My Grandma Lola is not originally from this country. She was born and raised in Ecuador, very poor, and very unaware of the deep love of Jesus. She met some missionaries as a young woman and came to know the Lord through them, which led her down a winding road to America. Her story is deep, beautiful, and full of human flaws, juxtaposed against God’s grace and perfection.
She made her way to Colorado in the late 1950’s, taking a bus from Florida with no knowledge of English, so that she could come and nanny for a family in Denver. She taught herself English by watching “I Love Lucy”, met my grandpa, raised five children, survived a divorce and breast cancer, put herself through nursing school, and got remarried to my Papa Dicky. She has prayed countless prayers for me and turned my eyes toward Jesus in everything. She and my Papa have taught generations in Sunday School at their church and are generous in all that they have. She has praised and prayed, laughed and lived, but before all of that she was just a little girl in Ecuador without much. Her family couldn’t afford a doll for her so she keeps one in her room now because it’s “just what she always wanted as a little girl.”
I am fascinated by her life. Every time she shares a story about it with me, I treasure it like chocolate. This week, I was given another story – gift.
My kids and I went to her house for lunch and then we played outside. Judah was swinging while my Grandma pushed him and she was trying to explain to him how to pump his legs. Finally, she just decided to show him. She sat right down next to him and started swinging. My heart could have burst with the beauty of the moment.
When she got off, she let me into her childhood once again.
When her father died, he left what little money he had for her to be sent away to school at a convent. He wanted her to become a nun. The convent’s rooms were full of little girls but its cupboards were lacking in food. They had some, but not enough and my Grandma was hungry.
“Florasita,” she said, which is Spanish for “little flower”. It’s what she has called me all of my life.
This is my Grandma and I in her garden when I was little.
“When I was a little girl at the convent, I made a swing from old rope. All the other little girls wanted a turn on it but I wouldn’t let them swing unless they gave me some of their bread.”
She laughed after that and so did I, in the shadow of the swing set in her backyard.
Later, she was holding Annabelle’s hand as she toddled around and all I could hear was my Grandma laughing and saying “Thank you Jesus. Thank you Jesus,” as they walked circles around the house.
And it hit me. The little girl she told me about in those stories who was poor in possessions grew into the woman before me, who is rich in Spirit. God had taken that ornery thing with her scraps of rope and crusts of bread and said, “Just you wait and see what I have for you.” It hasn’t always been good and the road has certainly been bumpy, but my Grandma’s life has been lived as a proclamation of God’s goodness.
She is full of 80 plus years of life and in each one, God’s greatness has shone brighter. His majesty seeps through the cracks in her like light under a doorway. Maybe because like Paul said, she knows “what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well-fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4: 12-13 (NIV)
I wish I could sit down with you and share each little story my grandma has shared with me. But for now, I’ll just leave you with the story about the swing, the one that shows from where she came. I’ll leave you with the story about the little girl with nothing but some rope and a hungry belly because it’s a story you might see yourself in. I think there are seasons in all of our lives where we find ourselves with nothing but a few scraps to make do with.
Maybe your marriage is holding on by a thread or your bank account looks like a picked over plate with nothing but crumbs left over by the end of the month. Maybe you’re emotionally drained and your heart feels like it’s shredded into smithereens; scraps blowing in the wind. But like my Grandma, and like Paul, we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us.
This season of wanting will not be forever. God has good and big and full plans for you with Heaven on the other side. Remember that “he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:6 (NIV)
Our lives are all a story and the moment that you are living is only a chapter of it. This day, this moment, this season is not the whole of it. You will not always be where you are now and this too shall pass. My Grandma, the little girl with a swing made of rope now has a whole swing set in her backyard for her great grandkids to play on! That’s what I would call a beautiful plot line.
Trust that God is taking you somewhere and that His plans for you are good. Remember that this day is only a part of your story and the God who is writing it writes and loves in detail. He has the power to make all things new.
Live in this moment but remember that the page will turn, and soon, you too will be laughing in the shade of the blessing that God gives.