Three Rules to Follow

By John Croyle

Mattie Ruth Floyd was one of seven children living on a farm in Albertville, Alabama, in the post-depression era. She worked every day of her life helping take care of the home and the farm. This made her one of the strongest-willed individuals I have ever known—but she also was an extremely loving, strong and sharing person.

Growing up, she missed the first three months of the school year because she had to hoe and pick cotton. This was how her family survived during very tough times.

She was a great mom, and I was the center of her life. Her dad, my grandfather, was a phenomenal man. Of all the people I’ve met in my life, he was the most influential. He just had this air about him that demanded respect and honor, and he passed these same qualities down to his daughter who exemplified these qualities to me daily.

She endured her share of losses, two of which were turning points in her life and further shaped her into the person she was. She lost a brother in WWII.  And later on, her four-year-old daughter, my sister, was tragically killed in a freak accident. I was five years old when my sister passed away. Obviously, it impacted my life too. Even though I was so young, I still remember every detail of that day. But through it all, her quiet strength was a bedrock to all of us.

My mom spent the rest of her life investing in me. As far back as I can remember and as long as she lived, she always stressed three things:

1. Don’t be a show off. Don’t draw attention to yourself; be who you are and don’t pretend to be somebody else.  We were created by an enormous God, which—among other things, like making us feel loved and unique and validated by our Maker—should set us up for being properly humble in His presence.

2. Don’t get too big for your britches.  Don’t think too highly of yourself, or think that you are more important than what you are.  And don’t EVER look down on others because of their circumstances—or what you perceive as their circumstances. Arrogance before a holy God is never a winning play—even the backhanded arrogance that says you don’t amount to anything, and therefore you don’t see how even somebody as big and powerful as Almighty God can change things for you.

3. Stick to your knitting. In other words, do what you were called to do with your life. Simply put, if you know you were called to knit a sweater, then knit the best sweater you are capable of knitting! Every time you look around and think that you might need to go knit a pair of socks or a blanket or anything else, you will undoubtedly lose sight of what you were originally called to do.

Since I was 19 years old, I have known why I was put on this earth—to relieve the suffering of children, to rescue children,  and break the cycle of abuse and neglect. I do not take for granted the rarity of knowing at such an early age why I was born and the purpose for my life. Each of us has a purpose, a reason for being born.

It all starts with knowing who you are, knowing who you’re not, and then being focused enough with yourself that you don’t weave in and out of your own lane as you’re rolling forward. While remaining humble and teachable, let’s live out our lives with drive and purpose, staying intently focused on our calling.

2 Responses to “Three Rules to Follow”

  1. Johnnie Gory says:

    God bless the Croyle family. You have done an amazing job with the lives of these children.

  2. John Croyle,
    I’ve thought of you so many times over the years and always see signs for the Big Oak Ranch every time I’m in Gadsden. I too have a son that has your heart….he graduated with a double major from Ga College and State University in psychology and outdoor education and wanted to work with “At risk kids”…..he currently works at a residential psych hospital for kids in Chattanooga running their outdoor education program. I told him about you and your ranch but Gadsden just wasn’t big enough for him, I tried to get him to call you and intro himself and talk about how you do what you do but alas, he just didn’t. I enjoyed your article and I knew your mom was a saint but I never understood how profound an effect she had on you. I have followed you and Tee and the kids for so many years and I’m sure you are proud of the many kids you have raised. God bless you John and keep on keeping on!!!! Love you, Susanne

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