It’s time for the second installment of Inspiring Moms, and I am so excited to virtually introduce you to one of my all time favorite people and I’m not exaggerating. Her first name is Harriet, but she goes by Heidi and is known by many as Granny. It is an honor to share a teensy-weensy bit of her story with you today.
Heidi Lewiston is 96 years old, but you would never know it. The lady has more spunk than many women who are less than half her age. She still lives on her own and has a driver’s license. She gets around town in her PT Cruiser, a car known for its modern design with a 1930’s flair. As you will soon learn this vehicle suits Heidi’s personality well.
I asked Heidi, What is your secret to being so vibrant after nearly a century of life? and she attributed it to the grace of God, although she also admits she stays active in her community. Heidi is involved at her church (The Lighthouse in Midlothian Texas, which is where we met) and she goes to the pool twice a week for aerobics. She also enjoys shopping, going to restaurants, and hanging out with her friends.
Heidi says the only unfortunate thing abut growing old is having a phone book full of people that are now gone, but she still feels blessed to be here and has a lifetime of amazing stories to share and inspire others with.
Heidi was the wife of the highly decorated senior Navy officer Andy Lewiston, but he didn’t hold such a distinguished titled when they met. In fact, Heidi first met Andy when he was a scrappy ten-year-old boy from a small town in Iowa. They went to school together from 5th to 10th grade and were friends until Heidi moved to California at the age of 15.
She didn’t see Andy again until 1940 when Heidi returned to her hometown. They began a relationship as Andy pursued furthering his education at the University of Iowa and then enlisted in the Navy to become a Naval officer. He spent 5 years in the Pacific and was in the war of Pearl Harbor. After the war was over he came back home and Heidi and Andy were married on April 4th, 1946.
They did their part contributing to the baby boom by adding a total of four little ones to their family. Andy’s dream was to become a dentist, but after everything he had been exposed to in the war this brilliant man found it very difficult to concentrate so he went back to the Navy where he faithfully served for 25 years.
While in the Navy they moved 22 times. Heidi still had a slight tone of resentment in her voice when she remembered how she had to remake curtains every time they moved. The old curtains never worked with the new windows in each home and sewing them was such a laborious task. All these years later Heidi explains: That’s why I don’t have any curtains in my home now. I’m over it.
Heidi wasn’t exactly the quintessential Navy wife. When she married Andy the current Navy Captain’s wife gave her a book called “The Navy Wife” and it was full of rules from cover to cover stating what was expected of her. There was a culture at that time in which the code of conduct represented in the military would be apparent at home as well.
Wives were required to keep their children in line. The house and children must always be presentable between the hours of 4 and 6 and there were social expectations as well. Order and structure were a top priority. The way Heidi described it I pictured the Von Trapp family in the Sound of Music before Maria arrived.
Heidi is clear that she is grateful for that time that they served in the military. However, when I asked her if there was anything she would change about her experience as a mom she answered without hesitation
“I put too much pressure on my oldest children in those early years”.
Heidi felt like she missed out on a lot, specifically with her oldest daughter because she was still trying to live up to the unrealistic standards of what it meant to be a Navy Wife. Heidi recalls a family that lived next door with 10 children. Their house was the opposite of order, but no one could deny it was full of life. One year for Halloween the mother of the rowdy brood approached Heidi with a gift. She had made a Halloween costume for Heidi’s daughter because Heidi was simply too busy. Heidi fought to push the guilt aside as she prepared for the next social event. She wanted her daughter to dress up, stay clean, go to cotillion and to ultimately become a proper young lady. It was a lot of pressure for all of them.
Eventually, Heidi saw the undue strain that she was putting on her daughter and she was able to loosen the expectations that she was putting on both of them. Once again Heidi gives credit to God’s grace and mercy for how proud she is of her four grown children, 6 grandchildren, and 5 great-grandchildren.
Hedi’s husband Andy passed away in 2002 at 81 years old.
I asked her what some of her fondest memories were. Her mind immediately transported her to a sea of reflections and I was along for the ride as she ventured back to a very special moment. It was the feast of tabernacles in Jerusalem. The year was 1978.
We traveled by bus from Cairo Egypt to see [our daughter] who was living in Jerusalem at the time. We learned Jewish dances and got to see so many of the places we had read about in the Bible. The people were very nice there. The experience had such an impact that we returned to Israel at the end of the war of the northern border in Lebanon. They invited volunteers to come in and work at the hospitals because all of the able bodied people were fighting.
I had become a licensed vocational nurse when my youngest son was 16 and I was in my 50s. I had always wanted to be a nurse, but when I graduated high school in 1938 my father was ill and I could not go to college. Mother had to go back to work and we all took care of dad. That’s why I didn’t actually see my dream of nursing become a reality until I was 53 years old and got my first employment! I had been working as a nurse for 8 months when I met a doctor who had been a minister at the Congo. He inspired me and invited us to a full gospel business meeting. I was born again when I was 54 years old. Up until that point I never felt like I was pleasing God. I had never truly encountered Jesus until that day when I received the Holy Spirit and finally knew that Jesus was pleased with me as I was and it was GLORIOUS.
[Back to our time in Israel in January 1st, 1990] we were planning to go for 3 weeks for work, but ended up staying there for 9 months working at the hospital and doing various jobs. We lived in a 5 story brick dormatory in one room with a small bath and two cots. They had us go though exams and interviews with the rabbi there. We were under strict orders not to share the gospel and had to sign papers saying that we would not evangelize. We did however have the opportunity to serve people and pray with them. When people would ask us questions about our faith we would say “We serve the same the God. The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” I still email and keep in touch with many of the people we met from there.
After hearing so much of Heidi’s incredible story I had two final questions.
What has been your favorite part of motherhood?
I remember when I first saw each of my babies faces. Back then babies stayed three days in the hospital and the father didn’t touch the baby until you leave. Those first moments home together as a family were the best. We would just stand by the crib looking at the newborn amazed. I remember we would say to each other “He breathes so well”. I need to spend more time remembering those precious times, like when they first learn to walk. I kind of walk that way now.
What encouragement would you give to the moms out there in the thick of it that feel like giving up because they are overwhelmed?
I would say to realize that these are best days of your life when you’ve got little kids and you are everything to them. When your children need you. Yes, those are the best days. I wasn’t aware because I was trying to live up to the Navy Wife ideals. I still have no regrets. They all turned out great. I am very grateful. The Lord has been so good. I am so thankful and happy and full of peace. I marvel at how good God is to me, that at this time in my life I could be so at peace and enjoy everyday. I know it God’s grace.