Big thanks to Rachel for the invitation! (Thanks for being here!)
So I’ve heard the talk around here is all about food, fun, fiction, and faith -which is great because when you grow up in the sticks like I did, those elements run through your life like the stitching in a hand sewn quilt.
Food came from Mamaw’s garden, fun was making mud pies and chasing fire flies, and good fiction was what you came up with when your mama showed up with a switch. And faith, well, our faith in God covered us all like a warm, fuzzy blanket on a cold winter night.
As a child, one of the first words I learned was heathen (pronounced HEETH-urn) which referred to people who didn’t show up at church on Sundays.
In elementary school, we started each day with a prayer and the pledge of allegiance. When I was in high school, being late for church on Sunday morning meant I was automatically grounded for the next six and a half days so I could spend some “quality time” thinking about my priorities.
As an adult, I’ve traveled a lot and moved around quite a bit, and one thing that I’ve discovered along the way is that my childhood was filled with a somewhat unique brand of faith.
Growing up in Dry Creek, Mississippi, we had faith in everything! Especially our neighbors.
If anyone bothered to lock their doors at all, you could bet there was a key outside and it was probably under a flower pot on the window ledge closest to the door.
You waved at everyone who drove down the road and they always waved back.
The folks you knew real well would honk when they saw you outside and might even stop and visit for a minute. Walking barefoot in the grass.
Mind the bees! Drinking from the garden hose. Mind the bugs! Riding in the back of a truck to the lake. Mind the tire tubes! Life was simple, slow, and safe in its own special way.
It was a different time and a different age, but one thing that hasn’t changed about that community (which includes anyone who has ever lived there for any amount of time or just spent the night with someone who did) is how much they pray.
And just a few weeks ago, Dry Creek had a major victory. I’m talking about King-sized answered prayers.
And those prayers were for my Aunt Brenda.
In February, Aunt Brenda -who is tough as nails, by the way- went to the doctor because she was having severe pain in her abdominal area and had become very sick.
The doctor put her in the hospital in Tupelo and the testing started soon thereafter.
What they eventually found was a large tumor in her kidney that had spread into her aorta and grown up to her heart, plus another blot clot type tumor in her inferior vena cava that was almost completely blocking that side of her heart.
The doctors in Tupelo told the family they could not perform the kind of surgery that Brenda needed.
At first, there was talk of a group of doctors in North Carolina so my aunt Judy and Uncle Ken (the family preacher) immediately started planning a trip out there.
Then a suggestion was made about a team of doctors in Jackson, Mississippi. That didn’t work out either, but Aunt Judy didn’t stop packing.
After a few more days, we got the good news that a team of three doctors in Memphis, Tennessee, would attempt the surgery at the Methodist Hospital.
When Brenda arrived there, she was told that her condition required two separate procedures which would be performed during one operation. Complicated and risky? You bet.
On the day of surgery, the waiting area was full of her family: Four kids, two daughters-in-law, a passel of grandkids, four brothers, two sisters, and literally a truck load of in-laws.
When the doctors spoke to the adults, they were blunt. Brenda’s chances of survival were not high.
They said she might not make it off the table. It was a somber moment in a group that’s normally laughing, joking, and carrying on like crazy people (which most of us actually are).
And so everyone started praying: Family, friends, church, and community. No telling how many prayer lists she was on.
After more than six hours of surgery that involved stopping her heart and dramatically lowering her body temperature, Brenda Pannell woke up.
And the good news spread like wild fire. I imagine the prayer lines to heaven were flooded with thanks that day because we were one big grateful bunch!
Aunt Brenda’s recovery has been both swift and amazing.
To us, she stands apart as a miracle. Her life even more of a gift. Her family and community, richly blessed. She’s back at Concord now, the little Baptist church just up the road from her home at Dry Creek.
This past Sunday, she sang a special during the morning service just like she’d promised God that she would if she survived.
I like to think the same angels who were watching over her throughout the surgery were singing right along with her.
And next month, Aunt Brenda is finally taking that trip to Ireland that her globe-trotting brother, my uncle Michael, has been planning for quite some time now.
Can I get an Amen!
As for me, well, no matter how far I wander from my childhood home, I know that same blanket of faith is and will always be there. And for that (and countless other things) I am forever grateful.
I was born and raised in Mississippi, graduated from Booneville High School and attended Northeast Mississippi Community College (where I changed my major about sixty times during the two years I was there).
I also attended Mississippi State University and eventually granduated from Ole Miss with a B.A. in English.
After that came a Master’s from the University of Alabama. So if nothing else, perhaps that explains my deep-seeded love for all things SEC, especially football.
Rachel here: Okay Belles, let’s give Steph a big shout out and AMEN!
Thanks for being here, girl!!