Friday, April 8, 2011

A Harvest.

Over thirty years ago, my dad was the pastor this church in Albemarle, NC.


It wasn’t big and it wasn’t fancy and there weren’t many people when he first arrived. In fact, one of the visitors who eventually became a part of the church recounted, “When I first walked through the front door of that church, I saw just six people--and four of them were on the platform!”


The four people on the platform would have been my two younger sisters and me (playing drums, bass and piano, respectively) and my dad, who led the singing and did the preaching. The two people in the pews would have been my mom and one other intrepid church attender. And at the very beginning that was it—the entire congregation.

It was most definitely not a day of big beginnings.

I was in my late teens when dad pastored there, and let me just say that when I was a teen and my view of the world was still shiny and unsullied, I didn’t tend to think about certain things.

I didn’t tend to think about the fact that it must have been discouraging sometimes to be in my dad’s shoes back then, to be in the prime of his life while pastoring just a handful of people.


I didn’t tend to think about how much fortitude and dedication it must have taken for my dad to go to that dreary, dilapidated church office day after day and labor diligently over sermons that only a couple of people would ever hear.


I didn’t tend to think about the fact that finances must have been very tight back in those days when Dad had a family to support that was—at the beginning, at least—bigger than the whole congregation.

There were a whole lot of things I didn’t think about back then.

Four days ago, when unexpected circumstances caused me to make a trip back to Albemarle to sing at a funeral, I made it a point to stop by the old church first. And when I pulled into the parking lot, I started to think about a whole lot of things because I suddenly saw that old church through different eyes.

I saw it through the eyes of a 49-year old woman whose dreams were no longer new and no longer shiny and I saw it through eyes that have seen disappointment and grief. I understood, in a fresh way, just what sort of gritty determination it must have taken my parents to stay in that place and faithfully pastor those few people.

And as I sat out in the parking lot and gazed at those long ago memories through older eyes, I wept.


I wept over old memories and new understanding and I wept because that building had encompassed the ministry of a father who is no longer on this earth. And for a few brief moments, I felt close to him, and I felt like I understood him better. I felt like a part of him was right there with me on that warm spring day—a day that was filled with the solemn quietude of long gone years.

I realized that even though my dad never pastored a large church, never lived in a nice house, and never had much money, he was still a success. My dad was faithful to what he was called to do and he did it with joy and with excellence.

My dad was also blessed to have a wife at his side who didn’t whine about not having extra money to go out clothes shopping. Instead, she cheerfully scrubbed church toilets with him, dusted pews while he vacuumed, typed his letters, and sat on the front pew and amened his sermons. And all along the way, she quietly invested her love and her life into her husband, into her children, and into those few parishioners who came through the doors of that humble building.

My dad was a flawed man in many ways. There is no doubt about that. But I sat in that parking lot and looked beyond his faults and I cried because he was no longer around to unlock that little white door and step inside the church to do the ministry he loved so much.

And throughout his long ministry, my dad always did so much more than just pastor a church. While we lived in Albemarle, my dad also opened a youth center and spent hundreds of hours reaching out to both troubled teens and “good kids” alike. He played pool with them, counseled them, listened to them and loved them unconditionally. My dad’s ministry has never been confined to a church’s four walls and for that, I am grateful.

But that’s not the end of the story.

After my dad had built that church up to about forty people, he left and another pastor came. In a few years, the church outgrew that old building and rented a theater to meet in. And then in 1986, a new building was constructed and a few years after that, another even larger building was built.

Today that little white church runs over six hundred people and continues to grow.

new church2

And this was the church that had invited me to come and sing at the funeral of one of its long time members, a woman who just happened to be one of the handful of people who had attended my dad’s church all those years ago.


After thirty-one years, I had the privilege of seeing her husband and her daughter and son once again. They told me how much my dad had meant to them and how they had never felt more loved than when they were attending his church. The son and daughter told me how my sisters and I had been their role models and how inspired they had been by our singing and playing in the services.

And then, one by one, other people (many of whom I no longer even recognized), came up to say that they had also known my dad, that they had been members of that small church, and that their lives had been greatly impacted by our family’s ministry.

In those brief, sweet moments following the funeral, I was reminded of the very thing that I had been grappling with earlier in the day while sitting in the dusty church parking lot. I was reminded that no act of kindness, no song, no sermon, no hug, no word of encouragement ever goes to waste, even though it may seem like such a very small thing at the time.

It might be five years later, it might be fifteen years later, it might even be thirty-one years later, but eventually, the good seed we sow into the lives of those around us will produce a harvest. Sometimes we never get to see that harvest, but other times? We do.

This past Monday night, standing in a thriving church in Albemarle, NC that was birthed out of my dad’s long ago ministry, I got to see a harvest. I got to experience a harvest. It was a harvest of hugs, a harvest of joy, a harvest of precious memories treasured.

And in the middle of the memories, and the stories, and the laughter, I caught a glimpse of my dad.

He was smiling. And I was glad.


Thursday, April 7, 2011

Beauty Tips and Sons

Thanks a bunch to everyone who has stopped by the comments area in yesterday's post and left some of your beauty tips and favorite beauty items.

I am learning a lot and hope that you're stopping back by to read the tips your fellow readers have left. For those of you have something to share and haven't done so, please do. I'm desperate here, ladies!

Of course, my favorite comment so far has to be the one from my very own husband who declaimed decidedly that he does not wear make up. At all.

That is certainly good to know.

I worked for quite a while earlier today on a post about my recent trip but I didn't quite get it all said the way I wanted to, so I put that on the back burner so I can work on it more for tomorrow.

But for now, just because I miss those good ol' days frightfully, here are a few pictures of my favorite son. (I'm working in a different posting editor so the pictures are laid out a little weird but, oh well! He's still cute!)

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

A Beauty Jig. And A Trip.

Last Wednesday, I went to the gym. Because we all know that I am a Health and Fitness Guru and Gym Going Machine. (You can stop laughing now.)

After I left the gym, I went across the street to CVS to pick up an eyeliner pencil, which is one of my (few) must have beauty items.

Take just a moment if you would, to picture me as I’m standing and perusing the beauty aisle. I’m wearing no make up (except for a forlorn dab of lipstick that somehow survived my semi-intense workout), I have an old ball cap pushed down on top of unwashed, mostly unbrushed hair, and I’m wearing a non-too-inspiring t-shirt and sweat pants ensemble that’s perfect for the gym but just slightly less than perfect for wearing out in public.

I’m sure that anybody walking by me would have thought, “My, my! If anyone could use some items from the beauty aisle, that unwashed, uncoifed, unkempt woman surely could.”

After I had picked up my eyeliner, I thought that I would take a few extra minutes to just look at some of the other stuff in the beauty aisle vicinity which turned into a quasi-overwhelming, semi-frustrating task.

Have you ever done that? Have you ever stood in the cosmetic aisle of a store for a month of Sundays, picking up one item after another, squinting at the small type as you read about how this particular miraculous item was being touted to transform your very existence?

And the thing is--while some of those products are an unmitigated waste of money, there are other products that really are excellent. Unfortunately, I am not really on the cutting edge of many things fashion and/or beauty related, so I am generally in a highly clueless state as to what products might be worth trying.

So I continued to stand there and contemplate all the promises of beauty. I sighed a little, squinted a little, read a little, and thought a little. And then I said to myself, “It would sure be nice if I had a hundred girlfriends lined up in the store with me so that each one could recommend her all time favorite item(s) that she just can’t live without.”

And then? Then, I thought about you! And I suddenly got happy! And inspired! And I did a little jig right there in CVS! (Well actually it was an internal jig. Which is much less alarming than my external jig.)

It occurred to me that I could just throw my clueless self on your mercy and ask you to take one (teeny little) minute and leave a comment about what item(s) you truly love when it comes to lipstick, eye shadow, foundation, cleansers, anti-wrinkle stuff, moisturizers, hair products, etc.

If you all will do that, two good things will happen:

  • I can get some much needed input
  • Each of you could get some new ideas when you read what everyone else contributes

So it’s a win-win situation. And plus, the whole idea just makes me want to jig! And that’s really saying something ‘case I am generally a genuinely non-jigger.

So that’s my request for the day. As a (newly turned) 49-year old woman (headed quickly toward being a newly turned 50-year old woman) I really could use a little bit of fresh beauty inspiration in my life.

Can’t wait to hear what item(s) you just can’t live without.


In other news . . .

I mentioned on Monday that I was going out of town briefly. Which I did. And it was a most lovely time.

It’ll take me a day or two to get some of those trip experiences processed and written down but for now I’ll leave you with a couple photos I took on my way home.

IMG_3328 IMG_3360 IMG_3372


I love the scenes of spring.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Unexpected Inspirations

Saturday afternoon, I got an unexpected phone call from a pastor of a church across the state. He said a lady who's attended his church for a long time often talked about Steve and me, and also about my parents and sisters. (My dad was an interim pastor at this particular church back when my sisters and I were teenagers and then later, when Steve and I were on the road, we sang a couple times at that same church.)

The pastor said that this woman (who was only 63) passed away unexpectedly and it occurred to him that it would be especially meaningful for her family if someone from the Smith/Campbell clan could participate in her funeral. He called Steve and I to find out if it was even a possibility before mentioning it to the family.

As it turns out, I was able to arrange my schedule to go and when he called the family to tell them of my availability, he said they were just absolutely delighted. I am so honored to be invited to be a part of their lives in this special way, especially after twenty-five years!

So I’ll be leaving the house in just a few minutes (at 6:30 am) for the 6-hour trip. I’ll sing at the funeral, stay overnight at a hotel, and then be back home by Tuesday evening.

Unfortunately, Sarah woke up with a fever this morning, mixed in with a case of overall lethargy and “blah-ness;” however, since she doesn’t seem to be terribly sick, I feel quite comfortable leaving her in Steve’s very capable hands.

Sarah just came into the room a minute ago to recite a poem she’s memorizing for a class at school. I was so taken by the beauty of the poem that I wanted to share it with you here. There’s nothing like starting off a new week with an unexpected inspiration and I most am happy to share the Smithellaneous Stage with Maya any old time. (I emphasized in bold the phrases I especially love.)

Touched by an Angel
by Maya Angelou

We, unaccustomed to courage
exiles from delight
live coiled in shells of loneliness
until love leaves its high holy temple
and comes into our sight
to liberate us into life.

Love arrives
and in its train come ecstasies
old memories of pleasure
ancient histories of pain.

Yet if we are bold,
love strikes away the chains of fear
from our souls.
We are weaned from our timidity
In the flush of love's light
we dare be brave

And suddenly we see
that love costs all we are
and will ever be.
Yet it is only love
which sets us free.

Ahhhh. I am leaving on my trip feeling inspired.

May your day be full of loveliness and unexpected inspirations.

sarah beach