Today I was able to go with my good friend Lisa to visit a good friend in a nearby town. Her name is Margaret.
I have known Margaret for easily fifteen years. I don’t remember the year we met only because I don’t remember dates well at all. When I first met her I had no idea she would become the dear, dear friend she has become. We didn’t have much in common then. Her husband had been the choir director at our church for eleven years by then and had been raising their two daughters. When we met, she was a new Christian and they were getting remarried. In the few years prior, I had never seen her. She did not live in our town.
What I know of her early life could be compared to a the dark and gloomy pieces of a patchwork quilt. They are not beautiful by themselves, but set off the colors of the quilt beautifully. She grew up in a small town, one of three daughters in an affluent and complex family. Her early life was marred by divorce, both that of her parents’ and her own as well. She also wandered. It was in the city that the hound of heaven found her.
When she and her husband remarried, I wanted to be sure she felt comfortable in our church…a medium-sized church in a medium sized town where everyone seemed to know everyone.
I was determined that she was going to feel comfortable in our church inasmuch as it depended on me, but I wasn’t certain if we would have much in common. She was quiet and thoughtful. I am talkative (especially when I don’t know what to do!) and can be intimidating…I guess. I’m definitely the opposite of quiet! It can be difficult for a quiet person to get in their few words. I don’t remember much about our early contacts, but I do remember that within that first year after their wedding, their family was in a car accident while they were on a vacation trip. No one was seriously injured really, but she had a number of after-effects from a head injury that played havoc with her stamina and a variety of aspects of her thinking and processing abilities. Many were quite subtle but they affected many aspects of her life.
More recently, she has been practically shut in with an unusual ailment of her foot that results in pain and difficulty tolerating much activity on her feet. Along with that have come some exacerbations of chronic health issues of her husband. The past six months have been very difficult and with few encouraging signs that the health issues will improve much. There have been added burdens which I won’t mention here, but it would be easy to look at the circumstances of her life and become discouraged.
Today, I interviewed her for my blog during our visit. For the record, she is mother of three, a son and two daughters. She is also grandmother of eight with the youngest just a couple of weeks old. Here are some questions she answered:
How did you come to know the Lord?
It was a long and gradual process. I grew up going to a church where I didn’t hear the gospel. It wasn’t until I was much older (in my 30’s) that I became aware of the gospel through Al-Anon and my sponsor there. That was when I realized that I was unable to fix myself or anyone else. I started going back to church (in a different city). I saw the depth of my sin and need for God. At some point, I became a Christian. As I look back now, I can’t tell you when that point was! It seemed like an onion that was being peeled back.
After the wreck, when I was living in Tyler is when the huge growth happened in my life. I remember the series of sermons our pastor gave on Ephesians and can still recall his preaching on 3:14-21 when he spoke about the vastness of God’s love and forgiveness for me!
I also remember the many individuals (and she listed many on our visit…I couldn’t write fast enough!) who ministered through their life or their friendship or through watching them live through a difficult event or who taught me in classes. God used all those people to help grow me in my faith. (Honestly, I was there and she was like a sponge soaking up all that she was learning. She was always ready to go to a seminar or take a difficult class offered at church or serve wherever needed.)
Then one day, a woman came up to me and said, “Margaret, you have a gift!” I was shocked. “I didn’t think I was gifted at all! She told me that the encouraging notes I sent to people were an unusual gift from God that I had and I needed to use and develop that gift. I have continued to write notes to people in the church as well as missionaries. It is often the outgrowth of my devotions. It has helped me connect with people through a medium that is totally not threatening and has built bridges to many that I was unable to connect with in any other way. Of course, I don’t just write notes. When I was able to get to church, I was also able to see people and encourage them in person.”
How is the grace of God enabling you now?
I have learned that no matter what I face, He will enable and equip me to face it. Early in my illness, I was working through a wonderful study of Job. It was and has continued to be so encouraging. Suffering is part of what we do on this earth, in a fallen world. If God brings it to you it is because He loves you. He is using it to help you depend on Him more, rub off those areas that don’t conform to Him, give you new arenas of service…
The other way his grace has helped me is that I have seen how busy I was rushing here and there. Now I have time to be quiet, read more, study. My life has changed its focus. I’m learning to be content with that. I’ve come to the point where I can say–I wouldn’t take for that!
My comments as someone who watched GOD grow Margaret and who received the benefit of her encouragement as well!
It was wonderful to watch GOD grow Margaret as well as to simply be her friend. GOD used Margaret in the lives of many in our church to be encouraged through her many notes over the years. But I would like to encourage you to understand how these kinds of gifts get developed.
- You reach out to new people in your church in genuine friendship.
- you notice their areas of giftedness and comment on them. Most people don’t recognize their giftedness. They assume everyone is just like they are.
- You offer them ways to express their giftedness and give them many chances to grow in it as well.
These are not difficult or super time-consuming when we have them as part of our church and life culture. It is basically a way of developing our women…all of our people! Can we stretch ourselves enough to think of the best for someone else long enough to encourage their growth as they try new things as they work in the church or community? Making the time to encourage others is well worth the effort.
It’s also fun to watch GOD working in the life of friends both new and old.