(Luke 1:28 NLT)
What would you do if an angel suddenly appeared before you with a message from God? (Luke 1:26-38) Then he disappears just as suddenly and you are left with your own imagination. Emotions flood over you – excitement, joy, fear, anxiety, and, perhaps, panic, followed by the need to tell someone what had just happened. Mary couldn’t share this with just anyone, so she traveled to see her trusted relative, Elisabeth. (Luke 1:39-44) Elizabeth confirmed that Mary was indeed blessed, and Mary began to praise the Lord in song. She stayed awhile with Elisabeth and Zechariah, gathering strength for what lay ahead.
In 2002, after 27 years of marriage, I was thrust into an unwanted divorce. I became single and learned to live alone for the first time in my life. My children were all grown and had moved away from the area. I knew that I did not want to make the mistake of rushing into another relationship. I, like Mary, needed to gather strength for my journey. I didn’t know where to turn. Someone suggested that I listen to Christian radio to lift my spirits. I found a station and the music drew me in. They also broadcast some teaching ministries that I learned to enjoy as much as the music. Soon I was on the path back to God and, after a while, felt a longing to be in a church. I prayed that God would place a godly woman (or women) in my life. I really didn’t know anything about living a Christian life.
The first angel that God gave me was Rita. We met through a mutual acquaintance of both of our husbands. I am pretty sure that I see God’s fingerprints all over our chance meeting. Rita was a total stranger, but she sensed my unspoken need, and invited me to her church. It was in a different town so I didn’t have to worry about anyone knowing me and asking, “What brings you here?” I met several other women there and we became family, filling the void in my personal life. I am still in contact with some of those women, but Rita is the one I feel the most connected to. We shared a dark time in our lives and survived it together!
Another woman I met through work. We were both supervisors of school lunch programs in different districts. She moved out-of-state a few months before my divorce and we decided to stay in touch by phone. We spent most Tuesday nights on the phone for an hour or two talking, talking, talking! She has a strong faith and she helped me build mine as “iron sharpens iron.” She challenged me to see things through God’s love instead of through my hurt and disappointment. We live in the same town now and still talk on the phone on Tuesday nights and are enjoying the opportunities to be together in person. She and her husband have become a part of my family.
Reminiscing about these angel friends made me realize that God knew what (or who) I would need long before I did. There have been many godly women in my life. My maternal grandmother was one of them. Her life was filled with examples of faith in times of trial. The wife of a farmer, a mother of thirteen children, living on a small homestead that provided their livelihood as well as the food for their table. There were many tragic events but she never failed to model love for everyone who crossed her path. My earliest memory of any church was attending one of their Seventh Day Adventist Church Revival meetings. Standing under a large canvas tent with everyone singing together stirred my heart. Those old hymns are still among my most favorite worship songs!
I didn’t really see my mother’s faith until after I became a mother myself. We didn’t regularly attend church but she made sure that we attended Sunday school most Sunday’s. I was baptized as a teenager. She taught me how to care for an infant and a home and gave lots of advice on parenting. She gave me the gift of hospitality; there was always room at the table for “one more” and there was always a bed when someone needed one, whether it was for a night, a week, or even longer. She modeled unconditional love in many kinds of relationships. Friendships, spouses, siblings, parent and child, neighbor, and more. She gave me my first book of devotions as a young woman, a compilation of writings from many different authors. I received these from her every year for 30+ years, until her passing in 1998. Those Christian authors nurtured my faith before I found my way back to church. Now I give them to members of my own family.
We never know when a simple act of kindness will spark someone else’s life in some way. My sister-in-law had come for a visit and, when they left, she gave me her copy of Eugen H. Peterson’s “The New Testament Psalms and Proverbs in Contemporary Language” Message Bible. I used it for my first attempt at Bible study and loved that the margins were filled with her notes. That book made me want to learn more!
I have been back home in Nampa for almost nine years now and a member of Trinity Lutheran for eight. One of those angels from my former church had suggested I check Trinity out when I moved to Nampa. She had met Pastor Meggan at Luther Heights and I am so grateful for her suggestion! Pastor Meggan has encouraged me to grow my gifts even before I knew what they were, including story telling! I have lost touch with some of the women who guided me, too many to tell you about here. It’s usually in hindsight that I see the fingerprints of God on my life. I have learned that not all relationships will last a lifetime. The ones that do are very special and need to be nurtured. Occasionally, losing someone turns out to be a good thing. Have you ever heard the song “Thank God for Unanswered Prayers” by Garth Brooks? God places people in our lives for a purpose, or for us to fill a need in their life. If the mother of Jesus needed human reassurance and comfort now and then, it is okay for me too. The best reassurance is hearing that our real strength, and, the only truly unconditional love, comes from God alone. In the process of learning these lessons, I have gained some very valuable friendships!
“There are “friends” who destroy each other, but a real friend sticks closer than a brother.”
Thank you, Father, for the many wonderful women you have placed in my life. You went to great lengths to bring us together at just the right time! You care as deeply for each one of us as you did Mary! Thanks be to God!