Saturday, March 28, 2009

Unwrapping the Gift

In my Daddy’s big white truck, Julia and I made wheel marks a couple of Sundays ago in the grass parking lot of the First Baptist Church of my hometown. All the while I was scolding myself for not getting up a little earlier. Why is it that sleep comes so fast, hard and LONG in my childhood bed? I had 2 (female) heads to wash and blow dry before we could leave the house. As Daddy has done many times, he yelled up the stairs and told me his keys were on the island once he realized that waiting on me would make him late. Practically dragging Julia down the weathered sidewalk in front of the church, I was hoping that my brother’s class had gotten off to a late start since I had told him I would be there. When I charged through small double doors, the first welcome I received was the all too familiar smell of the church in which I grew up. After getting a full inhale, I looked down and saw the attendance and offering envelopes by the doors of each Sunday School room. The simple smells and sights ended my rush. I noticed the signs which marked the names of the classes that hadn’t changed since before I was born- mainly those named after devoted servants of the Lord and lifelong students of His Word who were now with their beloved Teacher. Just around the corner, I found Julia’s class, completely interrupting the teacher’s momentum, I am sure, but as any respectable small town lady would, she graciously welcomed Julia. My daughter took her seat around the little table as if she did it every Sunday. Blake’s class was NOT where he told me it would be. When I finally figured it out by process of elimination, I couldn’t bring myself to walk in because I could picture in my mind how the room was laid out and the chances of that having changed were slim. I would walk in right behind the teacher who happened to be the pastor. Nope. Couldn’t do that. I would just have to explain my predicament to Blake later which I knew would produce a look of , “???????”.

There was one classroom I had a feeling that I could just slip in the door and right into a chair without drawing unwanted attention to myself. It was Denise’s class. I don’t remember the exact years I had the privilege of having her for a teacher because she was one of those I learned from anytime I was with her whether it be in her Sunday School class, riding in her car to Dublin or watching her make her family’s dinner. Incidentally, nothing has changed. So for me, the years run together in a beautiful, meaningful, critical kind of way.
As I slipped into the choir room into the chair right by the door, I felt like I was 14 again watching a lovely lady sit on a stool and open up God’s Word in the most thought provoking, practical kind of way. Her teaching always went FAR beyond Sunday morning and took you right into your week, your month, your school year, your career and for me, into my marriage and my parenting as well. With that seeming glow and familiar smile on her face, she was saying the same profound and wonderful things that changed my life some 20 plus years ago. I couldn’t help but grin when she had trouble reading her own hand writing-something I always found amusing. I used to picture her the week before excitedly and quickly writing down the Truths that God wanted her to share with us. She always said that Pharmacy school had ruined her handwriting. Now, I know what she meant. Just like twenty years ago, it is so much about what she says but it is just as much her passion, her love and her devotion to Jesus. Every bit of it emanates from her making you want to listen and making you want what she has- whatever she has, you want it. One only needs to listen a couple of minutes to find out, clearly, it is Jesus. She has Him in the best sort of way.
Just like me, she grew up in Soperton, and even worked at my family’s drugstore. When I was in elementary school, she was away earning her pharmacy degree in Athens. She married her high school sweet heart, John, and had her reception at our home, a notion I tucked away, even then, as I watched her as a beautiful, celebrated bride. She then helped put her husband through dental school in Augusta and when they returned to their hometown to make a home and start a family, they were different people.

In my early teens, I had never met anyone like Denise. I was definitely intrigued. As she and John began to volunteer in our youth group, their genuine love for me and concern for my spiritual growth drew me in. A natural discipleship relationship was born and I have never been the same since. Along with pages and pages full, I learned the value and absolute necessity of a daily time with the Lord. I learned the treasure of memorizing Scripture. I learned that prayer was a lifeline and that it didn’t have to be fancy. I learned the importance of accountability and the benefits of guarding my heart. I learned that being with other believers was as much fun as anyone could ever have. I was challenged, taught, inspired, prayed for, corrected, and loved.

She and John were partners in every sense of the word and as I write, I am finding it very difficult to talk about one and not the other. John could be a post himself and IF I were to write one, I would tell you that he, along with my Daddy, shaped the image of what I was looking for in a husband, just like Denise and my Mom shaped my ideas of who I wanted to be as a wife. I would tell you about the letters he sent me in college with the sole purpose of encouraing me- my favorite one being the one with four quarters taped to the bottom for my supper out of the Science Library’s vending machine. (He knew me so well.) I would tell you that he taught himself HEBREW so he could study God’s word more thoroughly. If I ever called him—from the library pay phone-- distraught, his first question would be, “What have you eaten today?” Needless to say, my answer was never good. I would NOT be able to leave out the fact that he was on the youth trip of ALL male chaperones when I experienced the unprecedented most traumatic experience of my adolescent life. (You cannot imagine. Trust me.) The last thing I would tell you IF I were to write this post about John is the best advice he ever gives—which I have received even within the last two years. Ready? Write this down. “Go get yourself some chocolate.” But since I am not going to write one……………………

So sitting there in the choir room that Sunday, I looked at all the young people in front of me wondering if they knew what a functional, unusual gift they were being given in a teacher like Denise. To have this sound teaching from someone whose track record shows an abundance of fruit and faithfulness is rare. She has a rich history with the Lord and countless hours in the Word and in prayer. She has two grown children who are walking with God and are seeking to serve Him in their life’s work. I have seen her trust Him in all sorts of situations- some easy, some heart- wrenching, and some that won’t be resolved on this side of glory. Her love for Him and belief in His goodness is stronger now than when I was 14 because of her journey with Him.
In my early teens, I can tell you, I had no idea the gift I was being given. At 38, I find it hard to fathom that God would give me such a unique gift, for this one is opened again and again whether it be with my Bible in my lap before my children rise, a gentle and quiet attitude with Jeff, a prayer that rises up without thought, a memorized verse that comes at just the right time, or a good moment in parenting. My job now is to unwrap it and give it away again and again.

Denise, thank you for presenting your gift in such a beautiful, consistent and loving way. I love you!


Alyssa said...

I'm thankful for those who have poured into you and for the fact that you ARE giving the gift away. Wish these precious people would come live here!

TJ Wilson said...

what jewels you both are for each other. love this, and I know I'm not the only one who does!

Margie said...

Wow, Krista, this was a great post. Loved hearing about Denise. I am inspired!