This project has taken so many fun twist and turns. One of my favorite ways, is how it has allowed people to be honored with paintings by nominations. This one is especially special since Pastor Kevin Johnson, of the First Baptist Church of Florence nominated my husband’s very own grandmother, Exie Higginbotham. He asked for a painting to hang in the Church in honor of her giving of one of the greatest gifts of all…the Gift of Prayer. Her granddaughter, Emily writes this weeks post honoring her.
I’ll keep you in my prayers…an expression commonly and often casually used to share comfort or demonstrate concern. One stated with the best of intention but all too often is simply that…an intention. But what is prayer? Words spoken to God, or perhaps for some, spoken into the unknown? A well-meaning thought? A last resort once all other avenues have been exhausted? A place for healing? A chance for peace? As Christians we serve a God who does not need anything from us but instead has already sacrificed for us. “Pray without ceasing” we are told, and “cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.” Jesus introduced to us the beautiful act of personal prayer, revealing to us the Creator-of-All’s desire to spend time with us. For some, prayer is powerful. Prayer is reaching out to the One to whom nothing is impossible. And maybe prayer is what we need foremost. An act that points to a God who loves us dearly but also to our love for each other. Through prayer for one another we celebrate each other’s joys and share each other’s burdens. Through prayer for one another we are shown that we are no longer alone. Through prayer for one another we give perhaps what we need most in the moment…love, comfort, and hope. What is prayer? Perhaps prayer is a gift…perhaps prayer is one of the greatest gifts of all.
Painting number 35 of 52 is hanging in the newest annex of First Baptist Church in Florence, AL in honor of a true prayer warrior. Exie Higginbotham is known to many. She is mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, sister, friend, and confidant. She is where many have turned and none have been turned away. She is always generous and kind demonstrating a quiet strength and selfless passion for others. She is wise and quick to listen. She is loving. She is a woman ahead of her time who, with elegant charm, kindly disagreed with those who did not see the need for a woman to further her own education. Doing so she paved the way for her daughters and granddaughters to reach their full potential and showed them what it means to achieve their dreams through hard-work and determination while maintaining grace, integrity, and love. Against odds, she changed her world and made it a better place for all of us to come. A librarian and teacher she enriched the lives of children. A wife and mother she sacrificed and clothed her family in love. She is the woman who respectfully defied doctors and alone cared for her ailing husband in the comfort of their home. The woman who at a young age comforted her mother while waiting on news of her brothers from Pearl Harbor. She is the grandmother and greatmother who reads books time and time again, plays games, and treats the children in her life to carousel rides and lemon icebox pie. She has known pain and loss and joy, but she so often pushes her own pain aside to comfort others in theirs. She is a woman of faith who embodies the very fruits of the spirit. She is the person we aspire to be, the friend we hope to find, and the woman we pray our daughters will become.
She is also the woman who has planted churches, volunteered in the service of others, and for years now has gathered each week at FBC to pray. She prays for the sorrow, hopes, fears, and needs of the people she knows and loves…and the people she does not know and yet loves. She is the woman who recognizes that prayer can be hard. Prayer so often engrossed in emotional turmoil can at times require a strength that can fail us in our deepest need. She offers her own strength to all who ask without hesitation. Always compassionate, she has shared the pains and joys of those around her looking for nothing in return and consequently has touched the lives of generations. She is a matriarch, a servant of God, a blessing to all she prays for, to all who know her, and to all who have the privilege to call her mother, grandmother, greatmother, sister, and friend. She is her community’s prayer warrior, and what is prayer? Prayer is a tremendous act of service…a beautiful act of love.
Thank you Kevin and First Baptist Church of Florence for loving and honoring Ms. Exie!
Emily & Lauren