(ROCKWALL/HEATH, TX – September 1, 2015) Georgia Mae Hendrix often wears a white sweater over a colorful blouse. And she can wear a smile.
Residents of the assisted living facility where I once-a-week lead exercise have more in common than silver hair and close ages—mostly north or south of ninety. They rarely get excited; they don’t travel or go out much; and many of them dress in more layers than seems necessary.
But they differ in at least one way. Some, like Georgia, offer a smile, while others have a harder time producing one. Over the years I’ve observed that many of those who smile have travelled a faith journey. They have something to look forward to. And it shows.
So it didn’t surprise me that Georgia raised her hand—ever so slightly—when I asked the group if anyone had a Christian faith story to share. I asked this question after reading yet another memorial tribute that covered the life of a late-resident of the facility. The breadth of their life experiences left me amazed—and determined to ask more questions!
Georgia, who turns 84 in October, told me she married while still in high school, though her husband was a bit older. He had already served four years as a young soldier in World War II.
The couple settled in Garland, Texas, where they also joined a Baptist church with services that regularly included a member’s testimony of faith in Christ. The wonderful stories made Georgia wish she had something to share. She came to faith as a child, but she’d forgotten about the experience, though she could recall her later baptism in a gymnasium pool in the fourth grade.
During those young-married years, Georgia wondered about her early confession of faith, until one day, at home alone, a strong feeling came over her. She felt such comfort and assurance as she remembered sitting in bed as a child with her mother beside her. She said that God revealed the memory of her coming-to-faith moment; this also provided her with a testimony to share at church!
Georgia’s faith journey hasn’t always been easy, especially when her husband was called back into service during the Korean War. She struggled alone with their baby boy; and she had some bitterness, since her husband had to go, while others were left behind—safe.
“But the good Lord took me through it as I relied on him,” she says. “I prayed about everything, which quieted me on the inside, and I did Bible reading. Church also helped; and life got better.”
Georgia’s husband returned from war and the couple later had two daughters. They were married for 29 years when he died; and she remained a widow for the next 21 years. Then, the Lord provided a second husband, Jim Hendrix, an engineer she met while working at U.S. Steel, also in Garland. They married 18 years ago—though Jim says they’re still newlyweds.
A happy marriage didn’t put an end to Georgia’s faith struggles. She says one troubled daughter continued to challenge her faith; and their relationship is broken to this day. “But I prayed a lot and left her in the Lord’s hands.”
Georgia shared her story while sitting in a small bedroom where—surprise—she paints for a while each day. The bedroom corner is filled with tables covered in jars of paint and art supplies. The couple’s apartment walls are adorned with her landscapes and other lovely works.
“I drew heads as a seven-year-old,” she says. “And I was hooked on painting ever since my sister had me paint a white orchid and I discovered colors.” Her skill improved in her years of widowhood, when she took some classes. She keeps it up because “it’s therapeutic and relaxing.”
She speaks in a calm voice, wearing her white sweater on a hot summer day. And her peaceful smile.
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