If you follow this blog, you are going to learn that I love alliteration. (Like “She sells seashells by the seashore.”) I’ve decided that Fridays are going to be “Faith It Forward Fridays.” What, you may ask, do you mean by “faith it forward?” The idea came to me at the same time God was urging me to write the blog in December of 2010. I need to give you a little background information about why God sent me this idea. Be patient because I’m working from a long list of blessings, but you’ll see the point by the end of this post.
“So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making His appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God.” 2 Corinthians 5:20 NLT
I was so thankful for every nurse, doctor, housekeeper, food service person, volunteer, and support personnel at the UNC Cancer Hospital when Kelly was there for treatment. I could not have made it without my family members, our faithful friends, or our church family. We were even blessed by complete strangers during five months of Kelly’s chemotherapy. (A stranger paid for my coffee at Starbucks one morning. Another paid for my lunch one day in the cafeteria.) God was showing me His faithfulness at every turn. He sent messengers to us with His love and support — phones calls, visits, cards, delicious food and snacks, shoulders to lean on, prayer partners, cash and gifts cards, and whatever we needed. He even sent someone (DALE WALL, I will love you FOREVER for this) to come and take our dirty laundry to her house, wash it, fold it, and return it to us. Five months of doing our laundry — how can I ever re-pay you? When Kelly needed a warm-up jacket, he sent our cousin, LESLIE RICE, with not one, but two jackets. Our cousin, NOEL PELLISH, visited often, brought snacks, and gave us some much-needed comedic relief. She made it her mission to send Kelly a joke or a cartoon every single day until he was no longer in chemotherapy. And she did it! Every day that the mail was delivered, we got something that made us smile. That’s every day for six months or longer! What a commitment.
My parents, LONNIE & LINDA HALL, kept Claire when we had to be in Chapel Hill. I know your parents are supposed to love you. Mine always have and I’ve always said that they have given me unconditional love (and I’ve needed it at times when I’ve been a truly rotten person). But their unconditional love and support were one of the reasons that I just simply didn’t fall apart. My Mama wouldn’t let me. She was ferocious in her faith and it made me stronger to have her on my side. Without my Daddy, a strong, faithful man who loves Kelly as his own son, and our wonderful friend, STEVE KEMPF, we would’ve had to close our business. My friend and “sister of the heart”, ELLI DRAKOS, was a constant source of hope . Between my Mama and her, I just couldn’t have a “feel sorry for myself” day. Our kids, MARTIN, STEVEN, & CLAIRE, showed maturity beyond their years. I didn’t think we could be any closer than we were, but their support cemented the unconditional love of our family forever. Other family members that kept us going spiritually and financially were GLENN & ROBIN ROSSER ODOM (who brought Diet Pepsi by the barrel because the UNC Hospital System is a “Coke Products Only” facility — you must realize that Kelly is a “Diet Pepsi Only” person to know what a huge blessing this was), MARK & SHANNON HANCOCK, BARBARA SARGENT, RAYMOND & TOMMIE HALL, DIANE & JOEL HANCOCK, DOT VICK, KATHY VICK, DAVID & PATSY SMITH , AND HILDA & BOB JACKSON.
Our church, CULBRETH MEMORIAL UMC in Fayetteville, NC, came to our aid by collecting a love offering for us, not once but twice. Our AUNT MELBA ROSSER, PEGGY ROSSER WHITE, SYDNEY WHITE, AUSTIN WHITE, & LYNN WHITE (family members that go to church with us) brought Claire to visit and made our room look like Santa’s workshop. There was a tree with tinsel and cling decorations for the windows. We had the best looking room on the whole floor! Plus, Aunt Melba knew that Kelly would need an electric razor (you cannot use a blade when your platelets are low) and she made sure he had one. Her daily calls were a rock for us to lean on. DONALD & SHIRLEY MELVIN, being hospital saavy, gave us a bag full of change because there are tons of places that you have to pay with coins when you’re “living” at the hospital (like when you want a drink or have to pay for parking). More church family members offered to help in various ways: MICHELE BEDSOLE typed and got the church bulletins ready when I couldn’t. (As the part-time church secretary, to me, this was a gift that is truly priceless!); DEBBIE GRIMSLEY gave us a book entitled What Cancer Can’t Do. (It was uplifting and a needed source of hope.) JAY & BETH JOHNSON and EDITH JOHNSON sent us money to help pay for parking. MORGAN & BRANDON BOWEN (from my Sunday School class) took Claire for a night on the town during a time when Kelly & I had been away a particularly long time. ERIKA NICOLE HOLLAND (another Sunday School class member and our church’s music minister) worked Christmas cantata practice around when I could be there and called us nearly every day. MARLA HOLLAND sent us several goodie bags. She’s also been my prayer partner for the last five years. PEGGY ALLEN sent notes of encouragement and a generous donation. I have to give a special thank you to JODIE YOUNG BAILEY (my friend and Bible study leader), whose blog “Faith and Fiction With a Touch of Southern Grace” was my middle-of-the-night source of hope and inspiration. When it’s quiet and dark, the devil can whisper in your ear and tell you lies. Jodie’s words of wisdom brought me through some long, dark nights. She writes with honesty and powerful faith. I encourage you to give her a read at www.jodiebailey.com .
Then the NCSU Police Department (where Kelly works as a patrol sergeant) came with more food, more decorations, and more gift cards. When Kelly had to go on family leave, KRISTIN WILLS was the one who made sure the paperwork was correct. (She did everything except Kelly’s signature.) Others like ANNA RODENBERRY , CPT. JON BARNWELL, LT. LARRY ELLIS, BILL DAVIS, BOBBY GUY, STEVE BARHAM, MIKE MULLINS, GREG BARNES, LT. FRED PARMLEY, LT, MARTY MOODY, FORMER CHIEF TOM YOUNCE, AND CHIEF JACK MORMON just came by to tell Kelly how much he was missed. I don’t even know all the names of the people who contributed to Kelly’s family leave time, but it was enough that he was able to receive his full paycheck for seven monthS. Seven months! Thank you for your generosity.
We celebrated our 30th high school reunion (Cape Fear High School Colts!) on November 5, 2010, just before Kelly’s diagnosis. When our classmates found out about Kelly’s leukemia, they immediately visited, gave us gifts cards, prayed, put us on their churches’ prayer lists, and offered to take care of our children. LORI SIMPSON EPLER, JIMMY POPE, CAROL HOWELL HARTLEY, BEVERLY FAIRCLOTH HOBGOOD, ALLEN GUY, TODD MOBLEY, & ROBIN MCWHORTER WALLACE — may God bless you eternally for your faithful friendships. I think it’s a remarkable testament to friendship when the people you went to junior high and high school with are still close enough to be family. To those who followed Kelly’s progression on Facebook and the Care Pages, your faithfulness in sending notes and lifting up prayers will be rewarded by God, who sees all things.
Former students that I had taught in elementary school and young adults whom I taught in the children’s and youth choirs visited us and sent gifts cards. A special thanks to CHARLIE & JENNIFER STALLINGS MASSEY for remembering us in such a generous way. My dear friend, PAUL LAWING, taught Sunday School for me on two occasions when I had to be in Chapel Hill. MONICA WISE, BOB DEES, LYNN PRYER, TAYLOR & AMANDA BRANTLEY, NEILL MCINNIS AND OUR FRIENDS AT THE CHOCOLATE LADY & FUSION SALON (both in downtown Fayetteville, near our shop) kept in contact with us and let us know that we were missed in our little Hay Street community of businesses.
Our dear friends at the FAYETTEVILLE INDEPENDENT LIGHT INFANTRY (FILI) prayed for us at every assembly. BRUCE DAWS and T. V. O’MALLEY brought the largest fruit basket I’ve ever seen when they came for a visit. Thanks to GINNY POWERS and MAURICE ROBERTSON for their faithful calls and prayers. And there are probably hundreds of others who lifted us in prayer that I will never know about. Thank you, thank you, thank you! May God bless you richly.
My friend, Michele, has a great signature line on her emails: “Every now and then, God’s answer to a prayer is me.” It echoes the very heart of 2 Corinthians 5:20. We are His ambassadors. We speak for God. We are the only way that the world “sees” God. We have to listen for His still small voice and act in our faith because it’s easy to become hard-hearted in this world. I love the movie “Pay It Forward.” It has a great message. So my idea is to take the premise of that movie and put a Godly spin on it. Acting in faith to do things for others from which we may never even see the results. Recently, a young woman paid for my coffee at the Kangaroo convenience store near our home. I thanked her and her response was, “Remember that Jesus loves you.” That’s what I mean when I say “Faith It Forward.” It doesn’t even have to cost money. Bring your neighbor’s paper to them when you go out in the morning. Hold a door for a mother who’s pushing a stroller and dealing with her other kids at the same time. If you’re in the grocery store, offer to carry someone’s bags to their car. We can be ambassadors in small things for the God of all things. Just dial in with your heart and faith it forward.