Tuesday, January 20, 2009


Below is the text that my precious husband spoke to honor my mom this morning.

I am incredibly humbled and honored to celebrate with you the uncommon life of Debbie “Bubbie” Pitts this morning. I realize that any number of you could stand up here for hours and tell the most beautiful, funny, and delightful stories about this remarkable woman, the sweet mother of my wife, Keely. But the joy is mine right now, and I have labored in figuring out what to share with you this morning – not b/c there is nothing to say, but because there is so much to say that I wish we could all sit in a huge circle and simply talk about Debbie’s extraordinary life for hours on end. But I’ll see if I can give us a snapshot this morning on an epic story that has not ended with Debbie’s leaving this earth, but in some ways has just begun.

In 1 Corinthians, Paul talks about his Corinthian brothers and sisters in Christ as a living testimony to his faithfulness in serving God – that their very lives are witnesses to his ministry as an apostle. Indeed, I think all of us would agree that we are a living testimony to the faithfulness of Debbie Pitts as the Lord’s servant and as the Lord’s daughter. I loved the way Seth put it, that Debbie has a spiritual family tree so elaborate that it would confuse NASA scientists, and maybe even Hamp. So, I simply want to share with you some of my stories, and some of your stories that will illustrate this beautiful heart. But I hope we can keep in mind, this will not simply be sharing Debbie’s stories, it will be sharing stories within the context of a larger Story – God’s story of redeeming hearts, and redeeming the world. Because that’s how Debbie understood her life, not as an individual floating haphazardly in a meaningless world, but as a woman woven into God’s beautiful tapestry of demonstrating his love to broken people with a radical, self-abandoning love. I remember one time when Debbie was in the hospital for an extended period of time, and we were taking turns staying with her during the night. And one night I was there with her, and she woke up, in pain, but when she saw me sitting there her eyes lit up, and she said (after telling me to go home and get some rest!), “oh, baby, I am so glad to see you, I have so many questions for you…could I just ask you some questions about Scripture – I’ve just got a whole list of things I’ve wanted to ask you about.” See, Debbie always gave us credit for much more than we were, or maybe better, she saw us for what we could be, for what God designed us to be. See, she credited me with being the most competent biblical scholar on earth, when the reality was that I was a lowly first-year seminary student who thought he knew way more than he did. But, guess what? Debbie’s belief in me, and her humility to ask me questions about Jesus whom she already knew so much better than I, made me want to be a more faithful man of God; she me made me want to be teacher of God’s word that expounded the Scriptures faithfully. And that was her way with people, wasn’t it? She showed a faith in you that you didn’t have yourself, and that faith was transformative. Jesus said in John 13.34-35, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” How better did we know that Debbie was a disciple of Jesus than by the way she loved?

Pam Nixon, a good friend of Debbie’s, was telling me a story the other day about her son Colin, who is now in college. They were at church one night when he was 3 or 4 years old, and Debbie had gotten down on the floor with him and played and loved on him. A little bit later little Colin ran up to his mom and said, “Mom! Bubbie’s just crazy about me!” And that is the testimony over and over about Debbie. How many times did I read on the blog that, “Debbie made me feel like the only person in the world to her,” “Debbie made me feel like I was the only one in the room,” “Debbie made me feel like what I was telling her was more important than anything.” Paul tells us in Romans 8 that part of God’s work in us is to conform us to the image of his Son. How better to be the image of Jesus than to incarnate yourself in people’s lives as Debbie did, just as the Son became one of us in order to redeem us? Whether it was a passing conversation, or discussing the most difficult situation of your life, her volunteer work at the Children’s hospital or making you a handcrafted, unique piece of art or jewelry, teaching Sunday school or volunteer art teaching – whatever it was, Debbie would make herself a part of your world in a way that you didn’t think anyone could be.

But more than simply becoming a part of our worlds, she invited us into hers. And, oh, what a wonderful world it was. Delight. That is the word I think of when I think of Debbie and the world she invited us into – a world of adventure, fun, and love…a world that reminded us of the way things were supposed to be, a world of enjoying one another, laughing, having fun together, and believing the impossible. I think it started early on. As Sheron told, after she had seen Cinderella for the first time as a girl, she wanted a magic wand too. She got one for Christmas, and had a friend over. They were playing and Debbie, believing wholeheartedly in her magic wand, said “bippipity-boppity-boo!” to a Christmas ball ornament, hoping to turn it into a gum ball. Unfortunately, she convinced her friend that she had turned it into a gumball. Let’s just say that friend wasn’t a return visitor. Or later in her youth, she was always the ring-leader of various adventures. One time as a teenager, with a group of friends in the church parking lot, she challenged anyone to climb to the top of the basketball goal. No one would do it, so Debbie first uttered her famous words, “All right, Chickens, I’ll do it!” To her misfortune, she misjudged the counterweight at the bottom of the goal. As she got to the top and out to the hoop, the weight was too great, and it toppled over, shattering the glass and injuring Debbie. I think those words, “All right, Chickens, I’ll do it!” or at least the mentality, may have gotten Debbie into mischief more than once. But we could go on an on about the pure fun she created. It was a world of elaborate scavenger hunts concocted by her and Hampton that set the measuring bar for what real fun is. A world of her and Hamp creating the “big game” for youth camp that became the highlight of camp every year after. Or secretly decorating the Buffalo on Hillsboro road with her favorite partner in crime, Andrew Skaggs, so beautifully that people all over town were talking about it. It was a world full of pumpkin parties, watermelon fights, feeding wild alligators, 4 wheel drive adventures in the snow, and crabbing on the beaches of Destin. It was a world of “happy accidents,” Debbie would call them, where a can a spilled paint on a canvas didn’t mean ruin for the painting, but a new direction to create something beautiful. The original garden in which God placed the first man and woman was named Eden – Delight. Debbie brought us pretty darn close to that garden of delight. In fact, I’m not sure there’s a better way to say it than Keely does, “Mom just makes everything beautiful.”

Of course, one of the most beautiful pieces of Debbie’s delight was her life-long romance with Hampton. Uproarious Laughter – that’s what comes to mind…thinking about Hampton and Debbie being in the other room and hearing them crack up about something, and so badly wanting to be a part of it; so badly hoping that my marriage looks and sounds like that. Has there ever been a man and a woman more beautifully brought together by God? Paul tells us in Ephesians 5 that one of the ways that God has chosen to demonstrate his love for the world is through marriage. It is that relationship that is intended to reflect most beautifully the relationship between the Lord Jesus and his Church. Has ever a woman more deeply loved and respected her husband? Has ever a man sacrificed himself more for his wife? How many times did I hear Debbie say, smiling, “Hampton Pitts, he is a good man”? I can’t talk about this too much, b/c I won’t make it. There was a time a few years back when Debbie was going through a particularly difficult time with her health, and part of the battle was affecting her memory, and she just couldn’t remember people. Thankfully, this turned out to be a short-term issue – Debbie had an incredible memory. But, during this very hard time, Hampton was trying to help her along and restore some memory, and at one point he asked her, “Now, Debbie, do you know who I am?” Without missing a beat she said, “Well, you’re my precious husband, Hampton.” She was a woman who knew she was loved. This was a bond of love that couldn’t be broken by even the wickedest of diseases. And she was loved by more than just Hampton. When Keely and I were first dating, we were about 16 at the time, Debbie had been rushed to the hospital. This was my first introduction to the fact that my wife missed her calling as a NASCAR driver, but after Debbie had been dropped off, Keely raced (literally) over to Target, grabbed everything imaginable (and unimaginable) that her mom would need during her stay. I remember getting back to the hospital and looking through the items, and Keely saying things like, “Now this is her favorite kind of hair band…it’s only this kind that’s comfortable on her head. Or, this is really her favorite kind of mint, she really only likes this kind.” Even in her haste, Keely remembered the littlest things that would be a comfort to her mom. Of course, I know where she got this kind of love, b/c Debbie was the same way with Keely. Just days before Debbie went into the hospital this time, she and Hampton had come down to Orlando to welcome Keely, Salem, and me home from Ethiopia. Debbie, though very sick, was so excited about our trip there, and so wanted to be a part of our lives, that she wouldn’t stand for waiting until we came up to Nashville the next time, or settle for emailed pictures. No, she wanted to see the pictures and hear the stories first hand, and as always, ask us questions so that she could imagine being there with us.

Now, as I only skim the surface of this beautiful life, I don’t want to give the wrong impression. Debbie wasn’t perfect. She would be the first who would want us to know that. She had flaws, and broken parts of herself that she knew still needed transforming. But even that was a part of her life that she used to point away from herself, and to her beautiful Savior, whom she knew would never forsake her, would never give up on her. He was the strength behind her strength. He was the Beauty behind her beauty. He was the grace behind her grace. So allow me to end with one, final story. Probably many of you have heard Debbie talk about the heavenly Body Shop. In her wonderful creativity, as she imagined what being in heaven would be like, she would often say, “Do you think there’s a body shop in heaven? I think there will be a body shop, where I can go pick out each part and put together a whole new body that finally works.” Paul says in Philippians 3.20-21, “And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.” I believe Debbie already has her new body picked out.

Let us praise the one who made this beautiful woman as we rejoice in remembering her life – her life that continues on even now with the One who has brought her home to his garden of delight.


  1. Josh and Keely, I know that Debbie is enjoying her time at the heavenly body shop and thank you, Josh, for your touching words of rememberance for a woman so amazing for so many years. May God surround you and uplift you in the days, weeks, and months to come filling you w/ many joyous memories of this precious child of His. blessings and love, Patricia, Don, Michael, and Kevin Heim

  2. Thanks so much for posting this! Such beautiful words that expressed what all of us would want to say to honor her life and her Savior. love, AB

  3. Beautiful tribute. Very touching.

    -Andy P.

  4. How beautifully expressed; how insightful; how Debs must have thanked God for Josh's presence in Keely's life.

  5. Keely, her years weren't long but her days were full! Hugs to you, Josh, Hampton and Precious Salem...Cj

  6. My favorite verse. Her life:
    "I urge you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:1-2
    Lynne (ltmcc@charter.net)

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