Patty Peck Christie Believes in Intentionality
By Marilyn Tinnin
Who doesn’t know her name – Patty Peck? Perfect Alliteration and a great marketing idea whether you are selling cars or cake mix! But Patty IS a real person…and REAL in the best sense of the word.
Patty Peck Christie grew up in Little Rock, the daughter of a Chevrolet dealer who loved the automobile business so much that his children grew up loving it, too. He was a mentor for many, offering others a job and a chance to learn the ropes and later helping them get their own “store.” Honda came on the scene when a struggling dealer in Pine Bluff reached out to Patty’s dad having heard that he was willing to help young entrepreneurial automobile dealers.
Patty and her siblings worked at Dad’s dealership every summer from the time they were about ten years old. Whether it was answering the phone or filing paperwork, she considered herself a part of the family business, and there was a certain esprit de corps that made strong bonds. Her mother worked there as well, so it should come as no surprise that when she graduated from SMU, her dad sent her to open her own Honda dealership.
The only surprise there is that she had majored in French and German during her college career and fully intended to find some exotic job in Europe where she could display her language skills. She had not factored in the reality that everyone in Europe speaks more than one language!
It was 1984, and she was in her twenties when Patty Peck Honda opened in Jackson. Although she remains involved in the business today, she turned the day-to-day management over to others shortly before her first child was born in 1993. Reared in a close-knit family with committed Christian parents, Patty realized the values that had shaped her character were the ones her parents had intentionally instilled in her. And therefore, she and husband Jeff became very intentional parents, too, praying that God would be the center of their home and that they would live in such a way that their children would want to follow Christ, too.
Patty is one of those individuals who doesn’t do “halfway” no matter what the task. She is as “all in” about her position as the Chairman of the Board at St. Andrews Episcopal School as she is in teaching the book of Hebrews to the high school girls in her Discipleship Group on Tuesday nights. The same work ethic that helped her launch a successful car business keeps her passionate in her parenting, volunteering, and giving to others.
Everyone knows Patty today as a person who is not timid when it comes to talking about her relationship with the Lord. She attributes that to a real spiritual growth spurt that began with Hurricane Katrina. Patty was one of the original core volunteers who helped staff the relief ministry called “Hands” that delivered some of everything to the victims on the Gulf coast. She describes the way God moved to answer specific and seemingly impossible prayers every single day during the three years she was involved. That grassroots effort became an amazing mercy machine, and it was clear to Patty that God was making good on his promise to, “Do exceeding abundantly and beyond all that anyone could ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20). She has been quite intentional in her conversations ever since.
With son Cadden graduating from Millsaps and daughter Cody graduating from St. Andrew’s this spring, Patty can celebrate a significant milestone in her journey as a mom. But some things will not change. Each summer the Christie family is part of a team from Christ United Methodist Church who make an annual mission trip to the same church outside Lima, Peru. The Christies have made deep friendships there, and this year Cadden, who works part time in the youth ministry at Christ United, will be the team leader.
It is clear that Patty’s “all-in” method of operation has served her—and others—well. As a mom with two-plus decades under her belt, I asked her for some of her best advice to moms. Here are a few key points:
- We prayed over things as a family.
- Sundays were church days no matter where we were—vacation included. We went to church on Sunday as a family.
- Pick your battles. She said, “I’m not a micromanager. And I don’t do homework!”
Don’t you love that?
Winning Over Bipolar Disorder
By Julie Whitehead
To look at her, Julie Whitehead is no different than any other woman you’d encounter in the city of Brandon. “Unless you were around me long enough, you’d never know that in 2006 I had a psychotic break after the birth of my third child and was diagnosed with bipolar disorder,” Julie says.
She’s been hospitalized for it six times for episodes of various degrees and takes five psychotropic medications every day, some of them twice a day. She lost her work as a freelance writer because she couldn’t keep up with daily deadlines. She draws Social Security disability and teaches Composition I and II part-time at a local community college.
“I don’t say any of this to make people feel sorry for me,” Julie says. “But it’s essential that I remember where I’ve been so I can see how far I have come. I’m living proof that a bipolar life does not have to mean craziness on one end and enervation on the other.”
According to doctors, mania is characterized by a period of mood disturbance where the person experiences an abnormally and persistently elevated, expansive, or irritable mood for at least a week–symptoms such as elevated self-esteem, less need for sleep, more talkative than usual, the feeling that thoughts are racing, abnormally low attention span, increase in goal-oriented activity and risk-taking behavior, such as buying sprees or poor business decisions..
Depression is characterized by loss of interest or pleasure in life activities for at least two weeks, symptoms such as low mood, low interest or pleasure in all or most activities, significant unintentional weight loss or gain, sleeping too much or too little, slowing of activity, loss of energy, feelings of worthlessness or excessive guilt, inability to concentrate, and recurrent thoughts of death. The bipolar person can switch from one pole to another very quickly or very slowly and can have periods of normal functioning in between them.
Even with her condition, Julie teaches Mondays and Wednesdays, mostly incoming freshmen. “Some days are better than others. Sometimes it’s just a great big slog through all the material; other times I sail through and watch the kids’ eyes light up as we discuss poetry, fiction, and plays,” Julie says.
Julie’s three girls are busy with school and extracurricular activities like most children: dance, karate, drum, piano, and band. It takes split-second timing to fit all this activity together –something Julie says she is no longer good at. In between all the activity, she still usually manages to get dinner on the table every night, even if it has to be something as simple as hot sandwiches.
She tries to schedule time to write each day. “I have a blog on WordPress.com called “Day by Day,” where I chronicle my bipolar life, and I write posts for it in the early morning when I first get up. I’ve been writing it since about the end of September, talking about how my journey intersects with my Christian life,” Julie says.
After struggling through the years after her diagnosis, 2013 seemed to be going well—except in her spiritual walk.
“I had been mad at God for a long time about having bipolar disorder,” Julie says. “Every time I hit a rough patch, I was back blaming God for making me this way. I knew the verse in Romans 8:28 but wondered what my purpose in life was. I couldn’t think of any reason for me to have this disease except that God somehow wanted me to help people like me see some hope for themselves, but I was having such a time with my own struggle with God I certainly wouldn’t have been able to speak very convincingly about Him with my life having so recently been in shambles.”
She says she was starting to wonder if she was a Christian at all after all. After about six months of wondering about that, she finally decided to come to terms with Jesus and her life.
“So one Sunday in May, I just asked Jesus to come into my heart and clean it all out and take it for himself. If he wanted me to be bipolar, so be it. I was going to trust him to protect me and my mind through both the good times and the bad.”
The results have been miraculous. She underwent another depression in early 2014, but with two crucial differences—she had no desire to kill herself and she was still able to function well enough to maintain her work and household until it lifted in May.
“Obviously, I’m currently functioning on a pretty even keel,” Julie said. ”I’m able to hold down a part-time job and manage the family matters within certain boundaries. And I’m able to maintain a somewhat normal life for my children.”
“I still have a long way to go,” Julie says. “But improvement is definitely coming, sometimes in increments, other times in larger chunks. I wouldn’t wish a bipolar life on my worst enemy—but if I have to have one, I think I’m making the best of it right now and winning more victory over it every day—day by day.”
Follow Julie’s blog at julielwhitehead.wordpress.com.
A Journey with Joshua
By Tara Dowden
On a typical night, Rebekah Byrd of Tupelo lies down to sleep beside her precious son, Joshua. His bed is attached to hers so that she can be in arms reach of him in the night if he needs her. She watches his sky blue eyes and beautiful long lashes slowly close while listening to his favorite praise music. Rebekah knows full well that her sleep will be sporadic. Joshua could be sick multiple times in the night which means Rebekah will wake to make sure he is not aspirating and then comfort him back to sleep. Two years ago on one of their routine ultrasounds, Rebekah and her husband Justin were told that something appeared to be seriously wrong with their baby. They were given the option of abortion and as doctors tried to prepare them for what was ahead, they were told their baby would most likely die in utero or shortly after birth.
During that moment and for the next ﬁve months, a sustaining verse for Justin and Rebekah was Joshua 1:9, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
When Joshua Michael Byrd was born on December 14, 2014, doctors were ﬁnally able to make a full diagnosis—Occipital Encephalocele, a large sac behind his head containing his brain stem, cerebellum, and occipital lobe. He also had Goldenhar syndrome, Chiari malformation, a cyst on his spinal cord, hypothyroidism, and one kidney.
Around Christmas Eve, the Byrd family was told that Joshua would not survive. They cried, prayed and began to prepare themselves for telling Joshua goodbye. Rebekah had a special gown and blanket ready for Joshua if he went to be with the Lord. December 28, Joshua was taken off of the ventilator and was given a few hours to begin to breathe on his own. “We had an army of friends and family praying that his lungs would strengthen.” God revealed his plans for Joshua that day. Plans He had known from before time. Plans for Joshua to live. “Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them” (Psalm 139:16).
Remember the story in John 9 where Jesus explained why a man they met had been born blind. He said, “…this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life” (John 9:3). Jesus then heals the blind man, physical proof of God’s power displayed through Christ His son. Since that ﬁrst devastating ultrasound, Rebekah had prayed that Joshua would live so that doctors and everyone around would be astonished and God would be gloriﬁed through his life.
A few days later Joshua began to breathe on his own, opened his eyes, and grasped his mother’s ﬁnger. Soon the special tiny gown and blanket became Joshua’s coming home outﬁt. Justin and Rebekah were handed their precious “gift from God” to hold, snuggle, and kiss.
Joshua Michael Byrd is now sixteen months old. His name means “the Lord saves, who is like our God?” He coos, laughs, makes raspberries sounds with his mouth, touches his nose, and waves hello. He is totally blind and faces many daily challenges. An MRI on May 12 will help doctors determine the next course of treatment. Any surgery will be high risk.
“We are praying for clarity and peace to make the best decision for Joshua,” Rebekah explains. “Our peace is found through scripture such as Deuteronomy 31:8, “It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.”
Joshua’s dad, Justin, is a Sergeant First Class in the National Guard and is sometimes away for two weeks at a time. Rebekah homeschools their three girls, and tries to balance their needs and Joshua’s. The family faces their challenges head on and in the strength of the Lord. Rebekah and Joshua are a mother and son team like no other.
Watching Rebekah serve and care for Joshua is a reminder of Christ’s unconditional love for us. His grace, strength, and beauty shine bright through this dynamic mother. Rebekah quotes Romans 15:13 from memory, “May the God of hope ﬁll you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” She explains, “This is the scripture we cling to because even if the Lord has something different for Joshua than what we have prayed, we trust that He is who He says He is, the God of hope.”
You can follow Joshua’s story on the Facebook page “Praying for Joshua.”