Many people in life cannot say that they are close to their aunts. I am blessed to be very close to two of my aunts in my life. My Aunt Kim and my Aunt Shelia. Since I have been so close to my aunts, they have imparted much wisdom into me over the years. With the passing of my Aunt Shelia a few days ago, I began to reminisce over the lessons she has taught not only me, but countless others. You could see evidence of this over the past few days at her visitation and funeral. Many of these lessons I want to share with you today, have not only been taught directly but through the way she lived her life. I have been tearfully remembering many times we spent together, talking, sharing craft ideas, or digging through her countless hats and dresses in her closet. Even though, I have lived far away most of my life, getting together with her was like time never passed from the last time we were together. She and Uncle Randy were always there for me in my greatest moments, like high school graduation and my wedding. I am not sure how we are going to handle her absence, but with God's strength I know we can make it.
In honor of my Aunt Shelia, I would like to share the lessons that she has taught us all by the way she lived. My hope in sharing these lessons, is that you can take them and apply them to your own life so she can continue to bless others, especially young women, which was one of her ministry passions.
To begin, my Aunt Shelia was always classy. On the outside, it did not matter if she was wearing her fly fishing waders or one of her fancy dresses with a hat and gloves, she was always classy and modest in the way she dressed. She was confident in who she was and she did not dwell too much on what people thought of her. She wore what she loved. Even if she had expensive taste, she would seek out a bargain and go for it! We do not see many women willing to dress like ladies anymore. It seems like a dwindling fashion, but my Aunt Shelia kept it alive. She was the true definition of a fashionable lady.
My Aunt Shelia was always blessing others in her small town in Tennessee. She was never famous and did not seem to chase after such things. She was a steward with what God had given her and she sought God's Kingdom and His will first. One way of fulfilling this was by being a loving wife. Rarely have I seen two people keep a love alive over all these years. Even in this past year, they still showed more love than many couples would show in a lifetime. She told me once that she waited until she was 24 to marry because she was waiting for God to send the right man. She did not chase after all the men in town, but she waited for the one that God had designed for her and she cherished that blessing her whole life by being a loving and caring wife.
She also sought God's Kingdom first by nurturing three boys that God brought into her life. She sacrificed wealth to raise these young men in a well fed and Godly home. Her eldest son George, attested to this at the funeral when he told many stories of how she was always there for them. When her young men grew up, she nurtured her beautiful daughter-n-law and two beautiful granddaughters. She always had a new project going for Emily and Abbie and she even organized a tea party for them and the other young girls in the town complete with paper dolls and a carriage ride. She recognized that her role was to stand up for her family and devote her life to praying for them and taking care of their needs before her own.
She was also a steward of friendship. One Summer I came to visit and I remember walking a few miles in the early morning with her and a friend. This was their routine and I remember their conversations and how it was filled with grace and seasoned with salt (Colossians 4:6) and how it blessed me. She was always taking food to someone or making sure the elderly in the town were not lonely. She helped so many young women at her church and took time to travel with them, listen to them, and speak into their lives. She never met a stranger and if you were to sit and speak with her for even a few minutes, you would leave feeling encouraged and the need to improve your life in some area for the better. Many people in life do not realize that they don't have to be famous or well known to make a difference. You can be a difference by simply taking care of what God has blessed you with. God made her to be a wife, mother, and friend to so many. That was her calling and in seeking God's Kingdom first (Matthew 6:30-33) in these things, God blessed others through her and always provided for her and her family.
My Aunt Shelia also knew that life was not easy. She did not live an easy life even before she became sick. She is famous in our family for saying, "life ain't going to be no poochy ra-ra!" We assumed this meant that life was not going to always be rainbows and sunshine. Even though, life was hard at times, she was always strong. Many people in life would probably break down and give up if they had to face what she went through throughout her life. Not my Aunt Shelia. She understood that adversity was a part of life and simply worked through it. Her secret? Her relationship with God. She was always praying and seeking God first. Even when I went to visit her a few weeks ago before her death, she stopped mid conversation and asked us to join hands to pray for George who was having a procedure done. She allowed God to give her the strength that she needed when times were tough. While I know she was hurting and was not always happy, she always had joy. Her smile and laughter were so unique. Her laughter was high pitched and could be recognized from across the room or in a crowd. That is what I think I will miss most about her. No one on earth could ever recreate a laugh like hers. It was so genuine. She truly was a woman of faith and allowed God to be her constant. I came across a scripture this morning that made me think of her. "But we have this treasure (God's light inside of us) in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you." (2 Corinthians 7-12)
These lessons Shelia left behind of being a true lady, having good stewardship with what God entrusted her with, and relying on God's strength in the face of adversity, is something I could only hope to emulate in my own life. There are many more lessons from her to be learned and perhaps over the years I can share them with you, but for now these are the ones that ring true. She always loved reading real life stories of people, especially women, who had lived incredible lives. Her whole book shelf in her house was dedicated to auto biographies and biographies of people of strength. I truly believe that her story should be among them and told for generations to come.