There’s something super vulnerable about looking back on my childhood. There’s so much I didn’t see then…but there’s also so much I can’t see/remember now. It’s probably best that way.
One of the things that shaped my childhood is The Woodshed. If you were raised in a home where your parents were in charge of running a business, you know it’s a different sort of life. You really have to see it day in and day out to really appreciate all the hard work and sacrifice it takes. Sure, it’s providing for your family, but it’s also providing for the families of all who work there. That’s a lot to carry, and I got to witness my parents carry a lot of people over the decades.
I hate even using the phrase employees and customers. “Employees” don’t typically serve as pallbearers in your grandparent’s funerals. The Woodshed was different. Customers weren’t “always right.” Customers at the Woodshed were most certainly wrong if there was a Mathis sitting at the table. 🙂 We have funny stories of all the people who Mike offended, but to most of the people, any new nickname that you were assigned was an invitation to the family. And Mom genuinely loved the customers, so that made up for the moments when Mike was off-putting. 🙂
Either way, you don’t have to spend too much time with Mike Mathis before you know what kind of personality he has. The only thing that has kept him safe this long is his quick wit. He can piss you off and have you laughing till you cry without blinking an eye. I am tempted to talk too much about this- there are so many stories, and some of them hilarious. It’s like the most entertaining “pain in the
ass butt” you can imagine. Ask Mom…she knows better than all of us. 🙂
So, I grew up being entertained by that Mike Mathis, but if you stick with him after all the people leave the room, you’ll see a different side. I’m so glad there’s more than one side to people.
He’s an encourager. He gives sound advice. He’s like his momma- he knows hospitality. He loves the Lord. He shares his faith- often. Him and Mom are gonna cry at every black and white Christmas movie they watch. He’s had best friends who have more money than he ever even cared to have and friends who need to barrow 10 bucks. Together, he and Mom have pushed through some devastating losses- best friends and hard economies. When other people would have shut down, they took a minute and moved forward- physically and emotionally- relying on God to pull them through. They loved a “good Friday night” at The Shed- and Mom loved working her butt off anywhere it was needed. They took pride in their work and their work ethic.
Their roles in running The Woodshed day in and out truly gave them the perfect opportunity to do what they do best.
I remember Mike giving his testimony at our church. Buddy Crabtree was the pastor. We were all shocked. Mike was a nervous wreck. I can still see him standing up there with his huge mustache. I just wanted him to sit back down. I was not used to seeing him vulnerable. But, the story of God reaching down and showing Mike Mathis grace and forgiveness is not one that I will ever forget. He needed a lot of grace. He still does. 🙂 Mike never got behind a pulpit again, thank goodness. Lol. We needed him behind the register keeping work fun or in his recliner yelling at us to turn the lights off or maybe on the golf course doing whatever it is that he does there six days a week. (If your golf buddies have to call Mom to fact check your claims, I trust that it’s entertaining.) I’m getting off track. The point is that Mike knows what it’s like to be picked up at rock bottom because that is where he met God. When you’re not afraid of rock bottom, people pick up on that. Mike let people keep their dignity- even when they were at their worst.
I studied Human Development in college. At one of the end stages of life, humans are typically working through the question: “Is it okay to have been me?” Now, before he starts making fun of me for trying to kill them off, let me say that this next phase of life is already looking pretty good- if you’re into sunshine and golf. Lol. But, as you step out of The Woodshed into retirement, I know that I speak for a LOT of people when I say that it was more than “okay” to have been “Mike and Billie Jo” at the Woodshed. You both-along with Phil-poured your life into it as a legacy to Pops and Granny, and, now, as an opportunity for Jarred, Shannon, Jeremy, and Julia. Their challenges and solutions will be different, but I trust that God will be the same- faithful and better than we deserve.
Happy Retirement. I love you both very much.