Wednesday, March 25, 2009
This Is My Cross
Today I have been thinking a lot about people I know who have shown courage in the face of adversity--people who keep moving forward no matter what the circumstances. My grandmother was one of those people. Her life was an inspiring one.
My father's mother, Roxie Wilson, was born on Christmas day in 1899. From the beginning of her life she was bold and independent. Grandma wanted to do things her own way and in her own time. She was fiesty and could hold her own with any of her siblings. She possessed an inner strength and a sense of purpose that enabled her to approach any situation with confidence. Every obstacle became a personal challenge and every challenge was met with a will that was unshakable. As it turned out, that strong will would be tested beyond her imagination.
Grandma loved the outdoors and the beautiful mountains of Kentucky were her playground. She and her brothers and sisters spent most of their free time in the woods and valleys surrounding their home. At the age of fifteen, Grandma suffered a horrific accident. While riding sidesaddle on horseback, the girth (buckle across the abdomen of the horse that holds the saddle in place) of the saddle broke as the horse was jumping a small stream. My grandmother fell off the horse's back landing on her feet. The force of the fall snapped her spinal cord at waist level--she was paralyzed from the waist down on impact.
I cannot begin to imagine what an accident like that would do to anyone much less someone as active as my grandmother. There was no known treatment, no surgical procedure or physical therapy that could help my dear grandmother recover any functioning of her lower extremities. She was fifteen years old and could not walk or run or do any of things she loved so well. She told me about it years later and described that time as the saddest time of her life.
Grandmother laid in bed as an invalid for five years. At that point, she realized she was not going to die. In her own words she said, "I decided that if I was going to live, then I was REALLY going to live.". Though she did not have a wheelchair, she learned to sit in an armless chair and, moving it from side to side, managed to move herself from place to place. She became a seamstress and made clothes for the wives of physicians and merchants in her small town. She learned to walk short distances on crutches, though it was exhausting for her. Because she could not use either of her lower extremities, she had to position the crutches forward and "swing" herself to the next point. Still, nothing stopped her.
In her early twenties, Grandma gave her heart to the Lord after hearing the salvation message preached by mountain missionaries. Upon conversion, her zeal for the Lord and the body of Christ became the focus of her life. She was consumed by the presence of God in her life and never lost sight of the cross. No matter who came into her home, they soon heard the message of Christ. She read the gospel, she sang the gospel, she lived the gospel. Her life was such a glorious example.
When Grandma read about the infilling of the Holy Spirit in the Bible, she went off to herself to seek the Lord for understanding. She found a "secret" place under a beautiful oak tree and there she sought the face of God. There she lingered in prayer until she was filled with the Holy Spirit. At last, she felt her soul was secure.
I was her only grandaughter for about twelve years, until my cousin Colleen was born. I loved Colleen so much, I didn't mind sharing Grandma with her. Besides, I always felt I was Grandma's favorite (smile). The above picture of Grandma and I was made when I was ten years of age. Next to my own, dear Mother, she was the woman I loved most in this world.
My grandmother died when I was eighteen. Hardly a day goes by that I do not think of her. At her funeral, I was priviledged to play the piano while the hymns she loved so well were sung by family and friends. As the music finished and, before the minister began to speak, I recalled how Grandma had once summed up her life to me. Seated in her favorite chair, she described her attitude towards her life as a paraplegic. She looked at me with eyes as clear as could be, voice strong and vibrant, and said, "This is my cross. I will bear it and be happy." I wonder when she spoke those words to me if she knew how it would affect me. I wonder if she could ever realize that those words would ring through the history of my own life, giving me hope when there was none and determination when all else failed.
I pray God will give me the strength of will and the singleness of purpose to look at every adversity of my life as an opportunity for God to prove Himself once again. I pray that the enduring of every test and trial will be prefaced with the words, "This is my cross. I will bear it and be happy.". Let it be, dear Lord. Let it be.