celebrating a big birthday & victory in Jesus

Her fingers danced across the piano keys as she played one hymn right after the other. No hymnal, just her mind gently rolling through memories of beautiful songs and truth that she has written on her heart since she was around the age of six. Each one more enchanting than the other for all of us. We sang along and conjured up a few memories from our own youth. There really is nothing like family time that celebrates simpler times and days gone by.

Yes, I think it was a beautiful way to celebrate her birthday. She may have been entertaining us, but the most precious part was the way you could almost see her heart open up to the past with every note. She laughed. She enjoyed seeing us touched by her beautiful gift of music. And, she shared a few stories of childhood.

Memories. Those could by far be some of the most precious birthday presents.

She has a crown of beautiful white, soft curls and her eyes genuinely twinkle when she laughs. A gentle nod and a kind smile are her gift to those she passes, and she always loves to give a helping hand. Playing the piano is by far one of her favorite past times. And, yes, playing for the old people at the nursing home brings great joy.

You would never know she is celebrating such a big birthday. Ninety-five. And, no, none of us, nor does she, consider herself old. She giggled last night and said, “Well, this is a special birthday. It’s not everyday you turn 95.” And, it was. You would never guess that her life has been anything but wonderful. You could never tell that her heart has been broken many times, and she has buried way too many of those she loved way too soon. Including both of her very own sons. Her strength is unexplainable unless you know her heart. And, yes, it is full of Jesus.

She constantly amazes us as she continues on life’s journey with a sincere confidence. One that says she has seen lots, experienced lots and loved lots. Her answers to some of life’s toughest questions come simply and quickly, often explaining that it was just His plan. Nothing more. Nothing less.

For my young (compared to her age) age, that isn’t always my first thought. I often run down the path of why, Lord? And, how could it be? But, she doesn’t anymore. I think that maybe, just maybe, as His word promises, that our most valuable growth can be found as a result of our trials. Without them, as hard as they may seem, our spiritual maturity might be stifled. We might spend all our lives solving our own little issues and finding our own way without every really finding Him.

Not Granny. She found Him. And, yes, it was in some of the darkest places and hardest circumstances. And, as much as it hurt, she learned to depend on Jesus.

I loved learning last night that her favorite hymn is “Victory in Jesus.” The second stanza might be one we all need to hear.

I heard about His healing,
Of His cleansing power revealing.
How He made the lame to walk again
And caused the blind to see;
And then I cried, “Dear Jesus,
Come and heal my broken spirit,”
And somehow Jesus came and brought
To me the victory.
O victory in Jesus,
My Savior, forever.
He sought me and bought me
With His redeeming blood;
He loved me ere I knew Him,
And all my love is due Him,
He plunged me to victory,
Beneath the cleansing flood ~ Eugene Monroe Bartlett Senior

Very fitting I think. Yes, sweet Jesus. We all at times have had a broken spirit. Come and heal it.

And, that her anthem is “Amazing Grace.” I love the third and fourth stanzas…

The Lord has promised good to me,
his word my hope secures;
he will my shield and portion be
as long as life endures.
Through many dangers, toils, and snares
I have already come;
’tis grace hath brought me safe thus far,
and grace will lead me home. ~ John Newton

It is true, we all need amazing grace to celebrate victory in Jesus. And, to be led home.

And, at the grand old age of 95 she embraces that. And, yes, based on her life well-lived, tragedy and all, we know she truly has found victory in this life through Jesus.

When I think of all she has been through, I really don’t know how she survived. But, she did. And, oh the lives she has touched since.

Every time I think of her singing and playing hymns at the nursing home, I think of the angels in heaven rejoicing and praising Him with every sweet melody.

When I think of her gently, aged hands folding the programs for their church every week, I think of the Father raining blessings over her from heaven.

As I think of the cards she has mailed, to my boys and to so many others, I can’t help but hear the bells ringing in heaven just like they do downtown in her small town where she can hear them on her porch most days.

And, we can’t forget the delicious food she has prepared. That is another beautiful way she has served. My husband enjoyed eating lunch with her most days for years. He often says how he wishes his work was still right around the corner so he could pop in and not only enjoy the goodness of the meal she had prepared, but mostly feast on the bounty of blessings her presence would pour out as he sat at the table with her.

Her gifts go on and on. It would be hard in these few words to paint a true picture of her 95 years, but it all can be summed up pretty simply.

You see, by His grace, she not only survived her tragedy. She has triumphed over it. Every day.

She inspires me every visit. With her gracious heart and her sweet spirit, she causes all of us to want to live in the victory of Jesus every day. And, to truly understand the gift of His grace for each of us.

Grateful today for Granny.

Yes, she is beautiful inside and out. But, her inward beauty far outweighs it all. Her life continues to be a living testimony to all of His promises for those who love Him. Every tragedy has led her closer to His presence and nearer to the Cross.

“Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” ~ Proverbs 31:30

And, yes, every day you see her, she is celebrating that victory in Jesus she loves to play for the old folks at the nursing home. She is sharing His amazing story of grace with others by the way she lives.

At 95, she is looking forward with great anticipation to the days to come.

“She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come. She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue.” ~ Proverbs 31:25,26

She truly believes He has great plans. And, every day she lives trusting that. Regardless of the pain or the past . Today she lives in His peace. And, that my friends is where He intends for us to be. At peace in His presence.

Happy Birthday, Granny.

Your life is a beautiful testimony to so many. You inspire us to celebrate the victory and let His grace cover the defeat.

Thank you for writing His promises on your heart all these years and living your life as if you truly believe them.

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  • Reply Kathleen D August 29, 2015 at 8:45 pm

    What a beautiful post! You have truly inspired me. Thank you VERY VERY much.

    • Reply Jennifer Woodward August 31, 2015 at 9:33 am

      I think really Granny must have inspired you :). Grateful the post touched your heart. Have a great week!

  • Reply Kristin August 29, 2015 at 9:00 pm

    Beautiful, Jen. What sweet grace He gives others through Granny’s life lived for Him. This is how I long to live— simply for Him, come what may.

  • Reply Jennifer Woodward August 31, 2015 at 9:38 am

    Thank you, sweet friend. As you well know, it isn’t hard to write about someone so inspiring!

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