Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Simpler Times - Happy Birthday to Me

by Cindy Hester

Does this look like a child who would plan
her own birthday party? (Nevr mind...
don't bother answering that!)

I have always heard it said  if you want a job done right, you've got to do it yourself. Well, I guess that theory must have hit home with me at an early age. It was early spring, and my 6th  birthday was just around the corner. I really don't know how it snowballed so out of control. I just remember innocently swinging out on the playground at recess and someone mentioning my upcoming birthday. One thing led to another and of course the subject of a party came up. The next thing I know everyone is wanting to  know if they are invited. Me being the people pleasing child I was, I invited them all!

 
I was never much of a party planner, but I had a friend who could plan a trip to the bathroom and make it seem like a vacation. Before I knew it, I was obeying orders by creating and distributing hand-written invitations to well over 20 of my friends at school. I can remember not being too terribly worried because I never expected they would actually show up.

As I began getting positive responses from almost everyone, the fact I had not yet told my parents about the party began to sink in. My stomach churned every time I thought about the dilemma. If I told Momma and Daddy, they might say no, and I had already said everyone could come. But if I didn't say something, there would be no cake or punch, or worse, I could be in major trouble!

The days rocked on to that fateful Friday of the party. I stood miserably in the bus line with all of those children headed to my house with presents. My momma still knew nothing of the mayhem that was about to descend upon her. Little did I know, she had been planning a family party on Saturday at my grandparents house. My grandmother was baking my favorite cake, and all of my cousins were planning to attend. Dad had been preaching a revival that week, and I am sure she had not had time to clean house for a party much less bake a birthday cake.

I remember one of my friend's moms running up with my present handing it quickly to her daughter who was waiting in the bus line with all of the other kids headed to my house. She told her daughter to be sure and call whenever the party was over. Inside I was shouting "TELL HER THERE IS NO PARTY!!!" but nothing would come out of my mouth!

The whole bus ride home I was sick at my stomach. You have to understand, back then there were no Party City stores, and grocery stores did not have pre-baked birthday cakes. It was a big event to plan a birthday party, and most of them were family events.

The bus finally screeched to a halt in front of my house and children began pouring out one after the other until around 25 kids were running in my front yard. There stood Mom, her hair rolled in bobbie pins and tied in a scarf. She wore no makeup and had a look of absolute horror on her face. If looks could kill, I probably wouldn't have lived past 6.

God bless her though. She must have looked past the anger she had to have been feeling to my trembling lower lip and decided to refrain from embarassing me at the moment. She went inside and began calling my aunt and a few others to join us (with a cake, ice cream and something to drink.) We played Red Rover, chase and dodge ball. I opened presents and played with friends until parents began arriving. It actually turned out to be a really good party. (Although it was the last I planned on my own!!)

I did have to sit through a long, long lecture on honesty and respect, and I did have to dry the dishes every night for about a month...but I sure got some good presents! All that said, though, my Mom did inadvertenly get me back the next year.

I had the biggest crush in second grade on this boy. He had these big green eyes, and I thought he was soooo cute. Luckily I drew his name for our school classroom Christmas party (that was before we had to worry about offending anyone by celebrating Christmas.) Well, it just so happens I knew the perfect present for him. Perry Brothers had the coolest metal Tonka truck that I just knew he would love. I figured he would really think I was the coolest girl in school whenever he opened that present.

Well, to put it mildly, it was a rough morning...I was nervous, and I forgot his present! The school let me call Mom to bring it to the party so he would have something to open. Mom was a little late, but I just knew it would be worth it all whenever he opened my best gift ever. All other presents had been opened and it seemed almost like a movie. It was perfect. Everyone was standing around his desk watching. The anticipation grew to a fevered pitch. Then, much to my horror, out pops three pair of huge granny panties and a floral robe! Just what every little boy ever wished for! He threw the box to the ground and ran crying from the room.

Poor Momma had gotten the boxes mixed up and brought my great-aunt's present instead of his truck! At first I was so angry and embarrassed. However, the anger and embarrassment only lasted until the moment I Iooked up and saw past my anger at her trembling lower lip and remembered the grace she had shown to me the day I showed up with 25 uninvited guests for a birthday party she ended up hosting without any preparation. 

I probably did give her a long lecture that day on the way home  as we later laughed recounting the story to my aunt and my grandmother. Somehow I don't think I was able to get her to dry the dishes for a month as punishment for her crime. Instead we decided to call it even. Little did I know, I had begun to learn one of the most important lessons I would ever take with me in life..."Gratitude is born in the heart that takes the time to count up past mercies." 


Monday, June 25, 2012

Readers...please don't go away!!

Just a brief update. I have had to take a brief hiatus in my Simpler Times writing because of a business trip to Washington State. By the way, should you ever have the opportunity to go to Seattle or any of the surrounding area, take advantage of it...you will NOT regret it.

At any rate, I will be picking up where I left off sometime this week. I look forward to getting back to my regular writing schedule. In the meantime, here are some pictures from my trip for you to enjoy...


















Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Simpler Times - Shall We Gather at the River


by Cindy Hester



My Grandfather, Bro. C. L. Moore, after
Baptizing Three New Members
of Bethel Baptist Church, Bold Springs



Long before baptisteries, new Christians who wished to follow Jesus’ example of believer’s baptism experienced that baptism in a river, creek, or pond. I will always remember my baptism which was performed by my Dad in a lake near the Chesswood Baptist Church, Livingston, Texas.

Dad had felt a calling from God to form a mission church on the south side of town near Chesswood Subdivision. He stepped out in obedient faith, and serving as a local missionary of the Polk County Missionary Association he began and organized the Chesswood Baptist Church where he pastored for 29 years before "retiring", then serving as Pastor of Soda Baptist Church for 15 years. The charter members of Chesswood Baptist Church originally met and worshipped in homes until they were able to lease a small hamburger “joint” (as Dad used to call it.) Sunday school classes met anywhere from the walk-in freezer to the outdoor awning of the small restaurant.

There were many sweet days of fellowship in that little restaurant. I laugh whenever I think of my mother teaching the Sunday school class in the walk-in freezer. We had a few mischievous boys whom she was terrified would someday lock her and the class in it. She would teach that class with her chair sitting in the doorway. If anyone was going to close that door, they were going to have to move her and her chair to get the job done!

Home-made pews filled what used to be the main dining room of the restaurant, and an old, slightly out of tune piano filled the building with hymns. A couple of the keys stuck every so often, but it did not matter. The spirit flowing from that musical praise grabbed the heart and soul in a way that only divinely inspired worship could.

Dad had a heart for lost souls. He knew what God’s love could do for them. He knew what God’s love had done for him. It was his mission, his very heart to spread that message. Those charter members felt that same calling. It was a wonderful place to be, and I always looked forward to Sundays and Wednesdays there. God was at work in ways that left a lasting impression on my life.
  
Chesswood Baptist Church as it Looks Today

The church grew and was able to purchase prime property on Highway 59. It was in the original sanctuary on the new property that I came face to face with my Heavenly Father. The congregation was singing “Just as I Am” and my feet would not stay planted in that pew. It was uncomfortable for me as a child to walk that aisle to the alter in front of everyone, but it was even more uncomfortable to stay put. I walked to my Daddy’s waiting arms crying the entire way. My heart was stirred and in awe of something far greater than I could understand at the time. He talked with me to ensure I understood the step of faith I was taking. He then presented me to the church as having asked Christ into my heart and wanting to follow Jesus in believer’s baptism. It was one of the most profound moments of my life.

Once we got home, he called me back to a quiet room, sat me in his lap and talked more with me about this decision. At the time I was a young child of 5, and he wanted to make sure I fully understood the plan of salvation. My heart overflowed with love as Dad held me close reading from the Bible and praying over my life and for continued understanding of God’s plan for my life. I later reached an age of greater understanding of my need for a Savior. It was at this time I was baptized in that lake with those dear souls singing “Shall We Gather at the River.”

I cherish the days I attended baptisms watching my Dad and grandfather walk out into the water carrying a pole or stick ahead of them to ensure there were no sudden deep drops in the bottom of the pond. I treasure the remembrance of the sound of katydids and frogs breaking the reverently quiet air as new Christians followed into the water to publicly demonstrate a symbol of their faith. I value what that symbol represents. Troubles did not magically disappear, and sudden perfection had not been reached. Through salvation, however, an Omnipotent Power had arrived, and an all-sufficient supply of grace and mercy had become available. Through baptism, a beginning act of faith and obedience was acheived. Thank God for His power, mercy, and grace to continue drawing us to a life of faithful obedience.



My Dad, Bro. Frank E. Hood, baptizing my little brother, Andy Hood,
at Chesswood Baptist Church, Livingston, Texas.


Matthew 3:13-17
New International Version (NIV)
The Baptism of Jesus

13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John.
14 But John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?”
15 Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John consented.
16 As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. 17 And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”



Friday, June 8, 2012

Simpler Times - Those Summer Revivals

"Melody...Cindy...put away your bikes and come get ready for church! Hurry, we're going to be late!!" Many were the days we were called away from mud pies, Barbie dolls, our doll orphanage, or whatever happened to be capturing our imaginations that day to clean up and head out somewhere to attend a revival with Dad. As a child I remember whining, "we've got to go to church AGAIN?!?" As an adult I look back on those days with fondness. I now realize just how much they shaped and prepared me to face the more complicated, difficult days of adulthood.

We may have had to stop playing a little earlier than usual, but we were surely compensated for it with good food. Often members of the church hosting the revival would graciously invite us into their homes for an evening meal prior to the services. One particular home stands out in my mind because of its uniqueness. I have no idea when it was actually built, but it must have been in the early 1900's because it still had the dog trot down the middle. Now for those of you who are unfamiliar with "dog-trot" houses, they were essentially two houses under one roof with an open covered porch separating the two sections. Usually the living room, dining area, and the kitchen were on one side, and the bedrooms on the other. The idea of the open porch way was for better air flow creating a cooler place to sit on those hot summer days and evenings. Also, the bedrooms did not get heated up so much when cooking in the kitchen.


(Example of a dog-trot home)
The main house at the circa-1845 Barrington Farm is a vernacular dog-trot structure, with a center breezeway that provides ventilation and shade.
www/oldhousesonline.com

The home was owned by one of the little widow women in the church, and my goodness she could cook! The vegetables were fresh from the garden, and everything was well seasoned from being cooked in iron pots and skillets. The sweet tea was to die for, and dessert...what can I say other than out of this world. It was one of those evenings that your memory records it all...the smell of freshly-cut grass, blooming gardenias...the feel of the warm breeze flowing through the dog-trot porch as we sat patiently waiting for the dinner table to be set...the clinking sound of dishes and laughter as the women visited and worked together...the ideal definition of a perfect summer evening.

When the hard-working souls of a farming community met together for revival, revival usually showed up. The warmth and sense of anticipation infiltrated the church building...something my soul recognized, even as a young child. These people had spent time praying for and expecting revival. Their love for the Lord was evident. Their very existence depended upon God's favor. The success or failure of their crops depended on nature's grace. The cost of raising and feeding their cattle was dependent upon natural forces. These folks knew God's grace in the good times and His provision in the worst of times. Many had lived through the Great Depression. They knew what it was like to have nothing and be brought back to sufficiency. They knew the meaning true meaning of contentment.

Visiting before revival services.

Perhaps my favorite revival services were those held at the Bethel Baptist Church of Bold Springs, Texas. It was the church where my grandfather pastored and the church my parents grew up attending. Both sets of my grandparents were there as well as many other friends and family members. People from all over the community came out to attend the services, to worship the Lord, and to hear my Dad preach. The hand of the Lord was surely upon Daddy. He definitely was born to minister and preach the Word of God.


Rev. Frank Edward Hood (Daddy)
in his early days of ministry.

At Bold Springs, the ladies would often bring dishes and everyone would gather out under the trees for dinner on the ground (I am quite sure was supposed to be dinner on the grounds because we did not eat off the ground.) We would eat until we nearly popped, then go in for church. As a small child I can remember laying with my head in my Maw Maw Moore's lap watching those old ceiling fans turn. Paw Paw Moore would rub my eyebrows until my eyelids got so heavy I had to close them whether I wanted to or not.


Rev. C. L. Moore (my Paw Paw Moore),
Pastor of Bethel Baptist Church, Bold Springs, Texas


Aunt Wayne Wilder always brought some kind of snack for all of the kids after church (usually Chicken in a Biscuits.) This one particular night after my sister and I had gotten our snacks Mom told us to go ahead and load up in the car since we were about to leave. She followed, but just as she opened the door, Aunt Wayne called out to tell her something. Not paying any further attention to the back seat, Mom got in the car, shut the door, and hiked her skirt up saying, "I have just got to get out of this girdle before I explode! This thing is so tight it is killing me!!" She worked and struggled getting that girdle off, then playfully rolled it up and threw it in the back seat saying, "Whew that feels much better."


A girdle from the 1960's

My sweet, modest, young Momma (Mrs. Gracie Hood)


Thank heavens overhead lights in cars did not stay on for an extra few seconds like they do nowadays, because about the time the girdle left her hand, a male voice from behind her seat said in a long, drawn out southern drawl, "Sister Gracie, you doing all right this evening? Sure was a good service wasn't it?" My mother was mortified! Anyone who knows her at all understands how modest she is. She attempted to reply, "I'm fine, and yes, it was a good service," but words would not come. She got tickled at the absurdity of the whole situation and could do nothing but laugh. There we sat...Mom silently shaking with laughter, us girls giggling in the back seat, and the gentleman with us staring blankly out of the back window until Dad finally made it to the car.

To make matters worse, Dad looked at Mom with a puzzled look on his face and said, "Grace, are you okay?" About that time Melody held up the girdle and we all busted out laughing. Grinning, Dad looked back at our passenger and said, "I'm sorry I forgot to tell Gracie we were taking you home." Mom lived through her embarrassment in time, but she still turns a little red and shakes with laughter each time I bring it up. Thank You, Lord, for Your sense of humor and for the happy memories of those summer revivals.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Simpler Times - A Heritage

"Somewhere along the line of development we discover who we really are, and then we make our real decision for which we are responsible. Make that decision primarily for yourself because you can never really live anyone else's life not even your child's. The influence you exert is through your own life and what you become yourself."  Eleanor Roosevelt

This past weekend my brother and sisters and most of their families got together with my Mom for a workday weekend at the farm. Since then, I have been reflecting over the miracle of family, of heritage, and of love. "Simpler Times" is not so named because the days were easy. During these times there were many inconveniences, numerous injustices and often countless, seemingly insurmountable difficulties. Despite these circumstances, however, life seemed genuine, unassuming, less complicated, and people more loyal to one another.

A part of my quest in writing about these times is to recount memories connecting my present to my past. It is also my mission in sharing these priceless memories to somehow reach into your heart and remind you of your own heritage. Whether you've had the best ancestry, or one you may wish to forget...whether you have the fondest of memories, or the worst of nightmares...you have a heritage...an important story that is yours alone. More significantly, you have a choice in the direction your heritage takes from this point forward.

I was blessed to have had two wonderful sets of grandparents, and I still have access to their old homeplaces where I can return to enjoy the spirit of their presence. The value of the history these homesteads hold is priceless to me. You will hear many memories of both places in my writings.

Since my Dad went home to be with the Lord, however, my family has found a haven in the family farm that has been a part of our heritage for over a hundred years. Even though the old homeplace is gone, the memories remain. I cannot explain how incredible an experience it is to watch the sixth generation of direct Hood descendents walk on the same ground and play in the same dirt that was claimed well over a century ago.



This old homeplace is where my great-great grandfather brought his sons to begin a new life. Somewhere along the way one of the sons, Mr. Wiley, met Miss Jenny, fell in love and they had three sons - Arch, Frank and Lynn. Mr. Arch grew up, met Miss Winnie, and somewhere in his 40's became quite smitten with her (as is quite evident in this rare picture I found of them in their early courtship or newly married days.) Later down the line their only son who also happens to be my father, Frank Edward Hood, was born on that very land in a bedroom of the old homeplace.

Miss Winnie (my Maw Maw Hood) and Mr. Arch (my Paw Paw Hood)

After my grandfather and grandmother Hood passed away, this farm was my Dad's connection to his past. It was his haven and sanctuary from the pressures of the ministry. I truly believe this place, its memories, and its serenity kept him grounded and connected with his earthly father and deepened his relationship with his heavenly Father. Additionally, as Mom and Dad's family grew, it became a treasured meeting place where we gathered to sit around the campfire listening to Dad recount stories of his childhood, tell countless jokes, pray numerous prayers, and simply enjoy life in the moment.


My Mom (Gracie) and Dad (Frank Edward)...Dad telling one of his stories.
Each of us children has his or her own special memories here. It is the perfect spot to get away from the television, the phone, and the pressures of life. It is here the past, present and future meet. Here deadlines lose thier significance in the total scheme of things. Here, looking into the star-filled heavens I find a connection with my Heavenly Father and feel the closeness of my earthly father. Here I find my roots and a deep heritage worth sharing.

That Wonderful Hot Mess Called Motherhood by Cindy Hester Moms, are you ever guilty of measuring yourselves against a standard pu...