By Suzy Winter
My grandmother – small in stature, tall in faith, fire in her soul, my best friend. The summer of my 3rd grade year, she moved in with us. Her children stated that “she’s too old to live alone.” I guess a small kitchen grease fire provided all the evidence to confirm this fact. However, I think Grandma just needed to be needed. I know I certainly did. When peace like a river, attendeth my soul.
A few months before, my older brother had been tragically killed in action in Vietnam. Yet, I lost more than my brother that day; I lost my family as well. It may sound dramatic, but from the memory of a frightened, little 8 year old girl, seeing your mom sink into a pit of anger or find solace in Valium; nightly watching your dad finding peace at the bottom of a bottle; and witnessing your only barely surviving brother becoming a slave to various substances – I don’t think that’s dramatic at all. I felt adrift in the sea of forgotten. When sorrows like sea billows roll.
I could not wait for my school day to end so I could rush home and spend the rest of my day with Grandma. As we would share an afternoon snack of apples and peanut butter, she would regale me with stories from long ago when she was a young school teacher in the proverbial one room school house. She would tell me about life as a mom to 7 mischievous children (5 boys and 2 girls); my mom being older of the two girls. Most importantly, she also taught me to rely on God through my often turbulent years. Whatever my lot, thou has taught me to say, it is well; it is well with my soul.
She would tell me bad things happen and we have a choice in life – become bitter from the experience or become better. She knew of what she spoke: having all five sons serve in WWII, loss of children, grandchildren, having a fire destroy their home, illness and death of husband, survival of The Great Depression and so on. She had her hard times. She had her opportunity to become bitter or better. Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come, let this blest assurance control, that Christ has regarded my helpless estate and has shed His own blood for my soul.
Yet she never seemed to lose her joy or faith. I remember her precious laugh and incredible sense of humor. I found my comfort and joy at her feet. I found my anchor. I also found God through her testimony and faith. My sin, oh the bliss of this glorious thought, is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more, praise the Lord, praise the Lord, o my soul! Grandma pulled no punches. She told me the Christian walk would be full of trials – why else would there be the Book of Job or the verse stating “Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing has happened to you, but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may be glad with exceeding joy”. 1 Peter 4:12 -13.
That is the joy she referred to, but not a hysterical, exuberant, false laughter joy. She meant the joy of assurance that God is in control and trust that His way is best. She always reminded me that the big picture would not be revealed to us until we are ready and that may not be until we are face to face with the Lord. I owe my grandmother so much. At times I may long for her strength and faith; I am comforted that her spunk and tenacity and faith resides in my two daughters. It is a precious legacy. One that I am proud to carry on and instill in the hearts of my children. It is well with my soul, it is well, it is well with my soul.
* It is Well with My Soul by Horatio T. Spafford
Suzy Winter lives in Amarillo with her husband and their three teenaged children. When she isn’t instilling the lessons she learned at her grandmother’s feet to her children, she also teaches 7th grade English and writes about lessons learned.