My Life

Sheryl Sparks
September 1, 2008

Today I am a grown woman; actually I am an old woman.  I will be 50 years old on my next birthday.  I remember being a child thinking “How old will I be when it’s the year 2000?”  I remember it seeming so far away.  Now it seems so far back.

I was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma on March 4, 1959.  My parents are John D. and Nancy Marie Setser.  My mom told me of my birth; she was asleep and my dad went to work. He waited for someone to call when the time was close.  I have a picture of a sign my daddy made for the front yard.  It said “Welcome home Sheryl Sue and Marie”.  He put flags up like they used for real estate and people stopped to ask about the house.  As I write that, I have an unusually warm feeling of being wanted. 

My earliest memory was when my daddy masked off the front picture window to look like mullions.  Then he used flocking from a spray can to make it look like it had been snowing outside.  I sat on the couch and watched, having no clue what it was going to be.  He loved Christmas and was always very involved in our celebration preparations; really, for all holidays.  I never really realized how sentimental he was until it was too late to appreciate it.

Another thing I can remember is my momma standing at the kitchen window rinsing out the coffee pot. It must have been very early in the morning because the sun was shining through her hair.  I also have a very vivid memory of when she got her first dishwasher.  Some man came to the house and took out the cabinet next to the sink.  I thought it was for me to play house in and the men had a hard time keeping me out to install the dishwasher.  Momma was very pregnant with my sister Jana, who was born April 1, 1961.

I have a vague memory of when my sister was born.  I went to stay with my Aunt Jane and Uncle Ren.  My cousin, Larry, who was somewhat older than me, had the coolest room!  He and his dad built model airplanes and hung them from the ceiling.  To me it looked like thousands.  That evening, my Aunt put me in the kitchen sink for a bath while she was cooking dinner.  I am sure it was in self defense because I am told I was quite the handful.  I remember thinking how special it was that I could see out the window.  Larry was out there with some of his friends and they were playing with a brand new hula hoop. 

My Aunt Jane used to love to tell the story about when they took me home.  Being anxious to hear what I was going to say about my new baby sister.  Upon entering the house, I immediately pointed at my momma’s feet and said “look, new house shoes.”  I apparently didn’t even acknowledge my sister for a couple of days. 

Our parents raised us in Tulsa. My father was a Certified Public Accountant who wanted to be an Oilman.  My mom was a stay at home mom who always had a great snack for us when we got home from school.  My favorite snack was when she would make yellow cake with thick chocolate frosting.  Nothing was better than a big piece of cake and a cold glass of milk. 

Our yard was always manicured to perfection.  My parents enjoyed this activity together and took much pride in what they would accomplish.  They would sit on the patio for a visit with a cold glass of tea when their work was done.  I can almost hear them laughing together.  There was always laughter in our house.

The year I graduated from high school, my parents took us all to Hawaii for a 10 day vacation.  This was my first time on an airplane as we always took vacation, but drove in the car.  What an adventure it was and it was stretching my daddy!  You see, he and his partner were drilling their first oil well while we were gone. The first few days, it seemed everything we did was very calculated, literally.  My daddy wasn’t known for being tight and he was being unusually cautious. When we got to the island of Maui, my parents took an evening for themselves.  My sister and I had room service and were glad to have the time together.  The phone rang and it was my daddy’s partner.  I could tell that it was important the moment I gave daddy the message upon their return.  I can see him in my mind's eye now, sitting on the edge of that hotel bed, talking in a very quiet manner.  I truly did think someone had died or something, it was that solemn.  Suddenly the receiver hit the cradle and my daddy hooped!  The oil well came in flowing!  Well, the cash began to flow and the vacation got extremely better!  The next night he took us to the fanciest restaurant I had been to in my life.  At least that is how I perceived it.

I had a job all through high school working retail.  I always liked sales.  My daddy used to tell people, “She can sell a dead cat”.  At the time I didn’t see that as a compliment.  However, I do believe that is a God given gift. I learned a lot on that job, not only about how to sell, but about people.  One very hard lesson was when some of the girls shared with me how they were stealing clothes and wanted me to participate.  I couldn’t. I didn’t understand then but I know now that the Holy Ghost was grieved by this.  I couldn’t sleep and I was very uncomfortable at work.  I really felt loyal to my boss and his wife because they had been very good to me.  I had gained a great deal of responsibility at my job and had reason to be alone with my bosses.  One afternoon, I couldn’t stand it any longer.  I told them everything I knew and I was very relieved when my boss came up with a plan to protect me from the others.  They never knew.

In 1980, I met Terry Sparks, of Terlton, Oklahoma.  He was most handsome and very shy.  I tell people now that I am surprised that he even talked to me.  We were introduced by my cousin Lori, who was dating and eventually married Terry’s brother.  Our courting was short as we were married nine months later, February 14, 1981. 

We were both driven to be successful.  Terry had already started working in the oil field as a logging and perforating engineer.  Within a couple of months of our marriage, we started our own company called Elite Wireline, Inc.  We specialized in only cased hole oil well services.  Terry operated the truck and I kept the books.  We were very busy and driven to be the best.  This was before computers so every bit of the paper work was done manually.  Looking back on that it seems like quite a feat!  We’ve both worked and built that business ever since.  Elite Wireline has come into the new millennium as a state of the art service company.

In 1984, we had our first child.  Shana Kay Sparks, the delight of her parents.  She was small and very fragile, coming into this world at 5 lb 3 oz, 21 inches long.  The doctor said she was about 2 weeks premature.  My milk wasn’t sufficient to nourish her. She lost weight and was put back in the hospital for “failure to thrive”. I was devastated!  However, very relieved when they told me she was fine, but just not getting the nutrition she needed.  We began to feed her formula and she began to gain weight but not very fast, as she would throw up as much as she got down.  One day, we were at my grandmother’s house.  I had already changed clothes twice and she could see my frustration.  Shana was about 4 months old and still wore new born clothes.  My grandmother was standing at the refrigerator holding a gallon of milk.  She said “Sheryl, if you give that baby whole milk it will stay down.  It will curdle bigger and not come up.”  I remember the look on her face, very determined that we were going to try it.  I started crying telling her how I was afraid.  She said “Of what, food?  If it doesn’t work you can go back to what you are doing.”  She put that milk in a bottle with a little Karo syrup and Shana went to town and kept it down.  Before long she was a pudgy little thing.  The doctors were pleased and never knew the difference.

She didn’t walk until she was about 14 months old.  Not even interested.  One day Terry brought home a new truck.  I saw him driving in the road down at the shop. Our house was next to our business.  I had several people at the house and we all walked out onto the patio to see him drive in.  She followed, crawling onto the hot concrete.  Realizing that it was hot, she stood up and walked over to the grass.  That was all it took and she pretty much has walked confidently ever since.

Our far biggest struggle was in 1988 when I became pregnant again.  At 15 weeks I had a miscarriage.  I was home alone with Shana and really didn’t know what to do.  It was very sad for me.  Soon after, I began to have serious health issues.  My joints began to swell and I was becoming more and more unable to care for my own personal needs.  We went to doctors and tried many drugs for approximately 2 years, but nothing seemed to alleviate the symptoms. 

During this period of time, our church had called a new Pastor, Dr. Jim Standridge.  He and his wife Connie knew of a nutritionist in Grand Lake, Colorado named Elaine Busse.  I was privileged to be able to work with her for many years.  I owe my health today to the Lord Jesus Christ and her obedience to Him.  I know in my heart of hearts that I would not have survived this tragedy if Jesus had not intervened with her willingness to try to help me. 

Also, during these years, many women and men of the church took turns helping Terry and I with Shana, caring for her when I needed to be in Colorado.  One special time I can remember, one day I woke up craving brown beans.  I hadn’t been craving anything and really wasn’t eating much other than vitamins.  I made a call to Miss Connie, knowing that she would fix me some.  She wasn’t home, but Bro. Jim answered the phone.  I shared with him why I was calling and I am sure he sensed my disappointment when she wasn’t home.  The next thing I knew, there was a pan of beans on my front porch.  He had called her and asked her how to make them and he prepared them himself.  One of the most sincere sacrifices of love I have been bestowed.  These people have truly changed our lives and I will always be blessed for having known them and benefited from their ministry.

My daddy passed away in December of 1993.  I was very ill and actually, he was taking care of me.  He had had a heart attack and bypass surgery in 1981.  His health had been pretty good during that time except for a few glitches which the Lord used to test our faith.  He was allergic to penicillin and when he had gotten an infection after some dental work, the antibiotics available to him were not effective.  The infection had attached itself to the synthetic material used to repair his heart and he died.  It seemed sudden and unexpected.  I was almost dead myself, weighing 89 lbs and listing to the right.  It was a very devastating time for my family, the whole family.

That January, Terry put me on an airplane to Denver.  I got on that airplane not knowing if I would see Shana or Terry ever again.  I knew I was dying and if God didn’t intervene I was going too. I still remember sitting in the Denver airport waiting for Elaine. Watching the people who took so for granted their ability to walk and move freely.  I was mostly taken with the fact that I was not bitter or angry about it.  Amazingly at peace.  I can say I truly understood grace that day.  I thought specifically of what Bill Bowman had said to me, “You won’t have dying grace on a non-dying day.”  I can say that you can sit and have a grace that is unexplained.  I actually believe that there is a grace far greater than dying grace.  I just don’t have a name for it.

During one of the episodes with my daddy, a doctor asked my daddy’s pastor “What are they doing? They are laughing and telling stories.  He is dying!”  The pastor responded, “It’s just the act of dying that is unknown, John knows where he will spend eternity.”  A confidence in that kind of grace is what I am talking about; a grace that has a voice.

During the 4 weeks I stayed with Elaine on that trip, I got better.  An absolute miracle!  When I came home, the ladies of my church took turns taking care of me and my family.  Sabrina Miller was gracious to make a schedule and recruit the people for such a great task.  It was hard for the people who loved me to come and not understand that I wasn’t going to a doctor.  However, I am told that my experience changed our body.  It has had a lasting effect on me and many of our church and town.  I take no glory for what the Lord has done or really for what He has taught me.  His grace is sufficient for every grief. The lessons learned through a time of testing, will sustain you in the next.  Allowing the Holy Ghost to touch you, heart and soul.

I am now living my dream!  I always wanted to have a place where being creative was the priority. A couple of years ago, Terry and I hired a consultant to come and help us perfect our business, Elite Wireline.  We were too big to stay a “Mom and Pop” business.  We had to “get off the porch” as some would say.  He advised Terry that he should let me go and follow my dream.  It was a hard for choice for both of us.  I really wanted a chance to do something that felt fun and invigorating.  To have a studio dedicated to helping people find their creative side.  That place some don’t even know is there.  I do believe that is a place that allows you to create with the Holy Ghost, a place that is freeing with an energy that can’t be explained.  Some people call “it” the feeling a “muse”, I believe that it is God.  It is too perfect to be anything else. 

So, my next birthday, I will be 50 years young.  I want my grandchildren (and grand nieces and nephews) to call me  “ZsaZsa”.  I want to keep learning.  I can’t get enough of the Word of God.  Understanding the deeper things of Him gives me inspiration to create, to draw, to letter . . . .

I hope to meet you at SparksFly Studio!  Sheryl Sparks