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After the release of the first Mama B novella, inspired by my grandmother, I started to reflect on other “Mama B” figures in my life. Let me tell you about Ms. Ginnie Bivona! I met Ginnie several years ago at a writer’s conference. I had just finished presenting a workshop. I had about an hour to relax before my next session, so I stayed in the room and sat in on her presentation. The title of her workshop was, “How to Get Your Book Turned into a Movie, but Only if you Believe in Fairy Tales.”
The funny thing is, as she passively discussed the long and drawn out experience of how her self-published book, Ida Mae Tutweiler and the Traveling Tea Party, became the Lifetime TV Movie Bound by a Secret starring Meredith Baxter and Lesley Ann Warren, I remember thinking, “She’s really not telling us how she did this.” So I decided to exchange numbers and reach out to her.
We had lunch a few weeks later, and I absolutely fell in love with her warm personality and tell-it-like-it-is wisdom. She did give me her agent’s name, but I put the whole “movie” thing on the backburner as I got to know Miss Ginnie as a person.
Though Miss Ginnie is now in her 80’s, she still gets around town in her SUV, writes, and even runs a small publishing company. I was so inspired by her mental and physical sharpness that when I thought about Mama B’s character, I had to steal Miss Ginnie’s spunk and eating habits.
Fastforward 6+ years, Ginnie and I eat dinner and chat about 4 times a year, mostly as part of a writer’s panel. The last time we met, I shared news of the movie option for my novel, Falling Into Grace. She was elated and began to ask me the kinds of questions only no-nonsense older people would ask and give me advice that only someone who has been down that road and genuinely cares about your success would share.
Now that I’m on the whole movie path, I can only laugh because things worked out just as she said in her workshop when we first met. In both our cases, going from print to movie is a matter of faith that cannot actually be explained or presented in a step-by-step handout.
Actually, I kind of like it that way; God gets all the glory!
When I really think about it, my grandmother has given me quite a few lessons in this story we call “life.” I don’t think she’s ever actually given me a lecture. Instead, she has taught me by example.
For one thing, my grandmother NEVER spanked me or yelled at me. She didn’t have to. There was something about her sweet love that somehow made me either more attentive or more obedient in her presence.
(My uncle Fred, of course, would have a different story. He would probably say that she spoiled me. I disagree. I was really good around my grandmother!)
Another thing about my grandmother is how she chose to encourage me. I’ll never forget the day I called her to tell her that I was pregnant. I was barely 20 years old, still in college, and not married. Though I am sure she was crushed by the news, she did not express her disappointment to me. Instead, she encouraged me to keep my head up, ask God to forgive me, stay in school, and move forward. She told me that I wasn’t the first girl to get pregnant in college, and I wouldn’t be the last. And she reminded me that, despite the situation, I was still a smart girl and she looked forward to my graduation. Her choice to encourage me rather than ridicule me in that fragile moment was soooo…I can’t even give you the right word for how she re-directed me.
I’ve been around my grandmother enough to know that she is not perfect. She’s human, which is really the beauty of God’s love for mankind as well.
When I think about how He loves us, I still don’t have words. But like a grandmother who has grown wise with time, He knows that once people realize how much they are loved, their respect, reverence, and obedience toward Him grow out of the love He already has for us.
God is also faithful to encourage us when we have done wrong. For believers, He has already forgiven our sins and made a conscious decision to forget them. While sin may just be happening from our perspective, it has already happened, been nailed to the cross, and been forgiven from His point of view. When we do wrong, the Holy Spirit doesn’t come to condemn those who are in Christ (Rom. 8:1). Instead, He convicts us of our righteousness (John 16:8-11). He encourages us by directing our focus back to Christ in us.
If have a grandmother, mother, aunt, sister, or cousin who has been a source of encouragement to you, please give her her flowers! Even if you don’t currently have a “Mama B” in your life, you can have Christ. I encourage you to receive His love. It will fill you with memories that are sometimes challenging, but always loving 🙂