Mom and Dad holding newborn Mary Lane in July 2010
OK, it's time for me to talk about some more about my peeps! And who better to start with than the ones who brought me into this world, DeLane and Nancy Ryals! They have been an "item" for over 47 years (counting their courting days) and their love for each other has gotten stronger with each passing year. They are a huge part of our lives and has been very fun to watch them get to dote on their grandson and granddaughters.
My parents each grew up in Christian homes with parents who loved God and taught their children about Him. Both of my parents felt the Lord leading them to full-time Christian work and each attended Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Ft. Worth, Texas, although they didn't date while they were students there. It wasn't until they were both working in the northeast, Mom in Maryland, and Dad on Long Island, NY, that they were introduced (or re-introduced, since they had known who each other was in seminary) and began dating. They were married in February of 1964 on a snowy night in Bel Air, Maryland, at my mom's home church, Oak Grove Baptist.
Three years later, also in a snowstorm in February, they brought home a baby daughter named Nanette. And because they thought it would be nice to name their daughters after their mother, Nancy Jean, when baby sister came along two and a half years later, they named her Jeanette, giving the girls names that rhymed! I'm not so sure I'm thankful for that part, but I can be thankful that we didn't have any more siblings to carry out the theme!
Throughout my life, my parents have been some of my biggest cheerleaders and encouraged me to do and become whatever I felt like God was leading me to do. That meant letting me go a thousand miles away to college in Nashville, Tennessee, and allowing me to spend all of my summers doing mission work or working in camps, never coming back to our home in New Jersey for more than a couple of weeks at a time. I will always be thankful for the "wings" that my parents gave me and that they didn't hold me so tightly that they hindered me from being and doing all that God has planned for me. While I always know they love me and are glad to see me, I appreciate that they allowed me to experience so many things and go to so many different places.
Of course, these days, we only have to travel two miles between our homes and we have the privilege of having impromptu meals together or running over to visit on a moment's notice. I'm thankful for the help my parents have given me over the years, from caring for Daniel to helping me have a yard sale or clean out an ant-infested pantry (and so much more). And I'm thankful that I can return the favor many times when there is something that needs to be done around their house.
I'm also so thankful that my parents taught me about Jesus and encouraged me to have my own personal relationship with Him. I know that I gave them reason to be angry and upset with me during my growing up years (and probably still do sometimes now), but they showed me grace and forgiveness and have modeled for me what it looks like to be a faithful follower of Christ and to obey Him in the good time and the not-so-good. I'm so glad that God knew what He was doing when he gave me DeLane and Nancy Ryals as my parents and I am thankful that not only are they my parents, but they have become my friends as well.