In my conversation with Mom Kelley on the night before she left this earthly life, she promised that during her early morning prayer time she would pray for my daughter Carmen and the Bible study she leads in her church. Knowing my mother, I took for granted that this was not an empty promise.
Typically getting up between 5:00 and 5:30 every morning, Mother immediately began every day with prayer. She must have been a very young woman when she determined to establish this lifelong routine that has sustained our family for so many decades. She chose a particular place—the only quiet place in a house filled with five children, the powder room! Several decades ago, my sister-in-love Rhonda gave her a wonderful tool for keeping handy the particular items Mother used to make her prayer time focused and fruitful—a brown woven basket. Since then, Mother’s “prayer basket” has accompanied her almost everywhere. She has kept it ready for her morning routine in every residence, including her Lambeth House apartment in New Orleans. When she and Daddy traveled to Baylor football games and when her granddaughter Betuh drove her to Beaumont to visit friends, the basket went along. It has logged hundreds, if not thousands, of miles!
The prayer basket had to go with Mother wherever she went, not because she couldn’t pray without it but because its contents facilitated the time of prayer that had become her lifeline for sustaining her love for the Lord and her vital work of intercession:
- her personal Bible;
- Open Windows, a devotional guide;
- a notepad and pen;
- tissues; and
- a book titled Prayers from the Pulpit, by Perry F. Webb.
The attractive fragrance of Mother’s daily, early-morning prayer life went with her throughout her days, gracing the lives not only of her family members but of the people she loved wherever she lived. Many have said so.
Doris is my wonderful friend and role model. I am a better person because of her influence. Her sweet love for the Lord, her family, friends, church, and prayer inspires me and many, many others. Her encouragement through writing is a remarkable gift of God. I love and admire the beautiful fragrance of Christ that overflows from her life to everyone she encounters.
~ Joyce, a friend at Lambeth House
Memories of her cutting up my bacon and eggs “real fast”. . . gobbling up her Kelley biscuits . . . scarfing down her chili and rice . . . fun shopping trips . . . journeys to Galveston and Wildwood . . . making candy cane cookies . . . just to name a few! But most of all I am grateful for the example and heritage she continues to give me of a godly woman, wife, mother, grandmother, and friend who has trusted our God during times of blessing and pain . . . who has loved and served her husband, children, and grandchildren at every turn (both good and bad) . . . who has prayed diligently for ALL and who has shown me that the Lord has a ministry for us every day He leaves us on this earth and we must continue in it with JOY!! Through her prayers, cards, and letters she ministers to me and many others every single week!
~ granddaughter Carmen
From the weekly letters that you send, to the cards on every holiday, you truly know how to make our day, even with the slightest deed. We cannot express to you how honored we are to receive handwritten letters from you each week. We anxiously await those pink envelopes each Wednesday. Each story that the letter tells is just a piece of how wholeheartedly you and Papa served the Lord all of these years.
~ great-granddaughters Abigail and Rebekah
A Grandson’s Remembrance
Strength and dignity are her clothing,
Her worth far above jewels.
The loving-kindness of the Gospel,
Her sojourn’s only rules.
She opens her mouth in wisdom,
Kindness flowing from her voice.
So that in her presence, family,
Friend, and stranger rejoice.
She ate not bread of idleness but
Looked well to her household,
Pursuing not temporal things,
Man’s folly of lust for gold.
Her children rise up and bless her;
Her husband, her value, called:
Many daughters have done nobly,
Yet have you surpassed them all.
~ grandson Armour
Remember how every Wednesday you would drive all around Beaumont collecting my four friends to take us to GAs, and later to YWAs? You not only took us every week, but you also were our leader for many years. You even took us to Ridgecrest one year where we were blessed to meet many “real, live” missionaries. We’ve all grown up with a love for and understanding of missions because of your faithfulness. Your love of missions and regular support of both the Annie Armstrong and Lottie Moon mission offerings influenced me to become a regular supporter of both home and foreign missions. You have also influenced missions by having family members like me serve as trustees of the International Mission Board. Thank you, Mother, for modeling how to live the Christian life every day of my life, and for teaching me the true joy of giving.
~ daughter Kathy
I remember the way that you celebrated each holiday—making it special for all of us. You taught us to aim for perfection. Quite often you expected us to achieve it. I remember Miss Ada telling me that you should be a school teacher, because you wrote everything down and things had to be done in a certain order. . . . Probably the most important thing that you taught me was how to pray about everything. . . . I want more than anything for my children to learn that lesson.
~ daughter Charlene
I don’t know of any other individual that spends as much time praying each day as my grandmother does. She prays for each member of our family by name every morning. If she tells you that she is going to pray for you or pray for a particular situation, you can be absolutely certain that she will. . . . While many would think that their days of service to the Lord would be over by the time they are 90, my grandmother does not. She has found a way to minister and touch the lives of many people from the confines of her apartment. Those that know her best know that she sends out hundreds of letters a year, many to the same people each week. She provides words of encouragement and comfort to those that need it as well as communicating with all of her family.
~ granddaughter Beth
When I was a child, I firmly believed that Mamaw was God’s best friend. She knew Him inside and out. I knew that she had this magic telephone hidden in her bathroom that was a direct line to Him. Many a day was spent in that master bathroom on Infinity Lane, looking for that magic phone. I knew they were best friends because when Mamaw talked to God, He listened intently and things happened. When Mamaw prayed for you, you could almost feel God’s arms wrap around you. And when you were in trouble, you could feel that just as much!
As I have grown up now, I no longer believe that Mamaw has a magic phone hidden in her bathroom. But I KNOW, even more now than then, that she IS the very BEST of friends with God! And I strive every day to have the patience, humbleness, generosity and faithfulness that she displays so effortlessly. But most of all, I want to have the love that she does because her love truly bears all things!
~ granddaughter Kelley
A Mamaw is a prayer warrior—she takes everything to the Lord . . .
A Mamaw puts the needs of everyone above her own
She will lift you up when life brings you down
Whenever I think of you, I always think of your commitment to being a prayer warrior—even as a little girl I distinctly remember your dedication to getting up every morning and praying for each of your children and grandchildren by name. . . . I am so grateful that you take time each week to write all of us and let us know how everyone is doing, and I am also grateful that you have always taken time to respond to each letter I have sent you. I enjoy your news, wisdom, and quotes.
~ granddaughter Claire
You and Poppa have built a family on kindness, love, generosity and God’s Word that will last for generations. The example you have set for us to live by can be seen all the way to your great-grandchildren.
~ grandson Perry
I can vividly picture the magnificent birthday cakes you made for each one of us. Do you remember the beautiful and elaborate doll cakes that all your girls wanted even though our birthdays were each about a week apart? I remember how hard you worked on making a Snoopy and his doghouse cake for me. What an ordeal when the roof started to slide!!! But you did a masterful job and I was so delighted! The other cake that really stands out for me was the one in the shape of a book with the story of my life. It really did represent my interests so well. I was deeply touched by this labor of love.
~ daughter Eileen
You are such a wonderful example of what it means to be a prayer warrior. It’s such an encouraging thing to know that as I’m getting off work in the mornings you’re already awake and praying for me. I can’t begin to describe how much that means to me. . . .
I greatly appreciate having your support throughout my life. You cheered me on throughout the difficult times in high school as well as college when I was having so much trouble with asthma. And you’ve been so very supportive of me as I’ve ventured forth into my career as a respiratory therapist.
I am so blessed to have such a sweet grandmother. I know I can always count on you to pray for me. You are a wonderful example of encouragement. I look forward every week for the day my pink letter arrives from you.
~ granddaughter Sarah
Thank you for making sure all of us lived in a home not a house! From the smell of biscuits filling the kitchen, to the constant presence of prayer and devotion to Christ, to the balance of high expectations and strong affirmation, plus so much more, you forever filled the word “home” with pleasant memories of warmth and joy. You gave us a home all our friends wanted to come and visit, a privilege beyond compare.
~ son Chuck
My mother-in-love has accepted me as her daughter and loved me unconditionally. Her devotion to the Lord and His church and her powerful prayer life are legacies of faith in my life and in the lives of each of her family members.*
~ daughter-in-love Rhonda
Perhaps the greatest single blessing that has been mine since my experience of salvation is the privilege of having my wife, one of the greatest Christians whom I have ever known. Again, it was in the church that I found her. If this were the only blessing that I should ever experience, I could still say that “my cup runneth over.”
~ husband Charles
Doris Weisiger Kelley was a woman who above all else was pure in heart. Anyone who crossed the path of my mother—family members, long-time friends, strangers whom she might encounter in her daily routines—would agree that in her demeanor there was a unique sensitivity that set her apart from others. Even in her senior years with its physical limitations, she was continually “losing her life” by emptying herself—her creativity and her energies—in self-sacrificing service to others.
I know that I am going to miss looking forward every week to receiving the pink envelope with Mother’s family letter. Even more, I will miss knowing that whatever I am doing and whatever challenges I am facing she was praying for me every morning without fail.
To honor the legacy of Mother’s faithful example of “powder room prayer,” Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary has placed a replica of her prayer basket, along with her testimony, in the Doris Weisiger Kelley Powder Room of the Horner Homemaking House on campus. We pray that the memory of her prayer life will inspire women in generations to come to build into their lives a time of reading Scripture and praying every day.
~ daughter Dorothy
The outpouring of love to me and Mother’s family has been overwhelming and a wonderful testimony to the body of Christ. Many of you have asked how you can honor Mother’s legacy in lieu of flowers. The Doris Weisiger Kelley Memorial Fund has been established at Southwestern Seminary, and you may designate gifts to Southwestern Seminary, P.O. Box 22500, Fort Worth, TX 76122 or www.swbts.edu/donate. Your gracious gifts will be used to ensure that students and guests who cross the threshold of the Horner Homemaking House learn of the importance of a praying woman.
Editor’s Note: Tamra Hernandez assisted in compiling these thoughts and quotes from family and friends, most of which were written in Mrs. Kelley’s 90th year.
*Rhonda H. Kelley, Raising Moms: Daughters Caring for Mothers in Their Later Years (Birmingham, AL: New Hope Publishers, 2006), 14.