The House That Grandma Built

The House That Grandma Built June 1, 2021

Family Photograph

“Unless the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it.” 

The house that Grandma built is not really a house at all. 

The house that Grandma built is eight boys and two girls. Then, fifteen granddaughters and nine grandsons. Twenty-two great grandchildren. They are fathers and mothers, doctors and nurses, teachers and writers, artists and craftsmen, farmers and orchardists, men and women of all types of business. 

The house that Grandma built spans four U.S. states, but it is centered on several hundred acres of farm and timber beginning on the banks of the muddy Mississippi and wandering over steep hills and valleys until it reaches the ancestral home — 60 acres purchased by a French immigrant in 1872 for a sum total of $1,565. One hundred and forty-nine years of sweat and toil, gain and loss, have made the holdings what they are today. 

The old homestead barn, Liz Schleicher

The house that Grandma built has been seventy years in the making, but it began long before her and it is still being made new. There were two weddings last year, welcoming two more families into our loud, jovial, chaotic clan. This year, there are two new babies soon to be born. There has been one new engagement. 

“Behold the inheritance of the Lord are children: the reward, the fruit of the womb.”

Grandma could never have foreseen the grand inheritance she was preparing for her descendants. Not when she rinsed the 5,000th diaper or fried the 5,000th cheeseburger, worried about money or weeded the strawberry bed or wept at the loss of a relative. Not when she knelt in front of the Eucharist or at her bedside and prayed for her tumultuous brood again. And again. And again. That was just another day, another year, ordinary life. But she must have caught a glimpse of the great Christian secret, because her ordinary life was marked by extraordinary joy. In the words of Servant of God Catherine Doherty: 

“The secret of daily living is to connect an ordinary, seemingly boring life, in all of its repetitive details, with Love, who is God … Christ is waiting for you to become aware of him, and of the work he has given you to do, by becoming aware of the connection between brooms, dishwater, laundry, cleaning and the restoration of the world.” 

The house that Grandma built with brooms and dishwater and prayer was more than a building, or a farm, or acres of timber. It is our family. It is the restoration of our world. It extends over hills and through valleys, from the river to the ancestral home, and now crosses even the great gulf between time and eternity. The Lord promised us that in his father’s house, there are many mansions, that he has prepared a place for us. It is my hope that these dwelling places are our families, restored and glorified, raising thousands of voices in loud, jovial, chaotic praise. 

“Give her of the fruit of her hands: and let her works praise her in the gates.”

Family at the Ranch, photo courtesy Dave Eberlin


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