He was real. A living, breathing work of God.


dad and girls

Like a rose garden in the rain, your memory comes to life watered by my tears.

I’ve been thinking a lot about my dad lately. Though he has been gone for close to 50 years now, the gunshot that took him from us, still echoes deep inside. A bad decision by one individual with a sawed-off shotgun forever changed the lives of two families who lost their patriarchs and the many friends and loved ones left to grieve their loss.

Although I have long forgiven the man who wielded that shotgun, I can’t help but wonder how my life and the lives of my family would have differed. I wonder what it would have been like to grow up with my father and for my daughter to grow up with a grandfather.  His absence still ripples through the generations and can still be profoundly felt in my heart, perhaps now more than ever as I have spent the last several months working on Planes, Trains and Heroes, a book exploring the history of my hometown and the region that surrounds it.

All along this book project has been special to me. As a freelancer, each and every time I lifted a pen to capture the lives of individuals, families, business owners and churches in other communities across the United States, I dreamt of offering the same opportunity to those with whom I share my geographical DNA. I was thrilled when both the publisher and the City agreed and work finally got started in the closing weeks of 2017.

What I didn’t expect was just how personal it would become. You see, my job as project manager and managing editor, is to call on local businesses, organizations and families that themselves have a story to tell—some people and places whose roots are traced to the beginning and others who were drawn here later to become a part of our blossoming heritage.  It has been even more endearing than I anticipated as local business people reminisce and remember events and people of days gone by—including my dad! Yes, Billie Q. Gibson lives on in the memories of people I didn’t even know before now.

Unbelievable and absolutely unexpected that almost a half century since my father was transitioned into the afterlife, people still remember him and fondly so. They worked with him and served with him. They laughed with him and had lunch with him. They respected him and loved him. He WAS real. A breathing, living, work of God. My daddy.

Because he was killed when I was barely eight years old, my memories and even my thoughts of him are from the perspective of a little girl. It’s as if that part of me—the daddy’s little girl part of me—will always be frozen in time; a story that won’t be complete this side of Heaven.

In the meantime, however, hearing that people knew my dad as an adult and hearing that the picture that I had painted in my mind of a knight in shining armor, a true-to-life prince of a man was pretty much true. My dad was an awesome guy –a respected businessman as the manager of a finance company on the corner of Commercial Circle and Watson Boulevard; an active member of the community; a dedicated servant who among other things served on the board of the Civitan Club (it’s good to know those darn Claxton Fruit Cakes served a greater good!); a beloved friend to many; and, of course, a loving husband and father.

Thank you, Jesus, for allowing me this very special walk down memory lane. It was an unexpected blessing that I will cherish forever. Happy Father’s Day to You and to my earthly dad, both who await me in Heaven. I’m proud to be the daughter of The King and the little girl of a true prince

Amen and Ehmen

 

Of Tragedy and True Love


Writer’s Note: Scrolling through my old journals, I stumbled upon this diary entry from 2010. It is a personal account of a difficult, but precious conversation I had with my mother; a conversation that changed the way I would forever look at her and one that really drove home the importance of sharing The Good News of Jesus Christ with everyone that you can, most especially the ones that you love.

March 6, 2010

So, I had a nice, long talk with my mom today. I told her about the letter I wrote forgiving the man that killed my dad. She was surprisingly open. For the first time, she talked to me like I was just a friend. For the first time, I saw her as a wife and mother who lost a husband, and very tragically so. The tears that filled her eyes and spilled gently out onto her softly aged face transported me back to a time that I was then too young to experience.

She told me how his stomach had been completely destroyed by the shot from the sawed off shot gun. She told me how she held vigil in the hospital hallway outside his intensive care room, day and night, for the three weeks he lay in the hospital. She told me of all the doctors who went in and out of his room and of all the friends, acquaintances, doctors and nurses who sat with her, prayed with her and offered help in every fashion.

She told me about the two things he managed to say to her: the first, right after he was shot, he said “I didn’t know” meaning he did not know the guy had a gun; and the second, not long before he died and after the doctor warned her that he would not know her, she had gone in and placed her hands over his and he opened his eyes and said “I love you”. That was the last time she would hear him speak. The only other words she knew him to speak during those three weeks were to my brother, Gary. To him, he said, “Take care of your mama and the girls.” By now, tears were flowing down my own face and, as I write this, they are flowing again. For the first time, I can actually “see” it, like a very sad movie playing out in my head.

The worst part of all is that I am still left to wonder if my father knew Jesus as his personal Savior. Will I get to see him again, but, more importantly, will my mother get to again see the man that she loved with all her heart and who, to this day, 40+ years after his death, remains faithful to?  My mother said that he had gone to church with her time and again and he was indeed a good man, but, truth be told, she just wasn’t sure if he ever did business with God. They never talked about it. 

Now, it is time to share the letter I wrote to my dad’s killer with my brothers and sister. I simply can’t stand by and let another loved one pass from this earth without knowing that they have accepted Christ as their Lord and Savior.

I can forgive the man who killed my dad, but I would not be able to forgive myself if one of them leaves this earth unsaved. 

Today was a good day. I fell in love with my dad who spoke of love and concern for his family in his last words and I fell in love with my mom who stood by her husband in life and in death.

Amen and Ehmen.

It’s Yours For The Asking…

We are all His children and He really wants a relationship with each and every one of us.  He loves you and He loves me with all His heart and He is just a simple prayer away. But, you have to take the step and ask Him into your heart. He’s not going to do it without an invitation from you. You yourself have to acknowledge that Jesus is your Lord and Savior and that He died on the cross so that you can have eternal life.

You yourself have to accept Him and invite Him into your heart. When you’re ready, you just have to say a prayer something like this. It doesn’t have to be word for word and you don’t even have to understand it all. And, you don’t have to be perfect, for no one on earth is perfect. Just say something like this:

“Dear God, I know that I am a sinner. Please forgive me for my sins. I believe that your son, the Lord Jesus Christ, died to pay for my sins and I trust Him now as my personal Lord and Savior. I ask Him to come into my life. Amen.”

It’s that simple. If you pray this prayer and truly accept the Lord Jesus as your personal savior, you can be assured of going to heaven. No matter what you did on earth; no matter what you did in your past.

For more information, I like this website for answering questions about God. You are loved and you are in my prayers.

http://www.gotquestions.org/personal-Savior.html

Amen and Ehmen!


It’s in the silence of these four walls, the quietness of my hurting, still soul, that I finally hear Your Voice. It’s rhythmic and in tune with the beating of my heart and it’s the most beautiful thing I have ever heard. You speak to me, sing to me, patiently. You offer joy in a place I have allowed bitterness and hurt to take root. You smile though I have done nothing to deserve it. You love though I have been selfish. You stand by me though I have repeatedly abandoned you. You are God and You deserve my praises. I am forever thankful for your patience and forgiveness and especially that those things transcend all time. Forever and Ever. Amen and Ehmen!

Cutting Through The Weeds of Life


lawnmower

It’s not just a lawnmower. It has a name and that name is…

The other day, a friend was telling me that he gets his inspiration while riding his motorcycle to which I quickly quipped that I got mine on my riding lawnmower. And while I said it jokingly, it’s really very true. Indeed, sometimes God speaks to us in the strangest places—and, for me, it is quite often over the roaring of a lawnmower engine. Perhaps He finds that it is easier for him to “cut” to the chase as the rapid revolutions of the engine and blades drown out all the other noise of my world and I become more focused on Him and His creation. It really is a special time during which, over the years, I have received a lot of great insight.

This past weekend, for example, as I carefully and—I like to think skillfully—maneuvered my fire-engine red Craftsman mower with shiny chrome wheel covers tightly alongside the landscape timbers that separate the grass from my flowerbeds, I felt him nudging me to take a closer look inside the beds. Much to my dismay, what I saw was more weeds than flowers. It is then that I heard these words in my heart; words that flowed melodically and in perfect harmony with what was now just a backup hum from the mower.

flower

Your Heart is like the flowers

The most fruitful of seeds

It will die if not tended

Choked out by weeds.

Stopping the engine, I immediately hopped off the mower and started tending that flower bed. I pulled, plucked and tugged every weed. And, with each weed I pulled, it was if God breathed new nuggets of wisdom into my soul. He explained that the enemy has one play in his playbook—to plant weeds anywhere He Himself has planted seeds. In the case of our own hearts, the weeds represent things like sorrow, regret and shame. The evil one knows all too well that if he can keep us focused on the weeds, he can keep us from growing into the creations that God intended.

But, oh no, you devilish one, you are quite mistaken. God is the gardener of my life. And where you sow a crop of weeds, God is always standing by to pull, tug and pluck every single one. In fact, Matthew 15:13 promises us that “every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be pulled up by the roots.’”

Indeed, as children of God, we should forgive ourselves and each other, just as God forgave us through His son, Jesus Christ. By forgiving, we pluck the weeds of sorrow, regret and shame and free ourselves to give love to and receive love from God and others, just as we are commanded in Matthew 22:37-39:

“And He said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’”

By forgiving, we free ourselves to be more fruitful—to grow more and more into His image, the image in which we were created in the first place.

Ah, sweet Jesus, I have held this teaching close all week and, today, as I prepared to do my weekly mowing once again, I noticed those flowers and plants which I tended last week have bounced right back and are full of life. My heart is feeling pretty full of life, too. Thank You for loving me; for never giving up on me; for forgiving me through your Son and my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ; and for always being willing to tend the garden of my heart. Please help me to do my part so that I can produce fruit that will make You proud. Now, I’m off to hop on the lawnmower. You know, I’ve been thinking. Perhaps, I will give the ol’ Craftsman a name. Harley. That way I can tell my motorcycle friends that I, too, find my inspiration when riding my Harley! 🙂 Amen and Ehmen!

Have a blessed, weed-free day, y’all!

Father’s Day Feelings…


dad and girlsWriter’s Note: My dad was on the receiving end of a robber’s bullet many, many years ago, when I was just a little girl, robbing me of the opportunity to grow up with a father in my life. I have since forgiven the one who took him from us, but it still hurts, even all of these decades later…

I sit and stare at the photograph. Like my memories, it is faded. I just don’t seem to remember much. Black and white, shades of gray memories. I know you once existed in physical form, but, unfortunately, our life together was way too short; pretty much just a foreword and preface to my own story. Sometimes I wonder if I have blocked memories of my childhood, just because your untimely departure hurt so much. Because I know if I remember the good times then I will also have to remember how those good times ended. Those were dark days, even for an 8-year old whose most pressing decision was whether or not to climb the tree in the backyard. One day you were there and the next you were gone. And even though my present mind sees our days together as a mere outline, like the beginning of a sketch without the details filled in, today, on this Father’s Day, I sit here and FEEL a flood of memories. I FEEL your warmth as we cuddled up on the couch and watched Elvis movies AFTER my bedtime. I FEEL your strength when you’d catch me as I leaped into your arms when you came home from work. Please forgive me if I ever hugged your neck too tight as I searched for that ever-present piece of gum in the pocket of your starched white shirt. I FEEL your gentleness and compassion as—after being banished to my room to “just wait until your father gets home—you arrived to lovingly correct me and, with the fluffy wallop of a pillow, forgave me of my transgressions. I FEEL the pride I felt when I was up at “daddy’s work.” Yes, that was me that was always rummaging in your desk drawers for change for the coke and snack machines, and no, I still do NOT want a piece of the fruitcake you sold for the Civitan Club. I FEEL thankful for all the family times, the vacations in Clearwater, Florida at the Sandlewood Hotel, the holidays, the dinners around the dining room table and all the moments for the eight years that we were together. For though I don’t remember many of the details, I DO remember the FEELINGs of LOVE—feelings powerful enough to help me navigate through your most devastating and tragic departure; through the difficult years that followed as we tried to put our lives back together; through the many years and many milestones that would have been so much more with you there; all the way through today as I spend this Father’s Day weekend feeling memories made more than four decades ago; memories that turned into a life time of love. Thank you, God, for my earthly dad and for this walk down memory lane. But, most of all, God, I thank you for YOU and for your promise that one day my stroll down Memory Lane will bring me to Heaven’s Gate where I will once again have the chance to jump into my Daddy’s arms. Make sure you have Juicy Fruit. It was always my favorite. Happy Father’s Day to you both. Amen and Ehmen!