by Karin Dixon Butler
I was beginning to wonder if I would ever become a grandmother. I had eight children; surely someone could come through. But my kids weren’t even heading down the aisle.
One day I received a phone call from one of my sons who lived on the opposite coast. He stumbled and stammered and sounded so scared that I became terrified he had a terminal disease. By the time he blurted out that his girlfriend was pregnant, I was relieved. When you think your son is going to die, having a baby out of wedlock doesn’t seem quite so serious. However, it was a serious issue, and of course, I had conflicting emotions. I was ecstatic about becoming a grandmother, but very unhappy about the circumstances.
I put the conflicts behind me when my son, his girlfriend, and my precious 5-week-old granddaughter came for a visit. The day they were to arrive, I was up early. However, their plane did not come in until the afternoon, so I could do little but fold and refold baby blankets and smooth the sheet in the bassinet.
Eventually, my husband and I left for the airport. Once there, traffic was jammed, and we were going to be late. I was so antsy I couldn’t wait for him to park. I jumped out of the car in front of the terminal and raced down the airport concourses, practically knocking people out of my way. I fumed impatiently at the people who walked so slowly. “Out of my way,” I wanted to shout. “I am going to meet my granddaughter!”
When I got to the gate, I spied my son, his girlfriend, and oh, my granddaughter. She was the mirror image of her daddy at the same age. It was love at first sight for me.
Fourteen years later, that love has never changed, although it has been tested many times. In fact, discouragement almost caused me to give up visiting Jessica and trying to have a relationship with her. Fortunately, the Lord brought me to my senses.
When Jessica lived in Florida, my husband and I visited her every winter. To Oregonians accustomed to wet, dreary winters, the sun and beach were a slice of heaven. Well, almost.
Jessica was always very headstrong and impulsive and lacked discipline in her life. To handle her and have any fun, we had to teach her to obey us. This was an exhausting undertaking as she had to relearn the rules on every visit.
My son’s relationship with Jessica’s mother did not last. When Jessica reached school age, she and her mother moved to another state. Our challenges increased as we traveled to an unfamiliar place and fit our visits into her school schedule. Our visits were considerably shorter, and we no longer had the beach to entertain us. It became even more difficult to maintain continuity and discipline — and still have fun.
On one trip when Jessica was about 9, she was being especially rude to me. I was worn out physically and tired of her behavior. I thought of all the time it took to maintain a relationship with her — not just the actual visit, but planning, arranging the tickets, and coordinating with her mother. I thought of all the money, too. It cost a lot for just a three- or four-day weekend. Discouragement, depression, and exhaustion set in, and I wondered if we really needed to continue our efforts.
I told my husband, “This is the last trip to see Jessica. It takes too much time and money, and for what? Just to see someone who doesn’t care about me. She doesn’t appreciate us.”
Although he certainly was aware of the truth in the situation, he tried to calm me. I was having none of it. I was too deep in my pity party to care.
My husband went off with Jessica so I could have some time to myself. I half-heartedly looked at my Bible, and I tried to pray. I was seeking some measure of help or solace, but I didn’t really expect to find any. Besides, I had already made up my mind. I was going to take care of me. Maybe my husband and I would take a vacation by ourselves with the money we would save by not traveling every year to see Jessica. The whole idea began to be quite appealing, and a satisfied smile broke out on my face.
Suddenly, a loud thought filled my mind. It wasn’t an audible voice, yet I heard loudly and clearly: “It’s not all about you.”
On one trip when Jessica was about 9, she was being ESPECIALLY rude to me.
Those words pierced through my being. My body began to shake. Without hesitation, I knew exactly what the words meant. I knew I was being the selfish one, thinking of myself first. My anger, bitterness, and self-pity began to melt away.
As my negative emotions left, I felt love flow into my heart and spirit. I knew those words could have only come from the Lord. I saw clearly that He laid down His life for me while I was sinful and ungrateful; now I was called to do the same for my granddaughter. I saw that, whether she could admit it or not, she needed me to love her unconditionally and to provide stability in her life.
My self-pity completely evaporated. I felt renewed and rejuvenated. With God’s help I could do this!
There were no miraculous changes in Jessica, although that very night she started being nicer to me and trying to make up for her behavior. There were also times when she would fall back into being her less-than-pleasant self.
As for me, I no longer took it so seriously. When Jessica and I were together, I frequently had to say, “It’s not all about me.” But I was doing what God wanted, and He gave me the grace and strength to love.
The older Jessica becomes, the nicer she is, and we get along very well now. The Lord showed me I have a role in Jessica’s life, and I will love her no matter what.
Karin Dixon Butler lives in Happy Valley, Ore. She has eight children and eight grandchildren. Karin works part time and volunteers as a jail chaplain, court appointed special advocate, and co-head of the prayer ministry at her church.
This article appeared in the September 2012 issue of Mature Living. To subscribe click here or on the magazine cover.