Monday, July 18, 2011

Grandma's Words

“You’ve always been strong-willed.” Grandma’s words stung as my wounded heart wilted for a moment. Searching for understanding, I shared my dismay at her characterization of me, her oldest grandchild, and asked her to explain. “It’s not a bad thing,” she clarified. “Ever since you were a little girl, you knew what you believed. And once your mind is set, it will not be swayed. You are strong. I have never worried that you would lose your way.”

It was one of the last conversation I had with my Grandmother this side of Heaven. Months later, she lost her battle with cancer and God took her home to be in His presence. For years, when I reflected on our exchange, my heart hurt just a little. At the time, I wasn’t sure she knew me at all. After all, I didn’t feel strong. I didn’t know which way to go. Life for me, a young woman in her twenties, was filled with uncertainties. In fact, most of the time, the world made me want to retreat into hiding. Still, as I have grown, I have come to realize my Grandma saw me with faith filled eyes. She saw the me that was yet to be. And she had faith that God would lead me on my way.

Now, many years later, my heart smiles when I recall our last exchange. Though she is not here to teach my children, my Grandmother is part of the legacy I am growing in them. Today, as I raise up Godly children in a world hostile to absolute truth, I understand what my Grandma saw in me. For regardless of what political arguments may grip our nation, I am determined to raise my children God’s way. After all, “There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death.” (Proverbs 14:12 NIV)

For me, the right path was easy to find, for I had my Grandmother to walk it with me. She read me God’s word. Took me to Sunday School. She even paid for me to attend the church camp where I received Christ as my Lord and Savior. But even more than that, she prayed for me and believed that God would finished what He had started in me even after she was gone.

Truly, my Grandma knew the right path when she saw it. She passed it on to me, and now I am teaching my own children to follow it as well. It’s the path of Christ and it leads to eternal life in God’s holy presence. To be sure, she would recognize the same spunky spirit in my own children that she saw in me. Those apples seem to have fallen right next to the tree! When I gaze upon them and teach them His ways, I recognize the strength looking back at me. It is the same look that lit the eyes of a little girl my Grandma understood quite well. For she knew me better than I knew myself, and she believed that God was faithful to His promises.

On my behalf, she claimed the promise that when we “train up a child in the way he should go, when he is older he shall not turn from it.” (Proverbs 22:6 NIV) It’s a truth that endures for sons. For daughters. For granddaughters. And now, when I reflect on the words of my Grandmother, a knowing smile comes over my heart.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Starry Night

"Starry Night" by Vincent Van Gogh

"When I consider your heavens,
the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
which you have set in place,
what is mankind that you are mindful of them,
human beings that you care for them?
-Psalm 8:2-4

I have always loved a starry night.

When I was a little girl, growing up in Iowa, I had a view of the heavens that I sadly took for granted. On clear nights, I often looked up at the stars blinking back at me and tried to find the brightest one so I could make a wish.

As time marched on, I grew into a teenager, and I continued to look to the night sky. But, my thoughts turned away from childish wishes. Instead, I looked up and dreamed of tomorrow as I wondered quietly where my life was going. When an occassional falling star streamed across the sky, my heart jumped in excitement as I pondered the surprises yet to come.

Now, as a woman of faith, I still gaze at the stars with the same wonder as that girl from years past. The stars, with their simplistic beauty, have been a constant reminder to me that I belong to a great and wondrous God. For, in His great might, the LORD made the stars. (Genesis 1:16)

And when I take them in, and consider the vast number of stars visible and not so visible, I am certain that He is mindful of me.

My past.
My future.
My plans.
My mistakes.
My pain.
My disappointments.
My triumphs.

God has seen it all and loved me through it all.

At times, I have been prone to doubt, as life pounded me in loss. Still, the stars in their constancy served as a beautiful reminder that He hears me. Knows me. Loves me. Delivers me. He sees me the same way I see those beautiful stars in a clear Iowa sky. For Him, I shine in the darkness of this world as I courageously live out my faith this side of Heaven.

Last week, I visited my parents' home in Iowa. So many things are the same, including the sky that beckons me when I am there. One dark, starry night, I laid on a blanket with my son, Jack, and took in the beauty of a clear summer night in Iowa. Without the illumination of city lights, we were able to vividly experience God's splendor in the heavens.

Together, we found the brightest star, made a wish, and searched for constellations as we talked about Jack's dreams for the future. Truly, it was a night I shall hold close to my heart for all the years to come. How I hope that Jack carries the stars with him as he steps slowly into manhood.

Maybe, one day, my son will look for the brightest star on a clear summer night and think of me. More than that, I hope that when Jack sets his attention on the beauty of the stars, he will remember the constant love of his Heavenly Father, who never ceases to be mindful of his needs. I pray those stars draw my son ever closer to our God...who placed the stars in their places just because He is and He can. May he always feel God's presence in the serene beauty of a starry night.