Charlene Spinks–Advice for Air Force Kids

What is your name?  Please include a nickname if most people call you by that.
Charlene Lightfoot Spinks.  I also answer to “Charlie.”

What do you do for a living?   I still haven’t figured out what I want to be when I grow up – I’ve worked in retail, in office admin (churches, banking, real estate and medical offices),  non-profits, network marketing, and have taught music a few times. Currently, I’m “employment challenged” – ready to take the next step.  My work path has been interrupted several times when I’ve had to assume temporary caretaker roles for various family members. Most recently, in 2015, my husband survived a harrowing illness that almost took his life and his road to recovery has been very long and difficult. He’s doing well now, able to work and drive…so life is changing again!

How old are you?
I’m 61. OMG….I used to think that was like…REALLY old! I definitely do NOT think nor act “my age.”  (How should 61-year-olds act anyway?)

Where do you live?
I reside on a couple of acres in the beautiful small town of Hendersonville, North Carolina.

Where can we find you on the internet?
Only FaceBook and LinkedIn. I’ve been thinking about a blog – but I suppose one actually has to do a bit more than think about it, right?

The most interesting place you’ve visited?
Sydney, Australia! I attended a music conference there in 2000 with a couple of friends. We also had a long layover in Auckland, New Zealand, so we did a little sightseeing there. Wonderful people, great experience, hoping to go back one day and spend more time exploring.

Can you tell us something about Sydney that particularly struck you?
We visited a wildlife park/zoo and were amazed that there were kangaroos, kookaburras and emus just wandering the grounds freely! I was even able to pet a koala bear sleeping in his eucalyptus tree… fortunately, the dingoes, the crocs and the Tasmanian devils were confined to their habitats, no petting allowed!
Oh, and we actually tried emu steak, it was delicious! No, it didn’t taste like chicken – it tasted like STEAK.

(And by the way…we didn’t eat the emu steak at the wildlife park! I just read that again and realized how it sounded. It was at a restaurant in Sydney…would be kinda weird to be at a zoo petting the wildlife…and then eating it too. I probably should have proofread a little more!)

Your favorite meal would be?
I love Mexican food…the hotter and spicier, the better.

Pet peeve?
People who won’t take responsibility for their lives. They continually blame everything and everyone else for their lot in life and as a result, they are stuck in their personal growth. We never change what we refuse to acknowledge. I was a blamer and a ‘victim’ for a very long time and it wasn’t until I assumed full responsibility for my life, the good and bad experiences, the wise and stupid decisions, ALL OF IT, that I began to see things turn around in a positive way.
Life isn’t ‘fair’ or ‘unfair’..it just is what it is, and it’s different for us all. We don’t always get to choose the hand we’re dealt but we do get to choose how we play it. My heroes aren’t those who make headlines or celebrity rock stars – my heroes are people like my sister, who has a child with a terrible disease and she just gets up every day and does what she needs to do without complaining or blaming others.

Favorite book, or movie?
The book “Abba’s Child” by Brennan Manning absolutely changed my concept of God, and helped bring healing during a devastating period in my life.
Favorite movie…probably “Dr Zhivago”. Loved the music, scenery and the beautiful, tragic story.

How did “Abba’s Child” change your concept of God?
Over the course of many years in an authoritarian, cult-like ‘church’, my once vibrant Christian faith had gradually eroded into a performance-based, people-pleasing and leader-centered false religion. It’s hard to admit that though I knew so much was wrong, I went along with it anyway, trying to ‘please’ my leaders by doing anything they asked. My own weakness and need for affirmation and acceptance were the driving forces that led me to overlook my inner conflict about the church and I remained a member for 7 years.  I hid my true self from those in that church because I feared their anger or rejection – and living as an imposter soon affected my relationship with God as well. I’m not proud of that time in my life, I know I neglected and hurt friends and family members. I compromised my faith and values for a counterfeit, shallow
‘spiritual’ life. The good news is I finally left that place, but it was a real struggle to find peace and wholeness after so long in a spiritually destructive atmosphere.  A friend gave me a copy of “Abba’s Child – the Cry of the Heart for Intimate Belonging” and in a very simple and beautiful way, I was reminded of God’s deep, unfathomable love for His creation. He is a true Father, He loves us unconditionally – inadequacies, sin, fear and all. I don’t have to hide from God when I fail. I turn to Him, as a true beloved child, crying out “Abba, I belong to You!” and I allow Him to deal with my heart as He desires. We overcome our failures and find healing for our wounds in the embrace of our Father.

If people want to pray for you, they could pray for…?
Wisdom!  In all areas of life. I need it!

Are you married or have you been?  Any kids?  Grandkids?  Pets?
My husband Tom and I are celebrating 39 years together this year. We have a grown son, a lovely daughter-in-law and a beautiful, amazing granddaughter who just lights up our world! We’ve always had pets – right now we are owned by 3 felines. One is an elderly one-eyed little female cat named ‘Friskie’ – and she still is after almost 15 years. Friskie, that is!

One thing many people don’t know you can do?
I’m a bit of an obsessive gardener – I’ve been slowly transforming our originally barren, muddy, rocky two acres into a halfway decent landscape.

What’s the biggest challenge with the landscaping?
My property is not level, and just dragging the mower, mulch, soil amendments and gardening tools up the hill behind our house or DOWN the hill to the stream area is getting a little tougher every year. Not as young as I used to be, you know?

If you had any spare time, what would you do with it?
Well, if I also had a lot of spare money, I’d probably be traveling every chance I had!

Tell us some interesting things about yourself that aren’t already covered.  
I was an Air Force ‘brat’ and spent most of my childhood moving around the country. It wasn’t easy leaving schools and friends every few years but the experience did instill a love for travel that remains today. Only trouble is, I get restless, and still feel like I should be moving every few years!
I’ve been singing and/or playing keyboards since I was a kid. I love most music genres, but I was mostly involved with contemporary Christian worship bands, from the early 70’s until early 2000s. I enjoyed the travel, songwriting and recording and worked with some really talented people over the years.
The theater was always one of my ‘first loves’ and I’ve just recently become involved with our wonderful community theater. A little scary doing auditions at my age, but so glad I took the step in spite of my fear. It has been a great experience, and I have met and worked with some absolutely delightful people. It is never too late to begin a new challenge. Fear is normal but fight the fear and do it anyway – the rewards are well worth it!

Can I ask you to give some advice to “Air Force kids?”        
Dear Air Force kids: you are in for an adventure, you will see amazing new places and meet wonderful new people. Though it may be hard when you’re moving and you once again have to tearfully say goodbye to your BFF, the opportunities to experience different cultures and lifestyles will enrich your life beyond anything you can learn in a classroom. Embrace the life, decide to make it an adventure and who knows, maybe one day you’ll decide to join the service, too. Personally, I think being raised in a military family is probably the best way to grow up!

Charlie, thanks so much for letting us get to know you a little bit.  May God bless you and continue to make your life an adventure.

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