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Honor and My Grandma

I’ve been thinking about my grandma more than usual lately. Her birthday would be today. On February 22, 2022 she would have been 102. She’s been gone almost 18 years. While I didn’t plan to post about honor on her birthday, I also don’t believe in coincidences. I choose the He Says I Am affirmation verses about two months in advance, then design and schedule all the social posts about a month prior to posting. (If you aren’t aware, you can find follow posts on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest.) What I don’t plan is when I’m going to write a blog or what I’m going to write about. I decided that when God had something He wanted me to share, He’d let me know. I also trust that a specific word or message will post when you need it. He knows… When I realized the “honor post” would happen on her birthday and that it was yellow -- her favorite color -- I knew God had all of that perfectly planned for a while. Maybe he planned it for me, but maybe he also planned it for you.

So, let me tell you a little about my grandma. Her name was Robiner, but the “er” was pronounced “a” by those who called her that. I never knew the spelling until I saw it on her obituary and thought it was a typo. Most people who didn’t call her Mama or Grandma called her Roby, usually Aunt Roby. She was Irish with wiry curly hair, her father a Huggins. My grandfather was nine years older than her, and they were married for more than 60 years. She was a hard worker and could grow anything. She loved flowers and rocking and babies and quilting and singing and dancing and soap operas and playing cards, and she was an incredible cook. She fiercely loved her family, and without a doubt, she knew how to honor them.

She farmed, canned, and cooked like nobody’s business. It didn’t matter when you went to her house, there was cooked food – just like she’d been waiting for you. Every other Sunday after church, as far back as I can remember, all the aunts and uncles and cousins would eat together at grandma and grandpa’s little farmhouse for Sunday Dinner. (In the rural south, dinner was the mid-day meal, supper the evening meal. I didn’t know about “lunch” for a long time.) I have no idea how we all fit in that little house, but those are some of the best memories of my life. We’d always have fried chicken and another meat, biscuits and/or cornbread, two kinds of beans, corn, and any number of other things from the garden. I do believe she put a little sugar and a lot of butter in everything. Paula Deen had nothing on her! Some might say her specialty was biscuits and gravy, or fried chicken, but for me it was dessert. Any kind, all kinds -- peanut brittle, divinity, teacakes, Sock-It-To-Me Cake, caramel pie, chocolate pie. We’ll get to my favorite in a minute. There were at least two or three sweet options every week. And at Christmas or Easter or Thanksgiving, oh-so-many more.

After the kitchen was cleaned, she loved gathering back around the claw-foot dining table to play cards. Her nieces, who were around her age and more like cousins, would often come over to play. Her games weren’t limited to girls, but most of my memories are with my cousin(s) and aunt(s). After dinner we would play for hours. I only know one card game, Shanghai Rummy, and it’s what I played with my grandma. You had to really watch her, though. She would “forget” all sorts of convenient things that benefitted her team. She would make up songs to give her partner hints but fervently disavow it – both that she was cheating and that she made up the song! Oh, how we’d laugh. How she loved to laugh.

Food was a primary way my grandmother honored people. She knew everyone’s favorite dish and if she knew you would be there, she’d prepare it. I’ve heard a hundred times, “Come in here Dawn Michelle, I’ve got some coconut cream pie out on the back porch.” That’s how she made everyone feel welcome and comfortable. She would notice what they liked and make it especially for them -- a prime example of the spiritual gift of hospitality in action.

Another way grandma made people feel special was calling them by their full name. Dana Ann, Dawn Michelle, Jeffrey Allen, Kelly Parker, to name a few. Some of us had nicknames that won out, but for the most part you could expect to hear your full name at her house, and it didn’t mean you were in trouble like it would have at your own house. It started at the door with the “Come in here Dawn Michelle” but didn’t stop there. “Dawn Michelle, have you colored your hair?” (I’m not sure she ever believed that I didn’t.) “Let’s play us some cards, Dawn Michelle.” “Go to the closet and get you a jar of pickles, Dawn Michelle.” It made you feel more than special, being called by your full name. It made you feel like you were her favorite. And yes, we each thought we were the one, right Jeffrey Allen, Dana Ann, Kelly Parker, Trisha Sue? But that’s what happens when honor is genuine and generous.

I wonder if Grandma’s example of hospitality and honoring others is lost on this generation. We work outside the home more, share meals in our home with others less. Most of us don’t grow our own food or even cook all our meals. We certainly don’t invest time in other people’s lives – not even our families -- like our parents and grandparents did.

I confess, my first thoughts each day are rarely about how I can honor others. Top of the list are obligations and commitments, work projects and deadlines, home schedules, physical needs like what’s for lunch and how long until a nap. Can you relate? I push honoring others to the bottom of my to-do list…if at all. When I do think about honoring others, Philippians 2 is what comes to mind:

(2) Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose. (3) Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. (4) Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. (5) You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.

Is that how we live today? Is it the intention of believers? A forefront mission of the church? For the most part, unfortunately, it’s not. Humility is such a counter-cultural mindset!

In 2 Thessalonians, Paul opens his letter to these believers with encouragement during a season of persecution. He acknowledges their faithfulness and love toward one another, praying that God will (1) give them rest, (2) judge the persecutors and (3) be glorified through them.

Verses 11-12 say,

“So we keep on praying for you, asking our God to enable you to live a life worthy of his call. May he give you the power to accomplish all the good things your faith prompts you to do. (12) Then the name of our Lord Jesus will be honored because of the way you live, and you will be honored along with him. This is all made possible because of the grace of our God and Lord, Jesus Christ.”

The Lord and his name are honored when we live in obedience to his word and to the daily prompts of the Holy Spirit. He will be honored when we choose to honor others. It takes intentionality, discipline, and practice, even sacrifice. It can be hard, most especially when we feel unappreciated or ignored. But eventually as we learn and grow into keeping our eyes on Christ first and others next, we’ll think less about ourselves and our own needs. When we honor others, we honor Christ. He is honored through us, and we are honored with Him. I certainly want honoring Christ and others to be top of mind, but I’m a long, long way from where I should be. Any discipline can become natural with dedication. For my grandma, honoring others was an artform.

Can you think of examples of people who know who’ve honored others well? What did that look like for them? What “tools” did they use like my grandma used food and full names? What’s one way today you can honor someone in your family or workplace or school?

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