On a sunny summer afternoon a few years ago, women representing four generations gathered around the dining room table at our family cottage in Canada.  The table was set with measuring cups, pie plates, a bag of flour and sticks of shortening. Before us, past a wall of windows, is a vast, still body of azure water we affectionately refer to as Round Lake. The place where generations have enjoyed respite for more than sixty years.

That day, sunlight shimmered over the surface of the water like a flapper moving her beaded dress, taunting me to wade in and play but we were focused on the table instead. Grandmother was sharing her secrets for achieving scrumptious pie crust and my daughter filmed the lesson on her phone.

Grandmother’s pie baking is a summer family tradition. Flaky layers of perfection hold handpicked blueberries bubbling over the side of pie tins. Over the years, my birthday has fallen on one of those days at the cottage allowing me to choose from an extravagance of summer fruit for a pie boasting candles.

The smell of berries and crust baking from the oven woo small dripping legs from play in the lake to stand at the door waiting. Their small heads press into the screen and eyes scan for pies cooling on top of yellow countertops. Rumors of Grandmother’s pies are known to incite jealousy among relatives who discover she’s baking when they aren’t around to savor it.

Seated at the head of the table, I lean over a plastic bowl holding a fork in my powdery hand and realize pie baking isn’t about magic ingredients or perfectly administered steps.

I’ve taken notes in the past, jotted down all her hand movements and measured the craft but the art that is a life cannot be duplicated or mastered, can it?




I’m a people watcher by nature and sometimes this makes my kids uncomfortable. “Mom stop staring,” I hear my son say often when we are out.

As the child of an alcoholic I observed people in order to understand the chaos of my own life. All that looking, processing, and making assessments were ingredients for an internal recipe I was slowly perfecting for a happy life.

Instead of allowing what I witnessed to inform my future, I translated what I observed as a measuring stick. Perfectionism became my modus operandi. If I master her mannerisms, his generosity, their love for each other, then I will obtain a contented life.

Finding true contentment is to know God and rest in being the person he created. I learned that again recently as a new author speaking to crowds of people.

If I approach the new (often scary!) opportunities God orchestrates as formulas to be mastered, then the essence of who I am diminishes under the weight of people pleasing and perfectionism.

Be you and let your life speak.


That day at the table, Grandmother’s hands lay folded in her lap. Instead of pushing thumbs around the edges of the crust, she recites verbal instructions while gazing out the window. Like me, she’s smitten by the beauty of the lake, uncharacteristically distracted and solemn.

Awakened the following morning by the haunting call of the loon, our bellies were still gurgling with Grandmother’s favorite meal — pot roast, blueberry pie and decaf.  A little wrangling over the last piece of pie for breakfast ensues before quietly slipping out for site seeing. We travel to the city while the rest of the house snoozes.

While perusing dishes at IKEA, we receive a phone call that Grandmother has quietly slipped beyond the veil.


This week, we return to our beloved family cottage and pies will be constructed by my daughter’s hands. Those sacred last moments around the table with Grandmother will haunt us in all the best ways.

A life that speaks is a life that rests in knowing all that we possess is Christ’s anyway.



Shelly Miller / Posts / Blog
Shelly Miller is a veteran ministry leader and sought-after mentor on Sabbath-keeping. She leads the Sabbath Society, an online community of people who want to make rest a priority, and her writing has been featured in multiple national publications. Her first book, Rhythms of Rest: Finding the Spirit of Sabbath in a Busy World, will release with Bethany House Publishers in the fall of 2016 with a second launching in 2017 with Lion Hudson. Find more of Shelly’s writing on her blog, Redemptions Beauty, and connect on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram where she loves to share photos of the beautiful places she visits while living as a committed immigrant in London.
  • Carissa

    This is such a beautiful tribute to her life. The table is such a sacred place for connection between generations of families. Thanks for sharing this story, Shelly!

    August 3rd, 2016 9:43
    • Shelly Miller

      Agreed Carissa, the table is sacred, holy, messy — a symbol of a beautiful life.

      August 3rd, 2016 16:40
  • Katrina

    That was beautiful – my heart aches (in a good way).

    August 3rd, 2016 9:58
    • Shelly Miller

      Thanks for being here Katrina, appreciate your comment.

      August 3rd, 2016 16:41
  • Lynn D. Morrissey

    Shelly, what a beautiful legacy you have shared here around the Grace Table. I will admit to not expecting the ending, and I’m so sorry about the loss of your grandmother. Mine were so special, and like yours, the table was the center of their lives because of fellowship and love served up there. I can’t imagine how much you, H, and the children must miss her. When Muriel bakes those blueberry pies this year, their fragrance and warmth and deliciousness will serve up the most beautiful memories of this blessed lady who obviously added generous doses of love to every pie before she placed it in the oven. I am struck too that God took her home in the midst of the people and the place she loved most. There is a gift in that and all she gave. I am so blessed by your sharing. Thank you so much.

    August 3rd, 2016 11:06
    • Shelly Miller

      Lynn, we do miss her but her passing couldn’t have been more the way she would have wanted it — in her favorite place, with her family, doing what she loves. And it just so happened that summer almost everyone happened to be in the area. She wouldn’t have wanted the kids to spend money flying in for her funeral. God had it all covered down to the last detail. She leaves a beautiful legacy.

      August 3rd, 2016 16:43
  • Susan

    What a lovely post -it truly brought tears to my eyes. To exist in that place where love envelopes-even thrives-in the midst of the mess and imperfection of life is such a gift. The image if life and lesson being past from generation to generation is so touching and something I pray I am able to do with my own family. So much of my growing up is something I don’t revisit and I worked long and hard to create a different, more loving space for my family as they grew. It wasn’t perfect but it was perfect enough that we love each other, we do life together and, Lord willing, I am passing on to them the beautiful lessons learned along the way…and a good recipe or two as well!

    August 3rd, 2016 13:42
    • Shelly Miller

      I agree Susan, it is a gift to have family thrive in the midst of imperfect life. I didn’t grow up that way but I’m happy that I married into family with deep Christian roots. It’s been a beautiful (imperfect) thing to witness. I’m grateful. Thanks for being here!

      August 3rd, 2016 16:45
  • Sarah G

    What beautiful writing and reflection! Thank you for piecing your story together, and sharing your grandmother with us, too. I am so sorry for your loss–my grandfather passed away nearly three years ago and some days it still just hits me so hard that he’s not here anymore and I have to wait to see him again. God is also teaching me (so patiently, because I am a very slow learner!) to rest in who He is and who He made me to be. I have chronic illness that keeps me home a lot and it’s so hard not to compare or struggle against my situation. Thank you for this beautiful reminder to rest and to let go of perfection.

    August 3rd, 2016 14:24
    • Shelly Miller

      Sarah, this is my husband’s grandmother that I’m writing about. I was very close to my grandparents while growing up and though they passed away nearly twenty years ago, I think about them often, nearly every day. I can’t wait to see them again in heaven! The way we rest is unique to each of us just like the other parts of our lives. If we try to rest like someone else, we will often be disappointed. I have not been in your situation with chronic illness but I have said a prayer for you today. Thanks for being here.

      August 3rd, 2016 16:49
  • Jerralea

    “Be you and let your life speak” I love this, Shelly! And I want to do that. It’s just that the loudest voice speaking against that is my own inner perfectionist! I have to learn to shut her down.

    I’m so glad your grandmother got to spend her last day teaching one of her skills and enjoying her favorite meal with her family! Seems to me you couldn’t ask for more than that.

    August 3rd, 2016 14:27
    • Shelly Miller

      I can truly empathize. Our inner perfectionist likes to boss us around, yes? Keep persevering in being you!

      August 3rd, 2016 16:51
  • Theresa

    Beautiful piece and memories of a grandmother. I love your line, “Those sacred last moments around the table with Grandmother will haunt us in all the best ways.”

    August 3rd, 2016 23:13
    • Shelly Miller

      Thank you Theresa, I’m glad this piece blessed you.

      August 4th, 2016 1:56
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        November 6th, 2016 0:43
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  • Diana Trautwein

    Oh, what a beautiful way to go home!!! How I long for that kind of slipping away for my mama. Beautifully told, Shelly. Thank you.

    August 3rd, 2016 23:37
    • Shelly Miller

      I felt the same way Diana. God showed us how much he loved her but granting such a beautiful homecoming in the way she would’ve wanted it. I pray the same for your mother. Thanks for being here!

      August 4th, 2016 1:58
  • Nancy Ruegg

    Praise God for those, like your precious grandmother-in-law, whose lives speak of love, faith, and perseverance. My Grandma Rachel was just such a woman–and a champion pie baker herself. Never one to measure, she simply scooped flour with her hands, pinched salt with her fingers, and dolloped the shortening with a spoon. (Actually, I think she used lard!!) However, I think the miracle of a light and flaky crust occurred in her deft handling of the dough. Her hands worked poetry into everything she baked. More valuable, however, was the poetry of Grandma’s life. Her quiet godliness, constant prayerfulness, and faith-filled testimony still speak loud and clear to me today. Praise God for all such men and women!

    August 4th, 2016 17:18
  • Sandi

    So beautiful! She was such an amazing woman. We miss her. You wouldn’t happen to have her pie crust recipe would you:-).

    August 5th, 2016 16:57
  • K. Ann Guinn

    I’ve had this tab open for so long, I can’t even remember which blog promoted your post, but I’m so glad I saved it to read. It reminds me so much of some of my favourite family memories, and although I married and live in Massachusetts, I’m a born Canadian. Some of my best memories are of times with my grandmothers (grandfathers, too, but my grandmothers both lived to be in their nineties; one died last year; the other is still living at the ripe age of 98!). The grandmother who passed on last year was the pie baker. I often joke that she makes the best pies in the world, and don’t feel that I’m prejudiced! But you’re right; it’s not just the amazing food and pies she made; but the love and family memories she shared with her life.My other grandmother was a teacher and wife of a blind husband, which in those days, is an accomplishment in itself. She did intricate needlepoint until her elderly hands or eyes were unable to complete it any longer. I learned so much from both my blind grandfather (who often “saw” much better than us), my quiet, reserved other grandfather who ate porridge on every morning in an unusual but comfortable silence. Also, both grandmothers, though different, passed on much of their lives in ways I don’t even think about in my life. I have memories of fun, love and priceless practical information that many are not privy to in our more “modern” day and age. I’m so thrilled that my sons got to live almost their whole childhood with not only two sets of wonderful grandparents, but two amazing, godly great-grandmothers…..whose lives were truly great for more than just pies and needlepoint. Thanks for sparking such special memories, reminding me what a blessing I’ve received in family, and challenging me to be part of a family that passes all this and more along to future generations.

    August 30th, 2016 15:54

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