Here’s one thing I’ve noticed. Whenever my wife Cyndi talked about her Aunt Teena, her eyes lit up and she smiled. How could I not notice something like that? Aunt Teena (Ruby Forrestine Atchley) lived in Odessa for the past twenty-five years, about twenty minutes from our house in Midland. We made the trip back-and-forth often for birthday meals and celebratory BBQ dinners at the Rockin’ Q. For almost all of those twenty five years we were the nearest family either of us had.
And for twenty of those years (TWENTY YEARS!), Teena and Cyndi met every Tuesday morning at 5:30 AM to share a cup of tea, pray together, and talk about life and school and family. I happen to know that sometimes they prayed for me. It is a powerful thing to know someone is praying for you by name. Teena was one of Cyndi’s biggest spiritual anchors and a significant contributor to the strong woman Cyndi is today.
One of my favorite things about Cyndi is when we talk at length and in depth about spiritual things, about ministry to couples and men, and retreats and sermons and podcasts, and about music. I’m glad we have that sort of relationship. And that is why I know that Teena was one of two women who became major influences in Cyndi’s life. That also means she was a big influence in my life as well.
How could I not notice and appreciate that? Anyone who makes the love of my life stronger and deeper and more grace-full does me a favor.
Teena once gave me a hand-made birthday card, and on the cover she had drawn a Menger Sponge. It was amazing. A Menger sponge is a three-dimensional fractal curve that simultaneously exhibits an infinite surface area and encloses zero volume. She had heard me describe a math book I’d just read and she witnessed my excitement when trying to explain something so mysterious and cool, and she made a card just for me. It’s the only hand-drawn fractal curve birthday card I ever received. I still have it in my collection at home.
I tell that story because it made me happy the way Teena engaged me in my own obscure theories and wild ideas. She would just smile and listen to me go on and on, and grin at Cyndi, and know that somehow it was all related to my search for God.
How could I not notice someone like that?
During the past months Teena was battling her second round with cancer. She survived her first round and seemed to be doing well, but this second hit took her down. She was miserable most of the time. I only know that because she told Cyndi, not from observing Teena. She always smiled at me and shared the grace of the moment, no matter how bad she felt.
I knew when Teena asked Cyndi for help, to take her to the doctor, or even to drive her to Las Cruces, NM, for special cancer treatment, it was a big deal. This is not a family known for asking help. They like to do things themselves, their own way. (Maybe that’s why I fit in so well.) When she asked Cyndi for help, she was sharing her life once again, and there was grace even in that.
I never resented the time Cyndi spent with Teena in Las Cruces, or wherever, because I knew any time with Teena made Cyndi stronger.
Here is what I know. My own life is richer because of Teena's influence on my wife, Cyndi. My understanding of God is deeper and my grasp of grace is firmer because Cyndi spent so much time with Teena.
How could anyone not notice a gift as great as that.
Teena didn’t care about Menger Sponges, but she cared about me. Thanks Teena. I am a better man, and a more consistent follower of Christ, because of you.
“I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free.” Psalm 119:32