Last August my grandma turned 80 years old. For the past 7 months she has yo-yoed between the hospital and rehabs as her health continues to deteriorate. It’s a difficult process, watching someone you love so dearly slowly fade from the strong, determined woman you once knew.
My grandma was a powerhouse of the faith — the kind of woman who stopped in the middle of what she was doing to pray for you or to give you some encouragement from the Lord. She taught me what it was to truly love Jesus, even when there were numerous things that could have caused bitterness in her heart. Things like wayward children or a husband diagnosed with MS early in their marriage — a development that led to a penny-pinching budget. All of those things only caused her to press into her relationship with Jesus more, and in doing so, she saw miracles.
Up until I was a teenager, I spent every Saturday night at her house so I could attend church with her every Sunday morning. Those days were filled with her sharing the promises and faithfulness of God. She taught me many old hymns and choruses, which I would often sing with her when she ministered at nursing homes each week after church.
When I was 14, I moved away from my grandma and no longer spent those weekends with her, but that didn’t stop her from sharing her nuggets of wisdom and truth with me. Oftentimes it came in the form of a handwritten letter. My grandma was my most faithful pen pal through Bible school and my first few years of full-time ministry out in the Midwest. Sometimes she’d stick in a book of stamps (so I could write back) and a 5-dollar bill so I could buy myself “one of those cappuccinos.” I saved every letter because those pages held the firsthand accounts of a battle-tested faith.
I decided to pull out my shoebox filled with envelopes return-addressed to one “Grandma Kitty” with a small red rose embellishment in the top left corner. For hours I sat at my desk and read through my grandma’s words to me — words of encouragement, words of life, words of love and words of truth. Not one was without a Scripture verse, and many included something for me to read.
In one such letter, she included this “Recipe For A Good Husband” that came from a cookbook published in 1915 by the Women’s Missionary Society of Union Avenue Baptist in New York City. It reads:
“Be careful in your selection. Do not choose too young, and take only such as have been reared in a good, moral atmosphere. Some wives insist on keeping husbands in a pickle while others keep them in hot water. This only makes them sour, hard and sometimes bitter. Even poor varieties may be made sweet, tender and good by garnishing them with patience — well sweetened with a smile and flavored with kisses. Then keep them warm with a steady fire of domestic devotion and serve with three good meals a day. When thus prepared, they will keep for years.”
It was my grandmother’s faith that gave her the strength to love and serve my grandfather well for as long as he was alive. Because of my grandpa’s MS, he was unable to work, which meant my grandma worked full-time while raising three kids and taking care of a sick husband. I’d watch her take care of the cooking, the lawn-mowing, the laundry, the bill paying … everything. When he became unable to get in and out of a wheelchair alone, I’d watch my less-than-5-foot-tall grandma lift my grandpa in and out of it. Then, when he was finally admitted to a nursing home, she was there numerous times a week, bringing him black licorice, reading the Bible with him and giving him kisses when she entered the room and left for the night.
It wasn’t an easy life, but my grandma was devoted to serving Jesus, and one of the ways she did that was by serving and loving her husband well. Through her example, I have learned it is our faith that prepares us for marriage, for sickness and for trials. When our lives are deeply rooted in Christ, we can love people the way God intended us to love them, including future spouses, family, friends and those we stand next to in line while waiting for coffee.
Now, that sounds like a great recipe to me!