I was raised out in the country and life consisted mostly of family, home, and church. I believe we took 3 vacations in my entire growing up years. We didn’t go to movies and seldom even to a mall. The closest mall was an hours drive away for many years so our shopping excursions were rare.
We went into town once each week to buy groceries and would have a burger at Burger Chief, just my mom, Nanny, and me except for Summers when my sister wasn’t in school and could join us. I had 2 playmates, my cousin, Richard, who was one year younger than me, and a neighbor friend, Brenda, who was one year older, and…I had my sister who I was determined would be my playmate too, but we really didn’t play all that well together. We loved each other, but I wanted to be just like her in every way and I was 4 years younger and our temperaments were not even similar! I wanted constant verbal interaction, much like my son Noah longs for these days, and she was far more quiet and reserved. By the time she was 16, and I was 12, we had both matured enough to begin to really enjoy each other and I could not ask to have a better more loving sister.
We went to an association of churches that visited amongst themselves and each church typically met once per month. Now, some folks only went once per month to their particular church, but many others visited around and were attending church every Sunday. We were one of the latter families. Because of the association and the visitation among several churches, we met lots of folks. Each church had a revival week during Summers and we began going to revivals in June and would go until the end of August. There were 2 services each day, one in the morning and one in the evening. We often went mornings and would go home with one of the families who were having dinner for the preachers and would stay and visit until time to return to the evening service. This made for much playtime for the kids and social time for parents. It was fun to get to be with all the children and when I look back to my childhood, it is those times that I most often recall, especially this time of year.
Sometimes just being outside late evenings and hearing the night creatures singing their songs with the feel of Summer’s air caressing my skin opens my mind and heart to those long ago days. None of the churches had air conditioning so the windows were fully raised letting in the air and the sounds of nature while we listened to singing, prayers, and preaching. The memories are alive with the many sensations that combined to create them all those years ago.
As I was rocking Riley a few moments ago, I was singing Amazing Grace to him and suddenly I was transported back to a time when I looked into the face of a precious man, a dear friend of mine, who sang that song with such passion and sincerity it did not fail to bring tears to my eyes. One of the most humble and loving men I’ve ever known, one who was many, many years older than me, old enough to be my grandfather, but nevertheless, my friend. He would so often find my eyes with his own when he sang and would smile with such loving affection I would literally feel his sweet heart embracing mine. I often think of the untold prayers he must have prayed for me over the years as he was a praying man and spent many hours of his life appealing to God on others’ behalf. How I miss that white haired gentleman who loved Jesus more than life and encouraged me to do the same!
I can recall some sermons from that long ago time, but the memories that tend to remain the strongest are those of the hymns that were sung, one after the other, for hours on end while folks were in the alter praying. Something so amazingly beautiful often happened as we whiled away the hours in song and prayer, such communion in Spirit, such soothing sounds, and true words…I’ll never forget!
Usually, at least once during a revival week there would be what we called a “testimony service” where the Pastor would ask members to share their “experience of grace” meaning, their salvation story. They were also welcome to share prayer requests and they often did both. I can recall one after the other of these testimonies, each one dear and precious to me as they were to each person who stood to share. Something so very personal, so very precious being put into words and shared in honor of our Savior and the great and apparent appreciation of the one who spoke seemed to lodge their testimonies into my heart and mind forever.
By Summer’s end, we had become so accustomed to seeing friends regularly that the thought of it coming to an end was very sad. Each year, the next seemed so far away, and yet, as I look back, all the years seem to have occurred in a blink. Those experiences were the beginning of my walk of faith, and I recognize how intricately woven together my story is with the stories of others who shared that time and place.
As my little ones linger in my arms, listening to those same sweet songs I heard from the lips of long ago friends, many who have already departed from this life, I long for them to know the goodness, the love, and the joy that only Jesus can bring.
May this stir in you sweet memories of times past and give you hope of more good to come!