1 Thessalonians 4:13 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope.
Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His Saints. Psalm 116:15
I could simply stop here and let the Word speak for itself about Frances Ivins. Precious hope, precious saint, precious friend.
Jim, thank you for leaving your door open, so we could love her to the end. Frances was so astonished at everyone who wanted to come see her when she got home, and how loved she felt. She left with as much grace as she lived with.
We were able to hold hands and chat a few days ago. She told me she was at peace. She knew where she was going. She loved angels, was always giving me something with angels on it. So I bought her a little angel at the Craft Show, made from olive wood from Bethlehem, and pressed it into her palm the night I went to see her at the hospital. We had just found out it would only be a few days. She said, “I’m taking it with me.” We cried. But she wasn’t afraid. She was at peace. She knew she’d be welcomed by her Creator, the One who invested in her soul so much of His creativity.
I can imagine her delight in the perfection of Heaven. Her wonder when she met her Savior for the first time, and touched His face. And He said, "Well done, good and faithful servant. Welcome home." Precious Hope.
But in a few weeks, after she worships a few days, and feasts a few days (she hasn’t’ been able to eat for a while, and she loves a good Mexican food lunch), she’ll probably have her little part of Heaven redecorated and organized, the pearly gates oiled and leveled, and the streets of gold swept and scrubbed. If I know Frances.
She made it easy to love her.
Her heart was big . Her vision was Kingdom minded. Her touch made everything better.
We became friends when Frances started working in the Resource Room. Things just clicked for us. She was trained in good preschool ministry long before I arrived, and we had the same heartbeat for doing it the right way. Frances helped many inexperienced teachers tow the line of biblically and developmentally appropriate activities by her gentle guidance and helping them see a better way to teach, guiding them to use the curriculum, giving them a better activity to use instead of the one they had picked out, or jazzing up a mundane Bible learning activity with a little bit of pizzazz.
She did it for the kids. She gave in and filled orders way after the stated deadlines, b/c if she didn’t’ the kids wouldn’t have anything on Sunday mornings …she told me time and time again she did it for the kids. She kept little pictures of children taped to her computer screen who needed praying for, when she got a picture or an email about a child who was ill, or in need. She did it for the kids.
But she did it for the teachers too. She supported us. She enhanced us. She trained us. She suffered through us, and with us and prayed for us. I can see her rolling her eyes at me with all my last minute plans, and saying, “oh brother!” BUT she’d stay late or come early to do what she could to make me successful…whether it was decorating for a teacher’s meeting, or blowing up a balloon arch for an extra umph on Promotion Day or decorating for Christmas ADVENTure. We moved Nativity Scenes around from here to there, sometimes with minutes to spare…and she and Jim came earlier and stayed later than everyone else to make it happen, and put it back in order when it was done and everyone else had long gone home.
Nothing was more beautiful or satisfying than when Frances decorated the chapel for Christmas ADVENTure, our family worship celebration to begin the Christmas season focused on the true, biblical meaning of Christmas. The plaid bows she had artfully made were fluffed just right on the pews, the Christmas lights sparkled in the pine trees, and the manger scene sat right under the stained glass – the focal point of the entire worship celebration. I remember her happy smile, because it was all so breathtaking…and her heart was that the children would walk into the chapel with wonder, and be astonished at the simplicity and beauty of the baby King.
She was our backbone. She had an unparalleled commitment to kids ministry, to excellence. To organization. She was classy. And her love, her big heart, and her work ethic made us all better.
Frances did all things well. She was humble. She wanted to point to the Father, never to Frances. Always behind the scenes, never wanting the glory… Precious Saint.
For me, a trusted friend. She always called me her boss, and I always corrected her and said, “friend.” But the level of trust we shared was unspoken. She was so organized. She worked hard. She kept an eagle eye over things for me downstairs in the preschool area. She took the Resource Room to the next level – churches all over the convention come to tour her Resource Room and ask how to set one up like it. She was visionary. She kept things running that I never even knew about, she expected and provided excellence. I know there were times she actually scrubbed bathroom floors or light switches with toothbrushes, to make sure they were clean enough, because I know she loved her church, loved her job, understood kids ministry, and wanted things CLEAN! She would say, “The Lord deserves our best. We can do better than this.” I know she also had Pa building things in his workshop so we’d have all the things we needed at half the cost! She worked part time in the Resource Room for many years, but it wasn’t just a part time job for her—she enlarged her boundaries, she lived and breathed it, worked at home on her computer at night, always thinking of things, always pinching pennies to keep us under budget, always excellent—so we finally had to make her full time to try to compensate for all those extra hours! Frances even texted me one night from the hospital at 11:50 p.m., in ALL CAPS: I MISS MY JOB!!!
But how could we ever repay her? She served wholeheartedly. Her creativity. Her joy in serving, behind the scenes. Her way of making everything special—just going the extra mile. Her persnickityness to have everything in its place and everything in order. That was our Frances.
She always threw a party on the Thursday of Vacation Bible School. Now anyone who has ever taught in VBS knows that on Thursday you literally hit the wall. That’s the day you’re totally exhausted, the kids are tired and cranky, you haven’t made up your beds or had a home cooked meal all week long, and you’re wondering if you’re going to make it even one more day. So Frances throws a swimming party. So we can relax and chat and laugh, and soak up some little measure of friendship… She cooks this amazing Mexican taco casserole (who knows when in the world she has had time to do that), has an immaculately clean house, and invites her resource room staff and various friends over for lunch and the afternoon. As long as you want to stay. A friend party.
A true friend of the heart, we trusted each other. Nothing to hide between us, we prayed for each other. And each others kids. And each others grandkids. She Understood. Knew each others strengths and weaknesses. Knew each others hurts and pains. Let our guard down, together. Because of love. Because of trust.
She crossed over in faith. We grieve, but not as the rest who have no hope. We love you, precious friend. Have you in our hearts.