today while here? I've prayed especially for you and Chuck. You're growing up so fast. We hope you'll always love the Lord Jesus and do what He wants you to do and be a real worker for Him. Even now you can show other children that you love the Lord Jesus.
You'll never forget that we love you, will you? Very, very much love to you.
As a quote from John Steinbeck says, "How will our children know who they are if they don't know where they come from?"
Alysa, I'll never be able to thank you enough for these books--not only chronicling this time, but doing it with such breathtaking beauty. Thank you for helping to give my girls their legacy.