Donna Lanier describes herself as a senior citizen, mother to three daughters, grandmother of several grandchildren, and a retired librarian. She is one of the lovely ladies of the Lydia Sunday School class.
Can you tell me about someone who had a big impact on your life? My parents (and family) gave me a wonderful, Christian legacy. My grandfather and his family started out in a sod hut on the Texas plains when he was eleven. My father owned a Luby’s Cafeteria and was one of four boys. I grew up at First Baptist, Wichita Falls, where both my grandfather and my father were deacons. My birth mother actually died when I was a year old. They found cancer while she was pregnant with me, but there was limited treatment at that time. My dad remarried when I was five, so the mother I have now is the mother who raised me. Her daddy was a preacher and editor of the Baptist Standard back when Kennedy was running for president. My mom’s dad was very much against a Catholic being president because he felt like a Catholic president would owe allegiance to the Pope and the Catholic Church as his first loyalty. He later changed his mind and actually met with President Kennedy. We have a picture of them sitting in rocking chairs in the Oval Office.
How has your life been different than you imagined it would be when you were younger? I can answer that one very easily. Divorce was not in my vocabulary. I envisioned a life like my mother had. She kept the books for the cafeteria and was very involved in the WMU, but she really didn’t work outside the home. I thought I would be a preacher’s wife, taking care of my children and my home. I did not envision my marriage ending after eighteen years and having to start over and raise my children by myself. But God is good. I can remember making a comment during that difficult time that God had blessed me because I could see His protection in so many ways. I also remember people looking at me like I was nuts. I was going through a divorce, had lost a large house and any financial security I thought I had. On the surface, it didn’t look like there were very many blessings in my life. The girls and I went through some difficult times, but I think they came out stronger for it. When you go through something really difficult, it gives you more self-confidence. You did something you didn’t think you could do, survived something you didn’t think you could and that gives you the confidence to believe you can attempt things that you might otherwise assume you couldn’t do.
What are you proudest of personally and professionally in your life? Personally, I am proudest of my children, my three daughters. They are all people of whom I am very proud to say I’m their mother. Professionally I am proud of my teaching time in the classroom, but I most enjoyed my years as a school librarian. As a librarian, I had those kids that loved to read and were looking for a certain book. Being able to put that book in their hand gave me a real connection with them. And sometimes the library is their safe place. That’s a good feeling to be able to provide that place. I think my strength is helping. In the library, that’s what you do. You help.
Thinking about your family many years from now, knowing they may hear this recording, is there anything you’d want to say to them? Any wisdom or advice you’d share? I don’t know. I may have to think about that one and email you. I’m not sure that’s something I could come up with right on the spot. (longish pause). I guess I’d give the standard advice. Love God. Love your family. Which they all do. I would add that I hope they have the courage to be themselves as who God made them. I spent a lot of years trying to be someone that I thought everyone else wanted me to be–parents, husband, and church friends. It took a major upheaval in my life for me to figure out who I was and that that was okay. God gives us all different gifts and we don’t need to try to be someone we are not.
If you have feedback or want to suggest someone for an interview, please email Nathan@pioneerdrive.org.