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empty Posted April 2002
Karen Kossie-Chernyshev
Karen Kossie-Chernyshev
Stir Up the Gifts!
by Karen Kossie-Chernyshev
Houston, Texas

Just on a whim, I decided to type in my maiden name "Kossie" at the Yahoo search engine, and to my great surprise, I discovered my parents' names "Barbara and Roy Kossie" listed there.

Of course, I clicked on this extraordinary "link," an electronic passage to a defining moment in my family’s history. Within seconds, my co-creators, "Barbara and Roy" appeared, minus their church titles, "Bishop and First Lady," but radiant with smiles. They were celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary, a rare blessing in these trying times. To accommodate the schedules of family members from throughout the country, the grand event was held August 25, 2001, at the Sheraton North Houston, five days after the actual date of their marriage, August 20, 1951.

How wonderful it was that memories of the occasion were suspended in cyberspace for adventurous e-travelers like me, who roamed the web for new ideas and inspiration. Finding the photographs reminded me of how important it is to record significant moments in our lives. Indeed, we are all living epistles; the stories we write are really up to us.

My mother chose to write a story of dedication to God and family, and I am certain that the rich narratives her descendants author will engage themes she and our father underscored throughout her earthly tenure. 

There, "Queen Barbara" sits and smiles graciously, her inner glow and external legacy defying the physical frailty that preceded her eventual translation from this life to the next. Recalling the fervent prayers my brothers prayed in succession and the melodious songs my sisters sang as I played in the background, I envied the sheer numbers represented in my mother's divine contribution; she had been fruitful and multiplied! My siblings and I were her "gifts" to the world (Psalm 127:3).

To her great delight, she and my father were blessed to have their entire family attend the occasion, all nine children and their spouses, seventeen of her nineteen grandchildren, and one of her three great-grandchildren, along with many relatives and friends, from as far away as Sri Lanka and as close as Scenic Woods.

For weeks after the stellar event, my mother watched the videotape, joyfully affirming, "My life has not been in vain! My children are for signs and wonders!"  How proud she was that her "first-born" had designed and baked her anniversary cake and that her other "handsome" sons had shared tidbits of her wisdom with the nearly 200 guests, whom her "sweet" but "peculiar" eighth one had welcomed in four languages with the help of a Siberian spouse. Her second child, "sunshine," had written and directed the comical skit performed in honor of the occasion while the "last-button-on-Jacob’s-coat" had emceed the proceedings. Her fifth child, the "quiet one," had sung with her sisters and helped with decorations. Finally, her fourth child, the "boss-lady" had orchestrated the entire event, from the customized "everything" to the proclamation from the city, to the photographer, videographer, and commemorative candy bars.

Though family members hesitated to embrace the element of closure intrinsic in our mother’s first statement, "My life has not been in vain," we found hope and renewed strength in the prophetic phrase that followed.  Regardless of what any of us thought in retrospect, we were indeed mom’s signs and wonders, her collective life’s work, her "gifts" praising her in the gates.

Her fullness of joy notwithstanding, God chose to grant her one more gift before welcoming her home. Despite her weakened state, she survived a dramatic post-anniversary vacation to Albany, New York, a place she had "never been before," during a week we shall never forget- that of September 11. 

One month after her miraculous return, one that came with an optional flight home on a company jet should she so desire, mom informed my father, "I’m leaving y’all today." Within hours of her prophetic announcement, her life came to a sacred closure in her sweetheart’s arms just before the noon of November 14, two months after she and my father celebrated a half-century of love. Finally, the "circle" she often talked about had been "broken." The legacy of the love she had nurtured in her children and their children received a divine pruning that nonetheless promised plenteous rebounding.

In light of this bittersweet reality, I now pause to ask what gifts will grow in my brothers and sisters, and especially, what gifts will flourish in me, Barbara’s eighth bundle of new beginnings? As time and money are far spent to imagine my own family of nine children, I set my focus on creative acts of a different kind. Perhaps nine substantive scholarly works, nine languages, nine collections of songs, or better still, interdependent multiples of all three. 

Whatever my collective contribution, the following is true for us all:  The epistles that we write are as rich as our faith would have them be. Let us then celebrate our God by stirring up our respective gifts and sharing them with others, knowing as my mother did, that our labor will not be in vain!

Gems for the Gifted:  Ryrie Study Bible
II Timothy 2: 6-7.  And for this reason I remind you to rekindle afresh the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands.  For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline. 

Proverbs 18:16.  A man's gift makes room for him, and brings him before great men.

James 1:17.  Every good thing bestowed and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation, or shifting shadow.

Karen Kossie-Chernyshev enjoys personal essay writing. She is an assistant professor of History at Texas Southern University in Houston, where she teaches African American and American History. Her current research focuses on African American Pentecostalism in the Southwest. This article is used by permission.
Copyright © 2002 by Karen Kossie-Chernyshev. All rights reserved

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