Denise Day Spencer

April 29, 2009

Butter and cream

Filed under: Personal reflections — denisedayspencer @ 6:25 pm

If Southern Baptists could be nominated for sainthood, I’d have my pick. I lost a dear friend today in the passing of Mrs. Betty Hasty. She was a friend as close as a family member for the past 21 years. She’s the reason Michael and I are in the ministry positions we are in today. She’s been like a second mom to us, and like a grandma to our children.

Many, many people will miss Betty, and others will no doubt speak of her and write of her with more eloquence than I can muster. So I will content myself to dwell on one simple aspect of her life: butter and cream.

“Miss Betty,” as we called her at our house, was an exceptional cook. She loved to entertain, and we have spent many a happy hour gathered with friends around her big dining room table. Main courses, vegetables, salads and desserts — all were delightfully delicious when prepared by Betty’s hand. And anyone who knew Betty understood that a meal at her table would not be a “lite” affair.

You see, Betty grew up in Iowa. She cooked the way her mother had, unworried about pesky details like fat. A diminutive, perky lady, Betty’s hearty diet didn’t seem to make her any worse for wear. Her favorite line from a movie was one in which a doctor was advising a mother on restoring her sick little daughter to health. Betty would intone in imitation of the fictional physician: “Give her lots of butter and real cream.” And then she would chuckle.

The real stuff — that’s what Betty went for. Her food philosophy suited her perfectly, for she was as real a Christian as I’ve ever met. There was no pretense with Miss Betty. Her faith ran deep, like an underground river that watered all areas of her life. She was rock solid, believing in a sovereign God through joys and sorrows alike. Her intelligence, curiosity and love for God drove her to study the Bible and to never tire of learning. Yet as steeped as she was in theology, she sometimes expressed her faith with childlike simplicity. I can think of no one else I’ve personally known who seemed to me to be more ready to meet God than Miss Betty.

I’ll miss so many things about my friend including, yes, her cooking. I hope heaven is well-stocked with fat Iowa cows. If the Israelites’ promised land flowed with milk and honey, I’m sure Betty will expect heaven to ooze with heavy cream and molasses.

This evening it rained as I was walking Maisie. When we came back up the hill I spied a rainbow. This was an especially spectacular display — a double bow, the bottom one spanning the sky with both ends dropping to earth in front of the trees on the mountain. I’ve never seen a rainbow in front of the trees before. The foliage shimmered behind the glowing rays of pastel light.

Someone else had to witness this so I would know I wasn’t imagining it. I dashed into the house and pulled Michael outside. “Quick! Get the camera!” he said. As he photographed the sight, people driving by slowed to a stop to join in admiration and wonder. So I wasn’t dreaming this. It was real. I looked at Michael as he steadied the camera for another shot. “This is Betty’s rainbow,” I said. He raised an eyebrow. “And who told you that?” he wanted to know. I had no answer but, “Who else’s would it be?” A grand rainbow for a grand lady.

I have not yet cried for Betty. I will, I’m sure. But today I can’t help but smile, knowing Betty is now experiencing the ultimate reality — life with her beloved Savior, a life that will never end. Thank you, Betty, for being as transparent as the rainbow and as substantial as a mound of fresh-churned butter. Thank you for keeping it real.



  1. Sorry for the loss of your friend, Denise. May light perpetual shine upon her.

    Richard (BHT)

    Comment by Richard — April 29, 2009 @ 6:40 pm | Reply

  2. Beautifully written, Denise. I think I’ve known a few “Bettys” myself. There’s a prayer that I love from the Book of Common Prayer that goes like this:
    Into thy hands, O merciful Saviour, we commend the soul of thy servant Betty, now departed from the body. Acknowledge, we humbly beseech thee, a sheep of thine own fold, a lamb of thine own flock, a sinner of thine own redeeming. Receive her into the arms of thy mercy, into the blessed rest of everlasting peace, and into the glorious company of the Saints in light. Amen.

    Comment by Bryan — April 29, 2009 @ 6:41 pm | Reply

  3. […] Denise, the better writer in the family, has written a beautiful tribute at her blog: Butter and Cream. Please read it and think of our friend. (BTW, the rainbow pics are on my facebook […]

    Pingback by » Blog Archive » Butter and Cream: Denise’s Tribute To Our Departed Friend and Mentor, Betty Hasty — April 29, 2009 @ 6:44 pm | Reply

  4. Thanks for this heartfelt and straightforward tribute.

    She sounds like a grandmother I would have loved to have.


    Comment by David Higginbotham — April 29, 2009 @ 7:31 pm | Reply

  5. Denise didn’t mention it, but that rainbow was immediately over Betty’s house here on campus.

    Comment by imonk — April 29, 2009 @ 8:05 pm | Reply

  6. Denise, Thanks for sharing this tribute. Miss Betty was such a sweet and godly woman. Even though we were only at OBI a short time, I will never forget her.

    Comment by Pam Thompson — April 29, 2009 @ 9:10 pm | Reply

  7. Mrs. Spencer,

    Your memories of Grandma are beautifully written.

    It’s true that her faith was like and underground river watering all areas of her life. It reminds me of Psalm 1. Gene and I are so excited about what she must be experiencing- I can’t help to smile because I know that she is now living out the theology she loved and continued to grow in for 61 years!

    I’m so thankful she was my Grandma- that the Lord was pleased to place me in this family. I think all my sisters (and Sarah) pray that we will be able to carry out her legacy (in faith and cooking!). Our children may not meet Grandma but they will know her!

    Thank you for sharing your heart.

    Comment by Rebekah — April 30, 2009 @ 7:13 am | Reply

  8. Thank you Denise for capturing the essence of my Grandma so beautifully. I was laughing through my tears. Praise God she is a saint, as are all His people who are called according to His purpose! Grandma’s faith has been an example for us all to follow. How blessed our lives have been to have had her…

    Comment by Sarah — April 30, 2009 @ 9:40 am | Reply

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