As our small groups study Ecclesiastes this year, it casts a certain lens over life. What is vanity? What will last? It has me thinking about where I place my time and purposes for Christ.
It seems some people make lasting grooves into our lives. Why is one event marked in our memory more than another? And how can we make a lasting impact for Christ? It takes prayer and discernment through the Holy Spirit to determine where we need to spend our time and influence. So foremostly we need to seek the Lord as we order our days.
But it also seems we can scatter good seed lightly or plant seeds deeply. I think scripture tells us to be doing both. By seed, I mean eternal work which adorns the gospel and makes a godly impact. But when you think about vanity: how easily we lose our focus and chase things that are here today but literally gone tomorrow, a chasing of wind.
Nothing done for Christ is wasted, but today I want to encourage us to take the time and energy to plant eternal seed deeply into the soil of our relationships, among real people who will know us into the future. Let me explain.
I have drawn inspiration most of my adult life from two women who passed away many years ago now. Aside from my own mother, many people have impacted my life. But my maternal grandmother (Idah Janece) and my paternal great-grandmother’s (Eunice Lucinda Marie)’s lives have surprisingly steered and shaped me more than they could have ever imagined.
My maternal grandma was the mother of 7 children. I think of her often as I have raised my own 11 children. There is a kinship I feel towards her in my mothering. For a long time, she was one of a few examples to me of a woman who raised a big family. Now I am grateful to have many godly examples whom I attend church with.
My grandma’s sister said of her once, “I don’t know how she did it but she spoiled every one of her kids. ” It was a compliment to her ability to make each of her children feel loved and cherished. It is a goal I have held onto as a mother, though quite imperfectly.
When money was tight in our own household, I would remember my favorite story my mom told me of when she was little– when money was tight in their household. For Christmas, because they couldn’t afford gifts, my grandma cleaned up all of the dolls for the girls, did their hair up in curls and new bows, and sewed up a new wardrobe for them (likely from cast-off linens and lace) and placed them around the tree for Christmas morning, almost like new.
She worked tirelessly and selflessly. I was just a little girl who saw her about once a week growing up, but what a mark she made! I can still recall when I spent the night at their house, she would wake up early, chipper like a bird, singing in the kitchen, making scrambled eggs and cutting up fruit. It was a vibe. I can still feel it. I think of her often when I need to work hard and dig in to serve my family.
My paternal great-grandmother was similar but different. She had one child. That daughter had two children-my father being one. Her life was simple but beautiful. She was a “self-taught” everything: seamstress, cook, violinist, pianist, painter, writer, poet. She submitted poems to contests continually, and sometimes won. Her oil paintings filled the walls of all of our homes. She sold many of them locally. She always had sour milk cookies in her fridge for us grandkids and I consistently ate the most amazing macaroni and cheese at her table.
I received her hand-written recipe box as a keepsake when she died, and didn’t I read the memoir she wrote of her life until I was in my 30s. I discovered a whole new side of her when I read through both. She was more than my grandma. She was a woman of fortitude and faith.
How did she do it? She spent her life making something beautiful out of almost nothing. She had a hunger to learn and percolate on ideas. I have drawn inspiration from her my whole life in terms of resourcefulness and being a life-long learner. I ask myself, why do I know these women still impact me? Because I was blessed to spend time with them–growing up near their feet. And they probably thought nothing of it. They were just loving me.
I have happy memories of these two women who were so ordinary in their times, but who are extraordinary to me. I’ve known them longer in my memory than I knew them in my life, yet they impacted my life with deep grooves. Will anyone be able to say this of us? Do we take the time to invest in these deeper, lasting connections in our fast moving, well-connected, and ambitious times? Don’t you want to live in such a way that it could someday be said of your life as well, that you made a lasting impact?
If so, may we look to eternal things. Eternal things are so often the mundane and simple things motivated by the love of Christ. Serving another meal, reading another bedtime story, visiting the one who is lonely, taking the time to look your child in the face. Creating an atmosphere in our homes that brings comfort and care. It requires time and it requires that we be present, not off somewhere else chasing the wind. May God give us wisdom to see what is eternal!