Reaching Generations: An Interview with Mrs. Mel Cartwright

Dear Readers,

When Mrs. Cartwright read our site, she graciously sent me an interview about her life. We became better acquainted on the phone. I found her a cheerful, optimistic person who reveled in her role as wife and mother and saw the potential of her position at home as something intended for greatness. She has been married for 23 years and has two daughters and a son.

I was impressed with this beautiful family and their cohesiveness and cooperation with one another. Both mother and daughters model and photograph April Cornell fashions from a local store, teach hospitality classes to younger girls, and serve the elderly at social functions. The family also is quite skilled at photography, as you can see. I know when you read about her beliefs concerning the family, you’ll feel encouraged and uplifted. I’ve never heard a discouraging word from Mrs. Cartwright!

A Portrait of Nicole’s Family.

Mrs. Cartwright: The great desire of this house is to give our children the inheritance that the Lord has given us. I am the wife of Pastor Mel Cartwright, and it has been my pleasure to serve him and New Family Life Church for the last 11 years. We have three children: Crystal Marie, 19; Amber Nicole, 17; and Steven Leon ,13. We desire to see our children grow not only in body and intellect but also in spirit. We desire them to follow the example of Jesus in their youth, increasing in wisdom and stature and in favor with men. And we have found it a great joy to truly give them not only our faith but also our own souls.

The Cartwright Daughters Studying and Preparing to Teach A Class of Younger Girls

Lady Lydia: What were some of the family policies you and your husband established for your daughters?

Mrs. Cartwright: Scripture is the foundation on which our home and lives are built. “Behold I and the children whom the Lord hath given me are for signs and for wonders in Israel from the Lord of hosts, which dwelleth in mount Zion” (Isaiah 8:18). Because we love the Lord and his statutes and commandments, we have never chosen to call the laws that we live by policies. We have tried to impart to our children the great privilege and responsibility of our manners and deportment in front of a unbelieving world.

We believe that we have been entrusted with a precious inheritance, and it is our duty to give it to the next generation intact and untainted from the world’s philosophies. Therefore we have raised them with the Scripture as a guide concerning every aspect of their lives. Psalm 119:128 states, “I esteem thy precepts concerning all things to be right and I hate every false way,” therefore scripture memorization and meditation are the heartbeat of our family. It is our desire to raise a generation that will be more noble than the generation that they are a part of.

The Cartwright Children Ready to Attend the Nutcracker Concert.

It is to this purpose that we have loved them, restricted them, chided, encouraged, and hid them. Like Moses’ parents, we have seen that they are children whom the Lord hath graciously given to us, and we have not been afraid to hide them from the world’s philosophies until they are ready for the work the Lord has chosen for them to do.

This is a photo of a hospitality event at church. The aprons were made from the Edwardian pattern we ordered from Mrs. Chancey’s site.

Lady Lydia: What kind of relationship do your daughters have with you and their father and brother?

Mrs. Cartwright: Our children have been raised with a loving, devoted father and have been taught by my deference and obedience that he is the head of this house. They have been taught to serve their father joyfully, to consider him often in prayer and fasting. We have not been afraid to have our children learn disappointment; therefore Amy Carmichael’s saying has become a favorite saying in their preparation for life and service. “Their upbringing forbade them to make much of things appointed” has been a statement we have taken to heart and has helped to produce young ladies and a young man who are very content.

Our children have been taught from the time they were very small to never ask permission to do anything based on what others were allowed to do. We have reminded them often that we are raising Cartwrights, not Taylors or any other family. It has been our joy to teach them Love for others through serving single mothers, their grandparents, and God’s church. Our children are quite blessed to have a father that is not only their shepherd but also their example of what a Godly man looks like, and they look to him for all answers and as the authority on every subject. He has set the standards very high for any young man that will one day head our daughters by loving them and protecting and cherishing them. Although I spend many hours teaching them and listening and praying for them, their father is a constant encouragement and support. Our daughters and our son are not allowed to date or to have an intimate friend of the opposite gender–this includes neither receiving nor calling them. From the time they were small we have reminded them that we have given them to the Lord and because of this we are set apart from other people. We remind our daughters that the Lord has one mate for them, and during this season of their life they are to be handmaidens of the Lord giving their lives to preparation, service, and training for their future mates, children, and future ministries.

We have a very loving relationship with our children; most of our time is spent together. Their father has been very close and encouraging to our daughters. He has shown them through the tender, faithful care what to expect and wait for in their mates. Even though we have family prayer, it is my husband who is last in their rooms at night reminding them who they are and of God’s plan for their life. Both of my daughters consider their father the smartest man in the world and work with their father in the ministry. They do his secretarial work and help every week with the typing of his sermon notes for the congregation. And it is him that they go to for knowledge and instruction. My husband has taught my son to care for and protect his sisters. From the time Steven was small he has waited on them and opened doors for them, and they in turn have learned patience through their care for their brother. I have taught my girls to reverence their father by teaching them to stop whatever they are doing when he enters the house and greet him and take his coat–and this includes us all, even my son. They have been taught to answer him, “Yes, sir,” and they answer me “Yes, ma’am.” They also address all other adults in this manner.. Our family speaks at home school conventions and church services, and it is a great joy to share this with our children. We do not purchase cards for birthdays or holidays but design our own cards for each other.

Ten years ago the Lord called my husband to lead our church in prayer every morning at 6:00 a.m., and when he called my husband our whole family followed. It is now a part of our life that none of us would change. Our children have learned discipline and obedience, and in the process it has become a way of life. And some of our greatest memories have been preparing the night before and rising early that we might meet the people of God in prayer for the body of Christ. They have learned faithfulness, and even if there is a morning I cannot attend or someone is sick, the rest of the family will attend. The drive to prayer has given us much time to remind them of God’s goodness and many lessons have been imparted during that short ride.

Lady Lydia: How did you get your girls to cooperate with you regarding feminine, modest clothing?

Mrs. Cartwright: When I gave my heart to the Lord at 16, I was taught by the mothers at the church I attended what modesty looked like. I prayed as a young girl for the Lord to touch my heart concerning my dress. I wanted Him to be glorified, and I began wearing longer modest clothing. Even though the church changed concerning its standards, the Lord kept me, and I then raised my daughters to do as I did for the glory of God. We would judge what was appropriate by the leading of the Lord and my husband. As my girls grew, my husband and I agreed that if we were going to raise girls that would be different from everyone else we would not make it a punishment but that we would show them the beauty of being feminine by paying attention to everything–their undergarments as well as their outer garments. They have taken sewing class, but we have also been blessed to find beautiful clothing at reasonable prices. When they were younger, it took much training and scrutiny concerning their clothes. Now they are older and have received our standards as their own. One way we taught them to love dressing modestly and in a feminine manner was to give as much care going to ordinary outings as we would going to church. I also paid attention to the seasons in their lives, knowing when it was time to come out of certain things. They were not allowed to wear nylons until they were 16. I wanted my daughters to learn to wait and have something to serve as a landmark in their lives. I did not want them to skip girlhood by moving too fast. This gave them time to learn how to walk in dress shoes and to have something to look forward to. I have seen girls as young as eight years old wearing nylons, and I decided that my girls needed to understand that to everything there is a season. An eight-year-old girl should not have the same privileges that a 16-year-old does.

The Lord had us stumble upon a store in a local mall named “April Cornell” about five years ago. I was so impressed with this store I asked my husband if I could fill out an application for a very small amount of time each week, and he said yes. I had already been home for 14 years homeschooling my children, and we thought this might be a way to take advantage of the discount and help to dress the girls in feminine, modest clothing. When I applied they said yes and agreed to let me set the number of hours I worked, and my daughters were allowed to go with me. Not only did my daughters get the work experience under my care, but whenever they had a need for extra help I was allowed to bring other women and girls from our church, and it helped single mothers subsidize their income. They have all been blessed with beautiful, modest clothing at the same time. We would go to the store maybe 6 to 8 hours a week when our schedule allowed. We have the opportunity of meeting and being a witness in this women’s and girls’ store and have met many homeschooling mothers and daughters there. We were even allowed to borrow clothing and have a fashion show that all our mothers and daughters participated in, entitled “Modesty Revisited.” We modeled casual wear, sleep wear, and clothing for church. I know this was the Lord’s doing, because it has blessed so many people. They would even give me lightly damaged clothing, and I was able to distribute it to women in need. You have never seen so many beautifully dressed, modest women.

These two photos show our daughters with friends we have had for many years. This is on Crystal’s 18th birthday. The girls are wearing April Cornell dresses.

Note: I recently inquired of Mrs. Cartwright about a young, single woman who felt disadvantaged and discriminated against. How can she have victory in her life and go on to develop her talents and discover the great potential that is her? What about the ones who complain that they don’t have enough opportunities, or that their ancestors had a hard life? She answered me thusly:

Dearest Lydia,

This young lady sounds very interesting and very sad. The constant references to her race as an excuse reveals her real problem: a need for Christ. I am a woman of color, but I am a Christian, and that is the one aspect of my life that levels the playing field. I understand what it means to feel discrimination and to be judged by my skin color, however, that is not the sum of who I am. The Lord has allowed me to see the great diverse nation of which I am a part and yet value what He has made me. There is not one of our ancestors that lived through slavery and every other degradation that would allow us to use our color or the treatment of our race for an excuse to do nothing or be nothing.

The richness of our history that I so happily share with my children is the fact that we overcame. I do not know my ancestors, and within my family there is much mixed blood, but in the family of God, I am sure of my bloodline. By faith I stand with those that have washed their robes in the blood of the lamb. The most important thing that I teach my children is their position in the Kingdom of God. “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation a peculiar people that we should show forth the praises of him who hath called us out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1st Peter 2:9). Because this is settled I am free to celebrate my heritage as an American and an African-American.

I have had the opportunity of living near a very wealthy suburb and taking my children there to share in some of the fine experiences of life. In doing this we have encountered people who were blind to our presence, but through this very experience the Lord has given my family dear friends of different skin color and encouraged our family. I am confident and sure that this is more than a skin color problem but a heart problem this young lady has. I belive you do not have to continue trying to convince this young lady, but leave it in the Lord’s hands and pray for her. These are just a few of my thoughts. I have worked very closely with young ladies at a girls’ home, and there came a point when I really had to leave them in the hands of the Lord. It seems that you are at that point with this young woman. This young woman needs ministers and pastors and church, and we cannot do that from the internet. I would encourage her to find a church and prayerfully let her go.

This is a photo of Crystal, who recently wrote a play for the young people at our church. She is with my nephew, who was also in the presentation. It was a wonderful dramatization, and we are still presenting it. She is wearing a Civil War dress made by her friend Aliza Kane. The month of February is Black History Month, and she did a timeline from the 1700’s to the present.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s