Elizabeth Reardon reflects on three practical spiritual lessons she learned from her grandmother.
My grandma was a teacher -- as was my grandpa, my mom and all but one of their children. Long after her classroom days, she continued to teach in Sunday school and most profoundly by the sheer witness of her life. I spent many a summer day there, learning even when I failed to recognize that indeed there was a lesson she was passing on. So, with a bit of humor, I share a few of the finer points of her scriptural credo that have remained with me over the years.
- The Early Bird Gets the Berry.
I rise before dawn and cry for help; I have put my hope in your word. (Ps.119:47)
Literally. Having grown up on the farm, she was accustomed to getting up early and starting the chores before the sun raised its weary head. Quickly donning a work shirt and galoshes, we each would grab hold of the small green baskets to gather the blackberries that grew all along the outskirts of her property. What a treasure these berries were! So much so that, if left unattended, there would be little of the spoil for the taking after the birds had their bellies filled. After our collecting, and sitting down to breakfast, Grandma would spend some early quiet time in reading Scripture, pausing to pray and taking notes. There was a lesson in the importance in all her motions, an ordering of her day and awareness of the One who created it all.
- Waste not ... you’ll miss it the second time around!
When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.” (John 6:12)
The small plot of land behind her home beheld a large garden, overflowing with vegetables and fruits of every kind. Tomatoes, lettuce, peppers, beans, okra, strawberries, rhubarb ... all had a purpose long after the growing season. What she could not eat or bake into pies was canned and set aside for the long winter months. Often given the duty of procuring a jar of preserves or apple butter, my eyes would light up at getting to choose which sweet goodness to spread on my toast in the morning. This philosophy extended to meals as well, and each was packaged, labeled and placed in the freezer for a later date. All was a gift from God, and as such was to be valued rather than easily discarded. I too have carried this forth in my family and even find a special delight in creatively repurposing food to equally enjoy it the second time around.
- Set Sunday aside for God ... or you just might be given a reminder!
Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. (Exodus 20:8)
While my grandma wasn’t superstitious or fearful of God, she did share with me an amusing childhood story that kept her from letting her completion of work dominate her Sabbath. Her mom, my G. Grandma Connelly, was a busy bee -- always moving from task to task. And when not working, she was socializing with everyone. One morning before Sunday service, she suddenly remembered that she had been chatting the day before instead of collecting the eggs from the hens. Swiftly she moved, gathering the eggs and placing them neatly in a wicker basket on the back porch steps, making it just in time for church. Sitting in the pew, she smiled to herself that it all got done. Yet coming home, to her surprise, she was met not with a basket full of eggs, but a curled-up snake resting after its catered meal.
To this day, when I find myself in Mass running down the laundry list of things done or things to do I am reminded of this anecdote. What good is the work done if I neglect to prayerfully give focus to the readings or God’s presence? If I am in such a hurry to get to those chores, that I leave Communion and community without awe and appreciation for the gifts received? Carried forth into everything I do that day, it is to be my guide. In truth, every day is to be holy, properly balanced and ordered. Still, we all need time to rest and replenish both physically and spiritually from the week. Taking this time is recommended care for our bodies and souls.
Reflect: How have I made time for God in my day? In my week? Is there any waste in my life? Do I recognize the need for both work and rest? For Communion and community?
Copyright 2019 Elizabeth Reardon
Photo copyright 2019 Elizabeth Reardon, all rights reserved.
About the Author
Elizabeth Reardon is Director of Parish Ministries and Pastoral Associate for the Collaborative Parishes of Resurrection & St. Paul in Hingham, Massachusetts; a wife and mother of three; certified spiritual director; and writer at TheologyIsAVerb.com. Her writing is an invitation to seek and create space for God in the midst of the busyness of everyday life.