I recently had a conversation with a friend who dates back to my high school days. She is older than I am and we didn't go to high school together, but we had a special and unusual relationship considering our different stages in life. Despite the years (decades) and life experiences which have taken us in different directions, she is still one of those people whose voice is like a sigh of relief to my soul. We don't talk often, so when we do we dispense with the minutia of life and get right to the heart.
After several minutes on the phone and more in texts afterward, she wound down our time with this text: "Thank you for staying my forever friend and for listening and for your wisdom. Reminds me of a friend from years ago ... ADA IONE."
Ada Ione. Ada Ione is my dad's mom and my Grandma. The Grandma. She was born in June of 1915, she was saved at 6, married my grandpa when she was 22 in December of 1937, and had the first of five kids (my dad) when she was a few months shy of 25 in 1940. She was a farmer's wife for over 50 years, Grandma to 14, and Great Grandma (GiGi) to dozens from heaven. My kids "know" her, name cakes and blankets after her, and live to experience a rich heritage from her, despite me.
And get this ... she was a pastor. A woman pastor in a time and in a place when it wasn't popular or flashy. She didn't wear high heels or have long flowing hair. She wore trendy "grandma" clothes and colored and set her own hair. She was rejected by family, friends, and churches for teaching the true Gospel and the role of the Holy Spirit for every believer. She knew what it meant to be depressed, tired, and misunderstood. But she also knew her calling and her destiny and she never sacrificed the vision to please men (or women). She was a powerful force for the Kingdom people rarely saw coming. These many years later, she and her band of like-minded friends are regarded as forerunners of the faith in their corner of Kansas, and the fruit of their obedience is still being produced. She is the only person I personally know who completed her race and was literally called home by God. It happened on a crisp November morning in 1990 at the age of 75 when what she wanted to do was re-paint her porch.
I know my Grandma suffered from humanity like the rest of us, but I also know there is no human I would rather be compared to than her. So, for my friend who knew my Grandma almost as well as I did, to say I remind her of Ada Ione, is a moment of intense gratefulness for me. (In deference to Grandma, I have to share that she hated -- with a capital H -- the name Ada, and so went by Ione. One of my regrets in life is that I caved to pressure and didn't name my own daughter Ione. She recently told me she feels more like an "Ione" than an "Ava". Who knows what God may prompt her to do in her own time, and of her own accord.)
I reflected last night on a few of the most pivotal lessons Grandma taught me over the years of being her granddaughter, her housemate (I lived with her after my Grandpa passed in 1987), and a member of her church congregation. These are truths that are foundational to the successes of our walks as Christians.
1. Control your thoughts. Anyone reading this who also knew Ada Ione will nod in agreement. Grandma was relentless about this lesson. Many believers don't realize every thought they have is not their own. They feel victim to and controlled by their thoughts and don't realize that we actually have the ability to decide what we will or won't think. Satan knows this is where he can win the battles, so he drops thoughts in our minds in the first person so we think we originated the thoughts. Thoughts that begin with "I" or "she, he, it, they" should be screened for accuracy against the Word of God. "I am worthless." From Satan. Not true. "She is worthless." Also from Satan and not true. Grandma didn't live in the age of caller ID and smart phones, but if she did I know she would say we have the responsibility to "screen every call" that comes into our minds and decide if we will accept or decline. Scripture commands us in Romans 12:2 to renew our minds. Why? Because without the Word of God as the standard of truth, our minds can become broken places of lies and deceit which will begin to spearhead dysfunction in our lives, families, relationships, occupations, and callings. If she said this once she said it a hundred times, "If you don't control your thoughts, Satan will." True that.
2. Be thankful "in". Philippians 4:6 says, "Do not be anxious about anything, but IN every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God." (Caps mine) Grandma taught me the difference between what it looks like to be thankful FOR something, versus being thankful IN something. We all go through trials and challenges, no doubt, but it drives me a little off my ledge when I hear people say they are thankful for their cancer, their lack, their divorce, their addiction, etc. Really? I wouldn't be and I don't think God is super happy about your pain, either. He sent His son to deliver you from it so you can be thankful for HIM not it. (Don't agree with your problems, agree with God!) Instead of being thankful for the trial, we are to be thankful IN our trials. What is the difference? The source of our thankfulness. I don't throw parties for the sources of my pain and confusion in trials, but I do celebrate in thankfulness who God is, what He has done and will do on my behalf. I do celebrate that whatever has been meant for harm can be used by God for both my good and His Glory. I celebrate that God gives double for trouble. Thanking God for your trouble, instead of in your trouble, can produce drastically different outcomes.
3. God's name is holy. The holiness of God is often misunderstood to be a harsh, punishing character trait of God. It isn't. It is beautiful and powerful and transforming. It is because of His holiness that he knew we needed a savior. He so desperately wanted us to be in His presence but knew the power of His holiness would kill anyone with sin attached to them. So we needed a way to be in his presence. We needed, and need daily, Jesus. In Christ we are Holy and can live, literally live, in the presence of God, enjoying all He has for us. And as He is Holy, His name is holy. Grandma was a stickler for using the name of God "right". He isn't "the man upstairs" or the "big man on campus" or any of the other cop-out ways we have of proclaiming who He is, apart and aside from using his name either in profanity or in ways of manipulating or controlling people (i.e. "God said ..." when He did nothing of the sort.). He is God. The great I AM, the Alpha and the Omega. There is none like Him, none beside Him. And to name Him in any lesser form, or to use His name in any lesser way, reduces who He is to us, through us, and on our behalf.
I know there are many more lessons Grandma taught me, some to do with pie crust and many others to do with the truths of God. Who is the "grandma" in your life who paved the way for you to travel farther in your destiny with God? What are the lessons they have left you to propel you be all God has called you to be? Please leave a comment and share your own lessons of heritage!