Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Satan's Spork

I've had enough.  For three years, I've eaten my Bojangles' Bo-Berry biscuits with a spork, but that ended Saturday when I took matters into my own hands, literally, with an actual fork, my own fork I brought from home.  If they can't decide which is best, the spoon or the fork, for their biscuits, rice, beans, or anything else, I'll decide for them.  I know, Bojangles', the combination of spoon and fork is easier, less expensive, but that's not the point, pun intended.  The point? There are times you need a spoon.  There are times you need a fork.

Many like the spork. It's a spoon and a fork, so when they make a mess of the biscuit with the tiny brittle tongs, the spoon scoops up all the broken pieces.  I don't care. To me, it's neither a spoon nor a fork.  Some think it's no big deal.  Some, like my friends Patricia and Alice, are probably tired of me complaining about the spork every Saturday.  They're probably thinking, "just eat your Bo-Berry biscuits and hush."  Call me crazy, and many do, but I simply don't like the struggle, the "which way do I turn this thing?" the "this biscuit is hard, why do I have a spoon?" and the "I need longer, stronger, more definite tongs for this."  

Maybe because I'm left-handed, I blame everything on that, but I'm ususally indecisive, so I should like the spork.  In fact, I often wonder if the spork was invented by some indecisive left-hander like me thinking she was creative.   

I know all the things you do, that you are neither hot nor cold.  I wish that you were one or the other! But since you are like lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth! Revelation 3:15-16

This verse bothered me and had my name written on it for decades.  Like the waters in Laodicea, smelly and distasteful, I was lukewarm, religious but not spiritual, knowledgeable of but not faithful to Christ.  

This kind of life is a struggle, full of uncertainty.  Satan loves this kind of life.  When we need to be stronger and more definite, he offers "this will do, no need to look for strength." When we need to know which way to turn, he presents an "either way" option.  When life is hard, which is always, he offers "just be indecisive, that's half useful."

God, on the other hand, wants us to be with Him. Because life is hard, He wants to be our strength. When we don't know which way to turn, His Word is definite, and we either believe Him or not.  When our life is a mess, when we're vulnerable, God is a great comfort and knows how to hold every piece of our brokenness. 

It's a decision we make.  Is our zeal for Christ apparent?  When others see us struggling, because we all do, where do they see us go for strength? Are we indefinite? A spork? Or, Are we clearly followers?  









Sunday, September 13, 2015

Sally, Her Grandchildren Call Her Giggy and Watch Her Serve God

Have you ever met a person who immediately becomes one of your favorite people? Maybe you immediately feel loved. Maybe you immediately see kindness, humor, or hospitality. Maybe a caring personality and willingness to serve is evident. Or maybe it's all of these.  I met Sally Carpenter in 1984 when she and husband Pat were Sunday School directors for the College and Career department at Concord Baptist Church.  Her home was always open, she was available to listen, and I knew right away she was an incredible friend and mother with a servants heart.

Our Christmas and Patriotic music programs at Concord are popular and dynamic, and Sally, in addition to singing in the choir, is behind the scenes directing and decorating.  Our music minister, Herman Milner, agrees that Sally is one of a kind.

Sally always brings a professional touch of creativity to our music ministry with her gift of decorating the sanctuary with class for each program. With no outside direction necessary, she has the uncanny ability to envision what can be done to exude an atmosphere of worship through her decorations. While Sally is always open to suggestions and seeks to make certain her decorating is to the satisfaction of the Minister of Music, one of her sterling qualities is her willingness to take ownership of the task, faithfully and quietly going about her work behind the scenes.  Although Sally never seems to realize the enormity of her accomplishments exercising her creative gift to our ministry, the rest of us remain in awe of her expressions of creation that enhance our worship.

Sally makes her ministry a family affair. Her husband, Pat, and their two sons, Thad and Trent, have served God at Concord since joining as deacons, teachers, or sound technicians, and have worked on the hostess committee together. They're also work with Sally as she continues to use her gifts on the decorating committee.  Knowing Sally as an incredible friend and mother, I knew without a doubt she'd be a terrific mother-in-law, and I was right.  Her daughters-in-law, Karmon and Melissa serve with her.

When Karmon was dating Thad, she loved how special family was to Sally.
Sally dedicates her time to her family and to her church. She makes her family feel special and loved. Sally always sends her homemade cookies on youth trips. When I chaperone, I see how she touches lives. I lost my mother when Thad and I had been married four years. She picked up where my mother left off. As a family, we make an annual trip to Cashiers, N.C. to cut our own Christmas tree.  While there, we also cut the large Christmas trees used at Concord.
Melissa, Trent's wife, works beside Sally, learning.
I saw how the family worked together and the good times we have had doing it. We all help decorate at Christmas and decorate the 4th of July picnic. She comes up with so many creative ideas to use for decorations, and they always look beautiful. Some of her ideas include the men (Pat, Thad, and Trent) helping her build something to pull it off, like raising the height of a centerpiece to be seen, switch boxes to run Christmas lights on trees, and making sure the flags are displayed at different angles in the baptistery. She teaches me.  I may not be able to decorate like her, but I'm serving God through our church in ways I feel the most helpful, like my love for children leading me to teach Sunday school and AWANA.

What so many admire about Sally is her willingness, even when she's busy working, to help anyone, anytime. Melissa, Trent's wife, says that Sally is constantly doing something for the church and other people.
Sally is a very caring person and is always making food for families who've had a death or for people who are sick. I have seen her on so many Sundays fix plates for people who are either sick or don't have anyone else at home with them.

Her granddaughter, Kappy, thinks she is the best cook and makes the best sweet tea. I know this personally.  My father died at 2:00AM on Christmas Eve.  Christmas Eve afternoon, the Carpenter family showed up at my door with food prepared my Sally, Melissa, and Karmon: homemade vegetable soup, cornbread, breakfast casserole, fruit, and breakfast bread.

If you know Sally, you know she's an incredible grandmother.  Andrew, Sam, and Kappy call her Giggy.  And when I say they ADORE her, it's an understatement.  In addition to cooking a big Sunday lunch every week, she uses her creativity to make every family gathering special.  Sally dressed Kappy like a Native American for her first Thanksgiving.  Pat even built a cabin behind their house, where they have their Thanksgiving meals.

Giggy continues her mother's tradition of The Golden Egg at Easter, writing clues for the egg hunt. One year, she actually rented metal detectors for her grandchildren and filled plastic eggs with metal.  She knows their favorite things and uses them for her scavenger hunts, making the clues unique for each grandchild, like tools for Sam and Andrew. They decorate pumpkins at Giggy's house for Halloween, and she gives them prizes.  Andrew and Sam know Giggy will be at their ballgames, and  she hangs their artwork in her home.

But Giggy doesn't stop with her own grandchildren.  Her home is open to their friends.  After a formal dance, Kappy brought many friends to Giggy's for her cooking.

Not only does Giggy make birthdays extra-special by cooking their favorite meals, she calls her children and grandchildren and sings happy birthday.  If you ask Andrew about his favorite gift, he'll tell you, "anything from Giggy."
I always look forward to Giggy's birthday gifts. She knows what I like.  She gives the best presents.    

She shows them how to serve God by doing for others.  Kappy has always seen this in her Giggy.
Everything she does is for someone else.  My favorite thing about her is the way she loves other people.  She would go to the end of the earth for me and my family.

Sam, Kappy's brother,  also sees how much his Giggy loves God by doing for others.
She cares for everyone.  She is always willing to help people.  She does kind things for others like visiting the nursing home.

How do you serve God for decades and not expect spotlight attention or praise? 

Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord, not for man. Colossians 3:23

Kappy shared that her Giggy has a heart for the Lord no matter what she does.
She is full of wisdom and knows what to say.

Sam and Andrew know their Giggy will always encourage them
She will never let you down. 

Sally shows her love for God with her talents, but above that talent, she genuinely cares for people.  Her family will tell you that Sally tries to do the right thing and teach them to do the same, to do what God wants them to do in situations.

When you serve because of your love for God, people know it.  They see that you genuinely care.  You may not be in the spotlight, but it doesn't matter.  Family, church, friends and God see it. That's the beauty of serving Him.  That's the beauty of Sally, Giggy.  Sam summed it up, "And the most important thing is she is a great person and has a great personality."  Sally IS a great person, and a wonderful Giggy. Her great personality reflects Christ, and He shows up in her talent, hospitality, kindness, and willingness to serve without attention.

Your friends, family, and church appreciate you, Sally, Giggy!





Tuesday, September 1, 2015

You Are Cordially Invited to My Pity Party

It could be tonight, tomorrow, next week, or next month at home, work, church, the gym, or a ballgame.  But, be sure my pity party will happen, and you don't want to miss it.
Why am I having a pity party? I'm so glad you asked.  I nor anyone else in my family is terminally ill or planning a funeral.  No, I'm not homeless, and my bills are paid.  I have many friends.  But, you know, I have my good reasons, and I'd love to share them with you if you don't mind. 
Reason one: unemployed and feeling worthless.  I quit my part time retail job this summer believing I couldn't possibly work every morning beginning 6:00AM (sometimes on Saturday or Sunday) then teach international students at a local university three afternoons a week.  Wouldn't you know it, there are no international students this semester, so I will not be teaching.  How am I going to afford my mani-pedi or send boxes of useless goodies to my oldest two kids?  Currently, I only work three hours a week at a gym, which barely pays for the protein powder for my fruit smoothies I need now that I've become a gym rat. 
My dream career is writing or editing, but no one, and I mean no one, will give me a chance.  I have three resumes stored on my computer, but not one person has called or e-mailed and asked to see them.  I've written blog post after blog post, but NO ONE at the newspaper office has contacted me about submitting my writing. 
I've even talked to a helpful young man at Staples about business cards. Apparently, I have to actually drive back up there for him to help me OR go on-line and do it myself even though obviously I'm busy pity partying.  Does he not understand that Ms. Extreme Independent feels like a loser and desperately needs a paycheck?
Reason two: aging and forgetful.  No, I don't have Alzheimer's nor am I taking care of a parent with Alzheimer's.  But, you know, I can't remember to schedule appointments for my perfectly healthy kids.  Sometimes I go to the gym without a sweat towel, can't remember to take my Omega3's, forget to stop by the grocery store for almond milk and blackberries for my smoothies, and Sunday, I mixed up the verses of a song I sang and became so nervous, it messed up my entire day. 
Reason three: unorganized and regretful.  It's September, 2015, and I found a wedding gift I bought in January, 2014 and sympathy cards I bought and didn't send.  There are closets and storage spaces to clean out, a book to resume writing and old friends I need to call. There are people I've neglected, adventures I didn't take and prayers I didn't pray.  Unfortunately, I can't stop pity partying long enough to do any of these things.
I know you're curious about the menu.  Obviously, no cooking involved because, again, I'm too busy pity partying.  While you listen to all of my problems, what would be better than a nice hot cup of black coffee? Whether you enjoy a cup with me at the local coffee shop, church, or my house, don't even think about trying to top my issues.  It's my party, after all.
There's a box of candy bars under a container of Ben & Jerry's Cherry Garcia in my freezer.  When you come to my pity party, I won't make you eat straight from the carton. That's for my frequent solitary pity parties. I have a nice variety of dishes for my party, like my gorgeous  Mary & Martha "gratitude" bowl.  Founded by the original Mary & Martha who invited guests, like Jesus (I bet they told him their problems), into their home, Mary & Martha focuses on making guests feel welcome with inspirational products for the home.  You can eat ice cream or a candy bar, or both, out of my "gratitude" bowl while you look around and feel sorry for me.
Who else is coming?  I knew you'd ask.  Everybody is welcome at my pity party whether they want to be there or not.  My best listener, Hershey, is always at my pity party.  It may look like she doesn't enjoy my pity party, but she's a Labrador; she always looks forlorn, like she's thinking, "I'm 84 with congestive heart failure and cataracts taking 6 pills a day.  I'm sorry you can't find that picture for your blog."
What would a party be without music?  Country only, of course, for the playlist.  We'll start with Patsy Cline's I Fall to Pieces, then Tim McGraw's Diamond Rings and Old Barstools, and end the party with Hank Williams' I'm so Lonesome I Could Cry.
RSVP as soon as possible.  I need a head count for the coffee, ice cream, and candy bars.
Well, you won't believe this.  My friend, Elizabeth Nix, hosted a Mary & Martha party, so I went looking for the perfect cups for my pity party, and I found something I loved.  There's just one problem.  My pity party I was so excited about? It is over.  I'm so sorry. http://www.mymaryandmartha.com/ElizabethNix
I found these wonderful little tea cups decorated with flowers, reminding me of my grandmother King, always the perfect hostess., always grateful.  Written on the inside of each cup is "think on these things."  On the outside, one word.  These reminded me of my real story-  the real reason for my pity party.  
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable- if anything is excellent or praiseworthy- think about such things.  Philippians 4:8
Instead of true, noble, pure, and lovely, my mind is on me and my wants, mistakes and regrets.  Instead of pure, I'm feasting on rotten.  I'm squeezing as many sour lemons into my mind, refusing to add sugar and water. Instead of truth, I'm accepting the world's lies.  Instead of what's excellent, God's grace and love, I'm thinking about how much more, besides all of the gifts God has lavishly given to me, I want to show up at my doorstep with whatever I've ordered from Amazon.  Instead of the noble things others have done for me, I'm regretting what I haven't done for them.  
My mind is on the job that will make me feel valued and important instead of being grateful for a Savior that rescued me because he delights in me. Psalm 18:19  I guess if I thought of the many times God rescued me from my selfish pity thoughts and told me how valuable I am to Him, I wouldn't have time to pity party.  You'd have to make your own coffee, grab your own spoon, and open the freezer yourself.  What kind of pity party hostess would I be then? Probably, I'd be a better friend, wife, and mom.
I don't think my new pure, noble, lovely, true cups and gratitude bowl are fit for a pity party, but you're more than welcome to visit, and if I see you before then, we'll think on those things instead.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

2 Words 2 Live By

With his book, 2 Words 2 Live By, first time author Mark Madden not only crossed off an item on his bucket list, he realized the process is what made it worthwhile.

With no writing experience other than academic (Mark attended T.L. Hanna High School, Anderson University, Clemson University, and the University of South Carolina), Mark wanted to write something to help people, but unlike the usual, lengthy self-help books, he made it short and simple.  Mark's 2 Words 2 Live By suggests You can change your life-two words at a time.
I wanted a book people could pick up for five minutes at a time and still walk away with a small nugget of information they could use to improve their lives. I decided I could put a lot of inspiration and motivation into just two words. I came up with at least two hundred two-word phrases during my brainstorming.

It's divided into five disciplines of life: physical, mental, practical, social, and spiritual.  With research or an anecdote, Mark discusses two words, for example: Physical. Seen often at the YMCA, Mark is a confessed gym rat.  Stay Healthy: Your health is your most important asset and must be protected at all costs. Do something now to improve your health. Every step you take toward better health is a step to a longer, happier life. He also gives readers an action.  Choose one new healthy habit such as taking a walk after dinner or adding a serving of vegetables to your lunch.

There's an area in which all of us can use two helpful words, Mental. To Keep Learning, Mark reads fiction for escape, especially the Jack Reacher series by Lee Child.  To broaden knowledge and for inspiration, he enjoys non-fiction.  His favorite is Lone Survivor by Marcus Luttrell.
It's an incredible tale of the bravery, courage, and compassion of the servicemen and women who protect our precious freedom.

The 2 Words I didn't expect in the Mental discipline were actually the words that helped Mark ignore self-doubt, which is what all of us, especially writers, experience: Expect Nothing. But, Mark's explanation makes sense.  It cannot be denied that human beings have an innate desire to accomplish, achieve, and accumulate.  We are satisfied when we reach our goals and unsatisfied when we do not.
I just focused on the task at hand the process of creating the book. I still expect nothing out of it.
I'd love to sell millions of copies and earn a living creating future related books. I'd love for people to tell me this book helped them change their life, even if only in a minor way. However, I look back at all I've learned and the talented people I've met who helped me complete this project, and I realize that the process is a part of what made this worthwhile, not just the product.

I especially liked Mark's Practical advice, Pursue Adventure, because it's something I don't practice nearly enough.
My absolute favorite hobby is spending time in the streams of the Appalachian mountains with a fly rod in my hand pursuing rainbow, brown, and brook trout. When I'm there all my problems disappear, if only for a while.

A life devoted to nothing but drudgery quickly dulls the spirit and dampens a person's sense of fun. There's excitement in adventures, big and small. Adventure is what makes our fondest memories.  It is what you (and your children) will remember many years from now. Mark is taking his own advice of Start planning your next adventure now.  He and son, Landon, earned their Basic Keelboat Certification in June of this year, so look for them soon sailing Hartwell Lake and in and around Charleston Harbor.

There are few endeavors more creative, frustrating or time consuming than writing and publishing a book.  The writing process for 2 Words 2 Live By took about a year without editing because it was a part time effort for Mark.  He's owned or co-owned several information technology related businesses, been a consultant to several large corporations, and invented and patented a product, which was sold to a company in Rhode Island. Presently, Mark's on a personal sabbatical, working on his bucket list, taking care of his mom, Jeanine Shufford Madden Garvin, who has Alzheimer's, and trying to figure out his next career move.

After editing, Mark had to rewrite 50-75% of the book.  This is standard. Although he encouraged himself during this process (Mark kept this a secret mainly because it was a personal bucket list item he was determined to complete regardless of what others had to say), he persevered and includes two words Encourage Someone as a Social discipline. Everyone has a memory from childhood when an adult, mom, or dad or a teacher, offered words of encouragement.  Mark's dad, Samuel Landon Madden, passed away in 1982.  But, always his biggest cheerleader, Mark knows his dad would be the most proud of him.  That's an encouragement. He realizes Adults need encouragement, too. Find a way to encourage someone this week.

Mark likes to keep the gospel simple, so his favorite passage is Matthew 22:37-40,
which basically says to love God and love others as yourself.  It also says that all the law hangs on these commands, which leads me to believe that if we would all just love God and love others as much as we love ourselves, we really wouldn't need any other laws.  What a world that would be!
Spiritual -of or pertaining to the spirit, or the soul.  Of or pertaining to God, sacred.  Most of us know I Corinthians 13: 4-7, Love is patient, kind, does not envy or boast, is not proud, does not dishonor, is not self seeking, not easily angered, keeps no record of wrong.  But, sometimes we forget this passage is a call to act.  Two words to live by Love Others: Data indicates that relationships may have as much influence on our health as do factors such as obesity, smoking, and exercise. Everyone wants to feel loved. But what about showering love upon others? His advice? Do something special for a loved one today.

Life is working, creating, and doing. It's how we grow. Writing and publishing a book began as a bucket list, but Mark's life was also changed.
I think any worthwhile endeavor changes your life. You learn, you make mistakes, you meet people who have amazing talent, you discover that through collaboration with others you can do just about anything you want to do.

Our physical, mental, practical, social, and spiritual lives could use a little improvement: Walk Daily, Be Positive, Buckle Up, Appreciate Others, Don't Envy.  With a copy of 2 Words 2 Live By in hand, each day or week, we can read at random or choose a discipline that fits our present circumstances. 

2 Words 2 Live By is simple, enjoyable, and helpful for every person at every age and walk of life, so it makes a great gift.  

Mark lives in Anderson, South Carolina with wife Sissy and son, Landon.  His daughter, Kinsley, lives in Nashville. If you live in the Anderson area, you can buy a copy directly from Mark ( his book is on Facebook). https://www.facebook.com/twowordsbooks
I hope you'll buy a copy, Start Reading and Take Action 2 Words at a time.






Tuesday, August 18, 2015

A Fish Out of Water

I recounted my Southern California and the City of Loud Trumpeting Angels saga in my post from August 4, Please Be Quiet.  In that post I mentioned Billy Graham's star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.  My first thought was "A Fish Out of Water."  I wanted to pick his star up and move it far away from the madness of L.A., thinking he didn't fit. He's too good.

I've been to The Cove in Ashville. I've sat in his prayer room overlooking the quiet, peaceful mountains. This gold star is not him, especially surrounded by people obviously not longing for a message from a man who once said, "My home is in heaven. I'm just traveling through this world."

My next thought was the opposite.  If there is a perfect time and place, and desperate people who need his wisdom, it would be Hollywood.  I wondered if he ever influenced anyone in Hollywood.

My answer came a few weeks later when my pastor shared the story of Steve McQueen. A difficult childhood led to a rough street life then finally, through hard work, to Hollywood stardom and tremendous fame and fortune.  Once asked if he believed in God, he replied, "I believe in me.  God will be number one as long as I'm number one."

With his looks and drive, Steve McQueen experienced great success as an actor,  but his star was not as bright by the late 1970's, and he began turning down offers and preferring to be alone.  Health problems took him away from Los Angeles, where he met Barbara Minty and married for the third time.  His interest in aviation led him to a new friend, Sammy Mason, who McQueen described as different from the people who had surrounded him in Hollywood.  Eventually, Steve McQueen wanted to know his secret.  Mason shared the Who that made him different, Jesus Christ.  After attending church for several months with Sammy Mason, McQueen asked the Holy Spirit into his heart.

Seeing a dramatic change in the once rough and arrogant star, people knew his commitment to Christ was serious. Unfortunately, McQueen didn't have long on this earth after his change.  Diagnosed with cancer in 1979, the actor stated that he knew where he'd spend eternity.  He had one last request, though. He wanted to meet Billy Graham.  Rev. Graham visited a bed-ridden, on oxygen, Steve McQueen, and the actor shared his life, old and new.  Before Steve McQueen flew to a hospital for his final surgery,  Billy Graham inscribed his own Bible and gave it to him. Four days later, McQueen died with Rev. Graham's open bible on his chest.

I have been sent to proclaim faith to those God has chosen and to teach them to know the truth that shows them how to live godly lives.  This truth gives them confidence that they have eternal life, which God-who does not lie-promised them before the world began. Titus 1:1-2

I don't know how Billy Graham felt when his star was placed on the Walk of Fame, but I have a feeling he didn't think, "I'm too good. I don't fit in."  He is an evangelist, sharer of the Good News of Christ. Jesus reminds us in Matthew 9, "Healthy people don't need a doctor-sick people do. For I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners."

Rev. Graham was available to all men.  Even in his younger, healthier years, I'd guess he preferred his retreat in Asheville and his home in Montreat, North Carolina over Los Angeles and the many other cities around the world he visited, but he knew his calling was to go, preach, share, and listen. He was both spiritual advisor and friend to many, even when it was unpopular.  Not only did he invite Martin Luther King, Jr. to preach jointly in New York City in 1957, he bailed him out of jail years later when Dr. King was arrested during demonstrations.
Rev. Graham wasn't afraid to leave his quiet, comfortable surroundings or befriend those unchanged by Christ, understanding that he lived in a dark world that needed God's light, words and love.  I'll willing to bet any star in 1979 would have rushed to McQueen's bedside if asked.  But thanks to the influence of Sammy Mason, who was different, McQueen asked for someone he had wanted to meet for a long time, Rev. Graham.

A fish longs for water, his home.  So do I. I long for my comfort zone and others like me, don't you? But, as believers, we can't hide from darkness. God calls us for a purpose.

Sometimes he calls us to be a fish out of water,








Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Mama Cromer

The service for Allie Mae Cromer was a celebration of her godly life of 102 years.  "Beautiful on the inside and out" has become so cliché, but I can honestly say that Allie Mae Cromer was truly this and more.  Ten years ago, her granddaughter Amanda Vickery, one of my closest friends, wrote an accurate, unforgettable story about her Mama Cromer for Grandparents' Day at Midway Elementary School, where she teaches. Both privileged and honored, I read it at Mama Cromer's service. 

The story was followed perfectly by a message by her pastor, Don Cox. I know you'll enjoy Amanda's story as much as I did.  And please, don't miss the message after that.  Both Amanda and Don gave me so much to think about for my own life. 

My Grandmother
Allie Mae Cromer

Allie Mae (17) &
Claude Cromer
My grandmother, Allie Mae Cromer, born in the year 1913, grew up picking cotton for less than 30 cents a day. She grew up in a small but full home with eight brothers and sisters.  During her elementary school years, she would often go and stay with her aunt in town to attend the town school and come home on weekends. Her favorite Bible verse is Proverbs 31:30, "Charm is deceptive and beauty disappears, but a woman who honors the Lord shall be praised."  She lives out this verse in her life each day.
I always dreamed of having a little girl one day and naming her after my Grandmother.  In 1996, my dream came true.  Our daughter, Allie Cromer Vickery, was born.  My grandmother was so thrilled to hear that we had named our Allie after her.  We decided to go with Allie Cromer, leaving out the Mae knowing one day she would "get us good." My grandmother could not understand why we would name our daughter Allie. Here are some of the reasons we did:
Mama Cromer, as most call her, turned 95 in May.  She has piercing blue eyes that twinkle and a sweet cackling laugh.  She is 95 going on 18.  She even has Oil of Olay anti-age wrinkle cream in her medicine cabinet.  She washes her own little station wagon AND drives it, too.  She never misses church and backs her own car up in her parking space each Sunday.
Not long ago after church one Sunday, it was raining really hard.  I said, "Mama Cromer, let me go and get your car for you."  She said, "No, honey, I'm fine!" She proceeded to put her black leather purse on her frail shoulder, her black leather Bible under her armpit and pop up her "flowery" umbrella and head off in her black leather pumps.
Her favorite shows are Jeopardy and Price is Right.  She continues to bake her famous coconut cake.  She still insists on doing it the old-fashioned way by breaking the coconut herself on her driveway.  She grates the coconut only on the fine side of the grater. (That takes a lot longer!)
Most of all, my grandmother is known for her flower garden. It is more magnificent that any words could ever say! It is where we gather each Easter to hide eggs.  We have to be careful amongst her flowers.  Each flower has a tin stake labeled with a shaky hand-written name of each flower.  My grandfather made all of these for her before he died.
She goes to bed at 8:00 and rises at 5:00.  (These days she even wakes at 12:00 midnight to turn off her sprinkler). Early each morning she heads straight out to her garden.  If you ride by her house, you can see her bent over body and the silhouette of her wide brim sunhat.  You really don't notice her small white wood house because it is surrounded with so much beauty! She has gardened her entire life.  Her garden is loved and visited by so many people.  She says that God has multiplied her seeds and bulbs because she has shared them with friends and family.  Although she lives alone, she is never lonely, for she has so many garden visitors during the day.

She wins awards for her flowers, too.  Mainly, she is known for her daylilies.  One time, she even won an award for winning the most awards.  Another time, she won a Bass boat and sold it to purchase central heat and air for her home.

She is a strong and prideful woman.  I have never known a woman quite like her.  Over her 95 years, she has lost her husband and one of her five children to cancer.  She has kept her strong spirit through it all.  Her beautiful blue twinkling eyes are beginning to fail her, and her hearing is growing weak.  Other than that, she is still much like the young girl picking cotton, but in an aged body.

After my own father died, she and my mama became best friends again.  During Grandparents' week, she always comes to Midway with Mama.  My daddy never had a chance to come and visit our wonderful school.  My mama gently leads Mama Cromer's frail body down these long shiny halls.  She holds on to her tightly every step of the way.  Having her here at Midway for Grandparents' Day is all I have ever known.  "I can't imagine," she tells us, "being a part of such a wonderful, beautiful school as this. Midway is such an opportunity," she tells my girls.  They ask her about when she was in school.  She tells them of how schools were long ago.  We are all amazed at how things have changed.

That one little girl I dreamed of turned into two little girls.  My prayer for them both is that they grow up to be like my Mama Cromer.

Amanda Vickery

Amanda's prayer for Allie and Maggie is what a mother's prayer should be for her daughter, a faithful and giving life. 

As for me, my life has already been poured out as an offering to God. The time of my death is near. I have fought the good fight.  I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful. 2 Timothy 4:6-7

Paul encouraged Timothy personally and challenged him to be faithful and persevere in his ministry.  Dr. Cox spoke of Mama Cromer's race.

Looking at the tiny frame of Mrs. Cromer, you might not think of her as a warrior or a runner, but in essence, in Christ that is what she was. She became a disciple of Jesus earlier in life when she placed her trust in Jesus to be her Lord and Savior.  She was one who put her hand to the plow and never looked back. Her battle and race was not like that of Apostle Paul.  She did not face martyrdom, but she was faithful in that sense that all Christians are called to be in how she lived life in the sphere the Lord gave to her.

Mrs. Cromer's battle, her race, was more along the lines of 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12 "make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders."

Paul places this type of life right in the center of what it means to be faithful to Jesus.

As Amanda mentioned in her story, Mama Cromer's yard was a sight to behold.  In Anderson, most know about her yard, especially her daylilies.  No matter how fragile, she didn't stop working.  Everyone knew she enjoyed God's creation. Dr. Cox reminded us that not only did she enjoy communing with her Savior as she worked, she also glorified Him with the array of colors that grew up due to her diligence. 

Amanda prays for her daughters to be like Mama Cromer, but that is actually an appropriate prayer for all of us.  I, too, need to grow up to be like Mama Cromer. She was a person in love with Jesus who did good and showed kindness.  If she gave you a flower from her garden, she gave the best that she had.  Dr. Cox challenged her family, and I felt challenged as well.

As Paul wrote to encourage Timothy through his life, you her family know that as she loved you, raised you, spent those times talking with you, listening to you, praying for you, cooking for you, she was doing that to model before you how a believer should live for the Lord. She wanted to be a consistent witness, and she was. Allie Mae had to make choices to sacrifice so as to minister to others and to advance the cause of Jesus. Mrs. Cromer would want you her family and us her friends to see her life in the light of Paul's words to Timothy.  She was pouring her life out for Christ not so as to earn eternal life but because she had received eternal life as a gift. As she lived out her life by the principles of the faith she kept or to which she was faithful, she would want us to run the race well.    

Mama Cromer lived a faithful life, even in difficult circumstances.  She was certainly a role model for those seeking to live that life.

You are known as ones who are part of the family of Allie Mae Cromer-a great woman in the eyes of God. As people could always look at her and see faithfulness, as they could pass by her house on that little corner with the beautiful garden and be reminded that the fragrance of Jesus hangs there as much as the fragrance of flowers, so let your homes and your lives continually be known likewise.

I can only hope and pray that when my race is finished, I leave a story as this,