The Hundred Story Home: A Memoir of Finding Faith in Ourselves and Something Bigger

The Hundred Story Home: A Memoir of Finding Faith in Ourselves and Something Bigger

by Kathy Izard

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What if you just trusted the whisper of calling placed on your heart?

Kathy Izard was volunteering at Charlotte’s Urban Ministry Center when an unlikely meeting with a homeless man changed the course of her life. She realized that serving at the soup kitchen was feeding her soul, but not actually solving the needs of the homeless population.

Rather than brush it off and avoid what she now felt called to take on, she quit her job and took on what seemed like an insurmountable task—building housing for Charlotte’s homeless.

Woven together with this uplifting story of social action is Kathy’s personal struggle with faith, forgiveness and fulfillment. In telling her story, Kathy invites you to consider rewriting your own.

What’s calling you? As crazy at it seems, it may be crazier not to try. This book will push you to do so much more than you ever thought possible.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780785220015
Publisher: Nelson, Thomas, Inc.
Publication date: 06/26/2018
Sold by: HarperCollins Publishing
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 272
Sales rank: 685,271
File size: 4 MB

About the Author

Kathy Izard was an award-winning graphic designer for twenty years in Charlotte before launching the pilot program Homeless to Homes for the Urban Ministry Center in 2007.  She successfully demonstrated this Housing First program could succeed and led the city-wide effort to build Moore Place which now houses over one hundred chronically homeless men and women.  Kathy has written about her path to finding faith and a calling in The Hundred Story Home which received a 2017 Christopher Award.  Her community work has also earned the Bank of America Neighborhood Excellence Local Hero Award and the NC Housing Volunteer of the Year Award.  Kathy, her husband and four daughters have made Charlotte, N.C. their home for over thirty years. 

Read an Excerpt



We all must leave home to find the real and larger home.

— Richard Rohr

It was the day I will always remember in the year I will always wish I could forget.

Standing on my toes and looking over the edge of her large green drafting table, I watched my mom carefully creating ten works of art. She was curled over in concentration so she could work closer to her pencil. We were in the spacious art studio added on to my parents' bedroom in our new split-level home. My family of five had just moved into this four-bedroom house on the last street of a new development on the west side of El Paso, Texas.

The art studio was a twenty-by-twenty-foot room with vaulted ceilings and natural light streaming in the windows. There were two kilns, easels, canvases, acrylic and oil paints, along with cabinets brimming with other supplies. A cassette player and boxes of classical music tapes filled the room with symphonies while we worked. My two sisters and I were probably the only three little girls encouraged to play Hallmark rather than house. For every relative's birthday, anniversary, or holiday, Mom got out the craft supplies and made us create custom cards. Glitter and glue weren't enough; we had to have a theme, an illustration, and a message, just like a real greeting card. I always thought of this space in our house as my father's love letter to my mom. This was the place where he wanted her to thrive even though she had been transplanted to desert soil.

El Paso was my father's hometown, and a decade earlier my mother had moved there from North Carolina out of pure love for him. All of the houses in our neighborhood were essentially ranch style with added western architectural elements: tile roof, adobe color palettes, and wooden beams protruding over arched windows. Kind of like the Fiesta accent package for Mr. Potato Head. Every front yard had a similar landscape of cactus and rocks — except ours. Mom had softened the rocks with the best of her home state, adding rose bushes and Bradford pear trees to our quarter-acre plot. I don't think the local nursery had ever heard of a Bradford pear tree when my mom insisted on special-ordering four.

As I watched her over her drafting table, Mom was deliberate in her work. Delicate fingers with rounded, clear-polished nails pressed firmly to steady the pencil as she meticulously sketched the wording on the outside of ten four-by-six-inch folded-over cards she had cut from white construction paper. This pencil outline was only a rough draft to ensure the letters were centered and evenly spaced.

Next, she took her deep black india-ink pen, slowly retracing the lines for the letters to emerge. As she finished one, she moved to the next until all ten cards proclaimed in perfect measured script:

You are cordially invited to celebrate the sixth birthday of Katherine Grace Green

For weeks my mom had poured her substantial creative energies into devising a memorable day for me. Mom never remembered having even a store-bought birthday cake for her childhood birthdays, so she vowed that her girls would always know and remember their celebrations. She began by choosing a theme; everything my mother did had themes. The invitations, games, cake, and party favors all required matching motifs painstakingly penned, painted, and baked for the big day. Mom had decided this special celebration for my sixth year would have a cartoon theme. We had been saving sections of the comics for weeks, so Mom handed me the rounded craft safety scissors to cut out a six-inch-long section of the Goofy strip. I pasted it to the inside of a card and then added typed instructions that informed my best friend, Andrea, she was not only invited to my party but she must come dressed as this particular Disney character. Obviously, there would be prizes for best costume.

My mom had already let me pick my character. I chose Linus so I could carry a blue blanket and follow Snoopy (my friend Susie) around. My sister, Allyson, who was only a year and a half older than me, was obsessed with Disney princesses and wanted to be Cinderella so she could wear her blond hair in a bun and twirl throughout the party in a long blue gown.

My mom overruled this costume because Cinderella was not a comic strip, so Allyson unhappily dressed as Lucy from the Peanuts gang. My oldest sister, Louise, was twelve years old and already a lifetime away from wanting to come to her little sister's birthday party. Louise agreed to help babysit the partygoers but refused to be in costume, a huge disappointment to my mother, who loved to dress us in triplicate for church.

Finally the day arrived, and I could see from the kitchen window as my friends appeared at our front door. Andrea as Goofy, Nancy as Minnie Mouse, Beth as Beetle Bailey. Mothers and daughters filled our front porch, marveling over the creative costumes of the guests but, mostly, over the ingenuity of my mom.

"Lindsay, I swear, I don't know how you think of these parties!"

"I can't even draw a straight line much less do calligraphy!"

"I don't know how you have the time."

My mother deflected the compliments, gazing down, shyly touching strands of her chestnut-brown hair set firmly in place at the beauty shop with Aqua Net hairspray. Inside she was glowing with pride. Mom may not have been able to receive the compliments, but it was all true. She was an integral part of the PTA, officer in the Junior League, choir member and Sunday school teacher at First Presbyterian Church, wife and mother extraordinaire.

How did she do it all?

The party, as always, was flawless.

When it came time to blow out the candles, my friends pressed against each other to fit around our round kitchen table. The cake was another work of art baked by my mom. She lit the candles while my friends and sisters sang, "Hap-py birth-day, dear Ka-thy."

"Make a wish!" Mom said.

I hope I get an Easy-Bake oven.

Mom knew that's what I wanted. Tearing into my pile of presents, I spotted the rectangular box wrapped with pages of comic sections so even the gift would be dressed on theme. My own Easy-Bake oven.

This was the Best. Day. Ever.

As the last guest left, I could see the exhaustion in my mom's whole body, and I rushed to press my face against her legs, hugging her lower body as we stood in our front hall. The floor beneath us was a Lucite tile that looked like turquoise and celadon shells floating in a clear sea.

At that moment I truly believed my mother could walk on water.

She stroked the top of my wispy dirty-blond head, and when I looked up at her, she absently moved her fingers to straighten my bangs. Mom looked lost in other thoughts as her fingertips touched the fine hairs that didn't need fixing. Shifting her gaze from my hair to the six-foot countertop, Mom walked slowly away from me toward the kitchen to attend to some task I couldn't see. The counter held a green telephone the color of avocados, matching all the appliances in the kitchen, which were custom painted this exact shade of green. Beside our house phone was the week's mail piled next to her calendar, note cards, and Bible.

Mom held reverence for all three items — two of them to organize her short-term life and the other her long-term destiny.

She always tracked her duties on three-by-five ruled index cards, making careful notes with a four-color Bic pen, clicking the top to dispense the appropriate color. Mom picked up one of the white cards that ordered her busy world and studied the week's list:

Church — cotton balls Sunday School lesson Jr League — committee coffee: bake seven-layer cookies Ballet Carpool — Louise & Allyson Thursday Kathy — party
Picking up her pen, she drew a line through the last item with only a hint of satisfaction.

"Well, that's done!" she said, trying to convince herself of the victory.

It was January 29, 1969.

Within six months my mother would be gone for the first time, and it would be sixteen years before all of her would return.

If I'd known, I would have saved my wish for something more magical than an Easy-Bake oven.

* * *

My dad never saw it coming. No one did.

My parents' old-fashioned love story began when they were college sweethearts and academic all-stars. My dad, John Leighton Green Jr., grew up in El Paso, where, in addition to being an all-state tennis player, he set a high school record for the highest GPA ever achieved. Dad did this while skipping two grades and finishing high school early at age sixteen. After graduation he traveled eight states away to attend Davidson College in North Carolina, where he eventually met my mom, who was attending Queens College thirty minutes away in Charlotte.

My mom, Lindsay Louise Marshall, went to high school in Winston Salem, North Carolina, and was equally gifted. Mom was top of her class, an all-state violinist, and a talented painter. She chose Queens because she was promised to her high school boyfriend, and he had been accepted to nearby Davidson. They agreed going to universities in proximity would keep their love alive until their inevitable marriage. My mom's parents disapproved of this boyfriend, so when the relationship ended her freshman year, Granddad said simply, "We've been praying for this for a long time."

She met my father during her sophomore year. Her friend arranged a blind date and they went to a movie in Charlotte. During this first date, my dad told her he was debating going into either the law or the ministry. My mom, who was rigidly religious and majoring in Christian education, told him flatly, "Anyone going into the law has no business being a minister."

Dad was not deterred by her opinion or by the fact that Mom seemed extremely uninterested in him. He arranged a second date and sent her a dozen red roses.

"Do you know why I sent you the roses?" my dad asked.

"Why?" my mom asked.

"Because I love you!"

"Well, I am not sure how I feel about you," she said, but Dad didn't give up.

Growing up, I used to be teased by my sisters about making "a Dad face" when I was really concentrating. A wrinkling of the brow, a narrowing of the eyes, and a clenching of the teeth. I can imagine my father making this face in his dorm room at Davidson, trying to decide how he would get this soft southern beauty to love him.

On Valentine's Day they went on a special date, and Dad was prepared. This time, he brought his Bible along and read aloud to her from 1 Corinthians 13: "And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love."

She thought it was the most romantic thing anyone had ever done for her and that night told him, "I love you too."

They saw each other every weekend. One night, in a corner of the Davidson Kappa Sig house, Mom said, "You know I have no idea where El Paso is!"

"Why don't you marry me and then you won't have to wonder?" Dad replied.

That was how Mom found herself transferring to the University of Texas at El Paso in January of her junior year. My dad had graduated and was completing military service at Fort Bliss outside of El Paso. Mom would finish her degree in Texas and they would marry that summer. When they were packing her things in the dorm, Mom's English professor had chided my dad, "Don't you take her away from Queens until she graduates. She has one of the best minds I have ever seen."

Neither of them listened.

They married on June 9, 1956, the day after my father's birthday, because he said it was the best birthday present he could ever have. On their first anniversary and every anniversary and Valentine's Day after, Dad sent her another dozen red roses, and they would read 1 Corinthians aloud to each other.

Fully in love, Mom resolutely finished her studies at UTEP. During that drive to her new home 1,663 miles away from North Carolina, I am sure Mom thought hard about what she had done for love. The name El Paso refers to "The Pass in the Mountains," and the city itself wraps around the soaring but treeless Franklin Mountains. Cacti and tumbleweeds are commonplace, and there are more signs in Spanish than in English in this border town.

As foreign as El Paso looked to her, my mom never expressed regrets. My father was the answer to her prayers — the promise of a life filled with God, love, family, and service. She couldn't have foreseen the turns her life with my father would take. Dad switched from divinity school to law school and worked long hours toward his partner track. Mom appeared unstoppable in creativity, motherhood, and civic responsibility. But that new home they had saved for years to buy would become the setting for a much different story.

That year of my perfect cartoon party, 1969, would be the year my mother's brilliant mind shattered for the first time — a blindsiding collision that left all of us with collateral damage.



Finding a sanctuary, a place apart from time, is not so different from finding a faith.

— Pico Iyer

Both my father and my mother would tell you it was faith that allowed us to survive the crash.

My parents were devoutly Christian, both from long lines of Presbyterian ministers and missionaries. My family went to church not just every Sunday but almost all day Sunday. There was Sunday school, then Big Church service, then afternoon youth group, and youth choir.

Every week in Big Church we sat in the same family pew in the First Presbyterian Church of El Paso. There was no plaque or official designation, but everyone reserved it for us anyway. We usually sat in the same order too. First, Poppa, a respected doctor in El Paso for over fifty years. He had delivered babies and then those babies' babies, all while serving at the church and on the local school board. He was so passionate about public education that an elementary school eventually would be named after him, and every child in that school would carry a card to remind them of Poppa's famous motto:

You are as good as anyone; you are better than no one.

Nestled next to Poppa in the pew was Gigi, which stood for Grandmother Green. I adored her. She had enormous brown eyes set under a cloud of silver-blue hair. When she wrapped her arms around me, she would say my name with a playful twist: "Katarina, how are you?" And she truly wanted to know. Always. When she listened, she made me feel as though whatever I had to say was the most vital thought she had ever heard. In her presence, I always felt not merely loved but adored.

We all knew why. Although she was one of five children, Gigi was much younger than her four older brothers. By the time she was five, both of her parents had died, leaving her an orphan whom none of her brothers could care for. Gigi went to live with Grace Walker, from whom I received my middle name.

Grace lived on an estate where she worked as the caretaker of an unmarried heiress. While this was a luxurious setting to sleep in, Gigi grew up in this extravagant home where she was not quite family and not quite servant. She became part of a traveling entourage that moved every three months to catch the best climate in each of the heiress's four estates across the United States and Canada. Gigi was constantly uprooted from school. She grew up with few friends and no sense of family, describing herself a "poor little rich girl."

As a result, Gigi treasured the family she created: two sons, two daughters-in-law, and five granddaughters. My cousins lived in San Antonio, so my sisters and I were the grandchildren Gigi spoiled weekly with sleepovers and long lunches. We would each get invited to her house for our own special dates, and Gigi would feed us her famous chocolate-mint sticks, a secret recipe she never shared, even when the Junior League wanted to put it in their cookbook.

I would curl up next to Gigi on her nubby pink couch and rub my fingers on the raised squares in the upholstery as I talked to her. Gigi patiently listened to all I had to say. She would hold my hand and look at me with those round chocolate eyes that gave her, even in her eighties, a perpetual look of childlike wonder. And she was always wondering. Wondering about me, my sisters, and, really, everyone she met. She truly wanted to know about a person — where you came from, what your story was — because she knew everyone had a story worth telling.

Next to Gigi and Poppa in the pew were my dad, mom, and us three Green Girls. Mom made me sit next to her so she could pinch my leg to keep me still if I started squirming. It was hard not to squirm in church.

Usually I kept my mind busy by staring up at the dark oak ceiling forty feet above my head and wondering how they changed the light bulbs. The timbers curved up in huge arcs on either side of a central beam, and it looked as if I were inside Noah's Ark, which had been flipped upside down. Light bulbs were not supposed to be what I was pondering. I was supposed to be listening to the word of God. But I never felt like he was talking to me.


Excerpted from "The Hundred Story Home"
by .
Copyright © 2018 Kathy Izard.
Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Author's Note, xi,
Prologue, xiii,
1. Six Candles, One Wish, 1,
2. Do Good. Love Well., 9,
3. No Casseroles for Crazy, 15,
4. Headed for Home, 25,
5. A Heart with a Hole, 31,
6. Soup and Salvation, 37,
7. Failure Is Not an Option, 47,
8. Working My Way Home, 59,
9. Going for a Ride, 67,
10. Home Tour, 79,
11. Million-Dollar Larry, 87,
12. Wing and a Prayer, 95,
13. Trash and Treasure, 105,
14. Praying to a God You Don't Believe In, 115,
15. Home Alone, 125,
16. Christmas Miracles, 133,
17. Papers and Prayers, 143,
18. The First Yes, 155,
19. Crazy or Called, 163,
20. Gifts from Above, 171,
21. Bless and Multiply This Small Amount, 185,
22. Just Listen, 195,
23. The Last, Best Yes, 205,
24. I Feel Like People Now, 215,
25. God Was In It, 223,
26. Trust the Whisper, 233,
The Last Word, 237,
Reader's Guide, 239,
Frequently Asked Book Club Questions, 242,
Acknowledgments, 247,
Notes, 253,
About the Author, 257,

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