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This spring and summer we have all spent a lot of time watching and waiting — watching the news and waiting for more of it to be good news! American hymn writer Fanny J. Crosby wrote over 8,000 hymns. One of the most beloved is “Blessed Assurance.” The last verse is:

Perfect submission, all is at rest,
I in my Savior am happy and blest,
Watching and waiting, looking above,
Filled with his goodness, lost in his love.

It has been easy to watch this spring and summer. Waiting has been harder. Fanny Crosby had the key for what to do when we watch and wait. That key is “looking above.”

Fanny was born with healthy eyes, but a doctor’s mistake took her sight when she was very young. Once a preacher offered her sympathy, telling her that it was a pity that God did not give her sight. Fanny replied, “Do you know that if at birth I had been able to make one petition, it would have been that I should be born blind?” When he asked why, she said, “Because when I get to heaven, the first face that shall ever gladden my sight will be that of my Savior!”

Blindness did not keep Fanny from being active. She climbed trees, rode horses, and played like other children, but one of her favorite pastimes was sitting and listening. Sometimes she knitted and sometimes she just sat with her hands folded. She loved to listen to rain, storms, and other sounds of nature.

Fanny’s father died while she was still young. Her mother was only 21 years old at the time. Her mother worked as a maid to provide for herself and Fanny. Fanny got to spend lots of time with her grandmother. Adults spent many hours reading to her from the Bible. She had a wonderful memory. By age ten, she could recite Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

The family enjoyed reading poetry aloud, and adults read her many books. Fanny took comfort in the Scriptures and in hymns. She wondered if someday she could make hymns, too. Fanny wrote her first poem when she was eight years old.

Oh, what a happy soul I am,
Although I cannot see!
I am resolved that in this world
Contented I will be.

How many blessings I enjoy
That other people don’t
To weep and sigh because I’m blind,
I cannot and I won’t!

“Contented I will be” — what a wonderful resolution to make when you are only eight years old. Fanny didn’t equate contentment with being idle. Beginning at age 15, she went to boarding school at the New York Institution for the Blind. Then she taught there. Her subjects were grammar, rhetoric, ancient history, and modern history.

She wrote her first book of poetry at age 24. That year she and others from the school traveled to Washington to help people be aware of blind people. She gave a poetical address to a joint session of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. In the audience were two future presidents, James Buchanan and Andrew Johnson. While in Washington, she met and received a hand clasp from former President John Quincy Adams. He was 72 years old. She heard him give a speech about the Smithsonian Institution.

Future president Grover Cleveland’s brother William was the head teacher at the New York Institution for the Blind. When William and Grover’s father died, Grover was only 16. William brought him to the school, where he became a clerk. William Cleveland encouraged Fanny to encourage his brother, who was taking their father’s death very hard. Grover Cleveland and Fanny became lifelong friends.

Fanny met other famous people at the school. Among them were Presidents James K. Polk and John Tyler. She also met the newspaper editor Horace Greeley. When Greeley heard one of Fanny’s poems, he asked her to write for his newspaper. Fanny’s grandfather walked four miles to buy a newspaper with his granddaughter’s poem in it.

Fanny’s first book was The Blind Girl and Other Poems. During her lifetime, she wrote two other books of poetry, a book of short stories and poems, an autobiography — and those 8,000 hymns.

Fanny (right) with her mother and two step-sisters. Courtesy Wikimedia.

Fanny’s mother lived into her 90s and got to enjoy her daughter’s fame. Fanny also lived a long life. When she wrote her autobiography at age 83, she was traveling around the country visiting churches, speaking, and reciting her poems to audiences. She believed herself still in the prime of life and believed that hymn writing was her true life’s work. She wrote, “I seem to have been led, little by little, toward my life-work,” and “My work grows sweeter and grander to me each day.”

Fanny J. Crosby died just before her 95th birthday. Her tombstone says simply, “Aunt Fanny” and “Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine. Oh, what a foretaste of glory divine.”

Her hymns and her life story continue to give us keys to contentment. One of Fanny’s many comforting hymns is “Safe in the Arms of Jesus.”

Safe in the arms of Jesus,
Safe on His gentle breast,
There by His love o’ershaded,
Sweetly my soul shall rest.

Jesus not only encourages us to be contented and at peace. He actually has the power to give it to us!

Peace I leave with you;
My peace I give to you;
not as the world gives do I give to you.
Do not let your heart be troubled,
nor let it be fearful.
John 14:27

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