On July 23, 2014, one of the strongest, spunkiest women to ever grace the planet was gathered home to her Savior’s bosom. Frances Catherine Fisher, my grandmother, was a member of the greatest generation. She survived the influenza epidemic of 1918, two world wars, the Great Depression, the early death of her true love, and the uncountable ups and downs of 5 children and 99 years of life. Although she only completed school through the eighth grade, she was not lacking in intelligence or talent, and creativity, practicality, and hard work were a few of the characteristics that marked her life. She was self-taught on the mandolin and played alto completely by ear in a Ukrainian orchestra in school. Thanks to her Ukrainian heritage, she was bilingual and retained her ability to speak fluent Ukrainian all of her life. She worked in restaurants and a drug rehabilitation center as a cook, and in her free time she embroidered pictures that looked like they were painted with thread.
And she served people.
The Servant’s Servant
I learned something new about my grandmother as I listened to different people -mostly her children- speak at the memorial service held at her longtime church in New York. I had never really heard much about her church life, how faithful and involved she was in her church family, nor of all the ways she had helped people. I listened as my aunt told of being a pastor’s wife and how Grandma helped her prepare meals when guests came for dinner, and how she cut out flannel graph figures for Sunday school lessons- something she also did for my own mother. I’ve heard from my mom how before coming to visit Grandma would say “Save your mending, it’ll give me something to do while I’m there.” As I listened to all these ways she helped people, I came up with a title for my grandmother: a facilitator of other people’s service. Her ministry was to help other people minister. To put it yet another way, she was a servant’s servant. I can’t think of a more Christlike way to live.
Grandma lived, worked hard for her family, and died. The world at large would not hail her life a stunning success, but I know Someone who would. Someone who defines success, not as achievements and accolades, but giving your life for the benefit of others.
That’s exactly what Grandma did. And she’s still doing it. Grandma was never wealthy, but what she had she was always sharing with others, always sending checks in the mail with a card (usually with a funny face scrawled in it somewhere), to her children and grandchildren at birthdays and Christmas. Somehow, through her hard work and serious thrift, she still saved enough to give something more to her children after she went home to heaven-as if they could want anything more than the treasure of a life with her.
The Frances Project
With a portion of what she received from Grandma, my mom bought a sewing machine – a larger one than she had so that she would be able to machine quilt on it. She prayed hard and researched her decision, and finally settled on one. Not too long after her purchase, I saw an article on Facebook about a 99 year old woman who makes a dress every single day for little girls in Africa. I shared the article and tagged my mom in it, saying “Here’s something you can do when you’re 90!” Mom looked at it and said “Forget 90! I can do it now!” And so was born the Frances Project.
The Puzzle Only God Could Piece
Meanwhile, a coworker of mine was going through racks and racks of clothing that her mother no longer wore and was trying to find useful homes for it all. Knowing that I sew, she offered me some clothing in case I could make anything out of it. I didn’t think that I’d be able to make anything for myself from the garments, but I thought it might be just perfect for what Mom was doing. I mentioned it to my coworker and she was delighted at the thought of her mom’s clothing being used in that way. She brought a large bag of the clothing to work and I took it home with me, and Mom started sewing. The first dress she made was from a denim jacket. The pattern fit just perfectly on the jacket, allowing small pockets and embroidered leaves to be perfectly placed on the front of the dress. The end result was adorable, and after my mom finished it she brought it to work to show my coworker. She was so pleased and touched with the way it came out, and asked to show it to her father, whom she said just loves to help little children in need.
It was the perfect situation for both parties- my mom had fabric to use for her little dresses and shorts, and my coworker had a good use for her mother’s clothing. It was a puzzle whose pieces only God could have put together. Grandma, my mom, my coworker, and her parents – all pieces in the God-ordained puzzle, blessed to be able to share in the gift of giving to others.
The puzzle isn’t quite complete yet, though. These dresses and shorts still need to find the little children who need them. We’re not exactly sure where they are going to go just yet, but we have a few ideas. If you have any suggestions for where we could send them, feel free to share in the comments!
If you have a desire to serve the Lord by helping those in need, ask Him to show you what your part is in that. There’s a piece of His puzzle that needs to be filled by you! If you are interested in doing something similar to this, check out this website for patterns and guidelines.These clothing items and other small items could also be made for Operation Christmas Child.
What you can do: we would so love it if you would join us in praying that these dresses and shorts will make their way to just the children who need them, and that they will be a tool for letting the children know how much Jesus loves them and cares about them.
“This is My command: love one another as I have loved you.” John 15:12