My story begins…

When my mother’s life began among the stained-glass windows and church pews where her own mother played piano.  A surrendered life to God in salvation and baptism would be the spark that set Kingdom brush fires in the hearts of her future children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, only to set aflame those generations beyond her life.

Now, growing up in a family of six children, my mother passed on her old fashioned, spiritual heritage to us; the pews, the stain glassed windows, and hymns we’ve treasured throughout our lives.

  My heart still leaps when I hear The Old Rugged Cross, How Great Thou Art, and I Surrender All played from the piano during worship at church.  These songs never collect dust or lose their power.  They resurrect that old reminder that God never changes; He is good and faithful yesterday, today, and forever.

One of my favorite songs I remember singing as a child seated on the pews of the old country church my mother took us to was Blessed Assurance, especially when getting to the chorus…

…This is My Story
Written by Fanny Crosby
Composer Phoebe Knapp

This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior all the day long.
This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior all the day long.

I praise the Lord with my song…

This is My Story…

I can close my eyes and still remember as if it was yesterday.

A lighthouse known for its glorious steeple lifting its countenance upwards towards the heavens in praise, whose doors swing open into a haven of peace and refuge, an old-fashioned church of my childhood.

Counting our blessings…
naming them one by one.

 There are certain snapshots of my childhood recalled from the albums of my memory which take me back to the potter’s wheel, a place of molding, making and fashioning a little girl who would one day surrender her heart to Jesus.

An old-fashioned church with an old-fashioned pastor, a congregation of sheep who God sent to lead, to preach and sing often his signature song I still hear in my memory, when Jesus left the ninety-and-nine for the one who strayed away.
Mother didn’t drive for many years when we were young and with dad working around the clock, we got to church the old-fashioned way, on foot where mom walked us to a country church, we attended one block away from home.

Mother always made sure her six children attended church.
No matter the weather, we ducks marched single file behind mother (who carried the youngest) in a direction towards a stately steeple, our neighborhood lighthouse to guide the way.

God’s love on a bright morning illuminated a sanctuary of stain-glassed windows in a little girl’s mind.
With only a piano, organ, and Brother Bob Allen to lead our congregation into song and consecrated prayer, mother and her six children took up an entire pew as we worshiped together dressed in our Sunday best.

Mother always made sure we kids attended a week of vacation bible school in the summer.  Back in the day when mothers didn’t work, scores of children lined the church steps at 9:00 am where selected boys and girls carrying the American Flag, the Christian Flag and the Bible led the way into the sanctuary for a few songs before class.

Vacation bible school was about getting kids excited to learn and watch those famous bible stories come to life on flannel graphs, following up with related crafts, and snacks.  Walking single file for a brief recess, I loved being a kid passing the kitchen table reaching for a Styrofoam cup of Kool-Aid and cookies stacked in twos.  Best of all, the five days of vacation bible school ended with a Friday night celebration where parents enjoyed a program from each class, then traveled room to room to see their child’s work from the week on display.

In addition to vacation bible school, mother diligently saved through the year so we girls could attend a week of church camp located a few hours away.  Girls from all over the state enjoyed cabin living, swimming, hiking, boating, crafts, bible lessons and the best food ever served in the mess hall.  Mornings began around the flagpole where prayers welcomed the day.  In the evening seated in an outdoors theatre type setting in full view of the lake, we enjoyed Vespers together, a time of singing and preaching.

I gave my heart to Jesus at church camp one summer, remembering the moment like it happened an hour ago.
Following that life-changing week at camp and as a young girl during the song services of the old hymns, we as a family sat together and took our seat on a wooden pew near the front.

The words on those reverent hymnal pages sounded a different tune and stirred a desire over the years for Jesus to shine His bright light from my life much like the morning rays blinding our eyes through the windows on each side of our Southern Baptist church and make me a blessing to someone today.

By Ira B. Wilson (1909)

 Make me a blessing,
Make me a blessing.
Out of my life, may Jesus shine.
Make me a blessing, O Savior, I pray.
Make me a blessing to someone today.

Growing up during a Sunday morning altar call in our small Southern Baptist Church with those wooden pews and God’s love shining through the wall of windows, a place of sweet memories to a little girl, the organ quietly played as the Lord wooed our hearts to Himself for the secret place…

Softly and Tenderly Jesus is Calling
By Will L. Thompson

Softly and tenderly Jesus is calling,
Calling for you and for me.
See on the portals
He’s waiting and watching
Watching for you and for me.

 That Sunday while God beckoned His children to Himself through the song playing in the background…

Come home…
Come home…
Ye who are weary
Come home.

 This thirteen-year-old took those steps of surrender to an old-fashioned altar and made a public profession of faith how I gave my life to Jesus at church camp a few days prior.
Growing up my whole life in church didn’t save me from an eternity without God; but confessing my sin and asking for forgiveness and thanking Jesus for taking my place on the cross to die an unspeakable death for my guilt would, allowing me to live with Him forever.

For God so loved the world
That he gave his one and only Son,
That whoever believes in him
Shall not perish but have eternal life.
John 3:16 NIV

You Lord, are my Shepherd!!!

Decades have passed since my mother and her six children attended an old-fashioned church with an old-fashioned pastor, leading a congregation of sheep who God sent to lead, to preach and sing often his signature song to.

Sitting now in my living room is an old-fashioned pew to remind the little girl in me her great heritage sitting next to her mother, brother and four sisters on an old-fashioned pew singing the old hymns of our childhood.

A part of my heart remains here in this church.
I was baptized in this church.
I was married in this church.

A part of my history is baked in these four walls known to us children as
First Southern Baptist Church of South Haven.

Decades later, the old-fashioned hymn and anthem of my heart is still the same…

Make me a blessing, O Savior, I pray.
Make me a blessing to someone today.