I’m sitting across from Grandma at the motor home table. We’re on our way to Sierra Bible Camp. Her hands are crossed demurely in front of her, her face tranquil and composed. She is beautiful. Not just beautiful. Looking back, the word “holy” comes to mind.
I remember thinking, “I want to be just like my Grandma when I grow up.”
I am nothing like Grandma.
I am brash where she is quiet. I am short-tempered where she is patient. Stormy where she is peaceful.
Also, I hate to cook.
Most of all, where Grandma was content to serve a few—her family, her church, her beloved husband—I am ambitious. As a child, I wanted to be the first woman to ride in the renowned Spanish Riding School of Vienna. As a teenager and young adult, I decided I would someday be a missionary in Africa, somehow single-handedly sweeping in to save the continent. Now, I have big plans to become a famous writer whose words impact millions, whose books top the lists.
In reality, I have done none of those things. I am forty now, and I have never been to Africa. I’ve never written a bestseller—in fact, my blog has never even gone viral. And the last time I rode a horse, it was a sway-backed mare in the gravel yard of a North Carolina farm.
When my children were quite young, the third still an infant, I sat in silent worship one day pondering these things. Instead of worshipping, I pondered how little I had done. How boring and banal my life was. The endless meals. The endless diapers. The endless, soul-sucking laundry.
How different I am from my grandma. Grandma, sitting silently in worship with the child me, holding my hand, sharing her little stool with my little feet. I suspect Grandma never spent her worship time silently complaining about her life. More likely she was thinking how grateful she was to have her little granddaughter’s hand in her own.
Grandma, as far as I know, never went to Africa either—we have that in common, I guess. I’m pretty sure she never wrote a bestselling book or rode in a famous horseback riding troupe either. Grandma knew that those things are not necessary to a beautiful, a holy life. She serves a God who attends to the falling of a single sparrow and the loss of a single sheep.
Rather than look for big, “important” things to do, Grandma took care of those God placed in her path, following Jesus’s admonition to love her neighbor. She trusted that to be the most important thing she could do.
And it was amazing.
All who knew her loved her and were blessed by her grace, her hospitality, her generosity, her faith, and her strength.
Grandma lived radiantly in God’s love and this world is a better place for having had her in it.
When I think of Grandma, I expect I will always think of her in sunlight, brightly reflecting God’s own light, walking hand in hand with her beloved Ted Mann, turning to smile up into his face. And I hope when it’s my turn to leave this life, Grandma and Grandpa will greet me on the other side, still holding hands.
You see, I am ambitious. And my greatest ambition is to live my life as radiantly as my grandma lived hers.
*Today I read this for the more than 100 people who drove from all over California, and flew in from all over the country, to honor my grandmother’s memory. The memorial was peaceful, joyful, and (for all practical purposes) flawless–just like my grandma.