“When I was growing up,” says Naomi, “several things made me feel odd. My mama had to work. That was not good in our group; it wasn’t traditional. But we were too poor.
“When I was 17 I dated a guy for a year. We were in love. He was instantly killed in a car accident. Again, I was odd.
Her father’s lack of balance caused her pain. “He argued with the pastor’s wife. There were violent times in our house. I heard that I was the b-word, spelled out.
“When I was married and then pregnant with our first child, he did the oddest thing he could ever do: he committed suicide.” She felt so rejected. When she traveled back to be with her mother, she found that her mom was “beside herself.” She read to her mother and they prayed together, and “as we were reading and praying, Jesus’ presence just filled that living room” and they felt calm and knew that it was going to be okay.
Speaking of her father’s death makes her go back to the death of her boyfriend. “I was devastated, and Jesus just pulled me through.” The next morning, she prayed and read the Bible in her bedroom and “that room was so filled with his presence — he was right there with me, sitting there with his arms around me, and he told me,’You can do it because I’m with you.'”
It wasn’t the first time she’d experienced that. When she was 11 or 12, her mom had to work and she felt very alone at home. “I was the oldest one at home. I thought it was because I’d sinned. I said, ‘Jesus, I just have failed you so much.’ He just filled my heart — his presence came down so heavy and sweet, and it was okay.”
The presence of Jesus is a constant in her life. But so is that ‘being odd’ thing. When she started a family: “I never wanted to do anything odd,” but she and her husband felt called to have a large family. When the question of whether to homeschool came up, she thought, “I’m not making my children feel odd.” But they homeschooled their kids “from the git-go.”And she loved it. “My dad pulled me out of school to work on the farm. . . I was asked to teach school at 17 in an ACE school and I loved it!” She taught all eight grades by herself.
“God kept asking me to be odd. I love my kids. There are days I feel like I’m going crazy, but I love what I’m doing. . . God says, ‘Just do what I tell you and I’ll fill in.'”
When Naomi finishes speaking, her sisters draw close to her and pray for her.