The Study Gladys Built

I have written almost every blog post in the study at my house.  It's a special place. It’s a peaceful place. But there’s a backstory.

Let me introduce you to Dr. Gladys Lewis and Greystone Close.

We live in a house we never dreamed we’d own, and it was built by Gladys Lewis. Gladys and her husband, Dr. Wilbur Lewis, were somewhat of a power couple around Oklahoma City in the early eighties and nineties. They spent time as medical missionaries in Paraguay and started the Baptist Medical-Dental Fellowship, an organization of Christian physicians and dentists.  They were followers of Jesus and faithful members of the historic First Baptist Church of Oklahoma City.

Wilbur, a respected surgeon, and Gladys, a well-educated doctor of English literature, were enjoying a vacation in Colorado. They were skiing at a place our family has also enjoyed throughout the years.  

Wilbur came down the mountain and was scooting himself toward the restaurant at the base when he hit an unmarked drain surrounded by concrete.  His skis came to a screeching halt, but his body continued forward. He was thrown face-first into the snow, which left him with a severe spinal injury that paralyzed him from the neck down. The exact definition of his condition was ventilator-dependent quadriplegic.  That type of injury is often referred to as the “Christopher Reeve” injury. They never thought Wilbur would live to see the emergency room. He lived eleven years.

He would later write his own description of his life:

“I am a general surgeon who was a medical missionary for ten years in Paraguay and in private practice in Oklahoma City for twenty-three years. My life suddenly changed in a few seconds from a life-care provider to a life-care recipient."

Gladys has written a fabulous book about this journey in their lives entitled, Valley of the Shadow. I bought every copy I could find. Gladys is a gifted writer and communicator. Gladys is the first lady who came along who reminds me of another great writer and friend, Gloria Gaither. (Check out Gloria's blog here!) 

Gladys was determined to care for Wilbur in their own home.  To accomplish that heroic endeavor, they needed a new home.  

Greystone close for web.jpg

I’ll let Gladys tell the story of the house: “With the plans in hand, the land prepared, and the house footprint chalked on the ground with crime scene tape around it, we invited a host of friends to the groundbreaking for Greystone Close, our design-specific house for Wilbur’s needs, the house that would become a new stage for the rest of our drama.”

Greystone Close is the name Gladys chose for the home.  

In Gladys’ words, “a close in British planning is a small street or exit from a main street without a thoroughfare. It becomes a closed system, a private world. Greystone fits my love for British art and culture and is a name I love for many reasons."

Six years after Dr. Lewis died, the time came for Gladys to sell the home. Due to the back part of the home being somewhat of a hospital, potential buyers were unable to see a diamond in the rough.  

A close friend and local home builder called us one day, let us know about the house, and wanted us to see it.  Once we were inside the house, we knew it was home.

At that point, we didn’t know the story.  

Our builder bought the house and began a slight remodel that would make it a perfect home for us. As we waited for the remodel to be complete, we received a copy of one of the books Gladys had written. She told us we might find it of interest because it mentioned the house and described the process of designing and building it.  Kim spent the weekend devouring the book. It became clear to us that we had not purchased a home, we had inherited a treasure. 

In June of 2010, we became the official residence of Greystone Close. We offered to remove the engraved stone “Greystone Close” from the mailbox and give it to Gladys as a keepsake.  She graciously declined and insisted we allow it to stay with the home for which it was intended. It remains to this day, and will as long as we are the owners.

There is one more important story that was unfolding in our lives as we prepared to move into the home. Kim’s father, Roy, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in August of 2009. As was our custom, we never made a financial decision without the advice of Kim’s mom and dad.

The day we walked into the front door to see the house for the first time, Roy quickly proclaimed, “Your patience has paid off. This is a special place.”  

Kim’s goal was to be moved into the house for Roy’s 75th birthday on June 27, 2010.  Not knowing how much longer we might have Roy with us, she planned quite a party. We made the move into the house, and ten days later, we welcomed nearly a hundred guests to celebrate what would be his last birthday on earth.  

Later in the day, after the party, Roy asked me if I knew who owned the vacant lot across the creek.  I told him I’d find out--I knew what he was thinking. Roy died in December, and his wife, Norma, moved into a beautiful new home a few years later, on the other side of the creek. We love having her close by.

Back to the study. What was once the place where Dr. Gladys Lewis wrote her books, sat by the fire, and graded papers is now our study.  

Gladys had no idea when she built Greystone Close that the very walls which brought her peace and joy would one day bring joy and serenity to us.  
Teagan in the study

The photo shows our grandson, Teagan, sitting in the windowsill at Christmas time. The windows are what we call chapel windows. The room is so special.

When Gladys occupied this study, she did so as one with a master of arts degree in creative writing and a doctorate degree from Oklahoma State University with a specialization in American and British literature. I find it quite humorous that the current occupant of the study has no such credentials.  But if these walls could talk...and oh, how I wish they would.

This study is the place where God and I meet weekly. This is the place where I wrestle with weekend messages. This is the place where I face my limitations. This is the place where God is so close, yet the enemy constantly bangs on the door of inadequacy. This is the place where Thursday afternoons are spent finishing, finalizing, and clarifying what will be printed, spoken, and seen on the weekends at this place called Crossings.  

Occasionally, on a Saturday afternoon when I’m going over notes, two special little boys--my grandsons--show up and come to the study. I cut papers that become tickets. A stapler is the hole punch for the ticket taker, just like at the Thunder games. I write their names on the paper and they take turns stapling the tickets and welcoming all kinds of people to the house.   

Both of my grandsons have also inherited my love for cars, so the study is often visited by cars that have been driven from the playroom to the study. Sometimes the large Walmart semi-trailers that I bought them at the Walmart museum arrive in the study packed full of cars that made the journey down the hallway.

The day will come when those boys are grown men, and they may come into the study to just sit and remember. In case they do, I am fully invested in making sure they have fond memories to recall and ponder.  After all, they are the the third generation to have memories in this wonderful room.

This study is the place Gladys most likely prayed for the strength to care for a husband she loved.  It was a place she graded the tests and papers of students who would become great teachers and writers.  This was the study where she studied God’s word and found strength to walk a path most of us could not begin to imagine.  This is the study she saw before it had any shape or form. This may have been the hardest part of the house for her to leave when the last box was carried to the truck.  

Some people are so gifted they can write music or even books while riding the subway. Not so with me. Preparing my mind and soul for writing or preparing weekend messages always involves an atmosphere that inspires me, great music that inspires personal worship that words often cannot express.  

I have found that place in the study at home.