Did you ever have someone in your life you just couldn’t relate to?
I knew a woman when I was younger that I’d like to introduce to you. We lovingly called her “Crazy Aunt Janet.” Now, do not misunderstand me. She wasn’t crazy in the traditional sense of the word. Actually, in hindsight, she was one of the wisest ladies I ever met, and I can see now that she was planted strategically in my life.
Some might argue that Aunt Janet isn’t really my aunt. You see, my parents divorced when I was very young. When my mother remarried, I inherited a third branch on my family tree consisting of my step-father and his family. It is on that branch where you will find Aunt Janet, sister to my stepfather’s mom. Growing up, that family played a very important role in my life, but just how important, I would not see until many years later.
So, back to Aunt Janet. She was a cheek squeezer. You know the type. I could try to hide behind mother’s leg or even a piece of furniture, but it was as if my great Aunt Janet searched me out like a heat-seeking missile. When she would see me and my dimpled cheeks coming, her legs built momentum and she’d pounce on me with kisses and hugs, the whole while praising the Lord.
I remember Aunt Janet loved two things: elephants and Jesus. I remember that I never could relate to her fascination with the first, and to be honest, I couldn’t relate to the latter for most of my life either. That was until, I became crazy myself.
So what was so crazy about her, you might ask. No matter her circumstances or trials, this woman found reason to praise the Lord. Sometimes, her joy flowed so freely from her every pore that it would just splash all over you whether you wanted it to or not. In her presence, you would have to smile simply because she was full of love, kindness and inexplicable joy. And no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t relate to her spirit. She was so fun-loving and full of life. It just seemed crazy!
As I mentioned last week, my inability to understand my Aunt Janet all changed for me in my late twenties. Suddenly, I got it! I finally understood her constant joy. Don’t get me wrong, I still had/have bad days (even weeks), but it never lasts long especially when I recall to mind the influence she had over my life living the way that she did. She showed me what it looked like for a person to have a deep and meaningful relationship with Jesus. Her circumstances weren’t always the best, but she still found reason to praise God.
Shortly after I came to love Jesus the way I did, I had hoped to return to my hometown and share my news with Aunt Janet. If anyone would celebrate my newfound excitement with me, it would have been her. I longed to visit her. I heard she was spreading joy as a greeter at Walmart in Hanover, PA. No doubt, she was probably one of the best greeters they ever had! But unfortunately, before I was able to share my news with her, she lost her life in a car accident. I’ve got to tell you, though, it was probably the most joyful funeral I ever attended. Certainly, we mourned a loss that day, after all, she would be greatly missed. However, many of us cried tears of joy—joy because of the blessing and example she shared with us during her time here and joy for knowing she was in the arms of the one whose praises she sang all the days of her life.
Looking back on my life prior to my attitude adjustment, I realize that I spent countless years carrying a chip on my shoulder. I felt angry at God, thinking He didn’t care or perhaps had forgotten me. I couldn’t see Him working or even present in my life. This belief was a lie. Now, I see clearly how God planted many seeds along my journey—some people, some lessons—but, no matter the tool, He walked alongside me all the days of my life even when I tried to run far from Him.
The beautiful example He gave me when He planted my sweet Aunt Janet into my life was only one of many ways He was with me. It’s because of the crazy people like her from whom I learned to live a faith-filled life. I can only hope that my “crazy” lifestyle will affect someone else the way she affected me. Have you considered the impressions your lifestyle leaves on those around you? What type of legacy do you choose to leave?
“I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I’m persuaded, now lives in you also.” 2 Timothy 1:4
In loving memory of
Janet Wolford Bowman