"I always thank my God as I remember you in my prayers."
~ Philemon 1:4
Who do you run to with your joys and sorrows?
For the past many years, I have been blessed with cherished friendships near and far. My friendship with Martha was one of them. Often, she would call excited to share happy news or whatever was on her mind. I remember vividly the phone conversation about a fluffy puppy she and her husband had fallen in love with—they named him “Muffin,” or “Muffy” for short. The adorable pet liked to perch on the white ottoman in the dining room near the window, waiting for Martha and her husband’s return home.
I, too, enjoyed calling Martha or visiting with her in their beautiful home on the hill. I remember sitting in the breakfast nook overlooking their wide back yard rimmed with a row of newly planted pines, Pikes Peak framed in the windows. There, as young women, Martha and I sipped iced tea or pop and shared our goals and dreams, or things we’d learned from Scripture that week, or laughed over the humorous things that took place at the elementary school where I then taught K-6 general vocal music and 5th-grade creative writing. Martha was the school counselor, and her miniscule, pie-shaped office was directly across the hall from my spacious room built in the round. Between classes, I practiced my piano offertories for church while I waited for students to file in, and sometimes she stood silently in the back of the room, just listening.
From the first day I met Martha, we clicked. Our mutual love for Christ, classical music, and good books were the common bonds, and over time, we became prayer partners—she a newlywed, and I fresh out of college. I noticed almost immediately that Martha had the gift of a listening heart and, like Ella Mae in my Hickory Hollow novels, she rarely offered advice unless it was requested.
As I write this now, I think of Martha’s Homegoing, five months ago to the day, and I am grateful for our longtime friendship. Years ago, she appointed Dave and me to be her co-trustees since she’d had no siblings or children, and her husband was deceased. This week, after returning home from the closing of the sale of her house, I reached for my phone, eager to tell her about my day. Then I froze. “She’s gone,” I whispered, feeling sad all over again.
I had been so accustomed to the habit of sharing with her whatever was happening in my life that I’d forgotten she wasn’t there on the other end of the line. It wasn’t the first time, as I’d caught myself reaching for my phone to call my mother for years after she passed away. Still, the need to talk to Martha as always before was intense. I so longed to be able to tell her that the long weeks of meticulous sorting and cleaning and preparing her house to be listed were finally over, and a wonderful young couple with four darling children would soon make new memories in that beautiful house on the hill.
Sighing, I sat near my writing desk and began to pour out my heart to the One who is always there, our Lord Jesus. The ultimate listening heart, ready to receive our joyful news and our heartfelt cries—our dearest and best friend, “. . . who sticks closer than a brother,” Proverbs 18:24 declares.
During this amber autumn month of October, I look forward to connecting with longtime friends while making new ones and being a good listener like Martha. Like her, I also desire to point the lonely and hurting to our precious Savior and Friend who is unselfish, gracious, and kind. As it says in John 15:13, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”
1) By now you may have read The Heirloom and are looking for a Reading Group Guide for your book club. You may find it at this link: https://www.beverlylewis.com/books/reading-group-guides
2) Thanks very much for posting your reviews on Amazon.com, friends. This alerts other fiction readers to the launch of The Heirloom. Also, I'm delighted to read your special online notes sharing with me how Ella Mae’s backstory has touched your own life. Thanks, too, for all who joined me at the Facebook Launch Celebration last month—a very special time!
3) Also, in keeping with Pastor’s Appreciation Month, my sister and I have created a lovely new card to show your gratitude for the church leaders in your life. You may order that card and a variety of others here: http://www.amishcheer.com