Ahhhh

“Grandma, can I hold you?”
“Sure, baby, climb up here on my lap, and you can hold me as long as you want. Mmmm, I love for my little buddy to hold his grandma.”

“Grandma?”
“Yes, sweetie?”
“What do you want to be when you grow up?”
“Hmm, let’s see. I think, hmm, I think I want to be a grandma when I grow up.”
“You already are a grandma!”
“Oh, that’s right! Well, then I guess I got to be what I wanted to be.”
“You’re silly, grandma.”
“No, you’re silly!”
“No, you’re silly, grandma!”
“And what do you want to be when you grow up?”
“Spiderman.”
“Wow, that’s pretty neat. So you can help people?”
“Yeah, and fly around and make webs and catch the bad guys.”
“I’m glad you want to be the good guy.”
“And I’ll take care of you and granddaddy and mommy and Phil and A.J.”
“I know you will, darling.”

“Grandma, can I live with you forever?”
“You can live with me as long as you want.”

“Grandma?”
“Yes?”
“I love you.”
“I love you too, buddy. I love you too.”

Soul Power

My friend and co-worker said to me today, “Isn’t it strange that someone so involved in the church has so many difficulties in their life?”

She was talking about me. I had just finished a tirade about the abuses of one of my family members against the rest of their family. I was tired and stressed, and I uncharacteristically “blew a gasket.” I apologized for the outburst, but I could see the thoughts about it all written on her face. To my friend’s way of thinking, it just seems odd that I, who have been a Christian for so many years and have devoted my life to serving Christ, should have so much difficulty in my life.

Several years ago Billy Graham’s daughter, Ruth, wrote a book titled In Every Pew Sits a Broken Heart. As I read her book, I personally identified with her sentiment. It also caused me to look around at the people in the pews in my own church. Yep, there’s that sweet little 90-something couple who have been married since they were 16 years old. They are still sweethearts after all these years. Because of the cancer eating away at her body, she probably has less than a year to live. In that row sits a mother who lost her young adult daughter a couple years ago and is now raising her grandchild. The teenagers in that pew—wow, the daily difficulties they face in their home lives and other relationships. The list goes on, pew after pew. And still they show up, week after week, worshipping God and finding what they need from their relationship with Him and their fellowship with other believers.

How do we who are “so involved with the church” continue to function, considering the difficulties we face in our lives? For me, the answer is my relationship with God. When I accepted Christ as my Savior at the age of 18, I never once looked back. I’ve never regretted that decision, and I’ve found the strength I need in that relationship for every challenge I have faced over these many years. The life I live is most certainly not the life I requested. However, the God I serve is everything He ever promised He would be.

When my natural inclination is to stay in bed curled up in a fetal ball and give in to depression, the Lord stays near and gently whispers His love into my spirit. When the only place that seems acceptable to me is lying on the floor for lack of personal strength, the Lord sits beside me and strokes my head until I am able to gather the strength He gives and pick myself up. God did not guarantee me that I would never have problems. He just vowed to never leave me, and He never has.

T.D. Jakes calls it “living through the dying places.” I believe that says it very well.

Umbrella

In early fall of that year, one phone call and two words changed our lives forever. The storm clouds that had been building in our lives for the past two years had finally burst and nothing would ever again be the same. Our precious child, the “sparkle” in the family, was pregnant. This dear child had ignored all the teachings we had ever drilled into her and now a little life was on its way. We were devastated, deeply wounded and rubbed raw with emotion. My husband and I clung to each other for comfort. We walked around for days as if in mourning over a loss. Indeed, it was a loss–the death of nearly every ideal we had carried with us through our married life; the death of believing that if you do everything as right as you can, it will all turn out “good.” And now the consequences this child had screamed at us that would be hers to carry were ours to carry as well. The consequences of our baby’s behavior affected every single member of her family, and still do to this day.

For years my husband and I taught our children about the umbrella of protection in their lives. We drew an umbrella and explained to them that God was the cover of the family; under that was the husband, appointed by God as the head of the family; next came the wife, who was under the authority of the husband; and then came the children, who were under the authority of their parents. We cautioned them to stay safe under the umbrella, to obey God’s order of family “government.” Safety could be found under that umbrella. But if any member should step out from under the authority of God and change the order of things, devastation could occur.

At about the age of 16 our daughter began stepping out from under. We spent hours wondering where she was. We grounded her, and she found a way to sneak out. She lied about where she was going; she laid out of school; she did most of the things that a child in rebellion against God does. Of course, much of this we found out after the fact. Our discipline did not deter her; she always found a way around it. And then, the month before she left for college, she spent a few days with a friend in another town and during a drunken spree, it happened.

That phone call was only the beginning. Today that precious child of ours has three children. She continues to live in our home, and we spend large amounts of time and money to help her support her little family. Why do we do it? Are we stupid? Maybe. But, more than stupid, we are children of God, forgiven by His grace, recipients of His mercy. We cannot find it in our spiritual belief system to throw our daughter out, because not only her life, but the lives of three precious beautiful little boys would also be affected.

Has she returned to the roots of the Christian lifestyle we taught her as a child? No. She resists God, because even though He promises He WILL, she can’t imagine Him ever being able to forgive her. She has not reached her “woman-at-the-well” desperation point yet. So we hold on, praying that God will be able to get through to her because of our love and the love of our church folks.

We have given up our “empty-nest” years and have become fully involved in the lives of our little buddies. The only real man they have on a daily basis is their grandfather—and he is a real man. He has taught them things their birth fathers should be teaching them. It is he who spends hours playing outside with them, telling them stories, and showing them how to be a man. I am simply grandma—the person they run to when all else in life seems too harsh for them. The arms of this grandmother are their comfort zone, and believe me when I tell you many evenings these arms are full with all three of my buddies. They even have their “side” they usually sit on—the 6-year-old on the right, the 3-year-old on the left and the baby in the middle (I have to get a bigger chair!).

On more than one occasion I have held my heart in anguish over the lives that have been affected because of one individual in our family who decided to experience life out from under the umbrella. The consequences of the actions out from under are lived by our precious daughter first, next her darling little ones, and then those who love her and help her as God would have us do. It’s not an easy life. Some days we are angry at our lot. When we are able to discuss it together, though, my husband and I always come to the point of acceptance that we have so much to learn and share from these circumstances—circumstances that will make my husband a better pastor, and me a better encourager and comforter.

Will it also make our daughter better in the end? I believe God keeps His promises and in time we will see this come to pass.

This one thing I do know—God is good, all the time. He will be glorified by these circumstances. This I believe.