Texas was home for my first eighteen years until 1997 when I moved up north to first Montana then Washington. I now have four children and due to the cost of plane tickets, I am only able to go visit every two to three years. In fact, until this past December, I hadn’t been home for Christmas since before I left in 1996.
I remember Christmas as a child. My grandma would spend the entire day before baking pies. She would bake apple, pecan, and pumpkin- two of each. She also made my favorite- a double layer peanut butter cake with peanut butter frosting. I haven’t had that in decades!
My grandma had six children and they were all married with children of their own by the time I came along. So, you can imagine 14 adults and a bunch of grand kids running around in a tiny little house with one bathroom.
I don’t recall when it happened, but we all stopped getting together for Christmas. My grandpa died in 1998 and grandma followed on Christmas Eve, 2005 at the age of seventy-five.
My mom was a single parent and struggled to live on her own. My grandparents took us all in and help raise my sister and me until I was thirteen. I was already living in Washington- a single mother of two children when she died. I was crushed that I didn’t have enough money to fly to Texas on short notice the day before Christmas for her funeral.
Grandma was Pentecostal like her mother before her. She moved from Mississippi to a town in Texas with no Pentecostal churches. My mom raised me Baptist, and I persuaded grandma to come to church with me one day. I don’t remember how many times she came, but one day the preacher was making fun of “Holy Rollers” and said speaking in tongues was of the devil. She was furious and resolved never to come back.
She frequently watched preaching on TV and would pray and cry. She would go outside on the back porch to pray and speak in tongues. I heard her one day and asked her what language she was speaking. She didn’t quite know how to explain it and told me to “run along”.
She read the Bible to me and taught me how to say simple bedtime prayers. We had many bad storms and tornadoes in the springtime. We would gather on her bed and she would pray. I always felt safer then. I distinctly remember one time telling God that if he saved us from the nearby tornado, I would live for him the rest of my life. I didn’t make good on that promise until a couple decades later.
It wasn’t until I was thirteen and I went to a Pentecostal church with a friend that I truly learned what grandma’s religion was all about. Talk about a culture shock! You can read more about my first-time experience here.
I told grandma about my new church and she was thrilled! I still wasn’t living or doing right, but a seed was planted.
I love my grandma and miss her so much. Even though she never went to church and therefore had no church family or pastor, she stayed strong and full of faith until the very end. What a woman of God! She always prayed for her six children and numerous grandchildren.
To my knowledge, I am the only one in the family who has carried on the Pentecostal tradition. I pray I am half the warrior that she was and that my children continue in the precious heritage she gave me.