Thursday, January 16, 2014

Lessons from Grandma

Our return to fostering was put on hold a little longer by the death of my grandma last Saturday.  She was diagnosed within the last year with widespread cancer and was 84 years old, so the call was not a complete shock, but we also hadn't known for the past several months when this day might come.  Sounds sort of like foster care.  I ended up carpooling with my cousins one state away to drive over 30 hours to get to the funeral and back.  It was a little insane, but fitting, as Grandma and Grandpa were known for dropping everything, driving across the country, and knocking on one of their kids' doors to announce they'd come to visit.

I am truly inspired by the life my grandma lived.  I thought I'd share a few things I gleaned from her life and the stories told about her this past week.  I thought some of it applied to how we get through the stress of fostering life and how we love others: foster children, bio families, etc.

Sing with joy. 
Grandma sang in the kitchen in the morning: "Thank you Lord for the good things.  Thank you Lord for the things you've given me.  Thank you Lord for the good things, like a hot cup of tea."  Grandma sang with her children in the car to keep them from fighting each other.  Grandma sang songs to Jesus and soaked up the words.  She passed this healing joy of singing to my mom, who passed it down to me.  I sing happily with my children, but when I find myself in some of those moments where I'm worried I'll lose it with the kids, I make myself sing to replace saying something I'll regret.  Next time I'll have to remember to sing "Thank you Lord for the good things."

Remind everyone that they are important and special.
Grandma had Alzheimer's and dementia in the last several years of her life, but sometimes it was hard to know if she recognized you or not, because she embraced everyone with love like she'd known them all her life.  Yes, she loved her children and grandchildren in special ways, but she got it that those weren't the only people who needed her love.  Over the years as a missionary, pastor's wife, and at one point running a shelter for victims of domestic violence, she made everyone feel like they were special.  My uncle told her this, intending it as a compliment, and she told him with a stern eye, "Honey, they ARE special."

Life your life as a ministry to others.
Grandma was passionate about women's ministry and their church, but she also lived out her Christian life in everyday ways, through food, through providing a place to sleep, through listening.  She had a keen awareness of people who were hurting around her, and she wasn't afraid to show love to them.  I share her awareness, but I have a lot to learn about the boldness to show love.  Around a month before she died, she wasn't able to do many daily tasks and didn't recognize her children much of the time.  Yet at a dollar store, she noticed a clerk was sick and having a rough day.  She took the clerk's hands in hers and said, "You don't feel well, do you," and proceeded to encourage her.

Love Jesus.
Grandma treasured her time with her Bible, her time praying, and her time singing to Jesus.  She lost many of the things she was able to do in her last years of life, but when you stripped away the layers of who she was, you just saw more of Jesus.  She was praying in her last hours.  She lived out her love for Jesus actively and practically, but she also just loved His presence.  I have so far to go in this way.  I latch onto my practical Christian acts, my sacrifices of foster care, and try to patch them together into who I am as a Christian.  I need to learn from Grandma and just be still and love my God who first loved us.

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