Hand-Me-Down Wisdom

I had planned to write a tribute to my Mimi for this week’s post anyway.  As it has turned out, she’s been brought to the forefront of my mind these last few days.  I’m sitting beside her hospital bed here in Virginia.  It’s not where we thought we’d be celebrating her 91st birthday.  We thought we’d be eating roast, mushroom rice, green beans, and caramel cake at my house after all celebrating my niece’s birthday the day before. But after collapsing in my bathroom two hours after she and my mom arrived into town from North Carolina and being rushed to the hospital via ambulance with extremely high blood pressure, we discovered she has a slight case of pneumonia and pretty bad dehydration.  It’s crazy how plans can change just that quickly.  But sitting here listening to her recount part of her life story to my Sunday School teacher makes me realize that she’s always been up for the challenge for whatever The Lord intends for her life.  I still have much to learn from her, but I thought you might be blessed by some of the things she has already taught me…

Stay by the Stuff

A few years ago, my mom was talking about someone’s tombstone that simply read, “She stayed by the stuff.”  I remember thinking, “Wow.  That’s really a lame thing to put on someone’s grave.”  But, she went onto explain a few instances in the Bible that used that key phrase.  After David and his men had destroyed the Amalekites with The Lord’s Strength, some trouble makers came to him regarding the plunder and how to divide it with those who had gone to battle and those who had guarded their resources and families, “Because they did not go out with us, we will not share with them the plunder we recovered. However, each man may take his wife and children and go,” they said. (1 Samuel 30:22 NIV) David snapped back (I gather), “No, my brothers, you must not do that with what the Lord has given us. He has protected us and delivered into our hands the raiding party that came against us.  Who will listen to what you say? The share of the man who stayed with the supplies is to be the same as that of him who went down to the battle. All will share alike.” (1 Samuel 30:23-24 NIV)  The KJV calls the supplies, “the stuff.”

My Mimi is a woman who has stayed by the stuff much of her life.  My Granddaddy, Dr.T.W. Wilson, could not have effectively aided Billy Graham in his ministry if his beloved Mary Helen wasn’t willing to stay by the stuff much of the time.  Wherever “Uncle” Billy was, Granddaddy was too. Mimi was wherever she was most needed- whether it was traveling with Granddaddy or staying at home to take care of important things and family.  She has done whatever has been required of her by the Lord and by her family.  She’s travelled all over the world supporting Granddaddy and the Billy Graham Team.  But she’s also sat in her chair to answer important phone calls.  She’s taken care of her children,grandchildren, and great grandchildren.  She’s run her household.  She’s been active in her church.  She’s taken care of correspondence.  She’s stayed by the stuff.  And do you know what? In God’s eyes, her job is just as important as Granddaddy’s was.  Her reward is equal to his evangelistic work.

She has never cared who gets the credit for getting the job done.  She only has cared that God gets the glory and that the job gets done.  Her attitude has taught me leaps and bounds about what it means to have a servant’s heart and to be faithful in the little things.  She has taught me much about what it means to really be a help mate to my husband.  And that is to do whatever it takes whenever it is required of you to get The Lord’s work done…even if it’s cloaked in the veil of the mundane.

We laughed today that though she didn’t quite finish college, she got her most important degree- her MRS. Degree.  And for her, that was enough.  That was what God had intended for her from the start because He knew who she would marry and how important it would be to have someone stay by the stuff when it was necessary.

Be Mindful of Your Time

One of the nurses commented on how speedy she is and she quipped back, “I’ve been speedy my whole life.”   Anyone who knows Mimi knows that she’s (as my Daddy used to say) “a clock-eyed Baptist.”  Wherever she goes, you’ll catch her checking her watch to be sure she’s guarding her time and other’s time.  It irks her to no end when people are late or don’t have a time piece to keep track of the hour.  It’s a quirk that has us saying, “Just sit still,” at times. But, I think she has figured out something that few of us have: redeeming the time.

She’s got stuff to do.  We all do.  There are many things that can rob or delay our time.  Mimi has been extremely intentional with whom, when, and where she spends her time.  You never have to wonder what she’s thinking.  She’ll tell you.  And she’ll get straight to the point.  Why? Like I said, she’s got stuff to do.

“See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.” (Ephesians 5:15-16 NKJV)

Dictionary.com defines circumspect as, “careful, vigilant, guarded.”  That’s just what Mimi does in her walk with Jesus.  She goes about her daily life carefully, vigilantly, and with a great guard.  She’s got no time for nonsense.  She’s got all the time in the world for what God directs her steps to, though, until He moves her onto the next thing on His agenda for her life.

Use the Resources You Have Been Given Wisely

Mimi grew up during the Great Depression.  To help others and help their own family, her mother, my Grandma Sellers, would cook a meal at lunch time and charge a little bit of money from anyone who wanted to come eat.  Mimi has followed in her footsteps.  She has clipped coupons, washed out ziplock baggies and reused them, stretched out leftovers as long as possible, and decorated her house mostly with hand-me down furnishings (including her own bed, which she and Granddaddy got from the junk yard!)

Because of this, she and Granddaddy were able to give generously to those God directed them to while they invested tangibly in eternity and causes that helped their fellow men.  Whether it was for their own family, friends, various organizations, or Missions- because of their wise stewardship with the resources God gave them, they have blessed many souls over the years.

She and Granddaddy have taught me the principle that you can’t out give God.  I can’t say that I’ve been as resourceful as they have, but I can say they’ve both taught me the importance of recognizing that everything we have is from the Lord and we’ve been trusted to use it for His glory no matter how much or how little we have.

“The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it.” 1 Corinthians 10:26

Be Hospitable

Mimi has always had an open door policy.  It’s not uncommon for folks to just drop in to say hello.  She’s hosted many a friend and family member. She’s a wonderful cook who has prepared feasts for countless crowds.  Her door mat is always worn out with footprints of those welcomed in and sent away with hearts (and bellies usually) that are full. She’s helped host trips around the world with various tour groups.  She’s taken people to breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  Wherever she goes, you can usually catch an invisible sign around her neck sending the message, “You are welcome.”

So many of us give off the vibe, “Go away!” or “I don’t have time for this!” Now, Mimi does have her moments where she’s gotta get a move on or she needs some alone time.  But if ever there was a hospitable woman who shows kindness and a welcoming spirit to those who cross her threshold, it’s her. Whether it’s a handyman, neighbor, friend of a friend, or celebrity, she’s glad they stop by.

Meals have been prepared, beds have been made, toilet paper rolls restocked, towels hung…all to say, “You are welcome here,” to all who come through her open door.  And then…the dishes are done, the sheets and towels are washed, and the toilet paper is placed on the holder once more.  Where grumbling is for many, a generous heart is found in her home.

The gift of their home is a resource she and Granddaddy have used to bless so many through the years.  And for whoever has darkened their front door, Mimi has made sure that they feel right at home and welcomed.  If those walls could talk, what stories of struggle, tears, laughter, triumph, encouragement, and refreshment they would tell.

“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” (1 Peter 4:8-10 NIV)

Feed Your Mind with God’s Truth

Just about every time you walk in Mimi’s house, you can find her on the porch or in the family room sitting in one of her two favorite chairs, with a piece of cardboard stuck in the side of her glasses to cut down on the glare that hurts her eyes, reading.  She reads a multitude of things- magazine articles, novels, newspapers… But more often than not, she’s either reading her Bible or a devotional to go along with it.  And when she isn’t reading, she fills her leisure time either with HGTV, the news, Wheel of Fortune, or solid, Biblical Preachers on Television. (None of those swindling, non-truth teaching dudes disguised as televangelsits).

Many a time, she has written down or clipped out what she’s learned from God’s Word and shared it with me.  No telling how many people she has passed little notes of God’s truth along to.   From observing her take careful note of God’s voice, I’ve learned to hunger after learning more of what He has to say.

She believes God’s Word and all it has to say- even the difficult parts.  She believes that He works all things together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).  She lives it out because she knows it and believes it.

And with each note she sends to me, she writes out her life’s purpose statement, “You will keep him in perfect peace,whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.” (Isaiah 26:3) And each time worry creeps in, she combats it with meditating on the Truth of God’s Word. He hasn’t let her down once.  Each trial I face, she’s always been quick to remind me that He’s never let me down before either.  And He never will.

Simply Love People

As I watched Mimi grasp the CNA’s hand while looking deep into the windows of her soul, I saw the Love of Jesus just oozing out of her.  Just by asking this little lady if she’d be working the next day and telling her how grateful she was for her help, I witnessed her love spill over onto that woman who surely had a long, difficult day. She’s not perfect by any means.  She has her faults and makes mistakes just like me.  But, more often than not, love is the language she speaks. I don’t understand when people are afraid to say they love someone… or to show them.  Like- on the movies- when you know someone is about to die and the person dearest to them doesn’t say it, I just want to scream, “Say I love you!” because I just know they’ll regret it the rest of their lives. I’ve never had to wonder if Mimi loves me.  Not only has she shown me practically, but she’s told me…at least a gazillion times.  And often, when I say it first to her, she is quick to respond, “I love you the best!”

The Beatles had it right, “All you need is love.”  You know why? Because, “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” (1 John 4:8 NIV) People know that Mimi loves God because of how she loves people.  I know there are countless times when I’ve failed The Lord in showing Him love through my lack of loving people.  But, oh, how my Mimi challenges me to love more.  There have been many people who have exhibited behaviors that don’t really make her feel like loving them, but she’s loved them anyway and been faithful to pray for them as well.  She’s taught me to swallow that huge pill with a glass of The Living Water.

This week has been hectic for us. While caring for Mimi, we’ve been tending to various other items that need our attention as well.  After asking for some mechanics to look at the Volvo she gave me years ago, a gentleman who worked at the auto shop offered to give me a ride home.  I don’t usually take rides from strangers, but since he offered in front of a guy I used to work with, I took him up on it in desperation.  While riding home, I shared a little bit about what we were going through this week.  “Now, is your grandma the pillar of your family? Is she the matriarch?” he asked.  “Yes, she absolutely is,” I responded.  “Well, who’s going to be the next pillar of your family?” he left me challenged with.  If I could be only half the woman she is, the next generation would know the truth and love of our Savior, Jesus Christ and what it means to live for Him.

Maybe you don’t have someone who has run to take you by the hand and teach you how to make it through life’s journey like my Mimi has for me.  Maybe you’re reminded of someone who has.  Either way, these messages of wisdom that my Mimi has instilled in me are yours for the taking.  After all, as I said before, all who know her have seen her welcome sign.  So, come on in, and take a bite of truth that she’s put on the table for you.  But whatever you do, be sure to use the resources you’ve been given today wisely and send someone a hand-me-down of wisdom from my dear, sweet Mimi.

“Gray hair is a crown of splendor; it is attained in the way of righteousness.” Proverbs 16:31 (NIV)


8 Comments on “Hand-Me-Down Wisdom”

  1. Emily,
    I enjoyed reading this tribute to Mary Helen. I am one of those who have been blessed by her hospitality especially before your mother and I married and had families. Your granddad and she made me feel a part of their wonderful family.

    1. Thank you, Jane! I know it! Their hospitality has in turn produced many deep friendships with beautiful people like yourself :). Love you!

  2. Such truth, such wisdom! I love everything you’ve said here. Words to live by. What a blessing to have had your Mimi and her wonderful influence in your life for so long. I wish her a speedy recovery. Thanks so much for sharing all of this, I’ll be doing my best to remember these things every day. 🙂

    1. Thank you so much, Allie! I’m so glad you took the time to read and consider applying these lessons of wisdom from my Mimi. Christ’s richest blessings to you!

  3. Em, I love that you took the time to tell others just how special our Mimi is and you totally summed up how I feel about her, too! Thanks for sharing and I am grateful that you and the others are there to take care of her. Sending love and hugs from Florida, Chris

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