Grandparents as Spiritual Guides

by Ruth Tervol

I grew up in Michigan. Our farm was rich in luscious vegetation and abundant crops. Mother’s garden would sprout on cue every spring. Every year we raised cows, chickens, and pigs. Some years we even raised lambs. At times it was hard to know which animals were our pets and which were for sale as each was treated kindly and with great care.


Armstrong Wedding Photo

My maternal grandparent’s home was ten miles away.  One day each week, Mother took my brothers and sisters and me to Grandmother’s house where we played in the barn with Grandpa, and the cats. Sometimes Grandpa let us ride the horses, and at other times we hiked the woods behind the barn.  After lunch Grandpa would sit in his chair to take a nap, and Grandma would set us down to read to us from the Bible. She put so much into those stories, I can at times still hear her voice reading ‘Daniel and the lion’s den,’ ‘for everything there is a season,’ or “no room at the inn.” My Grandmother was the anchor of my faith that I practice today.


Grandma Dessie Lowe

My paternal grandparent’s farm was 25 miles away. We saw them less often, but love surrounded us in their home. Grandma would make a pot of opossum stew and loaves of homemade bread, which we would enjoy as we sat around the table together and laughed at the stories Grandpa told. We especially liked the one about our dad coming home from school with a snake in his lunch box. He had found it on the way home and forgot to tell Grandma about it. We would howl with laughter. The spirit of love was always there.

In a paper titled Senior Spirit I recently read an article that quoted Author Dr. Arthur Kornhaber. I was blessed by this article because it brought back memories of the year 1995; when I first attended Puyallup United Methodist church. I had a four year old granddaughter who loved to come to ‘Grandma’s Church’ and a newborn who would follow in her sister’s footsteps the next year.  So I became involved in Vacation Bible School.

My first year as Director of Vacation Bible School I met two grandmothers who impressed me.  Merle Davenport and Betty Driver both volunteered to help and came with grandchildren. I learned much from those two grandmothers that first year. They were demonstrating the suggestions Dr. Kornhaber had laid out in his book The Grandparent Guide: The Definitive Guide to the Challenges of Modern Grandparenting.

Dr. Kornhaber wrote: “Acting as a spiritual guide involves teaching your grandchild to harvest such fruits of the spirit as love, tolerance, compassion, reverence, joy, peace, gentleness, faith, and kindness.”  I saw these two grandmothers demonstrating the following suggestions Dr. Kornhaber had made:

  • Display kindness and compassion toward others
  • Help others who are less fortunate.
  • Demonstrate reverence for nature.
  • Show respect for others’ beliefs.

Merle told me we should involve our grandchildren in our own rituals of faith and positive aspects of our belief, which led me to share joyous love with my granddaughters, and the need to share it. We shared blessing before meals and prayers at bedtime. We shared the birds and the worms in the backyard.

We signed up for Grandcamp at Lazy F, a United Methodist Campground, located about 140 miles from Puyallup. Grandcamp is where grandparents and grandchildren, between the age of 5 and 12, come together to work, play, and worship together for a week during the summer. At Grandcamp I met another Grandmother from Puyallup United Methodist Church: Jeanne O’Donnell. Jeannie’s grandchildren were older than mine, but I learned from her how to love those older grandchildren on the choices they made.

Jeannie shared with me some of the things she found were important for her grandchildren to see.

  • Always drive the speed limit
  •  Insist on paying the correct price for an item
  •  Return any excess change
  • Always tell the truth

Merle and Betty also practiced all these traits, and I remembered my grandmothers doing them as well.  As grandparents it is important for us to lead by example. Loving Jesus and loving them as He does.

I know my children taught values to my grandchildren, but their primary focus was on immediate care, education and social skill building.  As a grandparent I could transcend the pressing needs of now to concentrate on soul nurturing.  By blessing my granddaughters with my approval and invoking God’s blessing on them I have given them a gift that is priceless.

As Merle, Betty and Jeannie taught me, only I could set the pace and role of nurturer that is uniquely me. I must take every opportunity to nurture my grandchildren. They never outgrow the need for grandparents. Children get special experiences with their grandparents. One day my four year old granddaughter asked if she could ‘type’ a story on my typewriter. “Of course,” I told her. She had pounded on my typewriter for some minutes when I asked her what her story was about.

“I don’t know,” she said, “I can’t read yet, can you read it to me?”

I ‘read’ from her page about a little girl at the beach.  She loved it.

God bless us in our Grand parenting, and a special blessing to Merle, Betty, Jeanne, and all nurturing Grandparents. I salute the memory of my maternal grandmother who went home to be with Jesus when I was twenty eight years old and who told me to be aware as a Christian that people were usually watching to see what we would do in any given circumstance. I now know it is especially true of grandchildren.

Titus 2:7-8   In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad o say about us.

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