The Wigwam – Part 2

In June 8th’s post The Wigwam, I shared some new information on our property.  You may want to read that post to bring you up-to-date.  I’m was thrilled later in the day when I heard from my friend Tim Holtz that Barton Heights Baptist Church was now known as Northminster Baptist Church.  I had discerned that during some of my online research, but it was confirmed by Tim!  Later, Tim brought me a copy of a book, A People Called Northminster which is the history of Barton Heights and Northminster Churches from 1891-1978, written by Frederick Jarrad Anderson in 1979.

Thanks for the encouraging emails, calls, and overall response!  I really appreciate it!  Here are responses to some of the questions that have been raised…

  • Where are Barton Heights Methodist and Baptist churches now?
    • As previously stated, the Baptist Church is now Northminster Baptist Church.
    • I don’t know where Barton Heights Methodist Church is today…but would LOVE to know!!!!
  • What did the Wigwam look like?
    • A picture was included in both books I received.

  • How long was The Wigwam around?
    • Based on what I have determined, the Wigwam was still standing as of 1978 when A People Called Northminster was written.  Just today I was working at my desk and looked out the window where my birdfeeders are; and a car stopped on the side of the road. A gentleman got out and was looking down in the gutter/curb.  I thot that maybe there was maybe a hurt dog or cat.  As I raised the window to ask if everything was OK, he shared with me that he grew up at 2101 Barton Ave and he was giving his mom a tour of their old neighborhood.
    • This family had lived IN the Wigwam!!!!  Yes…IN the Wigwam.  I had to quickly get out of my house and run outside to meet them.  The Scott Family had much to share with my about what it was like back in the day….before the Wigwam burned down.  Tom Scott showed me where his sister, Carol had carved her name in the curb on 10.23.1962.  Yes…it was still there!
    • They added the 2nd floor to the Wigwam and the round area was their living room. At some point after the Scott’s moved, the Wigwam was destroyed in a fire.  The Scotts and I exchanged phone numbers and emails…and just can’t wait to hear more! God sooo blessed me with this visit today.
  • What did Barton Heights look like back then?
    • Here’s a picture of the viaduct for the street car, where the 1st Street Bridge is now.  Downtown is to the left, SBH to the right.

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Forgive Me…

Deuteronomy 8

6 Observe the commands of the LORD your God, walking in his ways and revering him. 7 For the LORD your God is bringing you into a good land—a land with streams and pools of water, with springs flowing in the valleys and hills; 8 a land with wheat and barley, vines and fig trees, pomegranates, olive oil and honey; 9 a land where bread will not be scarce and you will lack nothing; a land where the rocks are iron and you can dig copper out of the hills.

I went on to work on that 2nd day of praying in Jesus name over my singleness.  Within just a couple of hours…my phone rang.  A colleague of mine, Steve, called to ask me if I wouldn’t mind hanging out with a friend of his, Kevin.  Kevin just happened to be coming to town from the West Coast.  Steve and his wife had plans that had them tied up on Friday night, that would leave Kevin alone for the evening.  So, he wanted me to go to dinner with him so that he wouldn’t have to hang out in the hotel by himself.  Needless to say…I stopped and literally looked at the phone…and said, ‘did God just answer my prayer in a matter of hours?’  Why is it that I, and maybe you to, find it surprising that God answers our prayers?  Shouldn’t we expect the answer to our prayers?

After being in shock (and scared to death!!!) for a few days, I finally gave in to Steve…and to God.  I picked up Kevin at the hotel (another funny…but long story…).  Because I hadn’t gotten to go home yet, I asked Kevin if he minded if we stopped by my house so that I could freshen up.  We walked into my house, where I had a wall of crosses on the left inside the front door (so they wouldn’t be missed).  The wall of crosses started as a small collection representing each member of my family.  I understand that it is a Latin American tradition.  It has now grown to a wall of about 40 crosses of different sizes and materials.  Kevin was captivated by it.  I could tell that this was a God moment, as Kevin was literally drawn to the wall and proceeded to take them in.  I said a quick silent prayer and left Kevin alone…with God and the crosses, and went upstairs to change and freshen up.

Kevin later described his moment as ‘holy’ and ‘warm’.  We had a great conversation about the wall, its meaning, and its impact. He shared his favorite with me…and how it reminded him of Peter or one of the other disciples crafting it while sitting on a hill listening to the word of Jesus.  He then shared his ‘life scripture’ with me….Deuteronomy 8.  Kevin owns his own company…where times have been good and bad.  But, regardless of the time, God is always faithful.  These are notes from my journal… “God is bringing you into a good land where you will lack nothing.  Praise the Lord for the good land.  Do not forget the Lord or stop following His commandments.  Do not become proud.  Remember the Lord who provided this, gave you the ability to do this – produce wealth .  Remember the Lord, your God, or face destruction.”

I meditated on this Word every day for the next week or so when I received a sizable amount of money that I was not expecting.  I was totally shocked!  What was I going to do with this money?  I wanted a fence.  I wanted a shed.  I wanted a new car.  (almost NEEDED a new car).  But, I knew I needed to be sacrificial with the money.

After giving money to some needs in my family, I also wrote Rob (remember Rob….my pastor at the new church?) to let him know that I was going to be giving a ‘chunk of change’ to my church.  Didn’t care what it went to, as I trusted him and our board, but I just felt led that day at that exact moment to let him it was about a month later.  I felt like there was more to the story.  God was up to something!  Because I was overwhelmed with the need to e-mail Robby on that Thursday even though it was his day off.

Rob e-mailed the next day following a church planning meeting.  Later, at Starbucks, Rob shared that there had been a struggle between a list of projects/ministries they felt we were being led to do in 2006 and the budget…the fine line between faith and using the common sense that God gave us.  God has used me (and Kevin…and Steve…and the provider of the money) to send a message to our church leadership….not that my money would solve the problem because it wasn’t THAT much!!!…but, to let them know that God would provide and to walk in faith.

When you take God seriously in your life…as a living sacrifice…He will use you.  Hold on!!!  Praise the Lord!  As my friend Marcus taught me…”Hold my rope while I shout!”-Shirley Ceasar.   My encouragement to you….when you take God seriously and read and meditate on the Word, expect God to use you….and be obedient to that which he asks – be ready!  I often wonder…did these moments happen in the past?  Did I miss them?  How many God-moments had I missed in my life?  How many times had I ignored what He asked me to do?  What would have happened if at any point one of us didn’t do what He asked us to do?

Lord…forgive me for the many God-moments I have missed and for the many times that I haven’t been obedient!

Friends, co-workers, strangers, etc…forgive me…for not always being obedient to what God has asked me to do.

I pray that He will give me another chance to be obedient again…for each time I have missed.  And I pray…that I don’t miss them again.

The Chair

Psalms 119

1.  Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.

Hold on?  What does ‘hold on’ mean in your spiritual life?  For your safety….hold on means…reading the Bible, praying, and surrounding yourself with people who are going to love, support and hold you accountable.  I knew I was going to need to ‘hold on’ when the neighborhood kids descended on my new home the FIRST weekend that I moved in.

Anthony (who quickly elevated me to ‘white mama’ status) was the first kid I met.  From the middle of the intersection……at my ELEVATED CORNER LOT…Anthony and some of his friends (all boys!) were riding their bikes.  Anthony’s first words were ’Howdy Neighbor!  Welcome to the Neighborhood!’  Then….he wanted to know if I had any kids that could come out and play.  He looked completely dejected when I told him that I didn’t.  But, the disappointment didn’t last long, when I shared with him that I could make a ‘mean’ cookie!  When the kids came a’ knockin’ 30 minutes later, I was forced into baking some that night.  It was awesome!  Since that time, many of the neighborhood kids hang at “Miss Marti’s House” causing me to ‘hold on’ more than ever before!  You will hear much more about Miss Marti’s Kids in future posts.  They all totally ROCK!!!

As part of moving into the house where I had so much more room, I wanted a chair…a space….dedicated to reading the Word and spending quiet time with the Lord.  I moved in mid-August and had that space by mid September.  As I began to take my quiet time with the Lord more and more seriously, the Lord was revealing more and more to me…about Him…and about me.  I spent every morning in that chair…sometimes it was just a minute or 2, sometimes it was 30!  Regardless, I knew it had to become a discipline…a habit.  Not just a ‘crash course’ to prepare for my Tuesday Night Bible study.

In December of 2005, I was reading John.  It’s awesome how God works.  We got an early snow.  I went outside to start the car…’to let it warm up’ and was too lazy to go back upstairs to ‘the chair’.  So, I sat downstairs and flipped through another Bible to find where I left off and read John… where Jesus speaks about praying in His name.  The next day…I am pulled to that same verse again.  For the first time…I prayed about my singleness in Jesus name.  I told the Lord…”just throw me a bone…give me a sign.  If you plan on me getting married one day…just throw me a bone.  Let me know you haven’t forgotten about me.”

My friend Riste said….after hearing the rest of this short story… “imagine what He would have done if you had asked for the man…instead of the bone?!??!?”

our house…is a very very very fine house…

…as for me and my house, we shall serve the Lord.
Joshua 25:14

So…we walked the few blocks to the address… This is what I found! THE house…God’s House…the color, the existing neighborhood, the floor plan…and the bonus GWP (gift with purchase). It wasn’t just a corner lot….but an ELEVATED corner lot. (For those of you who live in the city…or on a corner…you know how desirable it is to have an ELEVATED corner lot!!!) Needless to say, God wasn’t messing around! I put the down payment on the house that very day! The Lord had gotten my attention.

There were sooo many details that led to this moment. I have so many people to thank! Specifically…Marc…wow….what would I have done without him!?!? He was a new co-worker that I had prayed into my life that year…and he would go with me at all times of day and night into the neighborhood…encouraging me and praying with and for me! Reminding me…that God has my back…that I COULD in fact do this.  That I was being called. I thank God for friends who encourage and pray!!!

Time went by quickly, but it seemed like it was forever.  God was on the move…that is for sure. During the time between putting the contract on the house and moving in…I changed churches. For close to a year, God had been preparing me for a move that I didn’t know I was going to make. I had been fully involved in a large church in the West End of Richmond, although I had lived in the city of Richmond, not in suburbia for years.  I had been feeling a bit restless. Looking back at it, God prepared me mentally and spiritually for this change.  Slowly, the Lord pulled me out of most of my volunteer responsibilities. By the time that Rob Rhoden made the announcement that he was moving to Commonwealth Chapel (an inner-city church) as the pastor, I was ready to go. There was really nothing to hold me back. No transition of anything. It was amazing!

For the first time, I walked into church that first day, and Sister Chappell greeted me at the door. I felt right at home! You see, my grandmother (Mom’s mom) was one of the founding members of Bethel Assembly of God, now known as Commonwealth Chapel. My grandmother died when I was just 2 years old. Sister Chappell remembered “Holzbach”, as people called my grandmother back then. On a side note, Mom was baptized in water and the Holy Spirit as a child in that building. Mom and Dad and my Uncle and his wife all got married at Bethel.  Mom and Dad celebrated their 50th Wedding Anniversary in 2007. It was like coming home.

SPOILER ALERT!!!!! More on this later….but 51+ years later, I also got married in that church. But, I am getting ahead of myself!

I found 2 homes the year of 2005.  My church home….and my new home.  I remember sitting on the front porch with Justin – one of my youth kids (then, college kid…now college grad…about to get married!!!!) that I had shared life with for several years.  Wondering why I wasn’t more excited about moving into the new house…why it didn’t seem more surreal. He wisely responded, “Because it’s right. God wanted you here.” God brought me to Commonwealth Chapel and to Southern Barton Heights. Why? I wasn’t sure….but, I would soon find out.

I always considered my house…God’s house…not mine. It’s amazing what will happen when you not only dedicate your life…but your house, your job, your whatever to the Lord. He will use it! Be sure that your seat belts are buckled and your lap trays are in the upright position. Keep your hands and arms inside the ride.

In other words….Hold on! You are in for the ride of your life.

Daring God…

Psalms 25

4. Show me your ways, O Lord,  teach me your paths;

5.   guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior and my hope is in you all day long.

I began looking in the North Side of Richmond…specifically in the Battery Park, Barton Heights and Highland Park area.  Ginter Park, the Fan, and other areas of the city that were deemed by many as ‘more acceptable’ for a single, white woman from the West End of Richmond, were just out of my price range.  I just couldn’t see spending that much money on a house!  My friends, both African-American/Black and white, were discouraging me from looking in that part of Northside…because of the crime…and because I am white and would be considered a ‘target’.  So I stopped looking in that area.

God had something else in mind.  That’s when my good friend Cindy Mims talked me into coming back to the area to look.  You see, she and her husband Billy just purchased a home that was under renovation in Southern Barton Heights.  She shared with me the story behind the area and the work that was taking place to revitalize it.  After a tour one day, Cindy gave me a packet of information that explained the Neighborhood in Blooms program and offered floor plans of 3 different models of a new development that was being built around the corner from her house.  An open house was scheduled in the upcoming weeks.  So…I agreed to go.

I pondered those floor plans….and prayed to God for guidance, again.  Is this where He wanted me to live?  A lot of street crime – mainly prostitution and drug dealing were taking place on the corners.  There was virtually no diversity at all…everyone seemed to be African-American/Black.  Much different from the life I had lived up to now.  After hours reviewing the floor plans and praying, I (and God with me!) pictured THE house…down to the color, corner lot, floor plan, exterior, etc. but in the existing neighborhood.  I said…if THIS house is on the market, I will take it.  Considering it almost a dare to God….just knowing that there wouldn’t be a house to match it.  These houses were in a new neighborhood!

What little did I know!  Cindy and I went on the tour.  The ‘model home’ was the floor plan I was most interested in.  Falling in love with it from the minute I walked in…I began to almost whine internally.  Why did this house need to be in this neighborhood? Cindy and I went on the walking tour, ending back at the model home.  While speaking with the real estate agent, I expressed my interest… ‘If only this house was in the existing neighborhood…’ I dared the Lord, as I was secretly relieved.  I was walking away when Graham (the real estate agent) stated….’take a look at 2101 Barton Ave”….

in the beginning…

This is my story.  But, really it is HIS story. God’s story.  He wrote it, but allowed me to live it…and to tell it.  He is the author of my life.  I pray that the Holy Spirit will guide me as I try to put words to my experiences over the last few years.  My success can only be measured by my obedience to the Lord.  Where do I begin?  There’s so much I want to share as an inspiration and encouragement.

It started in May of 1963 when I was born to Alvinia and Milton Michalec.  I am the youngest of four children born between 1958 and 1963.  Mom and Dad raised us in the church.  Sunday morning and night, Wednesday night, youth functions, church friends to the house, trips cross-country for Teen Talent, and Summer Camp in Buckingham.  If there was something going on in the church, the Michalec’s were there!  But, there was a secret that remained at home.  Mom, a daughter of an alcoholic father, also married an anxiety ridden man, Dad, who also turned to the bottle to escape the physical and emotional pain of life.  Happy memories are hard to resurrect and it seems that the pain sometimes remains in the forefront.  I am happy to report that Dad, by the Grace of God, has been “on the wagon” for decades now, and our family continues to work toward healing and reconciliation.  I am working on replacing those painful memories with new and positive ones with my Dad.  Mom and Dad worked hard to provide for the family, but it was often tough to “make ends meet”.  But, in spite of all of that, the four of us, to quote Dad, “never caused him a bit of trouble”…meaning that we did well in school and never ended up in jail.

I am a white woman, who was raised in the white-West End, a suburb of a racially divided Richmond, VA…in America…growing up watching the Brady Bunch, Archie Bunker, I Dream of Jeanie, Sanford and Sons, and the Jeffersons. Oh yeah…and Hee Haw!  It wasn’t until I went to VA Tech that my eyes were opened to the beauty of diversity that different races have to offer.  My high school graduating class had no more than 10-20 non-whites in a class of about 525.

My journey had only just begun.  Now, 4 decades later, is where I pick up the story.  It’s the early 2000’s and we made it through y2k.  (Does anyone even remember what y2k was all about anyway?)  I began to take my relationship with the Lord a lot more seriously than I ever had before.  I grew up expected to follow a long list of do’s and don’ts…almost a checklist religion.  Can’t wear jewelry, no pants for quite a while, painted nails were considered to be Jezebel-like….just to name a few.  Now, I was experiencing and learning about what it was like to have a relationship with the Lord.

I began attending a Tuesday Night Bible study, where women of all races, ages, and backgrounds gathered to spend time in the Word and in fellowship.  Unlike the years of Jonah and the Whale, Moses and the Ten Commandments, etc. that you learned in Sunday School, I was now experiencing what it meant to really study the Bible…not just learn it.  It became alive for me…like never before.  I was participating in our Youth Group as a youth leader and was mentoring a high school student.  I shared with one of the break-out groups about my desire to do more.  Not sure what that looked like.

In 2004-2005, I started looking to purchase my first home.  The housing market in Richmond was a bit out of control…and costly.  I had been looking throughout the Richmond area, placing bids on houses…with escalating clauses up to 9%, but someone always out bid me.  I was beginning to get really frustrated.

I prayed for guidance from the Lord.  My small group of women prayed right along with me.