When Life Happens….
It has been too long since either Steve or I have shared here. Unfortunately, life has caused us to not always be available to put “pen to thought”. I feel challenged to once again begin sharing with those of you who wish to follow our journey with this Eulogy I was privileged to share at my mother’s Celebration of her Life in June 2015. I pray you are encouraged.
Betty Joyce Horton Stallings
b 7/4/1931-d 6/10/2015
Our Mother, Betty Joyce Horton Stallings, was born on the 4th of July, 1931. As a child she always thought that the fireworks and other celebrations were in recognition of her birthday. To be honest, my sister, Brenda and I wondered why our birthday celebrations never compared to Mama’s.
I am glad she had those special thoughts, because coming from a family that did not have a great deal of monetary wealth, she learned early that if she wanted something that was not in the family budget she had to work for it. When she wanted a bicycle she sold watermelons. She even commissioned her friends to sell for her and receive a percentage of the profits. She baby sat, weeded gardens and grew and sold vegetables to purchase a trumpet. Her efforts enabled her to buy such a nice trumpet that the other band students begged to play it.
From the beginning it was obvious that Mama’s skills were not in the areas of normally accepted domesticity for her era. If Brenda and I needed something sewn, Big Granny would be our go-to-person. Mama didn’t bake cakes, so our birthday cakes came from Langbehn’s Bakery. But she could take a piece of wood and with her band saw and imagination create magical things, including our slingshots and rubber-band guns, which made us the envy of all our friends. She was an expert marksman and with her 22 rifle, which was an anniversary present from Daddy, she kept our yard on 45th Street free of venomous snakes. Mama was Daddy’s right hand when it came to preparing the cars he painted in his Automotive and Paint and Body Garage. She had a light touch and could smooth out the surface of the cars so that you would never be able to tell where the damage had been. Because of Mama, Brenda and I grew up knowing that we could do and be whatever we desired. Nothing was labeled as being just for girls or just for boys. Mama was truly ahead of her time.
If you knew Mama you know that she had a very special relationship with Jesus. Consequently, I can not share anything about Mama without including Him. Mama began following Jesus at a very young age. She began practicing her faith as a young girl by sitting the family dogs down and teaching them about Jesus’ love and encouraging them to receive Him as their Lord. I imagine there was a little “Hellfire and Brimstone” thrown in to keep their attention. As she grew up there was less “Hellfire and Brimstone” and more love. She wanted everyone to know the Love of Christ and receive Him as their own personal Lord and Savior. She taught Sunday School, Children’s Church, and led Youth Group. She facilitated Bible Studies in group settings and as a one-on-one mentor.
My Mama would be the first to say that she was not a “Saint” and that anything that was good in her was because of her placing her trust in Jesus. While in Junior High I told a classmate that my mother was perfect. The classmate said that was impossible, nobody was perfect. I very quickly told her that she was wrong according to Matthew 5:48, that reads, “Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
I have since learned the true meaning of that verse and that my Mama was not perfect, but one of the things I loved about her so much and strive to immolate, is how easily she loved others. She was one of the least judgmental people I know. She believed her assignment as a Believer was to share the Love of Jesus to all she met, but allow Jesus to do the changing. I personally am a recipient of her non-judgmental love.
My Mama was an anointed and gifted writer. Many of you have been recipients of her letters/epistles, but she would be the first to say that she was only the Scribe for the words that Holy Spirit revealed to her. Much of the material that she used in Childrens’ Church and Youth Group was original. But every time she put pen to paper to write a letter, story, poem or song she felt humbled to be chosen to share God’s message.
Before we could read for ourselves Brenda and I learned much of what we know of the Lord at our Mama’s knees, looking at pictures and listening to stories from our Family Bible. One of the most important things she taught us is that the Church is not a building or a denomination. Instead it is the people who are Followers of Christ who make up the Church. When I was still in elementary school my Mama was inspired to right a song about this very thing. These are the words from the chorus.
“Take me out of the Ivory Towers,
From behind the Stained-glass windows,
From off the Plush pews.
Let me walk among the people, as I use to do.
The world is looking for reality.
They’ll only find that in me,
But only as they see me in you.”
If Mama was standing before us today she would sing these words in her beautiful vibrato alto voice and encourage each of us to live in such a way that the world can feel and see Christ’s Love. Mama’s earthly journey is over, but her legacy lives on in each of us who knew and loved her.
In closing I wish to share John 14:27, a verse that meant so much to Mama. Those who received letters from her would recognize it as one that she often wrote on the back of her envelopes for all who came in contact with them to see.
“Peace I leave with you, Peace I give unto you: not as the World giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”