This weekend, we laid a sweet lady to rest -- Nettie Alice Akridge. My Granny was special and so dear to me. It would be impossible to give her the tribute she deserves through mere words on a blog. But I want those of you who follow our journey to understand what an important part she played in God's plan for us.
Much of my childhood was spent around her rocking chair, underneath her quilting frame, or in her kitchen. I have so many sweet stories I could share. And she did, too. Her favorite story she loved to tell was the time she was preparing lunch for me when I was around 4 years old. As she was finishing up her cooking, I walked into the kitchen and boldly announced, "I'm gonna sit right here in Granny's lap and eat dumplings!" The problem was, Granny had not cooked dumplings that morning. So, what did she do? She went to work rolling out homemade dumplings for me! Apparently, I could not wait for them to get done, and I was begging her for a taste immediately. After tolerating my whining for a few minutes, Granny finally picked up an uncooked dumpling covered in flour and handed it to me. I popped it in my mouth, made a terrible face, ran to the living room where my Paw sat, and proclaimed with disgust, "Mercy, mercy, mercy!"
Every time Granny told that story, even in the worst of her dementia, she would get so tickled about it, she would cry from laughing so hard.
This one act of selflessness is just a small glimpse into Granny's generous spirit. She exhibited the heart of Jesus in everything she did. At the funeral home the other night, I heard testimony after testimony of the godly influence she had on so many lives.
To me, Granny was more than just a sweet lady. She was a spiritual covering for me. She was an intercessor that stood before the throne of God in prayer on my behalf. Untold hours were spent calling out my name to the Lord. And she would tell me, "I pray for you a lot, Shug. I wake up in the night and pray for you all the time." I believe it.
She talked about how she and my Paw would tuck me in at night and pray for me. I vaguely remember some of those moments when she would place her soft hand on my forehead and whisper, "Jesus. Jesus. Jesus." She often told me that my Paw would say, "Nettie, God's got His hand on that boy." Through the years, she regularly reminded me of that, and it not only encouraged me, but it also awakened a longing in my soul for more of God -- of destiny -- a longing that consumes my life today.
The last time I saw her was last Wednesday morning. I kissed her on her forehead, told her I loved her, and said goodbye. As I walked to my car, I experienced such a peace in God's presence as He reminded me of how that house -- that lady -- had been a refuge for me for many years. Granny's house was a place of escape from the painful parts of my childhood. It was a place where the presence of God would wash over me as a kid, dispelling my fears and hurts. It was a place of healing. Granny's house was a sanctuary. It was a sanctuary because Granny was a carrier of God's presence. I didn't realize it at the time, but now I recognize that presence as what I felt when I was with her.
I want to be a carrier of God's presence just like my Granny. I want to be that kind of father and grandfather. I want to be that kind of pastor. I want our future church to be a place of refuge where God's presence is felt and hurting people can be restored. A place that feels like home. A place that feels like my Granny's house.