In the spring of 1974, I was living off-campus in a rented room in an old red-brick mansion across the street from Middle Tennessee State University. The first floor was furnished with impressive antiques. The lady of the house rented three rooms to college girls. We came and went through a grand entrance, ascending and descending a beautiful staircase to get to our rooms upstairs.
My room was off the beautiful hall. The rooms rented to the other girls were at the back of my room, which served as their hallway. Between their rooms was the bathroom we all shared. We also shared one dorm-sized refrigerator, which the girl who owned it kept in her room. I shopped for groceries at the little store on the corner across the street and did my cooking in a couple of old-style popcorn poppers.
Our three rented rooms were far from posh. They had a second-hand feel, but the price was right at $50 per month and we did get to walk through grandeur going in and out.
I remember being in my blue room upstairs on March 1, 1974. I got dressed up in my very 1970s green gauze shirt and green and beige striped stovepipe pants, while I waited for Ray Notgrass, whom I had met just that semester, to pick me up for our first date.
Ray and I met in the political science department at MTSU, where we were both student workers. I was majoring in political science and he in history with a political science minor.
As Ray and I drove to Nashville for dinner and a movie, I was impressed by his intelligence and humor. By the end of the evening, I was enamored. By the end of May, I was engaged. By the end of the year, I was married.
Ray and I always celebrate March 1. This year we celebrated it after I spoke on “Tell Me My Story” at that mama’s retreat I told you about. That is how our story began.
We brought his family story and my family story together and began our own, but we never left those stories we brought along with us. They are part of who we are and who our children are and who our grandchildren are.
The wise mama and daddy love and honor the past generations while training the new ones.
Norman Rockwell created a fascinating painting called A Family Tree. At the top is a red-headed little boy with a mischievous expression.
- Below him are a smiling and pretty red-headed mama and her strong, dark, and handsome husband.
- Below his mama are her cowboy daddy with a white hat and a black mustache and her fancy mama with her yellow curls and a flower in her hair.
- Below the little boy’s daddy are a sophisticated couple who might have met at an ivy league school.
Other ancestors on the little boy’s family tree include:
- A bearded mountain man and his native wife,
- A stern minister and his sterner wife;
- a Union soldier and his wife with auburn hair,
- A Rebel soldier with his wife in blond ringlets,
- A happy and distinguished man in a beaver hat with his wife in a fancy straw bonnet,
- A man in a powdered wig with his wife’s brunette hair tied up in a white bonnet,
- A man in the three-cornered hat of the American Revolution with his red-headed wife.
- At the bottom of the family tree are a pirate with a patch on one eye, gold earrings in his ears, and a demure black-haired beauty in a mantilla veil.
We are all a conglomeration of interesting ancestors. We are a mixed story of people with mixed stories. The world today tries to divide people into those who wear black hats and those who wear white ones, but the truth is that every person who has ever lived except Jesus is a mixture of both — people made in the image of God and people who have sinned. The same is true for us and our children. That’s why we need Jesus.
For in Him all the fullness of Deity
dwells in bodily form,
and in Him you have been made complete,
and He is the head over all rule and authority;
and in Him you were also circumcised
with a circumcision made without hands,
in the removal of the body of the flesh
by the circumcision of Christ;
having been buried with Him in baptism,
in which you were also raised up with Him
through faith in the working of God,
who raised Him from the dead.