Sandy's Blog


Board the Bus

As a child and youth, I rode a bus for nearly 5,000 hours, not counting field trips, ball games, and band trips. I’ve been on countless bus trips for church activities including riding from Illinois to Virginia for the centennial celebration for WMU in 1988. In college, I drove a bus for a private high school. Each afternoon I would transport students to different locations in the city for their physical education class. In Arkansas, I drove a church bus. In Texas, I drove a school bus converted into a WorldCrafts market. I’ve spent lots of time on buses.

One year we placed the WorldCrafts bus inside a convention center for an annual gathering of Baptists. Children begged to sit behind the huge wheel of the large bus. What tickled me was the fact that some adults asked to do the same. There was something magical about stepping onto a school bus. Several talked about riding a bus as a child, and the experience transported them to that carefree place for a moment.

Floor Therapy

There were simply not enough hours in the day. One answered email prompted multiple responses, which then needed to be addressed. Multiply that by hundreds of emails waiting in my inbox. The aftermath of a huge event had taken its toll. Fatigue and exhaustion had engulfed my body. A problem I could not resolve was the last straw. I could feel the darkness of pervasive sadness and weariness threaten to consume my spirit.

It takes a great deal to get me to that point. I’m pretty positive by nature. Yet that’s where I found myself the afternoon I slipped into her office. My back hit the wall and I slid to the floor. I guess it was apparent something was amiss. She quietly rose from her chair and joined me on the floor. 

She showed no outward appearances of baring resentment for the interruption. Her hours had been as long as mine. She kindly offered attention without a trace of judgment. I don’t remember what counsel she offered at that particular moment in time. I am sure it was right on target because she always measures her words carefully and speaks with great wisdom that belies her age.

Endure the Storm

I missed my 35th high school reunion. A high school classmate tracked me down on social media to find out what I was doing. She ended her message with these words: “I’m wheelchair bound now. Multiple sclerosis (MS) is winning.” On the same day, I was traveling with a friend to an event in North Carolina. We had just arrived at Fort Caswell Baptist Assembly right on the Atlantic Ocean. We rounded a bend and a tree captivated my attention. I asked my friend to take a picture of the tree because it told a story.

It was easy to see the plant had weathered storm upon storm. Undoubtedly hurricane-force winds tried time and time again to uproot the tree. Yet she stood firm. Although you can clearly observe the effects of sustained assaults, the tree refused to relinquish her place.

Tender Care for the Hurting

Six hundred forty miles separated me from my parents. It’s hard to get an accurate picture of the real situation from that far away. The winter before, my father had been put on life support but made a miraculous recovery. Each day was a gift. I listened carefully to the description of symptoms. After the phone call with my mother ended, I immediately dialed a nurse friend. She said, “I believe you should drop what you are doing and make a trip to Illinois to be with your family.” I will always be grateful for that timely advice.

My father was immediately put on hospice. Nurse friends from the local hospital sent him a care basket. How blessed we were by the ministry of nurses who came in and out of the home to care for him. A few days after Christmas, I remember dialing a phone with trembling hands late one night. I whispered, “My father cannot breathe because of the pain. What should we do?” The nurse calmly walked us through the medicine to administer. She stayed on the phone until I was confident in what to do. His pain became manageable and his breathing steadied.

Only an “Obstacle” Illusion

I love to hear words children use and things they say. Our neighbors in Illinois were Catholic. When my daughter, Hannah, was young, she would always tell me things her friend Meredith said about the “nums.” The “nums?” I wondered. It took me a while to figure out she meant “nuns.”

When Hannah was very young, she said to me one day, “Mom, you’re getting on my nerds.”

A neighbor girl was singing in the back of the car, “Crazy the Lord, hallelujah; crazy the Lord, hallelujah.” Her Mom said, “Allison, I think that’s supposed to be ‘praise ye the Lord, hallelujah’ not ‘crazy the Lord.’ ” Allison tried her best to get the words right. Finally, she said, “Mom, I like my way better,” and she went back to her version of the song.

Together for His Kingdom

Years ago, my husband and I worked with singles in our church. One of our social outings was a river canoe trip. One year my friend Melinda and I were paired in a canoe. It was a great day. The sun was shining. We proceeded without major incident until the very end of the trip. There had been a tremendous amount of rain that spring. The river ran high and fast. It was not a problem until the last bend right before we were to take the canoes out of the river. The force of the water made it difficult to navigate the canoe. Our canoe hit a bridge embankment and flipped. I got trapped between the canoe and a tree under the water line. The water was rushing so fast, I could not move.

I was a strong swimmer and felt very comfortable in the water, but I started to panic being trapped. I finally got my head above water enough to scream. I saw out of the corner of my eye a man sitting on the bank looking upstream. I yelled, “Help!” as loud as I could.

Shifting Gears

My husband tore a tendon in his shoulder. He cannot drive his six-speed car, so we’ve switched vehicles. It’s been nearly three decades since I drove a car with a manual transmission. I was a bit nervous, wondering if I would be able to manage the clutch. After a few excursions, I fell back into the rhythm of shifting gears. The experience has reminded me of key leadership principles.

Focus on WMU is this month. As you bring attention to the programs and ministries of WMU, take a moment and focus on your own missions influence. Often plans are made at the beginning of the church year and WMU leaders are on automatic cruise control by midyear. Take time to assess missions progress. Do you need to speed up and shift to another gear to implement a new initiative? You may need to consider reducing speed and downshift to spend more time emphasizing a particular missions strategy of your congregation. You must be flexible to shift gears as needed.

Break from Routine

Mornings came early in seminary. I had to be at the cafeteria by 5:30 a.m. to work my shift. I also babysat, cleaned houses, and fulfilled National Guard duties. Between classes and odd jobs, there was little study time and practically no down time whatsoever. Class attendance was expected. Chapel attendance was optional. I hope you will not judge me too harshly, but sometimes I would skip chapel in favor of the $.99 all you can eat biscuits and gravy at a local restaurant. I will say I was not the only seminarian occasionally feasting on downhome cooking rather than the Word during the chapel hour.

Yet one chapel comes to mind as I think about the New Year. The chaplain spoke during this particular service. Our campus had signs posted that read, "Please walk on the grass but don't make paths." I can't remember the specific Bible text he used, but the chaplain said we should pay attention to the grass signs and apply the principle to our lives.

Prayer and Giving Dovetail

My earliest Christmas memories revolve around church life. I remember spending hours practicing lines for Christmas pageants. All children were in the productions. I don’t recall it being optional. Afterward we would exchange gifts in our small country church. Before leaving, my dad would lead the congregation to sing “Away in a Manger.” The number of words and verses would depend on the status of our Lottie Moon Christmas Offering goal. Hopefully by our Christmas celebration, the target would be met. Christmas lights poking through a homemade wooden board lit up the song.

The best was yet to come. Everyone was given a brown paper lunch sack filled with goodness on his or her way out the door. The gift bag always contained a handful of peanuts, a few old-fashioned creams, an orange, and some hard candy. The Baptist Sunday School Board may have produced literature about how to pack the treats, because many my age remember receiving the same gift bags at their churches.

18 Thanksgivings and Counting

I carry the images of November 25, 1999, in my heart. Our court date was May 25 earlier in the same year. I recall the date well because it was my 35th birthday. When panic started to rise in my chest, I would remind myself that my name was on the missionary prayer calendar. Southern Baptists around the globe would be praying for me and my family. I still remember overwhelming feelings of relief when the judge brought down his gavel and rendered the verdict. However, the decision would not be final until November 25, Thanksgiving Day.

Family traveled to east Tennessee for our traditional Thanksgiving gathering. Every reunion is unique and filled with wonderful reasons to celebrate shared experiences. Back then roosters at the homestead would herald the day long before sunrise. On that occasion, I did not mind. It seemed they wanted to launch the festivities. As roosters began crowing, I felt the profound significance of the day.

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