"They become even more beautiful with age."
She was talking about the sound of the wind chimes on her back porch.
She could have just as easily been talking about herself.
My grandmother is one of those women who inspires me more than I will ever be able to say.
She has been married to my granddaddy, a minister and gentle man of God, for over 50 years.
Minister's wife, music director, children's pastor, women's ministries director, mother of five, grandmother, great-grandmother, chauffeur, cook, housekeeper, gardener, counselor, confidant, friend, and woman of God - at one point or another, she has fulfilled each of these roles with graceful ease and with prayerful effort. For years, she sat on the front row, or on the piano bench, of the church, while her husband preached and ministered and stood in the spotlight.
She taught all of her children to sing and harmonize together. Her house is always clean enough for company because her door is always open for anyone who happens to "stop by" her home.
It's not only open to the occasional visitor, but also to her family members in need of a home.
This was the case for my mom, my brother, and I.
I was six. Nick was 4. Mom was left alone.
And in less than a month, my grandmother had prepared more than half of her house for us to move into.
My brother and I shared the room down the hallway with the new A/C window unit bought just for us. My mom took the large bedroom in the back, which also doubled as our own private entrance and living room.
My granddaddy built a deck off that back door, so the three of us could have a private place to sit and deal with all the changes happening in our lives.
Furniture was moved in. Decorations were put up.
Her home became our home.
While my mom was working 40 hours a week so that Nick and I could go to a good school; Grandmother's face greeted us at the door when we got home from school.
The smell of crowder peas and cornbread still reminds me of walking through her door on those afternoons.
During those years of transition and healing, she was the one who sat with us, talked with us, cried with us, and prayed with us.
She taught me how to cross-stitch and how to draw. She taught me about flowers and about making strawberry shortcake.
During those years in her home, as we were all searching for answers, she showed me how to be a strong woman of God. I watched as she kept a stable home and clean clothes so my granddaddy could go and minister. She prepared meals and washed dishes so that my mom could come home and spend time with her children. She sat and cross-stitched for hours so my brother and I could come in and talk and talk... knowing that she would listen while stitching. And though she lived every day with a servants heart, she also had the heart of a warrior - a prayer warrior.
My mom once wrote a song - "Don't worry 'bout the Devil; Here Comes my Mama!"
And as funny as that sounds, it is also the perfect description of my grandmother's prayer life.
During times when we were afraid, it was her powerful prayers that brought us peace. When we were hurting, her firm faith in the healing power of God brought us through. And when we doubted ourselves, she reminded us who we were and where we came from.
This is why I have always felt like her "favorite." I know this sounds silly, but she spent so much of her time caring for me, loving me, listening to me.
And so I KNEW that I was her favorite... at least, that is what I thought until this past Christmas...
Our family of 30-some people had finished eating the large pot-luck dinner and had moved into the family room to hear my granddaddy read the Christmas story.
This past Christmas, rather than sitting behind them (in my usual spot) I sat across the room from them, next to the Christmas tree, in preparation to pass out the gifts.
But what I saw from that viewpoint is a picture that flashes through my mind on a daily basis.
I saw my grandmother, older and more frail than I remember from my childhood - but also more beautiful than I had ever seen her. Her right arm was around her husband's, and her left arm rested on her lap, holding a tissue. At her feet, were eight or nine great-grandchildren, listening to the story. To her back and side, her children and grandchildren, cuddling with their own spouses or babies. Across the room, next to me, even more children and grandchildren, all intently listening to what granddaddy was saying.
But as for me - I was watching her. Because she wasn't reading along with granddaddy. I would venture to say she might not have been listening.
She was looking around the room, at the faces of each child, grandchild, and great-grandchild individually. She was watching the expressions of the ones who didn't notice her watching, and nodding - in the knowing, loving way that only she can -at the ones who did catch her eye.
And it was then that I realized, I was not her only favorite. He was. And she was. And her, and him, and him, and her. Each one of her five children, twelve grandchildren, and eleven great-grandchildren is her favorite, and they know it. She has so much love in her heart, that each one of us knows that we know that "I am her favorite."
As I sat and watched her, sitting next to her life-long partner, surrounded by a family that loves her, I realized that, more than ever, she was showing me an example of God's perfect love.
Because, I am not ashamed to say: I am God's favorite. Really. I am. He told me so.
What's that?! He told you that too? You're His favorite also?!
It's because He can do that. He has so much love, that, even though I am His favorite, so are you...and you... and him... and her...and YOU...
And so, the prayer that has been in my heart today is that my love will be that big! Towards my daughter, towards my husband, towards my friends, and toward my NCWC Kids. I want each of them to feel like they are my favorite... the most important person... my #1 priority.
Oh, that I could show a love like that to the people around me.
Because, in my life, that kind of love from one stay-at-home wife and mom, it has made all the difference.