Recently I added more pictures to my parent's digital photo frame and came across some photographs that really took me back. Not because I haven't thought of the people in those pictures in a long time. But because though I haven't seen them in years, they're still with me. They've been gone from this earth for a long time, but I still carry them inside me--what they gave me, what they taught me, and the faith they lived out every day.
God brought Laura Hall into my life when I was a preteen but our relationship really deepened in my late teens and early twenties. By that time, Laura had buried her husband, her kids were grown, she had grandchildren not much younger than me, and she was a wild woman!
On Friday nights, Laura and I would head to Athens, a little Greek restaurant tucked away in Decatur, Georgia where they served the best Baklava I've ever had. Oh wait, it was the first Baklava I'd ever had. LOL! Laura introduced me to many things, not the least of which was yummy Greek food, watching classic old movies on The Silver Screen, and how to find joy and laughter in just about everything.
Pictured below is my husband and I after our wedding reception. As we were getting into the car to drive away...out popped Laura from the backseat! She'd been hiding there, waiting for us. She now waits in heaven and I can only imagine her joy as she anticipates the Lord returning to gather us all Home.
The next picture is one of me and my kids with my mother-in-law, Claudette Harris Alexander (followed with one of Claudette with kids alone). We're at Bear Lake in Estes Park, Colorado, and if you can't already tell by my hair, it was the early 90s (perm, baby, perm!). We'd just hiked around the lake. Claudette was an avid walker and a fabulous Gran.
I knew Claudette before I ever met Joe. She was my girl's club sponsor in college. When I graduated, I made sure that Claudette and my mom met because Claudette had become very special to me during those years. Claudette and my mom, June, really hit it off, and after breakfast that morning, Mom leaned over to her and said, "Claudette, I wish you had a son!" Claudette beamed and said, "Oh I do! I do have a son!"
The rest, as they say, is history.
Following her untimely death in 1995, Claudette led me to this journey of writing (more on thathere, under the question "When did you decide to write a novel?"). Her unwavering faith and optimism, her dedication to reading and loving the Word of God, still encourage and challenge me today. As I stated in Rekindled's dedication, "Scout out the best hiking trails, Claudette, we'll be home soon."
This next picture is of Ben and Lyda Mullins, my uncle and aunt, on the front porch of their former home in Dellrose, Tennessee. If you've read any of the Timber Ridge Reflection novels, you might recognize their names. With Aunt Lyda's permission, I used their names for two of my characters in these novels. And yes, years ago, the "real" Uncle Ben and Aunt Lyda owned a local general store too.
Uncle Ben has been gone for many years now, but I still remember his easy smile, the way he called the cows in from the fields, and how he used to pluck a potato straight from the ground, wash it off, and then he'd peel it and we'd eat it as we walked.
Thankfully, my Aunt Lyda is still with us. I visited her not long ago as she lives only a short distance from me now (pictured below). She and I reminisced about the weeks my brother and I would visit them in Dellrose during summers as we grew up, and we laughed over the memories.
I'm sure you have special people in your life as well. Those still with you and those who have gone on before. Along with you, I'm thanking God right now for sending these precious souls, and many others, into my life to shape me for eternity, and to encourage my journey Home.
No wonder Hebrews 12:1 is a favorite verse:
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.
Running the race alongside you...