Joy multiplies itself when we rejoice over what others have that we don’t. It comes to us when the joy we see in others is enough to fill us. Today’s episode shows how it’s done with three beautiful grandparent memories shared by two listeners.
Grandparents impact us long after they are gone
If you’ve been listening to this podcast for any length of time you’ll know it’s all about relationships. It’s about finding the joy God intends for us in our relationships. It is the “this” you were made for in You Were Made for This.
As an example, for many of us our relationship with our grandparents left a lasting impact on our lives long after they passed away. So I recently asked listeners like you to describe memories of your grandparents. I shared several of these in episode 147: Memories Our Grandparents Make. I’ll have a link to it at the bottom of the show notes.
A few more grandparent memories have come in that I thought you’d like to hear today. I see joy in each one of them. I’ll comment at the end of them with a few thoughts of my own that may surprise you. Here’s the first one from a listener who starts by identifying herself as “The woman from Minnesota again…” Yes, it’s Marilyn from Minnesota, who always has something interesting to say. Today is no exception. She writes:
A listener responds with a grandparent memory
“When I was in about fifth grade, our family made our trek from the U.P. to Indiana to visit my mother's parents. I adored them, but was only able to see them once a year or less. Interesting how those few days a year made a huge impact on my life.
“One evening, after my grandparents had gone to bed, I happened to be passing by their room. The door was ajar by a couple of inches so I could easily hear what they were saying. They actually were not talking to one another. They were talking to God. I paused by the door to listen to their entire prayer time. It became quite clear to me that this was their habit each evening after turning off the lights and settling in bed.
“They were praying for each of their five children and each of their many grandchildren. Their specific names were mentioned and specific prayer requests were given. Of course, I waited expectantly to be sure I was included. Sure enough, I was. Those few minutes were a treasure I have never forgotten. And they never knew I eavesdropped on their private three-way conversation. It's all part of my treasured heritage.”
Isn’t that a great story? I see joy in it, don't you? She concludes with a brief story about being a grandparent herself.
Before our grandkids move away
“A few weeks ago, on our local Christian radio station, they mentioned a woman who traced each of her grandchildren's hands in a notebook. When she would pray for them, she would place her hand over that traced hand. A special ‘touch.’
“Four of my grandchildren are moving a far distance from me. Before they leave, I'm planning on tracing their hands in my prayer notebook.”
Memories of music and making bread
Then I heard from Dorcas, a missionary now living in Virginia. I see joy in her grandparent stories, too. She begins,
“Once again I enjoyed your podcast today…and it brought back really sweet memories of my grandparents. You’re right – it was the simple things that we remember, but they made them – and our time with them so very special!
“My paternal grandpa taught me hymns and ballads while sitting on the front porch of their home, rocking in the porch swing. ‘Ole Dan Tucker’ was my favorite and then Johnny Appleseed (“The Lord is Good to Me”.) My paternal grandmother was the best bread maker around. She baked all the bread for the local hospitals, and I still remember having hot buns and fresh blackberries and crème for breakfast….nothing better! I love to make bread to this day.
“Then my sweet Scottish, shy maternal grandmother was so special. The mother of 12 kids, and not afraid of work at all. She taught me how to see the rain coming through the mountains and would say ‘go get a blanket and then grab the songbooks and join me on the front porch.’
Snuggling and singing with Grandma
“There we would sit on her porch swing, wrapped up in the blanket, snuggled together and her teaching me old southern gospel songs and hymns. I loved it. And she made me love rain, songbooks, and time to swing during summer rains. I can still hear her voice in my memory and have loved porch swings ever since.
“I guess those porch swings were the center of community back then and I am grateful for the love of God, family, and songs they gave me. Hospitality happened so naturally for them all – they just shared what they had! I can’t wait to meet my other grandpa in Heaven someday.”
My reaction to these grandparent stories
I love the memories shared by “that Minnesota woman again.” What a tender and beautiful picture of eavesdropping on her grandparents as they prayed for each of their children and grandchildren individually, and specifically for her. What a touching picture of love poured out for one’s family. And to do it privately when you think the kids aren’t watching. But as you know, the kids are always watching, even when you think they aren’t.
And then there’s that story of tracing her grandchildren’s hand in her prayer book that she will touch as she prays for them when they move far away from her. Doesn’t that grip your heart? It does mine.
Our missionary friend Dorcas listening in Virginia also shares some great memories her grandparents created for her. I don’t know about you, but I can just smell the bread her grandmother baked. And I can feel the warmth of her other grandmother snuggled with her granddaughter on the front porch, singing during the summer rain.
The surprising thing for me in these stories is I can’t relate at all to the grandparents described here. My grandparents weren’t anything at all like Marilyn’s or Dorcas. Where they anything like yours? Do you see joy in the stories of your grandparents?
Yet the joy I see in what Dorcas and Marilyn experienced brings me joy now.
My grandparent memories
I only saw my maternal grandparents twice in my life.
They lived on a farm in northern Minnesota, far from where I grew up in southeastern Wisconsin. I only saw them the two times we visited them. Once when I was about 10 or 11, and the other right before I started college when I was 18.
I don’t recall them interacting with me at all during those brief visits.
My dad’s father died decades before I was born. His mother lived with us when I was quite young. I only remember tension in our house during those years, as she and my mother didn’t get along.
I do have fond memories of my grandmother when I was a teenager. For several summers I spent a week with her in her simple low-income flat in an aging neighborhood in the city, not far from the suburban home of my parents.
A summer memory with my grandmother
I remember one summer painting her flat. She was fascinated with the fact I could paint her ceiling without a ladder. I was tall, and her ceiling was short, just like her. In her broken English, and with her hands to the side of her face, she would exclaim, “Janez, Janez,” marveling at my handiwork. My brother Joe still calls me Janez. And he’s “Yo – Szha” to me.
My grandmother was always kind to me and gave me stamps off the letters she received from her friends in Slovenia – the country she immigrated from when she was just 18. I always felt she loved me.
But that’s about it when it comes to my grandparent memories. There was a time earlier in my life when I would have been jealous of grandparent memories like Marilyn and Dorcas shared. “Must be nice” would have been my theme song (by the way I talk about the harmful “must be nice” phrase back in episode 005: The Gift of Joy – Part 1)
Connecting with the lives of others so different from our own
Yet despite the differences in our background and our grandparents, I thoroughly enjoyed these grandparent memories you’ve heard today. Rather than being envious, I share in the joy I see in Dorcas and Marilyn’s stories.
I find joy in hearing about the character of their grandparents and how they expressed love for their grandchildren. I find joy in hearing how Marilyn and Dorcas were blessed by their grandparents in different ways. To see the joy in them fills me.
It doesn’t bother me in the least that I wasn’t given what they received. I find joy in seeing how the character of God manifested itself in the lives of these older people I never meant, and the positive impact they had on their families.
I find joy in the subconscious realization that I can be like the grandparents in these stories. In creating meaningful memories for others, I in turn bring joy into my own life.
How about YOU?
I bet there are people in your life who are filled with joy over something missing from yours. But our lives are so much more enriched when we can appreciate the joy we see in the lives of others and share in it with them.
It’s what God wants for us when he says “rejoice with those who rejoice.” It takes the spirit of God working in our lives to live like this. All we need to do is ask Jesus to make us feel content in whatever circumstance we are in. And then the joy will come. We can’t do it on our own. We need Him.
Here’s the main takeaway I hope you remember from today’s episode
Joy has a way of multiplying itself when we rejoice over what others have that we don’t. It comes to us when the joy we see in others is enough to fill us. Joy is meant to be shared.
In closing, I hope your thinking was stimulated by today’s show to reflect on how you might be able to experience more joy in your life by sharing in the joys of others. Through the power of God’s spirit, you were made for this.
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