Today I’d like to introduce you to my Grandma, Leola Seely Anderson. She died years before I was born, but there are moments that I feel like I know her. One of those moments was when I went to Virginia to help my parents pack for a move. We found a metal filing box, kind of lunchbox shaped, with organized notes about Grandma’s magazine article submissions, acceptances, rejections, and payments. She had a famous sense of humor and irony (well, famous for us.) She was a writer, a teacher, a wife, a mother, a traveler, a server, and a glove-and-hat wearer. The following piece was published circa 1957. Despite her use of exclamation points, I connect in a deep way with her words.
Here she is, at approximately the time the article was written. Thanks to Uncle R. for the photos.
As the Heart Grows
By Leola Seely Anderson
“I LOVE YOU!”
No sweeter words were ever spoken, no purer thought was ever born. No greater joy was ever measured than the simple, exquisite infinity of “I love you!”
Within the walls of my heart are many mansions. Each is precious, lovely rare. Each holds an image indestructible; each is eternal there.
Once my heart was one vaulted chamber, dedicated only to a lonely portrait – myself. But it was soon invaded by another. My Mother’s bright blue eyes, her sunny hair, the light of her smile – these became my world. And I divided my heart once more to let my Father in – and later there were those other dear ones, my brothers and sister.
Life was full, my love serene. A gallery of cherished ones filled my every need, until the day a friend slipped in, and his image was engraved in its own hall of fame. My heart was no larger, but oh, the difference in my vision! I loved outside my family.
Others were admitted tentatively from time to time. Some came to stay; some grew dim, faded away, and were replace by faces new and fresh. Before any could be permanently fixed, a new room had to be prepared.
Once I thought my work completed – family and friends were there. And yet there came another for whom my heart pulsed with new meaning. This was an image to be superimposed upon my own; this one took my place. For my husband I ceased to think of self. I awoke to other vistas.
Love seeks not itself; neither does it demand anything. It asks only the privilege to serve, to give, to suffer, if need be, but always to be near the sweet flame which kindled its fire. This portrait I cherished in my heart’s loveliest hall, with gratitude and faith in its being eternally mine.
As the years passed by, my mansions increased in number. Each of my children possesses one, each immortal. Though he should break my heart and make my tears a flood, he could not erase my love. Though he walk in the farthest reaches of heaven or earth, he could not depart my heart’s door. He is loved.
Again I thought myself fulfilled – family friends, my mate, my children – surely one could ask no more?
But Jesus stood at my door and knocked, and for him its portals swung wide. He entered, and his presence filled every corner with wider vision. Miraculously, my capacity to love increased a hundredfold!
Not alone my own, those near and dear to me, but a whole troop of others crowded in. The tired, the needy, the afflicted, the discouraged – I found my compassion had gained new dimension. These were my brothers and sisters – God’s other children who needed me, even as I needed them.
True, there are now some rooms of sorrow in my heart, where portraits bring only pain; still their niches can never be uncarved, unfilled, nor forgotten. They have taught me that ingratitude, indifference, thoughtlessness – even evil, anger, revenge – can be forgiven if the love of God lends its strength to mine.
And though my heart’s mansions become numberless as the stars of heaven, yet is each one as large as at first; though each treasure possesses a room, my powers of tenderness are enlarged infinitely. As I love, my capacity to love expands; as I cherish, I become more nearly like him, and my reason for being is more nearly realized.
I love you.
In my heart are many mansions reflecting the joy I know. Perhaps, someday, when I have learned life’s lessons well, my chambers may encompass the world, and then shall I glimpse the majesty of the love of God.
Ah, the sleeves. I'm in agonies of jealousy.