My grandmother and Snake Boy

Gail Seidel's picture

I still can see my grandmother standing at the back door yelling, “If I ever see you doing that again, I will call the police!” Waving a wiggly grass snake in his hand, a boy chased me all the way home from school - 4 blocks from Longfellow Elementary to my house. I was terrified and probably screaming all the way. My grandmother must have heard me and opened the back door just as we got near -a vivid memory even though years later.

Renna Katherine Hearne Hinkle was usually a retiring, quiet woman preferring to be in the background. Her pastor husband died suddenly of a heart attack at 52 and she had come to live with my mom and me to take care of us while my mother worked. I had NEVER seen my grandmother act like that EVER. In one loud sentence, she invoked the power of the entire Houston police force as her ally. I was impressed. It was wonderful - her protection of me from “snake boy”.

How many other “snakes” had she warded off – by her prayers, by her modeling a deep love for and trust in God, by being present, by giving stability to my mom and me, by introducing me to Jesus? In my story, she is definitely one of my heroes. She was present. She was always there. She sat by me early on when I practiced the piano. She walked with me to church or we rode the bus together. She made all of my clothes. She was my anchor of stability at a time in my story when I desperately needed that.

She was God’s clear provision. She never drove a car. She never owned her own home. She did not have a portfolio. She certainly never used a computer, but her life impacted mine in a way that made all the difference. I can’t imagine how my journey would have been without her.

Annette Simmons writes in her book The Story Factor, “In a land of complex reality story makes sense of chaos and gives people a plot. Story gives definition to the experiences of the past. A story can reframe frustration, suffering, or extra effort as meaningful.”  

Story is a way to recognize God’s process and development in one’s life and how we are a part of His story. Reflecting on the events, people and impact of these in one’s story enables one to see God’s grace, His goodness, times of blessing, challenge and protection woven into the mundane details. Details can be charted in categories: heroes, heritage, high points, hard times and hand of God.

My grandmother’s investment in me made all the difference. She was right out of Paul’s description in I Thessalonians 2 of nurturing gentleness imparting her own life. She was a profound, pivotal person in my journey.

So, what’s your story? Who are some of your heroes?


Thank you for your insights on story. I know that reflecting on these different parts of my journey will help me to see God's work in my life! Now, to get organized.....

Gail, my grandmother was also a hero of mine. She lived with us and cared for me before her nightshift nursing job for 10 years, from the time I was three years old. I never went to daycare because of her sacrifice.

She modeled devotion to Jesus with her daily prayers (as I look back, her ministry to us was intercessory prayer), and her off-key hymn singing each morning and evening. She gave me musical theology lessons before I was aware that I could even sing (or pronounce the word "theology").

Her death was a huge blow to our family, but I believe it also sparked a spiritual movement towards pursuing the things of God. I miss her. I look forward to seeing her again.

Gail Seidel's picture

Sharifa, I love that we share this in common. Being cared for by your grandmother left an idelible mark on you- me too! Personally, I think God has used grandmothers

Hi Gail.
How nice to find you here.

I did not know my grandmothers very well. One lived nearby and the other was many miles from home in northern New Jersey. Nana Wardell, my father's mom, was a little lady with long grey hair that was always braided and wound into a grandmotherly bun on the back of her head. Always "neat as a pin" she made us grape juice and selzer water drinks and fed us cereal with milk for breakfast. When we spent the night she gave us a bath in the backyard by the water pump. Her home was spotless and seemed to demand perfect behavior from me, my sister and brother. Her cutting flower gardens were beautiful. She grew purple grapes, raised chickens, hung her clothes on the line and had a large garden.

My Nana Wardell has been gone for many years, but as I write and reflect on her I can actually visualize her and feel her quiet strength. She was not openly affectionate physically or verbally but I always knew I was welcome in her home. My Nana Wardell was special because she was my father's mother. She did not have to say or do anything. The older I grow the more I realize that simply being part of my life made an impact. The lesson she taught me was to just "be" and allow God to work through me in the lives of my grown children and grandchildren. I pray that this will be true. jb

Gail, how could you write about such a horrifying event? Don't you know that's my worst nightmare?

I count my parents among my heroes. I've watched their tenacious faith leave a comfortable job to go into the pastorate as a second career and hold tightly during many trials. Their faith taught me one aspect of what it means to be truly organized.

Gwynne Johnson's picture

Thanks for vividly bringing back memories of my grandmother who lived with us as well.

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