Published in the Rains County Leader on July 7, 2022:
Two years after we moved to Emory in 2011 I wrote a column called “I’m a city girl, and I hate bugs!” In it I recounted three recent incidents that involved discovering a rather large bug in the glass from which I had just taken a swallow to wash down a couple of pills, the spontaneous dance I performed in the kitchen when a cricket made its way up the leg of my jeans, and the fate of a rather large spider that took up residence in our bath tub. There have been many encounters with bugs in the last nine years – most of which ended badly for the bug – and although I deal with most of them without hysterics, I still hate bugs. One of those encounters happened Sunday morning at church.
Every week before the service begins, or in this case, before Sunday School started, I make a pit stop so I can be sure to make it through class or the sermon without having to visit the ladies’ room. It’s a habit left over from my childhood when you didn’t leave the classroom or the sanctuary unless you were in need of an ambulance or you were about to throw up on your mother. These visits are not usually a traumatic experience, but this time when I went into the stall, I wasn’t alone. There, lurking in the corner by the door, was a HUGE spider. Well, maybe not huge, but at least two inches across if you count the legs.
While I was doing what I came to do, I was thinking about having to pass that spider on my way out. He didn’t move, so maybe he was dead. Maybe I could scoot by him, leaving him for the next occupant to deal with. But then that little voice that God put in your head to let you know when you’re about to mess up whispered in my ear. “What if the next person to come in is a visitor?” I immediately thought about Edwina Patterson.
Just when I think I’ve experienced all that country life has to offer, I find something new – or at least new to me. In the eleven years we’ve lived in Emory, I’ve heard about the “you pick” farms, but I always seem to miss the seasons, and I always seem to hear about the picking parties after the fact. But this year was different.
I did miss the strawberries – they came and went in a hurry. And I thought I had missed blueberries when I saw a post that one venue had been picked out in three hours. But then a couple of weeks ago I saw a post from Alford Family Farm that they had lots blueberries ripening in sequence. When I asked David if he’d like to go on a berry-picking outing, he replied that he’d like to have some fresh blueberries, but he didn’t think he wanted to go in this heat.
I was a little disappointed but not crushed. I’ve not been a huge blueberry fan in past years. I enjoyed a blueberry muffin now and then, but after I had a major allergic reaction the first time I ate fresh blueberries, I swore off of them for a while. My doctor said he’d never heard of anyone being allergic to them, but whenever I ate anything blueberry, my face would itch so I continued to avoid them. But blueberries are everywhere, and a mixed berry cobbler is hard to resist. Eventually I ventured a taste here and there, and when I didn’t swell up and turn beet red, I decided maybe the doctor was right. Who knows what caused that initial reaction, but whatever it was, I seem to have outgrown it and blueberries have made their way back into my diet.
Published in the Rains County Leader on June 9, 2022:
The leadership of Believers’ Baptist Church puts a big emphasis on building relationships among the church family and the community. The Sunday morning schedule is set up with a fifteen minute gap between Sunday School and Morning Worship to allow time for members and visitors to meet new friends and touch base with old friends they haven’t seen in a week or so. It works so well that it’s often difficult for Pastor Jason to settle the congregation when it’s time for the service to begin.
On the last Sunday of the month, we have a casual Brown Bag Fellowship where people are encouraged to bring food from home or pick up fast food and spend some time together over lunch. We also have cookies and tea following business meetings, occasional potluck dinners, and an annual chili cookoff. And several times a year, we suspend regular Sunday evening studies in favor of Family Fun Night which usually takes place in the church parking lot. People bring lawn chairs, desserts, and outdoor games and enjoy more time together. This past Sunday we did something different and had Family Fun Night at Sandy Creek Park.
My research, which included a few minutes on Google and a note to Heather Rollins, indicated that the City of Emory purchased the land for the park sometime before 2015. With the help of various grants and other funds the City added bridges over the creek areas, a beautiful walking trail, several picnic tables and a concrete pad with some electricity for events. Recent City add-ons have included a splash pad and permanent restroom facilities. In addition, funds raised by dedicated people like Heather Rollins and her Keep Emory Beautiful projects have paid for an amazing children’s playground and a number of covered picnic tables as well as restoration of the arch bearing the Sandy Creek sign. They also planted some trees, but unfortunately, these were stolen. The hard work of all these people has turned Sandy Creek Park into a lovely retreat in the heart of Emory – the perfect place for Church in the Park.
Published in the Rains County Leader on August 17, 2021:
Big country breakfasts weren’t part of my childhood. Mom joined the work force when I started school, and with everyone in the family leaving the house for different destinations at different times, our morning meals usually consisted of a quick bowl of corn flakes or an over-well egg and a piece of toast that became a fold-over sandwich to be eaten on the run.
However, on Saturday mornings, Mom sometimes cooked breakfast. It wasn’t a real country breakfast because we never had gravy with our biscuits, and we didn’t waddle away from the table after having consumed several days’ worth of calories, carbs, and fat. But waking up to the smell of bacon frying was a real treat. And occasionally Dad would fix breakfast for dinner. Nothing elaborate – usually oatmeal and cinnamon toast – but special nonetheless.
A regular breakfast hasn’t been a part of my life as an adult either. My son wanted bacon, cereal, powdered sugar donuts, or some combination of the three – and his father’s breakfast consisted of Dr. Pepper and cigarettes. David would love to have a big breakfast every day, but cholesterol and weight issues make that a bad idea for both of us. For most of our life together, breakfast has been cereal with something more substantial thrown in for a special treat now and then.
Published in the Rains County Leader on November 17, 2020:
David and I visited with our dog friend Spike this weekend while his people took a break from raising cattle. Spike was unusually subdued, maybe feeling the pressure of 2020 like the rest of us. More likely, though, his calm attitude is because of the strict restraints he’s under to keep him from chasing several new calves. Instead of having the run of the ranch, he stays in the barn, the house, or tethered on the patio, and he walks on a leash. He’s a country dog living a city life, but he doesn’t seem to mind as long as there are plenty of treats and an occasional session of petting.
Sunday morning I woke up a little before 6:00 am. I thought I might catch a few more winks, but I must have stirred around too much because Spike appeared at the bedroom door and did his I-need-to-go-out dance. I knew more sleep was probably out of the question, so I dressed and took him for a quick turn around the yard. He did his duty and we came back inside for a treat and a cup of coffee – his treat and my coffee. He had his breakfast while I had my quiet time, and once the sun was up enough to take the chill off the air, we took another walk to the gate and back, about a quarter of a mile round trip. He ambled along at my pace, sniffed a few bushes, and barked at a passing car. On the return trip I noticed a splash of color in the grass between the gravel driveway and the fence. It was a single Indian Paintbrush waving happily in the breeze, unaware that it was completely alone and out of season. It was a hopeful sight, a promise of Spring in the midst of bare branches and fallen leaves.
Published in the Rains County Leader on May 19, 2020:
I’ve missed a lot of things during self isolation: lunch with friends at the Senior Center, picking out my own produce and meat at the grocery store, going to the library to choose what books we would read next, and going to the gym several days a week among others. The thing I missed most, though, was meeting with my church family.
Even before the shutdown officially began, the elders at Believers’ Baptist Church began recording devotions and sermons and making them available for those who chose to stay away from public gatherings. As isolation continued, they explored options for keeping BBC members and friends connected. For several weeks there was drive-in church where the congregation gathered in the church parking lot and listened to worship music and Pastor Jason’s message on KRER 102.5. Windows were rolled down and waves and greetings were shared from family to family, but everyone stayed in their cars. Then, last week a group of almost one hundred met for lawn chair church in front of the Family and Children’s Building.
David and I chose to forego those meetings and to catch the services on YouTube. One reason for our decision is that we are both in the vulnerable age range and both have health issues that might put us at increased risk. In addition, our car radio turns off five minutes after the engine is shut down, and it has no accessory switch. Finally, our inexpensive folding camp chairs have passed beyond their “best used by” dates after spending several Texas summers in a metal storage building. But when plans for resuming services in the building were announced, we were ready. (more…)
Published in the Rains County Leader on April 14, 2020:
The coronavirus isolation has not been kind to my creativity. I write about people and life and community, and my community is now limited to David and Kitty. I love them both dearly, and they provide plenty of writing material – but I’ve used most of the good stuff in my books, so I depend on outside contacts for inspiration. Consequently, when I sat down at my computer Sunday afternoon, I would write a sentence, delete it, and go to the kitchen to do a little prep work for dinner.
This went on until everything was in either the oven or the InstantPot, and I was giving serious thought to running an old column. Then I clicked over to Facebook and saw a post from Stacy Rolen, wife of Pastor Jason Rolen, both of Believers’ Baptist Church. As I read her thoughts about Easter in isolation, I wanted to share her words with my readers. I messaged her, and she graciously agreed to be a guest columnist this week.
By way of explanation, Believers’ has been doing drive-in church for several weeks. TylerJones, BBC worship leader and media expert, pre-records Pastor Jason’s message and several praise songs which he then submits to KRER 102.5. On Sunday mornings, the church family gathers on the parking lot where they stay in their cars and attend church through the magic of radio.
One last note – the Rolen family is made up of Jason, Stacy, Bree Allie who is a junior at Alba-Golden where Stacy teaches, and Brady – aka Bubba – who is working on his masters degree at Dallas Baptist University in Dallas. Following is a look into Easter with Rolens – and it’s very good.
We talked this week about how crazy it felt to not have the same kind of Easter morning we have had for every year of our lives. For the first time ever, there would be no plans made of what to wear, who gets up when to make this sunrise service, this breakfast, this praise team practice, this Sunday School class, or that service. We decided that we would just sit on the deck to see the sunrise together, in the quiet and the still. And it would be good!
Then the alarm went off, and the rain hit against the roof, and the thunder roared. So we snuggled in tighter and snoozed. And snoozed. Slept five hours past Jason’s normal Sunday morning alarm. It was different, but it was good.
Finally got up and ready for the day. A different kind of Easter morning. No fanfare. Caught an early service message on TV, followed by our normal Sunday morning Spotify playlist – but this time we were at home, together, and it was good.
All showered, all dressed for a different kind of Easter. But it was good!
How wonderful to see our church family! We miss everyone so much, but getting to gather in the parking lot for waves of hello to those whom we hold so dearly – it was beautiful! The smiles, the joy – it surely does the heart good! Then came Tyler’s voice over the radio, and I wept because it was beautiful. All this was followed by the reminder from Jason of the final act of humiliation which brought the first act of exaltation to Christ our Savior! A reminder that in these different days, our God is the same! He is still seated at the right hand of the Father. He is the same – yesterday, today, and forever. For He is risen indeed!
Easter 2020 will be a year to remember. We sure do miss our family today! We sure do miss the fellowship with our church family! I SURE DO miss my Bubba whom I haven’t seen in forever!!!
Times are different. But…things are still good. And that is beautiful! Love you all!
Thank you, Stacy, for sharing your Easter morning with us.
Published in the Rains County Leader on February 11, 2020:
I had a new experience Sunday morning – I helped with KIDZ Church, a program at Believers’ Baptist for children from four years old through second grade. These children begin the service in the Sanctuary with their families where they experience worship in prayer, singing, and presenting offerings, and on the last Sunday of each month, they stay in the Sanctuary for the whole service. The rest of the month, though, they are dismissed to the KIDZ Church room in the Family and Children’s Building when Pastor Jason stands up to preach, and there they experience worship aimed at their level of understanding.
In order that no adults consistently miss Morning Worship, volunteers serve as teachers and helpers on a rotating basis – usually two adults and two of our older students for one month a year. This week they were short one adult, and when Betsy sent out a request on the church Facebook page, I said I would help. It wasn’t a difficult task – mainly to be present to help maintain some semblance of order. One thing to keep in mind when working with young children is that you will never achieve perfect order. There will be noise, talking, wiggling, inattention, and more, but the goal is to walk the narrow line between tyranny and anarchy. (more…)
Published in the Rains County Leader on January 28, 2020:
Going to church on Sunday mornings is one of the best things I do all week, at least once I get past getting up a little earlier than usual and getting out the door looking a little more presentable than usual. It’s like a big family reunion every week. Almost everybody is happy and has a big smile and a warm hug – and the ones who don’t are an opportunity to share heartaches and encourage one another. It’s the perfect place to learn more about God and the Bible and to ask that hard question that you didn’t want to ask anywhere else because it might turn out to be a dumb question. And sometimes, after the teaching and the preaching and the singing and the praying, it’s a great place for lunch.
Sunday was one of those times. It seems like most churches look for any excuse to share a meal, and ours is no exception. Our pastors and elders are always looking for ways to encourage fellowship among the church members, so we have some kind of social event several times a year. This one was a soup and dessert lunch – all you can eat, of course – and a fund raiser. The details aren’t important, but there was a need, so members were asked to consider donating what they would normally spend on lunch. Based on the amount collected, a lot of the members eat better than David and I do! (more…)
Published in the Rains County Leader on November 19, 2019:
Pastor Appreciation Day was last month, and I pretty much let it slide by. I told myself that I let Pastor Jason know on a regular basis how much I appreciate him, but something happened on Sunday that I couldn’t let pass without notice.
Last weekend, Pastor Jason and his wife Stacy took some much deserved personal time. Believers’ Baptist is blessed with people who can step in to fill the pulpit and play the keyboard when the Rolens are gone, but it’s always nice to have the family back together. Sunday was extra special because we were celebrating the Lord’s Supper after the worship service.
After Stacy finished the prelude, Pastor Jason went through the announcements, read a passage of Scripture as a call to worship, and lead us in the opening prayer. Before he began, he mentioned how much he and Stacy had enjoyed their weekend, especially Sunday morning. The church they visited was celebrating the Lord’s Supper, and for the first time in their 20+ years of marriage, they were able to sit in the pew together and take Communion as a couple. That’s just one of many things they give up to minister to their church family. (more…)
The story of a lonely, innocent girl who gets tangled up in the sex trafficking trade in a small Texas town. It’s about her relationship with Eric, a slick suburban pimp; Jesse, a Christian tattoo artist and motorcycle rider; and Mrs. G, a compassionate but tough attorney and foster parent.