From the night of his birth until this very day, our middle child and only son, Matt, has continually surprised us.
1. Matt was due to arrive on May 19, 1977, but decided instead to burst into the world at 12:13 a.m. on March 22. In the first few moments, everything appeared to be okay. He was small (4 lbs. 13 oz.) but healthy. However, within a few hours, the doctors realized that he had aspirated during birth, so he had to fight pneumonia in addition to his prematurity. I have thought so many times that we didn’t know he’d survive for 40 days, much less 40 years. But God had a plan.
2. Matt seemed to be sick constantly in his first two years. We were ALWAYS seeing his pediatrician, Dr. Walker, and he must have consumed gallons of “the pink stuff” (a.k.a. amoxicillin) to cure his ear infections. However, after his SECOND set of eartubes (inserted on his 2nd birthday), he suddenly got better, and he’s never looked back. He’s now 6′ 4″ tall and weighs 200 pounds. God had a plan.
3. As a toddler, Matt roamed the house with both his thumb AND his blanket in his mouth and said repeatedly, “I love you. Do you love me?” Who would have thought this insecure little bundle would become such an influencer?? I was a teacher at Hartselle Junior High School during the years Matt was in Junior High. I loved hearing “Hi, Mom” as we passed in the halls. The surprise came when I would walk from the chorus classroom to the office every morning and be greeted by a dozen of his friends also saying, “Hi, Mom!” Then, in the summertime when our family would go into housing projects to conduct Backyard Bible Clubs, Matt was the one we counted on to draw a crowd. He would start shooting hoops, and within minutes, there was a court full of players who then stayed for our Bible stories and refreshments. He was a pied piper. God made him that way.
4. Matt’s sisters, Laura and Julie, — while rolling their eyes and calling him “The Golden Boy” — clearly adore him. He can have them laughing within seconds with only a quick text or phone call. He can say one word or phrase and a whole family memory is recalled. Julie’s daughter Maggie recently remarked that she’d never seen Matt say anything that didn’t make people laugh. I agreed but then told her that there were certainly times when her Uncle Matt was dead serious, and that’s when he’s preaching the Word. She seemed to like that and thought it would be nice to hear him sometime. And while I’m talking about Matt’s preaching, I have to say this. I am 66 years old. I’ve been in church all of my life. I’ve heard thousands of sermons and participated in dozens of Bible studies. Yet, Matt never fails to teach me something new when I hear him preach. Yes, I know I sound like a prejudiced Momma, but it’s true. Matt LOVES God’s Word, and he mines it for nuggets of truth every week. His stated goal is to help those who grew up in church really know the God of the Bible.
5. Both sisters scored high enough to be in gifted classes through school, while Matt missed the cut-off by a couple of points. It took some tall convincing that he was “plenty smart” when they were going on cool field trips and dissecting sharks in the 2nd grade. Both girls have bachelor’s and master’s degrees, but Matt showed us all when he went a giant leap further and got his Ph. D. Let me quickly add a huge shout-out here to his wife Katie who was with him all along that particular journey. Thank you, Katie.
6. Matt did NOT enjoy reading when he was in grade school — he was much too social and energetic to be still long enough. He even bragged that he finished high school having read only two books from start to finish: The Moose Goes to School and Bo Knows Bo. But, when God called him to preach, he also turned him into a prolific reader. An undeniable transformation. He CONSUMES books now and absolutely LOVES reading. God’s power, no doubt, is at work because not only does Matt benefit from the reading, now a whole congregation benefits as well.
7. Matt dated some precious girls during his teenage and college years. But, God had the perfect one picked out for him. Matt’s cousin Jenny was also at Auburn when he was and had a sorority sister she thought would be a great match. Jenny arranged a meeting between Matt and Katie Bellows, and “the rest is history.” December 18, 1999, their wedding day, was a blessed occasion for our whole family. Katie is a wonderful mother to their children and an exemplary pastor’s wife. Katie is SUCH an evidence of God’s plan at work.
8. People may not know that besides being an avid Auburn fan, during basketball season, Matt is a big Duke fan. It all stemmed from a summer basketball camp at David Lipscomb University in Nashville when Matt was between 6th and 7th grades. Christian Laettner and some other Duke players came to the camp as guest coaches that summer, and Matt was hooked. Ever since, he has loved the fact that his birthday coincides with March Madness — which almost inevitably includes plenty of Duke match-ups. He recently shared that his dream birthday scenario would be to have a great day at work, come home, order a pizza and watch basketball. Is it “Christian” for a preacher to pull for the Blue Devils?? My guess is that it ONLY applies to basketball games.
I could go on forever about my boy. Mothers and Sons do have special bonds, don’t they? But, let me leave you with a few pics from last night’s surprise party given by his church — The Church at West Franklin in Franklin, TN. They did such a thoughtful job of planning and implementing this great party. Even in the middle of Vandy and Vol country, they had Auburn colors and even Auburn music playing. The folks shared lots of laughs, hugs and great food. I’m so glad Steve and I got to be a part of it.
I suspect that Matt will continue to surprise us in the remaining years of our lives. I am so very grateful to God for allowing me to be his Mom and to have a front row seat to watch in awe as God uses him to advance His kingdom.
3 John 1:4 “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.”