If you were fortunate to have listened to Jenny speak or teach, you probably saw her hold up a large ball of twine that usually sits on her kitchen windowsill. The very tip on the end of the strand was red.
The small red dot was a reminder of the shortness of our life in comparison to the eternity that follows. She frequently challenged us to run our race well; to make the most of this brief life on earth.
Jenny’s decades-long battle with cancer was perhaps a constant reminder to live well; but Jenny was not motivated by a death focus, she was not even motivated by a life focus. She was motivated by an eternity focus.
As Jenny has been on my mind almost constantly the past few weeks, many memories have come back to me. Next to my mother, she’s been the most influential woman in my life. So many miles travel with Miss Jenny over the last 18 years. So many meals shared. So many blocks walked.
I started to make a list of all the things I’ve learned (or am learning) from her. It got long quickly: Wear comfortable shoes. Use real plates. Keep reading. Appearance matters. It is possible to be kind and authoritative. Grieve broken relationships. Healthy food can be tasty. Take time to exercise. Be thankful. Do little acts of kindness.
That’s just the beginning.
Perhaps what drew so many of us to Jenny is the way she humbly and joyfully did the simple tasks that make up our ordinary lives. Perhaps it was her quiet, beautiful spirit that never seemed to fight for her own way. Perhaps it was her unusual empathy and ability to encourage others with unexpected little notes or gifts.
I can’t help but also think of the fun that Jenny brought to life…Of her little rat “Millard” that she hid around the house for guests—suspecting and unsuspecting. Of the rare but effective pranks she played on her family. She never made people feel bad for having fun. Yes, godly people can enjoy living too.
Another thing that came to mind was a quote that she shared with me a few years ago. It stayed on her kitchen desk for a long time:
We think giving our all to the Lord is like taking a $1,000 bill and laying it on the table, saying, “Here’s my life, Lord. I’m giving it all.”
But the reality for most of us is that God sends us to the bank and has us cash in the thousand dollars for quarters. We go through life putting out twenty-five cents here and fifty cents there.
Listen to the neighbor kid’s troubles instead of saying, “Get lost.” Go to a committee meaning; give up a cup of water to a shaky old man in a nursing home.
Usually giving our life to Christ isn’t glorious. It’s done in all those little acts of love, twenty-five cents at a time.
Jenny exemplified what it is like to give her all at twenty-five cents at a time. She made meal after meal. She cleaned floor after floor. Washed dish after dish. She hosted countless people in their home. She kept the lights on and the candles burning. She made everyone who crossed the threshold to feel welcome and important. She did everything she could to meet the needs of her family and friends.
But it was so much more than that.
In the last real conversation that I was able to have with Jenny, she reminded me about something I had said years ago. Our chat was in the context of parenting, but the essence was this: not only is it not about us; it is not even about our families. It is about worship.
We must not be motivated to live our short lives for our own comfort or even for the comfort and encouragement of others. As we step from the red tip into the ball of twine we call “eternity,” only one thing will matter. That is our worship of God.
Whether it was at the keyboard or the kitchen sink, Jenny’s life was about worship.
What is worship?
Worship is saying and doing what brings God pleasure. That is all.
Why do we worship?
Because God made us fearfully and wonderfully. He leads us gently and faithfully. He redeemed us lovingly and powerfully; And He will take us home for all of eternity. That is why.
How do we worship?
We worship by laying down our lives as a whole. We worship by laying down our lives in the quarters. In the fifty cents. In all of those moments when we choose to put God first, others second, ourselves last. We worship by releasing our own will and saying, “God, I trust You. I fear You. I hope in You. You know best! You are enough.” Those demonstrations of trust bring Him glory.
Jenny lived out her worship both in her life and also in her death.
I have not fully grieved the loss of my friend…yet. Even through this long goodbye, I have not been able to process that earth has lost one its finest citizens. One of its finest wives, mothers, daughters, sisters, aunts, teachers and friends. I find myself believing I will wake up and find the last few months were just a dream. When I face it as reality, it is hard not to ask “why?” It is hard not to think about the horrible hole that will be here in her place.
But if I had one more chance, I would say: Jenny, I believe I will run the race better because I knew you. I believe I will be less selfish and more worshipful…And I believe I will find a little black rat to hide around the house. What a legacy you left, my friend. When I see you again one day, I full expect to find you worshipping. Maybe at heaven’s keyboard. Maybe in heaven’s kitchen.
Your race is done and eternity has begun. Well done, Jenny Bostic, well done.
1 Praise the LORD! For it is good to sing praises to our God; for it is pleasant, and a song of praise is fitting.
2 The LORD builds up Jerusalem; he gathers the outcasts of Israel.
3 He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.
4 He determines the number of the stars; he gives to all of them their names.
5 Great is our Lord, and abundant in power; his understanding is beyond measure.
6 The LORD lifts up the humble; he casts the wicked to the ground.
7 Sing to the LORD with thanksgiving; make melody to our God on the lyre!
8 He covers the heavens with clouds; he prepares rain for the earth; he makes grass grow on the hills.
9 He gives to the beasts their food, and to the young ravens that cry.
10 His delight is not in the strength of the horse, nor his pleasure in the legs of a man,
11 but the LORD takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love.