My grandmother, Lillian Pauline Coots Breneman, was a remarkable woman. The mother of ten children, all of whom lived, was born in 1902 and lived until 1988. She taught me many things -- about life, cooking, and faith.
She and my grandfather, Arthur Brownie Breneman, married in 1920. One of the caveats of my mother, who was the next to youngest of the ten, about getting married to my dad was that Papaw and Memaw lived with us. Some of my fondest memories are of Papaw and Memaw, after dinner, rocking in their rocking chairs on the front porch, watching me ride my bike in the street. Memaw, never one to encourage idle hands, was always doing something: snapping green beans, reading the Bible, putting a bandage on a scraped knee, or sorting dried beans.
Growing up, we had pinto beans a lot. They're affordable, a great source of fiber, and they can be used in a variety of dishes: pinto beans, chili, burritos, tacos, etc. Sorting beans was important, she would say, as there are usually little rocks in bags of beans or beans that were halved and unsightly. Memaw only wanted complete, whole beans in her bean pot.
So she sorted beans. I would come up from riding my bike to see her with a tray of dried pintos on her lap, a cup with little rocks and bean halves in it, and a pot holding the good, whole beans. I'd watch her scoop up a handful of beans, look over them quickly, pick out a rock or two and a half or three and plop the bad thing in the cup; the handful of good beans would be chucked into the pot. I'd watch her, mesmerized by how quickly she would sort, the whole time carrying on a conversation with either Papaw, rocking away beside her, or a family member who was visiting.
Eventually, I asked her to show me how to sort beans. She smiled, went inside, and came out with my own little tray of dried pintos. She would tell me to scoop up a small handful, run my finger through the beans, and pick out the bad parts: black rocks, halves, beans that didn't look right. She would use these moments to share with me. Now, as a parent, I know that she was using sorting beans as teachable moments. At the time, though, it was just me and Memaw, on the porch, sorting beans -- and listening to her tell me stories of her childhood, stories from the Bible, and gems of wisdom. She would tell me of the 10 Commandments, and add her own spin on them, like "All these commandments have one thing in common: the heart. If our hearts aren't right with God, our actions will reflect our hearts."
If I was busy trying to sort beans, she would be quiet, sorting her own tray, but her mouth would be moving. I would ask her what she was doing, and she would say that she was praying. Praying for each of her children, by name, and each of her grandchildren and great-grandchildren, by name. She would pray for their salvation, and knew that her prayers may not be fulfilled in her lifetime, but she knew God would hear her anyway, and if He desired to answer her prayers, He would. She trusted God with a tangible faith that she was trying to pass on to her descendants. He hands would be flying doing a menial, everyday task, but her heart and mind were always focused on Jesus first and family second.
She embodied the Scripture from Deuteronomy 6:4-9 -- "
When she died, her old, 1915 Scofield Bible passed to me. I was looking at it a few months ago, and was overjoyed to find, in her handwriting, the words "Rely on God." She did that, and prayed that all her children and grandchildren for generations would do the same thing.
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