I recently met a sweet forty-something-ish woman, at a ladies day where I was speaking, who was electric in her conversation. I mean this woman just drew you into her facial expressions and gestures. She made you want to get to know her; to know who she was and what made her tick. Let’s call her “Meredith”. You could tell that Meredith enjoyed life and that she was definitely a “people person” . I enjoyed her enthusiasm about the ladies day we were attending and I learned from Meredith as she asked another lady present how she could encourage a sister who was not present. I learned that her home congregation was another hour or so east of where I was at that moment and that her ladies were busy planning their own retreat for the very next weekend and that my daughter, Hannah, and I would get to be with this positively infectious personality again at that upcoming retreat.
So there she was at this beautiful lodge the very next weekend. Meredith was one of the first to arrive from her job teaching pre-K children on that Thursday afternoon. She came in with the same wonderfully focused and quiet zeal that I had previously seen. This weekend she brought one of her friends from work with her. She was the only person at this ladies retreat who had been successful in bringing a visitor with her. I loved getting to know her co-worker who had even brought along her young son who visited politely and then diligently worked on homework in another room. Both of these pre-K teachers had taken the following day off for this spiritual activity. This visiting lady spent one of our break times telling me how important her friendship with Meredith was and indicating to me how very influential Meredith had been in her life.
Throughout the weekend I heard about the times Meredith has lead the ladies Bible study and I watched her interact with the younger women on the topic of evangelism. I tasted the yummy enchiladas at Saturday lunch and learned that they were her signature “easy recipe”. Then one of the younger women came in on Friday night and drew us into her conversation about her boyfriend, who is deeply involved in a study of New Testament Christianity, but is struggling to overcome biases from denominational family members. I watched and listened as Meredith shared the excitement about this searching heart and gave encouragement to this young woman who desperately wants to reach this soul with the gospel of Jesus. Meredith helped her with scriptures and with reassurance about the power of the Word.
During every lesson, Meredith sat wide-eyed, absorbing the Word and its applications. Never pretentious, in her jeans and pink sock feet, Meredith took notes and nodded her approval of the points being made. By now, I knew that she was the kind of person I wanted to put in my giant Thirty-One bag and bring home with me. I could tell she would be a blessing to whomever she met and in whatever context she smiled that infectious smile.
It was the last moment of the retreat and Meredith had been asked to lead the closing prayer. We went around the room asking for prayer requests. Just before she bowed her head, one final minute was given for any last request, at which time Meredith said, “Two things. Please remember my friend Lori.” (Lori was the friend she had brought along to the retreat, who had, incidentally, already left.) “…And remember me. I’m going to a new neurologist to see if he can help me.”
So I had to ask the question: “Oh?…What’s wrong?”
“Well, I’ve had these issues with my muscles and my bones,” she said. By the time I finished asking questions and she finished answering, I learned that her body is chilled much of the time, her right side is often numb and sometimes partially paralyzed. She has trouble with memory loss and putting the right names with faces and cognitive skills. The doctors have been thinking Multiple Sclerosis, but tests for that have been negative. The new neurologist is her hope of finding some answers.
Now, just think about this with me. Almost any one of us, experiencing those symptoms would have dismissed the prospect of a three day ladies retreat (much less the visitor accompaniment, the ladies day the weekend before, the leading of a Bible study, the evangelism and encouragement, and the help with food) as something extra-curricular for which there was surely not adequate stamina. Meredith’s synopsis at the end of the retreat was something along these lines….”I wouldn’t have missed this for the world. It was just what I needed to be focusing on right now…being holy and how to see all the blessings in my life.”
“I wouldn’t have missed this for the world.” So many of us have it backwards. We aren’t willing to miss the world—its momentary pleasures– for all the holiness and blessings God has to give us. How sad!
I want to be more like Meredith. I don’t want, for the whole world, to miss a thing He has for me.