Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Labor of Love

Tonight, I spent some time with my mom's side of the family, planning for my grandparent's 50th wedding anniversary celebration this coming fall. If you were looking at us from a distance with no knowledge as to who any of us were or what we were doing, you would think we were an odd little group.

There were eight of us, clustered around a small crackling fire enclosed inside of a large metal dish.

My aunt and uncle, not quite two years married, holding hands in two separate deck chairs, looking at one another as if their entire worlds revolved around their beloved partner.

My mom, sitting in her chair with her day-planner in her lap, her red hair glowing like a sunset in the light of the flickering flames.

The three teenagers -- Abby, Rae Marie, and I -- sitting in age-order on the padded porch swing, giggling and waving the smoke out of our faces.

And then there was my grandma and grandpa, the origin of this tiny cluster of loving people. They were the ones that drew my closest inspection.

Grandma, with her little basket-purse and crown of carefully styled grey hair, her smile and laugh more familiar and warm to me than a summer sunset. And Grandpa, with his fading grey comb-over and his unmistakeable sense of humor that reminds me of little girl sleepovers and snuggles around the iron stove in their basement.

My grandpa is in his early 70s. He grew up on a small farm in Illinois in a tiny rural community where he milked the cows at 4am and walked to school in the winter. He loves Jesus with all his heart, and is determined to bring as many people to know Him as he possibly can. He is the humblest, quietest man I know.

This is the man of whom I possess my earliest memory. The man who sang silly songs to my sister and I, and told us jokes that made my grandma shake her head and say, "Oh, Kyle!" The man who taught me that early morning breakfasts of "gobledy-gook" and orange juice was the secret to a happy morning. The gentle hands that swung a wood-splitting ax and poked flaming coals to warm the house, but that were always eager to hold the Bible and remind me of the goodness of God. The man who showed me that ticking Grandma awake at 6am was fun, and that "sleepin' at the foot of the bed" was a secret delight. He took me to my first movie in a theater -- Chicken Run -- and promptly fell asleep twenty minutes into the film...but that's not surprising, considering his ability to "drop his marbles" at any time and through anything.

My grandma is in her late 60s. She attended the local high school, and can still sing almost all the words the fight song. She married young, just like I did, and still loves her husband with all her heart after almost 50 years of marriage. I've seen the way she looks at him...I want to love my husband the way she does. When I was little, I used to stand next to her in church and listen to her sing the hymns; I wanted to sing about Jesus as beautifully as she did. She is an amazing woman who loves Jesus with all her heart, and has taught me so many things about being a godly woman and a godly wife.

This is the woman who read books to my little sister and I, recording them on cassette tapes that I still love listening to, even today. The woman who made me tiny models of all the characters from Winnie-the-Pooh (my favorite since I was a baby) by hand, and played the record of the same name when she changed my diapers or bathed me in the metal sink in the basement. The woman who made me dresses, quilts, and jumpers, hand-made with love poured into each stitch. She taught me how to sew; even though I didn't show a lot of appreciation for it then, I look back on those moments now and wish I could get them back. Grandma made us puppets out of brown paper envelopes and various bits of bric-a-brac, recorded Shirley Temple movies when they came on TV, and watched Milo and Otis with us over and over and over again.

Grandpa took me on my first missions trip to Costa Rica when I was 13.

Grandma held Hawaiian tea parties on the back porch with our American Girl dolls and Macadamia nut pancakes.

My grandparents are my heroes. Two of my greatest examples.

I want them to be proud of me.

Because I am proud to be their granddaughter.


  1. You paint a picture of today and display wonderful truths from our past. Well said with a touch of sensitivity to the heart!

  2. What a (well written)sweet story about your grandparents, how great to have such good role models in your life!!! Very pretty, I can't wait to hear about their celebration! -Jen

  3. Rachel, what a beautiful gift to give to your grandparents while they are still alive. There is nothing money could buy that could possibly compare to the treasure of love, honor and respect that has flowed from your heart to theirs. I can't think of a single soul that wouldn't give anything to hear words like that from a grandchild. We have known your grandparents a lot longer than you have and we would agree "They are the Best" Praise be to God. Can't wait to hear all about your celebration.The joy,laughter and stories galore. Be sure and have plenty of buckets available, Cause there will no doubt be lots of tears. Duke & I both wish you all an unforgetable loving, God centered, family time together. We love you all so very much. And BTW,we are very proud of you too.
    With Love, Ja ja Jeannie & grandpa Duke


I look at you and see all the ways a soul can bruise, and I wish I could sink my hands into your flesh and light lanterns along your spine so you know there's nothing but light when I see you. :: Shinji Moon