In the past few weeks I have written about making your day a BIG day. What is a BIG day? Well, for me, it’s being keenly aware of the people around me and sensitive to what they may need. If I ask God to help me see the need in others….I believe He will show me. Maybe someone needs a smile, a helping hand, some undivided attention, a listening ear, eye to eye contact or just some good ol’ fashioned hospitality! Whatever the need is, I see what I can do to fill it. Anyway, if not me…God may choose someone else….so, why not me? Why not you? A seemingly small act can turn an average, hum drum day into a BIG day, maybe for you….maybe for someone else! It’s just that simple.
Have I made every day a BIG day? Nope.
Have I missed opportunities? I’m sure I have, I’m human.
Once again, let me say, this effort of mine to have a BIG day is not about me or tooting my own horn. I’m just trying to get the most out of every day and take advantage of every opportunity that God brings my way. My hope is that by sharing my experiences, both big and small, they might inspire you think about how you can make a BIG day too!
Here is a little story that opened my eyes on the importance of investing in people and how many times, it can come full circle.
On January 5th I received word that the mother of a dear friend of mine was in the hospital and not doing well at all. Not only was she my friends mother, she was also my pastors wife that I had as a young girl. Let me back up a bit and give a little more history.
In 1977, I stepped on to the campus of Evangel Christin School in Eight Mile, Alabama for the very first time. I was in the eighth grade…you know….the awkward years. It’s a time when you’re not really a kid but you’re far from an adult. It’s the chubby stage, the silly stage, the goofy stage and a very impressional stage to say the least. It was at this time in my life when I found myself and the Lord too! You see, this school was an extension of the ministry of Lakeview Assembly of God Church and I, and my parents, am a product of that ministry. A ministry that was led by Kenneth Woods and his Precious wife Sandy.
Not only were they the pastors of the church, they were also hands on and very much a part of the school. Sis. Woods, as we so affectionally called her, worked in the school office. I don’t really remember what she did there, I just know she was an ever present “mom” to us all. She had an eternal smile and a reassuring presence about her that was felt by all. She was basically Bro. Wood’s better half….in every way! Bro. Woods (Kenneth) was for me a symbol of the kind of no nonsense strength it takes to be a leader. He was tall and strong…in stature and will. He made me want to be better…because I knew that’s what he expected….the best I could be. He wanted that for all of us, even more so, he wanted that for his three daughters, Rhonda, Ginger and Staci. Bless his heart….so much estrogen…he was so outnumbered!
I watched, from the sidelines, how this family operated. How they dealt with each other and the people around them. They were fun, they were real and they were a great example for a young girl like myself.
In church, Bro. Woods and Sandy were the same on the platform as they were at the football game as they were at home. They were real. They were approachable. As a pastors wife myself, I have tried to model this in my life as well….I have tried to mirror their example.
Over the years, Ginger and I would find ourselves “in the same boat” many times. We cheered together, we sat beside each other in choir (her constant harmonizing drove me crazy!), we were college room mates at CBC, we found our husbands the same summer and we were in each others wedding. We even spent our first year, as married women, two doors down from each other in the married housing at CBC! There is a lot of history between us to say the least.
Over the years, we let life get in the way and basically lost touch with each other. Sad but true. A few years ago, thanks to Facebook, we found each other and picked up right where we left off.
When I heard about her dear mother being in the hospital, as I stated earlier, I felt sad all over and sad for her daughters and Bro. Woods as well. Memories began to flood my mind of all the love this great woman of God shared with so many. Later that day, Mrs. Sandy Woods went on to be with the Lord. Everything she did in life, her love and unconditional acceptance of everyone around her, her dedication to Gods call on her life and her personal relationship with Jesus Christ all led up to this moment….the moment she would meet Him face to face. She was rejoicing, but it left her family with a great sense of loss and sadness.
When I found out the service for Sandy would be within driving distance, I immediately made plans to be there for Ginger and her sisters. It was a way for me to, in a sense, try to give back what they had given to me for so many years. I just wanted to be there, close to this family who gave so much to me. And secretly, somewhere deep down inside, I wanted Bro. Woods to know that all of his sermons didn’t fall on deaf ears and that I was trying to live a life he would be proud of. I know that this is probably wrong of me….to want him to see this at such a difficult time…but I guess I just wanted to say thank you with my life, and for him to know how much he and his family impacted my life. Anyway, of course I never said these things to him (even though I felt it).I hoped he could see it.
I was privileged to spend some time with the family the night before the funeral. Sandy’s home was beautiful, just as I imagined it would be. All of the girls were there as well as all of their children. When I rang the doorbell, Staci met me with a big hug. Ginger and Rhonda were right behind her. It was so good to see them all, they were all so beautiful and gracious, just like their momma! As I entered the room Bro. Woods stood up from his chair, gave me a big o’hug and introduced me to some of his friends. We shared greetings and laughed a bit then I let him get back to his company. A few minutes later, while Ginger and I were talking, bro. Woods suddenly blurted out, in his big, booming voice, in front of everybody, “Tonya, do you have a kidney problem?”
Ok, I must say that this totally stumped me and took me by surprise! I’m usually pretty quick witted and never at a loss for words….but he really got me on this one! Here is a man that I have not seen or spoken to in 25 years and he is asking me if I have a kidney problem! Was I standing in a puddle of pee or something? Did I look jaundice? Did he have a prophetic message for me? What? Why on earth would he be asking me such a bizarre question at such a time as this?
I looked at Ginger with a “what the heck is he talking about” look. I looked back at him with as straight of a face as I could muster and said, “well, I don’t think so pastor, why do you ask? (not sure why I asked such a question because I knew he was going to give me the answer…out loud in front of everyone) “Well” he said, “every time I read one of your stories…you’re in the bathroom!” Then a slow, ornery grin came over his face.
I couldn’t believe it! He had been reading my blog. Who knew? This man, that I respect so much, had been reading my stories! My mind raced over the 140 or so posts I had written, hoping I hadn’t written something…..bad….or wrong….or stupid! We all had a good laugh, at my expense. We had such a nice time visiting and catching up.
The next morning, I made my way to the church, it was same church that Bro. Woods and Sandy had pastored for 25 years. This day, it would be the place where we celebrate the life of Sandy Woods.
I sat near the back of the church with over 900 other people who felt the same way about her as I did. It was amazing! From beginning to end….amazing. We were all seated and waited patiently for the family to enter. The room was silent in reverence as they entered the sanctuary. Bro. Woods led his family in. With his head held high, his back as straight as a arrow, he walked to his seat. One by one the girls entered with their children around them like a hen with her chicks. Full of dignity and grace, they were. Strong and proud to be the daughters of the precious Sandy Woods. What a legacy!
After the service I watched Bro. Woods and the girls receive, greet, hug, laugh and smile with over 500 people, one after the other. For two hours they thanked the well wishers and ministered to each one in their own way.
This family, in the midst of their loss, still managed to show Gods love. This love, that once ministered to me so many years ago, has now come full circle and they didn’t even know it. I went to them, hoping that I could meet some need in some way and hoping to make this sad day a little more bearable, if only for a moment. It turns out, they made MY day a BIG day!
We may never know, in this life, how we have impacted those around us. Our words, our actions and our time can make, for someone else…a BIG day or even a BIG life!
Matthew 25:40–The king will reply, “truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these…you did for me.”
Hebrews 13:2– Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing so, some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.