"Snippet" -- a small piece or brief extract
These blog posts were first written as part of a book for Mama to say thanks and to let her know that I loved her and treasured so many amazing memories that we had made together, in spite of some rough patches along the way in our relationship. Faith was strong in my family. It shaped us, created us and measured us. It grounded us, connected us, and was a keystone in our times together. That doesn't mean our faith was without struggles. Mama struggled with her faith during the time that my grandmama was so sick and bedridden -- and for the rest of her life. We all struggled with our faith -- and our attitudes toward church (Not equivalent things in my way of thinking.) during a particularly challenging time as we were breaking away from a congregation we had been part of for a long time. We've each faced faith challenges in different seasons and for different reasons. The last 20 years have brought lots of change to the beliefs and practices of the faith of my family, but our love for Jesus has never wavered. Our sincere desire to do what Jesus would want us to do -- the concept of the golden rule (Treat others the way you would like to be treated.) has provided a benchmark our whole entire lives. While currently on Sundays, you may find us worshiping at home around our fire pit as opposed to fellowshipping with a structured church, the foundation is strong, the faith is strong, and the desire to live right, be who God created us to be and the hope for Heaven are hallmarks of my family and my growing up.
From my earliest memories we were heavily involved in church and regular in our attendance. For the first several years, I had to sit with Mama and Daddy during services. Folks who attended church with us tell stories of my sitting attentively at 6 months- 1 year old, and how Mama would tolerate nothing less. Some thought she was too harsh, but I appreciate the fact that I was one of those weird kids actually listening to sermons and taking notes as a young girl.
As I got older and began branching out, Mama would let me sit in front of her. If I became inattentive or otherwise was not doing a good job, she would reach up and thump me on the ear. Sometimes today when I’m sitting in a church service (or a teacher meeting or. . .), there are some people I wish were close enough that I could thump their ear. . . .
We were expected to be at every church service unless we were sick. Normally we didn’t mind, but Sunday nights were hard, because Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom and The Wonderful World of Disney both came on and we always missed them. It was actually a special treat to be sick and be able to stay home and watch our favorite shows. We enjoyed church, but as a young child (and considering the small, conservative church we attended) it didn’t hold a candle to Wild Kingdom and Disney . . .
One of the books in our house was a Bible story book. It was part of a larger set that contained a Bible Encyclopedia and another big Bible-based book. They all had these burgundy-brown covers. Usually it was Mama tucking us in, and oftentimes it would involve a story from the Bible story book. Most of the stories had illustrations, and had comprehension questions at the end that were usually part of our bedtime routines, along with saying our prayers.
When it was appropriate, Mama would let me join in with the church ladies in their activities and events. When we were attending the 74-76 Church of Christ, we would meet up at Vi Thick’s house and make cards to go on the meal trays for the hospital and nursing homes. We would cut construction paper into rectangles and fold them, putting a sticker on the front with a scripture. Inside we would write the name of our church. Later when we attended the Whiteville congregation, I think we did something similar. I enjoyed being part of the group and learned a lot about serving from those ladies. I appreciate Mama so much for including me in those times.
Mama also allowed me to visit the Nursing Home with a mentor who had moved into the area. She took a couple of us young teenage girls under her wing and taught us a bit about sewing, took us to visit the folks at the Nursing Home. We would visit and read the Bible to the residents. I spent a lot of time in this mentor’s home and she and her husband always held hands when they prayed. I thought that was so beautiful and wanted to do that with my husband one day. Now I do. And my whole family does, but it all started with the time Mama allowed me to spend with godly mentors.
One of the values Mama instilled in me early was hospitality. It played out in a number of ways in our household. Here are a few:
Hosting the guest preacher -- I remember a number of times when our church was having a gospel meeting (revival) and the preacher would stay with us in our house for the week. I always treasured those weeks and enjoyed sitting at the feet of the guest preachers. Sometimes I had the special privilege of accompanying them to other members’ houses for dinner as their GPS. Sometimes they would teach me magic tricks or card tricks. Those are some of my favorite memories. One of the preachers who came and stayed with us brought his family for part of the time, and his daughter became one of my good friends. We counseled together at church camp and roomed together at Christian college.
Church Parties -- We hosted lots of church parties at our house -- baby showers, wedding showers, party parties, and New Year’s Eve parties. Mama would always get a little stressed when the time drew near as there was always so much to do, but I always enjoyed the special snacks and the extra fellowship time. Also, it often involved singing, which was always my favorite part. I remember lots of New Year's Eves, singing in the new year with my church family.
There were lots of other examples of my mama showing hospitality, but it is a value that I treasure and strive to emulate in my own life now. I am so thankful for her modeling in this important area of Christian living.
Mama always took our spiritual homework seriously. I got my 10 commandments bracelet for memorizing the 10 Commandments and a mini treasure chest for learning all the books of the Bible. Mama worked with us on memory verses and other memory work. At some points during our growing up time, Mama was also our Bible class teacher. Even when she was not, she made sure we were following up like we needed to.
The scriptures were always a regular part of discussions at our house. Whether it was around the supper table or while we were gardening, fishing, or whatever was going on, there was likely to be scripture involved in our conversations. I’m reminded of the passage in Deuteronomy 6 that says, “Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up.” Mama modeled that very well. Scriptures were lived out in our home and there was no hypocrisy. What you saw was what you got -- wherever we were.
When we had trouble wrapping our heads around something at school or something someone said that conflicted with our church teaching, I really appreciate that Mama and Daddy didn't just quote doctrine. We went back to the source. We sat at the dining table, pulled out the Bibles and concordances, looked up scriptures and sorted things out the best we could based on what we read in the scriptures. It's still a practice in my house now, because it was instilled so fully then.
Commitment and Service
Our whole entire lives, these concepts were modeled and taught. My family was whole-heartedly committed to the Lord and to His church as we understood it. There was an understanding that if something was happening at church, we were to be there unless there was a very good reason we couldn’t be. Pretty much the only reasons we didn’t attend something was sickness or if we were out of town. Even if we were out of town, we usually attended the local congregation. We tried to schedule our work schedule around church times, but missing an occasional service due to work was acceptable as long as it wasn’t habitual.
For most of my life, Daddy was ministering from the pulpit and Mama was ministering from the pew and in the home. They both made sure that we understood that our church life was serious and we needed to take it seriously. Our church responsibilities came first. I remember one time -- elementary or middle school -- and I was supposed to get an award, but it required missing church. Mama allowed me to make the decision, but I chose to not attend the awards ceremony, but rather to attend church services.
While some of my specific beliefs and opinions have changed as I’ve grown and studied on my own and as I’ve had many more experiences, these hallmarks of my faith and precepts of commitment and service still serve me well as I make decisions about my priorities. I am thankful not to have to “decide to go to church on Sunday”. It is as ingrained as brushing my teeth every day.
(Full transparency note: Our church shut its doors in October 2019 before the Pandemic in March 2020. We were meeting with a small group at our house, but stopped meetings during the Pandemic. For most of the time since last March, Shane and I have worshipped alone -- at our dining room table or around our fire pit, studying Priscilla and Aquila, reading scripture, or sometimes enjoying an online church service. Even though we are not committed or regularly attending a specific church right now, our values and faith are strong and our desire to serve and grow in our Christian walk is also strong.)
I am thankful for the moral, spiritual, and ethical compass that these concepts provide. These ideals helped shape me as a person and as a Christian and I am so incredibly thankful to have grown up in a home that valued commitment to the cause of Christ.
While these ideals provide a stability that I value, my strong knowledge of the scriptures, coupled with a strong belief in thinking and studying for myself and not merely taking someone’s words as gospel have allowed me to stretch and grow and become a woman of impact -- a leader who stands firmly on her own two feet, but constantly leaning on the arms of Jesus for guidance, strength, and support. That would ONLY be possible with the strength, determination and spiritual guidance of my mother -- a woman of impact herself.
As a leader in my current church (refer back to full transparency note), these foundational scriptural truths and these critical views about commitment and service have given me solid footing from which to lead and have allowed me to be a leader who is willing to go the extra mile and brings a strong scriptural focus to our church.
I absolutely value all the conversations around the dinner table, and as we were driving, gardening, fishing, and living that helped make me the woman I am today. While I am still a work in progress, and I fail every single day, I have a growing understanding of His grace and mercy because of the foundations laid by my mama and daddy.
Sundays were church days and family days. Grandmama would often come home with us after church for Sunday dinner, which was always a Southern fried family affair -- fried chicken, rice and gravy, green beans and slaw or stew beef with rice and green beans and slaw, etc. Pictured from L-R are me (Tonnye Williams Fletcher), Cora Le White Smith, Mona Faye Smith Williams, and bottom -- Shanda Kay Williams (White)
I've been a teacher of K-3 students for over 20 years; I'm also a writer of poems, short stories, devotionals and picture books. I'm wife to an amazing husband and mom to Sparkles, Mocha, and Rusty -- our feline fur babies . I love reading, writing, singing and listening to music. I enjoy nature, Bible study and spending time with friends and family!