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FIRST GLIMPSE: homespun stewardship

“Boy,” she would say with a smile, “life is just too
short to spend cleaning the house!”


Eric Thomsen is the managing editor of ONE Magazine. Send comments and observations about ONE to


SHE STOOD FIVE FEET ON HER TIPTOES—five feet of whipcord and rawhide. Her seamed face and twisted, leathery hands bore the effects of forty years of sun and wind on a sidehill farm in the Ozark Mountains of northwestern Arkansas. She and Pa eked out a living from flint rock and cedar on their forty-acre homestead. Together they moved rocks, chopped trees, baled hay, doctored the livestock, and carved out a life together. Along the way, they raised two boys—blond, mischievous, and full of life. She took her boys to church, taught them to pray, and read the Bible aloud each night while they drifted off to sleep.

My grandmother Lillie Thomsen (called Ma by everyone who knew her well) was truly remarkable. As I listened to her stories and saw the past reflected in her eyes, I came to appreciate several characteristics about her.

[The worn scrapbook paints a vivid picture of Ma's life in the Ozarks.]

family scrapbookShe was content. Ma did not have an easy life. The Arkansas hills did not treat my grandparents kindly, and she did not enjoy the “finer things” in life. But she never complained, was grateful for what she had, and always went out of her way to thank others for small kindnesses. She didn’t have much, but she shared what she had. She gave to the Lord faithfully, sometimes at her own expense.

She loved small pleasures. Ma took delight in details. She collected stamps and coins, and during long winter nights she spent hours poring over them with a magnifying glass. She accumulated family history for years, and I will never forget the satisfied look on her face as she recounted her most recent discovery. Whether it was a steaming cup of coffee, a new picture of a grandchild, a rosebud opening, or a piece of strawberry shortcake, Grandma reveled in the small blessings of life.

She loved nature. In his book, Life on Sunnyside Farm, which detailed the author’s childhood in rural Arkansas, David Motherwell described Ma as a “homegrown naturalist.” It was true. As a child, I remember pointing out obscure plants and asking, “Ma, what’s that?” She always knew. Few things pleased her more than an open window where she could hear and watch birds. In fact, housework was always difficult for Ma. She told me often that she just couldn’t wait to get back outside. “Boy,” she would say with a smile, “life is just too short to spend cleaning the house.”

She never said an unkind word. I spent endless hours listening to Ma over the years. She described family, friends, and neighbors in great detail and recounted thousands of stories. Yet in all of our conversations, I never remember an unkind word about anyone. She deliberately chose to remember the good.


She loved God. She was never pushy, but you couldn’t spend much time around her without learning that she had a deep faith. I will never forget the sound of her reading the Bible aloud during her final months. Her quiet voice quavered with emotions. She wore her faith like a badge, without apology.

Ma didn’t change the world. But her gentle “homespun stewardship” meant the world to me. She would have marked her 95th birthday last Tuesday, but this year we didn’t celebrate over strawberry shortcake. Instead, I took a long, deliberate look at the vivid colors of fall, smiled, took a deep breath of crisp fall air, and thanked God for the tough little woman who quietly taught me to live with gratitude.



©2008 ONE Magazine, National Association of Free Will Baptists