It was a normal day, just like so many others, but my life was changed. In fact, it was a conversation similar to so many throughout my life…just girl talk in the kitchen over meal preparation. Who would imagine that it would change my life and lead me toward my life call? Who would imagine that it would put together all of the pieces to my jumbled-up life?
Mamaw Alma Lee Rushton was my husband’s grandmother. I remember the first day I met her. We had an instant bond. It was amazing. Not long after we became officially “connected at the hip” as my dad called it, I remember one conversation with her where she shared that I was everything that she had prayed he would marry. Those words of vision touched me to the depths of my soul. Oh! He was everything that I had prayed to marry. He was my Prince Charming. He was my Knight in Shining Armor…or Izod, who is particular about those details in HOT Mississippi? ha!
When Mamaw spoke, she spoke vision…instruction…inspiration…and a deep passion for Godly womanhood. Her opinions meant so much to me. Her insight was always biblical. Her instruction was patient and kind. I clung to her words. They were steeped in a love for God, a love for family, and a deep love for me.
So, imagine the day that my life changed. We were busy in the kitchen preparing one of those good old summer meals. Family meals in our families meant that all of the family favorites were part of the menu. The funny thing, this day had ALL of the favorites. Looking back, the entire time was so special that it was beyond a regular day. This day would go down in our family history as pivotal. It changed my life and in turn changed our whole family.
Being a godly woman is so important. Sure, we are born to be women. But, godliness is a choice. The choices are made in little things and big things all along the way. Those things influence not just our own lives, but those around us, those we all touch, and those in generations yet to come. We are women with great influence. Our greatest influence cannot be planned. Our greatest influence will happen when we least expect it.
Going back to that special day…
The kitchen was bustling and yummy smelling. Mamaw was her usual sweet, rosy-cheeked, and upbeat self. I was a bit weary. We were back home in our home-town because Harold’s dad was having a triple by-pass. Mamaw was in deep prayer for her son, but you saw only her intense faith in God and not even one moment of fear, worry, or doubt. The kids were tickled to be running around Mamaw’s yard playing and chasing her “critters” outside. Harold was enjoying time with his grandfather. It was the typical picture of what things were like when we went “home” to see our family.
I was soooo excited, in spite of my concern for Harold’s father. I had just received a nice package filled with beautiful slick copies of the magazine which was featuring one of my articles for the first time in a magazine. In spite of the difficult circumstances, I was elated to get to give Mamaw her own copy of my first article in a magazine. It was my treat to give her that day. I was hoping it would brighten her day. I had NO idea that it would lead to a pivotal moment in my life.
She was in awe! She stood there with big alligator tears in her eyes as she beheld the magazine. Seeing my name there on the glossy page was a total delight to her. Just months before we had stood in that kitchen having a very interesting conversation that was the “back story” for what was going on that day. Actually, so many of those special days in that kitchen were the catalysts behind that very special day.
I remember time-after-time sitting there or helping her with her chores while she just poured forth into my life. She would talk about little things like tips for sewing or cooking or homemaking. She would talk about even more challenging things like disciplining the children and being a godly wife. She would also talk about life-changing things like my relationship with God and how to live an authentic and intentional Christian life. While the conversations were never planned, they were milestones in my life–big and small. I don’t know how many of you just crave for a Titus Two mentor, but as a young wife I just wished that God would send someone to be a Titus Two mentor into my life. Little did I know that it was through those God put in my life to influence me. There could never be anyone who could teach me to love my husband and children like their very own grandmother. No one else could teach me to love my home and the ministry within my home like the grandmother who’s home called us “home” from so many miles away. Her influence was perfect training. Isn’t that how God does it?
I loved time with her. Every time I was around Mamaw, I came away with so much wisdom. Many times, I took a notebook and jotted down tips and ideas while we talked. They were GOODIES! GEMS!
It was not long until I became the secretary for our local smocking guild (heirloom sewing group). I was responsible for producing the newsletter for our members. For those who know me, you would not be surprised that I simply COULD NOT stand to have the page only include the details for the meeting. There was SO MUCH WHITE SPACE! I thought that sewing tips were an adorable embellishment for our newsletter. I loved tips so much that I thought it would be fun to include them each month in my newsletter. They made it all fun. Of course, most of my tips came from learning at Mamaw’s side. I got so many great ideas from her that I decided to pay for her membership to the guild so she could get the newsletter. She LOVED it! Actually, she loved it so much she passed it around to all of her friends.
I had no idea until one day I went to see her and she asked me to go by the local paper to ask our editor to put the tips in the paper. My response was probably the very same response you might would have, “Mamaw, BUT I AM NOT A WRITER.” She gave me a quick list of reasons why the paper “needed” my tips. All I can say is that I knew not to mess with her! ha! I went to the paper to just ask. I was completely convinced that they would laugh me out the door and that THEY would silence Mamaw’s crazy idea once and for all. Well, it didn’t go that way. Mamaw was right. They not only wanted my tips, but they wanted for me to begin my own column. Every week after that I had a column. I always tell everyone that I fell into it backwards. I think Mamaw shoved me! ha! Either way, God used her belief in me to give that nudge in a direction that would have NEVER been one I would have even thought to pursue.
Now, fast forward with me. I had moved away. My column had grown. I loved it. But, I still did not have a vision for what God was about to do. In fact, I had no idea what God wanted for me to do with my life. I knew He wanted for me to be a godly wife and mother. But, I wondered what He had meant by calling me into ministry. He had been so specific at several times of my life. I could not put the pieces together. I had kept right on moving forward, being faithful in all that I KNEW I was to be doing each and every day. But, I just could not see how all of the pieces came together. It was really unsettling. Well, that is where this story gets good! I have told you already about my first magazine article and how I was about to surprise Mamaw with her own copy of it. But there was more to the back story.
One of the reasons Mamaw had wanted the tips put in the paper was that she was keeping a notebook filled with my goodies and did not want to miss even one. Her notebook was filled with all of those articles, my recipes that I would copy and share with her, all of my letters sent from Alabama, all of the cards I sent her, pictures of our family, etc. It was her “Cindy” notebook. Now, I do want for you to know that I was married to her grandson. I was an “inlaw.” He was not even her only grandchild. She had a beautiful family filled with grandchildren and great-grandchildren. But, she valued my writing and I was just a Dental Hygienist–NOT A WRITER!! She valued my writing so much that she KEPT it all. What is even more touching was that she had set up a PLACE to keep everything. That takes great effort. She not only kept it, but she invested in a nice, big notebook and sheet protectors to guard every piece like it was a great treasure. She kept things that would have been long forgotten, long lost. But, she kept them because they were dear to her. They were dear to her because I was dear to her. Do you think she ever knew how that one commitment would change my life?
Well, now let’s go on to that precious day. I had been writing my heart out for my sweet little column. I fell in love with writing. It was like having a nice afternoon tea with friends. I could pull back as my little ones played or slept in and pour myself a cup of tea and just share my heart. Sometimes it was tips. Other times it was my excitement for being a wife and mother. Every article was a piece of my heart. I simply loved writing! It became my favorite hobby. Who would have figured it? Mamaw???
That day was very special. As we look back, it was the last day I would see her and spend time with her. Only one short week later, she passed away. Her death was a sweet, yet very difficult time for us. Never before had I seen a true Proverbs 31 woman pass away. Yet, in her death every word spoken about her was declaring Proverbs 31 over and over. She was the one! Well, one of that beautiful crowd!
To me, looking back, I know that day was a gift from God. It was to go down in my story as a pivotal moment. I have never been the same since.
Remember I mentioned going through those years enjoying my calling as a wife and mother, yet having a void there in my life. I was a Christian. I was a committed Christian. I loved womanhood. But, there was a void. It just was not coming together. I wondered many times if I had somehow missed my calling along the way. Very often, I would get a bit frustrated that I did not use my single years to pursue ministry and missions. I could not figure out how I would use my gifts and talents to pursue my purpose. I was just confused.
That last day with Mamaw was precious. I was so excited to give her that beautiful copy of my article in a REAL magazine. I knew it would be a delight to her. But, I had no idea exactly how much of a delight. I don’t know, maybe things don’t always “click” with me. I had heard her talk about her “Cindy” notebook. I had even started writing for the newspaper because she wanted to be sure that no one kept HER COPY of my articles. But, until I gave her that gorgeous magazine, I had not SEEN the “Cindy” notebook. WOW! She pulled it out. It was a treasure to her. I could tell. I stood there with big tears in my eyes. Her commitment to protect my work as a treaure to her was overwhelming. She really LOVED my writing. She really TREASURED my writing. It was more than important. It was a treasure! You don’t just “keep” things like this. It was intentional. It was a priority. It spoke volumes to me.
No one, not even myself, had kept EVERYTHING with such a passionate love for me. Sure, my mom kept so many things. But, I don’t think she had even kept those articles. In fact, *I* had not even kept them all! UGH! Mamaw did not miss even one of them. They were all there. Kept for future generations. Precious. Guarded. An investment into ME and those who will come after me.
I stood there looking at the notebook. I was overwhelmed by the thoughtfulness, but there was more. You could see it in Mamaw’s eyes. She truly LOVED and ADORED my writing. It meant so much to her. I had never thought about my words being valuable, much less loved or needed. They never seemed to be too great in school. Well, in school, actually I always felt that they did not measure up. They never seemed good enough. My teachers never really gave me outright encouragement in those areas. Sure, they made me editor of the school paper. Of course, I thought that was to torment me! (ha!) They were very hard on my writing. I could not understand it. The last thing I wanted when I came out of school was to write anything for the rest of my life. Funny how God changes things, huh?
There was something that was rising up in my heart as I stood there looking at that notebook and Mamaw’s excitement over the magazine. I could feel all of the pieces in my life coming together as I stood in that room with her. It was more than pivotal. It was life-changing.
She took a few moments to read the article. She was “buzzing” as she did. She LOVED it! I felt a pride inside that was just precious! I respected her sooo much that I wanted to please her. This was a beautiful gift for her that day.
As she finished reading the article, she said something that would point the way for the next thing AND would change my life entirely. She, very matter of factly, said, “Cindy! You HAVE GOT TO write a book!” My immediate response was almost exactly the same as my response in that room to her challenge to write for the newspaper, “Mamaw, BUT I AM NOT A WRITER.” Can you imagine her sweet face in heaven as she looks down upon me today after I have written over 100 books, thousands of articles, and taught thousands of workshops in the last 15 years? Just funny!
The most precious part of that afternoon in that sweet Southern kitchen was what followed. She told me that I could easily take my articles and put them together into a book. She was not a writer. How did she have SUCH vision? She continued to talk to me about sticking to my priorities. She told me that I was a good wife and mom. She told me how proud she was of our family life and our family. She shared with me her one prayer request that God had answered for her–that all of her children and grandchildren and great grandchildren would be saved and serve God all of their lives (all of us were saved and serving God in ministry!). She literally passed the torch to me that day. It was a spiritual mantle that she placed upon me in that sweet Southern kitchen. I wear it today. It is my passion. It is the call. It is my life purpose–to help those in our culture get back to God’s design for the godly home. The pieces all came together that day.
We had our biggest dinner ever that day with Mamaw. It was her last one to cook. But, I was full before the blessing was ever asked and one bite was taken. She had poured forth more that day through her spirit than she had cooked up in that kitchen in all of the years of her marriage!
She believed in me. She had faith that I would pick up the torch and carry on the legacy for generations yet to come. She saw something in me that I did not even see in myself. She delighted in something in me that I did not even know was there.
I wonder today who WE could touch like this? Is there someone we could just believe in? Is there someone we could just enjoy and delight in? Is there someone who’s life just might be different if we would invest in them? I am talking about the little things and the big things. I am talking about the moments we least expect. I am talking about being ALL THERE even in the kitchen LIKE we would be in a pulpit! That is where the legacy is built. That is where the legacy is passed on to future generations. And, it might only take a notebook!