is she a writer?

I’ve been feeling pensive lately. More pensive than usual, I should say.

Pensive = wistfully or dreamily thoughtful. Or even more precisely–expressing or revealing thoughtfulness, usually marked by some sadness.

I’ve mentioned before that my grandma (Joan, pronounced Jo-Ann) is in a nursing home. She’s 88. My grandpa (who died in 2005) was a dairy farmer. My uncle Tim now owns Grandpa’s farm and has been “renting” Grandma’s house to her for several years. Now that she doesn’t live there, Tim has no choice but to rent it to someone else. If he doesn’t, he can’t make the farm payments.

So, the insides of Grandma’s house are being dismantled, and her possessions are being distributed amongst her seven kids and a slew of grandkids.

I love that Grandma can say, “I want Marla to have my books on writing and all of Leona’s letters from Ethiopia.”

I hate that time is marching on, people are getting old, and that life as I know it is changing. I want Grandpa back in his comfy chair in his white t-shirt, faded jeans and old, brown slippers. I want Grandma to pull up a dining room chair beside him while all of us young’uns gather around talking and laughing and playing.

As I look through Grandma’s things and visit her in the nursing home, I’m learning things I never knew. About Grandma. About her mom. About me.

Here’s a typed postcard I found in one of the books (Grandma is notorious for stuffing her millions of books with letters, programs, whathaveyou). It’s from Grandma to her mama.

“Homestead Farm” 12:45 p.m. West Liberty, O. (December 27, 1978)

Dear Mother,

(Ten days later–Jan. 6, 1979) This is totally something I’d do–start a letter, then find it forever later and try again.

Well, I’ve just taken the Christmas tree down and have returned the big box of decorations to the attic. And I have addressed several letters. Lily called this morning. She was lonesome to talk to us. I definitely promised her a letter. They had just received your very welcome three-page letter. I guess that I’ll never be the faithful letter-writer to all of my children that you were to me for so many years. Thanks again. I’m afraid that I am just kidding myself when I talk about being a Christian writer.

Love, Joan (in her handwriting)

I can’t get over this postcard. I’ve never met a more faithful letter-writer than my grandma. I don’t know if she just kicked it into gear in 1979 (I was three) or if she wasn’t giving herself enough credit.

Then tonight I found a letter Grandma’s friend Virginia had written to her on May 7, 1961. Mom told me Virginia’s daughter Sheila died when she was 17.

Dearest Joan,

Just a note to thank you for your very kind letter, the card with the consoling thoughts, and most of all, for taking time out of your busy life to do all of this for us. The Bible verses are so precious; I sat down immediately to read them, and shall read them many times in the future.

You have such a wonderful family, Joan. Terence is a handsome chap, and so well-mannered. I notice him each Sunday evening and marvel. You are rich indeed!

As I have been going through my school material, sorting, cataloging, etc., the thought keeps reoccurring to me how mortal we all are in trying to acquire so many possessions which adds so little to the sum total of our lives. Most of us are so busy making a living and performing the various duties and activities each day, and we don’t give enough time for fellowship and communion with our Lord. I know this is not true of you. One does not have to be around you more than ten minutes to realize the closeness you have to God. I know that it has been an act of self surrender and prayer on your part to be able to display that “inner calmness” which is so necessary to take us through the trials and interruptions of each day. Very few have this “special something,” Joan.

I must admit that I’ve always wanted to be a Christian, but put other activities first. The Lord had to “bend” me to make me realize it. Sheila was the dearest thing in the world to both Carl and me. The others (Dick and Billie) were more or less on their own, at least weren’t quite so dependent on us. Since we have lost Sheila, we now realize that all things are temporary–only one thing remains always–and that is Christ. We now hope to spend the rest of our life on earth living for Him and serving our fellowmen.

Thank you, Joan, for all that you have done. I cherish you as one of my dearest friends.

Love, Virginia

Grandma, you’re every bit a “real writer.” And waaaaay more importantly, you love Jesus (and therefore, others) with all of your heart, and it shows. You use words not to puff yourself up but to speak life and truth into the hearts of those around you.

I want to be just like you when I grow up.

18 thoughts on “is she a writer?

  1. Pingback: Marla Taviano | Christian author and speaker » Blog Archive » call your grandma

  2. Matt Yoder

    Marla, thanks for this post about Grandma! I read it in full agreement. Grandma definitely is a special woman and we, as her grandchildren, have been blessed to have her for our Grandmother. We have kept every letter from her over the years as they are always full of information about family, dates, historical facts, Bible Verses, Hymns, family photos, etc. They are all very special and remind us of the very special woman Grandma is. We always love the way she signed off “Cheerio!”

  3. Stephanie your sister

    I’m SO very glad you’ve been sharing all these things about Grandma lately. I don’t have the opportunity to visit her often or go through the house and see everything being distributed and whatnot. It’s weird when things change like that and you live so far away that you still picture things like they were when you lived there. So thanks. 🙂

    I love you!

  4. Kaye

    Sweet Marla-Thanks so much for sharing. Don’t blame you one bit to want to be like your Grandmother. I’ve always said the same about mine too! Please keep these writings close to heart and in a safe place!
    We’ve been so very blessed to have these very special women in our lives.
    Pray all of you are well. Blessings today and always,
    Matthew 21:22

  5. Elizabeth

    What a wonderful glimpse into your history. I love old letters and notes, especially handwritten ones. I collect old postcards. You have quite a legacy behind you, and your grandma would be so very proud of you.

  6. Crissy

    What a wonderful heritage to pass on! Seeing time pass is so hard sometimes, but little blessing (like the letters) are priceless. Recently my grandmother shared her testimony with me. She is suffering from dementia, but she remembered every detail about the day she invited Jesus into her life. Priceless! We are blessed!

  7. Kate

    What a sweet treasure and godly legacy! Thank you for sharing. I lost my mom this summer and am so grateful that she was a believer and an example of love in action to me and so many others. Thanks again for a peek into the life of this lovely sister in Christ, your grandmother.

  8. Megan@SortaCrunchy

    What a rich legacy your grandparents have created. Thank you for sharing these timeless truths. Oh, that we all would take the time to write in our own handwriting what God is doing in our lives!

  9. Kelsie

    I just lost one of my grandmas this past Thursday. We were very blessed by her funeral services, as she knew the Lord, and many people loved her. 🙂 It has opened my eyes, though, to appreciating my other Grandma even more while I have her. Thanks for the encouragement.

  10. jess

    oh, that we’d all visit the pen & paper more often than the keyboard & screen!

    there’s something about seeing ink–typed or written!

  11. Sandi Faulk

    Thanks so much, Marla. Your post reached into my heart at a very deep and real level. What a blessing her bequests to you will be, both to you and to so many others. Our Lord is making a Christian writer of your Grandma all over again!

  12. Lisa

    I’m finding it hard to come up with adequate words, Marla. What a rich history you have, and what a gift you’ve given the rest of us in letting us peek into Grandma Joan’s world. I’d say you’re more than well on your way to being just like her, and I smile when I think of your daughters’ children coming across your manuscripts and letters someday. They have the benefit of your published books, as well, and what an incredibly rich legacy you’re leaving for them. I can only imagine how proud Joan is of you.

    My heart breaks for Virginia. I’m thinking of the strength it must have taken for her to write that letter to your grandma. What a gift God has given us in being able to communicate through words, words that survive over countless generations. It’s so humbling to think about!

    Love and blessings to you!

  13. Peter P


    That was incredible.

    Almost anyone who wants to be a Christian writer wants to use their writing to bless and influence people for Christ yet we so often miss just how much what we write DOES bless and influence people.

    Thank you for this very personal reminder of how the little things can be great big things for the kingdom of God!

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