She was small in stature, barely five foot tall, but she was big in spirit. Her name was Grace and she was my grandmother.
I spent a lot of time with Grandma when I was young. My mother, divorced when I was a toddler, worked all day so Grandma watched my brother and me. My core values and actions are a reflection of this amazing woman.
Noise and laughter filled her home, especially during Christmas, when we not only celebrated the birth of Jesus, but also the “birth” of our family. Grandma and Grandpa married on Christmas Eve in 1924 when Grandma was just sixteen. Grandpa always said he fell in love with her when he first “saw her in her crib.”
Grandma was devoted to Grandpa. Her eyes sparkled when she talked about him. Whenever they went out, her hand snuggled securely in his. I’m sure they had their arguments, they never fought in front of the family.
Grandma controlled her family firmly with love and a deep faith. Even with nine children and eventually multitudes of grand- and great-grandchildren, she made everyone feel valued. She was the pillar of the family, the glue that kept them connected. As the children grew up and left home, she wrote them letters heralding family events: weddings, births, graduations, and so forth. The letters often came with advice and encouragement when needed.
I remember going through difficult times with my mother when I was sixteen. Grandma’s letters of comfort and encouragement helped me get through. One letter said “don’t worry; at sixteen most girls have trouble getting along with their mothers. Boy, could I tell you stories about your mother when she was sixteen.” She never told me those stories, however. I can imagine some of them, especially since Grandma often told me, “You and your mother are so much alike; I’m not surprised you are always butting heads.”
Grandma’s faith built the foundation of my spiritual life. I remember her taking me to Sunday school and sitting beside me in the church pew. Grandma loved God and her life reflected that love. She lived her beliefs in the way she shared, the way she worshiped, and the way she gave to others, in her family, in her neighborhood, and in the world.
She was active in our church, giving her time and talents wherever she was needed. She was the one who led the drive each year for Lutheran World Relief, an organization that gathered clothing for the needy. For many years, she maintained our church’s Cradle Roll. She kept track of the new babies either born to members of the congregation or the ones that became members when their families joined the church. The Cradle Roll included any baby from birth to three years old. Throughout the first three years of the child’s life. Grandma would send the parents letters with suggestions for teaching the little ones about Jesus and God. She also sent birthday cards, baptismal anniversary cards, Christmas cards, and little remembrances. The encourage the entire congregation to send also cards, Grandma hung a board in the back of the church with little lamb cut outs showing the name, birthday, and baptismal date of each baby on the Cradle Roll.
As the child approached three-year of age, Grandma would send information to the parents about the child starting Sunday School. Her goal was to keep these families involved in the church and let them know they and their child were important to the congregation.
She believed (and taught me to believe) that God is so generous and loving that there is no way that He will not provide for us. Every month when she wrote out checks to pay the bills, she always wrote out the first one for the church. If the money was tight and she had very little left over to make it through the month, she would say, “We will trust God to provide the rest.”
Bible reading with the family brought the day to a close. The time spent learning about God and His Word doubled as a reading lesson for the younger children. Experienced and inexperienced readers alike took turns reading the devotions, scriptures, and illustrative stories.
As an incentive to improve our reading skills, my grandmother presented each child with their own Bible as soon as he or she was able to read, not recite from memory, a Bible verse. Written on the inside panel she wrote the verse read by the child, a special verse of her choosing, and the date of presentation. I was proud to get my “Grandma Bible” by reading John 3:16. I still have it and love to read it. It even has a new “made by Grandma” cover because the original one cracked from constant use.
Mouthwatering aromas often wafted from Grandma’s kitchen: savory roasts, fried chicken, or fresh baked goodies. Bread dough morphed into delicious, sticky sweet roils, warm bread, or stacks of fried dough dripping with butter and cinnamon sugar.
I learned baking from Grandma. I learned to make homemade noodles, fruit pies, and bread. I remember standing at the table kneading little bits of dough and forming tiny loaves of bread. She also taught me how to cook fried chicken and pot roast.
Grandma loved to write poetry. Each poem, a piece of her life put on paper, convey humor, pride, and faith. Although she wrote on various topics, her favorites were her faith and her family. She wrote about special family occasions, such as a grandchild’s birth, first day of school, or graduation. Her poems always praised God’s magnificence, and His glory. Our church often printed the poems written about church community and Biblical celebrations in the bulletin for the entire congregation to enjoy.
When I read her poetry, I see the places she describes. The thought that an “ordinary” person (although, to me, Grandma wasn’t ordinary) could write so magically inspires me. I want my readers to feel like they are somewhere else, doing other things, and not living in their mundane world.
Grandma instilled in me a willingness to grow. Because of her, I have attempted to do things in my life I might not have tried. In her sixties she learned to drive a car because Grandpa’s sight began to fail and he could no longer do so.
She was my first role model of a strong, independent woman. Although she ran her household with fierce intensity, she valued her life and did things to build her self-worth. She attended church, volunteered her time, wrote poetry, and worked in her garden.
My Grandma’s been gone for quite some time now, but I think about her every day and I find myself repeating her advise often. I call them “Grandma-isms” because they always start out “My Grandma always said…”She was a wonderful woman and I really miss her. I am blessed to have had a grandmother like her in my life.