“Be ready with a meal or a bed when it’s needed. Why, some have extended hospitality to angels without ever knowing it!” (Hebrews 13:2, The Message)
Just so you know, we weren’t the angels.
We were, however, the strangest of strangers when Llwlyn took us into her home. We’d spent four years in Asia and needed her mothering more than we knew. She fed us on Sundays, brought us groceries on Mondays, and attended our girl’s school events any day necessary. Both my daughter’s still have fond memories of Llwlyn’s spare bedroom, a wonderland of antique dolls, toys, and memorabilia from a life well-lived. Being at Llwlyn’s was like going home.
Of course, for Llwlyn’s daughters, Terrie Walker Phillips and Vickie Walker Moore, that red-brick house was their home. But they too remember the hospitality. “We always — and I mean always — had people who stayed with us,” Vickie recalls. “Wayward cousins, my old boyfriends, visiting preachers, dear friends, furloughing missionaries and even an girl from Buckner Children’s Home. Our home was always home to everyone.”
“My sister and I learned how to be a loving and caring hostess to everyone,” Terrie adds. “Mother fed so many people. All enjoyed her wonderful cooking and gracious attitude.”
In the 1980’s, Llwlyn began hosting Thanksgiving at their home. With the attention to detail of a true hostess, she welcomed autumn’s bounty of colors and traditions. Something about the home-baked aroma of her own turkey, dressing and blueberry muffins seduced guests better than a Black Ghost fly lures a big brown trout. One Walker institution included candy corn at each place setting to signify the melding of cultures, both Indian and Pilgrim, to feed their families.
Yet, Llwlyn went beyond candy corn to champion diversity. “Our Thanksgiving table always had many peoples gathered to thank God for His blessings: family, friends, international students and various other people who just need a family during the holiday,” Terrie stressed. Kristin Roark Denton was one of those friends, who remembers not only the muffins and the candy corn, but also fresh mint in her tea from Llwlyn’s own backyard.
“One year, we planned for two (Texas) Tech linebackers to join us for Thanksgiving dinner and they didn’t show,” Vickie quipped. “Mom found someone without a meal and shared the ones that hadn’t been eaten. Then the linebackers showed up the following Sunday lunch. They ate the blueberry muffins two-fisted.”
Everybody has memories of Llwlyn’s muffins. Granddaughter Molly Smith exclaims, “How could I forget the blueberry muffins? So many holidays, dinners, celebrations included those and after all they are the very, best blueberry muffins ever!” Austin Wadlow, another one of Llwlyn’s “adoptee’s” testifies to their renown. “Somebody needs to do an investigation into what Llwlyn puts into her blueberry muffins. I call them ‘crack muffins’ because those things are addicting! Ever since I moved away from Lubbock, I’ll periodically get a small package in the mail from Llwlyn, filled with her blueberry muffins.”
But Austin muses that muffins weren’t the only thing that found its way to Llwlyn’s table. “One time Llwlyn found some old, unused, but live grenades in the garage left over from when Jerry was alive. She set them on the kitchen table until someone could come get them. I can’t stop laughing every time I think about the fact she brought them in and set them on the kitchen table!”
When Laney Wooten moved to Lubbock to lead worship at a local church, Llwlyn adopted her new, little family too. “She basically mothered me in Lubbock while my own mother lived eight hours away,” observed Laney. “I grew into married life and motherhood with Llwlyn as my safe haven. She was my lifeline during that very, heavy season of my life. I am so grateful that God put her in our lives. I learned how to be a true hostess as I sat at Llwlyn Walker’s table for meals. She carefully paid attention to her guests preferences, so she could make accommodations for them. ‘You don’t like nuts? That’s OK, I’ll make you a separate little cake without any nuts.’ Llwlyn even knew when your tea glass was emptying. She taught me how to set a table and use the things I have to create a warm and welcoming environment in my home. Llwlyn showed me how to freeze food and never to waste it. Now, if unexpected guests drop in, I am almost always prepared to pull something out of the freezer and make a warm and hearty meal.”
Austin agrees, “I learned from Llwlyn how we, as followers of Jesus, should use our homes because she always welcomes people into hers. When I had a person I wanted to share the gospel with, I invited them to Llwlyn’s house. Few people have the gift of making people feel at home like Llwlyn. Her hospitality compels people to want to know Christ.”
Each summer, Llwlyn’s grandchildren had the delightful option of staying with her individually for a week. Molly remembers those days well. “She would let me take on a sewing project, teach me to cook, take me to church and introduced me to jazz music. We LOVE Nat King Cole! During those special times together, she never missed a chance to speak the gentle and loving truth of Jesus over me. As a senior in high school, we had to pick out a hero and I chose my Grandmom. Despite every trial, she clings closely to the Savior and serves those less fortunate than herself. I say confidently she’s still my hero. I know she’s not perfect, but I have been so blessed to know Llwlyn Walker and be known by her.”
“I also love Llwlyn’s blindness to age,” mentions Laney. “She can sit and talk to anyone, young or old, because her soul is ageless.”
“Yes,” Austin recollects, “back when I was leading the Texas Tech football team’s weekly Bible study, I invited her as guest speaker. In a room full of guys twice her size, Llwlyn had them mesmerized the whole time. Brandon Carter, Taylor Potts and Baron Batch — those were the guys usually commanding the interview. But, that day it was different. That day, they were all asking Llwlyn the questions. They loved her stories about her husband, Jerry (1954 Best Player – Border Conference; 1954 & 1955 All-American – Williamson National Rating System; Inducted into Texas Tech Hall of Honor in 1969). Jerry wore the same number as Brandon Carter and many of the guys thought Brandon looked just like Jerry’s picture.”
With all her ministry, you might think Llwlyn has no sense of humor. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Kristi Roark Denton remembers the Walkers introducing her to comedian Grady Nut on cassette tape and a certain incident in Colorado involving a “really, old donkey.”
In our own family, Llwlyn still calls our daughter “one-L” Hilary with a smirk. Early in our relationship, Llwlyn misspelled six-year-old Hilary’s name with two “L’s.” Hilary blurted out, “Llwlyn! Just because you have so many “L’s” in your name doesn’t mean I do!” Llwlyn took it in stride, chuckling and assuring Hilary she would never make that mistake again. The birthday cards and gifts kept coming — but without the extra “L’s”.
Llwlyn has taught Sunday School to babies, college-aged girls and young marrieds. Daughter Terrie reports, “She worked in the nursery at church until this year — her 82nd! She continues to teach a Bible study with widows once a month, making me wish for her energy and drive.”
The bed and the meal is always ready at Llwlyn’s. In fact, I have a suspicion that Llwlyn’s unique name must be actually derived from the Greek word for hospitality. From her relatives to those friends that became family, Llwlyn extended hospitality as if entertaining angels. But in the end, it is obvious just who is the angel. It’s Llwlyn.
Llwlyn with my daughters and their daughters – Christmas 2015
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