Today we feature a photograph of Nellie Williams Christian. The photograph was taken on August 23, 1900. It was taken on the occasion of her 17th birthday.
Nellie was my Great Grandmother. She lived to be 96 years old, so as a young boy, I had the great honor and privilege of knowing her. She was the most selfless person I ever met. She was always first to serve others, the first to give, and the first to help. She was never one to draw attention to herself, and had a humble spirit. She never sought fame or fortune, she worked quietly behind the scenes, always doing her part, and more. Her happiness came not from how much she had, but from how much she gave. Her beauty was not skin deep . . . it went all the way to the bone.
As a child, I can remember the stories she told me. She grew up on the Texas frontier in the 1880's near Camp San Saba. She vividly remembered troubles with Indians, and troubles with outlaws. The family ate what they could grow, catch, or shoot. Every day, the challenge was to survive. It is amazing how different things were back then.
I can remember that she always loved to tell me stories of her childhood. It was as if a Louis L'Amour book would come alive right in front of me. She would vividly relive the adventures of her childhood. I can remember one day though, she sat me down in a much more serious manner. She said that there was a story that she had not yet told me, but one that I needed to know. It was not like the other days I had visited her. I could tell that this story was very different, and was one that she did not often share.
She told me that when she was 16 years old that her family had no running water, and no water well. Each evening her and her younger siblings would take buckets down to the creek, and carry water back to the cabin for use that night and the following morning. Each evening all the children would run down, and then bring back water. It was always a happy and carefree time. On this one particular evening, she was standing in her room alone as the children were all getting ready to go fetch the water. As she stood there alone, she heard a voice from behind her call her name. She was startled, and turned to see who had spoken. She said that she saw a man standing there in radiant white clothing. She said she saw him as clear and as real as anything she had ever seen. The man spoke her name again. He then told her that that evening, on the path down to the creek, there would be a large rattle snake right where the path turned to the left. He told her that she was to walk in front of the other children than evening, and she was to take a jar of kerosene, and some matches. When she found the snake, she was to pour the kerosene on it, and then throw a match on it to burn it. Then she said the man was gone.
No one else was in the room, and no one but her saw and heard this thing. She took to heart what she had seen and heard. She went and got matches and a jar of kerosene. Normally the younger children would have run down the path ahead of her, but this evening, she was careful to keep them close to her, and behind her. When she got to the turn in the path, there almost completely hidden, she found an enormous rattle snake. She took the kerosene, poured it on him, and then threw a match on him. She described how the snake struck and turned and lunged as it burned. While no one else in the family had seen the man she saw, they did believe her story, since there was no other explanation as to why she would have taken such care that evening to keep the younger children behind her, and why she would have taken kerosene and matches to the creek that evening.
My grandmother then told me that it was important that I know that there is a God in Heaven who loves us. He loves us so much that he sent his Son into the world to die for our sins, and that by trusting in Him, we have eternal life. Not something that we earn or deserve, but something that He gives as a free gift. She then told me that he also sends angels that watch over our lives, and that we should always be attentive, because we never know when we might encounter one.
My prayer for each of us this wonderful Easter day is that we would share in the faith that Nellie had, and that it would bring us the same abundant life, and eternal blessings it brought to her.