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Amazing Grace: Lessons I Learned from my Grandma

Grace Schimmel was born August 27, 1926 to George and Nellie Kamps. Over the course of her long and full life, she had seven children, 31 grandchildren, and over 50 great-grandchildren. Her past times included lively card games with friends and family, heated debates around the dinner table, Dutch bingo, and painting (which she was very gifted in). Her laugh was contagious, and she always had a spring in her step. She was my role model, my fountain of knowledge, and my grandma.

While she was still on this earth, she taught me many things about life. She was as wise as an owl, and quick like a fox, even as she got older. A lot of the times her advice didn’t come directly from things she told me; rather, some came from her daily walk.

Trust in the Lord (Prov. 3: 5–6): Day to day, week to week, my grandma always had a positive attitude. Back then, I didn’t know how she did it, with the news about her cancer always being negative and her growing pile of pill bottles making its home on the counter. From the world’s perspective, she should have just given up.

Now, as a more mature Christian, I can see what she saw: God’s hand upholding her. She trusted in God to carry her through each day, just as a little girl trusts her father. She knew that he would never leave her or forsake her. Her positive attitude came from the knowledge she had that God would take care of her. The frequent reminders of life’s frailty were God nudging her closer towards his outstretched hand, which she clung to with all of her heart.

Spend as much time with your family as you can (Job 1; Job 14:2): As a young child, I didn’t like going over to my grandparents’ house. They were too big, too loud, and too scary. As I got older, I learned to love their company as one loves the company of friends. I always looked forward to flying around the curves of Leonard Street because I knew that it meant going to Grandma’s house. I was older, so I was able to stick my two cents in during discussions and was sometimes even asked my own opinion, which made me feel pretty important. The loud giants were gone, and fun-loving teddy bears had taken their place.

I didn’t see this back then, but the time I had with my elderly grandparents was limited. My grandma especially taught me that this time I had with family was special and shouldn’t be squandered. She made every minute that we were together count. God had blessed her with this family, so she had better influence us as much as she could before she was gone. I also think that we were just a joy to be around, so she could never get enough of us.

Sadly, I learned this lesson the hard way. Long story short, I had an opportunity to spend time with my grandparents the weekend before my grandmother peacefully, yet suddenly, passed away. I didn’t take it; I spent time with friends instead. To this day, I regret that decision.

So, take it from me, make the most of your time with your family. You don’t know how long you have with them. And believe me, every moment is entirely worth it.

Be wise in whom you date (1 John 2:15; 2 Corinthians 6:14a; Ephesians 3:17; Colossians 3:18–19): The weekend before she died, my grandma gave me one of the most important pieces of advice I have ever received. As I was about to run off with some friends (some of them boys), she told me with a knowing look and a smile, “I want to approve of the boy you date.” I just smiled back at her, gave her a hug, and quickly ran back to where my friends were waiting for me.

At the time, I just brushed off what she had said because dating for me was too far away for me to even think about. But now, this simple phrase weighs heavily on me. How can I find someone who measures up to my grandma’s standards? I can’t just be going and dating anyone that I kind of like. He has to have the marks of a true man of God, which my grandma saw in Grandpa. Even though she is no longer here, my decision must be based upon the Christian doctrines she passed down to me. She taught me that a spouse has to lead me and run with me closer to Christ, rather than carry me away from him.

Pray without ceasing (Luke 21:36; 1 Thessalonians 5:17): Something that I personally tend to forget to do is to pray. I make excuses like, “I didn’t have time,” or, “I was just too hungry, so I couldn’t wait.” This has become a horribly bad habit that I just can’t seem to break.

My grandmother had a very healthy prayer life; she always prayed when prayer was needed, and even if it wasn’t, she prayed. She even kept a prayer journal with pages full of prayer requests and things to remember to pray about so that she knew exactly what she was going to say.

As I write this, I see my huge need for prayer. My relationship with God is built off of prayer. So, if I’m not taking the time to pray, then my spiritual life will die. Her example is what I should follow after so that I make time for prayer. Rather, I should pray first, before I make time for anything else.

Love God with all your heart and show it (James 1:22; Matthew 22:37): God was the center of my grandma’s life. Her zeal for God was insurmountable. She loved God with all her heart and knew his word like she knew the rules to all her favorite card games. Even a lot of the discussions that we had had at the dinner table usually revolved around news stories which she would dissect using her Christian worldview. She talked the talk, and also walked the walk, which seems to be a disconnect in most people’s lives today.

Not only did she love God in her heart, she loved him in her actions. Grandma made sure that her walk reflected her love for God. She did this by serving others. I remember seeing her knitting needles and yarn basket by her armchair next to the fire full of started projects that she was going to give to others. She also liked to crochet the edges of blankets for new babies, which all of her grandkids have.

Actions such as these weren’t the only way she showed God’s love. She herself loved others with this love. She cared deeply for her friends and family, using her homemade dinners, words of kindness, or her time to show her love. My heart throbs with godly pride when people tell me how much they loved her and how much she meant to them.

Her life was an example of what she believed. With this walk, she showed true thankfulness to God, as well as being a witness to those around her, Christian or not. There isn’t a day that I don’t miss her, even though her influence surrounds me, but I am assured that someday I will see her again.

For all of you reading this, go visit your grandparents. The elderly generation has so many important things to say and are more than happy to share them with you. I know that as young adults, we need good role-models and solid advice. Who better to fit the bill than those that have lived almost a century? Elderly people, as we all know, aren’t here forever, so we should feel a stronger urgency to spend time with them. I assure you, not only will you learn lessons, but also a variety of card games. It’s worth it.