The kids that used to drive her crazy were mostly grown. She now helped raise her granddaughter and attempted to share Jesus with ladies in Appalachian Ohio who did not know her Savior.
I remember when I used to find her in the living room, before the sun rose, on her knees, her Bible open, and her head bowed. I knew I was witnessing the secret to how she loved and lived when she got up off her knees. In the pages of that book, her God convinced her that he was still in the business of life-changing work. He proved it with how he changed her life.
First Missionary I Knew
So, she made it her business to take his message to everyone she knew. She started by helping the hurting by writing them cards of encouragement and making calls and visits to check on them. She wrote lesson plans and graded papers, working without pay as the kindergarten teacher at their church-run school. She wanted the teenage girls in her church to know God’s way was the most satisfying way, so she studied diligently and taught a weekly discipleship class.
In the summers, she and I would load into the car and drive beside those beckoning creeks, following the twists and turns, to visit ladies in the hills who chewed tobacco and didn’t have any teeth — or a relationship with Jesus. If she knew you, she loved you — and wanted you to know of an even greater love than hers.
My grandma was the first missionary I knew, although she never moved out of southeastern Ohio. She was the first person to tell me about Jesus, living his mission right where she was. God helped her turn sorrowful regrets she had from not raising her own kids in a Christian home into faithfulness to teach me about him. She lived and breathed the word of God and packed his truth in my heart from the time I could barely speak. I was the 3-year-old memory verse champion at their church because of her.
I, like young Timothy, saw faith first in my grandmother (2 Timothy 1:5). And soon, her faith became my faith too. This gracious Father, who had compassion on this fatherless little girl, accepted me as his very own daughter. And my precious grandma was kneeling there beside me as I first acknowledged by need and asked Jesus to save me from my sins.
Bible in the Creek
A few years later, I called their house to see if she made it home safely in the snow storm. I knew something was horribly wrong. My grandpa couldn’t answer me but asked to talk to my uncle instead.
The car had to be removed with the jaws of life from the creek where it sunk after spinning out of control on the snow-covered roads. Her possessions were found down the creek after it thawed.
I remember someone handing me her Bible. The pages, now dry, were crinkled and brittle from being wet. I held it in my hands and opened it to see her markings covering the pages. The ink was blotchy and her handwriting faded. I may have been the only one who knew that before its pages were wet with creek water, they were wet with her tears. Filled with tears of a kneeling mother praying urgently for her grown children to come to faith. Tears of a friend burdened for her neighbors to trust Jesus. Tears of a weeping grandmother asking God to protect and grow her young granddaughter to become a godly lady.
Cling to Grace
Grandmothers, do not underestimate your influence over your grandkids. What they see you value and the priorities that shape your day are teaching them. What you talk about, and who you talk to, communicates as well.
You may not love their home life or the way their parents do things, but for the sake of their souls and their future, love them enough to give them something more than toys, sweets, clothes, and trips. Give them something that thirty years later, when you’re dead and gone, still will be bearing fruit in their lives and in others’ lives because of your intentionality, selflessness, sacrifice, and grace-driven persistence.
Few could empathize with regret like my grandma. Tears surfaced quickly when she talked about her past before coming to Christ. And so, to you, dear ones haunted by the guilt of wasted years and missed opportunities, she would meet your tear-filled eyes with hers, hand you a tissue, and say, “Cling to grace! Nothing will motivate you to serve and love like realizing how much Jesus has served and loved you! The tenderness of his dealings with you, pursuing you and bringing you to himself, will be your example of moving toward others, in your living room, beside the creek, or down the city block. You don’t know how long you have, but you know you have right now. So, with grace behind you and before you, don’t waste your grandmothering.”