Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Grandma's Words

I can still picture the look of surprise on her face when I told her I didn’t know Isaiah 40.
Pulling out her worn Bible and thumbing through the pages, Grandma shook her head and said,
“Why Tonya, you really don’t know those verses? Oh, you must go and memorize them. You just must.”

She traced her aged finger along the prophet’s words, reading aloud to me these lines she’d put to memory years before:
Do you not know? Have you not heard?
The Everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth
Does not become weary or tired.
His understanding is inscrutable.
He gives strength to the weary,
And to him who lacks might He increases power.
Though youths grow weary and tired,
And vigorous young men stumble badly,
Yet those who wait for the Lord
Will gain new strength;
They will mount up with wings like eagles,
They will run and not get tired,
They will walk and not become weary.
Isaiah 40:28-31
I was one of those children whose faith was anchored by a praying grandma. She prayed for me every day. And she told me more times than I can count, “Ton, I pray for you every day. Every single day, I pray for all of my grandchildren.” And then she would go on to tell me exactly which grandchild she was praying for most.

I love this Isaiah passage because my grandma loved it. She was so enamored with this God, this Lord, this Creator. Even the first lines, “Do you not know? Have you not heard?” ring familiar with her words of disbelief to me  - how was it possible, as a high school student, that I wasn’t yet familiar with this great passage?!

Grandma’s words stick with me.
As do, I hope and assume, her prayers.

Just today I drove home with a heavy heart, weary from a few days of interacting with friends who seem to need more than I can give. Friends carrying deep hurts, loneliness, and too many broken relationships to count. I felt more than a little depleted. And then emails and texts come in from others, people I care about and so appreciate keeping me in the loop, but again, with needs that tower like Goliath over a landscape barren of much hope.

So I prayed on my drive home, breathed a simple, half-hearted request that God would change my heart, that He would give me a desire to love these friends well. A prayer that was more desperate than believing, more dismal than expectant.

Once home, I worked for an hour or so in our sunroom. Now, this could easily segue into a whole different blog post (I'll restrain), as I’m in the process of cleaning out and organizing (and throwing away) every photo and important piece of paper and paraphanalia that has come into our home in the past 17 years. Including all of those photos and important papers that I brought into my home before I was a Wilson. Yes, I am. Can I say it’s a process?! Like eating one bite of an elephant at a time. With still plenty of elephant left to eat.

Anyway, so in those minutes today going through boxes of letters, I came across a pale pink piece of stationary scrawled with Grandma’s familiar cursive writing. Most of the notes I have from her are a few short lines sprinkled with “love” and “praying.” This one, though, was a little longer letter.

First of all, how precious, that in each letter she addressed me as, “Dearest little Tonya!” Exclamation point and all, like her heart quickened at just the thought of me. Goodness - I think my heart would skip a beat to again hear her address me that way.

Grandma’s letter assured me that she was praying for my friends, “Emily and David” (no idea), and that she had her Sunday School class praying. She went on to say,
“We know that God is in the prayer-answering business, don’t we? I can’t begin to count the many blessings and prayers answered every day - Praise His name!
I am thankful you have a burden for lost souls. God burdens us this way and uses us - especially you young ones. Hoping He keeps you concerned for those who need Him.”
It’s these words of hers I needed just today, words written more than twenty years ago, stored in the bottom of a dusty cardboard box in the corner of our garage until last week. Words read just minutes after my drive home and not-really-believing-God-would-answer-me prayer for a desire to love people well, even when I don’t feel like I have much to offer. Or when I simply don’t want to.

Grandma’s timeless words caught my heart today. I am basking even now in these quiet moments as her “dearest little Tonya.” But basking even more in the amazement of this God, this Lord, this Creator of the ends of the earth who does not become weary or tired. He gives strength to me when I’m weary, and while I lack might (and the desire to love those who are not always easy to love), He increases power.
Though I grow weary and tired, and I stumble badly, I wait for the Lord.
And He gives me new strength.
I believe Him that he will equip me to mount up with wings like eagles, to run and not get tired,
to walk and not become weary.

And yes, Grandma, in writing this post, because of you, I could write Isaiah’s words (mostly!) by heart.

This month marks 12 years now since Grandma Esther has ascended to her Heavenly home. I imagine her stirring up quite a commotion up there, never sitting down even a moment to rest, and baking strawberry rhubarb pies and loaf after loaf of Swedish bread. I also imagine her getting a kick out of her little namesake down here, stirring up quite a commotion of her own.