Sometimes the universe, via the grapevine, the internet, the New York Times or the Bible sends me a message that I can’t ignore. This verse, which I had never heard before, is one of those. I found it in a hymnal. It’s from Paul’s second letter to Timothy, chapter 1, verse 5.
“I am reminded of your sincere faith that lived first in your grandmother and your mother and now lives in you. I remind you to rekindle this gift of God for God did not give us a spirit of cowardice but a spirit of power and love and self-discipline.”
I thought of my grandmother, Louise Russell, and her daughter in law, Ginny Brown, my mother. MomMom and Mom. They both married into the Swanson family and both answered to the name Mrs. Robert S. Swanson.
Mom married Dad at nineteen. On her first Christmas visit to her new family she got into a pillow fight with her husband, his little sister and three brothers. MomMom stormed into the room to quiet them down, saying, “Now that’s enough! I want quiet and that means You-and you, and you, and you, and you, and…” she looked at her new daughter-in-law and giggled.
They were two very different Presbyterian women who loved each other dearly. They both loved Jesus, MomMom with her whole heart and Mom with a few reservations.
When I was five, and I know I was five because we were living with my grandparents and we moved away when I started first grade, I heard Mom say to MomMom as she heard a song on the radio,
“Oh, I love this song, ‘Under a Blanket of Blue.’” It was a pop song and I knew even then that MomMom didn’t approve. She only liked hymns. She didn’t hold with drinking, dancing or smoking.
Mom’s idea of fun included all three but she never smoked around MomMom. “When I’m with her I don’t even feel like smoking,” she said. I understood that. When I was with MomMom I wanted to be just like her but sometimes it felt like her way involved too much saying no.
When I was fifteen I tried once again to be a Christian the way MomMom was. I told Mom. “I’ve asked Jesus to come into my heart—I’m going to be born again,” or something like that. Mom’s reply was, “Well, OK, but not for too long.” As always, she didn’t explain herself but I got the point. She didn’t like the restrictions.
Recently I had a dream that I was staying in the guest room at MomMom’s house. It was on the second floor but I found a door and walked out into a beautiful garden, with a fountain and birds singing. I asked her, “How come I never knew about that garden?”
She replied, “I didn’t think it was safe for you to know about that.”
Mom loved MomMom dearly and respected her, but didn’t follow her blindly. She thought you could love Jesus and also go to the prom. It’s a balance I‘ve been thinking about all my life. I think these two women together showed me a spirit of power, love and self-discipline.