Tuesday, August 27, 2013

A Grandmother's Legacy, Part I

I never knew my grandmothers. When I was five months old, my maternal grandmother died of a heart attack when she visited our home. The only memory of my paternal grandmother was when I was four years old. She collapsed in the bathroom. My friend and I playing outside the closed door heard her fall and ran to tell my mother. 

While I didn’t have the advantage of personally knowing my grandmothers, I did absorb the stories my parents told me about them. I’d often sneak into my daddy’s home office, lift a framed picture from the shelf, and study their images. Soft round cheeks. Smiling eyes with just a hint of turned up mouth. According to Mama and Daddy, my grandmothers left a rich legacy of hard work, faith in God, and love for family. 

But I didn’t really know what I’d missed by not knowing my grandmothers until I met my husband’s Grandma Hazel. She lived across the street from his family home in Ohio, and whenever we visited, she swept us back to the kitchen for homemade cookies and ice cream. Our girls played with her massive button collection, cradled her antique baby doll, and rocked in her wooden child’s rocker. That chair now sits in one of our bedrooms and is used by our grandchildren. I loved sitting on the sofa at Grandma Hazel’s house, listening to her tell stories of her childhood while the wall clock ticked in the background. She’d lean forward in her seat, eyes twinkling, and share with great detail how she worked hard growing up on a farm.
In the book, Hand of Providence, the Strong and Quiet Faith of Ronald Reagan, written by Mary Beth Brown, the author shares how instrumental Reagan’s mother Nelle was in instilling faith in God, a strong work ethic, integrity, and a bright outlook on life. Later, when  Reagan had children of his own, his mother played a significant role in pointing them toward Christ and biblical values. 

Brown goes on to illustrate the remarkable contribution grandmothers can make in their grandchildren’s spiritual lives. She shares about the babushkas (old grandmothers) during the Russian Revolution, a period in history when Communist leaders, intent on wiping every trace of God from public life, destroyed churches and synagogues, Bibles, and religious books. They imprisoned, tortured, and killed Christians and Jews, all in an effort to stamp out religion. The Communists shrugged off the babushkas, thinking they were harmless. But they were in for a surprise! After the disintegration of the Berlin Wall and communism, the leaders discovered millions of Russians who remained loyal to their faith in God. Even though the communists had spent over 70 years trying desperately to snuff out religion, they had failed. The gentle, quiet faith of the babushkas as they had rocked babies, sang hymns, whispered Scripture, and shared the gospel of Jesus Christ with their grandchildren spawned a generation of people who still worshiped God (80-81). 

Now that I have grandchildren, I want to be that kind of grandmother who leaves a godly legacy of faith to the next generation (see Psalm 71:18).

In order to do this, I must be intentional and purposeful in my pursuit. Stay tuned for “A Grandmother’s Legacy, Part II,” where I will share practical ways you can instill biblical values in the minds and hearts of your grandchildren. And if you’re not a grandma yet, the principles still apply to working with your children.
Eileen Rife, author of the Born for India trilogy, enjoys toasting marshmallows, blowing bubbles, swimming, making crafts, reading, sharing family stories, and cuddling with her six grandchildren. www.eileenrife.com, www.eileen-rife.blogspot.com.


chaplaindebbie said...

This is great! I never knew my grandmother's either. And now that I am a grandmother (did I just say that?) I really want to leave behind a legacy to my grandchildren. I want to be a godly influence in their lives, even if it means I can only do it in my own home. I am looking forward to Part 2!
God bless!

Eileen Rife said...

Yes, if only in your own home. That's huge. The Russian babushkas showed us how God can bless the quiet, "underground" efforts of His people.

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