This blog is where I can pour out my heart with my longing for God.

Posts tagged ‘children’

The Old Paths: What about the children?

**This was originally published on Thursday, September 26, 2013, in my newspaper column, “The Old Paths,” in The Stokes News. Due to a website change a few years ago, the publishing company broke all links to our old articles which were archived online. This was a tragic mistake and resulted in the loss of thousands of newspaper articles. Little by little, I am putting my old columns on this blog so that they can be preserved. Each column is updated to reflect present times when transferred to this blog.**

Little did I know in early September 2013 when I penned a newspaper column about time healing our hurts that our county would suffer several horrendous hurts that very week. I had used the example of Sonia Luster—the 16-year-old killed in an automobile accident on her way to North Stokes High School in 2008—noting that she died the day before the Stokes Stomp, our county’s signature festival.

NSHS--Dee Luster

Sonia Luster’s mom, Dee, at the North Stokes High School graduation the year that Sonia would have graduated—wearing a shirt with a picture of Sonia graduating from an earlier grade.

Imagine my horror at the 2013 Stokes Stomp when I heard the tragic news that three other Stokes County youth had just been killed in auto accidents—one the night after I wrote my column, two others the night before the Stomp. My heart felt like lead as I was told the heartbreaking details of the wrecks that affected every high school in the county.

One victim was a West Stokes High School student, another a South Stokes High student, another a recent graduate of Meadowbrook Academy in Stokes County. One driver, who survived but was charged with DWI and two counts of felony death by motor vehicle, had attended North Stokes High.

I had left the county fair in King on Wednesday just an hour or so before the first wreck occurred on nearby Meadowbrook Road. On Friday, I had left a prayer meeting in Walnut Cove just an hour before the second wreck; it happened on Highway 89—the very road I traveled to get home. Being so near the accidents, both in place and time, made me strangely affected, although I knew none of the victims.

Not knowing them didn’t matter anyway. Mothers lost sons those nights. I am a mother of two sons, so this was heart-wrenching to me.

What was also devastating was the fact that alcohol was involved in both accidents. One driver was of legal drinking age, the other was not. Legal or not, no one should drink and drive. Why is this a problem? And why does Stokes County have one of the highest rates of alcohol-related crashes in the state?

Years ago, I sat on a committee that had received a grant to study the high incidence of alcohol-influenced wrecks in the county. We spent hours searching for the root of the problem and how to resolve it. We even brought in teenagers to help. An initiative was launched to lower the number of these accidents.

And still they happen. Why?

There are many reasons: lack of fulfillment in people’s lives that leads to alcohol abuse, that youthful feeling of invincibility which results in the skewed thinking of “It can’t happen to me,” too little awareness of the dangers of drinking and driving, etc.

One of the age groups most affected is youth ages 16 to 25. We can argue that we are not training up our children in the way they should go, that peer pressure to consume alcohol is strong, that irresponsible adults are purchasing alcohol for underage drinkers.

But I will also argue that there aren’t enough worthwhile activities for youth in Stokes County, especially on weekend nights. If you’re in King, it’s a little better; you are near Highway 52 which will take you in a flash to Winston-Salem where there are multiple things to do, such as bowling or going to the movies. In King itself, there may not be too much to do except eat at a restaurant that stays open late. The Stokes Family YMCA is located there, but it closes at 8 p.m. Friday night and 6 p.m. on Saturday.

Late at night in Walnut Cove, you can go eat at a couple of restaurants. That’s about it. You can’t even do that in Danbury, Pine Hall, Lawsonville or Sandy Ridge.

There are those of us in Walnut Cove dedicated to helping local youth prosper through education, recreation, service, a move of God; we are lobbying for a recreational center in town. We argue that kids need a place to shoot basketball, have space for games/seminars/tutoring, watch movies, hold Christian youth rallies and functions.

There are not even any real parks for children. There is an outdoor public basketball court in the London community of Walnut Cove—not ideal late at night or in freezing weather. There is Fowler Park—a lovely place but one which has no bathrooms or playground equipment. What kid wants to just sit under the picnic shelter or walk around the short path? At Lions Park, there is some rather outdated playground equipment, but again, no bathrooms unless baseball games are going on nearby.

So if you are a young person in Walnut Cove on a weekend night, you can either hang out in the Food Lion parking lot or hang out in the Food Lion parking lot. And repeat.

How do we get what we need for the youth? Community involvement is a start. We need more people to care about this issue. Most adults either have children, will have children or have/will have grandchildren who need a place for wholesome recreation in town. So you SHOULD care.

Some of you have lots of money that you can’t take with you. (Yeah, I said it.) Some of you know where to find money/grants, even if you don’t have any money personally. Some of you have land that would be a perfect place to locate a rec center. Some of you have skills that could be used to construct and outfit such a place.

So what’s stopping us? I say we can have a place in Walnut Cove (and other towns) that will give our kids somewhere to go to do something constructive. Would you rather see your kids at the local rec center playing handball, basketball or Uno late on a Friday night or out on back roads drinking illegally and then driving around because there’s no place to go?

If you are willing to put your hand to the plow to make this happen, contact me; I will be glad to welcome you to the group that is pushing to provide something for our youth in this town. My heart is to bless the children. I know the Town of Walnut Cove needs revenue; that’s why the leaders push for businesses to come to Town. But can you imagine how blessed Walnut Cove would be if Town leaders would get behind the effort to bless the Town’s children? Revenue would follow, per God’s promise that if you seek first His Kingdom, everything else you need will be added.

We don’t need any more young people killed on our roads because alcohol was an easy answer for “What is there to do?” That “easy” answer often turns into something hard for all of us to bear. We’ve had enough of that. It’s time to redeem this next generation. Who’s up for the task?

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The Old Paths: Lighting the fire for learning

**This was originally published in a similar form in The Stokes News on April 18, 2013. When the publishers changed websites a few years back, all links to archived articles were tragically lost. I am attempting to republish in this blog all of my columns that once appeared in the newspaper.

fire for learningWhen I taught public school, I was often dismayed by the lack of interest I saw in many of my students. By the time they came to me in their final year or two of high school, they very often had lost the desire to really learn. They were more concerned with passing the test, getting the grade for the college transcript—whether or not they ever really learned a thing.

I am afraid it may be even worse now that EOGs/EOCs/ WHATEVERS have become the law of the land. My heart goes out to dedicated teachers who feel they must first teach for a test rather than light a fire for learning. Their hands are tied in many ways.

Could the push for performance be dousing the flame of learning and curiosity that is so inherent in children? Are the bright-eyed kindergarteners ending up as glazed-stare teenagers?test for the test

I believe children are naturally programmed to want to learn and explore. And when they come in contact with a teacher who encourages that, the flame for learning is fanned into a raging fire. I am more and more convinced that Stokes County overflows with such teachers, despite the necessity of focusing on tests more than in days of yore.

I saw this when I watched the news story that CBS did on the Civil War camp at London Elementary School. Yes, I got teary-eyed every time I watched it. I wanted to stand up and salute somebody or some flag or something!

Walnut Cove making national news—I thought I would pop with pride! But the best thing was that we made the news for something so wonderful, so worthy.

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/nc-teacher-helps-fifth-graders-make-history/

When I covered the Civil War camp at London in my career at The Stokes News, I wanted to be a fifth grader again—to be in the class of Mr. Marshall or Mr. Boyles or whoever was lighting the fire to learn in these kids.

When you live it, you learn it. Reading about something is marvelous, but when you experience it, it comes to life in a way that touches your soul as mere words never can. You can read a romance book and mentally swoon, but when you fall in love yourself, you physically and emotionally swoon and are changed forever.tests--joke

When my kids were younger, we did The Prairie Primer—a curriculum based on the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. When we read about Ma churning butter, we churned some ourselves. It was one thing to read about Pa’s muzzleloading guns, but it was another thing altogether when my daddy showed us how his muzzleloader operated.

I pray that my children will never forget what we learned as we read those nine books aloud and did the hands-on activities suggested. Chances are, they won’t, because they experienced so much of it. Neither will the fifth graders who experience the Civil War camp at London.

Today, I attended the Stokes County Historical Society’s annual fourth-grade tour. I was amazed that all fourth-grade classes in the county didn’t take part; it should be mandatory. But I believe the ones who did came away with a greater understanding of what their forefathers went through and what made this county great.

I know that I did. I was fascinated by the stories of local history and the various implements used on the old paths as seen in the Stokes County Historical Museum. My love for history was fanned even more!history--love it

And as I stood at the Moratock Iron Furnace and sat inside  Davis Chapel, I remembered the many teachers who lit the fire for learning in me—especially those who made history come to life. (I am a firm believer that if we don’t study history, we are destined to repeat it.)

I thought of Mr. Ron Jessup whose charisma as he led us through our history lessons made me want to hang on to every word. He so inspired me that I creatively wrote a journal, speaking from the first-person perspective of a heartbroken girl whose favorite cousin had gone away to fight in the Civil War.

Mr. Jessup was so moved when he read my “journal” in our eighth-grade class that he immediately led me down the hall at Southeastern Stokes Junior High to Ms. Glenna Hicks’ ninth-grade history class. He had me read it to them, his face beaming with pride.

That was my introduction to Ms. Hicks—perhaps the greatest history teacher to walk the face of the Earth. When I had her the next year for part two of American History, I was in ecstasy every day for about 50 minutes.

She breathed history. You would’ve thought she was there for the proceedings that led to World War I. Surely she was on hand to witness WWII from the inner circles of nations. Her lectures held me on the edge of my seat as I furiously took notes on everything she said.

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She wasn’t teaching for a test. She was teaching what she knew, what she loved, what she wanted to light a fire in us to love—the oh-so-important history of our nation.

The fire that Ms. Hicks helped ignite in me burns yet. And I want to pass it on to my children. It still burns in other former students of hers, such as history teacher Graham Flynt at North Stokes. Think of how many young people Flynt has taught to love history as well. The fire spreads still.

As National Teacher Appreciation Week approaches in early May, take the time to tell such a teacher how much they meant to you. Thank your children’s teachers for their dedication. And let’s all continue to help spark a love for learning that will burn for a lifetime.

teachers--income, outcome

The Old Paths: Fight the Winter Blahs

**This was originally published in a similar form in The Stokes News on February 28, 2008. When the publishers changed websites a few years back, all links to archived articles were tragically lost. I am attempting to republish in my blog all of my columns that once appeared in the newspaper. Although much of this info is dated by now, there are still universal truths to be gained by reading it.

winter blahsIf you’re like me, you’re starting to notice the days getting longer and some daffodils prematurely pushing up through February’s hard ground. I actually saw a bird taking a bath in my birdbath today and nearly freaked out; I’ve never seen one do that in the 14 years we’ve lived here! And when I parked behind London Elementary School a few evenings ago, I heard croaking down at the creek—do they call them “peepers” maybe? The sound made me long for spring which is indeed right around the corner. Signs everywhere are pointing to my favorite season!

But until then I’m still working my way through the winter blahs. I’ve found some great ways to beat them. “American Idol” came back on in January, and that sure has helped. (I agree with those of you who say there is to be no idol before God, so yes, the title of that show bothers me. However, my family and I enjoy hearing excellent singing and critiquing below-par singing!)

A friend of mine declared vehemently in the fall that he would NOT watch such a cheesy show as “American Idol,” but I’ve heard he’s on the couch every Tuesday and Wednesday night as he boos Simon or agrees with Paula and Randy. He even headed up a “Fantasy Idol” draft. I’m quite impressed with the labor he went to—cutting out pictures of the Top 24 and working out an elaborate point system. My fantasy football season may have gone sour, but so far, I’m at the top of the leader board in the “American Idol” league! (Eat your heart out, Stokes News employees who beat me at Fantasy Football!)

My favorite-ever "American Idol" David Cook was on the show in 2008 when this column was originally published.

My favorite-ever “American Idol” David Cook was on the show in 2008 when this column was originally published.

Another excellent way of beating the late winter blahs is to have friends and/or family TV sessions to watch ACC basketball. It’s not quite as much fun as the World Series or football season was in my den, but it’s much better than watching “The Weather Channel” 24/7. (Then again, maybe not. How I love that weather stuff!) Somehow I have failed in my job as a mother—the fruit of my labors having produced two Carolina fans. It makes for interesting times when the Duke or NC State fans in our family get riled up. It’s a pretty even split around here.

However, my favorite way to attack those winter blahs is to get out into the community and be active. I enjoyed seeing so many of you at the South Stokes basketball games. And I must confess I was always disappointed during the varsity games. That gym should’ve been packed out instead of half-empty!

“I don’t have anyone playing on the teams,” you may say. Neither did I. Neither did Margie Dunlap or Carol Wiles. Horace and Brenda Boles stayed long after their granddaughter finished playing. Don and Nancy Lester could be counted on to hang around way past the time their relative played. The point is that it was great fun to watch, whether or not you had anyone playing. The sense of community unity was heartening as all races, creeds and genders pulled together for the common goal—a Saura victory.

For many years, my kids and I missed very few ballgames at my alma mater, South Stokes High!

For many years, my kids and I missed very few ballgames at my alma mater, South Stokes High!

Remember the days of Kenny Dennard when there was standing room only in the gym? They tell me the whole town came out to watch on the old paths of the 1920’s and ’30’s when the likes of my grandmother, Reny Richardson Smith, led Walnut Cove High School to victory. Athletics has always been a great common denominator for the varied types of people who inhabit our town and county. I encourage you to come out to watch your local teams whether or not you have a vested interest. You’ll find someone you know there in the bleachers, you’ll see some kid playing that you recognize and you’ll find that the winter blahs are lost in the cries of “Defense!” or “Let’s go, Sauras!”

I found the same camaraderie in London Gym this winter. How encouraged I was to be forced to stand at the door one night last week because the bleachers were jam-packed full! All to watch eight- and nine-year-olds play. That’s the spirit!

Even the little kids' games are exciting at London Gym! And it's free until tournament time.

Even the little kids’ games are exciting at London Gym! And it’s free until tournament time.

These kids are the future of our town, our county, our world. Watching them learn to play as a team, to be gracious in victory or loss, to compete with as much determination as Alan Iverson or Tim Duncan—this warms the heart, chasing away winter’s chill. And I doubt Iverson or Duncan goes running into Grandma’s arms after the game or high-fives Grandpa to be congratulated on the lay-up that finally went in! I’d rather be in London Gym during tournament week than at an NBA arena.

And it's not just boys. Girls play, too!

And it’s not just boys. Girls play, too!

I sat in that gym a lot this winter, often contemplating its rich history. I thought of the marvelous teams London High School must have had back in the day. Not discounting those incredible teams I have heard tell of, I was nonetheless encouraged now to see children of all races playing together on that floor. What a different world our children are growing up in—not perfect by any means, but coming along slowly but surely in the area of race relations.

Yes, I still get a chill when I hear the part of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech that says, “I have a dream that one day. . .little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.” Perhaps I am privileged enough to be able to see the dawning of that day, even on basketball courts in crowded gyms.

Children of different races play together at London Gym—something that would have been unheard of even 50 years ago.

Children of different races play together at London Gym—something that would have been unheard of even 50 years ago.

So how are your winter blahs now? Mine are rapidly disappearing in the warmth of what I’ve experienced this winter. Next year, take my advice and experience community unity with me. Support the children who will one day be your doctors, nurses, teachers, firefighters, accountants, etc. Basketball may be almost over, but early season baseball is just around the bend. Put on your earmuffs and scarves, grab the blanket and get out of the house. You’ll soon find that the winter blahs are old news and that spring has sprung once more.

Tournament season in the Walnut Cove Youth Basketball League starts this coming Saturday, February 27, 2016. Come watch these kids play; I promise you won’t be disappointed. We had a nail-biter there just last night!

The Old Paths: Are we being boiled alive?

**Published in honor of “Human Trafficking Awareness Day” on January 11, 2016.

*This was published in The Stokes News in April 2013, in my regular column, “The Old Paths.” Due to the fact that all Internet links were broken to our old articles when Civitas Media switched websites, I am slowly but surely posting all of my old columns in my blog so that they will be archived as they SHOULD’VE been on the newspaper website.

frog in potMost of us have heard that you can boil a frog alive if you do it slowly enough. The idea is that if you put a frog in a pan of hot water, it will jump out. But if you place it in a pan of cold water and heat it up very slowly, the change is so imperceptible that the live frog will eventually allow itself to be boiled to death.

Whether or not this is scientifically true, the frog analogy of “we do not react to change when it is gradual” is an accurate one.

Take your weight, for instance. When you put on the pounds in a gradual manner, you may not realize just how “fluffy” you’ve gotten. Then you look at an old picture of yourself and are amazed by the change. “How did I not see this happening?” you ask.

Because the change was so slow, day by day, that it was not really noticeable.

I wonder how often this analogy proves true in other areas of our lives. This hit me when I attended my son’s dance competition recently with my hubster. I had been to many such competitions before. But seeing it through new eyes–my hubster’s–was very enlightening to me.

It wasn’t long before he turned to me with startled eyes and asked, “So THIS is what it’s all about?” And suddenly, I saw what he saw–little girls in skimpy outfits doing moves that used to be reserved for pole dancers. I’m not talking teenage girls; these were girls of the barely-out-of-or-still-in-elementary-school variety.

The girls did not belong to my son’s dance school which tries to choreograph more tasteful routines with deep meanings rather than the routines that appeal to the–yes, I’m going to say it–sexual senses. A group of about six dance moms in front of us were “whoopin’ and hollerin’” and yelling, “That’s right! Move it, girls!”

bright young things adBesides the fact that these moms were downright annoying, it hit me that they were cheering on these dancers to do moves that their grandmothers would’ve fainted dead away upon witnessing. Are these the moms who will dress their pre-teen girls in the clothing line called “Bright Young Things” being marketed now by a major company known for lingerie?

You know, the line that includes a thong trimmed with lace that reads “Call me” on the front, shorty shorts that say “Wild” on the rear end and polka-dot hipsters with the words “Feeling Lucky?” printed on them. When I saw this, I literally felt sick to my stomach.

I am troubled by this trend to brainwash girls with the idea that “Sex sells.” Why are we parents shocked when cell phones are banned in middle schools because our daughters (and sons) are taking nasty pictures of themselves in the bathrooms? Why are we stunned when our kids are having sex regularly throughout high school and girls are becoming pregnant out of wedlock at younger and younger ages?

I feel sorry for the little girls who are being fed a double-minded message here. “We’ll allow you to wear itsy-bitsy-teeny-weeny bikinis while parading around the local pools, and we’ll dress you in skimpy black leather for dance competitions where you do pelvic-thrusting moves, and we’ll buy you short shorts with provocative phrases on the rear end, but no boy better touch you!”

I also feel sorry for boys with raging hormones–a teenage fact of life–who are confronted daily with such clothing or lack of. My 17-year-old son confided in me that boys his age are sometimes tormented by a girl’s scanty clothing. Skimpy and/or tight clothing laden with “Come hither” screen-printed words seem to be designed to attract a boy in a way that unfortunately increases his appetite, and I don’t mean for fried chicken.

(And no, I do NOT believe that a girl in such attire who gets raped or assaulted asked for it. Men have a responsibility to control themselves regardless!)

This is not a Sunday School lesson nor a religious commentary. I won’t even mention the Bible or God. Whether or not you are religious, this should be an issue that you ponder carefully in a world that is seeing more and more sex trafficking.

Human-TraffickingDid you know that an estimated 12.3 million people right now are considered slaves–most of them sex slaves? The average age of a sex slave is 13, and the majority of them are girls. And no, it’s not just in the former Soviet Union. Our nation has a huge sex trafficking problem. In fact, many legitimate organizations rank my home state of North Carolina in the top 10 for this problem.

“Sex trafficking? Oh, that’s farfetched stuff!” you argue. Well, the increase in child pornography isn’t. With easy access to the Internet, the viewing of pornography has escalated to epic proportions. Statistics say that every second, 28,258 people are viewing a nude picture of somebody’s daughter.

humantrafficking--girl

Are we like the frog that has had the water heated so slowly that we don’t even know it? Just 50 years ago on the old paths, much of the dancing in today’s dance competitions would have been seen only in strip clubs. Meanwhile, the little girls of that day wore saddle oxfords and mid-shin-length dresses.

But little by little, the water heated up, and the change was so subtle we didn’t realize it. Now it’s here, and we accept it as normal in our culture.

My son dances fully covered and doesn’t do the risque moves that predominate the female dancing, but even so I am going to have to heavily ponder his situation. I don’t want to be boiled alive. Let’s jump out of the pot, shall we?

frog-jump-out-of-boiling-water

A Veterans Day Remembrance: Jay Kitts

(I wrote this back in 2012 when I was a reporter for The Stokes News. It was originally published as “Just in time for Veterans Day. . .Walnut Cove soldier returns from Afghanistan” on Nov. 15. The subject of the story, Jay Kitts, passed away on June 13, 2015, from cancer at the age of 54. The article has been edited accordingly.)

vet jay--pam and guysVeterans Day holds a special significance each year for Pam Kitts of Walnut Cove. Not only did she have a husband in the military but a son as well. In 2012, with her husband Jay still deployed with the U.S. Army Reserves to Afghanistan after 14 months and her son Nathan stationed with the Coast Guard in Ohio, the upcoming holiday was destined to be bittersweet.

Or so she thought.

Just a week before the Nov. 11 holiday, Pam received word that Jay would be coming home. He landed back on American soil in Texas on Nov. 5 for medical checks and briefing. It looked to be perhaps a couple of weeks before he would make the flight back to North Carolina.

But then Pam got the call that made her heart rejoice. Jay would be flying home on the eve of Veterans Day–Saturday, Nov. 10.

“The unit in Ft. Hood, TX, worked overtime to try to get the soldiers home for the Veterans Day holiday! We were not expecting them for another week,” Pam explained.

Before she knew it, she was on her way to PTI Airport in Greensboro. “I was anxious and so excited,” she recalled her emotions. “I just couldn’t wait to see and hug him!”

Waiting for Jay to arrive....

Waiting for Jay to arrive….

Pam and several family members and friends were on hand with banners and American flags to welcome Jay home late in the day that Saturday. Before long, he was back in the arms of his wife and home just in time for the day that honors him and all of those who serve in this nation’s military.

“I was ecstatic to see my family and friends and grateful to be back home!” Jay said.

vet jay--airport crew

Jay is home at last!

The Kitts family reunited!

The Kitts family reunited!

It was a long time coming. Master Sergeant Charles Jay Kitts had been deployed three times overseas, serving active duty in Desert Storm and stationed in Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Kuwait and Afghanistan. He was also deployed another time stateside as an RDO (Rear Detachment Officer).

But that most recent deployment with the 378th CSSB (Combat Sustainment Support Battalion) out of Fort Indiantown Gap, PA, may have been the toughest. During the two months of training in NJ and then TX, followed by 12 months in Afghanistan, Jay’s father-in-law passed away, Pam had two surgeries and his 14-year-old daughter Katelyn underwent three surgeries.

“It was hard leaving behind your family and worrying about what’s happening with them and not being there for all the hardships and milestones,” Jay admitted. “I kept my faith in God and trusted that He would keep my family and me safe and bring us back together soon.”

A specialist in logistics, Jay worked 12-16 hour days in Afghanistan, always with the knowledge that enemy forces were out there to bring harm to the military. He faced protestors and occasional Afghans who would try to get into the camp.vet jay--w:arabs

“It was tough,” he confessed. “Days were long.”

But during that time, there were things Jay accomplished that he was proud of. He actually helped build a forward operations base in northern Afghanistan and served as acting mayor of the base.

vet jay--on duty

In 2012, Jay had been with the Army Reserves for 30 years with six years of active duty. This Wytheville, VA native remembered first wanting to enlist because his dad served in World War II and because he, too, wanted to serve his country.

And Jay did not serve alone. Pam was right by his side. They met on the job in the summer of 1986 when he moved to Walnut Cove, quickly fell in love and married in Feb. 1988. Pam said that since she and Jay had been able to put down roots in Walnut Cove–not having to move around–deployment was perhaps harder on them.

“The toughest thing about THIS deployment,” Pam noted, “was that I had to deal with my emotions and pain of losing my dad to cancer without Jay by my side.”

Jay was allowed to come home on emergency leave for two weeks for his father-in-law’s funeral, but when he had to go back to Afghanistan, Pam said her emotions hit their peak.

“I think the shock of my dad being gone and Jay gone again was so unbearable,” she recalled. “I needed him. Jay was truly my soulmate and my rock to lean on besides God. . .but God saw me through, and friends and family helped me, too!”

One of her comforts was her daughter, then a freshman at South Stokes High School. “Katelyn helped me so much in keeping my spirits up,” Pam declared. “She showed me what a remarkable young woman she truly is!”

Pam said that although Katelyn–a daddy’s girl–had missed her dad and longed for him to be there for her, she was very proud of him and remained a trooper and big supporter for both parents.  

Pam and Katelyn were all smiles when Jay got off the plane in Greensboro that 2012 Veterans Day weekend. By their side was Nathan whose unit had worked with him to allow him to come home to greet his dad.

Pam was relieved to have Nathan there: “It’s one thing having to worry about your husband, and then it makes it tougher to worry about a son, too! I am proud of my husband and son, but I have to say I pray a lot that my son never experiences having to go overseas or any war. I worry a lot about that.”

But Pam put those worries out of her mind that weekend when her family was finally reunited. They spent Veterans Day together in a church service that was dedicated to veterans and included a testimony of thanks from Jay and a special outdoor flag presentation by the South Stokes High School JROTC. They hung and flew the US flag that Jay had flown over Afghanistan in honor of Germanton Baptist Church for their support of him and his troops.

Home at last!

Home at last!

When he got home, Jay said that he planned to transition back with his family, spending quality time with them while getting back into the routine at his job.

Pam remembers being overjoyed to settle back into life with him. “There were so many things about my husband that made me so proud of him,” she declared. “Jay was dedicated and loved God, family and country. He truly stood for what he believed in.”

RIP, Jay Kitts–you are missed every day by those who so loved you. But they will be with you eternally one day!vet jay--abroad

Our Miracle of Healing! Pt. VII: Keeping the Faith

(This story is much too long to share in one blog post, so I have divided it into parts. Be warned that it deals with a sickness that was so severe I must occasionally delve into graphic descriptions of the symptoms. This is necessary for the telling of the story.)

The kids and me just 3 months before the parasites struck.

The kids and me just 3 months before the parasites struck. (See a picture of us NOW at the end of this portion of the story!)

On that Monday, October 26, Keith stayed home with us all day and fielded phone calls for me, since it was ringing off the hook. Finally Vicki called. Again, she had been reading something in the Bible that was meant just for us at this time.

BEFORE the healing, I kept asking her, “So what is God telling you? Are you coming across anything in the scriptures?” She had been puzzled because all she kept reading involved false idols and how God’s people needed to get rid of them. That didn’t seem to fit at the time. But after my experience the day before the healing when we had to purify our house from ungodly movies, tapes and even things like totem poles and certain Native American memorabilia, I knew now why those scriptures about false idols DID apply.

(NOTE: Keith and I both have considerable Native American blood and are proud of our heritage. But some—not all—Native American items purchased in the modern marketplace are representatives of heathen gods or are tied to religions other than Christianity.)

Now on this beautiful October Monday morning, Vicki told me she had just finished reading in John. As she closed the Bible, she felt led to open it again. She told the Lord she would open it, and He could direct her to what she should read. She opened immediately to II Chronicles 29. The first word she read was “Hezekiah,” and she smiled. Aha!

This chapter told of Hezekiah sanctifying the Temple, throwing out idols and cleansing the sanctuary. She couldn’t help but think of Keith furiously throwing away anything even questionable. Then she said, “Leslie, when Keith purified your house, what day of the sickness was it?”

I did a mental calculation and said, “The 16th day.”

Vicki began to laugh and then read aloud verse 17 (there’s that 17 again!): “…so they sanctified the house of the Lord…and in the sixteenth day…they made an end.” I nearly came off the couch! I told Vicki I was going to have to run or shout or something. That was amazing!

Then she told me how that, after the Temple was sanctified, people began to bring thank offerings. She said the Lord told her to tell us that people were going to bring thank offerings to us and that when they did, we were not to say, “Oh, you shouldn’t have!” or anything apologetic like that. We were to simply say, “Thank you.”

This seemed strange to me. Thank offerings? I didn’t see why anyone would bring us anything. I said, “Have you talked to someone or something?” Vicki said no, that’s just what the Lord told her to tell us.

Then when I told her how I had awakened and was told at 1:11 a.m. that I would be tested on this, Vicki laughed again. She had finished her Bible reading this morning with the portion of scripture that told how—after the wonders were done in the Temple after sanctification—God left Hezekiah for a time to try him to see all that was in his heart. Now I was even more determined to prove to God that I trusted Him.

I had just hung up with Vicki when my mom called. She was thrilled to hear the news (Keith had told her this morning), and she totally believed. She said that my Great-aunt Fannie (whom I don’t see very often) had brought over a gallon of homemade chicken soup and just felt as if she wanted us to have it. I was stunned.

But the thank offerings had just begun. Someone else came with money for hospital bills. Then Mike Lane called to tell us the church had taken up a love offering for our hospital bill, and he’d bring it to church Wednesday night unless we needed it sooner.

Cordelia Hairston from my church called to say what a miracle it was and how it happened to strengthen our faith at Christ Temple. Then our church friend, Nancy Bullard (Jody and Joy’s mother), called to tell us that the miracle had helped spur a revival of miracles at our church. She said, “Rebuke Satan if he tries to bring something on you to make you think you’re not healed. Bind him.”

My Aunt Darlene Heath from South Carolina called to say, “No weapon formed against thee shall prosper.” I needed that at the moment, because Tracey and I had just been talking on the phone a few minutes before about people voicing unbelief. The last thing she and I had discussed had been how the prophecies seemed to be for Elijah Blue only. Some people had already called her and discussed this.

Darlene knew none of this, yet she said she felt strongly she must tell me that Meghann, Chelsea and I were ALL healed. Every time I had talked on the phone that morning, I had ignored the beep that told me another call was coming in. But for some reason, when Darlene beeped in as I was talking to Tracey, I answered the call—without even knowing who it was (no Caller ID). Thank God I did!

I started to wonder throughout the day what else was going on, because I kept noticing strange things that seemed totally unrelated yet pertinent somehow. For example, the birds had completely left our backyard feeder some weeks before, but suddenly today, I heard their chirping and knew they were back. Then I found a ladybug in the house. They, too, had been gone for a while, and now the first one was back in our den where they like to congregate.

Meanwhile, the phone kept ringing. I couldn’t get all the calls, so some people were calling Vicki and Tracey to check on us. I kept thinking about those scriptures in Hebrews that Joy had read to me on Sunday afternoon about rest, and suddenly, I wanted so desperately to get away and rest. We had been penned inside for so long. But I knew it wasn’t time. I needed to stay home and accept my thank offerings!

A sister in the Lord came and brought so many bags of groceries I didn’t know where to put them all! I had to go to the basement and store many things on the shelves down there. Keith had gone out for a brief time when she brought them. When he came back and saw the multitudes of groceries in the kitchen floor in bags, he said, “We’ve got enough to eat and a bunch more!”

Immediately, I thought of a portion of the scripture Vicki had read to me just that morning about the purification of the Temple. I ran for my Bible and read it to Keith: II Chronicles 31:10—“…Since the people began to bring the offerings into the house of the Lord we have had enough to eat, and have left plenty: for the Lord hath blessed his people; and that which is left is this great store.” We both started laughing. It was so true!

Tuesday, October 27, dawned—another lovely fall day. Again, the phone was consistently ringing. I called Vicki for a word of encouragement since Chelsea, who was feeling better physically, was still fighting a mental battle. Vicki said she was sitting with the Bible in her lap, waiting for me to call. She knew she had to read Psalm 105 to me. She read it, and oh, what a comfort! It spoke of giving praise unto the Lord for His marvelous works and how we should talk of these works and make them known among the people.

Vicki told me that this morning she had been wondering why Chelsea, at only 8 years old, was the one having to fight this battle of faith. Then Vicki’s mom, Betty Blansett, called her and out of the blue started talking about a dream she had when she was only 8 years old—a dream of two roads—one so well-travelled that dust was rising from it as if it was a cattle trail and the other one narrow but green and shady and refreshing.

Then Betty looked up and saw the skies part for the Lord to appear. The dream terrified her so badly she slept with her grandmother for a while afterward. She didn’t totally got over it until she received the baptism of the Holy Ghost when she was 12 years old. When Vicki heard this dream, she realized Chelsea was certainly not too young to have spiritual things happen to her.

Then my Aunt Sammie Bray stopped by. She “just happened” to have some yard sale clothes she had bought, thinking of my kids. They “just happened” to fit Chelsea—an expensive pair of Nikes, like the ones Meghann had gotten for her birthday, and four cute turtlenecks. I simply said, “Thank you.”

I told my aunt the story of our healing, and she became teary-eyed. She totally believed. Nancy Bullard then called and said she had some cute shoes that her granddaughter had outgrown and that Chelsea might be able to wear. I felt this was a definite confirmation that God was sending thank offerings to Chelsea in particular.

People kept calling, telling us how this miracle had totally changed them. Heather called to say people had told her they were so moved by the miracle that they had made vows to God to give up things that would be difficult to sacrifice. She didn’t mention these people by name, of course, but I was touched just the same.

Parents/relatives of backsliders called to say these backsliders had heard about the miracle and were pricked in their hearts. What if they should need a miracle? Would they have the right to ask God? Some who had shown no interest in God for years suddenly wanted a tape of Sunday’s service. A fairly new believer in the church called someone else to say, “I don’t know why they had to bear this, but this was for the church.”

And still the manifestation of the healing amazed me—no more vomiting, diarrhea or sleepless nights for any of us. Elijah’s bowel movements still became more solid and normal. It was fascinating just to watch the progression! (Yes, it’s strange what things you’ll take pleasure in after you’ve escaped a near-tragedy!)

Vicki called again to say that she had been humming a song all day and had just thought of the name of it: “You Can’t Make Me Doubt Him.” That became my theme song. Then when I told her Keith had just brought me Mexican food from “Mi Pueblo,” Vicki laughed. She had stopped by the same place to take food to the hospital to Robin who had travailed in natural labor while we travailed in the Spirit.

Vicki had told me earlier that morning to anoint my phone so that only those calls that would be uplifting and not doubtful would come through. Then when she went to the hospital later, she found that Robin had been placed in a confidential room—the number of which would not be revealed except to those who absolutely needed to get in to see her. The parallels were incredible!

Wednesday came, and we were so excited about going to church. A faithful saint of God called to say that as she was praying, she felt the Lord told her He had healed us from a parasite—a worm—to show that He was going to restore what the cankerworm and the caterpillar and all those parasitic worms had eaten and stolen from the church. That sounded good to me.

Several people called to say I needed to be writing this down, and I assured them I was taking good notes! I, too, had felt a huge compulsion to write about the experience.

Suddenly I remembered a strange dream I had dreamed the past August—a dream I had recounted to Keith and Vicki at that time because it had such an effect on me. I had been standing in my living room talking to our Stokes County 4-H Agent, April Bowman. As we chatted, snakes began to crawl from my walls and run toward the open front door. I was astounded that April never saw the snakes. As I looked more closely at them, I realized they weren’t snakes, but huge worms. (When I reminded Vicki of this dream, she reminded me that I had told her two months earlier that the worms in the dream had teeth and monster faces like the strongyloides Keith saw in the microscope!)

In the dream, after the 4-H agent left, I went into the bathroom to—guess what? Give Abigail a bath. I couldn’t because the bathtub was dirty (just as it was the night God revealed the parasites to us)! So I went to the back door which was also standing open and looked out at the rolling hills with beautifully-colored fall foliage at the peak of the leaf season. Then I woke up.

I had dreamed that in August. Now here it was October, the peak of the leaf season, as well as the week that ended our official 4-H year (April leaving our house in the dream). And all of these things had happened!

Recalling this prophetic dream that I had forgotten until this day gave me total confidence that the parasites were not only gone from our bodies but from our home as well. I had seen them crawling out the door in the dream.

As I sat on the couch that afternoon just before getting ready for church, I was thinking that the thank offerings had been nice but that they were over now. At that moment, the phone rang, and it was Dee Dennis from church, asking if she could bring our supper to the service that night. As instructed by Vicki, I once again simply said, “Thank you,” just as I did the day before when a 4-H friend brought my lunch and my sister brought my supper.

I smiled as I hung up the phone and then suddenly froze in disbelief. I heard a sound that I had not heard in a while—raindrops. The entire time we were sick, there was no rain at all. The meteorologists kept making a big deal out of the consecutive number of days with no rain. We had noticed how the drought days matched our sickness days. The last rain had come on Thursday, October 8—the very day we started feeling strange before we woke up sick on Friday, October 9.

Now I looked outside and saw that a brief shower was passing through. There was no rain at the airport that day, so the meteorologists didn’t list the trace of rain in their weather record books. But at my house, it truly rained on that Wednesday. I couldn’t resist calling Tracey to tell her that I could hear the sound of an abundance of rain—the latter rain.

God had been faithful and true and right on time once again.

Me with the kids today--with a new child, Malachi, added since our miraculous healing 17 years ago! (Baby Abigail--far left--is now taller than her sisters Meghann and Chelsea--far right!)

Me with the kids today—with a new child, Malachi, added since our miraculous healing 17 years ago! (Baby Abigail—far left—is now taller than her sisters Meghann and Chelsea—far right!)

Our Miracle of Healing! Pt. VI: The Visible Miracle

(This story is much too long to share in one blog post, so I have divided it into parts. Be warned that it deals with a sickness that was so severe I must occasionally delve into graphic descriptions of the symptoms. This is necessary for the telling of the story.)

My kids just out of bed about a month or two after the divine healing--never another sign of the parasites, praise GOD!

My kids just out of bed about a month or two after the divine healing–never another sign of the parasites, praise GOD!

Assistant Pastor Mike Lane was preaching that Sunday night, and we didn’t want to disturb the service as we had that morning, so we settled down to wait at the side hall door. I couldn’t quit praying in the Spirit even though people were coming and going and staring at me. I knew if I let up on my faith and prayer and started conversing with people, I’d lose my train of thought and my focused belief that something supernatural was about to happen.

I kept staring through the windows in the door, determined to go in as soon as Mike gave the altar call. I was afraid to move for fear I’d get sidetracked and miss the opportunity to be first at the altar. Because I was so much in the Spirit, I didn’t realize the people inside the sanctuary could see me and were beginning to worry about me. Finally, an usher came and said he had been asked to move me from the door.

It was then that Elijah began to scream. He was screaming for the thermometer. Somehow he had developed the belief that the thermometer would make him feel better—as if taking his temperature was some sort of treatment. He was in obvious pain and smelled absolutely rotten—a characteristic I had noticed for a few days. Whether he was able to go to the bathroom or not, he had developed an awful smell, even right after a bath. His very breath smelled like decay and rot. Now it was particularly noticeable in the hall.

Finally, Elijah got so loud we were forced to take him to the back foyer. He was screaming for a bowl, which was a sign he needed to throw up. Our close friend, Sandra Strupe, came out and said, “We need to get someone out here to pray.”

I was on the floor, already praying, when she came back with Joy’s brother, Jody Bullard, a fiery young preacher. He began to anoint Elijah and pray, but the child kept writhing and screaming in pain. I finally said, in utter desperation, “Why can’t we take him into the church?”

Jody looked at me calmly and said, “Well, why can’t we?” And off we went, Rusty carrying the little buddy to the altar in the midst of the preaching, with Keith, the girls and I close behind. Again our beloved church friends gathered around us immediately and began to pray as if the house was on fire. The whole time, Elijah was crying and/or screaming.

Mike Lane especially called the young people up closer to pray for us. I’ll never forget the fervent prayers from these youth—especially those of young Josh Elkes laying hands on Elijah and praying with as much anointing as I’ve heard many a preacher have. Nothing seemed to be happening still.

As the volume level began to subside, Jody—bless his soul—took the microphone and pleaded with people to stay at the altar and pray. He told them we had been at the hospital, and we had a parasite that couldn’t be diagnosed. That did it for awhile. The volume of prayers swelled once more.

After a while, things tapered off again. I kept thinking, “The Lord told Vicki we need to travail. Forget these normal little ten-minute prayers.” Then I had to leave the altar for a short time as the leaders asked me to come talk to them up on the platform. While I was gone, Keith also walked away with Elijah because he was crying so loudly.

People began to talk to me, and again I felt a confusion I didn’t like. Suddenly I felt absolutely dead inside and out. All the life and hope seemed to be seeping out of me. I’m sure that to those looking on, my whole body appeared to slump. Sister Teddi led me to the chairs on the platform and had me sit down. She said, “You are worn out.” I could barely answer her through my confusion.

After a while, I walked off the platform, down the steps to where Keith had been talking to a lady, Brenda Henry, who worked in a pathology lab. She was astounded that the doctors had treated us the way they had. I was too heartbroken to even converse with them.

As I tried to make my way through the crowd toward the back of the church, Barbara, the herb lady, walked with me. She was trying to tell me to give him a garlic enema since he needed desperately to move his bowels. She said, “Leslie, do you think you can do that?” In her desperation to help us avoid a hospital stay, she was attempting to buy us more time, thinking the enema would prolong his life until we could receive our healing. Thank God for her compassion!

Like a person in a drunken stupor, I just stared at her and shook my head. “No, I can’t do that,” I sighed a sigh of resignation. “I guess we’re on our way to the hospital now.” Looking back on that statement, I’m so disappointed in myself. God had given me so many clues that He was going to do something miraculous if I’d just hang on a little longer, and now I was giving up.

So many people had implied to me that the child needed to go to the hospital that I began to doubt what God had told me. I’m so ashamed that my ears were not tuned directly to Him and Him alone. And again, it’s not that there’s anything wrong with hospitals. If a person is severely injured in a car wreck, let’s pray for them while we rush them to the hospital.

But this situation was different. Elijah would’ve been dead before they finally proved he had strongyloides. I’m sure of that. And besides, God had dealt with me so strongly even before Elijah was conceived that I would indeed bear a son one day; that had seemed impossible at the time, considering the long span of infertility I was in the midst of. But of course, His Word came to pass, which made it easier to believe His next directive to me about Elijah, as noted previously—that he was not to be trusted to man but rather unto God in this last day.

This is why I had clung so tightly through so much suffering to all of the evidence God had given me that Elijah would be healed of the parasite. Yet late on this Sunday night—my mind wearied from all of the advice that seemed to go against my gut feeling, my body weakened by weeks of malnutrition and sickness and exhaustion—I was too far gone to hold on any longer.

BUT GOD! Once again, my God proved Himself faithful and true and RIGHT ON TIME!!! Just as I walked away from Barbara in total despair, my choir director, Patsy Todd, began to speak a message in other tongues. Everyone immediately became totally silent. I fell to the floor on my knees with my head touching the carpet. Patsy spoke for a while, and then we waited breathlessly for an interpretation. When it finally came, she ended with, “Just praise God. He is healed!”

That place went absolutely haywire with joy. I began to sob but somehow couldn’t get up. A dear friend and neighbor, Sherry Richardson, was there, sobbing with me. She had her arms around me. Later she told me she had felt my pain as if it was her child and he was about to die. I believe God gave her some of my pain, because otherwise I could not have stood it.

Rusty was watching the proceedings from the back of the church where he had retreated to as we left the altar. He recalls that he saw Patsy rise up tall as the Spirit came upon her, and she began to speak. He said the Holy Ghost was upon her with such force and power that when she finished, she crumpled and sat down, as if being used that forcefully by the Lord had sapped her strength. He, an admittedly backslidden person at that time, was totally convinced that what was going on that night was absolutely genuine.

Still I could not get up. I seemed to be waiting. I didn’t even know where Elijah was, much less whether or not he was improved. As if to drill it into my head that He is always on time, God moved again just in the nick of time.

I had finally risen to my knees, thinking I probably should get up now, when Jody, who had also been down on his knees on the platform, began to deliver another message in tongues. This was something I had never heard him do, but it was sure enough legit right now. This time I fell to the floor, totally flat on my face as I listened.

He spoke for a while then interpreted. The interpretation was forceful, all about how God had done this healing—even though there was doubt and unbelief—that we might be in unity. God said this was but the first miracle of others that were to come. My favorite line was, “Who is the devil?” as if to scoff at the enemy.

God had spoken by the mouth of two witnesses, and I felt complete again. I was able to get up, but I felt strangely light on my feet. People were laughing and crying and telling me I looked drunk in the Spirit. I felt very happy but far away from everyone.

Heather came over and put her arms around me. God had told her over and over again to come to me and speak these words: “Hold fast to what thou hast, and do not doubt. For what I have said, that will I perform.” Those words were to comfort me much in the coming days.

I turned to see Elijah in the back of the church, playing with the teenagers who had swarmed him. Keith said that a minute or two after Patsy finished speaking, Elijah suddenly quit screaming and got down from his arms to go to a young girl, Ashley Flowers—at which time he started asking for pizza and to go to the youth game room to play. People were crowded around, staring at him, while others fell all over themselves to bring him orange drink from the kitchen—anything they could do for this child they had seen almost literally rise from the grave before their very eyes!!

The thing I noticed most was that he didn’t smell bad anymore. The smell of death was totally gone. That absolutely blew my mind. God had done just what Heather had told me He would do—something miraculous to set the church on fire. He was right on time!

We celebrated that night with pizza at Rusty and Vicki’s with a whole gang of people. After a while of joy and laughter, I escaped to the bedroom where all was quiet to nurse Abigail. As I lay there, pondering the events of the night in my mind, suddenly I realized everyone had been focused on Elijah Blue. What about Meghann, Chelsea and me—all of whom had also suffered from those nasty parasites? My blood felt as though it began to run cold as I thought, “Hey, maybe just Elijah was healed.”

Then God spoke to me in a gently-laughing yet loving manner, “Will I not heal thee also?” My whole body suddenly relaxed and became peaceful again. Of course!

As we drove home that night, I was still worried that Elijah had not gone to the bathroom in so long. That was my next prayer request. We had no sooner entered our house than he looked at me, his eyes big, “I gotta go potty!” We barely made it to the bathroom before he relieved himself quite fully. For days and days, his bowel movements had been more like pure green liquid. Now they were already beginning to firm up and change color. I was so relieved! He slept peacefully the whole night through and NEVER ONCE had another sign of the sickness.

But peace was not to be mine that night. Everyone had said, “I know you’ll be glad to finally get a good night’s sleep at last.” And I did fall off to sleep quite easily. But then I woke abruptly, and these words were spoken to me,  “You will be tested on this.” I looked at the clock, which said 1:11. I immediately thought of the oneness of God and His power and immediately fell back to sleep.

An hour or two later, I heard little feet running to the bathroom. It was Chelsea, who was crying that her belly hurt. Now, if God had not awakened me and told me I would be tested on this, I probably would’ve panicked right then and there. Instead I was ready. I felt strong and full of faith. I smiled at her and comforted her and told her to go back to bed. I reassured her that she was healed of the parasites, but that Satan might try to bring something else on her to make us doubt.

Chelsea went back to sleep but still battled the next day. She kept feeling that she was going to get sick, although she never once did. Again, I was calm and kept encouraging her. Suddenly I had an idea. I asked Chelsea to let me check the sores that just yesterday had been festering on her backside. Glory be to God—they were already closed and healing rapidly! That was my proof that she was going to be just fine.

Elijah woke up feeling great, wanting food. He was still pale and weak, but that was to be expected after three weeks of virtually no nutrition. I began my job of fattening him up!

TO BE CONTINUED…..See Part VII at https://timesofrefreshingontheoldpaths.wordpress.com/2015/10/21/our-miracle-of-healing-pt-vii-keeping-the-faith/ .

I just realized tonight that there will be 7 parts of this story. I did not plan that; it “just happened” to end up as God’s perfect number 7. I simply divided it up into readable increments, and this was the result.

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