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A little story about someone I love

Because February is the month of love ~ 

mother2I think of those who have loved me much. Today, February 11, is the anniversary of my mother’s death 28 years ago.  I can’t help but think of her as Valentine’s Day approaches because we put her earthly shell in the ground on that day.  The only flowers that year were the ones around her casket.  It was a hard day.

But instead of feeling sad about my loss, let me tell you about this precious woman I called “Mother.”

Charline Lockard Rayhill was 27 years old when I was born.  That was considered to be late in her day when most women were in their teens or early twenties when they had their first child.

Mother was such a wise parent. I suppose she learned it from her mother, Bertha Ray Lockard, who had been a school teacher before she married and began raising three children of her own.  I am told Grandma Lockard had the wisdom of Solomon when it came to people skills.  And I’ve heard some interesting stories.  One of Grandma’s favorite quotes was “Consider the source,” when dealing with people who did and said stupid things.

It would only be natural that my mother would imitate her own mother’s parenting ways.

Mother was a strict disciplinarian while being a totally loving parent.  She had the proper balance between the two.  She let me know what was expected of me and then expected me to follow her instructions.  I can remember a few times when as a little girl I was misbehaving or talking during church.  All mother had to do was look at me with her dark brown eyes, and I knew I’d better straighten up.

 Mother’s love was so unconditional I never questioned it.  I knew from her words and her actions that she loved me even when I did something wrong or hurt her in some way.

Mother loved my dad.  She wasn’t afraid to speak her mind to him or fail to express her opinion even when it differed from his.  But she was loyal to the death and would defend dad in a heartbeat.  She showed me what it really means to be a good wife, one in whom her husband trusts.  She did him good all the days of her life.

After I married, she became “Mom” to my Sweet William.  He has told me how he loved talking to her early on Saturday mornings.  She was a good listener, and they became buddies.

When I became pregnant, mother said she was not going to act like other  grandmothers did, being silly about their grandchildren and showing off pictures all the time.  Little did she know what her baby grandson would do to her heart.  She became so enraptured by this tiny boy child that she became “one of those grandmothers” she said she would never be.

Mother loved to give gifts.  One year at Christmas she bought and wrapped many small scatter pins (what we called them in the 1960s).  My stocking was full of little Christmas packages that year.

No one enjoyed telling a funny story much better than my mother.  She used to tell “The peanut butter story” to the family again and again upon request.  Her sister, Doris, would laugh at it every time as if she were hearing it for the first time.  Mother always tried to pull off a joke on April 1st, telling some tall tail, then laughing and saying, “April fools.”

Mother opened her arms and her heart to others.  There were the ladies of her Tuesday morning Bible study who came faithfully each week.  They loved her like she was their kin.  Even the young men whom my dad taught in Bible study or counseled, more often than not gave her a big bear hug.  She was a spiritual mother to many, giving away her love and her wise words.

Ah, I wish everyone could have a mother like mine.  There would be fewer dysfunctional homes and far fewer people spending their adult lives trying to overcome their childhoods.

I loved my mother.  I knew she loved me.  That’s what every child needs.

Hanging with the MOPS

 I went to a MOPS meeting this week, and spent some time with a group of beautiful young women. Their common bond is mothershood.

MOPS, an acronym for Mother of Preschoolers, has been around for 40 years. According to its website, MOPS is “a place to find friendship, community, resources and support” for mothers. It is a place where women can connect with other women who share the challenges of raising young children.

It was my privilege to be invited into their inner sanctum as the guest speaker this particular week. I observed their faces, listened to their chatter, watched as they cared for their precious little ones, shared their food and fellowship, and remembered when I was a young mother of a preschooler. I needed the support of other mothers just like they do. And I needed the guidance of older women who had been where I was and had gleaned wisdom along the way.

This group has chosen to let the woman described in Proverbs 31 lead them this year, taking small bites of this chapter at their bi-weekly meetings. This day they were focusing on verses 11, 12, and 23.

Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value. She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life. . . . Her husband is respected at the city gate, where he takes his seat among the elders of the land.”

I referenced the book by Shaunte Feldhahn, For Women Only, and her professional survey results revealing what really goes on in a man’s mind. I chose to focus on a particular chapter, the one that discloses a husband’s need for his wife’s respect and trust.

These women listened attentively, took the words to heart, and wrote down ways they plan to implement this important area of the husband-wife relationship. I could see they wanted to be good wives and well as good mothers.

Later this week, I just so happened to observe a large cage of small finches.   There were about 20 of them fluttering about in what was their permanent home. Small basket like containers were  hung high in the cage for nesting purposes. One small bird had latched onto a sprig of plastic greenery meant to make the cage look natural. The tiny bird kept picking up this oversized stem of tiny white artificial flowers and flying up to the nesting basket, trying to pull the stem into the hole of the basket.

I watched as she struggled and dropped the stem over and over. She was never deterred from her purpose. When the stem dropped, she would swoop down and grab it again, maneuver it in a clear area, then fly back up to her basket with stem in her mouth. I found myself rooting for that little bird to get that stem in the basket, even though I knew it was only plastic and would never settle in like the natural materials she needed to make it comfortable for her and her soon to be babies.

It made me think again of the MOPS group. They have the nesting instinct that comes with having children. They will do whatever is necessary to make the best home for their fledglings, even if they have to struggle, even if they drop the ball – or the twig – sometimes and have to try again. And just like I felt about the little bird, I will be rooting for them to succeed. 

Leave a comment.  I always like to hear from you.

A personal note . . . December 3

Started my day with prayer time at 6:30 a.m. with my prayer partner, Julie.  We prayed for people we care  about and love, and we prayed for grace to deal with our busy schedules today.  Joy fills me as I anticipate what this day holds.

Wearing my green sweater and my Christmas socks, I head to work at Little Flock.  The piano recital will be in the evening, and beautiful music will be everywhere.

A song fills my head, a prayer actually, “strength for today and glad hope for tomorrow.”  It is from one of my favorite hymns Great Is Thy Faithfulness.  “Yes, Lord, You are always faithful, and I’m trusting You today.”

The recital will be held in the sanctuary of Little Flock.  I set up the refreshment table in the foyer using the punch bowl my mother purchased in 1972 for my wedding reception.  It’s been used for graduations, showers, wedding receptions, and piano recitals.  In spite of it being very breakable, I enjoy the memories associated with it each time I bring it out.

At recital time, the students, their families, and friends begin to gather.  Excitement is in the air along with a bit of jitters.  Time to start, and the students begin to play.  From the youngest to the eldest, music flows from their fingers.

My students work so hard to prepare for this special evening.  Their efforts show.  And I am so proud of each one.   

Happy Birthday, Dad

Today, November 26, is my dad’s 89th birthday.  His life is a testimony of strengthening grace.

John W. Rayhill was born under difficult circumstances, raised during the depression on a farm where he had to work hard and take care of what he had.  He was a step-son and the oldest of ten children.

He attended a small country church in the Fairdale, Kentucky, area.  The pastor’s wife took an interest in him when he was just a lad and invited him to play his simple instruments on Wednesday’s youth services.   She loved him and encouraged him in a way he desperately needed.

Dad invited Jesus to be his Savior at 10 years old and served Him for the next 79 years.  He taught a class of young boys in the 1950’s – 60’s that no one else could manage.  He took them camping, made a simple movie of the prodigal son with them, invited them into his home, and saw the majority of them become fine Christian men.  He served on church building committees and was the chief contractor for a large church in Louisville, taking a minimal salary during the process.  He pastored a small church for a few years and has taken the pastoral role for people of other churches by loving, counseling, and praying for them through the years.

Dad married my mother in 1942 and thought he was the most blessed man alive, even until her death in 1983.  He treated her like queen all those 41 years.

During World War II, he joined the Army as a conscientious objector, willing to serve his country but not wanting to carry a weapon.  The Army didn’t quite know what to do with him, so they transferred him from base to base making it difficult for Dad to settle in and make any friends.   He finally found a place as a medic and a cook, baking turkey dinners on Thanksgiving and cherry pies under battle conditions, for which he received an award.

My husband calls him“Pop.”  Dad found a place in his heart for Bill long before we ever dated.  My son, Travis, calls him “Gramps,” and he has been a role model of a strong yet gentle, godly man.

After mother’s death, dad married my step-mother, Esther, and has loved and taken care of her, prayed for her children and made her a part of our family. 

He has been the best dad a little girl could have wanted, modeling a Christ-like character and making me feel like a princess.  He still calls me his little girl and thinks I am wonderful.  He is my cheerleader and president of my fan club.

Today he celebrates 89 years – a man after God’s heart, a servant who has ministered to a multitude, a teacher of the Word, a herald of the Lord’s second coming, a prayer warrior whose prayer lists are worn and tattered from his daily prayers and tears.

Dad will never see this on-line unless I show it to him.  He is not computer savvy or a techie by any means.  He is just a simple man who has loved abundantly and walked his journey thus far strengthened by grace.  His is a life well-lived, and I am blessed to be his daughter.  

Happy Birthday, Dad.  May your life be fruitful for years to come.  I love you!

Legacy

Sunday morning finds me at Little Flock Baptist Church where my Sweet William and I are members.  I love the worship, Pastor Rodney’s sermons, our Sunday School class, and getting to see so many precious Christian brothers and sister.

This Sunday, however, I went to first service at 9 am, then slipped out to visit Shepherdsville First Baptist Church, where my son and his family are attending and serving.  Travis plays percussion, and my two granddaughters, Elyse and Celeste, occasionally sing with the praise team. 

Elyse, the elder granddaughter, was going to play the keyboard for the worship songs, then sing a solo for the first time.  I did not want to miss it.  She was delighted to see that I had come to hear and support her efforts.  The day before, I told Elyse that I was her age, 13-years old, when I began to play regularly in our small church.  It was that experience as a young girl that set the course of a life of music ministry for me.

When it was time for the special song, Worship Minister, Sheila Lamonte, went to the keyboard, and Elyse stood close by at the microphone.  After a melodious introduction, Elyse began to sing My Everything.  If you will bear with this Grandmother and give me bragging rights for a moment, I will tell you it was beautiful!  Her voice was true and clear.  She sang with confidence and feeling.  I was moved to tears.

Do you know the feeling of being part of an experience while your mind goes to another time and place?  That happened during Elyse’s song.  I thought of my mother who died in 1983.  She had an astounding alto voice that bellowed and lifted the rafters.  She was anointed to sing, and hearts were touched when she did.

I’m not one who speaks to the dead or goes to the cemetery to talk to those who have gone on.  They aren’t there anyway.    But this morning in the pew at First Baptist, I spoke silently to my mother.  You see, I believe the saints in Heaven, that great cloud of witnesses, are aware of some things on earth, especially those involving their families.  So my mind said, “Mother, do you hear your great-granddaughter?  This is your legacy.”

Legacy.  It is what we leave behind when life is all said and done.  

My mother blessed others with her gift of music.  She traveled to little country churches to sing, and she faithfully served her own church for years. 

Mother wanted music to be part of my life.  She was determined I would have piano lessons and made me (yes, she made me) practice.  She encouraged me to play for others though I was a shy, backward child. 

It was only natural that I took that same path with Travis.  He took piano lessons which turned him toward a snare drum in fifth-grade band.  It eventually led to his high school’s marching band and the amazing percussionist he is today.

The beauty of my legacy is not just God’s gift of music to my family but that by His mercy we have come under the shadow and refuge of the Almighty, the saving grace of a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.

The legacy goes on.  Gifts from God are honed into skills that are then used to worship the Giver of all good and perfect gifts. 

The Lord has given us great and precious promises.  His Word is filled with them.  One of my promises is in Isaiah 44:3b and 4.  I believe it and trust God will fulfill it in my family.

 . . . I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants.  They will spring up like grass in a meadow, like poplar trees by flowing streams.  

Legacy can be a beautiful thing.  No matter your background or heritage, a new legacy begins with one individual who choses to follow Jesus and surrenders his life to the glory to God.