What a gift this past weekend was! It's so consistent with the character of Christ that when you are called upon by Him to teach or serve or lead, the joy is not so much found in what you were able to give by His grace, but in what you received because of that grace. A few months ago, my friend, Shemaiah (far right), called and asked if I would be willing to speak at her church's women's conference on October 1. Shemaiah was a student in our student ministry when Robert was a University Minister in Stillwater, OK, and we became close friends during that time.
I flew out last Thursday, and first thing Friday morning we met up with two other sweet friends from that same Oklahoma college ministry ~ Jenny and Neena. We spent two hours eating a delicious breakfast at a cool Tulsa,OK cafe (gluten free waffles for me!), catching each other up on our lives and marveling at the glory and majesty of our Lord. I walked away with a full heart from this sweet sisterhood and fellowship, and could not help but exclaim to Shemaiah on the way to her car, "THAT was such a blessing! It is so special to be in the company of those who are following Jesus with all their hearts!"
Oh how I wish I could write for pages about HOW that is playing out in each of their lives, but here's a little summary: Neena's (far left) father, a recent convert to Christianity from Islam, passed away two weeks ago. The funeral was a testimony to his brief, one and a half year, life in Christ, as well as to his Muslim brother who he had been reluctant to tell about his new faith. Neena's brothers had numerous occasion to share the gospel with him. Also, she recently had some long term prayer requests answered in the way of deep fellowship and mentorship with other women. Jenny (second from left) and her husband have been in foster care ministry for a while now, and are helping to bring adoption to the forefront of their church and other area churches. They have rocked and held and loved on many little ones in the past few years and will never know the full impact of their care, but their own little boys will ~ and are already understanding the gospel in new ways because of watching them. And Shemaiah and her husband have been entrusted with many deep griefs and burdens since they got married in the way of illnesses and deaths. They have been caregivers to many, even while Aaron has struggled for years with an ever escalating case of Crohn's disease. Even now they continue to serve the families of the school where Shemaiah teaches as well as those of their church as part time children and youth ministers.
Oh ~ there's so much more to tell about the ways these ladies inspire me, but I'll leave you with just those small nuggets.
I also got to catch up with another dear friend ~ Karla. Karla and I were both married to ministers and in the "having babies" stage of life when I lived in Oklahoma. We became fast friends, but have been out of touch for the last couple of years. I was so happy when she responded to an email I sent letting her know I would be in Oklahoma for the weekend. Not only did she attend the women's conference at which I spoke, but she met Shemaiah and me at Starbucks for coffee beforehand. We had over an hour to do some catching up before the event. Not enough time, but I don't think the time ever really would have been sufficient. Another sister who inspires me by the way she perseveres in Christ in the midst of her own heartbreak and pain.
Saturday evening took us to Slick, OK! That's right ~ Slick. It is just north of Gypsy, OK (thanks, Aaron), and if you are picturing the middle of nowhere, you would be absolutely correct. After a lovely dinner, there was some old-hymn-congregational singing with Teresa, a mini contemporary Christian concert by Stephanie, and a lastly, my talk on surrender to the sanctification process as demonstrated in the life of the Shunammite woman of 2 Kings 4 & 8. I love reading her story and being exhorted by the godly way she responds in each season of her life. I have been able to share this talk to groups of women two other times, and it is a privilege each time.
The pulpit was about ten times as big as me! Fortunately, there was a small platform on which to stand behind it, so that you could at least see my face. There were several sweet, smiling, nodding faces in the crowd of 50 or more ladies, which encouraged me as I spoke.
Sunday morning was time to say goodbye to Shemaiah. I forgot to mention that Friday after the lovely breakfast with friends, Shemaiah treated me to a shopping trip to Mardel (homeschool and classroom supplies galore, Christian books and music in abundance, gifts and cards ~ oh my!) AND a trip to the spa where she got a facial and I got a massage!
Was I spoiled by God's abundant provision and blessing or what? Truly blessed, and reminded that I am not alone in the sanctification process, but rather in the company of many godly sisters ~ even in places like Slick, OK! :)