There are a few of you who knew immediately what those letters stood for! But if not, it’s for The Living Christmas Tree at Southside Baptist Church!
Now at this time in our lives The LCT was one of the most important thing in the life of our church. I think it is because so many of us were involved. Ever age participated, and most everyone who wanted to be in the Drama had the opportunity. We used live animals…who behaved quite nicely. Except for that one time a wayward sheep got loose from his shepherd and had to be tackled right in front of the Holy Child!!!! ( Good catch, Paul!) Our Costumes were so well done, with the Ladies of the church making most all of them. We had many props which Tina Davis and I hunted down all over the SE, or had them made. I was the Director of the Drama during all the years in these pictures…with Tina Davis as co-director.
It was great fun…but it was more than that! It was a time the church worked together to present a worthy gift to the community.We had a packed house every night. The best was that little children could really see it in their minds what they were reading in their Bibles. It made it become real. It was a labor of love…from the newest babe to some of our senior citizens!
I found a few pictures easily, but know I have many more. Due to my health at this time, I am unable to go on a big search right now. But, I will do it soon, and share what else I have!
Precious, wonderful, holy memories!
We will start first with the Mary and Joseph and the baby…
I am being very careful where I go and how I interact with others during this pandemic. Yes. I wear a mask. If I am away from home and in the presence of others, I will wear my mask. It is not comfortable. It is annoying. It fogs up my glasses and makes it hard for me to see. I am constantly having to pull my glasses up over my eyes to let them clear up. However, it is a small price to pay to stay safe. I have a very compromised immune system. So does my adult son who lives with my husband and me. He also lives with a chronic and debilitating illness. I will do whatever I need to do to keep him safe.
Today, I went to the grocery store. It has been a good while since I have been. Usually Don goes, or I do the order pickup. But, today, I needed to go inside. Armed with sanitizer and mask, I set about my task. As it always happens, when I go to the store in person, I buy way more than I do when I call in an order. I had a full buggy…overflowing, even. Publix is such a nice store to shop in. They always help unload my groceries from my cart, and then push and load them into my car.
A nice young man was helping me to the car today. This is the conversation that followed:
YM…Are you doing OK today, ma’am?
T…Yes, I am doing well, thank you. But, I would be better if I didn’t have the job of unloading and putting up all these groceries!
Immediately, I was convicted that I should not have said that. How ungrateful of me to fuss about putting up groceries, when there are people who are hungry and would love to have the opportunity to put up what I bought today. The Lord quickened my spirit as soon as I said those words. And, what a terrible example to set for this young man.
I spoke up quickly…
T… That was very ungrateful of me to say that! I am blessed to be able to put up these groceries. I am blessed to be able to purchase groceries in a nice store. And, I am blessed to have you help me load them up. I am ashamed I said that.
YM…(I could see a smile in his eyes.) I know there are so many places where people cannot even buy groceries, but in America, we have so much.
T…We are so fortunate to be born in America and live here. I bought more groceries today than usual, but I had lists of what favorite things the people in my house wanted. Some people are happy to have whatever is given to them.
YM…Ma’am, you have made my day! Every day I help folks load up their groceries and almost everybody has something to complain about. Either it’s raining, or it’s too hot, or the grocery bill was too high, or they have to go to work, or they have to unload their packages when they get home. I am just happy to have a job. I would like to be doing something else, but this is what I have. If people want to work, they can. I love America!
T…Well, you have made my day, as well! I am so happy to hear what a fine outlook you have on life. God is so good to us. We forget to be thankful so often. I am so sorry I started our conversation off with a complaint.
YM…No, problem, Ma’am. It makes my heart happy to hear someone giving praise to God.
T…Well, I hope your day today is full of blessings and gratitude! God bless you!
And, I left. Oh, my! What a lesson I received in that parking lot. I am so thankful the Holy Spirit convicted me and so thankful I spoke up and retracted my statement. Hopefully, this young man will think on this and learn from it, too. It sounds as if he already has a pretty good start on being grateful!
There is so much turmoil and strife and stress and evil going on between people these days. We may not can speak to a large crowd to spread God’s message. But, we can do it on a one to one basis. We always have the chance to be kind and spread joy and kindness.
Mom moved to Heaven 10 years ago this month. Pop did not want to move from their house, but to stay in the home he shared with his Ella. So Joy and I have done our best over the years to keep the house like Mother did. She liked to decorate for the seasons...all of them. So, we tried to do that for Pop, too. We continued to have big family dinners there, and our Thanksgiving afternoons were always dedicated to putting up his tree, decorating it, and putting up wreaths and such. The whole family helped! I think Mom was pleased. The house was very much like she left it when Pop moved to Heaven in March.
But, the house has no life in it now. Gone are the days of the bridal showers and the church staff luncheons. No more of the family dinners, and the visits just to gab. No more birthdays or anniversaries to celebrate there. No planning meetings or mission meetings. No smell of yummy pound cakes Mom made to share with shut ins. There’s no one there now to hear the joy and laughter and tears and fusses and aggravation and kindness and “I love You.” But, that’s life, isn’t it? It goes by so fast, good times and bad…and echoes of the life lived there rings in your ears. It saddens me that Mom never got to hear the laughter of Levi and John Thomas ring through her house. But, they knew all about her…and I believe she knows all about them.
Joy and I , mostly, and the rest of the family have been diligently going through their things and discarding what should be…and passing on what evoked memories for each of us. All of our houses have bits and pieces of their lives…friends, too. After all was passed on, we had an estate sale, with excellent help from a dear friend. (Will be glad to share if anyone needs a high recommendation for such). That was hard. Knowing that strangers were walking in and walking out with things that they had used and loved. But, it was handled in a professional manner and that helped.
We had quite a few big pieces of furniture left over…and some lamps and glasswear, and Christmas wreaths and clothes . So, we have been working to get those moved out of the house and into the garage. Because…time marches on. There sits an empty house begging to be filled with another family’s lives. Joy and Tommy got it all moved to the garage, with some help from a friend. Then we had the entire house cleaned. It smells so good…and looks so much bigger. It’s gutted…of all evidence of the Townsend family.
Today, all that was left in the garage was hauled off to be sold…not for us, all profits will go directly to the mission field. Now, what would have made Mom and Pop any happier? To still be reaching the mission field after death is a blessed thing. One of my dearest friends has a mission at her church. They sell used merchandise to raise money for their trips to the mission field. Bobby and Shirley came over from Moultrie, Georgia this morning to pick up all that was left. Tommy and Bobby and John Thomas, and Shirley loaded the truck. Joy and I and Tina, dear one, wrapped glassware and trinkets to keep them safe.
As the truck pulled away, and the last trash was collected…the garage was swept out…I turned to take one last look. Up the steps leading into the house from the garage…this is what I saw.
How in the world did we do all we did and still leave that sign on the wall. “WELCOME”, it said. And my parents did that. They welcomed the world into their home. They loved people and people loved them. They ministered to people…here and abroad. I think the first thing they would say to our sad hearts today is “WELCOME” a new family to this home, girls, don’t be sad. Life is for the living! Just pray that whoever takes over the care of 120 Lizzy Lane fills it with as much “life” as we did!”
Thank you, God, for the blessing of being born into this Christian family, whose sole desire was to serve you. Thank you for the lessons they taught and the example they lived. Thank you that they filled each of the 7 houses they lived in with love and laughter and ‘welcome’. May it continue to be so in our family as long as we live on this earth. May the lessons learned pass through the generations. And, Lord, if it’s not too much trouble…would you please put all our mansions close together?” Amen.
One day, about a year and a half ago, Levi and I went to the bookstore to pick out a book for him. He looked at so many of them, but couldn’t seem to find just what he was looking for.I asked him what he wanted and he told me a book about a dinosaur.We looked for that.And they did have books on dinosaurs…but not a story about a dinosaur.We finally found something else he was happy with, and left the store.
Once we got in the car, He thanked me for the book, and said, “But, I really wanted a dinosaur story.””
Tonja…What kind of story, Levi?
Levi…About a dinosaur who is mean.
Tonja…Oh, that doesn’t sound like a fun book.
Levi…No, he would get sweet.
Tonja…What would the dinosaur’s name be?
He thought about this for a while.
Levi…I think his name is Thor.
Tonja…That is a good name.Where does he live?
Levi…In a cave.
Tonja…What makes him mean?
Levi…He doesn’t have any friends.
An idea began to form in my mind.
Tonja…Levi, if you can’t find a book that is what you want…then you can write one yourself.
Levi…I am not a grown up.I don’t know how.
Tonja…Then I will help you.
When we got home, I quickly wrote down all that he had said so far.And put it away.The next day, I asked him to tell me more about Thor.He did and I wrote as fast as I could.After he told me the rest of the story.I told him that we were going to write all this down and make our own book.
And, that is what we did.We worked on it for several months.The story had to be divided into sections for each page.And, it had to be illustrated.He was so excited and ready to make his book. We worked for several months, a little at a time.
But, his interest began to wane…and other things became more important.Starting school, and playing ball.So I gathered up all our work and put it in a box and put it away.There, in my studio closet, sat that sad little unfinished book for about 6 months.Levi never spoke of it, and neither did I.
Then one day, he came to me and said, “Lulu, don’t you think we need to finish our Thor book?”I replied, “I think that is a grandidea.I know just where it is.”I got it out and he was gung ho on working on this book.He wanted to finish it.
Levi…Can this just be a pretend book, or can it be a real book?
Tonja…Well, it can be a real book, if we work hard on it.We have to divide the story, draw the pictures, glue it all together, and then I can have it printed.It will be a real book!
We worked diligently every chance we had.We wrote and rewrote.We changed some of the words when we used the same word too many times. Usually, he would dictate to me…but at times, he would ‘hunt and peck’ it out on the computer himself.
We drew pictures and colored them and cut them out and glued them onto our mock up.I made a title page.Then he designed a cover.His book did not end with Thor staying mean, but with the help of a friendly lion, learning that having friends is lots more fun.All the other dinosaurs even came over for a slumber party.The last page of the book, has the verse, “A friend loves at all times”.
About this time, he decided we needed to be a real company.With a real name.And a real president of the company.This was all up to him.He decided that our company would be called BOOKS FOR LIFE.And, he would be the president and I would be the president’s helper (sort of like a vice-president)Alas, no fancy title for me!
Finally, the book was finished.I took it to the printers and we ordered 15 copies. (We have since ordered 20 more!) He had plans to sell them at Barnes and Nobel…but I persuaded him that, perhaps, we needed to just give them away.
We tookthe mock up to his classroom and I wrapped the book up in a box.The children all gathered around.Wanting to know what was in the box.I told them it was a gift…and Levi had made it.
We opened the box and took out the book.The children were surprised.But when I showed them who the author was, they were astounded.I read the book to them.
I told them that books were like a gift that opened up as you read it. I read it to them. They were amazed that Levi had done that. “Can we write a book, too?” they asked. Levi and I both told them that of course they could! What a special time we had that day! ( Levi gave a copy of the book to his teacher and it now has a permanent place in Mrs. McClurkin’s Library.)
Yesterday, we picked up the final printing of Levi’s first book.It is printed just like any soft cover book you may buy anywhere.Levi came to see the copies and I think this picture shows you just how excited he was!
He is already thinking of a sequel to his book about Thor.I won’t spoil it…but Thor goes on a great adventure.
This has been a labor of love.And, hopefully a lesson to Levi that you don’t have to settle for things as they are.You can change them.If you can not find what you want…design and build it yourself.You may need help along the way, but that only shares the joy of creativity!
It is amazing, when you stop and think, how God gave us all different talents. Some of us are intellectuals, some are seekers, some study nature, and some study the body. Some build with wood, some speak with paint. Some can weld, some know how electricity works. Some know the inner workings of a vehicle, some put words together to make beautiful poetry. Some have the gift of opening little minds through teaching, some know the workings of stocks and bonds and IRA’s and such. Some excel at sports, some prefer to sit quietly and think. Some are born to lead, some are born to follow. The thing is…God in His almighty wisdom gave us the talents he knew would fit us the best. None are greater than the other. We need them all.
Through this project with Levi, I have attempted to show him that he can do hard things…it is OK if you have to stop and restawhile. I wanted him to see that he could do something that he had never done before…along with a little help. I wanted him to see that we are to use our talents to glorify God. That’s why the book ends with a Bibleverse.We can find a way to witness forHim in everything we do. I wanted him to not be afraid to make mistakes...just throw it out and start it over. Hopefully these are lessons he will remember through his life. As a matter of fact…we would all do well to remember these lessons.
This is the first time, since 1953, that I have not had a earthly father to wish Happy Father’s Day to. Pop moved to Heaven on March 16 of this year. It’s barely been 3 months since he left. When Mom died, it was hard and there was grieving, it took a while to realize she was really gone. Of course, she left suddenly and we had no time to prepare. I missed my Mom so much, but I didn’t feel alone…I still had my Pop. And, we continued all the traditions she had started. The whole family stayed close, and we included Pop in everything. We even held gatherings at his house so it would feel more comfortable for him.
Pop, even though he was 92, was still relatively healthy and as active as his daughters would allow him to be! (“No more driving, Pop!”…..”No sawing limbs out of the trees anymore, Pop!”) His illness was short lived, even though he had begun to slow down. He went into the hospital the first time in January. Back and forth, he was admitted 4 more times. Slowly declining, Joy and I, and her daughters, Tara and Lori were with him around the clock. He was on daily infusion treatments at home, on oxygen, and we had to continually regulate his meds according to heart and blood oxygen. What a blessing that 3 of us have medical training, and we were able to take care of all his treatments at home. He passed early in the morning with Joy and I on either side of him. There was no struggle, no pain…he just stopped breathing. We had prayed mightily that God would take him easily. And, He granted our request, for which we are eternally grateful.
The whole family gathered immediately…even our little boys. They watched as we went about the things that had to be done. We laid Pop back in his bed and all the grandchildren got to have some time with him before the funeral home arrived. The little boys got to see a family joined in love celebrating the life of their father. There were tears and there was sadness and there was happiness. We had the opportunity to teach the boys what death really means. Their daddy’s and mother’s spoke words of truth and wisdom to them. They explained the process and answered their questions. They explained that right that very minute their Papa Clyde was seeing Jesus! It was a beautiful time. Pop was ready to go home. He was tired and weak. He told us, “WhenGod calls me, don’t make Him call me twice.” We knew his wishes, we knew how he felt and we honored that.
But, what I feel now is different from what I felt at Mom’s passing. I have no parents in this world anymore. I have a dear husband, who loves and cares for me. I have a sister who would be at my beck and call for anything, anytime. I have grown sons, who care for me. I have a dear d-i-l, who is more of a daughter to me. I have nieces and nephews who are very close to me. I have a grandson who loves me . I have friends that would come to me whenever I would call. But, I don’t have parents. I don’t have the folks who loved me first. I don’t have the ones who held me as a baby and raised me through the years. I don’t have the ones who instilled their values and morals and love into to me that made me the one I am today. I don’t have the ones I argued with because they wouldn’t let me grow up as fast as I wanted. I don’t have the ones who saw me make big mistakes and helped me deal with the consequences. I don’t have my Mama and my Pop.
This is not a bad or scary feeling, it is just different. And, a feeling so many of you know, too. It is really the first time I have felt ‘old’. My parents are gone…and now I am the eldest female in our family. I am so thankful that I know that I know that I know that my true home is in heaven. My parent’s true home, also. And, every member of my family. And, friends as close as family. This world is a place for us to serve God. It is a place for us to learn and grow. It is a place where God wanted us to be for a portion of our life. But, Praise God!, this is not our home. He has a place for me…with Him…and my Mom and my Pop, and all the loved ones who have already made the journey. We will be together again…for eternity. I bet my life on it.
My Pop was a man who loved to serve. He travelled extensively in South and Central America as a liaison to Southern Baptist missionaries and others. He built churches and radio stations. He gifted generators for light in dark places. Below with missionary Dick Greenwood.
He travelled the Amazon in a dugout canoe to get to villages deep in the jungles. He served as a handy man for the missionary’s wives…fixing stuck doors, replacing windows, building rabbit hutches, repairing washing machines…whatever they needed. He befriended the missionary kids and told them tales of great adventures. He served. And, his method of travel was a motorcycle…with a backpack, and a bedroll and a rain suit and a few changes of clothes.
He would go for months at a time. And wherever he went, people were blessed. He and mother travelled to Africa several times…they flew there. As they got older, they would travel together to South America by plane. Oh, how they loved missions and several of the missionaries became dear friends to them. One couple, the McGriffs, even attended Pop’s funeral. Another Missionary and his son who were especially close to Pop felt led to come and see him. They visited with him the day before he died. I sat and listened as they told stories and adventures they had together. This was Archie Jones, Sr and Jr.
Archie Jr, made several motorcycle trips with Pop, also. Pop’s mind was clear, as they talked. He recalled the most minute of details. This was one of the things he had asked God to grant him. He never wanted to lose his memories. And, until the very end, he had every one. This is not to say he wasn’t confused some at the end, but the confusion stemmed from the illness and the medication. God was so gracious and merciful.
Pop loved his grandchildren and spent much time with them He took them fishing…taught them all to ride motorcycles…was there always for support and guidance.
He was loyal to his friends and still kept in touch with boyhood buddies. One of his friends spoke these words of him. “He was a man who had two callings in life for sure: 1. To serve God and live with high morals and enormous faith and 2. To live, ride breathe, and travel on a motorcycle and help young people understand the complexities of life…”
My Pop loved his church, and served it faithfully through the years. He was a deacon, Sunday School director, worked with youth, was treasurer, and just about every other job there was. Here, he was honored as Sr. Adult of the year.
Oh, his church was special to him. He was a inspiration to young people and he poured into their lives with truth and wisdom and friendship.
He had a strong work ethic. And, he was not afraid to learn something new. I learned early on that if he gave you a job to do, he expected it to be done to the best of your ability. No excuses. He expected Joy and I to do chores at home. We even went to work with him and cleaned his office. But, he set the bar high for everything we did. We learned right and wrong. We learned about helping and serving. We travelled. He taught me to love books. He showed me the whole new world that books held inside. Things to think about that you had never thought about. He attended lectures and talks with me from different authors who spoke at Samford University. But, we went to other talks that were not on the Baptist campus. And we read the books and listened to them speak. We discussed our feelings. He valued my thoughts. And, then we decided if it was ‘all wet’ (as he would say) or whether the point was valid. My opinion did not have to be the same as his. This has stayed with me. I love to get books and learn new things. Some ideas are taken and some are discarded, but I can find out for myself if it is valid or not. To me, that is a very important tool to have to live a well rounded life, taking others thoughts and actions into account, then deciding what is right for you.
Pop was a small man. 5’3″…115 pounds. But, it mattered not. He told us that anyone could do anything if they set their mind to it. The only limit was in your mind. He taught us to believe that…down in our souls. “Step out on faith. Be bold.” he would say. “Yes, you can.”“Follow your dreams…have adventures…don’t be afraid to try” he would say. “Put God first,always, He will guide you and open doors for you,” he said. Even when he was living on one meal a day, before he married, he tithed what he made. “You can never out give God,” was one of his favorite sayings.
All these things are seared into me and Joy, and the grandchildren. He lived what he talked. He poured into our children and they soaked it up. I hear them say things he said, I see them use some of his mannerisms, I see them following their dreams.
So even though Pop is not here on Earth with us…he lives on in our hearts. His words resound in our ears. His testimony stands as true today as ever.
I could write and write and write about him. But I will save that for another day. I have trip logs and diaries to go through. Stories of his many trips around the world. I have stories of miracles that happened and close calls where only God could intervene. These I will share as I have time to organize . Below, these are his riding boots…they went on every trip he took out of the country. Photo by Adam Owens.
But for now, I will honor my Pop. He was a giving man. He was a strict man with his daughters. He loved my mother the way God intended. He honored her even after her death. He was a godly man. He was not always a patient man, but he tried. As you grow older, you begin to see your parents for who they really are. You see that they had faults, just as you do. But, there was never a time I doubted his love, or care or concern for me and our family.
I have often told my boys that despite the fact that they were not always happy with my decisions concerning them, or their Father’s …and despite the fact that they would have picked someone else to be their brother, at times…God in His wisdom put our family together. He is the one who thought we needed each other. I feel the same way about my original family. God put our family together. It grew and we have learned from each other. We miss our Patriarch, but he prepared us well to live without him. And, we will strive to honor him with our lives.
This was our last photo of the complete family…taken Christmas Day…2018.
I am a Christian woman who has survived many years on the planet. God has blessed me with a wonderful family: husband, 3 sons, a dear DIL, and a precious grandson. I also have dear friends to keep me inspired. I am an artist of sorts and am finding my way through the great blessing of retirement. I recently retired after 20 years as a music teacher. Life is good!
"All your sons will be taught by the Lord; and great will be their peace." Isaiah 54:13
Read their stories... Adam Alex Ian