Although I wanted to go far away to a girls' school after graduation in 1958, I went where my daddy would send me, to the University of Arkansas. My first instinct was to study fashion design and entertaining. That meant a major in Home Ec. I had no idea you had to take chemistry (which I hated) and, worst of all, wear a hairnet in some classes! Thus, I changed my major at semester of my freshman year to French. After all, I loved French food and it would be fun to order fluently from any French menu. I made decent grades but mostly majored in sorority and dating and met the love of my life at the end of my freshman year.
I graduated in three years and married Conlee Bodishbaugh. We are about to celebrate our 47th anniversary and it gets better all the time. After he graduated with an engineering degree we went to Fort Bliss, TX, and then Miami, FL, for his two year stint in the Army. We had our first son in Miami and then moved to Little Rock. He worked for a large contracting firm and we had our second son and then moved to Fayetteville, AR, where it had all started. He owned a mechanical contracting firm and some other related businesses. We had a third son and moved into our dream house. We thought our life was planned out perfectly and we would be there forever. I continued to major in entertaining, social events, volunteer work and raising boys.
Twenty years later our lives changed drastically. I know you've heard this before and are probably skeptical when you have, but God actually spoke to us and called Conlee into full time ministry. It was a total surprise but has been the best thing that has ever happened to either of us. We sold the businesses, our home and cabin on Beaver Lake, had a huge yard sale, took the two oldest sons to college (Univ. of Tulsa and Vanderbilt) and moved to Sewanee, TN, where we went to seminary for three years. While Conlee was receiving his MDiv, I was taking classes in Greek and Old Testament literature.
We have lived in Mobile, AL, for twenty years where Conlee is senior pastor of Christ Anglican Church and just announced his retirement this August. At various times during this second phase of our lives I have run a quilting business, "Signa Designs," and an upscale catering business, "A Matter of Taste." So the Home Ec interests did pay off!
In 1993, in addition to pastoring a church, Conlee and I founded a ministry called "The Journey to Wholeness in Christ." It began as a two day conference imparting life-changing principles for those struggling to become whole. It has now grown to the extent that we are holding 3-5 day conferences several times a year across the U.S., and in such places as Canada, Europe, Israel and Africa. We travel with a team of about 12 men and women and our worship leaders. This year we held Journey conferences in Orlando, Mobile, The Netherlands, Germany, and will be in Greensboro, NC, in November. We have been to Holland and Germany so many times that we now have well-trained teams in both countries. After Conlee's retirement we will be free to continue and increase this ministry. One of the most meaningful places we have been to several times, at the invitation of its archbishop, is Rwanda to hold conferences for pastors who are attempting to bring reconciliation to their people who are reeling from the effects of the genocide that took a million of their people in 1994.
I have written two books (The Journey to Wholeness in Christ, Baker Books, 1997, 5th printing) and Illusions of Intimacy, (Sovereign World, 2004, 2nd printing) which facilitate the ministry and am presently working on my third (How to Hear God's Voice in a Loud and Noisy World.) I guess the teacher I remember most from FSHS is Ms Presson who encouraged me so much in writing. Although I had never aspired to become a professional writer I know a writing seed was planted in her class.
My books are now translated into Dutch and German and I have been studying the German language so I can at least understand a little bit of conversation with the people I love and am with so much. (Dutch is just too hard for me!) We have some excellent translators when we speak overseas, however, so this is strictly for fun. Again, that language seed planted long ago when I decided to major in French is bearing some fruit.
When we took our first trip to Israel I became passionate about Old Testament studies. After ministering there several times I began to study meticulously from reading lists with the help of some friends I met there who attended Hebrew University in Jerusalem. This has led me to develop a 5 year course on Torah Studies that I have taught. I also lead weekend conferences on a condensed version of the same subject along with other topics. Two years ago I took a year of Biblical Hebrew just so I could intelligently recognize the words and use a concordance. We are leading another study tour to Israel in Feb. 2009.
I have taken several courses of Biblical studies at Trinity Theological Seminary in Pittsburgh and find I really love to study - on subjects I am interested in! I still don't like to take tests though. The biggest downside to all this is constantly running out of bookshelf space at home.
Our three sons, Rick in Seattle, Matt in Fayetteville, and Ben in Fort Worth are all engineers. Rick has his PhD in environmental toxicology and Matt and Ben are civil engineers like their father was. They all have great jobs and love their work but I don't begin to understand what they do. We have precious daughters-in-law and 7 adorable grandchildren between 15 and 3. One of the best things Conlee and I do every summer is have a two week long "Camp Mimi." (I'm "Mimi"). No parents are allowed and the children are awesome. We have a theme each year, with classes, activities, field trips, plays, cooking, dress-up and lots of fun. This year our theme was "Under the Sea." One of the highlights was a 4 hour long treasure hunt for buried treasure with a real pirate appearing, brandishing his sword to protect his treasure!
Because our immediate family is so scattered we try to do something really fun and unusual each year with just the adult children. Last year we all went to Friday Harbor in the San Juan Islands. This year we went to the Texas Motor Speedway to NASCAR! I'd never seen a race before and had no idea what to expect. It's another world!
We live on Mobile Bay which means that we are in prime hurricane country. Even as I write this we are just taking down the plywood from the windows as a protection from Hurricane Gustov. It's one of those things you just put up with to live in paradise the rest of the year. In spite of the seasonal interference we love to be on the water and it is a wonderful place to garden. Almost anything you stick in the ground will flourish and bloom which makes it a lot of fun. I still love cooking (without the hairnet!) and entertaining and recently did a wedding reception for the daughter of a friend. We have a black Labrador Retriever and 12 chickens. The name of our cottage on the Bay is Hamewith Cottage which is Scottish for "a home within." Although we love our cottage here it is especially gratifying to know that wherever we might be we can be "at home" because what really matters is what is inside our hearts. I never dreamed that the latter years of my life would be more exciting and more fulfilling that the early ones. But such is the case and I am very thankful.
Signa "Crowe" Bodishbaugh - 2008