My Grandma Taught Me

Yesterday, I shared about the Christian heritage of my grandmother.  (Click here to read it, too!)  Today I’d like to share a story I’ve written about some lessons that my grandma taught me.  I’ve submitted this for a Chicken Soup for the Soul publication and am praying it gets selected.  Enjoy!  (You are welcome to share it in it’s entirety, but please link back here!)

My grandma cross-stitched this for me as a college graduation gift.

I remember my Grandma Norma’s sparingly stocked kitchen cupboards. As soon as I arrived for visits, she would take me straight to her kitchen to show me a gallon of vanilla ice cream in the freezer, a gallon of milk in the fridge, a box of cereal in a cabinet, along with a big can of V8 that she’d picked up “just for me.” She’d encourage me to make myself at home, enjoying a bowl of cereal or ice cream anytime I wanted. She taught me to value people more highly than things.

I remember many, many trips to Perkins, usually two in the same day. She’d ask for the senior special and I’d order a heaping platter of chocolate chip pancakes and a large glass of tomato juice. What I remember most about those trips is my grandma’s obvious pride in me. She loved to introduce me to the widow-friends she’d meet there for breakfast, as well as every waiter and waitress in the place. She knew them all by name. She’d share with me pieces of their lives that she’d learned on other recent visits to Perkins. She taught me to be a good listener.

I remember singing full volume in Grandma’s old green pickup truck while we drove around town. My grandma took me along wherever she went. While she drove, we’d belt out classic children’s songs, one after another. “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad,” “Three Little Ducks,” and “BINGO were among our favorites. Grandma insisted it helped her stay awake I’m sure it did! but it also gave us something fun to do in the car and I looked forward to it. I could still hear her beautiful voice ringing in my mind as I carried on the tradition with my own children many years later. She taught me to make the most of every moment.

I remember my Grandma Norma driving 50 mph down the dusty, gravel road from her house. With the steering wheel in one hand and a stick of bright red lipstick in the other, she’d peek occasionally in the rear-view mirror to make sure it was applied just right. Then, she’d draw a brush a few times through her naturally wavy, gray hair and she was ready to go. She taught me to always look my best.

I remember helping my grandma sell antiques at her two-story barn turned antique shop, The Woodn Wheel.” She encouraged me to be bold. I learned to walk right up to adults of all shapes and sizes, to ask if they needed any help and show them around. She trained me how to ring up a customer’s bill and make change. She taught me to be confident.

I remember that whatever errand we had to run, Grandma greeted everyone she met with a charming smile, a pleasant word of encouragement and two listening ears. It seemed like she knew everyone, and I was proud that this was my grandma. She taught me to be friendly.

I remember spending many quiet evenings looking at her walls covered with framed black-and-white photos. I loved looking at the pictures of my mom, and her sister and brothers growing up on our family farm. But I especially loved the pictures of my grandparents when they were young. Their heartfelt love for one another radiated out of those old photos. Widowed just before her 40th anniversary, she taught me to value love and devotion.

I remember being just on the verge of womanhood and going shoe shopping with my grandma. I was a petite young lady with size 5 feet. My grandmother towered over me. She was seven inches taller and wore shoes seven sizes larger! She walked me right into a boutique shoe shop and asked the clerk for help. Grandma was looking for the largest size they carried, and I was looking for the smallest. She taught me to appreciate myself just the way I was.

I remember many years later when I was a young mom with two children. Grandma Norma had come to our home for a visit. She absolutely refused to “be a burden. Night or day, she could always be found working away at something – whether sweeping the sidewalk or washing the dishes. Now it was my turn to take care of her, but, no, she was still my grandma, teaching me lessons I needed to learn. She taught me to be a hard worker.

I remember near the end of my grandma’s life, making the long drive to visit her at a nursing home. Even though she’d lost her ability to speak clearly, she greeted everyone with a smile. Her face radiated peace like you don’t see in many people in her circumstances. Just before heading back home, Grandma got my attention, struggling to communicate with me. Holding tightly onto my arm, she looked longingly into my eyes, mouthing, “I love you.” And I knew she did. She taught me to tell those you love how you feel.

And I remember the very last time I saw her. When it was time for me to leave, Grandma was sitting in her wheelchair in the nursing home’s dining room. She waved to me through the great glass windows as I walked to my car. I knew I might not see her again. I looked in at her and waved back. She waved and waved, grinning at me through white teeth, and her trademark red lipstick. She taught me to believe that “a joyful heart is good medicine.”

Pass It On – in Memory of Norma Myers

Yesterday was the 12th anniversary of my grandmother’s passing – 12/12. My Grandma Norma was a very special person in my life.

Grandma Norma came from a long line of Christians. This song, written by one of my grandmother’s relatives, attests to her Welsh ancestors’ love of music, family, church, and Jesus.

My great-great-great-grandmother, Margaret Rowland, was a woman of faith whose “supreme ambition seemed to center in her children — to provide them with all possible advantages for an education, and to train them for useful Christian lives” despite severe trials, including the loss of her first husband when she had six young children. She “lived a life of service and devotion, not restricted to her own family, but many in the neighborhood where she lived had occasion to feel grateful for help in time of need.”

Margaret Rowland’s daughter, Harriet, (my great-great-grandmother) was blessed with seven children and almost 50 years of marriage to her husband, Isaac.

Harriet, too, was a Christian mother dedicated to helping others, especially her grandchildren — like my grandma! My great-grandmother, Anna, is pictured at the top right. She is the pleasant looking one with a sweet smile.

Anna and her husband, Will, had four sons and one daughter. My grandma Norma was that one daughter.

Anna and Will were blessed with over 50 years of marriage and a house full of grandchildren and great grandchildren.

My grandparents were married on Christmas Day, 1938, with my grandmother carrying her Bible and wearing her great-grandmother’s brooch. (Aren’t they handsome? Did you notice how tall my grandmother is? I take after my dad’s side of the family.)

My grandfather passed away from pancreatic cancer shortly before they celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary. Here they are in front of their restaurant, “The Purple Cow” with my older sister and me.

I have often wondered if my own faith has its roots in the faithful women who went before me. God heard their prayers, blessing them with generations of Christ-followers. As Paul wrote to Timothy of the faith that dwelt in Timothy’s mother and grandmother (2 Timothy 1:5) “and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” (2 Timothy 3:15)

I’m praying for these four right here. My greatest desire for them isn’t to be the smartest, richest, most famous, or most popular. It’s simply for them to know and love Jesus, to live for Him and His glory.

Allow me to encourage you, mothers, grandmothers, great-grandmothers, future mothers! You can pray for your sons and daughters, even for those not yet born. God hears you.

You can bless the generations to come by sharing the good news of the gospel and the truths of the scriptures. God will bless your efforts.

You can faithfully pass on your faith to the next generations. God is faithful. You can be faithful, too.

Heart check: How’s it going? Are you praying? Are your sharing?

TWIG

Christmas Celebrations + Body Life

Dear friends,

Are any of you like me, with grand plans for all the things you’d like to accomplish for the Lord?  I love Jesus so much and want to do ALL the things.  But, I’m just one person with just 24 hours in a day and those days are already full.  So, when God began impressing on me to reach out to the ladies in my neighborhood, I began to pray for God to send someone to work alongside me.  He did.

Through the wonders of Facebook, I found a fellow Christ-follower who also wanted to reach out to our neighbors.  She offered to make and distribute flyers to invite the ladies over, while I opened my home to host it.  Debbie even went so far as coming over 3 hours early to decorate and set up!

God blessed me with this passage conveniently scheduled that morning in my Scripture Typer app.  1 Corinthians 12:4-7 ” Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord;  and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.”

I love to talk, to pray, to share the good news of the love of Jesus.  And I got to do just that within the comfort of my beautifully decorated home.  Thank you, Jesus!  And thank you, Debbie!  And thank you to my 2-dozen neighbors who stopped by!

Friends, God didn’t design His body to operate as cut-off individual members.    We have different gifts, different passions, different ways to serve.  We need each other on purpose!

Heart-check: What God-sized goal is in your heart that you need someone to partner with you?  How are you trying to operate in your own strength, separated from the body of Christ?

Let me leave you with something I wrote several years ago, but seem to revise every year!

Keeping Christ in Christmas – Every Day of the Year

When a friend posted this question on an online forum, “How do we keep Jesus Christ and His birth at the center of our Christmas celebration?” I gave a lot of thought to my answer. This question is particularly important to me because I wasn’t raised in a Christian home, and yet, my family celebrated Christmas. We hung stockings, decorated a Christmas tree, exchanged gifts and played Santa, just like every other red-blooded American family.

By the time I was a teenager, I was an outspoken atheist who loved to argue with my Christian friends, and yet, I had little understanding of the Christian faith. I did not understand that Christians believed that Jesus Christ was God in the flesh and that Christmas was celebrated to remember the day He was born on earth to live as a man. It was not until I was 21-years-old and had many heated debates with a Christian young man (who later became my husband) that I heard the good news of the gospel – that I could be forgiven by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, turning away from my sin and following Him.

So, with that background, let me encourage everyone how truly important it is to keep the birth of Jesus at the focus of your Christmas celebrations. In response to the question, “How do we keep Jesus Christ at the center of Christmas?” the answer is to intentionally seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God, setting your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. (Colossians 3:1-2)

Yes, we festively decorate our home and Christmas tree. Yes, we buy gifts for our children and other members of our family. Yes, we drive around town and look at pretty Christmas lights. But, no, we don’t spend days and weeks putting up and taking down decorations. We refuse to go into debt feeding our kids’ appetites for stuff and our own appetite to impress others with our earthly possessions. And, no, we do not pack on December with a dozen holiday events because, truthfully, they take our family’s eyes off the true gift of Jesus and just add busy-ness to our already full lives.

After following Jesus for over twenty years, though, I have learned that the Christian life is so much more than a list of do’s and don’ts. It really is a living relationship with the great Creator, Ruler of the Universe, and Lord of my soul, so please do not see my suggestions as added rules and burdens for you to follow. Evaluate your own advent activities to see whether they are drawing your family to a closer relationship with Jesus or pushing you farther away. Truly, when you seek the Lord with all your heart, you will find Him. Jesus is truly our Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. His Word is a light to our feet. You can trust Him, and you can trust His Word.

With that said, here are some choices we’ve made to help us not lose Jesus amidst our Yuletide celebrations –

  • We taught our kids from a young age that playing pretend is fun, but it’s just pretend. God is real. Santa is pretend. The Bible is real. Fairy tales are pretend. Yes, we put out cookies for Santa. Yes, we stuffed stockings. It was fun! But our kids knew the truth. I decided that God wanted us to be truth bearers and I wanted my kids to trust that Mommy and Daddy always speak the truth. That didn’t mean we couldn’t play pretend – but they knew we are pretending.
  • We try to have most of our gifts bought by December 1, so our minds are not consumed by shopping. The stress of finding “the perfect gifts” is not good for the “Christmas spirit.”
  • We limit ourselves to three gifts per child. This limits not only the money, but also the time and energy, we spend on Christmas gifts.
  • I force myself to go to bed at night. If it’s not done by 10:30, then it doesn’t need to be done. Tomorrow is another day. A tired mommy is a cranky mommy.
  • Each of our four children chooses a gift for each of their siblings and parents and they use some of their own money to buy them. This helps them focus on giving, rather than just receiving.
  • When it’s time to open gifts, we each take turns giving our gifts to the recipients, rather than the recipients taking their gifts.
  • We enjoy a daily time of prayer, scripture reading, and discussion for the 25 days of advent.

Which leads me back to the original question: “How do we keep Jesus Christ and His birth at the center of our Christmas celebration?”

This certainly is a good question to ask, but may I suggest that the better question is this:  “How do we keep Christ at the center of every single day of the year?”  365 days-a-year we can choose to seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God, setting your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. I’m praying that this holiday season, and for all the days of our lives, that we would, trust in the LORD with all our hearts, leaning not on our own understanding, acknowledging Him in all our ways. (Proverbs 3:5-6)

You can download your own copy of Keeping Christ in Christmas here:
Keeping Christ in Christmas 2018

Thank You, Father, for the Cold

Thank You, Father, for the winter.
Thank You, Father, for the cold.
The cold drives me to snuggle in bed, cradling the Word of Life in needy hands.
The cold drives me to stay warm inside with my family, bundled in blankets, drinking steaming cups of hot chocolate.
Without the cold, I wouldn’t appreciate the warmth of the spring.
Without the cold, I couldn’t enjoy the beauty of fresh, white snow.
Without the cold, the tulips wouldn’t bloom and the wheat wouldn’t grow.
Thank You, Father, for the winter.
Thank You, Father, for the cold.

Dear Lord, Your Word tells me to give thanks in all circumstances, but some circumstances are easier to give thanks in than others. It’s easier to give thanks for prancing through fields of blooming flowers, than slogging through snow-soaked soil. I’m beginning to see, Father, that I’d never have the spring flowers without the winter cold.

It’s like some kind of crazy, divine geometry proof: If X, then Y. If not X, then not Y. If I hadn’t broken it off with Eric, I wouldn’t have married Bill. If Tommy hadn’t died, I wouldn’t have Nick. If Bill hadn’t lost his job, I wouldn’t have moved to Memphis. I wouldn’t be the woman that I am today were it not for the times of bitter cold. I am who I am exactly because of the hard things I’ve gone through. You’re teaching me faith and grace and perseverance and forgiveness and humility through those refining trials.

So, today, I say, “Thank You, Father, for the winter. Thank You, Father, for the cold.”