Thoughts from my Heart

Phyllis Inspiration 22 Comments

I find my thoughts drifting these days to a state of disbelief as I watch the news and the computer screen. In fact, I can hardly watch the news anymore. I want to say, “Stop the madness! Everyone breathe!” The best way for me to navigate these uncertain times is to focus on helping people around me. It is my hope that we can change lives and hearts one at a time.

My thoughts this weekend turned to my beloved Big Oak Ranch where children of many different backgrounds live together as one. These precious little ones were placed at the ranch because they have no parents or the ones that do have discarded them. Most were abused or neglected. They come with fear in their hearts, longing for someone to love them.

I became involved with the Ranch over 10 years ago. I was asked to visit the Ranch and School by friends of mine. I really didn’t know how I was going to react to this, as my usual response is to shut down. The thought of any child hurting or being hurt makes me crazy.

I met this beautiful young woman named Rachel Fisher. She had been at the Ranch for several years, along with her sister Trinity. These two beautiful young women just made the room happier when they entered. Rachel captured my heart from the moment I met her. Rachel, who was very witty and very inquisitive, walked up to me and said, “Who are you?” I introduced myself and told her I was visiting the Ranch as I had never been there before. I just adored her feistiness as we talked for a few minutes.

She had beautiful green eyes and a smile that would melt butter. Her smile was mischievous and she was a pistol. I knew I had just met someone that really intrigued me and I loved her instantly.

It was that day I knew God was calling me to be involved with Big Oak. John Croyle, the founder of Big Oak, asked me if I was involved or committed. Wow, that was a question I had not anticipated. I responded, “committed!” It was because of Rachel. I felt that the Ranch needed a Ladies Auxiliary to support the work at the Ranch.

The Girls’ and Boys’ Ranches were split, very wisely, and at each Ranch the children were divided into homes. Each home has a set of house parents whose life is committed to raising this wonderful group of children. They have so much sadness and abuse to work through. There were things that I thought an Auxiliary could do to help these wonderful parents by supplementing the operating budgets they have.

There were 10 of us who met to start the Auxiliary. We all knew we could be instrumental in this ministry. Our numbers and the work of the Auxiliary has grown to include gifts, clothing, etc. for these children and be a support group for the House Mothers.

Back to Rachel—I was there when she graduated High School. I watched her walk across the stage and get her diploma with aspirations of being an aesthetician. I wanted to help her and in fact had proposed the idea of her coming to live with me in the fall so I could help her get started. We had our plans and I was so excited that I was going to be a part of her life. I know she had blessed mine and I was hoping I could do the same for her.

It was only a few weeks later that John Croyle called to tell me that Rachel had been killed in an automobile accident. My heart was broken and it still is today. It’s not mine to understand why this happened, as I know God is in control. I felt a huge loss that day. As time has passed, I can still see her beautiful face and witty smile. It has been ten years ago this week.

Events like this change us in so many ways. Our work has gone on and there are over 2000 children who have come through the Ranch and leave to be responsible adults. It is important to break the cycle of abuse and neglect and go out into the world establishing homes where children are loved. Rachel’s sister Trinity works at the Ranch now and it brings great joy to me to watch her change lives.

Paula Deen came for our first fund raiser to get us going. And that was the shot in the arm we needed. Joe Namath joined in along with Bart Starr, Taylor Hicks, and Jeannie Robertson for fundraisers in the next few years. In September, Amy Grant is coming for our 2016 fundraiser. What a marvelous woman to give of her time to our Auxiliary. If you are in the Birmingham area September 20, we would love to have you join us. Go to for more information.

I don’t have any answers or any opinions about life other than knowing that I want to make a difference. There are probably organizations in your area where you can make a difference. When someone knows another cares for them and loves them, it changes hearts and lives. Let’s make a difference every day!

Comments 22

  1. Phyllis:
    For some unknown reason I did not get my Ribbon email and last evening my best friend of about 40 years messaged me about this amazing story. We are both grateful followers of your Ribbon. This is a complex story but feel you would like to hear the intertwining of this story. This same friend gave me RAISING A PRINCESS by John Croyle. I know about Big Oak Ranch because of her.

    My friend and I have both cried because this story touched us so deeply. I feel your work is God inspired. You are an extraordinary woman. I can think of no one else who could give such an inspiring and powerful message to a chaotic world. I agree wholeheartedly with everything you said. May God give us all the courage and grace to give and make a difference in someone’s life.

  2. Thank you, Phyllis, for sharing your feelings of dismay at the
    world situation………It is truly discouraging and sad!
    Your words and your works and the lovely photo are a comfort and a balm to my heavy heart today………as are the many uplifting responses from unknown Friends.

  3. A wonderful couple from my church in Pensacola, served as houseparents at Big Rock Ranch for several years. He left a thriving law practice to do this, they gave up their home and moved there. We learned much about Big Rock Ranch from their experiences there and what a wonderful place it is.

    I see what wonderful sacrifices are made locally by families willing to foster children, and sometimes, even adopting them. And all the wonderful things that my church family does to make a difference in people’s lives.

    Yes, I agree that one of the easiest things you can do is smile and just say “Hello”. You will never know how much that will mean to someone.

  4. My husband became involved in the Big Brother program years ago. We met out Little Brother when he was five years old. You can’t help but get involved as a family and become attached. Our little brother is now 32 years old, married with two beautiful children, and a successful businessman. We love him dearly, and I am so glad for this program.

  5. what a great place to support! I worked at a children’s orphanage when I was in college and all of what you’ve said rings true. Changing lives…one at a time …and never give up!

  6. Phyllis, your thoughts hit home. A few months ago, I stopped cooking and baking for our church’s homeless shelter because I thought I was too busy, and perhaps I had done my share. Too busy?!? Done my share?!? What was I thinking? So after reading your blog, I called the coordinator and signed up to get involved once again. Somehow I feel better already. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts.

  7. Dear Phyllis,
    Thank you for sharing this part of your life. What a blessing you have been to so many. I know God gives each one of us gifts to use for his kingdom and it starts with one. In Mark 12:31 Jesus tells us “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.” He doesn’t say love your neighbors or your neighborhood, but neighbor. It starts with one-on-one, which you so lovingly shared with us in your story of Rachel. Each child at that ranch has been so loved one-on-one!

  8. I love this post on so many levels. First, I too, like almost everyone I know, am heartbroken with all that is going on. Your answer to the problem of our world seemingly out of control is the best one. To can change lives and hearts one at a time, in our own sphere of influence.

    God bless you, Phyllis, for tirelessly working to better the lives of others. All of us can make a difference in the world, and I’m sincerely praying that everyone who reads this rises to the occasion.

  9. I wonder how many readers of your blog can match your hours of volunteering . I applaud your efforts and call upon every one of your readers to do an extra hour each week to help someone or some cause. I promise I’ll increase my hours.
    The children your write about need as much love and care as possible; but do not forget the parents who must be separated from their children. We must ask why they acted the way they did and what drove them to such steps. Were they ill? Were they victims of crime? Victims of poor education? Victims of the media? Living in poverty? Without addressing the sources and causes of child neglect such behaviours will continue. The clues we see in the children are only the symptoms of something far worse. It is unnatural to hurt a child, so we must ask why it happened. Perhaps we also need to ask ourselves who rescued the children and why. What other choices might have been possible? Are we doing enough to support parents in distress before we have children in distress?
    Let’s all make an effort to give an extra hour this and every future week so that children like those at the Ranch do not have to live without their biological network of parents, aunts and uncles, cousins, and grandparents.

  10. Thank you for sharing this. I spend many hours a week working on things for other people , who need me. I smock dresses for our still born babies at the hospital, Make quilts for our battered women. And work with a great group of women from our community and church to crochet mats for the homeless. We can all give something back, God has been so good to us. Thanks for this post.

  11. Such a thoughtful and heartwarming story that brought tears to my eyes. I too believe we can all make a difference in bringing kindness into our insane world right now. No matter how small you may think it is, it is not to someone who has nothing. Thank you Phyllis for what you are doing. Kindly, Robin

    1. You are so right Robin. It is not nothing, it’s not insignificant, when you you are receiving kindness. It’s huge. It always makes a difference, even if that can not be visibly shown at the time.

  12. Thank you, Phyllis, for sharing thoughts from your heart! Thanks also for sharing about this particular ministry to children. We worked for a similar facility in TX; we know how significant “committed” citizens are to the success of each child.

    May God richly bless you!

  13. Your blog shares the heart of the solution…reaching out to help those in need whether neglected children, abused women, homeless families or those without the basic necessities of life. If the media could grasp this message and reinforce the power of giving and living to make life better, our world would be a better place. Thank you for your service with Big Oak Ranch. I am also privileged to work with children in grief and with life-shortening illnesses through New Hope for Kids, Maitland, Florida.

  14. My heart also goes out to Children who are neglected or abused or abandoned. The Big Oak Ranch sounds like a wonderful place to help Children. You are to be commended for your love and service in this needy place.

  15. What wonderful work. It’s so rewarding to help.
    Big Brothers/Big Sisters is a great organization. I’m still in touch with my little “sister” 30+ years later.
    But just giving people a smile instead of a scowl probably would make a difference, too. That’s the one I’m trying to practice.

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