Friday, December 28, 2012

My Family

by Cindy Hester
"The lack of emotional security of our American young people is due, I believe, to their isolation from the larger family unit. No two people - no mere father and mother - as I have often said, are enough to provide emotional security for a child. He needs to feel himself one in a world of kinfolk, persons of variety in age and temperament, and yet allied to himself by an indissoluble bond which he cannot break if he could, for nature has welded him into it before he was born." ~Pearl S. Buck

Three Generations
Let's face today's world where individual family relationships are fragile at best, the ability to maintain close extended family relationships is almost miraculous. As we have learned more each day since my Dad went home to be with the Lord, a strong family heritage does not just happen nor remain by chance. Among other essential ingredients, it takes time. For generations before I was born, my ancestors laid a foundation of taking time for family gatherings, creating countless priceless memories and giving us kids the desire to continue that tradition. In order for family members to develop lasting memories, each member must choose and make an effort to make those memories happen.
Singing Christmas Carols
Another important ingredient is love. As the saying goes, "Love covers a multitude of sins." Not only do family members have to choose to love, they must choose to be loved. There are so many instances in which a family member refuses to be loved or expects to be loved only on his or her terms. As a result, it is often necessary to distance one's self from that relationship. God is most able to step in and create wholeness in that person and restore fellowship, but God does not force His way on any individual. Therefore it is ultimately a choice each individual makes as to whether to love and be loved as a part of a family unit.

Respect is also essential. Webster defines respect as deferential regard; willingness to show consideration or appreciation. So often we make our way through life giving respect to individuals who have not earned that respect only to treat our own family members with disrespect. It seems to be a natural instinct to do so. Maybe it is because we become so comfortable with those we love that we often take them for granted. Strong families make the choice and effort to show respect to one another. Conversely, each member must make the choice to behave in a manner that earns the respect of others.
To love and respect, add tolerance. Tolerance is defined as the recognition of and respect for the opinions, beliefs and/or actions of others. However, God is a God of balance, and the definition goes on to include "the amount of variation from a standard that is allowed." There are boundaries. There are standards. This is not a free for all kind of tolerance, but instead a tolerance based on Godly truths that must be upheld in order to remain strong in love and respect for one another. Let's face it, we are each individual creatures by God's design. Each of us brings a unique and essential talent or calling to our families. Also, each person brings a unique set of circumstances faced throughout his or her lifetime. We must not expect everyone to think or approach life in exactly the same manner as we do.  Further, tolerance is the ability to withstand pain and hardship. This is not a surface thing. Families go through painful, difficult, and trying times. Strong family relationships are such that they are able to withstand even the most horrendously painful events standing strong together in love.

The last of my list of ingredients that creates a strong family heritage is forgiveness. This is perhaps the most personal and difficult ingredient of all. While it is important to hold one another accountable, it is also imperative to be quick to forgive. No matter how much love, respect, and tolerance there is in a family unit, we are merely human beings. At some point something will be done, whether intentional or unintentional, that hurts someone. Maybe it is a small thing, but if given a foothold, it can create a huge chasm that is hard to bridge. Satan delights in creating confusion. As the author of confusion, if he can do anything to create discord in anything good, he considers himself successful. We must be faithful in searching our hearts, confessing any hurts, and asking God's help in forgiving. Sometimes forgiveness is a process, but it is one well worth completing. Also, forgiveness does not automatically mean restoration with the offender, but it always means restoration for the forgiver.
In closing, I am so thankful for my family. I honestly do not know where I would be in this life were it not for them. Are we a perfect family? Heavens no! Are we shielded from sin and mistakes? Of course not. We fall and fail just like anyone else. Do we always practice using the ingredients mentioned above? My answer to that question is with a question...are we in heaven yet?! My point is the only way any of these principles can be applied in our human state is through the power of God's Holy Spirit. The more we pray for one another, encourage one another, and help one another, the stronger that spiritual bond becomes that ties us together in Christ's love.

The Way of Love

1 Corinthians 13:1-13

English Standard Version (ESV)

13 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned,[a] but have not love, I gain nothing.

4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;[b] 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

8 Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.



Friday, December 14, 2012

The Brokenhearted

by Cindy Hester

"The Lord is close to the brokenhearted, and saves those who are crushed in spirit" Psalms 34:18
I was busy blow drying my hair this morning getting ready to start a day of cleaning and Christmas shopping. The TV was on in the bedroom next to me, but I was not particularly paying attention. Not until I heard the sound of breaking news and learned of the horrific school shooting in the small town of Newtown, Connecticut.

It is not my purpose to dramatize or capitalize on a subject that has already been somewhat exploited by the news media. Please do not get me wrong - I appreciate those who bring us the news of the day and who attempt to help us understand the loss, grief and needs of those who are involved. It is just that I sometimes wonder the motivation and wisdom behind continuously repeating the images and details for hours on end.

I thought of my little grandson who is about to begin pre-school and kindergarten. I suppose we cannot help but personalize these happenings to a certain degree. I believe it is God's way of helping us to empathize with other human beings with whom we have no close connection. The fact we are brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins causes us to relate somewhat to the excrutiating pain and loss that has blindsided these dear people.

I sat listening to the tearful account of one of the teachers in the classroom next to the shooting. I thought of all the brave, loving teachers in whose hands we place our children each day. I thought of several young friends who are in their first or second year of teaching. The thought of them being placed in a situation such as this broke my heart. I thought of my daughter who is a counselor at a local school. I thought of all of the questions she will be facing from hurting, confused students who might possibly fear coming to school even though this happened thousands of miles away.

I also couldn't help but ask God why. Why these babies? Why these innocent teachers? In the midst of questioning, God reminded that His heart was broken as well. God is not a God who delights in our pain. It is such a reminder that we live in a broken world with broken people who have forgotten the source of healing. It is a condition of anger, selfishness, broken minds and souls from broken relationships. The fact is, there are mean people out there who do bad things. I cannot imagine attempting to make it through the losses they cause without my faith. Moreover I cannot imagine trudging through grief, pain, and loss without the hope Christ brought to this earth over 2,000 years ago. It is a hope that lives on because He died on a cross, and rose to live again. He lives to provide forgiveness of sin and a daily relationship with Him...a relationship that empowers, comforts, loves, guides and directs, and a relationship that "binds up the brokenhearted and heals our wounds."

I hope you will watch the video I placed at the beginning of this blog. It is a song that I played for my own father whenever he was battling with questions, fears, and discouragement in the later stages of dealing with his cancer. It has carried me through many times of questioning and searching to acceptance and peace. May God bless you all with peace and joy as we celebrate the reason to have hope - the birth of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.

"I am feeble and utterly crushed; I groan in anguish of heart. All my longings lie open before you, O Lord; my sighing is not hidden from you. I wait for you, O LORD; you will answer, O Lord my God."

Psalm 38:8-9,15


Thursday, November 29, 2012

Divine Protection by Cindy Hester

"The Lord will guide you always;
    He will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
like a spring whose waters never fail."

I have had a rough time writing this past week or so due to the busy holiday season. I hope you all had a blessed time of Thanksgiving with your family and friends. It seems that time passes much too quickly when we are all together having fun and making memories. We all had a great time relaxing and playing together with my family out at the farm once again, and I am anxious to spend time with my in-laws during the Christmas holidays. I never ceased to be amazed at the blessing of family.

As always, it is tough returning to the "real world" of work and taking care of those daily responsibilities that tend to weigh you down. In the midst of taking care of one such responsibility, I had the sobering experience of having my car broken into in the parking lot of a brand new store just a few miles from my home. I have only had my car about a month, and it is one of the nicest ones I have ever owned. I am especially proud of it because we were blessed to get such a great deal on it giving us much more car for less money.

I had only been in the store for approximately 10 to 15 minutes, and I was not prepared for what I found when walking back out to my car. As I looked up and saw the shattered glass, my mind could not comprehend what I was seeing. I even argued with myself that it couldn't be my car. As I got closer and the reality sunk in as to what had happened. I looked into the front passenger seat to find shattered glass where my makeup bag and lunch kit had been only a few moments before. My console and glove compartment were open, and items were strewn all over. Broken glass had made deep scrratches in the paint on my passenger door.

I knew I had made a mistake by leaving those items out where they were visible, but a makeup bag and a lunch kit? Walking back into the store trembling I faintly remembered earlier having seen an older white car with its break lights on as I was moving toward my parking space. I stopped briefly thinking it was about to back out. When it didn't, I proceeded to park in the spot next to the car. I also remembered looking over wondering what happened to the two individuals I could have sworn were there just a few moments before. I suppose they were ducking down as to not be noticed.

A female eye witness had also noticed the car as well as a man getting out and following me into the store. She had apparently gone in right after the man and came out before him. She saw the man come out of the store a few moments before me, get into the white car and leave. It was then she noticed my broken car window and stayed around to tell what she had seen. I was told that he was most likely the lookout. Store employees reviewed the security tape from cameras inside the store. The man had been smart enough to walk into the store with a cap on with his head bowed low so that his face was hidden. Unfortunately, the store does not have security cameras installed in the designated parking area where I parked.

As the police officer began taking the report, he firmly reminded me of how dangerous of a situation I could have been in. He also began relaying statistics of how these types of crimes are on the rise. People are thinking less and less of taking from others The officer's frustration was evident with the overwhelming task of attempting to protect citizens and make a difference while watching the growing problem.

The theives probably do not know or care, but the crime they committed in less than 10 minutes caused $1,000 worth of damage not to mention the value of the contents taken from the car.
Having said that, I am so blessed that was the extent of the damage. The results could have been far worse. I am also grateful for God giving me a direct revelation of His love and guidance through an individual who chose to allow Him to be seen through her that night. While we were waiting for the police to arrive, the store manager came out to have me fill out paperwork their store requires in situations like this. I began crying as the reality was setting in on me as to what had just happened. The manager put her arm around me, and I will never forget what she said. She looked me in the eye and firmly said, "Be thankful, God is trying to tell you something through this." This made the tears flow harder as I wondered what I was doing that would cause Him to feel the need to tell me something in this way. She smiled kindly and repeated the words. This time they took on a different meaning in my heart. She went on to say, "God does not allow anything to happen to us in order to harm us, but for our good.'

Since that time I have battled with shock, disbelief, anger, and feeling violated. In the midst of it all, however, I keep coming back to what God told me through that precious lady. He is trying to tell me something, and whatever it is will be for my good. This has allowed me to earnestly pray for those individuals. I pray they will be caught and held accountable for their own sake and for the sake of justice. I pray that God will bless them by sending someone into their lives to share Christ's love and mercy. I pray that God would change their hearts to be givers instead of takers. I pray for God's protection around my home since they have some of my personal information.

Most of all, however, I praise God for the protection and comfort He showed to me on a night when I was walking through a "sun-scorched land". He "strengthened my frame" at a time when I felt so discouraged. I am just a normal person with faults who makes mistakes like anyone else. If He will do this for me, He will surely do the same for you.


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Random Facts About Me by Cindy Hester

Okay ladies and gentlemen, if you are looking for a serious writing for today's blog, you are going to be sorely disappointed. This is going to be random facts about me you may or may not know and may or may not care about! You see, I think we so often get caught up in the seriousness of life and the "perfect" personna we try to present to the outside world, we fail to be real. Quite honestly, since all of the hoopla surrounding the election and General Petraeus's indescretions, I needed a break from serious. So here goes...
I HATED school as a child. For the first four years, Mom literally had to drag me kicking and screaming to class. Now, this is not something I am particularly proud of, but I was a worrier. It was so bad that I developed a double ulcer at the age of seven! What does one have to worry about when he or she is seven years old and has a loving family and good life? Who knows, but it seems to come quite naturally for me. I am learning, however, that worrying is a waste of time, and 99% of what we worry about never even takes place.
 When I was four, I  buried my brand-new favorite pair of paten leather Easter shoes in the garden because I thought I could grow more shoes just like them. Unfortunately, the dog dug them up never to be seen again. I learned it is not smart to plant shoes.
At the age of eight my goal was to grow up to be the drummer in a band...not a high school band...a rock band. Okay, maybe not a hard rock band. I wanted to be like Karen Carpenter, the drummer for the Carpenters, so Santa brought me a drum set complete with Karen and all of her brothers' pictures on the bass drum. (I was soooo cool!) I learned that while Karen was a talented musician who paved the way for future female drummers, a set of drums in the hands of an eight year old girl mainly serves to irritate anyone within hearing range.
My favorite toy as a little girl was a toy truck (my grandpa Hood really, really wanted a grandson :-) I learned that girls could drive a truck as well as boys!

 In my early twenties I turned down the offer to go with a friend to hear an upcoming singer/songwriter who had a few good songs being played on a local radio station. He was going to be playing at a small venue near Tyler, Texas where I lived at the time. I had no idea who this guy was, and I declined because I wanted to just go home from work and crash on the couch. My friend came to work the next day with a signed Polaroid picture of her and this handsome new singer. His name? George Strait. I learned it is quite possible to kick yourself in the rear end.

 In my mid-thirties my hair started turning this strange white color, so I decided to add blonde highlights to my naturally dark hair in order to cover the gray. Over time my hair became more and more blonde until there was no brunette left. Several years later having moved to a place where no one had known me as a brunette, I decided to go back to dark hair. I cannot tell you how many people told me how I needed to go back to my "natural" blonde color. I learned that people's view of what is "natural" and "real" is often skewed.

In my late 30's I met this guy. We watched each other from afar for over three years until we finally got up the courage to talk to each other instead of being together in a crowd and talking around each other. This was a pretty special guy, and he made me laugh.We genuinely enjoyed being together, and we soon learned what had begun as friendship had grown into love. I learned to let go, to risk, and to love again - and I married him!

In my late forties I became a grandmother for the very first time. I was not prepared for the overwhelming emotion accompanying this turn of events. I was so in love with this little boy who suddenly appeared in our lives taking our hearts hostage. A couple of years later, a sweet little granddaughter arrived,and the love just grew. This past year another precious little man joined us bringing further joy and love to our growing family of grandbabies. I learned there is no control over how much love one's heart feels for grandbabies. It is a wonderfully uncontrollable love that knows no bounds.
 In my early fifties, I watched my Dad, the spiritual, emotional leader of my extended family fight a strong battle against cancer. Along with my brother and sisters, I had the honor of helping to take care of Dad and Mom's needs after they spent a lifetime of loving and taking care of ours. I was able to say goodbye to him before he went home to be with the Lord. I witnessed and experienced God's grace during the time surrounding the loss of my Dad, then I watched God strengthen and enable my Mom to move forward and bravely face a new life on her own. I watched her faith carry her with peace and joy despite her grief. I learned that even during pain and hardship, life is rich, and full, and good.
Okay, so I did get a little serious, but that is really okay. Serious, funny, weird, difficult, it is all part of being honest and real. I've learned it's all part of life. A really, really good life. I'm looking forward to see what I do and what I learn in the years ahead.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The Way of Love by Cindy Hester

Longevity, stability, heritage. Each of these words come to mind whenever I think of the opening weekend of deer season at the farm. Over the years it has become a time-honored tradition for all of the Hood family to make the pilgrimage back to their roots at the farm for a time of fellowship, laughter, and deer hunting. The anticipation of cool evenings spent telling stories around the campfire is rivaled by only two other happenings - getting that big buck and eating breakfast at Jerry's restaurant in Onalaska, Texas.

Jerry's is a family-owned business that serves, among other foods, a good country breakfast. It is a popular spot with many hunters in East Texas, but it has become more than just a spot for our is a memory. Each year Dad met us out at the farm on opening morning about the time the guys came in from the morning hunt. He would get the campfire started and visit until we heard the familiar sound of four wheelers coming up the hill carrying hungry hunters, and sometimes a deer or two. Once the deer were skinned and on ice, the guys cleaned up and prepared for the next highlight of the weekend, breakfast at Jerry's.
No matter how many tables have to be joined, no matter how chaotic our ordering process becomes, and no matter how many excited children are running around pumped up on coffee, cream, and sugar, the waitresses always treat us with kindness and patience. The food is always served up hot and fresh, and the coffee cups stay full. The experience, however, goes far beyond the performance of waitstaff and the flavor of the food.

The experience is in the memories of togetherness and laughter from days gone by. It is in the feeling the heart remembers when seeing the chair in a spot occupied just a couple of years ago by a spirit that lives long past the physical body where it once was housed. It is in the memory of a conversation, a joke, a smile. It is the sheer continuity of family, of meeting once again as a cohesive unit joined not only by blood, but by love. It is the strength that comes from the past, and the hope that shines for the future.




"Dear Lord, thank You for traditions that bring us together year after year to renew and build upon family relationships that mean so much. Thank You for my family and for the joy they bring to my life. God, please protect this and so many other families who understand this precious and valuable relationship. Please also be with those who have been divided for one reason or another. Shower them with Your love and peace, and if possible, let them find one another once again. Be with those who are in situations where it is best to go their separate ways. Fill their lives with the peace that only You can bring. Help us all to trust You for our family's future, and may we never allow anything to destroy the love and respect we share. In Jesus precious name I pray, Amen."

1 Corinthians 13:1-13

English Standard Version (ESV)

The Way of Love

13 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. 4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. 13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Halloween/Fall Festival Fun Memories by Cindy Hester

Growing up I always loved Halloween - not because it was supposedly the "devil's holiday" (I didn't even know there was a "devil's holiday!") I loved it because it gave me the chance to dress up as something fun and mystical. I also loved the fact that Halloween signaled the beginning of fall, and  two of my other favorite holidays, Thanksgiving and Christmas, were not far behind. (Oh who am I kidding? I love all of the holidays.)

We always had so much fun at the school carnivals. I especially loved dressing up and getting to be a part of the costume parade in town. All of the students would start at the elementary school and march throughout the streets waving and having a blast showing off our costumes. We always ended back at the school for the carnival where there were all kinds of games and booths, and even a spook house. I can close my eyes and smell the frito pie, corn dogs and hot dogs cooking in the old school cafeteria, with a whiff of caramel apples and cotton candy every now and then. I can hear and feel  my breath against the plastic casper the ghost mask that fit snugly against my face with a rubber band around the back holding it in place. It was pure, innocent fun.


My sister, Melody, and friends in front of the old elementary school
cafeteria where those delicious frito pies, hot dogs and corn dogs
were served.
Dad and Mom always made the holiday fun for us kids. We usually would get creative and make our costumes since there was no such thing as Party City or even Wal Mart in those days. About the only place to purchase Halloween costumes was Perry Brothers, a local five and dime store. Of course no one wanted to look like everyone else, so we would usually try to come up with something on our own.


I must have been dressed as Madea (way ahead of my time, huh?!),
and I don't think Mary wanted to stand still for the picture!

I remember one year all of the kids from church went out to the farm for a hay ride as part of our Fall Festival. There were kids and adults enjoying themselves as if they were kids once again. I remember the moon was full like it has been the past few days around here, so it was sort of bright even for night time. Dad turned off the tractor lights as he drove down the dirt road in the woods that led back to the creek. We were singing and having the best time, until someone jumped out of the woods scaring the living daylights out of us. That was the highlight of the evening.

Then there were the times our house got wrapped by some of the teenagers at church. Mom heard them moving around outside my bedroom window, so Dad thought it would be fun to scare them. I remember crouching down beside the bed giggling, waiting for them to come back closer to my window. At the time we had those windows that when opened could be clicked into place at several different heights. When opened quickly, they sounded like an automatic gun going off. Dad waited until they got to the chair right next to the window, then he flung it open as fast as he could. I have never seen kids scatter so fast in all my life. We all sat there rolling on the floor laughing while Dad ran out to tell them all was okay.

Isn't it wonderful to know that God gives us laughter and fun out of even those things man tries to make into something bad. And isn't it wonderful to know that we don't have to dress up in a costume to be a different, new creation. All we have to do is trust in God's precious Son, Jesus, who died to give us an abundant, joyful life. He promises to make a new creation from our old despondent, worn out, hopeless selves.

Thank You, Lord, that You chose to provide us with new life instead of tricking us like old Satan tries to do. Thank You that You give joy unspeakable to those who simply accept You and who build a relationship with you. Thank You that You enjoy seeing Your children have fun and be playful. Help us to be mindful to share Your love this Halloween season, and please keep our children safe. Please help us to create wonderful, happy, innocent memories for them to look back on.

"Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creation: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new." 2 Corinthians 5:17

Thursday, October 25, 2012


by Cindy Hester
Antagonized by circumstance
Negated feelings at a glance
Goaded into fits of rage
Empty hearts so hard to gauge
Rapacious words time won't assuage
Dear Lord, please guard us against unrighteous anger. Help us be more like You, and let grace and compassion reign in our hearts. Amen

Psalm 145: 8-9 “The LORD is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love. The LORD is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made.” (NIV

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

A Letter to Dad by Cindy Hester

Today is one of those sentimental, melancholy days, so please indulge me in sharing a letter I had the priviledge of writing to my Dad whenever he was going away to a special retreat. Each of us kids wrote a letter and sent with the person who would be attending with him. At some point during the week, the letters would be presented as a surprise for Dad to read.

Unfortunately, he did not get to go to the first retreat due to the fact that he had to go to Dallas for prostate cancer surgery. However, Mom gave him the letters to read on the way back home from his hospital stay. I remember her saying how touched he was by them all. I am so thankful to have had the opportunity to tell him these things while I had the chance. So often we take for granted that the people closest to us automatically know the deepest feelings in our heart.

This writing is long, but it is one of my favorites because it reveals so much about the man who was my Dad. As you can probably tell, I am missing him a little today. Thank you for letting me share. I love you Dad. You will forever be with us, because the heart remembers.


Dear Dad,

When Mom told me about the opportunity to write this letter, I'll have to admit I was at a loss. It was not the lack of examples that had me stumped, it was how to put all of that information into one little letter. My mind began wandering back over the years, and I want to share just a little of that journey with you (and believe me, my journey covers a longer span than it used to!) By the end of the trip you will have discovered how my memories bear witness to how you have seasoned my life with the love, faith, strength, hope and laughter. My hope is that you will understand why I can say "I thank my God upon every remembrance of you." (Philippians 1:3).


My earliest memories take me back to our house on the hill. There was the time you had brought a calf and put him in a pen out behind the house. I remember you playfully picking me up and putting me in the feed trough. I started crying because I thought I was going to be the calf's dinner. You laughed, and held me close, all the while explaining that cows don't like people food. This taught me trust.

I also see your company truck turning off of 350 North into what seemed like the longest driveway to our house. Every day I knew you would go to work to provide us with a home, food and clothes. I also remember standing down at the bottom of the hill watching you chop wood in the evenings after you got home from work, or me playing in the yard watching you plow a garden to grow fresh vegetables to have in the freezer, or climbing up in the old barn at the farm watching through the gaps in the logs while you helped Paw Paw Hood mark and brand cattle. I see you taking me with you on a Saturday afternoon to the auction barn to watch the cattle being run through and auctioned off for sale. This taught me the value of hard work, enjoying the labor of your hands, and an appreciation for the practical way in which God provides for this world's physical needs.

I remember when you felt God's call to go full time in the ministry and to organize the church at Chesswood. I remember the Sunday sermons you preached to the small congregation in the old Dairy Treat and how you followed the vision God had placed in your heart. I watch as that vision unfolded and the first sanctuary was built. I remember the fun and joy we all had in that little building. I see the Sunday after church when at 5 years of age you took me back into a quiet place and sat me in your lap sharing with me the plan of salvation. I remember the tears that fell from my eyes as you prayed, conviction on my young heart, but not quite understanding what it all meant. Fast forward to three years later when at the end of a sermon Mrs. Delores Adams was leading the invitation singing "Just as I Am" and I fully understood what it meant to be a sinner, and how I wanted Christ's forgiveness. Even more, even at that young age, I remember wanted to know Jesus like you and Mom did. I remember the baptism at the lake, watching you wade out cautiously testing the water with a stick. I remember the words you spoke, and people coming around to shake my hand and hug my neck as I stood there dripping wet with a sense of unexplainable joy. I remember the voices singing in harmony "Shall We Gather at the River" with their voices being the only musical instruments around. This taught me faith and brought me into the realization of a personal relationship with my Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus. This has proven to be the most priceless lesson of all.

I remember Sunday mornings before Sunday school and church going to the local radio station, watching and listening when it was your week to present Sunday morning radio devotional. Mrs. Peggy Haley sat there drinking her coffee in her bath robe and house shoes in the KETX sound room. There she was, hair all up in rollers introducing you after she completed the local funeral announcements for the week. (Thank heavens it was radio and not TV, but I loved it, and I loved her.) We tagged along with you on visits to hospitals and nursing homes, rode with you to pick up children and adults who had no other way to church and attended more funerals than I can count. This taught me the value of compassion, selflessness and the joy and blessings to be had from sharing Christ's touch to those who need it most.

I watched you care for my grandparents when it wasn't convenient or easy. I remember how you let me cry, and I remember the words of comfort and wisdom you gave while sitting on the front porch at the old place the night after Paw Paw passed away. I saw you weep at my grandparents' funerals, and I witnessed your commitment to Maw Maw Hood after Paw Paw was gone. I saw the mutual love and respect between you and your in-laws, and most importantly I saw the undeniable love and respect you showed to Mom. This taught me the value of marriage, family and family relationships.

I saw the times we went and stood in line outside of city hall and the post office in front of the "Uncle Sam wants You" poster waiting for your turn to vote. We would then go to the courthouse square to gather with friends of the community to watch as election results came in and were posted with chalk on a blackboard at the top of the stairs for all to see. I thought of your routine of getting up early to read the Bible, have quiet time and pray. Next came breakfast, coffee and time with the Houston Chronicle. I listened as you discussed current events of the day. As a result I gained an understanding that world and political events were important, and I had a responsibility to participate in community and government decisions. I heard stories of your time in the army, and saw pictures of the time you were overseas at the end of the Korean conflict. This taught me not only the importance praying for my country, I also gained a sense of civic responsibility, patriotism and a love for my country.

I saw visions of vacations you provided for our family over the years. The trips to Arkansas - especially sweet is the memory of taking Maw Maw Hood, Maw Maw and Paw Paw Moore out of the state of Texas to see the mountains. I remembered the trip where we went to seven different states camping out in the popup camper, Melody and me getting mad at Mary for almost overdosing on chocolate Ex Lax the night before we were supposed to leave town, the huge mosquitoes in Louisiana, getting lost in the military cemetery in Mississippi and having to drive after dark without brake lights on the trailer, having a flat somewhere in Alabama or Georgia, going to the little white country church on Sunday night in Tennessee, going to Clingman's dome, Rock City and all of the fun we had staying in the KOA campgrounds, and most recently our family trips to New Braunfels. Of course it would be wrong for me to leave out the trip to Biloxi, Mississippi when we stopped off in New Orleans for the night with Sherry Lynn, Melody, John and Little Mary. We got swept up in a crowd of people ending up on Bourbon Street after dark! (From this I learned there must be a literal hell and some people were definitely in danger of going there!) In all seriousness, these trips taught me the importance of having fun and the value of taking time out to slow down, enjoy life and make memories with your children. They also instilled a sense of adventure and a desire to learn of people and places outside my immediate community.

Then there was Camp Gary where Bro. Frank was always the fun preacher for the kids to hang around, or Bible School where you would give the talks every morning after we marched in and said the pledges to the flags and the Bible. You were always been loved by children of all ages. There was always humor, fun and laughter whenever you were involved in our events. This taught me the value of staying young at heart no matter what number your age says you are.

Oh yeah, there was also the time you were trying to talk privately at the house with Bro. Irving about a matter, and Aunt Britty kept trying to interrupt to get you to look at the fish she had caught that day. Being the gentle soul that she was (ahem!), she finally barged right into the living room where the two of you sat talking quietly. She blurted out something to the effect that you had better come out and see her fish so she get them cleaned before dark. Now, Mom had already explained nicely to her that you were counseling someone privately to no avail! To top it all off, she had her little Chihuahua dog traipsing behind her in the house (another boundary trampled over!) I will never forget as long as I live, you looked up at her and told her in no uncertain terms that if she didn't take her dog and her bowl of fish back outside until you were done, she would find that bowl of fish dumped on top of her head! Maybe it is for the best, but I can't remember what you said would happen to the dog. At any rate, this event taught me the importance of setting boundaries and the value of righteous anger- neither of which set in with me until much, much later in life!

Then there are the painful memories I wish I could retract. The times I hurt or embarrassed you…the times when you must have wondered if I would ever amount to anything worthwhile...the times that I did not live up to my potential…the many, many times you loved me unconditionally when I was so unlovable. I remember the day you had the courage to send me before a judge in order for me to learn an extremely valuable lesson. I can see you and Mom standing firmly beside me, supporting me even though you could not support the mistake I had made. I feel the deep pain you must have felt, and yet you continued to love and believe in me. This taught me the value of tough love, accountability and owning my mistakes.

I remember the sacrifice you made so that I could be at Mary's wedding…how you drove to Memorial Southwest Hospital to pick me up when Little John had meningitis the day of the wedding and drove me back to the hospital late that same night. I think of the wisdom and discretion you used when I was attempting to make important and life-changing decisions during my separation and divorce. I will always appreciate the support you provided as my Dad during an overwhelming, excruciatingly painful time in my life. I think of the way you continued to pray for John, and to remain as impartial as possible in order to allow me to come to my own decisions in my own time. I see the way you encouraged me to be as independent as possible while building a new life for me and the kids in Livingston after the divorce. I see the countless hours spent praying for me, Rachel, John and Sam. This taught me to never give up praying for and loving my children whatever their circumstances. You also helped me to develop self-reliance, strength of character and a strong sense of who I am as a woman in Christ.

I see the loving way you accepted Charlie, and I see the day you joined Charlie and I in marriage. I see the love you have shown to him and to Ryan and Christa. I see your constant example of love, humility, integrity acceptance and wisdom. I see how you have impacted Charlie in his spiritual growth and his growth as a husband and a father. I see the humor and love you brought to family gatherings. I see the ageless, timeless spirit in which you viewed life-a spirit that allows you to relate to people of all ages, races, genders and positions in life. I see the value you placed on education and on encouraging your children to open their hearts and minds and continue a willingness to learn and grow personally, professionally and spiritually.

Now you can better understand my dilemma at the beginning of this letter. There is so much more I could say, but in the interest of time I will have to close. I guess in writing this I am humbled by remembering how blessed I am to have a father that I respect and admire, a father whose image I may never even come close to living up to. I guess it is because you so naturally reflect the image of your Father.

With much love and respect,


A Poem for Bear By Maw Maw Cindy My dear little Bear who sleeps soundly and tight So peaceful and trusting, your cares free...