A Life Well-Lived

Grams took her first step into heaven early Sunday morning, and what a celebration was in store for her there. For 83 years she had walked this earth, and many of those early years were fraught with trouble and abuse. She was raised in the coal mining mountains of West Virginia, in a family of four girls, with an alcoholic, abusive father. Her childhood was marked by poverty, constant moves and very little education.  Grams heard the gospel and was saved while still a young girl. She married my gramps and spent a good part of her life raising a family in middle class America on a farm that she loved. But grams wouldn’t stay there. Just a few years away from retirement, my gramps heard stories of gospel-less people all over the world and the joint effort that was needed to get them the precious message of Jesus. Turning their backs on the American dream they had been building for so many years, Gram and Gramps went to Venezuela where they served God faithfully for 20 years!

When I consider  the legacy of my grams’s life I  see two very significant values that shaped her life, values that influence and inspire me.

1. Grams had an unwavering trust in God, not only for her salvation but for every area of life: I remember calling her to talk one evening right after I had received devastating news about the death of a loved one. I said to her, “Why would God let something like this happen?” And she responded, “Tabitha, He doeth all things well.” That was her attitude. That was her conviction. No matter what troubles we faced, Grams was convinced that God was working all things together for our good.

When I was in high school, I remember ranting to her about a situation at school that was driving me crazy. Before I could finish my tirade, she had taken both my hands and said in a voice that would bare no argument, “Stop, and let’s pray about this.” This was her way. Grams didn’t offer me flippant advice, or commiserate with me in my frustration. She offered me a trust in Jesus.

Just a few months after going to Venezuela, my mom miscarried her third child. In grief and discouragement she wrote my grams the sad news. My grams, deeply saddened by this loss and grieving that she was so far away, offered my mom the only comforting advice she could. She penned the words to the hymn “Turn your eyes upon Jesus” and sent them as a response to mom’s letter.

Oh soul are you weary and troubled, no light in the darkness you see. There’s light for a look at the Savior and life more abundant and free. Turn your eyes upon Jesus; look full in his wonderful face. And the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of his glory and grace.

It wasn’t just her way with others though. It was what she, herself lived. When she was faced with potentially serious medical issues in her early 50s, Grams refused to be fearful. She sought medical help and trusted God to heal her. And when he did, she and gramps went back to Venezuela, right into the jungle, where there were no doctors or 24-hour clinics. Grams believed God was the one taking care of her and he was as close to her in the jungle as in the modern cities of America.

2. You can’t out-give God: Gram believed this emphatically. And she lived it. When my grandparents sold their farm to head overseas as missionaries, they had a good bit of money set aside for the tough, expensive road ahead. But instead of using it to cushion their own journey, they gave it away to other missionaries they met on the way. By the time they got to Venezuela, they had used up all their savings! But that didn’t bother them at all. Grams and Gramps knew it was God who was taking care of them. She often said to me, “Tabitha, you can’t out-give God. Just try it. He always wins. He gives and gives and gives.” Generosity for grams included not just her resources, but also herself. She was always finding the lonely, left-out, marginalized individuals and befriending them, inviting them over for tea and sharing meals with them. She shared her home with travelers. She shared her gifts and skills, teaching at the mission school well-past retirement age. She shared her heart. Grams lived generously, storing up treasure in heaven, because that is where her heart always ways.

Now she is there, with her Savior, rejoicing in His goodness, swallowed up in his love. I hope one day when I meet up with her there, that the legacy she passed on to me, will be continuing in her great-great grandchildren, because the best tribute I can offer grams, is allowing her godly character to continue its influence in me.

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