This morning I read some very good Bible verses that encouraged me so much. I began to write about them, because sharing God’s Word is always a good idea. But things happened.
A good friend of our family went to Heaven last Sunday morning. Of course, my heart broke upon hearing the news, but I didn’t allow myself to dwell on it. I stayed busy with my work at home and church and kept my mind on other things. I wanted to go to the funeral, but it wasn’t possible.
Yesterday, I heard that the funeral would be aired live online. I decided I would tune in. Well, the grief I’d been holding back, came out. One of my earliest flashes of memory of our friend, Bro. Reggie Payte, is of him singing behind a grand piano at Hot Springs Baptist Temple. In my memory, he has fiery red head of hair and a blazing beard. I seem to recall that he was wearing a red-plaid flannel shirt as he sang! This intrigued me, even as a pre-schooler. Now, I might be remembering wrong, I mean, I was only four, but that seems right. I enjoyed his lively singing so very much. But more than that, I enjoyed just being close to Bro. Reggie and Mrs. Debbie. They had the gift of making everyone feel welcome and accepted. No frills or fluff necessary, just “come on over and visit a while.”
Years later, Bro. Reggie went into full-time evangelism. I didn’t see him or his family as often I wanted. That seems to be the way it is with those people who add sparkle and pizzazz to life – they don’t stick around long enough. But the good news was, his oldest son, Jenceson, got married and decided to stay close by! In fact, he became the bus driver for my church bus route. There is not enough time, or enough words, to share with you what a gift from God Jenceson and his wife, Donna, have been to me. How can I adequately express to you the courage, faith, joy and comfort they have added to my life? God poured out a blessing larger than I ever expected when he graced my life with those two amazing people.
I was a typical teen – dramatic, awkward, talkative, hyper – basically, I was never doing the right thing at the right time. I was never good enough. At least, that’s how I felt. My parents loved me and did all they could to guide me and help me. But, I rationalized that they “had to do that”. They were my parents! Bro. Jenceson didn’t have to care, but he did. He taught me to “embrace” who I was; to just go with it. To be me. So I was talkative? Big deal! It’s okay to be talkative, he’d say. So my life was a hopeless abyss of agony and loneliness? It would get better, he’d tell me. And he was right. He had to correct me a few times, lining me out about my attitude, or sometimes, my actions. But he did it because he cared, and I knew that he cared. That made all the difference.
As a teenage girl, there were only a few people in my life who made me feel that I should continue breathing, (Did I mention I was dramatic?) and Jenceson and Donna were two such people. I watched them survive some difficult storms and still keep smiling and keep serving God – and with style. It has been an honor just to watch them live. Their testimony shines in my memory, in my own dark times, across the miles.
Today, I watched the funeral of my friend, Bro. Reggie. It was hard to see much through my tears. I started missing everyone, longing to share my thoughts with someone. So, instead of writing about a passage from Matthew, I’m sharing these winding thoughts. Thank you so much for allowing me to do that.
Bro. Reggie came to sing at our church in Hope, Arkansas, a few times. I came across these photos of one visit in January of 2011.
Bro. Reggie is behind the piano, Reuben is playing the banjo, Jim is on the bass, Mitchell and Leslie are to the left watching them practice and the other two boys are Bro. Reggie’s grandsons, Conner and Titus.
Bro. Jim Payte, who wrote a wonderful poem to honor my dad when we lost him suddenly in 2004.
Mrs. Debbie, (one of my most favorite people ever) with two of her grandchildren.
I thank God for people who make you want to remember them.
I thank God for friends who are real-life heroes.
I thank God for Calvary!