My great-grandma was a woman of summer. She kept a garden and her table overflowed with its bounty. She picked berries for jam and to top ice cream. Once in a while I helped her in the berry patch or the garden and it always shocked me when she showed up in pants. The garden was the only place I ever saw her dressed that way and even there she wore a dress over them, with a long-sleeved shirt and a wide-brimmed straw hat. She was dressed to work.
Right there are four important lessons I could have learned from my Grandma E.B.: Wear appropriate clothing. Protect your skin. Shade your eyes. And, of course, how to garden.
I should have paid more attention.
She was teaching all the time. She just wasn’t obvious about it. Maybe she wasn’t even aware.
Grandma E.B. knew how to respond to her circumstances. In the garden, she wore pants. In the face of a deer standing in the yard looking like dinner, she became the hunter. After an unexpected move, she looked to Jesus.
She’d moved before, first with her husband from the river valley to a rural acreage; and then alone from the acreage to a tidy mobile home on my grandma and grandpa’s farm. Eventually it was just her and my grandma alone in the country. When Great Grandma’s health failed she moved again, this time to a nursing home.
Her sorrow hung in the room as we stood with awkward smiles and tried to make conversation while she arranged her few belongings on top of a dresser. She’d been there only a day or two and it was through a set jaw that she mumbled something about trying to make the best of it. I knew she wanted to. She wanted to even in the midst of her mourning.
Before long, she noticed the people around her and she realized that some of them might not know Jesus. That was all it took. She got up, left her room, and went out to where the people were.
Life in the nursing home gave Grandma E.B. something that she’d never had, something none of us expected: freedom. She’d never driven; she relied on her husband, and later my grandma, to take her where she wanted to go. In the nursing home she needed neither car nor chauffeur. She had shoes and a Bible, and that’s all she needed to carry out her purpose in that new place and new season.
Her favorite hymn was “Trust and Obey” and that is how she learned to live an unfamiliar life. She trusted. And she obeyed. It was enough. She was free to be happy, not in her circumstances but in Jesus.
My husband and I have lived in four different cities, which is exactly three more than I imagined we would. Each move was unexpected. While some have been like coming home, others were a step into an unfamiliar life.
Grandma E.B.’s quiet lesson on how to live with trust and obedience is one I should have paid attention to long ago. It’s one I need every day.
Not long after her move, Grandma made a small change to her simple wardrobe: She began to wear bead necklaces. I noticed, immediately, but never asked why. It seemed simple enough: They were pretty and she liked pretty things. They were more than that, though. They were a badge of contentment and that made them—and her—beautiful.
Though the direction of her life’s road led away from her garden and her home, she found freedom to thrive, not in her circumstances but in Jesus. And that, like the lovely necklaces which graced her neck, made her sparkle.
And you? What quiet lessons have the women in your life lived out? We’re living lessons, too. What lessons are you living out today?