Across a Lifetime

 In the beginning………
left to right, my husband Bill and myself, our friends Karen and Glenn Swarthout
Jackson Square, New Orleans  circa 1976    
“He gets angry once in a while,
but across a lifetime there is only love.
The nights of crying your eyes out give way to days of laughter.”
Ps. 30: 5The Message Bible

So there we are standing in the living room, 4 tired people tapping the face of the Smartphone…(the phone is smarter than we are, obviously.)  We’re trying to take a picture with the camera lens facing us—you know, switch it in reverse like the all the cool young kids do when they snap those ‘here we are!’ photos.

We need to get a picture of the four of us for posterity (and of course the ‘real’ camera isn’t working.)
It’s like getting jammed into those photo booths where you could take 4 snapshots for a quarter back in the day.  It’s waaaaay past our bedtime and we are laughing so very hard….How many old people does it take to snap a photo, really?

l to r  Bill, Glenn, Karen, Jody

We are successful. 

The night comes to a close and we stand and hold hands as we always do when our visit with these friends is ended.  We see them maybe twice a year when they come to the States from Mexico to visit their son and his family. It is never, ever long enough.

As we go around the circle and each pray for the other, I’m moved to tears…as is my dear sister.

We have known each other for almost 40 years.  We all met as new believers in 1972 at a Bible School in Central California.  He was best man in our wedding.  She and I had our sons six weeks apart, delivered by the same doctor.  We have lived with them in California, New Orleans and back in California again during the first 7 years we were each married. 

We’ve been through a lot.

Hippie Christians saved in the seventies, living on a shoestring in a Christian community (see Bible School, above). Too many rice and beans for dinner, too many used clothes.  Not enough money for the doctor, Date Nights that cost nothing, more than one birthday going by without a present or a party. Oh, and don’t forget the trips to the mountains of Oregon and Washington living in tents….while our husband planted trees.  Brutal and backbreaking and unforgettable.

But there are so many stories that make us laugh, so many treasures from all this time. A legacy, if you will, of God’s love.

Ann Voskamp says it well–
“I’ve an inkling that there are times when we need to drive a long, long distance before we can look back and see God’s back in the rearview mirror.”
                                                                                             (1000 Gifts, p. 156).

During the night as I glanced across the room at my husband and Glenn, a legacy of just how many people have been touched and changed because of these two left me a bit speechless. 

(I want to share some of the glorious grace that God has shown across our lifetime, not to focus on us, but to give Him the credit and the praise.  I hope you’ll stay for the story.)

When the Bible School closed in 1979, our friends Glenn and Karen obeyed a call to go to Mexico as missionaries. 

They have been there for over 30 years and now call Guadalajara their home.

During that time, they have helped plant 3 churches—Palabra de Vida—Fountain of Life—in  3 cities in Jalisco, Mexico.  Glenn was asked by the parents at one of the churches many years ago if he would serve as Principal at the small Christian school in Guadalajara.  He said yes and it has grown and grown over the years, serving students from all over the world. We have had the privilege of visiting them and seeing firsthand the fruits of all their labor.

Although Lincoln is a Christian school, the draw for many of the families whose children attend there is the fact that classes are taught in English. In the process, students are learning about Christ.

standing with our other life long friends
Pastors Frank & Parris Bailey in front of Victory Fellowship
(from many small seeds….)

New Orleans
The little church we helped start in New Orleans in our big two story house–with young people sitting on the steps going up the stairs we were so crowded–has now grown into Victory Fellowship.  Victory is an active, outreaching church with ministries to women coming out of prison, to the homeless, to neighboring families through their Christian school.  There are countless other events and activities– most recently the annual Feed The Multitudes on the Fourth of July.  

When I look back to that time of shepherding the house church in New Orleans, I see all the young people Bill and Glenn baptized in the landlord’s swimming pool in back of our house.  Young people who were rescued from Bourbon Street downtown, drinking in the message of salvation.
I think about Mae across the street, the old lady that Karen cared for and remember how she loved Jesus.  I remember my husband and Glenn going out on Saturdays, down to the waterfront of Lake Pontchartrain or in City Park, evangelising and sharing God’s love with all who would listen, planting seeds.

At home
Here’s the even more amazing part–all our grown children are following God, raising their children in homes where Christ is the center.  Our grandchildren get to hear not only about their parents’ God but their grandparents’ faith as well.  There is no greater joy, I can assure you, than that.

And in God’s scheme of things, because He loves us so, he’s made sure we stay in touch with our dear friends.  When Glenn and Karen’s oldest son Wesley finished school and went into the ministry, he ended up marrying a girl in Guadalajara, leaving Mexico and moving back to the States.  Now he helps pastor a church and lives 30 minutes away from our home, just so our friends could come visit us each year. And of course see their grandchildren.  Smile.

2008–our children and their families
(excepting our daughter Leah and her husband)
Glenn and Bill are anchoring each end of the back row.

There is so much more to tell.  Forty years is a long time for doing life and making memories.  We have shared the births of our first grandchildren; we have each buried a parent along the way.  We have labored long in our marriages, in our churches and in our ministry.  A lifetime of space would be needed to get it all down, so this will have to do.

When I started this blog and named  it ‘Three Way Light’–I wanted the words to ‘reflect, reveal and shine for God’s glory.’  When I sat down to write this post I had to smile and shake my head again at God’s touch in even the small things, still.
The other night when Glenn was talking about Lincoln School, he mentioned their new website.  I just had a chance to check it out the other day.

The graphic and logo for the school is a lighthouse.
And their motto?
“Let us walk in the light of the Lord.”  Isaiah 2:5
Let us walk indeed. And keep on walking. Amen.
c.Jody Lee Collins 2012
Sharing in Community with Jennifer and all for
and for the first time with Hazel Moon for
Tell Me a Story

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17 thoughts on “Across a Lifetime

  1. Nancy–thank you for your comments. The older I get, the more I realize what a gift long time friends are. People who've known you through the good, the bad and the sometimes ugly.
    You have some treasured memories and stories, too.
    We are blessed, yes?

  2. Yes, it does bring tears, Karen, but it was such a joy to write about our years together. Isn't God faithful?

    love you.

  3. Well, Karin, you're sweet to say so. Actually, we all feel pretty great–the best years are still ahead!

  4. One of the participants on the hiking trip I just did was my husband's and my campus minister over thirty years ago. He served as the best man in our wedding, and he and his wife (and our kids and their kids) have walked through many, many things together over the years. Friendships like these are such a gift. So glad you were able to get the flipped around camera photo to work so you could document another milestone in a beautiful friendship. Loved reading the pieces of your back story.

  5. Karen Swarthout says:

    Jody! This made me smile sooo much and cry a bit!! It is a rare thing, in this day and age to have such friendships as ours, even more than 2,000 miles apart… I know it is largely due to your being so great at keeping in touch…. it does take an effort!! Thank you for your friendship over all these years… I feel so blessed to be a part of your life!

  6. Glynn–I knew of your NOLA connection–it comes through in so many of your poems. 🙂 Yes, our roots there go pretty deep–we just visited in April. Lived on Florida Blvd just off the I-10. The house survived Katrina and new owners in the neighborhood have rescued and refurbished it. It did my heart good.

    Thanks for your comments.

  7. Great post. Born and raised in New Orleans here, Metairie, to be exact. Until they moved to Franklinton, my sister-in-law attended Victory Fellowship.

  8. Yes… there is so much of the group worship we had back in the Jesus Movement that I still miss today… Thank you. He is blessed by you too! 🙂

  9. Thank you, friend. It's a joy to have such a rich history about which to write 🙂

  10. Pam, thanks for your kind words and the affirmation. It's nice to meet someone who 'gets' the 70's and especially all that Jesus Movement history.

    God is blessed by your faithfulness and the way you glorify Him in everything–just by being you…

    God bless.

  11. Jody,
    You really do have a gift for writing. I look forward to reading more and continue to thank God for you and Bill and your family.
    Glenn (Mexico)

  12. I got such a kick out of you all trying to figure out how to take a photograph of yourselves. Too fun! 🙂 And I love that you habitually pray for one another like that.

  13. This story touches me on several levels. I too just started college in 1972 in Southern California. I also found my best and long life friends there. I wasn't in a “commune” :), but the group I was involved with in college did turn into a sort of “community” for awhile… but most of all for your heart for God. The moment I saw the photo at top, it took me back to 1976 when I graduated… 🙂 Although I haven't been blessed with the marriage and kids I always prayed for, I've been part of my friend's lives and watching and loving their children and now grandchildren…

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