From the January/February 2015
Issue of Homecoming Magazine
~ By Reba Rambo-McGuire ~

Grandmas Are Powerful Beings

My grandmother, Ma (Mary) Rambo, was the proud mom of 13 children, each one delivered in their humble Kentucky home. Sadly, two children, Charles Ronald and the baby, Margaret Pearl, passed away early on, but the other 11 survived and thrived. Next to the youngest, Douglas, was born with Down syndrome and was the heart of the Rambo household. While other folks suggested he be put away in a sanatorium as was the tradition of the day, Ma insisted on Doug being a part of every aspect of the family's lives. Nobody dared to speak against Doug without facing the fiery wrath of the usually soft-spoken Ma. "Doug is a lot smarter than so many of those ignorant, cruel people and he's a whole lot sweeter!"

Walnut Grove, Kentucky, (population 36) was a home for all the Rambo clan. That four-room-and-a-path (not a bath) homestead of five acres was not only Ma's slice of heaven but the place she poured out wisdom on her "young'uns and grands." She was a patient teacher whether instructing how to dress a deer so it wouldn't taste "gamey," boil clothes in the big iron kettle with chips of lye soap, or put up jars of green beans, pickled beets and fruit jams. There was always time to show you "how to."

Some of my fondest childhood memories are centered around her beautiful, almost two-acre vegetable garden. Each meticulous row, marked with tiny, hand-drawn signs staked carefully, was a work of art. I'm not sure how she managed it, but each time I was down on my knees planting, watering seedlings or pulling stubborn weeds, she convinced me it was fun! Ma seldom missed a moment to impart a valuable life lesson and that garden was perhaps her greatest classroom.

"Now, Reebs, if we plant these Kentucky Wonder pole beans, what are we gonna reap?"

"We're gonna reap Kentucky Wonders, Ma."

"That's right," she'd grin. "What if we plant Bradley tomatoes?"

"We're gonna get my favorite—vine-ripened Bradleys!"

"Would we plant okra and expect to harvest potatoes?"

"Of course not!"

"That's right; we only reap exactly what we sow," she said. "We can't plant one thing and expect to reap something else. We can't plant ugly words or deeds and expect to reap pretty ones, can we?"

"I guess not, Ma."

"Let me ask you another question. Would we ever plant poison ivy or stink weed?"

"Certainly not! We don't want that in our wonderful garden."

"Did you know our lives are like a garden? Everything we do, every word we say is like a seed sown that will grow up even bigger than what we planted!"

"That's so scary, Ma! I don't want to reap what I've sown," I cried, remembering some of the frightening fire-and-brimstone sermons I had heard on that subject.

"Oh yes you do, Child—if you're careful about what you plant! Just like we get the very best seeds for this garden and take great care of it, we can choose the best word and deed seeds for our life gardens. We can make our lives so fruitful and beautiful that everyone will want to taste and see the goodness. Isn't that amazing?"

"Yes Ma'am," I sniffled.

She grabbed a tiny burlap bag of seeds and held it up reverently in the morning sunshine and prayed. "Today, dear God, please help Reebs and me to reap what we sow! We choose to sow the good seeds of Your Kingdom: kindness, joy, grace, gentleness, peace, patience, forgiveness and love. May we always sow mercy. In the precious name of Your darling Son, Jesus... Amen."

Grandmas are powerful beings.

I can see her now, her weathered skin,
That old straw hat and crooked grin
And she said, "Child, let's make this garden grow
Let's till the soil, pull some weeds
And here's your bag of precious seeds
'Cause Grandma's got a secret you should know,
You always reap exactly what you sow"

Sow mercy, sow grace,
Sow kindness, sow faith,
Words are like water
Sprinkled with love,
You will harvest all your heart's been dreamin' of
Sow mercy

We knelt right there, she took my hand
That patch of dirt was holy land
And she said, "Child, I learned this long ago
You can bless or curse, live or die
You choose the crop you want in life
That's the greatest secret Grandma knows,
You always reap exactly what you sow"

'Cause one day, God forbid, you act a fool
And fall down hard and fast, 'cause life is cruel
If  you ever reached to help a friend
The hand you held might lift you up again
What goes around comes back around you know,
You always reap exactly what you sow

Words and Music by Reba Rambo-McGuire and Dony McGuire
© 2012 Songs Of Rambo McGuire/SESAC