It was Sunday evening, the night after we had gone Christmas caroling, and I sat relaxing on the couch scrolling through Instagram on my phone.
I was tired. We had spent the whole day setting up Grandma and Grandpa’s Christmas tree and other such Christmas decorations in the house of the woman we had met the night before. We found out the woman’s name was Elisabeth Eaton and her children were Elliot, Opal, Henry, and Patrick.
The day had gone on well enough, and Mrs. Eaton’s children had all been excited to see the children from the church again. They laughed and played as the adults from the congregation set up the tree and placed other decorations around the home. Some of the ladies of the congregation had even brought groceries for the family to enjoy.
Mrs. Eaton was forever grateful and kept saying, “Thank you!,” “God bless you!,” and “You all are too kind.”
Even though I was still quite disgusted and angry about the whole “Christmas tree situation,” I had been outwardly agreeable and had done whatever Grandma told me to do. After all, I didn’t want any more trouble to deal with at the moment. Eventually, we all left and had headed home for the evening. Grandpa had rewarded us all by taking us out for pizza.
Grandma suddenly walked into the family room from putting the twins to bed for the night. Grandma came and sat down on the couch next to me and began to get our her coloring book and pencils.
“You have been awfully quiet today,” Grandma said, “Are you doing alright?”
This was my chance. I could either shrug it all off and pretend I was fine, or I could tell the truth and expose my anger and hurt. I conveniently chose the first.
“I’m fine, just tired, I guess.” This was true. I was not only physically tired, but I was also tired of analyzing and wondering about every situation I seemed to keep finding myself in. I was tired of having the same conversations with myself and tired of being angry, hurt, and worried. I was tired of life.
“I don’t know,” Grandma said, as she began to pick out her colored pencils, “You seem like a girl who has a whole lot on her mind. In fact, I would say ever since you came to New York you have been, shall we say, ‘fine and tired.’ Are you sure nothing is wrong?” Grandma said the whole thing while looking at her colored pencils and never making eye contact with me once.
I almost smiled at the thought of Grandma trying to pull it all out of me, all the while acting innocent of it all.
“Ok, so I have had a lot on my mind lately. I guess I just don’t know how to talk about it.” I curled my knees up to my chest and waited for Grandma to speak.
“Hmm, does this have anything to do with our conversation the other day?” Grandma asked, still focusing on her coloring.
“Maybe? Kinda? I don’t know.”
Grandma didn’t say anything, so I decided to continue.
“I guess I am just mad about how we gave one of our Christmas trees away to the Eatons. I mean, why couldn’t we have just bought them a new tree from Walmart? Or why couldn’t Benny have kept his big mouth shut and just let us live our lives in peace? Why did we have to give away something we loved so much?”
Grandma looked surprised for a moment and then nodded like she understood. “Anything else?” she asked.
What did she mean, “Anything else?” Didn’t she get it? Didn’t she understand I was telling her I disapproved of her and Grandpa giving the tree away?
Her response made me so angry that I decided to really tell her everything.
“Yeah, there is more. First of all, why won’t God answer my prayers? Why won’t He give me the peace and joy I have been praying for? Why does God answer other people’s prayers and not my own?
And if God is so loving, why is He tearing my family apart? Why is He letting Benny be so sad about mom and dad not being able to be here for Christmas this year? If it weren’t for mom and dad, everything would be fine!” I paused, and without really thinking about it, I suddenly blurted out, “I don’t understand why Benny can see angels and I can’t.”
When I said the sentence, it felt as if I had let out a big secret that had been weighing down on me. It felt as if I was no longer hiding, but rather felt like my heart had been exposed, ready for someone to poke around and decide what to do with me.
I sat there holding back tears and waiting with anticipation for Grandma to say something. Finally she spoke and said, “That is a lot for a person to be thinking about.”
I nodded and waited for her to say something more.
Grandma readjusted herself on the couch and said, “You know, Emi, after listening to you, I don’t think you are mad at your grandpa and me for giving the tree away and I don’t think you are mad at your brother. I also don’t think you are mad at your parents either. I think there are only two people you are mad at.”
“Who?” I asked in disgust.
“I think you are mad at God and yourself.”
“What do you mean?” I asked skeptically.
Grandma smiled. “I mean you are acting very similar to how I did once when I was in a similar predicament you see yourself in now, until God got my attention.”
“What do you mean?” I asked again.
“Well, when I was twelve years old, my mother was diagnosed with cancer. Back then, there wasn’t much doctors could do for such patients. All we could do was wait for the moment when Mother would spend her last few moments here on earth.”
By now, I was fully intrigued. I had never heard this story in such detail about my great-grandma before.
“When I was thirteen,” Grandma continued, “my mother died. That left me in charge of my four little brothers because my father worked in a factory all day long. I became the mother of the household and never went to college. I never became what I had always dreamed of becoming – a nurse.
Boy, was I angry at God! After what happened, I never wanted to hear the name of God, let alone speak to Him or have a relationship with Him ever again. So, I left my Christian life behind, and did things my own way. That is when my life got really complicated and messed up. You see, when you get rid of God, you get rid of all goodness, true peace, and joy.”
Grandma paused and then smiled. “Fortunately, God used my wandering to help me find your Grandpa. You know I met him in a bar!” Grandma laughed right out loud at the thought.
We both giggled and then she continued, “When I found your Grandpa, he was already a Christian. We became friends and for some odd reason, probably because I liked him, I went to church with him.
The first Sunday I went to church, the pastor preached on the woman at the well. The next Sunday, he preached on the woman who lost a gold coin, and the next Sunday was about how Jesus is our Good Shepherd. Time after time, I knew God was trying to get my attention, but I refused to listen. Until on that last Sunday, before I re-gave my life to Jesus, the sermon was on the prodigal son. The main lesson was on how Jesus will redeem, “clean up,” and welcome anyone who comes back to Him.”
Grandma shook her head at the memory, “I still remember what the pastor ended the sermon with. He has just gotten done reading the passage in 2 Corinthians which says, ‘God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.’
The pastor continued on and said, ‘God uses the lowly and unimportant things of this world to often bring about our salvation or even our own humility.'”
At the verse, my stomach dropped. I remembered in an instant the night Grandpa had shared that same Bible verse with me.
“This is the part that gets me…” Grandma said, bringing me back to reality, “The pastor said, God will even use something as simple as a boyfriend.'”
Grandma chuckled, “At those words, I sat straight up and knew that was it! I didn’t need any more signs. God was chasing after my heart and I figured it was about time that I should just go on and hand my life over to Him.”
“So, you did?” I asked, even though I already knew the answer.
To Be Continued…(Hebrews 3:7-8)
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