So — when you ride down the Amazon in a flimsy open boat with someone, trying to beat a Big-Daddy thunderstorm that’s trailing you black and hard? You consider yourself bonded for life. (Well, that and the matching Columbia mosquito-proof shirts will do it.) Truth is, I was smitten with the New York Time’s Bestselling author, Melanie Shankle, long before our Compassion trip to Ecuador. We’ve both been blogging for what seems like a coon’s age and I’ve been reading her forever and the woman’s smart, funny and brilliant — and has a heart for Jesus bigger than her home state of Texas. She once reached out and loved me with words that dropped my head and made me weep for the grace of it and I will never, ever forget it — there are friendships that are brave enough to stitch up real wounds with real grace. I’ll never love her enough for it. There ain’t nobody quite like Melanie Shankle — she’s the realest deal & the kind of woman you could talk to forever — and the farm’s front porch is humbled and ecstatic to welcome her crazy wonderful words:
We are a soccer family. We spend our weekends at soccer tournaments, we shuttle a car full of girls back and forth to practice four times a week.
I tell you this because it explains why our family was gathered around the TV to watch Abby Wambach play her last game on December 16, 2015.
She is arguably the greatest women’s soccer player of all time, and her accomplishments on the field changed the game forever and fostered a whole generation of little girls who dream of playing soccer at the highest level.
During the game, Gatorade aired a farewell commercial as a tribute to all Abby Wambach has meant to women’s soccer.
It features her cleaning out her locker as she says these words in the background, “Forget me. Forget my number, forget my name, forget I ever existed. Forget the medals won, the records broken, and the sacrifices made. I want to leave a legacy where the ball keeps rolling forward, where the next generation accomplishes things so great that I am no longer remembered.”
Abby’s words have stayed with me, but over time I’ve decided it’s not really possible to forget the great ones whose lives have played out before us.
When you have lived life to the fullest, when you’ve carpe diemed the heck out of who and what God has created you to be, you leave an indelible mark on the people around you and on those who will come long after you’re gone.
The summer after my freshman year in college, I lived with my Me-Ma and Pa-Pa.
My mom had moved to Oklahoma a few months earlier, my daddy lived in Houston, and I wanted to spend the summer in Beaumont because that’s where my friends were. Most importantly, my high school boyfriend. It wasn’t a good relationship, and in truth, I knew it was on its last legs, but I was eighteen, insecure, and desperate to hang on to anything familiar as everything else in my world changed.
Me-Ma and Pa-Pa agreed to let me spend the summer with them on two conditions:
I had to go to summer school, and I had to be in by 10:30 every night.
I had just finished an entire year with all the freedom college offers, and I was going to spend the summer with a 10:30 curfew, living with my grandparents but desperation makes you agree to things you normally wouldn’t even consider.
At a time in my life when I certainly wasn’t afraid to rebel against authority, I didn’t dare break their rules.
I didn’t want to disappoint them because they felt like the last bastion of people who truly believed I could do no wrong.
That summer ended up being a defining summer for me. I broke up with the high school boyfriend cried a lot of tears on my Me-Ma’s lap.
But the greatest gift I received that summer was spending every day with two people who built me up and loved me unconditionally when my self-confidence was at an all-time low.
They gave me a safe place to land that took me back to childhood for a little while. It was a chance to catch my breath and make some good decisions for the first time in a long time.
I thought I was staying with them and enduring a curfew as a last resort, but I now consider that summer one of the greatest gifts of my life.
Family was everything to them.
They were surrounded by the people they loved and who loved them for their entire lives. They knew what was truly important, and their home reflected it.
It was very rare that there weren’t at least twenty people in their house at any given time.
Me-Ma never worried about whether or not the house was clean or if she had on makeup. She welcomed everyone with a hug, offered them something to eat, and made them feel so incredibly welcome.
She showed me that real hospitality doesn’t involve waiting to have people over until you finally buy a new couch or remodel the bathroom.
And, maybe most of all, that a simple life that revolves around loving your family doesn’t equate to a small life.
What I don’t know is why I thought it would never end.
When you’re young, you take it for granted that people will just always be there.
You don’t realize the richness of a life well-lived and don’t question how it all happened.
They lived their lives with a faithfulness and commitment to the small, important things we tend to overlook in the quest to do something grand with our lives, somehow missing the fact that the small things are ultimately the biggest things.
Me-Ma and Pa-Pa left a legacy of love and steadfastness. Every day they lived out this command written by the apostle Paul:
“Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going – to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering” (Romans 12:1–2) MSG
Which brings me back to Abby Wambach’s words about leaving a legacy. Me-Ma and Pa-Pa left a legacy that has kept the ball rolling forward. And when you’ve left a legacy that strong, you can never be forgotten. You shouldn’t be forgotten.
Because every moment in what some might consider a small life was a moment painted with great love.
Their impact will never be forgotten.
We all have bits and pieces of the things that belonged to them.
And more than that, we have the lessons they taught us, the memories they gave us, the stories they told, and the way they loved their family, day in and day out.
These are the things they handed down to us when we didn’t even know we were paying attention.
Melanie Shankle is one of the funniest, sharpest writers out there right now, and every book of hers is a laugh out loud, turn-pager keeper. She’s the author of three home runs, the New York Times bestsellers Sparkly Green Earrings, The Antelope in the Living Room, Nobody’s Cuter Than You, and one hilariously real blog, Big Mama.
Her latest may be her best? Church of the Small Things speaks directly to the heart of women of all ages who are longing to find significance and meaning in the normal, sometimes mundane world of driving carpool to soccer practice, attending class on their college campus, cooking meals for their family, or taking care of a sick loved one.
God uses some of the smallest, most ordinary acts of faithfulness—and sometimes they look a whole lot like packing lunch. Melanie helps women embrace what it means to live a simple, yet incredibly meaningful life and how to find all the beauty and laughter that lies right beneath the surface of every moment. STRAIGHT UP: YOU HAVE GOT TO GET THIS BOOK! DEAL CHANGER!
[ Our humble thanks to Zondervan for their partnership in today’s devotion ]