Happy Birthday, Grandma!


Today is my Grandma’s 80th birthday!

Marian Dahl is my Mom’s Mom, and was born in 1931.  She is one of the most fascinating, wise, courageous and generous women I have ever met in my life.  While she is small in stature, the largeness of her love for God and others and the poor far exceeds the littleness of her 5’1″ frame…

Marian Elizabeth (Gochenour) Dahl is German and English by descent, but grew up in the DC metro area.  Her father was first a Butcher and then a delivery driver for the Rock Creek Gingerale Co.  Her mother, my Nana, was a stay-at-home mom to my Grandma and her two siblings (Ted and Maggie), and in her later years, was an avid yogi.  Grandma has always resided in the DC metropolitan area, but fondly has recounted to me the many long summers of her childhood that she spent living with her own grandparents on their small farm in North Carolina…and so, from biscuits to bacon to barns to bales of hay to boy preferences, she has always been a true Southerner at heart 🙂

My Grandma has not only seen a lot in her lifetime, but she has contributed much in her lifetime.  She grew up in the Great Depression, survived a bout with Polio, lived through World War II, worked full-time in the medical field in her twenties while taking night classes, was an aspiring doctor, married my Grandfather, Frederick Dahl, re-located to Nigeria in the early 1960’s while my Grandfather worked for the Federal Reserve Board, raised four children (in Nigeria and in the States) was and is an expert seamstress (you-name-it, she can make it!), has traveled to multiple continents and countries over the years, served the community and the poor in countless ways, nursed multiple ailing people, including her own mother and my Grandfather before his death in 1991, dealt with two knee surgeries, has generously invested into her six grandchildren in friendship and love and trips, and so so so much more…

My Grandma is a true Storyteller.  And, I think her stories have always been the avenue through which she has imparted her advice, wisdom and knowledge to me.  Grandma isn’t one to tell you WHAT to do, but if you are in a decision-making crisis, she will gladly tell you a story (very detailed, I might add!) that somehow relates or applies to your own situation.  I can’t tell you how many times her stories have helped me think through my own life and career and choices.  Whenever I am in a bout of tears or fears, I know who to turn to.  It isn’t just because Grandma is a good story-teller, because a lot of people are; it’s because Grandma is a true Woman who has lived through the honest-to-God heartbreakers and sufferings of life, and now stands on the other side as a seasoned Saint.  Her life hasn’t always gone the way it should, but she can always say that God is good.  And, as many stories as I’ve already heard from her, there is always ONE more for her to tell 🙂

Grandma has invested into my own life in friendship, laughter, joy, generosity, time, and years of spiritual support.  Because she has lived twenty minutes away from me my whole life, I’ve always had the privilege of seeing her on a regular basis.  As a little girl, I would go to her house for sleepovers, where she spoiled me with back scratches, yummy meals, little presents, new movies from her Blockbuster-style collection, crafts, new outfits that she had sewn for me, homemade brunches, and last but certainly not least, endless supplies of bubble bath……

And, with each grandchild (Nora, Peter, me, Brett, Brandon, Shelby), she has always taken us on a special 13th birthday trip to ‘wherever you want to go.’  Well, not quite wherever…I think Brett wanted Grandma to take him to the moon and back, but she vetoed that one 🙂  So, Nora and Grandma went to New York City, Peter and Grandma went on a TEN-day covered wagon train excursion in Wyoming, then she took me to re-live my fascination with Felicity the American Girl Doll in Williamsburg for five days, and then Brett and Grandma also went to New York City.  Bottom line, my Grandma is one cool woman!  I mean, what Grandma takes her grandson out to the Wild West to re-live Pioneer life?!  She did.

When my Grandmother was in her twenties, she felt no rush to get married right away.  She saw marriage as an important element of life and love and one of her dreams, but she was never one to pine away and feel sorry for herself.  She truly embraced each unique season of life for what it is, and lived it to the fullest.  In this way, she has always put herself in situations where she could be sharpened and trained and educated, and as a result, advanced in her skills sets and knowledge and abilities.  Don’t get me wrong, she was quite a catch!  And, her dating stories are quite hilarious.  But, coming from the Great Depression era, she knew that life was precious, and that her time was better spent focusing on what was right in front of her, than wishing that her life looked different or was perfectly molded to cultural trends at the time.  Then, at the right time, she met my Grandfather and got married in her mid to late twenties.

My Grandma is a rich woman.  No, she doesn’t grow money trees in her backyard.  And, no, she didn’t win the lottery.  She is a rich woman because she has poured her resources and time out for others, with whatever means God has given to her. There is a Proverb that says, “He who waters will himself be enriched.”  This, in short, is what my Grandmother has done. She has showered her own resources upon the soil of my life, and as she has watched me sprout up and blossom and grow, she too has been enriched.  She is a great Gift-giver, always showering me – and my siblings and cousins – with things that are special to us.  If it had not been for my Grandma’s incredible, sacrificial support, I would not have had the years of private piano lessons that I did…and I would not have been able to spend a year of my life serving in Kenya.  These two things – piano and my year in Africa – are perhaps two of the most important pieces of my life and memories and growth as a individual.  Without these two things, I can honestly say that I wouldn’t be the same person I am today.

I hope she doesn’t mind me saying this, but Grandma is moving slower these days than she used to 🙂  I guess I would be, too, if I had walked 80 years on this earth!  But, her mind is still sharp.  I am not exaggerating when I say that if you call her, she will literally talk your ear off for an hour with stories and questions and ideas.  And, she can still blow me out of the water on Crossword Puzzles any day.  AND, she still drives around town, lives in her own house of forty-something years, does her own cleaning and groceries and what-knot.  Most importantly, Grandma always looks ready to meet royalty.  She calls it “putting her face on,” but really, she’s just a natural beauty who has taken good of her skin and nails for years and years…in this way, she has passed on a legacy to her granddaughters of the value and important of presentation.

In Proverbs 31, it says,

She is clothed with strength and dignity;
she can laugh at the days to come.
26 She speaks with wisdom,
and faithful instruction is on her tongue.
27 She watches over the affairs of her household
and does not eat the bread of idleness.
28 Her children arise and call her blessed;
her husband also, and he praises her:
29Many women do noble things,
   but you surpass them all.
30 Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.
31 Honor her for all that her hands have done,
   and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.

Today, I give honor where honor is due to my Grandma.  She laughs at the days to come, she is clothed with strength and dignity, her beauty has inward, eternal significance, and she truly fears and loves the Lord.  I am grateful for her, not only because she is my Grandma, but because she is my friend, and has spoken life and truth and wisdom and encouragement into me for 26 years.

So, to my dear friend, I wish you a wonderful birthday, a wonderful 80th year, and a wonderful next 20 years!  After all, a century would be quite the feat, and if anyone could do it, you could 🙂

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