Diamonds are forever
Beverlys celebrate diamond anniversary
“A diamond is forever” is touted as the world’s most popular slogan. It was coined in 1947 for DeBeers, The Home of Diamonds jewelry store in London. An exasperated young advertising specialist named Frances Gerety was out of ideas before she scribbled the four words on paper and hoped that it would be accepted. The rest is marketing history. Gerety’s slogan has been used for decades to sell engagement rings, but she may not have known that due to the chemical makeup of diamonds, they are the hardest naturally occurring substance on earth and they will last a lifetime.
Each wedding anniversary is dubbed with a traditional gift for the couple. It starts small, the first anniversary is the paper anniversary. The tenth anniversary is aluminum or tin. Year 25 is called the silver anniversary. Year 50 is the golden anniversary, but year 75 is the diamond anniversary. Seventy-five years is recognized with the most brilliant and longest lasting of the gemstones. Long marriages, like diamonds, endure outside pressure for years while their inner beauty is being created.
On September 13, 1945, a young soldier and his bride exchanged their vows in front of Judge Garrett in Grove Hill. There was no way they could know what the next year would bring, and definitely were not thinking as forward as 75 years in the future. Thomas Beverly and his bride Annie Jewell Pugh Beverly celebrated 75 years of marriage last weekend, but their relationship has been much longer than those officially recorded years.
Thomas Beverly says that he and his wife both attended Coffeeville High School. She lived in the Center Point community north of Coffeeville and he lived on the south side of the town in Tattlersville. Jewell had friends in Tattlersville who happened to be Thomas’s cousins. She would ride the bus home with her friends. She and Thomas became acquainted with one another in their early teen years by just playing in the yard with other youth.
As they became teenagers, they spent time together at school. Dating was much different in the 1940s. For starters, Thomas did not have a car. He did, however, have a bike. On Saturdays, he would ride his bike from his home “through the country” to Jewell’s to spend time with her. Beverly says that at the time, it did not seem like a long ride. “I thought it was probably a mile and a half, but I clocked it in my car a few years ago. It was eight miles,” he smiles as he remembers.
A big shade tree on the campus of Coffeeville High School was an important spot for the couple. “That’s where you had to go to talk to each other, but the principal was always watching.” Thomas Beverly did not finish his high school career. He was the youngest son and the last one at home. He left school at age 17 to assist his father with the family farm. He continued to make his bicycle trips to Center Point to see “Miss Jewell”.
Establishing a home
“When I got my invitation to the Army, I was glad because I’d be getting away from that durn mule.” The invitation was actually a draft notice and Beverly gladly went to serve his country. He and Jewell married and maintained their relationship through letters. Beverly said when he arrived in Anniston for training, he was in good shape. “That bike riding probably helped,” he grinned.
Jewell worked at Vanity Fair and saved money while her husband was deployed. When he returned from his tour in Europe, they bought a lot and built a home near the old hospital on West Cedar Street in Jackson. Beverly’s first job in Jackson was at McKee Truck and Tractor where he started as a custodian and rapidly worked his way up to top mechanic.
The couple had one son, Tommy Beverly. According to his father, Tommy was a “homebody” who enjoyed his time with his parents. Tommy Beverly was tragically killed in an industrial accident. “We didn’t question God. It was hard. It’s still hard, but we didn’t question God,” Beverly stated.
Jewell Beverly has lived with Alzheimer’s for the greater part of two decades. For 15 years, she was able to live at home with her husband as her primary caregiver. “I was taking care of her. That’s what you do,” Beverly said. After she suffered a stroke, doctors informed Thomas that she needed to be in a long-term care facility. She has been at Jackson Health Care Facility since December 2016. Every day, Thomas visits her and takes care of her.
Tips for a long marriage
The most recent research shows that the average length of an American marriage is seven years. The Beverlys have made their marriage last 10.5 times as long as the average marriage, in spite of heartbreak and health problems. Thomas Beverly holds to the belief that marriage should be forever. He gave the following tips on how to make a marriage last:
1.“Never, never raise your voice in anger to your spouse. That cuts deep.” Beverly says that there is no need to say hateful things to your spouse. “I’ve done it a few times through the years. Most everybody does, but I don’t like hurting her. I didn’t like how I felt after that.”
2. “Give and take. Marriage is about two people, not just one.”
3.“Put your arm around your partner every day and tell them that you love them.”
It’s no secret that any relationship is hard work. Marriage is especially hard. Seventy-five years is a very long time to be committed to one person, but the Beverlys have done it. Much like the diamond that denotes their anniversary, they have endured difficult circumstances over seven and a half decades to become one of a rare group of couples that actually get to celebrate this milestone anniversary. Happy, happy anniversary! Diamonds are indeed forever.
One Man's Trash
Most people are familiar with the expression, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” This old adage is especially true for people like me who love vintage shops, consignment stores, and thrift retailers. As much as I enjoy wandering through these types of places and pondering which items could be upcycled to something new, I have never thought of what could be made with items from a pile of scrap metal.
There are a couple of reasons for this, but the main one is that I’m just not interested in digging outside for anything. The other reason is that snakes, rats, wasps and bees are not as likely to be inside the stores as they are in discarded piles of metal. But in my travels, I have had the good fortune to meet a “real live” artist whose primary medium is scrap metal.
John Lopez grew up on a ranch outside of Lemmon, S.D. Naturally creative, he discovered his talent for sculpting bronze in college. His was commissioned to sculpt 12-life-sized bronze statues for Rapid City’s City of Presidents project. His talent for seeing potential in scrap metal came as he was building a family cemetery and needed material for a fence. Instead of purchasing traditional material, Lopez went through the scrap pile and combined scrap metal with bronze for a fence that got everyone’s attention.
His hybrid metal art was soon in demand. Out of rusty hubcaps, sawblades, car fenders and chains, Lopez creates life-sized sculptures that tell their own stories. A sculpture of Ed Lemmon, founder of Lopez’s hometown sits proudly atop his sculpted horse in Boss Cowman Square. A gift and a tribute to his hometown, Lopez gathered the majority of the materials from the scrap metal piles of his friends and neighbors in the area. (Every ranch seems to have a pile of scrap metal.) The sculpture celebrates the rugged toughness of the people who live there.
Lopez eloquently addressed the nature of finding his materials saying, “In every scrap pile, I find something unique or interesting I want to incorporate, so the dynamics of the sculpture are always changing. I can’t plan too much. I’ve got to be open to letting the materials go where they will.”
I am not a mystic, nor a theologian, but I find so many pertinent truths in that statement. Dynamics are always changing in every aspect of life- in work, in friendships, in families. Unfortunately, nothing is constant. Even though we love the idea of permanence. Instead of permanence, maybe we can shift our perspective to one of hopefulness. Maybe when others see a scrap pile, we can see beauty and uniqueness and potential in a person or in a situation. Seek the treasures. Find the good.
Until this week, I have never researched what “dog days of summer” really means. It is just something I grew up hearing my great-grandmother Clifford say. Clifford was a character. She had all sorts of sayings, many of which I can’t put into print. No one really knew when her birthday was. She chose February 14 for the Social Security Administration and so that everyone could easily remember it. No one was exactly sure of the year she was born either. I am pretty sure she made that up, too! I do think we celebrated her 90th birthday more than once! She loved a good party. She also loved her snuff and she was the only woman I knew who did this. I still have an old Levi Garrett tin that was hers!
Clifford was as superstitious as she was clever. If you went to her house, as I did daily when she lived nearby, you knew not to rock the rocking chair if it was empty. Nobody wants to invite evil into the house. She believed if her nose was itching, company was coming; that meant she’d “scorch up” a pan of cornbread for the visitors. She taught me to throw salt over my left should if I spill any. Although it makes a bigger mess, I still do this! She adamantly believed that bad news happened in threes. Whenever there was a death or a tragedy in the community, she’d issue warnings to everyone that they could be next.
To Clifford, “dog days” were the hottest days of the year and they were a time where the dogs would go mad and people were likely to join them. “It’s the dog days, everybody and everything is meaner. You gotta be careful,” she’d warn. Her general belief was that people and animals were more cantankerous during this period than any other time of the year. Snakes were meaner. Dogs were meaner, of course. We have never not had a dog around and my favorite dog of my childhood was a black lab named Dino. He was a good-natured dog and didn’t bother anyone. But if in late July or early August, Clifford looked out and saw me with him, she would warn me that he could become a “mad” dog and that I needed to “leave him be ‘til the days passed.” I asked Daddy if what his grandmother told me was true. He told me that Dino had had all of his shots, but not to play with him anywhere near Clifford’s house. He was careful not to call it an “old wives’ tale.”
Another of her dog days’ beliefs was that the birds would go quiet until the dog days were over. Additionally, she assumed that everyone knew if you got hurt during dog days, the wounds would take twice as long to heal. She had no way of knowing it, but her description of dog days gave me terrible anxiety! I never asked anyone about the root of the term. All of my grandparents and great-grandparents had used it, but no one else defined it like Clifford.
I have thought about her so much this week as we are indeed in the dog days as we reached record heat. I have carefully watched all of my dogs (and friends) for signs of madness. My little dogs would rather be left alone to sleep in the shade or splash in their kiddie pool. Leroy, the lab we rescued in February has shown no new signs of madness. All of the people I know are choosing to stay home, not because they are afraid of mad dogs, but because home is where their air conditioner is! Thankfully, I have not encountered any extra meanness from people or animals, but I have seen more snakes being killed. Maybe they are more aggressive during this time.
The term “dog days” actually comes from astronomy as there are two dog stars, Canis Major and Canis Minor. All of Clifford’s beliefs were loosely based on Greek legend, but I doubt she knew that. Instead of boring you with those details, I’ll let you do your own research.
I will tell you that anything scientific you may read on the Internet pales in comparison to what my feisty snuff-spittin’ great grandmother taught me!
Making Moments matter
Most of the time, when we hear the word “hospice,” our minds do not allow us to think positively. We do not tend to use the terms “hospice” and “hope” in the same sentences. AseraCare Hospice is challenging the common, negative stereotype of hospice in several ways
The AseraCare team can be seen at community events wearing brightly colored shirts and even brighter smiles. They are willing to talk with anyone curious about what hospice truly is.
For Director Wendy Smith, hospice is a commitment to making every moment matter. Smith and her team work together to create unique, memorable moments for their patients and the patients’ families. They are intentional about getting to know their patients personally and creating special moments for them.
“All in” for Ken
Ken Higginbotham was diagnosed with glioblastoma grade four in 1998. He was a teacher at Jackson Middle School and a coach at Jackson High. Ken was a healthy man with a wife and two daughters under the age of 5.
His wife Shan recalls reeling when the doctor delivered the news that her husband, a former athletic standout and current coach had nine months to live.
Meanwhile, Ken looked at the doctor and told him that he wanted to know the record of how long anyone had survived with this aggressive cancer. When the doctor said he would find out, Higginbotham looked him in the eyes and stated, “I am going to beat it.” A typical response for a competitor, and Higginbotham has been beating the odds for more than two decades.
Avid Auburn fan
The Higginbothams are what Alabamians call “a house divided.” Ken is an avid Auburn fan, while his wife cheers for Bama. Ken’s love for all things Auburn was evident when the AseraCare team met him. He wears an Auburn shirt daily and his room at Jackson Health Care Facility is decorated in Auburn’s colors of orange and blue.
As they discussed what they could do to celebrate Ken, the answer obviously had to involve his favorite team. Social worker Dana Adams reached out to the athletic department at Auburn University. They responded quickly and wonderfully.
Head Coach Gus Malzahn penned a letter to Higginbotham that remained sealed until last Saturday. In addition, signed posters, a tee shirt, and other Auburn gear
Continued from front and decorations were sent. The AseraCare team worked with Shan to plan a perfect surprise.
War Eagle, y’all!
As they wheeled him into the dining room, clad in his AU attire, Higginbotham surveyed the room and saw his wife, his parents, his children and his friends gathered. Tears filled his eyes as he gazed at them. He smiled at a life-sized cardboard cut-out of Malzahn provided by the university. Many pictures were taken as the family celebrated Ken.
JHS principal and friend of the family, Ken Harbuck was present to share in the festivities and to read the sealed letter.
Dear Coach Higginbotham,
I understand you have a special event today. I just wanted to write and say thank you for being such a great Auburn fan. It is special people like you who make Auburn so great…
I also heard that you are a former high school coach. As a former high school coach myself, I know the commitment that goes into football at that level. Guys who coach high school football love the game and love their players. Thank you for giving your all for your team. I always encourage my players to use their influence in a positive way. It sounds like you are a special person who impacts the lives of those around you. I hope it’s a great day for you. War Eagle!
A great day indeed! War Eagle!
Here we are at Labor Day weekend 2019. That means eight months of this year are behind us. It also means that summer is coming to a close, although temperatures here won’t reflect that for some time. Even if it’s 90 degrees, I’m still decorating my home with pumpkins and sunflowers and pretending that it is glorious autumn.
I always like to reflect on a season as it comes to an end. It doesn’t matter if it’s a literal season or a metaphorical one. I just like evaluating it. The summer of 2019 was definitely one to remember. It was a summer of exploration, music and a whole lot of time in the car.
As Labor Day is usually the marker of the end of summer, Memorial Day is used to officially mark the beginning. We started our Memorial Day weekend by exploring northwest Alabama. If you haven’t been to Ivy Green, the home of Helen Keller, you definitely need to add it to your bucket list. To consider all that Keller accomplished in spite of her disability and in a time of limited technology is amazing. You get a new perspective of a familiar name-always a good thing.
Lunch at the Rattlesnake Saloon was particularly memorable. It has been named one of the most unique places to dine in the South. Dining in a cave is a fun diversion. Thankfully, the den of rattlesnakes that was found during construction is no longer present.
Music pretty much drove our family’s summer plans. In fact, the reason we were in north Alabama was a Pentatonix concert. Then we found the Alabama Music Hall of Fame. Alabamians are talented and have made their mark on American music. I am thankful that the recording studio is at the end of the tour, otherwise Tatum would have never seen the museum. For just $10, you can record one song onto a CD. You can guess how that went. She has her own mini album.
Music also took us on a New Orleans tour with Mobile’s Singing Children. You learn a whole lot leading 40 kids around in the Big Easy! I saw parts of the city that I had never seen and loved the ghost/history walking tour. The group sang in some beautiful venues including St. Louis Cathedral in the French Quarter.
So May and June had very musical moments, but so did July. My daughter went to a performing arts camp in Medora, N.D. It was a family road trip that at the end resulted in nearly 6,000 total miles and a whole lot of singing in the car. Since Mark went with us for the first time, we took the scenic route and enjoyed every minute of it.
We enjoyed the lack of humidity and the cooler temperatures on the Great Plains. Our explorations took us to the Enchanted Highway, Crazy Horse, Mt. Rushmore, the World’s Largest Petrified Wood Park and downtown Deadwood. Those are just the highlights. I have learned that you can pack a TON of activities into a two-week period!
Tatum missed a week and a day of band camp, but got back in time to learn the half-time show and perform it in August. Mark and I missed a good bit of work and a month later, I think we are still trying to catch up on rest. Thankfully, there’s a three-day weekend coming up that I can use to rest and to further reflect on the blessings of music, family, safe travels and memories.
I hope that this weekend provides you with some time to rest and reflect and refocus on what matters most in your life. And if you have time, go find an adventure!
20 Years ago
So...I started writing this post on June 6, nearly two months ago. It should not take me so long, but there are SO many emotions tied up with this one. Now, I can further complicate it by adding that I went back to Montana last week and it stung. Here are my thoughts-FINALLY---with an addendum.
June 6, 2019
I can't believe that it has been 20 years since I went to Montana for a summer internship. I didn't want to go to Montana. I wanted to go to WorldSong, that precious corner of Alabama where I had spent so many summers as both a camper and a cabin leader. (We were called "counselors" at the time.) When a director of missions from Montana showed up to speak to the missiology class that I was taking at Southwestern, the only reason I wanted to talk to him was to get more information about Montana's Native Americans. It just so happened that we were studying Native Americans at camp that summer and I wanted real information. So, I went that afternoon and met the speaker and asked a ton of questions.
It was good as long as I was asking the questions, but I quickly became uncomfortable when HE started asking the questions.
"Have you ever considered working with Native American children?"
"You have a lot of children's ministry experience. There's a need for that in Montana. Would you pray about coming?"
The answer to those questions was initially a "NO!" from me. I had a plan that did not involve Montana and strangers, but still involved children and ministry. Plus, my dear friends would be working at WorldSong, so there was that. But the cowboy hat wearing director of missions was persistent. He made a point to see me every day for the next two days. He wasn't the only one getting my attention. Montana, a state I was only familiar with because I wanted to go to Glacier and Yellowstone, suddenly was everywhere. EVERYWHERE! And all of a sudden, I wasn't feeling quite as "camp-y" and I could not explain it.
As I read my Bible, one verse kept coming back to me, Isaiah 55:5, "Surely you will summon nations you know not, and nations you do not know will come running to you, because of the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, for he has endowed you with splendor." I had no idea why I kept coming back to that Scripture.
Thanks to the generous donations of Washington County Baptist Churches, I went to Montana. I lived with a pastor's family in an apartment at the back of a church sanctuary on a federal reservation. The lady of that house was Cindy and I had never met anyone quite like her. To this day, I have not met another like her! She cooked enough every Sunday to feed an army. She cooked extra food at every meal and there were never any leftovers. There was always someone who was hungry. There was always someone who needed something and Cindy's doors were always open. I learned so many things that my sheltered life in the South had never shown me. I saw beautiful children living in extreme poverty, right here in America and it broke my heart. There were teenagers who could not read. At that point, I had never taught anyone to read, but I'd had lots of practice at actually reading, so teaching literacy became something that I did.
I'll always remember the first night in the apartment with the Wilmots. They tried to prepare me for the culture shock that I was about to experience. I vividly recall hearing these words, "Not all of them will respond to the Gospel, but if we can change just one child's life, it will be worth it."
One particular family seemed to always be around the church. A young mother and her three sons. The middle son gravitated toward me and I thought he was the absolute most beautiful human I had ever seen. He and I were basically inseparable. He went with me everywhere. I took loads of pictures of this two-year-old because what was the likelihood of me ever seeing any of these people again.
People that know me already know the rest of the story--how two short years later that precious child was with us for good. In that two year period, I had gotten married. In the years since, that four-year old has grown into a man and I am quite proud of him. When I picked him up at the airport, he ran to me and in my mind I recalled, "Isaiah 55:5, "Surely you will summon nations you know not, and nations you do not know will come running to you." It was a definite God-wink. It was an honor to be entrusted to raise this child. He changed and challenged every thought process I ever had!
Staying in touch with Cindy was easy. She was always phone call away. I flew out and visited with her for an entire month before my wedding in 2000. In 2001, a friend and I drove out to see her. By 2009, they had retired from the mission and were living in Lemmon, SD, so I flew out and she and I toured 4 states in a 3-day weekend.
Four years later, I was itching to see my dear friend Cindy again. My daughter was 10 years old and at the time, I was teaching. So...I got an idea. I could drive to Lemmon, South Dakota. That's a mere 1,300 miles (24 hour drive) for me. We went and we stayed for 40 days (significant, right?). I intended to stay a week, but Cindy just kept making us feel more at home. Currently, we have driven to Lemmon for SEVEN straight summers!
This summer was different. For starters, my husband went with us. We took our time getting there and saw the sights. Cindy took a full week off work and hung out with us. It seemed like we went on mini vacations every day! On the second full day that we were there, I had the fabulous idea to go back to the reservation in Montana. The church had long been shuttered and turned into a tribal building, but I wanted Mark and Tatum to see the reservation and I wanted to go back one more time with Cindy.
There have been some good changes. There are new business in the tribal capital of Lame Deer. Many of the ones we recalled from two decades ago were still in operation also. There is a new high school. The Boys and Girls Club is still active.
I was heartbroken to see that the steeple had been removed from the church. I mean, it's not technically a church anymore, so there was really no reason for it to stay. For me, it will always be the church building, though I'll likely not ever see it again. That beige metal building was my life for the summer of 1999. It is where I learned so many things. My eyes were open to social problems and injustices that I had never even known about and that no sociology class had ever adequately prepared me for. I was forever changed and I had made a forever friend and I didn't know it at the time, but my family would be forever altered, all because I went to Montana--that place that I wasn't interested in.
Twenty years later, I still love Montana. My heart still breaks for the plight of the impoverished. I still love children's ministry (though I am not involved at the moment). I'm still a captive audience for anyone who wants to talk about missions. I still love WorldSong and both my kids have gone to camp there. I still love learning about cultures.
Twenty years later, I am so very thankful for that cowboy director of missions' willingness to answer my questions and I am eternally grateful for the friendship I gained and the lessons I have learned.
At the beginning of every month, I scroll down a website to see what “National Days” or “Month of” designations have been given. Sometimes, it provides some inspiration for writing. Today I am in luck. August is “Happiness Happens” month and Aug. 8 is “Admit you’re happy day.” Many parents in the area are happy because school is officially back in session. That means the routines are back and there is more structure in the homes. It also means getting the kids up early, fixing the lunches and doing the homework. These are things about it that aren’t necessarily happy.
Apparently Happiness Happens month has been in existence since 1999, when The Secret Society of Happy People agreed to have the first Admit You’re Happy Day. I am a little confused as to why a bunch of happy people has chosen to be a secret society. Surely I’m not alone! At any rate, I’ll go ahead and admit that I scoffed at the notion of a month devoted to happiness. Real life isn’t always happy. Events over the weekend where people were killed in public places reminded me that life isn’t always happy. I don’t consider myself an optimist or a pessimist. I like to believe that I am a realist. I LOVE hearing about good things, but I know that no person or situation is perfect. I don’t like raining on anyone’s parade, but if I’m asked my opinion, I will share it, even if it’s not a positive one.
But here we are on Day 8 of “Happiness Happens Month.” As August has 31 days, the Society has designated each one to a specific type of happiness, hoping to broaden an individual’s definition of the word. Words that are used as types of happiness include: humor, thankful, confident, nostalgic, amused and peaceful. The designated words help me to put happiness into perspective. While every day may not be generally happy, there are some things that we can focus on each day to let happiness enter our minds for a bit.
So in the midst of the supply shopping, carpool planning, practice scheduling, uniform washing, form signing, check writing days of August, I hope that each of us can find some time to reflect on things that bring a smile. The Secret Society of Happy People states, that August should “remind us that happiness happens one small moment at a time and it’s our job to recognize those moments when they happen. It reminds us that sometimes a small action boosts our happiness. It reminds us that happiness is a personal experience and it’s also contagious!”
So find those small moments and share them! It’s easy to spread bad news, let’s focus on spreading the good news.
using your platform for good
Every January 1, I choose a word to focus on for the year. This year, it was the simplest word ever—good. I have tried to focus on the good, but the world is full of politics, prejudices and partiality. It’s definitely not always good.
I believe that there is something good that can be found in every day; however, it is a rare thing when someone truly uses their platform for good. Fame, whether life-long or in 15-minute increments, tends to blind its recipients to the conditions of others. There are a few souls, however, that use their platform for altruism. Kat Perkins is one of those.
If you are a fan of NBC’s The Voice, you may be familiar. Perkins was a semi-finalist in 2014. Until January 2018, I had never heard of her because I don’t watch television. My daughter started playing her music, having discovered her on YouTube. I was impressed by her vocal range and ability and her covers of Heart’s classic rock hits. I followed Perkins on social media. Soon, I noticed that every summer since her time on The Voice, she had formed a nonprofit foundation to provide students interested in performing arts the opportunity to learn from industry professionals and to perform on the stage at North Dakota’s Medora Musical as a part of a summer camp.
I knew a kid that loves the performing arts. I knew a kid and her mom that LOVE Medora, ND and the Medora Musical. I knew that our Grandma Cindy lived just an hour and a half from Medora. I also knew that it was a long shot since only 40 campers were selected each year, but since we go to the Dakotas every summer, we took that chance. I did not have to beg or to ask Tatum twice if she wanted to audition. To our delight, she was accepted and enjoyed Badlands Rising Star Camp where she learned vocal techniques, dance steps, marketing and collaboration. She also got to see a person who had attained success on a big stage choosing to interact with middle and high school students in rural North Dakota when there were many other high profile places she could have chosen to be.
Perkins was a household name. One of her songs was nominated for a Grammy. She has opened for Bon Jovi. She had music on the iTunes Top 5. The sky is the limit for the talented daughter of musicians who always wanted to be a musician herself. There are many choices that she could have made once her name and her music were recognized. She chose to create Rising Star Foundation and to invest in young performers. She remembered her beginnings as a Burning Hills Singer in Medora and brought her camp back to the place that gave her the chance to spread her wings as a performer. She is choosing to invest in the future while honoring the past. To me, this is success.
Kat Perkins somehow gets to know every student personally every summer. I know this for a fact. When she sent me a message several weeks ago asking where Tatum’s camp application was, I was floored. She remembered my girl. I told her that we wouldn’t be attending and thanked her for the work that she did. I told her how Tatum had benefitted from it and how because of a few days in Medora, she has strong, diverse friendships. When she asked me to consider rearranging my travel dates (I was supposed to be on vacation in SD last week), I told her that financially I could not make camp work and thanked her again for the investments she made in the lives of young people. She then asked if I would bring her if she could secure sponsors. What mom would say no to that? I agreed, but did not say a word to Tatum or to Cindy because I knew the probability of this was low.
I was wrong. Within 24 hours, I was changing my travel plans and letting Tatum read the messages that Perkins and I had exchanged. The countdown to ND is in the single digits now. Pretty soon, my kid and 39 others will be sharing the stage with someone who has chosen to use her platform for good.
Your platform may not be a major stage, but whatever it is, use it for good.
Vacation Bible School is engrained in Southern life and I am so thankful! I have loved Vacation Bible School for as long as I can remember. As a kid in Frankville in the 1980s, it was the highlight of the summer. It was the only week in the summer that I willingly got up early because Frankville Baptist Church had VBS in the mornings.
VBS actually started with a parade the weekend prior to the event. It wasn’t a fancy parade, just a couple of trucks, some balloons, a lot of kids and a whole lot of noise. We rode down every dirt road and pig trail to invite every single kid around to VBS.
Every single morning of VBS, all the children would line up and parade in. In my mind’s eye, I can still see us in the parking lot and on the church steps wearing our “play clothes.” Three lucky kids were chosen to carry the U.S. flag, the Christian flag and the Bible to the front of the sanctuary. If you were really lucky, you got to carry these in on Friday evening at parents’ night. I can vividly remember marching in as the piano played. I also remember the tiny paper Order of Worship booklets that had the sheet music to songs we would sing. We had to leave them in the pews each day.
Cookies and Kool-Aid were LIFE to us! That was our snack every day. Sandwich cookies and those butter cookies that can be placed on one’s finger are what I remember most. They were placed on napkins adjacent to Styrofoam cups of red Kool-Aid. Fresh watermelon out of a church member’s garden was always a treat!
The lessons and crafts were always fun. It was different from Sunday School because it was more interactive and there were more people in attendance. The rooms were also decorated in whatever theme Lifeway, called The Baptist Bookstore at that time, had set. The songs, the memory verses, the crafts and every single activity were centered around the theme. We also had mission moments when the clunky VCR and TV cart was rolled out to show us what missionaries were doing throughout the world.
VBS for rural kids before the era of instant communication meant that for five days, we got to see our friends every day. It also meant loading up in the car with a friend after VBS and going to spend the night at their house. If you planned it right, you could have sleepovers every night of the week!
For Frankville area kids, the culmination of VBS meant getting to go to Bladon Springs State Park on Friday after our lessons. The adults grilled hotdogs and we rode our bikes that had been loaded onto a truck and brought to the park. It was seriously one of the absolute BEST days of summer! We dared each other to take a drink of the yellow-tinged, Sulphur spring water. I declined this challenge. We weren’t the only church that did this! My husband grew up in Coffeeville Baptist Church and has memories of doing this as well! Fun fact, we went to VBS together as children at Ulcanush Baptist Church in Coffeeville when we were kids! Both of our grandmothers were members there!
After sixth grade, we were considered “youth” and got to help with VBS. I am thankful for the memories I have of working VBS in many places. My favorite memories include teaching VBS in Birney, Mont. (population 108) when kids rode up to our outdoor classroom on their horses and tied them to whatever stationary objects they could find!
The way that VBS is done has changed through the years, but the mission has not. It’s still a time for crafts and music. It’s still a time for friends. It is still a time for students to learn about God and mission work.
Churches likely don’t load up kids and bicycles and give kids free rein at a state park anymore, but I am thankful I got to experience it.
One of my dearest friends had a storage unit at Red Dot Storage in Tillman’s Corner. If you’ve watched the news in the past two months, you are aware that a massive fire consumed the majority of the storage facility. Unfortunately, Becky’s unit was one of the heavily damaged ones. It was actually a total loss.
For two months, she waited to be given permission to return to the unit to assess the damage and collect anything that was salvageable. Last Thursday was the day that she put on steel-toed boots and work gloves to sift through the rubble. That rubble was to be her new beginning after she downsized her current home. Her idea was to put everything that she wanted to keep in the storage unit and then have an estate sale, knowing that every item that seriously mattered to her was a few miles away in climate-controlled storage.
She lost a lot. Pictures, jewelry, family heirlooms, antique furniture and childhood mementos were all lost. She did manage to find two advertisement plates that her grandfather used to promote his Birmingham law office in the 1940s. Somehow those plates and two ceramic figurines managed to survive a fire that was hot enough to melt a vintage Pyrex dish. She found a round marble top that had been on a coffee table. What was marble disintegrated when she touched it. There was hardware for dressers, but there were no dressers.
I know that nothing is meant to last forever, but losing such precious things is traumatic and heartbreaking. I’ve never given much thought to storage units or the items and stories contained within until recently. Watching the news coverage of the ones who lost items due to the fire at Red Dot opened my eyes and made me think about things differently.
One of the things that I think is so important is backing photographs up digitally. I have been filling Facebook with photo albums for years and I will continue to do so. Google Photos and Walgreens are other methods I employ to secure my pictures, because pictures are my favorite things. Becky’s experience has made me think about old family pictures that aren’t digital. I really need to either scan them or take some quality pictures of those.
Although I realize the importance of documentation for work, for finances, for medical reasons and for my kids, I really have not considered how important it is to document belongings. Thankfully, she had extra insurance on the items in her unit. The problem is that she cannot remember every item that was in there. Attempting to list these items after the trauma of the fire has been problematic for her. Documenting items is easier now than it has ever been! Most of us just don’t do it! Electronic receipts show the amount that was paid for the items purchased. It is easy to take a cell phone video in various rooms of our homes to document the brands of electronics, appliances and furnishings that we own. It’s a good thought.
I cannot imagine what it is like to be forced to literally sift through the ashes of what was once your life. Some of you have been there. You know that heartbreak and that sense of loss. I’m sure you, like Becky, got a lot of well-intended advice that you did not seek. It’s easy to say things like, “Move forward” or “It’s just stuff” when it isn’t you that suffered a loss.
Walking through this time with my friend has reminded me that although nothing is meant to last forever, losing the things that matter still hurts. I’ve also been reminded to take stock of all the blessings, (but not just the material ones) I have been given on a regular basis.
Weekly columnist. Feature Writer.