A Heart Stirred

Empty Tomb abcdz2000 via Compfight
How does one rise on Easter morning with words to express accurately the significance of this day? I confess such an inadequacy. My heart was stirred last evening while attending “The Living Gallery” at Bob Jones University. The painting of Christ being taken down from the cross renewed within me a sense of the pain and loss my Savior endured. Watching that painting brought to life caused me to see my sin in a new light, for it was my sin that made his sacrifice a requirement of a Holy God.

This is not the first time I have experienced such a vivid recreation, and I pray we who know the salvation found only in Christ will never, ever forget the magnitude of his death. I know that shortly I will hear a penetrating message on the significance of the cross, but the significance of the cross should stir my heart every day. Since the fall of man, nothing but the cross has altered the course of humanity so dramatically, and nothing stirs such passion within the souls of men than the cross. As much as the cross divides, it unites. It is not a piece of wood in the shape of a cross that is significant. It is what happend on that cross that is a Christian’s reality.

I have written before how important music is in my worship. There is a relatively new song by Keith Getty and Stewart Townsend that stirs my heart each time we sing it, and the words resound for days afterwards. We sang it Friday night in a special Good Friday service at church, and I want to share the words to “The Power of the Cross” with you.

Oh, to see the dawn
Of the darkest day:
Christ on the road to Calvary.
Tried by sinful men,
Torn and beaten, then
Nailed to a cross of wood.

CHORUS:
This, the pow’r of the cross:
Christ became sin for us;
Took the blame, bore the wrath—
We stand forgiven at the cross.

Oh, to see the pain
Written on Your face,
Bearing the awesome weight of sin.
Ev’ry bitter thought,
Ev’ry evil deed
Crowning Your bloodstained brow.

Now the daylight flees;
Now the ground beneath
Quakes as its Maker bows His head.
Curtain torn in two,
Dead are raised to life;
“Finished!” the vict’ry cry.

Oh, to see my name
Written in the wounds,
For through Your suffering I am free.
Death is crushed to death;
Life is mine to live,
Won through Your selfless love.

FINAL CHORUS:
This, the pow’r of the cross:
Son of God—slain for us.
What a love! What a cost!
We stand forgiven at the cross.

There is also a refrain from a hymn by Jennie Hussey, that has been stirring my heart this morning:

Lest I forget Gethsemane,
Lest I forget Thine agony;
Lest I forget Thy love for me,
Lead me to Calvary.

The tomb is empty! Christ is risen! Hallelujah! The Lord be praised!

Winning Isn’t Everything

[Note: This is the text of a speech I am currently delivering in competition for Toastmasters International. I hope you will enjoy reading it.]
3:17:12Creative Commons License Ludovic Bertron via Compfight
During the Zheng-Kai marathon in China, Kenyan runner Jacqueline Kiplimo saw a Chinese elite disabled athlete struggling to drink water. He had no forearms or hands with which to hold a water bottle. Jacqueline ran with him and helped him at all the water stations. This slowed her time, but she was still hoping she could make it up by the end of the stations. Jacqueline pushed hard for the final kilometers and she finished – second. Choosing to aid a fellow athlete cost her the win and the $10,000 cash prize. Since that race in 2010, it isn’t the winner everyone is talking about – it is Jacqueline and her unselfishness. Winning isn’t everything.

Winning isn’t everything? What an ironic concept in this competitive context. There is no thrill quite like being the winner, but that exhilaration is short lived, and the trophy soon gathers dust on the shelf. Yet, I have observed – and so have you – that a true winner is not necessarily one who comes in first or has the highest score at the end of the game. Could it be that our best and most important lessons are learned in situations where we don’t appear to win?

I was privileged to represent South Carolina in regional International Speech competition in Jacksonville, Florida. Just before the evening’s events, a sweet friend from our district handed me a card of encouragement signed by many friends and well-wishers. That thoughtful gesture bolstered my confidence and made me feel as though I was already a winner. I was third in the speaking order and left the platform feeling I had delivered the speech of a lifetime. After hearing the first two very good speakers, my son was thinking, “Mom is toast!” But welcoming me back to my seat with a big hug, he exclaimed, “Mom, you were awesome!” Wow! Winning the admiration of my son was better than anything!

After all 8 speeches were finished, so many from the audience rushed over to say how much they enjoyed the speech. One lady gave me a hug and said she would never forget the message. It was then I knew that whether or not I had won the contest, I had won the audience. This fact was further borne out when I was announced as the second place finisher. Disappointed, I whimpered to the trophy presenter, “but I wanted to win!” Upon turning to face the audience for the Kodak moment, I noticed the audience was standing and applauding. This did not register with me as unusual until later when a Past International Director commented that in all his years in Toastmasters, he had never seen a standing ovation for a second-place contestant. For a speaker, winning the audience is the bigger and “bestest” win of all.

Winning isn’t everything, but disappointment at not winning can be blinding and cause us to miss important life lessons. After a recent non-winning situation, I read a blog post by Michael Hyatt. He suggested handling losses in a positive manner not by asking “Why me?” but asking instead “What does this experience make possible?” Putting a positive spin on a difficult and even devastating situation helps us to heal more quickly and without any lingering bitterness. By making just that small paradigm shift, you could be someone’s Jacqueline Kiplimo.

45th Anniversary

I sent this message to my children this morning and decided to share it with you:

“Today would have been our 45th wedding anniversary had your father lived. We were actually married on a Thursday, the day BJU dismissed for Christmas vacation. While almost everyone was scurrying off campus and heading home, we were hurrying to be at Dr. Bob Jones, III’s office by 4 p.m. for our wedding. After the ceremony, there was a small reception held on campus in the home of Bill and Flora Fulton. The guests threw rice as we got in the rented Pontiac to start our honeymoon. The weather was gray and drizzly as we drove up through the watershed area to the Colonial Inn in Brevard. We spent Thursday and Friday nights in Brevard and returned home Saturday to set up our apartment before going back to work on Monday. We turned in the rental car and walked everywhere we needed to go. Bi-Lo was just across Pleasantburg Drive, so we were able to keep your dad supplied with pickles. It was many months before we had a car of our own.

The absolute best that came out of our union is you – our children. Each of you has been and continue to be worth every sacrifice and investment two very imperfect parents ever made. To see your heart for the Lord in your service to others is a joy and blessing beyond words.

Last year about this time, I even got to take the cruise your dad always wanted to take for our anniversary. But ever since November 18, 2009, he has been on the trip of eternity with Christ. Somehow I don’t think he misses never having taken that cruise down here. The Lord be praised! Love, mom”

Keneth and I were married on December 19, 1968. Choosing that date meant that almost every year thereafter our anniversary was celebrated at someone’s Christmas party. That was just fine, because those parties were usually nicer affairs than we could ever have afforded on our own. How gracious was our God to give us those blessings.

Many have commented that they enjoyed the stories from my childhood. The story did not stop there. God continued to shed his grace and mercy throughout my life in leading me to Bob Jones University, bringing my life partner, and sustaining us through some dark and challenging days. As God gives grace and utterance, we hope to share more of his goodness. There will be things hard to write, but we write in praise to the Lord for sustaining grace and overcoming power.

Since starting this blog, there have been times when I was tempted to stop. In the face of so many other bloggers and millions of words, I feel very intimidated. Just when I get to that point, someone will tell me what a blessing the posts are and I am encouraged to keep sharing. The goal in the beginning was a weekly post; but the reality is that a meaningful post is better than a weekly-for-the-sake-of-schedule post. It takes time for a thought to weave and develop before it can be shared effectively. My sincere thanks to loyal readers (both of them!) who have patiently endured the lapses.

At this Christmas season, I pray the true miracle of Christmas will be reborn in our hearts. Christ had to be born supernaturally for the expressed purpose of dying an inhumane human death for our sins. As we look at the beautifully decorated trees in our homes, may we visualize a naked tree cut and shaped into a cross onto which Christ’s body – an ornament as of a pearl of great price – was hung for our redemption. Truly, the Lord be praised!

Living in His Presence

Most recently, the Lord has impressed upon my heart the intensity of his presence with me, with all believers. He is cultivating within me an awareness that God is with me step-by-step every moment of my life. In this process, I am learning just how intently the Lord wants to order my steps.

Yesterday was a good example of this. I started the day in the Word then transitioned to the many tasks before me. From the standpoint of logistics (we love logistics!), this is how I laid them out: Bank, Office Depot, exercise, home to shower and finish a project, meet friend for lunch, deliver project, gas for car, home to prepare for evening meeting.

I was not far into this list before the Lord began revealing that I had not chosen the best order. Thus, I immediately asked him to direct my steps according to his plan. As it turned out, the exercise took longer than I had planned but worked to my advantage as I was able to include a foot massage that worked wonders! No time to go home and shower or finish the project, only time to meet friend for lunch straight from the 135-degree sauna! But as a result, I was in a much less rushed frame of mind and could better enjoy the fellowship with my friend. The Lord enabled me to complete the remaining items on the list in timely manner – they were just not completed as I had planned them. No worries. God’s way is always better!

Grasping the reality of God’s presence with me is altering my prayer life. I think twice before praying “Lord, please be with….” Why? Because God is already WITH (fill in the blank)! Thus I can pray, “Lord, encourage (name)” or “empower your servant for ministry.”

This morning was a good example of my ignoring when the Lord was trying to order my steps. I had committed to an early morning business networking meeting about 20 miles from my home. Upon waking, I sensed the Lord trying to tell me this event was not the best use of my time. Instead of asking the Lord to confirm his will in the matter, I proceeded. Several things had distracted and prevented my getting on the road with enough time to meet someone who was driving the final leg to our destination. Sure enough, they left without me and I had no idea how to get to the meeting place. As I sat in my car, deeply repentant, I asked the Lord “where to from here?” The Lord directed my steps back home and opened a window of time in which to write this post!

On the outbound trip, I noticed inbound traffic on the interstate was backed up several miles and moving very slowly. As I made the return drive, I was swallowed up in this delay; but with Christian radio in the car, I listened to a blessed sermon about how God uses imperfect people to accomplish his purposes. My heart was encouraged. Even in my ignoring God’s leading this morning, he turned the situation to my good and his glory. How amazing is that!

Psalm 37:23: “The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord….” But I like verse 24 that reads, “Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the Lord upholds him with his hand.”
Proverbs 16:9: “A man’s heart devises his way: but the Lord directs his steps.”
Exodus 33:14: “…my presence shall go with thee….”

The Lord be praised!

Settling in Arizona

Awesome Cactus in Carefree AZ Although I did not make the connection at the time, it was God’s abiding grace that brought us safely to Phoenix. How incredulous that my mother would drive alone with 10 children in the car, pulling a trailer half way across the country. As I learned later in life, when it comes to the welfare of her children, a mother will do whatever it takes.

The house Vernon had for us was nice enough, so we settled in. Had the landlord known 10 children were moving in, I am not sure he would have consented to rent the place. I think Vernon told the man he had two children, which was true. He just neglected to mention that his wife had eight of her own!

Arriving after the midpoint of a school year was difficult, but we managed to enroll and life settled into a routine. Early on the scene of our lives was Aunt Vera. She was related to Vernon distantly, but she was from Arkansas and seemed to take an interest in our family. She helped us get started to Orangewood Church of the Nazarene. Like everyone else, she loved my mother.

Mother eventually found a job at a local hospital. I finished the eighth grade and was preparing to enter high school when we made another move across town to a house with cheaper rent. The roaches and scorpions were highly offended by our presence, but the house was situated at the foot of a mountain in a desert-like setting that afforded my brothers lots of space to roam and explore.

Life with Vernon and his children was never easy. His temper flared often and we never knew what might set it off. Mother worked days and Vernon worked nights. When we were in school, he had no trouble sleeping during the day, but summers were another story. I was well into my junior year of high school when something I said or did sent Vernon into a rage. My sister insists my typing woke Vernon from sleep. I thought it was that I had been peeling potatoes and he did not like the way I was peeling them. At any rate, he became so violent and threatening that I ran from the house when I saw him go for his gun. I fled across the desert to a phone booth outside a café near the house and crouched out of sight until I saw him drive by in the car trying to find me. Once he had passed without seeing me, I ran up the street to a friend’s house to call my mother at work. Her shift was ending soon, and by the time she came for me, she had determined it was not safe for me to return home and had arranged for me to stay with Aunt Vera.

This incident occurred in early January, 1962. During my stay with Aunt Vera, she learned that my sixteenth birthday was approaching, and she wanted to have a party for me. Everything was going along fine until I found out that the friends I had invited would be bringing me presents! No, this could not be! It was not right that anyone should spend money to buy me a present, so I cancelled the party. Aunt Vera was disappointed, but I was relieved.

However, it was during this time that news of my father’s death reached me. Mother came to Aunt Vera’s to tell me he was dead. As I later learned, he had come to Mama’s house on Christmas Eve. After dinner, he went into her living room where our pictures were on display and spent a good bit of time looking at each one. Afterwards, he started a drinking binge that resulted in his death. I asked if I could go to his funeral and was told that he had been buried almost immediately after his death on New Year’s day. Somehow I felt robbed.

Eventually it was deemed safe for me to return home, but Vernon was not happy. It was not too many months afterwards that Vernon took his two children and returned to Arkansas where he filed for divorce. Although Mother was glad to see him go, she did feel somewhat abandoned. Had it not been for Aunt Vera and a few other friends, Mother would never have made it. She kept working at a job she loved, my sister and I were old enough to make money cleaning houses, so somehow we managed. Then, Mother met another man.

What a Trip! What a Mother!

The trailer was loaded and hitched to the rear of a 1946 Plymouth sedan in preparation for our move to Arizona. No doubt Mother was hopeful that things were going to be better for us. Vernon was working steady as a security guard and had rented a house, so all that remained was for us to get to Arizona.

My mother, a lone woman with ten children in her car and a trailer in tow, pulled out mid-morning to begin the trek of our lives from Arkansas to Arizona. Carefully stowed in the trunk were fried chicken and biscuits that someone had prepared for our first meal on the road. As best I can document, it was February 1958. I do not recall how many days we were on the road, but it had to be two or three. Nevertheless, Mother drove relentlessly across the wide prairie of Texas.

The fried chicken was our last taste of home as we knew it. When it was time to feed her brood again, Mother simply found a grocery store where she would purchase bread, baloney (she could not afford bologna!) and milk. My youngest brother was still in diapers and not the disposable kind! I had just turned 12 years old, so that gives you a picture of how close in age we ten children were. Close in age and close in proximity in that car as we rolled off the miles. Mother finally reached her limit somewhere in New Mexico where she pulled into a rest area, a primitive oasis by comparison to today’s roadside facilities, and slept for a time. Piled on top of each other, we children slept out of sheer exhaustion.

Our guardian angels were already on overload when, in what must have been the very early morning hours, we crossed from New Mexico into Arizona and headed into the mountains. Up, up, up we climbed only to find ourselves going down, down, down and around monstrous curves. It was not long before the brakes were burning. Mother had never driven in terrain such as this, plus she had the trailer in tow. While there was risk that the brakes might fail, the specter of the gas needle nearing empty brought greater fear to Mother’s heart. A resourceful woman, she managed to coast where she could to get enough momentum to make it up the next climb. Daylight had not yet broken as we literally crawled into a gas station in Superior, Arizona. We slept while waiting for the station to open.

With both the car and our stomachs refueled, we pressed on and made it safely to Phoenix. Our new house was quite nice by comparison to what we had experienced. We began the process of settling in, enrolling in school and acclimating to our new surroundings.

As a twelve-year-old girl experiencing this trip, I did not grasp the magnitude of the situation nor did I recognize the protection and provision that came from God. I just knew I had a Mother that always came through, no matter what the challenge. Her strength and determination to do what she thought was best for her children always carried the day. She was an amazing woman, and she deserved far better than what was waiting for her in Arizona.

The Elementary Years

Before we leave Arkansas for the unknowns of Arizona, I want to back up and talk about what was for me the best part of my childhood – school.

Who can forget first grade! Mrs. Estes was a wonderful teacher and I remember loving to learn. I do not recall the precipitating event, but I do remember a ruler across my knuckles for what must have been a grievous infraction of first-grade protocol. My teachers had a low tolerance for disobedience and a wide berth for dealing with transgressions. I was never invited to the principal’s office, but I can assure you students feared that possibility.

What a promotion it was to enter second grade because that classroom was on the second floor. How grown up I felt climbing those stairs and entering a large room with an imposing gas heater anchoring the front right corner. Mrs. Abercrombie was a tall, slender mature lady with a nice smile. The one memory from second grade is of Mrs. Abercrombie warming a can of corn tortillas (yes, that is correct – the tortillas were vacuum packed in a tin can) so that we could all taste this Mexican staple. They were very bland and no one wanted seconds! It was many years before I knew tortillas came any other way.

It must have been that the post-war baby boom was having its impact on the school system, for all I remember of third grade was the room being filled to capacity. After two days, three of us were deemed capable of performing at fourth grade level and were moved to join Mrs. Davis. So added to the list “Things Most People Do Not Know About Me” is the fact that I skipped third grade.

Fourth grade was such fun! I was learning multiplication and division, but it was the reading I was able to do that brought the greatest satisfaction. Books with stories of heroes and living happily ever after made indelible impressions in my heart, as did a boy named Glendale Taylor. He loved to chase the girls at recess, and he was “in love” with a different one every day. Glendale and I seemed to have a special connection. One day at recess, he asked me to marry him and placed a ring on my finger. I was the happiest girl in fourth grade. Glendale Taylor had picked me above all those other girls! The euphoria was brief as my finger began to both swell and turn green. Alas, the engagement was broken when I was sent to the cafeteria where there was equipment to cut the ring from my finger. Glendale was very sad at losing that ring!

Mrs. Rowland was one of the most feared teachers at Brady Elementary. I never understood why she had earned that reputation as I enjoyed being in her class. She read the Bible and had prayer every day in our classroom, along with the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag. Each student took a turn leading the pledge.

Sixth grade brought my first male teacher who also happened to be the school principal, Wayne K. Carter. He was not married, so naturally all the girls had a crush on him. I remember a geography lesson discussing why Africa was so inaccessible for trade and development. I have never forgotten that it was because of its irregular coastline. I have carried that nugget of knowledge with me for my entire life! Also firmly entrenched in my memory is of a sixth-grade chorus program. It may have been a Christmas program, but the chorus was arranged on steps that flanked both sides of the stage. Being one of the taller ones, I was standing on the highest step when my failure to eat a good breakfast resulted in my fainting right in the middle of the program!

A graduation exercise was held upon completion of sixth grade. A cap-and-gown was not used, so the boys wore suits and the girls wore nice dresses. Prior to this event, I do not recall a dress ever being purchased for me to wear to a special occasion. My dresses were either homemade or handed down, but I will never forget this dress. Most likely it came from J.C. Penney, but that detail escapes me. The fabric design would be characterized as stripes and flowers. Overall the dress was a pale pink sheer fabric with vertical rows of tiny pale pink and green flowers. To this day, any diagram of my personality comes out to “stripes and flowers.” There is a side of me that is very straight to toe the mark (stripes) and another side that is adventurous and enjoying (flowers). After graduation, it became my Sunday church dress until I outgrew it.

Many of the major changes in our lives as a family began taking place during and after my sixth-grade year, as best I can trace. Mother divorced Daddy, he was committed to the state mental hospital, Mother met and married Vernon, we moved to California, then back to Arkansas. Now we are about to embark upon the move to Arizona. The next post will detail that trip about a mother driving alone with ten children in a 1946 Plymouth sedan, pulling a trailer holding all our worldly goods, trekking to what she hoped would be a better life.

California, Here We Come!

The towering oak tree that was home to Daddy’s hoist chain had gnarled, protruding roots on which I often sat with my back to the house and my gaze firmly fixed towards the woods. On the other side of those woods was Little Rock – the big city. I day dreamed of a better life, of surely marrying a doctor or a lawyer or even a preacher! Although my reverie was often disrupted by quarreling brothers or a call to help in the house, the respite of those day dreams buoyed my spirits and kept me going.

Once the divorce was final, Mother married a man who had been her patient in the hospital. He had shown us a great deal of kindness by helping us move from the house of tragedy to start a new life. Dare I hope that my dreams of a happy life might come true?

Vernon had custody of his two children as a result of a difficult divorce, and the challenge of blending the two families became a stress point to which he did not react well. The house we moved to was not large enough for now seven boys and three girls. He and mother both worked while I, being the eldest, was responsible for babysitting when not in school. Time revealed that this man had a terrible temper. He seemed to treat my mother well; and while he was never physically abusive to us children, his anger was unleashed often. He also seemed to have trouble keeping a job, and I suspect his temper had something to do with that.

My stepfather seemed to think California was the promised land, so we moved to Bell, a suburb of Los Angeles. I was in the seventh grade at Bell High school. We lived in a rectangular pre-fab with only 3 rooms. There was a bedroom on one end that Mother and Vernon shared, a middle room that was everything else, and a bedroom on the other end of the house with a bathroom. All ten children slept in there on mattresses on the floor. There was no room for furniture. Vernon did not want Mother to work, and two or three of the youngest brothers were not yet in school. The situation became unsustainable for my Mother; so after nine months, we moved back to Arkansas. I think that move also coincided with Vernon’s losing another job.

We settled briefly near Vernon’s family. His parents were cotton farmers who hired us older children to pick cotton for them. We had to pick 100 pounds of cotton to be paid twenty cents! After school and on weekends, with a large bag draped over my shoulders, I went from plant to plant plucking boles of cotton from prickly casements. My hands were often scratched and bleeding by the end of the day.

Mother had been re-hired at the hospital in Little Rock. Leaving very early in the morning and getting home late, she drove about 120 miles round trip each day. That job helped preserve my mother’s sanity, but the extensive driving took its toll. Before we left our home place, I had joined a 4-H Club through school. One of the projects I undertook was to make some repairs on our house. Among other things, I nailed framing around screens that were loose and falling off windows. An instructor came out to the house to inspect the projects I had completed. It was several months before I was notified that my projects had won an award. I was to come to Little Rock on a Saturday to be recognized. It was her first Saturday off in weeks and Mother just could not bring herself to drive back to Little Rock. While that was understandable, for me it was a huge disappointment.

I was in my eighth-grade year at McRae High school when Vernon went to Arizona where he had a sister. With promise of work, he left Mother with all ten children. As stated at the outset of these reflections, there is so much I do not remember. Mother continued to work, but who looked after the boys after school? How did we manage? My sister and I did a lot of the cooking and laundry, and Mother never stopped except to sleep briefly.

We finally received word that Vernon was working steadily and had rented a house for us. I do not recall how long was the separation before we were able to join Vernon, but the trip to Arizona is forever etched in my memory.

I Remember Mama

Although she was my father’s mother and my grandmother, I called her Mama. Born in 1897, Mama was small-boned and carried her rounded frame with purpose and authority. In her bonnet made out of flour sacks, she could work circles around any man and often did so while keeping up her house, yard, garden, chickens, sometimes goats, occasionally a pig but always a milk cow.
CowCreative Commons License
Mama had four children that lived. My daddy was her youngest. Mama loved my mother and she hated the drinking and the abuse inflicted by Daddy. More than once Mother would escape to Mama’s house when the beatings were unbearable. When Daddy came after Mother, Mama would meet him at the door with a shotgun in her hand. Mama was fearless.

She and my grandfather divorced in the 1920s, and Mama always felt people looked down on her because of it. But she carried on and held her head high.

Mama did her laundry outdoors in a big black wash pot seated on a grate with a roaring wood fire underneath. She heated rainwater caught in barrels that stood around the backside of her house. When she felt the clothes were sufficiently boiled, she would transfer them to cold rinse water, wring them out by hand and hang on the clothesline. She ironed everything.

Mama made sure we were in Sunday school and church every week. If Daddy forbade Mother to take the car, we would walk to the main highway where someone would always offer us a ride to church. Mama taught Sunday school, and I would help her cut out flannelgraph figures. Sometimes she let me put the figures on the flannelgraph board as she told the story. This was just one of the ways I knew that I was Mama’s favorite grandchild!

There were other ways she made me feel special. When she went to town, she often took me with her. We would sneak off before my siblings knew and walk down Gamble Road to catch the bus. What fun we had exploring Pfeiffer’s Department Store, Woolworth and Sterling. Mama received monthly VA benefits after her son was killed in action, and this was her only steady income. She supplemented that by selling eggs, milk, and butter. Mama knew how to save and stretch her money, and she would pay me small amounts for helping her churn the butter or doing other chores.

In the summers, Mama loved to take me with her to tent meetings. Once she took me to a meeting where the evangelist was praying for people to be healed of various sicknesses. I think I was about seven or eight years old, and I had a problem that I should have long ago outgrown. Mama felt it was time for Divine intervention. When the call came for those seeking healing, Mama steered me down front. She whispered my problem in the evangelist’s ear, and he began to pray in earnest that I would be delivered. I don’t know whose faith prevailed, but apparently I was delivered from this nemesis!

Mama loved all of my brothers and my sister, but there was no hiding the fact that I was her favorite. That may have stemmed from the fact that when I was very young, I fell ill. I am told there were several times they thought I would not survive. To this day I do not know what ailed me, but they put me up in Mama’s front bedroom. Mother seldom left my side; and when she did, other ladies from the neighborhood would come to sit by my bed around the clock. The doctor made house calls as needed.

Even while writing this post, so many memories of Mama came flooding back. This woman was large and imposing in my life as she extended unconditional love, acceptance and protection. Even with all of her faults, warts and wrinkles, I knew Mama loved me. But there were some things even Mama could not prevent. Big changes were coming for us.

Christmas – Not Remembered

As for Christmas when I was a child, there is little that I remember. What I do recall is that anything my parents bought for us came from Western Auto. Daddy bought his auto parts there, and during the holidays they would stock a few Christmas gifts.

Only one Christmas stands out in my memory. On Christmas Eve day, a car pulled into our yard and a very nice gentleman came to the door saying he had some things in his trunk for us from a local civic organization. Mother sent us out into the back yard while she and the gentleman unloaded everything and Mother put the items away for later. The younger children still believed in Santa Claus, so nothing showed up under the tree until Christmas morning.

Our Christmas tree was a pine cut from the woods that surrounded our house. The decorations were simple. Mother had acquired some tree lights shaped like candles. The liquid inside their clear glass tubes bubbled once it warmed. I could sit for a long time just watching those bubbles.

On this particular Christmas morning as we bolted from the bedroom, what a surprise awaited us! Oh, I was aware that there were lots more presents than we had ever seen, but my eyes were firmly fixed and even transfixed on two beautiful dolls standing beneath the tree. One doll was dressed as a bride. The other doll was dressed in red taffeta trimmed in black lace. Somehow my sister got to the bride doll first! What a disappointment! And, yes, I harbored hard feelings towards my sister for a long time for “stealing” that bride doll from me! She had the bride doll, and I had the “career” doll. How prophetic that turned out to be. My sister married before finishing high school. I was away at college preparing for a “career” while she was setting up housekeeping. She finished high school and is still married to the same wonderful man who has brought a lot of joy to our family through the years. Today, in spite of those childhood resentments, my sister and I are very close. Now we laugh and tease about the doll matter.

My brothers almost always got new toy cars and trucks for Christmas. I spent more time playing in the dirt with my brothers than I did playing with dolls. There was little grass in our yard, so we had plenty of room to build roads, bridges and a fabulous infrastructure over which to run our imaginations and those toy automobiles.

While my memories of Christmases as a child are few, there is someone from my childhood that impacted my life profoundly. I remember Mama.