Shortly after my parents moved into their current house, the house I lived in until I went to college, they met their neighbors. To the left, the Roe family, who still lives there with two of their three children. Carolyn Roe is still one of my best friends. We grew up together and we’ve had some fun times, that’s for sure.
To the right, the Yergers, who promptly invited my parents to church because they are the kind of people concerned about people’s eternities. My mom went to church with the Yergers and my mom acknowledged the truth of the Bible and her necessity for a Savior and became a Christ follower when I was two. Praise God.
Sue Yerger (known as “Grandma Susie” to the kids in the neighborhood) became our babysitter/nanny when I was born. She would come over in the morning when my mom left for work (sometimes I would push my mom out the door, anxious to get on with the day), feed us breakfast (always after a prayer), and get us ready for school.
Grandma Susie is about 4’11” and by the time I was in third grade I was too tall for her to do my hair without standing on a step. Looking back I don’t know why I didn’t just sit down.
In the summertime Grandma Susie would still come over when my mom left for work. She would take us on nature walks in the woods next to our neighborhood that sometime during my elementary school years became apartment buildings. Every time we walked past the manhole cover on the corner of Elmwood and Parent we would stop to shove grass down there to feed the alligator that lived in the sewers.
She taught us how to make friendship bracelets and yarn dolls – homemade gifts that we would attempt to sell in our front yard. We would have picnics in her backyard at her picnic table and pick up the stone rain catcher to find the “rollie pollie” bugs underneath.
Once we got a computer, Grandma Susie had strict rules about computer time. Only 30 minutes a day per kid and the rest of the time is to be spent outside or reading.
Sometimes we got to go over to Grandma Susie and Papa Ron’s house, which like I said, was just next door, and we would get to play with all of her super cool toys in the basement and send notes down the laundry chute. One time Sean was roller blading in that basement and he busted his chin open. That was the second time he needed stitches. I can’t stand up straight in that basement anymore for the low ceiling.
Grandma Susie taught me how to pray and she taught me the Romans Road. She wrote my name in her Bible when I told her I asked Jesus into my heart. She was so excited. With a wooden spoon or a pop to the mouth to Grandma Susie taught us the importance of words, honesty, and respect. With a squirt of liquid soap under my tongue, she taught me the importance of not biting our friends, even if they are sitting in our favorite swing.
I am who I am in large part because of who my Grandma is.
I don’t remember the first time Grandma Susie was diagnosed with cancer. I think it was before I was born. I do know that it was breast cancer and that she won. I also know that every year Grandma Susie participates in Relay for Life. She walks for hours and miles, remembering those who weren’t as lucky as she was.
I remember the second time Grandma Susie was diagnosed with cancer. I was working in Brooklyn with YouthWorks and I saw something my Papa Ron (Grandma Susie’s husband) had posted on Facebook about Susie’s treatments or something descriptive enough that I knew something was very wrong, but not so explicit to tell me what. I called my mom, hurt and angry with her for not telling me sooner that something was wrong, and she told me that Grandma Susie had cancer. Again. A few months later we were overjoyed to hear that the surgery had been successful, that the cancer was gone.
The third time Grandma Susie was diagnosed with cancer I was in the Dominican Republic. I didn’t feel angry with God, but I remember saying to Him, “Seriously? Seriously God? The woman who did so much for three children who were not always the most grateful? The woman who spent YEARS taking care of children she had no responsibility for? Seriously?! Cancer again?!”
Shortly thereafter I came home for a week and I hugged my Grandma and fought back tears and she said something to the effect of, “Don’t worry, Suzanney. The Lord is with me.” This woman who had heard some of the worst news that a person can hear – “You have cancer” – three times was telling me not to worry. She was trusting in the Lord who had brought her through cancer twice before. And the Lord was with her as she received treatment and beat cancer again. Seriously. Again.
Grandma Susie loves to crochet. For every new baby at church or in her family she crochets a baby blanket. A few years ago she started crocheting even more. She started crocheting a lot of scarves and blankets and she wanted to give them away. So she visited a few places and found some people who could use some warm scarves and blankets.
This summer, while battling (and beating!) cancer for the third time, Grandma Susie crocheted 13 blankets and 65 scarves. She crocheted these blankets and scarves for people who need them and will be donating them to Safe Haven.
When Moses was nervous about being a leader, God said, “What is that in your hand?” Moses said, “A staff.” Then God told Moses to throw that staff down and it became a snake. Then God told Moses to put that staff in the river and the water turned to blood. Then Moses raised that staff up and the waters of the Red Sea parted so that Moses could lead the Israelites to safety. When the Israelites fought with Amalek, as long as Moses’s staff was raised in the air the Israelites prevailed.
These are just a few of the examples from the book of Exodus, where we find the record of Moses, where Moses used his staff to do miracles, to fight battles, to give God glory.
I imagine that maybe one day in the quiet of her heart God asked Grandma Susie, “What is that in your hand?” And she said, “Crocheting needles.” Then she used those crocheting needles to knit literally hundreds of scarves and blankets for people who need them – for those experiencing homelessness, for low income families, for those living in shelters, and for new babies.
You don’t have to be a pastor or have gone to seminary or live off of support to do great things for the Lord. What do you have in your hand? Use it.