Rebecca West: Words & Music

an autobiography by Rebecca Lynn West

Chapter 1


It was May 2008.

I had tennis shoes on and I was running in water that almost covered my shoes. Then I came to a field of tall thickets. I was running so hard that I was out of breath. Running faster and faster and faster! All of a sudden I looked up. Right in front of me was a large mountain covered with beautiful green grass. Directly behind this mountain was the biggest and brightest sun I had ever seen! The sun was so hugh it filled the sky! Glowing! Brilliant! Magnificent! I stood in amazement looking at the sun.

When I awoke from this dream, I was literaly out of breath, as if it had actually happened! But this dream gave me hope. I knew that one day I would reach the mountain where the sun would shine on me again. It was in my thoughts constantly, and even now as I write about it, it is as clear in my mind as it was the night I had the dream. I will never forget it. I think we all need a dream to hold on to.

Although my journey to this mountain has led me through troubled waters and fields of thickets that brought me pain, it has led me to my God-given destiny.

It has taken great courage for me to write my story. But if it is a blessing and encouragement to you, it is worth it.

Be encouraged, allow God to be your guide, and you will discover as I did, at the end of the long and winding road, there awaits a golden sun!

Back on October 26, 1943 in the small southern town of Carmi, Illinois, a baby girl was born -- so tiny, so fragile, weighing in at seven pounds. That was me. My parents, Reverend and Mrs. C. A. Wagner, already had one daughter, Barbara Joan. My aunt Alpha suggested the name Rebecca Lynn to my mother. When my mother heard this name, she loved it. My father always called me by my full name, Rebecca Lynn. My mother called me Becky, and most of my friends called me Becky. But my God-given name is Rebecca, as you will learn in another chapter.

As a small child, I had asthma. My dad would carry me on a pillow when I had trouble breathing. I eventually outgrew the asthma, but much later in my adult life when I was under great stress, the asthma surfaced again.

We moved several times over the years as my dad pastored different churches, but Carmi was the "home place" we returned to.

I was always the new kid in school. I did not have the opportunity to develop close friendships with my classmates because we moved so many times. I always felt like an "outsider" because of this.

For most of my early school years we lived in East Alton, Illinois, where my dad was the pastor of Bethel Pentecostal Church on Lincoln Avenue. My music career began there singing solos in the church when I was three years old. My sister still has the recording of my singing debut. Mom played the piano and sang like an angel. Dad played the guitar and Barbara played the accordian. And I sang my heart out! I loved singing even at that age.

Dad bought me a small 12-bass accordian, but it only held my interest for a very short time. I wanted to make up songs and play them instead of playing church songs! Dad took me and Barbara to a piano teacher once a week for a long time, but he found out that my interest in playing the piano was not there. I enjoyed it to an extent, but I just wanted to make up songs to sing just for fun.

Mom would come out to the church where I was supposed to be practicing the accordian for the church service that night and find me playing "Lady of Spain" instead. It was my favorite song to play on my 12-bass accordian, and I played it over and over because I thought the chord changes were so beautiful! My instrumental music career did not last long, but my singing continued. I loved singing as much then as I do now. Singing is my heart and joy!

I have so many wonderful and hilarious memories of growing up in the 4-room parsonage there in East Alton. Our "parsonage" was connected to the church, and we had no privacy. We could open the door from my mom and dad's bedroom, which also served as my dad's office, and we would be on the platform of the church auditorium! How is that for "too close for comfort!" Yet, it was heaven on earth to our little family. We loved each other and learned so much during those years. I have fond memories of dad sitting at his little desk, hour after hour, studying for his next sermon.

My "roots" were here in this place. It was the foundation of my life. We had church services five times a week! That was my world. One night I told my mother that I wanted to be saved. It was during a church service. Mom was playing the piano so beautifully and it touched me deeply. So, that night at the age of 12, I gave my heart to God.

I remember my dad's strong hugs. I also remember my mother's gentle ways and how she always helped me with my school homework, usually late on Sunday night after church. She could fry chicken like no one else and make raisin pies for dad. Maybe that's why I love raisin pie! I remember going to the grocery store for mom, and I was always nervous because I couldn't tell the difference between lettuce and cabbage! I usually came home with the wrong one.

My parents' love for me is forever etched in my memory. I am so thankful for the way I was raised and for the wonderful heritage of knowing Jesus.

I had a great imagination as a child!

I also imagined myself on television. I would "broadcast" from an open bedroom window to my friends who were sitting outside in a row of chairs. I would cut out magazine photos to use when I did a "commercial" on my imaginary TV show.

I would "pretend" that I was crying and touch my eyes with a tissue like the ladies did in church. They always fascinated me!

Little did I know that some 50 years later I would cry a million tears from a heart-breaking divorce. But my dream came true at one point in my life when I became the guest coordinator and co-host of a local television station!

When mom and dad retired, we all moved to Bethalto, Illinois, a small town near St. Louis, Missouri. My sister Barbara and her husband Fred lived there also. During this time I started traveling and singing with "The Spirituals," a gospel singing group that Fred and Barbara had started. And like that little girl at age three in my dad's church, I was still singing my heart out. But this time it was to thousands of people in churches and auditoriums all across the United States.

It was a wonderful and exciting time in my life, but it brought many changes...

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