My Grandmother grew up in London, and like many people her age, experienced what it was like to be evacuated during the war and cope with the loss of loved ones at an early age. She left school, started work, met my Grandfather and started a family. She lived in the same area and went to the same church for most of her life.
As I reflect on those who inspire me most I’ve realised that, for me, it is often those closest to me that have the biggest long term impact and, although my Grandmother’s story may not seem that out of the ordinary, without question she was an inspirational woman.
One of the first things I remember about her was her hospitality. Her house was always open to visitors. From family dinners and long term house guests, to hosting regular church activities… You always felt at ease with her, never had to stand on show, she taught me the importance of a friendly welcome and a good cup of tea. She was kind and always approachable, with a lot of grace for people and the situations they found themselves in.
Rarely one to take an ‘up front’ role, she was a faithful servant of others, often working behind the scenes. She was decisive, could organise a team, she could make things happen. Never seeking to promote herself, she was key in the development of many projects within the church.
She would probably not have considered herself a leader, yet carried a quiet and unassuming authority and wisdom. I remember she had a way with words, and the ability to read a situation and know what needed to be done. When discussion had gone round in circles, she would choose her moment and get straight to the point. Graciously speaking the truth in love and never using more words than necessary, she would tell it how she saw it, always making total sense.
She was a woman of vision and a supporter of change. She held together a sense of honouring what had gone before, whilst keeping her eyes firmly fixed on where things were going. Even when it meant supporting things that would not have been her preference, or being the voice that stood out from her peers, she would encourage new ideas and be an advocate for moving forward, always wanting to see the church grow, thrive and develop.
She lived well, finding joy in the everyday things of life, and even when her cancer returned for the second time and she knew that this time she was unlikely to get better, she continued to serve, and love, and encourage others; determined to keep doing what she could for as long as possible but graciously accepting help when she needed it. In the last few weeks we visited her almost daily… I’ll never forget, that even as she grew weaker, she carried a peace, dignity and beauty that spoke more about walking humbly with her Lord than words could ever say.
As I reflect on the life of this ‘ordinary’ woman, I’m in no doubt that she had an extraordinary impact on those who knew her. And as I look back and remember her story I’m not just inspired by it, I’m challenged by it too. A testimony to her love for people and her devotion to Jesus… A reminder to me that being faithful in the small things can sometimes have a greater impact on those around us than the bigger things that maybe we would like people to remember us for.