My grandmother died yesterday. She would have been 91 years old in March. As I thought about our years together, I thought of all of the very many gifts she gave me. Not material gifts, for she and my grandpa never had very much money. The gifts she gave me were the very best kind. They are gifts I use regularly and treasure in my heart.
Granny gave me the gift of being raised in a family that loved the Lord. God bless the person who invited her into church one Sunday morning as she stopped to rest with her baby stroller in front of that building. Those people studied the Bible with her and she soon became a Christian. The church family that invited her in would become my church family once the baby in that stroller grew up, married and had me.
Granny didn’t stop there though. She gave me the gift of knowing the joy of sharing the Lord with others. She shared the Gospel with the rest of my family. Before long my great-great-grandmother, my grandfather, two great aunts and uncles and even my mom and dad became Christians as a direct or indirect result of her influence. I really have no idea how many people over the years became Christians because of my granny’s influence. It really doesn’t matter though. I know until the very end of her life sharing the Gospel with others was important to her.
Granny gave me a love of the Bible. My earliest memories of my grandparents are waking up and stumbling into the kitchen to see them reading their Bibles. I can’t think of a time in my grandparent’s house when a Bible wasn’t sitting out on the table. I guess you know it was usually open!
Granny taught me the power of prayer. Even those who didn’t really believe in or worship God would ask her to pray for them. They knew in their hearts that God would listen to this sweet lady who loved Him so much. I think in every conversation I ever had with her, she told me she was praying for me. I have to say that is one of the best gifts ever – to know you are covered in prayer.
Granny gave me the gift of tenacity. For a mild mannered, sweet, Christian lady, she could be stubborn! What I loved though, was that the thing she was the most stubborn about was the hope that her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren would love the Lord and obey Him. If she felt one of us was wondering away from the Lord, you were going to hear it and hear it. I am not sure if her heart’s desire was more that she got to go to heaven and be in the presence of God or if it was that we would all be there with her!
My granny also gave me the gift of cooking with love. My cousins who lived near Granny were all about her chocolate chip cookies. My family lived several hours away so we loved the sticky buns she gave us for breakfast. Somehow she always managed to have plenty to send home with us too.
As I learned to cook, I realized it wasn’t her recipe that mattered. It was just an average recipe. It was the love she put into them. I loved helping her make buns and chatting to her about my life. Once I had my own daughter, I watched as she would hop up to the counter and continue the tradition of helping Granny make sticky buns for the next morning.
Granny didn’t just cook for her family though. She cooked for anyone who needed a meal of love. It might be a new neighbor, the preacher or someone who was ill or sad. She knew it wasn’t really the food that helped, but the knowledge that someone loved them enough to cook for them. Our house currently looks like a bakery exploded in it as I bake for various people I want to show I care about them. Granny gave me the gift of knowing how to help people with a simple cookie or bread recipe.
Granny gave me the gift of serving others with a happy heart. One of my favorite conversations with my granny happened probably a year ago. After asking me about the church work my family was doing, she shared something. She had just been to the nursing home to visit the “old people”. Now mind you, granny was about 89 years old at the time. I would love to know how old those old people really were! All my granny saw though was that those people needed to be served and she went with a light heart to do just that.
Granny knew that sometimes the best gift you can give other people is the gift of letting them serve you. She new that new Christians needed to practice serving on people who would encourage and love on them for their service. In the current climate of selfishness and rudeness, Granny knew that not everyone knows how to be gracious. She would let others serve her and then shower as much love and gratefulness on them as she could.
Granny knew the value of rest. Now I have to admit, she took a lot of teasing from the family about her naps. I realized she started taking naps at least in her 30’s! She was always after us to rest too, which never ceased to amuse us. I realize now though that she knew we were all very driven, hard workers. We have all worked ourselves to the point of exhaustion more than once. Granny understood the concept of Sabbath and why Jesus often went off to pray. To serve, sometimes you just need to refill your own tank. Granny wanted to give us the gift of rest so we could continue to teach and serve others.
My daughter has somehow inherited one of my very favorite characteristics of my granny. Granny was the original nothing sad, nothing bad lady. She always, always saw the silver lining. More importantly, she always saw the good or the potential for good in others. When one of us would be furious at someone, she would remind us that often the person was mean because they were hurt themselves in the past. Someone’s behavior might hurt or puzzle her, but she would never lose faith that they would change. She never doubted that their hearts were good somewhere down deep.
Granny gave me my love of mission work. From my earliest memories, Granny would tell us about the adventures of the missionary Juan Monroy. Her hope was to someday get to visit him on the mission field. I was so excited years later when he came to visit the congregation I was attending in NYC. I couldn’t wait to be the one who told her of his latest adventures!
Granny loved to hear our stories as we ventured into mission work, first in the inner cities of the US where I lived and then in Mexico as we worked with a children’s home. She never got to go overseas, but in the last years of her life she was able to go visit a children’s home in SC. She was so excited to get to go to a mission field and deliver some help. We decided as a family that there would be nothing that would thrill Granny more than instead of people sending flowers to her funeral they would help that children’s home.
The best thing about the gifts my granny gave me is that I can share them with others and still have them for myself. My hope is that one day she and I can sit in Heaven and talk with all of those we shared my granny’s gifts with. I know she would enjoy that!