The Plan

Laci is wanting to learn sign language. When she pulled this book off the shelf, it brought back a host of memories.

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It’s just a basic book on American sign language. I bought it at a Brentano’s store in the mall in Little Rock many moons ago. (Yes, I’m showing my age. For you young whippersnappers, Brentano’s is a bookstore.)

You see, I had a plan. Actually, I had many plans. At age eighteen, my plan was to marry the guy I was dating. But when I found out that he was leading a double life in another town, the plan suddenly changed. Mom and Dad said, “Go to college,” which I misunderstood as, “Go look for a man elsewhere”. They even narrowed the field for me: Hyles-Anderson College (HAC) near Chicago or Oklahoma Baptist College in Oklahoma City. I picked HAC because, who would want to live in Oklahoma? (Sorry, Oklahoma! I love you now.) Of course, since I couldn’t cook well, sew at all, or play a single hymn on a piano, what decent Christian man would want me? I could boast the enviable traits of being able to read voraciously, write your term paper for you, organize your sock drawer by color, or discuss politics with you. I wasn’t exactly the Christian-ministry-worker’s dream wife.

As I was thinking about attending HAC, I knew that a ministry job was mandatory. My brother and sister had both graduated from there, as did their spouses, so I was familiar with the rules and regs. I chose the Deaf Ministry. I would LOVE to stand in front of a crowd of people and sign songs and sermons to them! Talking with my hands would be the next best thing to talking with my mouth! That’s when I bought this book. I wanted to get a head start on “the plan”.

But a phone call from a recruiter at HAC changed the plan.

He said some things that set off loud alarms in my head, and even louder ones in my Dad’s head. It was a sign (no pun intended) that maybe Hyles-Anderson wasn’t what we thought it was. We began to wonder if maybe they were man-centered instead of Christ-centered? Recent events regarding that institution have proven this to be the case, but back then, it was just starting to show.

Well, the recruiter got quite angry that I wasn’t agreeing with his statements and hung up on me. Dad spoke with some “senior officials” at the college and the man was told to apologize. He called the next day and actually said the words, “I was told to apologize.” This caused my dad’s frustration to became quite evident. In fact, his exact words were: “You are NOT going to that college.”

But even before that happened, I was hoping I wouldn’t have to go to that college. You see, in the meantime, I had met someone.  Someone who didn’t care that I couldn’t play the piano or sew or cook. Someone who liked hearing my ideas, and seeing me smile. Someone who wasn’t perfect and didn’t pretend to be; who made mistakes, and kept going anyway. That person has stayed with me for over eighteen years and has made me the happiest woman in the world.

I didn’t learn sign language. I didn’t get a college degree. I didn’t follow my plan, I followed God’s plan.

And that has made all the difference.

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I Remember Leah

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And it came to pass, when he had made an end of speaking unto Saul, that the soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul. ~ 1 Samuel 18:1

On October 9, my very first best friend died. Just like that, she has gone into eternity. We met when were three years old in Sunday school at Hot Springs Baptist Temple in Hot Springs, Arkansas. My mother was our teacher. Mother has often recounted over the years how surprised she was at the bond Leah and I forged at such a young age. She would refer to the passage above, remarking that Leah and I were like David and Jonathan, our hearts were “knit”. When I was five years old, we changed church membership. When I was seven, we moved from Hot Springs, and with that move, Leah and I were separated.

Even though we drifted apart so many years ago, I can still recall with clarity many of our conversations. I remember our sleepovers, the gift I brought her from our trip to Six Flags over Texas, and the time she dressed up as a mummy (wrapped in toilet paper) to a Halloween themed birthday party. I remember church dinners and activities where we sat together. I remember her laugh and the way she sucked her thumb. I remember what a comfort it was to know that she would be starting school with me, I wouldn’t be alone! We weren’t allowed to sit by each other in school because the teacher said something about us talking too much. But we enjoyed recess together and lunch time!

What I remember most was that I didn’t have to work to gain Leah’s approval, nor she, mine. We instantly accepted one another just as we were. I didn’t worry about offending her. I didn’t fret over whether or not she liked me – she did, and I knew it. It was the purest and sweetest friendship I had in my childhood. I’m sure we would have had disagreements over things if had we grown up together, but I know it wouldn’t have lasted very long.

I just can’t wrap my brain completely around the fact that she is gone. I suppose in the back of my mind I imagined that we would one day cross paths and we would pick up where we left off.

Leah gave me the greatest gift on Earth: she gave me herself. She showed me early on that life is full of beautiful people and you know what?

You don’t have to look very far to find them.

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I remember Leah. . .and I miss her.

With love,

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Thank God for Memories

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.

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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.

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Bro. Jim Payte, who wrote a wonderful poem to honor my dad when we lost him suddenly in 2004.

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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!

With love,

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Uncovering a Memory

If you read my blog, you know I love to read. It’s probably my favorite hobby. Sometimes, though, I can’t read because I know as soon as I sit down, I’ll doze off. (I hate that!) Yesterday, after church, I knew I’d better keep moving or I’d fall asleep. I’ve been meaning to organize my cookbooks and recipes since *ahem* Christmas. I’m not a great cook, but I give it my best shot. Over the years, I’ve developed several favorite, easy, standby, easy, yummy, easy recipes. Some are here on the blog. As I worked, I ended up tossing several that we didn’t like, copied some on fresh 3 x 5 cards, or glued them on cards from magazines.

I still use the recipe file that I made as a project for my 9th grade Home Economics class. Yes, that was a while ago! As I was sorting, I came across a recipe for Enchilada Pie, an old standby, that I hadn’t made in years. I saw that I had written the date that I first made it in the upper right hand corner of the card:

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Seeing this card brought back so many memories. Please notice the purple ink. I wrote almost every card in purple ink. I learned the hard way that it tends to bleed over the years. I remember that after we made this in class, I couldn’t wait to make it for Mom and Dad! I remember going with Mom to buy the groceries. I picked out everything and she paid. I prepared it all on my own, set the table, and served this delicious meal to my wonderful parents. I can still see them, sitting there, gratefully devouring my “gourmet” feast, then guzzling some tea. They complimented me and drank more tea. They raved about it, and sipped more tea. Finally, mom said, “Mmm…you know, this is kind of spicy.” She wiped her mouth and swallowed more tea. Dad said, “Yes, it is a bit on the hot side, but it’s good!” Then he gulped some more tea. I sat watching them with a satisfied expression, not really noticing their three refills of tea, and then I started on my portion. Yes. It. was. SPICY!

“When I made it in Home Ec. it wasn’t this hot, Mom!” I exclaimed.

She got up, a napkin still to her lips with one hand and gently looked through the top portion of our trash can with the other. She pulled up the empty can of enchilada sauce and held it up. It read, “HOT” in big yellow letters.

Whoops.

We all had a big laugh! Then, with sadness at the thought of wasting food, Mom threw away the remaining Enchilada Pie. None of us were spicy food lovers.

I did make it again – with mild sauce –  but somehow, it wasn’t quite as memorable as that first time. What can I say? Some of us were not meant to be chefs.

Fortunately, I do have other talents.

I think.

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Thanks for the Memories

We finally endured something that we’ve been dreading for about a year now. A good family in our church, with five children, moved to Oklahoma this last weekend. It’s been particularly hard on my son. He has so enjoyed having three boys to play with! Lauren is taking it hard, but not as hard as Mitch. I recently dug out an old Bible study that I completed over a year ago. In it, it asked me to list answers to prayer I’d received. One that I listed, and remember begging God for, was a family with children! He answered when He sent this family to us. I remember hearing that they were leaving, wondering why the Lord would move them after He’d sent them to us. Then, I remembered Job’s words, after the loss of his property and children. He said, “The LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.”

I’m…we are all very sad to see our friends leave. We miss them. Their seats are empty. We are wondering if more people will leave (we’ve lost many since we came) before more start coming. But whatever happens, we know that God does all things well and we praise Him in the good times and the bad. All the time He is good!

To this dear family, thank you for the memories. Thank you for your friendship. May the Lord make your way prosperous and bless all that you do. And always remember, we miss you.

With love,
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Hello, Memory Lane

My little boy is at the getting-into-anything-that’s-not-nailed-down stage. He recently pulled out an old photo album from the cabinet where I keep them. Someone (one of the other children?) put it on the kitchen table, opened. I couldn’t resist taking a walk down memory lane. Wanna join me? I took photos of some of the photos, to share with you.

Levi, the first grandson and nephew, at birth. I’m 11 years old here, with Melanie and Mom. 

 My Dad, with his first grandchild, Levi, who is now 22 years old! 
My best friend, Dixie’s, graduation photo.
 Me and Dad at my 17th birthday.
 Me, Mom and Melanie in front of the National Archives building. We went to D.C. for my senior trip, and I really want to go back! It was so much fun! 🙂
 Dad and me at the hotel we all stayed at in Arlington, VA. I’d love to go there again, too! 
Anybody need a blogger out in Virginia? No? Oh. okay.
Me and Dad, before we left for a fun day in D.C.! Only one thing, I wish I’d smiled bigger here.
It was great to be with Jack and Jackie. 😉 The glare was on the original photo.
That’s me, in the whipped cream. I got a pie in the face for a bus promotion.  🙂

As you can see, I was a very shy teenager. (In Virginia on my Senior trip.)

I apologize for the grainy quality of the photos. I hope you enjoyed this look back at the past, maybe you’ve gotten a chuckle or two! 🙂 I sure have! Thanks for the walk. ♥

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Funny Photos, Special Memories

I’m a bit behind on posting photos of my family. Rather than write seven different blog posts to catch up, I thought I’d just combine them all into one. I hope you enjoy them. Thanks for indulging me as I share about my favorite people!

 Matthew enjoyed “typing” when the little girls set him at the desk back in July.
 “Yes? How may I help you?”
 “Oh, sure, let me look that up.” 
It was so cute how he put one hand on the mouse and the other on the keys! 🙂
 Laci enjoyed some watermelon from a family in our church. We live in the watermelon capital of Arkansas, so we usually get lots of watermelon from folks in our church. This year, we only got two, so I guess the drought effected the crops. It’s been very dry. We are thankful for the ones we got! 🙂
 I don’t know what Matt was doing here, but it was funny! 
 He’s blowing on it now! And there’s his number one fan, Leslie Anne! 🙂
The girls had a good time creating new outfits! 🙂 
Matthew helped me put the laundry in the dryer. 🙂
 They used Matthew as a patient – they laid him on a homemade stretcher and carried him around the house. He’s such a good sport. 😉
His injury? A broken leg! See the cast? (One of Mitchell’s socks)
Poor guy! At least Mitchell is giving him some comfort. 
The poor wittle patient!
 Matthew likes taking *everything* out of my nightstand drawer! Books, papers, pens, lotion, and, is that a partially finished cross-stitch item on the floor? Yes. Yes it is. (Shaking head)
This is my most recent photo. Lauren is so good to her baby brother. Here she is cuddling with him. Oh, and allow me to introduce you to his wife. The lovely doll beside him (really, it’s a doll) is his wife. At least, that’s what the little girls told me. 😉
There’s never a dull moment around here. And I’m so grateful! 
Wishing you all a restful and fun Labor Day!

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