My Grandmother’s Smile

Steave Gipson is pastor at the Church of Christ of Exeter.

My grandmother always had a smile on her face. Josie was born in 1896, when automobiles were a curious invention. There was no television or even radio. Water for washing and drinking had to be pumped into a bucket and then carried into the house. By the end of her life, computers were in people’s homes and satellites were beaming conversations around the globe.

The Valley was still a frontier when she and Wiley moved here from Arkansas. Good water could be pumped out of the ground but there wasn’t much else on their land but weeds and dry, dusty soil. Still, she and Wiley took a patch of nothing and turned it into a place to raise seven children. She loved it.

She did have her share of troubles, however. She didn’t talk about her recurring illnesses; she just pressed forward. She didn’t talk about Wiley’s drinking problems, but she took more than a few punches. She never complained.

Well, not “never.” Josie loved her breakfast. Every morning she had exactly five ounces of orange juice, one fried egg, two strips of bacon, a slice of toast and, most importantly, a cup of coffee. I think of myself as pretty tough and pretty used to strong coffee but Josie’s coffee could practically melt the spoon she stirred it with.

This leads us to the one complaint I heard from her. When she was in the hospital, I was sitting with her when they brought breakfast in. The food under the domed plastic tray didn’t look great, but she still smiled and ate. But when she grabbed the coffee, she looked at it, took a sip, and said, “This water was better before they stained it.” Then she smiled like she always did.

Why did she smile all of the time? You might think that a woman who put up with decades of abuse would be embittered. She wasn’t. You would think that a woman who had worked under such harsh conditions would be worn down. In her 80s, she was still washing her clothes with a washboard and tub because she thought machines “waste” water and electricity. So why all the smiles?

She told me that Jesus gave her everything she ever needed. Of all her possessions, it was her Bible that was the most important and most used. Even when she needed thick glasses and a six-inch magnifying glass to see the words, she read every day. Her eyes were always full of life, her smile was always wide, and her small house was always full because Jesus gave her everything she needed and she was grateful for it.

Here are, for your consideration, two passages from the Bible that remind me of her. The first is 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18: “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” The second is found in 

Philippians 2:14-16: “Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.”

Prays Together is a rotating faith-based commentary and advice column among the pastors of the First Presbyterian Church of Exeter, Church of Christ of Exeter, Nazarene Church of Exeter, Church of God of Exeter, the New Life Assembly of God and Rocky Hill Community Church as well as the Lemon Cove Community Church.

This column is not a news article but the opinion of the writer and does not reflect the views of The Sun-Gazette newspaper.

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