Saturday was my Grandma Rainer's birthday.
I miss her.
The day she died was the first time I ever sat down at a computer and wrote about my feelings. I remember exactly what I wrote.
"Today my grandma died. This is the first day I have ever felt like an adult."
I was 43.
Having my grandma with me kept the best times of my childhood alive. When I was with her, I was able to live those moments over and over again.
When I was with my grandma I knew who I was.
I lived across the street from my grandma for 25 years. There were very few days during those years that I didn't walk through her front door.
Little did I know as a child, as a teenager, or a young wife, that this woman's faith, her strength and her determination were being woven, piece by piece, into my life.
There have been times on this journey that started six and a half years ago when God has carried me. There have been times, by His Grace, that I have walked strongly and courageously. And, there have been times when I have crawled.
Many times I have wanted to quit. To give up. But the journey has been like an escalator. It keeps going. Whether you want it to or not. A day flows into another day. It starts all over again.Unless you want to get sucked up into the escalator you have to find a way to keep going.
Even if it means crawling.
There was a time when my hands and knees, though unseen, were torn and bloodied by the amount of time I had spent crawling. I believe God, in His sovereignty, had decided it was time for me to learn how to walk. I was old enough to run the race. I didn't want to. It was hard. Harder than I had ever imagined.
I wanted to be carried.
During that particular hard time, a time of crawling, I heard a message taken from Hebrews 12:1-3.
"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and loose heart."
Surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses . . .
The picture is of a stadium, I imagine like The Swamp, that is filled with the Saints listed in Hebrews 11. They have run the race and they are now encouraging us to run, with everything we have, and to finish the race.
They are yelling at us to keep our eyes on Jesus, not on them. They are telling us that it's worth it. The tears, the crawling, the bloodied knees and hands. It is all worth it.
The Prize is worth it all.
They tell me to imagine and then they say, "No, you can't. Trust us. Trust Him."
The witnesses are telling me to get up. Telling me that, by His Grace, I can do it. I can finish.
Whether it is a time of being carried, a time of walking, or a time of being carried, life goes on. Things have to be done.
I was upstairs putting away laundry. As I walked into Seth's bedroom, I passed a little shelf that had been in my grandma's hallway. On the shelf was a picture of her and Seth. I had better pictures of both of them but that one was special. Seth loved Grandma.
In the early years of his life, she had stitched her life into his as she had done in mine.
When we would go to Mobile and drive up in my parent's driveway, Seth could hardly wait for the car to stop. I would walk him to the edge of the street and watch him as he walked up Grandma's sidewalk by himself and rang her doorbell. Grandma would come to the door and Seth would walk through the same doorway that I had walked through so many times before.
They would sit at her kitchen table and tell each other stories. She would tell him stories about when she had been a little girl. One story had to do with rats. Who knows what that was about! But it was one of his favorites. I had to get the stories second hand. Seth didn't want me around during his times with Grandma. He didn't want to have to share her.
He told her stories about when he was a little boy (remember he was about three) going into the woods and finding a bear. Grandma soon learned that if she would just ask "and then what happened" he would go on forever. They would eat saltine crackers and Pringles as they sipped Coca-Cola from little souvenir shot glasses.
Spending time together.
As I looked at the picture of Grandma kissing Seth,I remembered the sermon I had heard about the witnesses. I picked it up and took it into my bedroom. I fell across my bed and cried out to my grandma. I begged her to help me. I begged her to encourage me. To pray for me. I told her I needed her help, that I couldn't do it. That I just couldn't do it. I told her all the ways I had tried. About the times I had tried to be strong.
I was sitting at her kitchen table again.
She was weaving her life into my mine one more time.
"Yes you can. Yes. You can. I did it and you can do it. You can't quit. The prize is too great. It's all true. Better than you can imagine. The journey, the race, is worth every bit of it. Now get up. Go downstairs. You have things to do. Take care of your family. Trust Jesus. You can do it."
I got up, washed my face, and went downstairs to take care of my family.
I knew Grandma was a part of the cloud of witnesses that were cheering me on. She was sitting with Sarah, the one who waited forever for her little baby boy, Isaac. She was sitting with Leah, the one who waited to be loved.
Rahab was there with the red cord in her hand. The cord she used to show that she was trusting in a God she knew little about. A trust that saved her family from certain death. My grandma was sitting with the Shunammite woman who wouldn't let Elisha go until he healed her son. Naomi, the one who lost her husband and her sons while living in a strange country, was there.
Grandma was in the stadium with Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist and Mary, the mother of Jesus. The Woman at the Well was there along with the sisters that had seen Jesus raise their beloved brother from the dead. The persistent Greek woman, who begged Jesus to drive the demons out her child, was there. She was the one that told Jesus that even dogs under the table eat the children's crumbs.
They were all there, with so many others, encouraging me not to give up. They were reminding me of the precious prize that's waiting for me.
The prize has a name.
His Name is Jesus.
My grandma, along with all those other women, all those other mothers, are still reminding me. Reminding me everyday. Days when I am walking strong. Days when I am crawling. And days when the Father is carrying me.
But My Greatest Encourager is The Prize Himself.
He encourages me through His Word and His Life that lives in me.
"I have already won the race for you. I endured the pain and the humiliation for you. The race is won. Lay aside your unbelief. Lay aside your trying to do it yourself. Trust in Me. If you walk courageously over the finish line, if you crawl over it or if I have to carry you, we will do it together. I will never leave you or forsake you. I started this race with you and I will end it with you. Trust me."
You have a cloud of witnesses, too.
Who do you hear encouraging you?
"I will rise when He calls my name.
No more sorrow. No more pain.
I will rise on eagle's wings.
Before my God fall on my knees.
And rise. I will rise.
And I hear the voice of many angels sing,WORTHY IS THE LAMB.
And I hear the cry of every longing heart,
WORTHY IS THE LAMB!"
I Will Rise by Chris Tomlin
WORTHY IS THE LAMB!"
I Will Rise by Chris Tomlin
My Gratitude List:
127. my Grandma Rainer
128. her faith
129. a life woven into mine
130. being one of the six granddaughters
131. being loved
132. childhood memories
133. that Aunt Sarah made the effort to capture them
134. having Seth for the day
135. a Sunday I've waited a long time for
136. helping Seth with his laundry
137. this precious face
138. that the young people in front of me at church yesterday chose to be there
139. early mornings with God
140. two little boys playing on the beach
141. things that can't be taken away
142. that I will rise
143. no more sorrow
144. that Jesus endured the cross
145. that I'm in the race
146. The Prize
You can read about these witnesses here:
Sarah- Genesis 18
Leah- Genesis 29 & 30
The Shunammite Woman-2Kings4
Naomi-the Book of Ruth
The Woman at the Well-John 4
The Sisters-John 11
The Greek Woman-Matthew 15