Category Archives: grandmother

A Woman of Grit and Glory::Calling the Art and the Music Forth {An Abstraction on the Piano}

I can see the piano gleaming in sunlight coming through the window off to the right and one just to the left, the old air conditioning unit jutting out of it’s breezy opening.

Her little house was so old, the tiles in the bathroom looked ancient to me. In my fuzzy memory, they were a faded color of pepto-bismol pink, and the carpet, an old brown color, trodden on by work boots and cowboy boots many a day. There were old frames holding family pictures hanging up above the couch, and newer ones of grandchildren. There were dusty photo albums and magazines, a very simple table with a vinyl tablecloth in the kitchen. It was a small, cozy house, windows just in spots to let lots of light in.

Every time I visited her, I was so drawn to that piano, the keys and old hymns calling to me, a part of my ancestry. I felt the history that was in my bones when I sat on that bench and was brave enough to let my fingers land on the white and black.

She would come and sit beside me. She had probably been knitting something, reading a magazine, or cleaning up the dishes. But she would drop that for music, and she was a born teacher.

Which is no surprise, given that she travelled around, doing tent revivals, preaching God’s word. This is where I come from; this is in my bones.

She laid her hands on top of my hands, showed me how to touch the keys, how to find the music.

Music was in our blood.

Music and God, and the art of letting Him make us.

She was a woman with much illness and grief in her life. If she could be here now, she’d tell you that her life was a hard road, but God saw her through. God never forsook her.

And no matter what she went through, no matter the mental illness that plagued and made the days hard, no matter the young three- year-old that died in her arms, no matter the man that was hard to live with**, she kept going. She just kept moving forward.

I would think all of that would break a woman, and I’m sure there were broken places she never told anyone about. It was a whisper she prayed to God in the shower, complained to Him as she cooked, as she worked, as she scrubbed, broken whispers, words coming out fragmented, like so much worship.

I know it would have broken me.

But she worked in the garden mercilessly, and she canned food to provide for her family during winter, and she stayed up late in the night with a teenage son who had a lot of questions about relationships and women and life. And she got up early with a smile and a Rise and shine and give God the glory!, and she never faltered, never fainted.

She. just. kept. going.

I only knew the music of her life as a small child, and only through very small windows of time, and oh, I have often wished mightily that I could have witnessed, watched intently, listened to the song of her everyday life, her rise and her fall.

I have often thought of her on bad days, when the depression gets the best of me, wondered what she would tell me if she were here. Wondered if she would pat my knee, tell me it’s all going to be just fine, just. keep. going.

Just keep trusting and leaning in. Keep making music with my life.

I remember her beautiful voice, how she knew the notes to the familiar hymns so well, and to hear her sing them was breathtaking, because you knew when you heard her sing, that it was gospel to her, it was truth, and she believed. Nothing could take that away.

I want to have that kind of grit and glory in my life. What a strong woman. I only pray the memory of her makes me half the woman she was.

She battled pancreatic cancer for years and years, but for a long time, the doctors didn’t know what her symptoms meant. When they found the cancer, it was too late, and all they could do was let it eat away at her body.

It did eat away at the song of her; she no longer had the vibrancy she once did.

She also had a stroke, and she grew thin, and she shuffled when she walked.

I remember her coming down to the house one day, shuffling up to my door. She had come to see her great grand-kids, and I was shampooing carpets. My couch was blocking the doorway. She asked for a picture of them, which I quickly got and handed to her.

My insides churn and I cringe that I didn’t stubbornly move that heft of couch out of the way for this woman whittling away, that I didn’t pour sweet tea and stop my scrubbing, my cleaning.

That’s a memory I’d like to forget–put out of my mind forever.

We could get lost in the grief of regret, or we can let God turn our regrets into redemption, our grief into growth and change.

I was there to see her final breaths, the rise and fall of her, and I recall how my father said what an awful thing cancer was because it stole the beautiful glow from his mother’s face. It took the vibrant red glow from her cheeks, her skin ashen, her once plump figure now just a hollowed-out reminder, and it was difficult to recognize her without her music.

The joy and beauty in her face, her smile, the way she always fixed her hair, and the way she loved–she made art with her life, she made music. It was a pleasant sound in God’s ear.

We all stood around her bed in the hospital room with its shiny, cold linoleum and bare, stark walls and with a huge lump in my throat, we sang the old hymns. She was so frail beneath the white sheets.

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound.

That saved a wretch like me.

The piano, her piano, sits now in my foyer with the morning sun shining in on it, and my girls have learned to play notes on it. Notes I taught them. I see the little artist budding in them, and I hear the thrumming of God’s heartbeat, saying Don’t squelch it; honor it, nurture it, teach them to glorify me.

For years, I didn’t touch it. Maybe because it reminded me of all of the man-made, man-centered worship, and how something so holy as the inner sanctuary can be desecrated right in God’s sight as his children gather together. I didn’t know how to reconcile this, and my fingers couldn’t remember how to make the music.

I forgot how to be brave, how to be a woman of grit and glory.

But all of the music that’s in my bones, all the art that’s stirring in my blood, all of the morning song that I’ve stuffed down deep–He’s calling it forth.

Every time I walk by the piano and glimpse the hymnal book, I feel Him calling me to worship. And every time I gather enough courage to sit on that bench, and play a song, I can feel her there. And I hear the chorus rising, of long-ago tent revivals when people cried out desperately for God’s touch, and I hear the music played in a grandmother’s living room on a golden afternoon, the light slanted, her hands showing me the way.

**Important**Please read** By sharing this story, I am not advocating the idea that a wife should stay in an abusive, or unhappy marriage. I am sharing a story of one woman who did the best she could, in a time when divorce was unacceptable in her society. Today, women have better choices. I support women’s liberation from abuse, sex slavery, sexual harassment, etc.  
**If you are in an abusive situation, please seek the help of a professional

Friends, I appreciate you helping me get the word out–be sure to use the hashtag #concretewords. 

What this link-up is about: In the lovely Amber Haines’ words, we “write out spirit” by practicing writing about the invisible using concrete words. In case you are going “what in the world is a concrete word?!“–this just means (using the prompt to inspire) write out what’s around us–concrete words make the senses come alive, gives place: fire smoke in the air, an old, tattered wooden swing, black rich dirt underneath bare feet, a woodpecker hammering at a birch. Go here to learn more of what Amber meant for us to do with concrete words when this all began. This will help your writing–I promise! 

A few simple guidelines:  1. Be sure you link up the URL to your Concrete Words
                                             post and not just your blog home page URL.
                                         2. Put a link to this post on your blog so that others 
                                             can find their way back here.
                                         3. Try to visit one or two others and encourage their efforts
                                         4. Please write along with us, using concrete words–
                                             Please no entries with how-to’s, advertising, or 
                                             sponsored posts 
                                         5. Consider sharing via social media to help get word out!
                                         6. Please leave a comment–I love getting to know you!
**Today’s prompt is the Piano

Next week, our Concrete Words prompt is the Road. {I’ll highlight a beautiful post on Friday (and announce it on social media), so come back here to see whose post is highlighted and encourage them!

**Because of what I shared * here,I sometimes have to take social media breaks. However, I am committed to answering comments and visiting those who link up here! I hope you feel a sense of community and right at home when you are here. But sometimes, just a quiet place to reflect, pray, dream is what we need. So if you’re quietly reading, that’s great. If you would like to un-lurk, and leave me a comment, I would love to meet you!! . 

I cherish your words, and the beautiful soul God made you. I am nodding my head, teary-eyed, as I read your hearts here. If you are here, know you are loved, and you’re the seasonin’ in my soup. 

{This post shared with AnnJen, Laura, Heather, and Jennifer for #TellHisStory}

Let’s have some fun with concrete words! (You can join in anytime this week until the linky is closed!) **When linking, please check out the one-word prompt first! Thanks!** 

Bending {Patron Saints and Spiritual Midwives}

I open wire gate, walk through tiny garden and white azaeleas toward the kitchen. Her soft, croaky voice, with it’s high notes, weathered with time, wafts out the screen door as she instructs the children that have already flown inside to her, ahead of me.

This is not the home of my childhood that I remember, but she cooks for us here and makes her days here, and so it will do.

Dumplings and chicken piled high in the pot, the steam rising, she’s slightly bent over the counter in the tightly spaced kitchen, beautiful white hair slightly coifed from church that morning, rolling dough out in flour, the dough that my grandfather said she rolled way too thin. Less meat, more dumplins, he tells her. This would become the center of discussion and debate at the table.

“Ah! You are making chicken and dumplings!” She nods–I see the twinkle of pride in her eyes. She knows it’s my favorite and I had asked for it weeks ago when I was sick but she couldn’t come because she was too.

I set about the hard task of putting myself right into the work, a hard thing to do when you are used to your Granny always waiting on you, for all those years, and she never asked, really always discouraged help.

But I can’t bear sitting while she bends and breaks, so I plant myself right in her way and throw the soft unbaked bread on white powder and roll it out with 50 year old wood, careful of the sink water two inches away from floured paper.

The old wood, full of family history–it feels perfect in my hands and I watch the way the thick stuff flattens and smooths. We work side-by-side, Sunday afternoon sun streaming in through screen door, hitting our backs, and she willingly waits for the dough, throws it into boiling broth while I do the bending and smoothing.

She and I strain pears, that good juice running down the drain making no sense to me, and I call the girls in for them to pile the grainy sweetness on plate with mayo and cheese. The pears, they shine in the Sabbath sun. We do the most important and holiest of work and teach them a poor man’s {or hurried woman’s} Southern dessert.

I go to the hall closet in search of some stain remover for baby’s dress, and I see a woman’s tireless work, how she chooses to walk out her days, always working, serving, never giving up and there they are, staring out at me–clean, plush towels lined up neatly row after row, her bottles of cleaning supplies tucked in here and there. She has touched deep places of influence in me she will never know anything of.

In the kitchen, we cluck and cackle and over sweet tea–has the sugar been added?–where the children will eat, girls, set the table, ice for glasses, and I take Granddaddy’s tea to his chair. The kids will have the little table in the kitchen.

Granny steps to the living room, and addresses Granddaddy: “What do you want now?!” We laugh at their old-couple squabble and we all gather around with trays and talk important matters, including whether the dumplings should have been thicker, and our stomachs are nourished with flavors of the South, that soul food warm all the way down.

Granny gets enough of Granddaddy’s complaining and in her feisty way, tells him she was aimin for healthier.

After the plates are cleaned, Husband needs a t-shirt for football with the church men, and Granddaddy says look in the second drawer. Underneath several bottles of cologne for a man who enjoys smelling good, I open drawer and pick up soft, worn t-shirts one by one, reminded of when I was a little girl, needing a t-shirt for staying over-night. They all say XL, and I know that will not fit my man.

I search and in the back, in shadows, a card with cute purses on the front sticks out between folds–I know immediately it was the card I gave him years ago. My heart hammers a little harder as I hold it up, open it, and I am so touched that he has kept it safely tucked away in his drawerthe place all men keep things close to their hearts.

The greatness of these two people stands above me, looming, but I try to tell them in scrawled words–loops and crosses a little unsure and timid but knowing what is in the heart to say–how I sit and think sometimes of the beauty of how they live out the gospel in their livesthat they may never have been missionaries, or involved in some limelight ministry, but their family has been their mission field–how they never stop giving even after they’ve given all–they have fleshed out Matt 5:38-42–how they have brought glory to God, our very realest purpose, and I tell them this is the greatest compliment you could ever be paid.

“You have heard it said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.” –Matthew 5:38-42

Husband finds me standing at the drawer, asks if I found anything. He sees the tears brimming, wants to know what this is about. I show him the card and he says, “Who is this from?” He watches my eyes, looks into me. Nothing gets his attention like the wet pouring down his wife’s cheeks.

A little shyly–“Me.” I pick up a bottle of cologne and inhale, and try to remember.

He reads the first few lines and skims it over, smiling. He reads the date, “2007…” his voice a little unsteady. I wonder if he is remembering the year that we had Isabella, when we were still at our old church with our beloved Pastor and his wife, when we were married to a church body, before spiritual devastation happened, when life was very, very good and God’s graces flowed abundantly. Like babes, we ignorantly lapped it up, not fully knowing what we had.

I reach up into the closet shelf where a soft blue t-shirt, something close to cadet blue, peeks out and I look at the tag, oh, a Large, this will have to do.

I walk into the living room, right up to the man and hand him the card, tell him it made me cry to find it there, to read it, bend down and take his face in my hands and tell him he is a wonderful Granddaddy, my body bent over and my heart bent over in all this weeping reality, all this gospel light, all this love.

Instead of looking at me and acknowledging, he makes some remark about how not everybody thinks he’s so great. But I know it’s hit it’s mark–right there in the softness of his heart the arrow pierced–I can see that little bit of twinkle in his eye, the smile dancing in the corner, that he won’t let have center-stage.

He avoids my eyes, but I know he hears me. These are the only words he ever wanted to hear in the whole of his life.

I lay down in the dark coolness of their room with baby girl next to me, and she fidgits some, but like me, her body soon gives way to Granny’s high thread-count sheets, shadow’s cool of blankets piled high atop us.

I lie there thinking as I drift off, how many graces God has given, how He has bent low and heard me, listened to my heart’s cry, that mighty God himself would bend over, heart exploding for me, this is extravagant grace that I can hardly imagine or fully allow.

But in spite of me, His arrow has hit it’s mark and I gush over and out and I can do nothing but fling arms open wide to all this love.

**edited re-post from the archives

Shared with Sarah Bessey at her International Women’s Day synchroblog, where we’re writing about Patron Saints and Spiritual Midwives…

Related: A Beautiful Tapestry Not Of My Own Making {Patron Saints and Spiritual Midwives}…“I have sat on summer and fall afternoons on her screened in wrap-around front porch, us swinging on her oak swing, Mississippi breeze blowing gently, as her voice so shaky and slow, told me of her husband, an alcoholic, and how he beat her. She told me of how the kids would run outside and play up under the house so they wouldn’t have to be around…” Click here to read more…