“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”
2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV
I have been thinking a lot about my Great Grandma Marge lately. I have a couple pictures of her tucked away in my room, a daily reminder of the gift she was to me. She and I were thick as thieves.
I loved being in her presence and her home.
As a child, I referred to her as Grandma Great, and that name stuck with her for the rest of her life. She was great indeed. The very best. Grandma Great’s house looked like a white cottage out of a Disney movie. We would pull up in our station wagon, I would jump out and run inside her house. There was always a crystal china bowl full of Whoppers waiting for me on the kitchen counter, right next to her nintendo – her Nintendo, that she loved to play. Gosh, I love her for that.
Her home was cozy – shag carpet, wood paneling and velvety chairs. When I was there I just wanted to sink in. It felt safe and warm. She had a wooden end table in her living room where she kept Pacman consoles and other gadgets and games. There was plenty to do in her home. She had a small electric organ that we would play on for hours, just creatively composing our own music. The best place in her house was the attic. It was a treasure chest of well organized belongings from many different eras of her life. I remember there being an abundance of plastic fruit up there. It looked so real that I was fascinated by it. I loved exploring up there.
When we were at Grandma Great’s I always got to have sleepovers with her. It was the very best. Every night she went to bed in cotton night gowns, with a little bit of lace around the trim. She had permed gray and white curls that beautifully contrasted her stunning olive complexion. She was witty, the most hilarious and spicy woman I’ve ever known. She loved to laugh. Even into my adult years she would poke me with her crooked, arthritic, pointer finger to get a rise out of me. I never once questioned or doubted her love for me. She told me that she loved me every time we said goodnight and goodbye. I would wake up in the morning to the view of her soft wrinkly face. Her mouth usually hung open as she snored away. She was such a snorer but I didn’t even mind.
Grandma Great was a gamer. It was tradition to have several Rummy tournaments every time we visited. She would plate her homemade rocky road candy and divinity fudge – once the candy was out, we knew it was ‘time to get the pants whooped off ya’, as she would say. She included me in the game from as young as I can remember. Whether I was perched right next to her or playing a hand of my own, I always felt welcome and a part of the fun. She would get SO riled up playing cards. If she was playing, everyone wanted a seat at the table. I have several times witnessed her jumping out of her seat to smack someone’s hand when they were taking a card she wanted. It was the same every time, squeals, a yelp and slapping followed by bellowing laughter all around. If it happened to be a card she had been waiting a long time for, you better believe you would find that crooked pointer finger right in your face, wagging away as she told you off in her own threatening but hysterical way. She was always quick to smile and her dancing black eyes were snappy and bright. She loved to laugh but at the end of the day, she would fight you for an Ace. No one doubted for a second that if a fight broke out she would win – feisty thing.
I had sleepovers with Grandma Great into adulthood. When David was out of town I would bring Elijah over and we would cozy in for the night. We had a routine together – our favorite instant french vanilla coffee (which I only drank with her, because I am actually a coffee snob, but she could make even instant coffee a treat – go figure!?), Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune, followed by Dateline and then bed. One of my funniest memories of her was at three in the morning, I woke up to find her hopping around the room on one foot yelling, “oooooh, oooooo, ooooh!!!!!!” through bouts of laughter, while holding her other foot mid air. She had a cramp in her foot. We laughed so hard we both were crying and eventually she was able to get back in bed and go to sleep. On one of those sleepover nights I took her trick or treating for the first time in her life. she fell over a potted plant in the dark and skinned her knee and elbow, we just about died laughing… (clearly, I got my calamitous gene from her). She did get candy out of the ordeal so I think it was worth it. We were quite mischievous together – no one made me laugh more than she did when we were stirring up trouble or mid – shenanigan.
She was always honest. You never had to wonder what she was thinking – she wasn’t afraid to speak her mind. She usually followed everything up with either humor or a sincere I love you. We talked about everything. She was always there for me – never judgey, just present and honest when she needed to be. I always felt unconditionally loved by her. In the last years I had with her, David and I would occasionally take her to church with us. We would sit in the back row and mid service she would always reach over and hold my hand. I loved holding her wrinkly, boney hand. Those quiet, more serious moments were few and far inbetween – I treasured them then and I still treasure them now.
Wherever she was there was joy.
She walked through every season clothed in strength and dignity and she laughed at the times to come and the moments she presently found herself in. She was the essence of joy and an extension of unconditional love rolled up in a ball of fire.
Grandma Great has been on my mind so much this season. Here is why. Her story is a powerful one. She is proof that our circumstances do not dictate or define who we are or who we will be. Her life story is also evidence that people change. Someone needs to hear that today. What if that was the framework with which we all went into this next year with?
Let 2019 stand all on it’s own in a new way. Let the aim of this year be: You and I, living out all we are called to be. Unchained and uninhibited – not letting the enemy use our circumstances, trials, and past to define us, but rather, propel us. Believing that Jesus is always at work, believing that Jesus has the power to change me – to change you – and to change that thorn in your flesh too. No one is too far out of the reach of the transformation power and love of the Father. Amen?!
My Great Grandma grew up in instability and poverty. She lived through the depression. My Great Grandpa was a farmer and a Millwright at a cannery. Grandma Great took whatever job she could to supplement their income and provide for their three children – she picked berries, worked in the cannery too and was never too proud to work laborious jobs. She modeled that there is dignity in diligent, hard work. Their home was a one room shack. They lived without electricity or running water for the first three years and never had indoor plumbing. My Great Grandpa died at a young age leaving my Grandma Great even further acquainted with struggle, pain and loss.
My Grandma shared with me that in her childhood my Grandma Great was not very affectionate or generous with her words. She worked hard, “her fingers to the bone”, in her words. Grandma Great was matter of fact, no nonsense and got things done. It’s how she survived. My Grandma never even remembers her mother saying I love you as a child. They were a poor German farming family and even though she knew she was loved, she never heard it.
When my Grandma was an adult she intentionally and bravely told my Grandma Great that she loved her… and just kept doing so every time she spoke to her until Grandma Great felt comfortable enough to say it back. Through her love, my Grandma introduced my Great Grandma to Jesus.
Over time Grandma Great softened. To the point that when I came around I could not even imagine a brighter, more vibrant, kinder soul. She was still a hard worker, spicy and honary – but in it everything she exuded a love and a deep inner joy that made me want to be just like her. I never left her presence without her saying “I love you!” and smacking a wet kiss on my cheek.
Grandma Great still experienced sorrow and great loss over the years. She buried a second husband, was a breast cancer survivor, lost a grandson in an accident, a granddaughter, a great granddaughter to cancer, and even had bury one of her own sons. She experienced a lot of life. Through it all she only became more beautiful. Nothing about her circumstance defined who she was. God made a way for in her wilderness. He brought rivers of joy into a lifetime of hardship. Even in her old age – He was always at work, doing a new thing.
His love defined her life.
- We are never too far off for His presence, power and love to reach us. Psalm 139
- We are never too young to be transformed by Him and effective in His Kingdom. 1 Timothy 4:6-16 (especially verse 12)
- We will never be too old for Him to change us in eternal ways. Hebrews 11 (Many of the greats were ancient!)
He has new and beautiful things for each of is in 2019. Are you ready for it?
“Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.”
Isaiah 43:19 ESV