You Can Call Me Gramma

DSCN1521I’ve never liked the name Gramma. It goes against the grain to hear this grammatically incorrect version of what could be a lovely name for a lovely position. I mean, think of the alternatives— Grandmama, Nonna, Nanny, Mimi…anything but Gramma!  At least that’s the way I always felt.

And then it happened. There I was, wandering through Hobby Lobby —- not really for any reason since I am not a ‘craft’ person. I think I was simply there to support their business, but that is an entirely different issue — yes, there I was with my little granddaughter, wandering.  Now, normally, Sofya calls me Baboushka and I call her Sofya, with the accent on the first syllable, not Sofia. That is the American translation.

When suddenly, she said it! She called me Gramma! What? And not once, but repeatedly. Each time she spoke to me, she used THAT word. Her mom looked at me and chuckled,

“She must have heard it on TV. American children call their Baboushkas Gramma.”

Hmmm, I’d never really thought of myself in those terms. That was for someone with a house dress on. (Forgive me if any of you wear house dresses. I remember older women, somewhat heavyset,  wearing those unattractive articles of clothing when I was growing up. I don’t DO house dresses. And now would I be relegated to THAT group?)

The next time Sofya visited, Gramma was forgotten and the familiar Baboushka was back in her vocabulary. I breathed a sigh of relief.  We would escape the dreaded word yet.

This year Sofya will begin her first year of education at home. It brings back all of the glorious memories of placing curriculum orders and the excitement of materials arriving in the mail. It was like Christmas each year when our books arrived. I remember those years as some of the best of our lives; books, books, books, and the delight of opening the world of learning to my children. What a privilege it is to see Sofya beginning this same journey. A shopping trip for school supplies was just what she and I needed.

We made our plans for a sleepover and the next morning Sofya and I hit Office Max and Walmart with a vengeance; we had important work to do. We found construction paper, pencils, crayons, scissors, even some nice little school dresses….when suddenly in the midst of it all, Sofya exclaimed,

“You’re the best Gramma I ever had!”

My eyes filled. My throat constricted. I held her tight.

“Oh Sofya, I’m going to cry right here in the store!”

And I did. Then, I wiped my eyes, pulled myself together, and rejoiced that I was a Gramma. Because it’s really fine. It’s a fine thing to be a Gramma, especially to a little girl like this.  As we finished up our shopping trek and headed for the registers, Sofya humbled me with one more comment,

“I hope I live in America forever!”

You will, Sofya, if this Gramma has  anything to say about it. Get those house dresses ready, I’m up for this!

My Eyes Can’t Believe It!

Me and Sofya

Sofya fishing

Here I stand, blubbing, as I watch my granddaughter place a ‘fishing pole’ gently over the top of a cardboard wall and watch excitedly to see what she will ‘catch’. It’s a Pollyanna world and I’m falling apart. I’m not gently tearing, wiping a stray bit of wetness from my eye. No! I am actually BLUBBING! Blubbing means that you can’t hold it back. There is nothing attractive about it, you simply BURST! And this is me, on this hot July 4th, in central Arizona, on the town square with all the other revelers, unable to hold it in.

I don’t care. It’s all just too wonderful. I look at Sofia as her mom drapes red, white, and blue beads over her neck. She waves her patriotic fan. It is all excellent. This is so hard to believe and yet I know….it’s true! I am standing here watching my granddaughter enjoy her first Fourth of July in America!

This week will mark the one year anniversary of her arrival. What a year it’s been! Today will be the last holiday of her first year of American holidays. Next week begins her second year in America and she enters it chattering along in English and reading her first words, like any other five year old.

She woke up this morning knowing today was a special day. Her mom’s been teaching her the meaning of Independence Day and she probably knows it better than the average American child. She’s been read the story about the King who demanded too much from his subjects, the colonists who threw tea in the harbor, the war that took place, and the new country that was formed. She read this in a book her mother wrote for her in preparation for this day. Blessed, lovely mother.

When it’s time for the National Anthem and everyone stands with their hands over their heart, there is a little girl standing right along with them.

At the end of the day, as fireworks light up the night sky, I listen to our Portugese friends next to us, Noel and Maks chattering along in Russian, Spanish and English from our native Arizonans, and I look over to see a little girl with face uplifted,

” My eyes can’t believe it!”

No, Sofia, my eyes can’t believe it either. I can’t believe you’re really here! God bless America and God bless this wonderful girl.


Casey’s Journey

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“Do you know this dog’s name, Sofia?” I asked my little granddaughter. The stuffed toy I held was a little worse for wear. His original overalls had been tattered and torn and he now sported a new pair. His conductor’s hat was firmly attached to his head, though he HAD lost one ear.  Yes, Casey dog had traveled the world in his 34 years…..

‘When your mom was a baby, just about the size of Mariana, her father, your Dyedushka, brought Casey home. You see, Casey lived in a store. He always wanted a family and when Dyedushka picked him up, tucked him under his arm, and paid for him, Casey was excited. Dyedushka brought him home and laid him next to  your mom on her blanket.

Casey lived in your mom’s crib and then later on her bed all the while she grew up.  Then one day your mom began to pack for a journey far away. She put her special things in a trunk to store while she was gone. Casey was one of those special things, and as she picked him up and gently tucked him in the trunk, he wondered where he was going.

For five years Casey waited. He wondered if Noel had forgotten about him…if anyone remembered him anymore.  Meanwhile, Noel was learning Russian and living far away on the other side of the globe. 

One day, she met a handsome man, named Maksim  (your father). They fell in love and soon they were married…the American girl and the Russian man. They were happy and hoped for children of  their own. Soon, they found they were going to have a baby.

Meanwhile, Casey waited. Didn’t anyone notice he was gone? Would he EVER get out of this trunk?

One special day, Noel and Maksim welcomed a little girl into the world. They named her Sofia (that’s you).  As she held her little girl in her arms, Noel thought of Casey dog and how much she wished she could give him to Sofia as Dyedushka had given him to HER.  She wondered if, somehow, Casey could come to Russia. 

Plans were being made for Sofia’s American Baboushka to come for a visit and Noel thought about how great it would be if Casey dog could make the trip too. She gave Baboushka directions on where Casey dog was.

Casey heard the lock being turned. Was it really true? Were they coming to get him? He KNEW they wouldn’t forget!

Gently Baboushka lifted him out of the trunk. His clothes were tattered. After all, he was 29 years old!  Some of his stuffing was escaping from his ripped seams. As the days passed in preparation for the trip to Russia, Baboushka and her daughter Caroline worked on Casey dog. They sewed new overalls for him. They stitched his ripped seams. He began to feel young again! 

And then the day came when Casey was placed in a suitcase and began the long flight from Los Angeles to Khabarovsk.  It seemed the flight would never end. Casey could hardly believe he would soon be with Noel again.  He felt the plane settling down for a landing, then felt the bumping of the bags being unloaded. Brrrr…it seemed awfully cold.

Before he knew it, Casey dog felt the suitcase being rolled across a floor and heard the voices of Noel and Baboushka, along with a new voice.

“That must be the husband, Maksim,” he thought.

Everyone climbed in a car and the bags were loaded in the trunk as the long ride home began.

“Will I ever see my Noel?” thought Casey.  He floated off to sleep. It had been a long trip.

After a couple of hours Casey knew they must be home. Car doors were opened, and again the bags were moved….this time they were carried inside. Casey could hardly contain himself! Soon! Surely soon they’d open the suitcases!  And then it happened. Casey heard the zipper being pulled and a hand reached in and picked him up.  He tried to look calm and collected, but he just KNEW he HAD to have a peek at his girl.

There she was, his Noel, the one who had snuggled him as a little girl and whom he had watched grow into a beautiful young woman. And here she was, picking him up, gently looking him over and then, ever so gently placing him in a crib with a new little girl—- HER little girl. He had another little girl to take care of! She hadn’t forgotten! He looked at this new baby and smiled as she snuggled up next to him. This was where HE belonged.’

“And so Sofia, even though you left a lot of things in Russia, Casey dog came back to America with you. He’s 35 years old now, but he needed to be with you, and your mom, and now with little Mariana. He’s come a long way since that day when Dyedushka picked him up from the store shelf…around the world and back!”

Casey dog’s heart swelled as he listened to Baboushka tell his story….no, they hadn’t forgotten and HE wouldn’t either. No matter how far he had to travel, he’d always be here for his girls.

In the Weeds

IMG_4911In the weeds. Sometimes you find encouragement in the most unlikely places. My daughter and I were pulling out weeds in my son’s backyard. This is a great job to do with someone because it is conducive to conversation and emotion. Pull, yank, haul, throw, chat, pull, yank, chat, throw, pause and repeat. It is one of those nice tasks where you are down in the dirt and leaves and weeds and it is easy to talk about all the things in life that are potentially choking your joy. We all have worries that we will either hang onto or toss in the refuse pile.

So I was telling my daughter all my ‘stuff’.  And would you not think a 61 year old Nana with 5 kids and 3 grands would have lived long enough to leave the litany of worries and complaints in God’s hands? But on I droned, bemoaning what the world has come to and adding the ‘this and that’ of my personal fears and hurt feelings and again…. worries.

And my dear daughter, down there in the weeds with me, helped me to look up. ‘Mom’, she said,’ At the end of the day you have to ask yourself, Is Christ enough?’ And I knew immediately what she meant and also felt the quick right then and there in that moment kind of relief in knowing God has these very days in his loving hands and I can rest from my worry.

I have been thinking about this all week. Worries are like verb conjugations – they have a past, present and future. I thought of April 15th, the very day I was facing a skin cancer op. My verse for the day was ‘I will trust and not be afraid.’ (I had worried my way through the month preceding the day.)

My husband and I headed off to the Micrographic/Dermatologic Surgery. Four hours and 18 stitches later, I was back home, relaxing in hubby’s chair, sipping a latte made for me by son # three, and I realized that my worries had now been conjugated to the past tense and all was well. I mean I did have a swollen eye, a livid stitch line, and a ‘skin wound care instructions’ pamphlet to follow, but the skin cancer was gone and as my granddaughter said, ‘It will be fine, Nana.’ (My grandson, on the other hand, said, Nana, please put your sunglasses back on!’) A couple of months later, I am fine with barely a scar.

We all know that things don’t always work out so nicely. God is not Santa Claus or a magic genie. We don’t know how He will answer our prayers. Thus we sit in the weeds and worry instead of enjoying this unique day we have been given. This morning as I was on the last mile of my run, this song came sweet and clear from my ipod to my heart.

In the morning, when I rise, give me Jesus.
You can have all this world. Just give me Jesus.

When I am alone, give me Jesus.
You can have all this world. Just give me Jesus.

When I come to die, give me Jesus.
You can have all this world. Just give me Jesus.

I purpose to live a more ‘in the moment, trusting Jesus, joyous’ kind of life. Pull, yank, throw, there goes that worry. Pull, yank, throw, there goes the next. I don’t want to let the joys and God given pleasures of this day be choked out by the worries of tomorrow.

Years ago when we lived in Brazil for a short time, I complained to my friend Maria after a particularly hard day. I described it in my halting Portuguese as a ’dia horrivel’. She responded, ’Oh, no, Viviana. This is the day which the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.’

She was quoting an often repeated verse from the Psalms. Another translation says it like this: This is the day that Lord Jehovah has made; come, we will leap for joy and rejoice in him!

Look up. Find the joy. Leap for happiness. Savor the goodness in this day. Rest in Christ. These days we are living in are given to us by God. Enjoy them. Enjoy Him. And yes, Christ, the author and finisher of our faith, who loves us and gave himself for us, is enough.

Jesus Never Promised I’d be Pretty

stone of helpJesus never promised I’d be pretty. This I said to my husband as I looked at the gash on my face from a relatively minor skin cancer op. Then I put on my running shoes and headed out to run and think.

I thought of all the things God never promised. He did not promise Adam and Eve they could do their own thing with no consequences.   He did not tell Job there would be no trials in his life. He didn’t tell the Psalmist there would be no valley of the shadow of death. He did not promise the NT believers that they would not suffer tribulation. He did not tell the martyrs throughout the ages that they would not suffer for the gospel. He did not tell Corrie Ten Boom that her life would be persecution free. He did not promise Nate Saint that his mission to the Auca Indians would bear fruit in his lifetime. He did not promise us a hassle free, easy, perfect life.

But He did promise to be with us- in the valley, on the mountain top, on the level path, even unto the end of the age. He promised to save us to the uttermost, completely and forever. He promised to always intercede for us; in fact, he ever lives to do this. He promised peace that passes all understanding. And he promised that when all is said and done our tears will be wiped away and we will live with Him forever. I love all the superlatives – the most, the best, the highest. Extreme promises.

All the promises of God are yes, says the Bible. I like that. To which we say, amen . That means, by the way, another yes. A resounding unqualified yes……..

As is often the case when I run a song kept coming to my mind.

Here I raise mine Ebenezer;
hither by thy help I’m come;
Samuel, after a God given, miraculous victory, placed a stone as a reminder that God gave victory, salvation and help. He called it


Ebenezer, the stone of help, and said, ‘Thus far the Lord has helped us.”

.Ayuh, I thought as I finished my run. I think I’ll go find a stone or better yet many stones and emblazon upon them the promises of God. I could put them on my windowsills, bookcases, bedside stands, places where I can see them every day.

But then I remember that God’s very words are already written on my heart.

And that, my own personal Ebenezer, I raise.

O taste and see

God is truly very good.

Somewhere over the rainbow...

There are very few people who can claim not to love the way a baby’s skin smells… or who have never wanted to “eat up” a baby, round cheeks and all. And no, I am not referring to Jonathan Swift’s famous proposal to solve the “Irish problem”. It’s just that impulse one gets when holding a clean, fat baby; maybe the way to the heart really is through the stomach, or maybe our gluttonous instincts associate love with eating.

I did not honestly think I would have this opportunity again; I did not think there would be baby’s cheeks, round or otherwise, or the smell of Johnson’s baby lotion in my immediate experience. I did not expect to ever have that ecstatic burst of love that just wants to “eat up” a baby. And I am being serially dumbfounded as I watch this incredibly, amazingly healthy child. It’s quite a…

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