Saturday, June 28, 2008

Miss Bonnie, My "Older Woman" Mentor and Friend

I had a delightful conversation with a dear friend of mine the other day, which reminded me that one is never too old to be a "younger woman." Though I am 44 years old, I still need godly, older women in my life to teach and encourage me. One of my dearest friends, next to my mother, is Miss Bonnie.

Now, Miss Bonnie is not a "miss." That's just what our family has always called her. She, in fact, is a widowed Nazarene pastor's wife. Those of you who know me and what I believe about the Bible will at once begin to wonder how she and I could have ever become friends, let alone best friends.

It all began with our Lydia's baby shower way back in 1989. We were living just a mile outside a tiny town called Ellisville, Illinois, a quaint little village nestled in the valley on the banks of Spoon River. The population at that time was 145, including dogs and cats. As you can imagine, the town politics were vicious.

Our pastor told us when we moved there, "What you do up there on the hill (where we lived in the country) is your business. What you do down here in town is another thing." He said this after I was accused of choking my husband in public. Les had, no doubt, said something ornery on the way out of church and I had playfully grabbed him about the neck. It disturbed me that our pastor would take this seriously and rebuke me for it, but I learned quickly how the residents could not only ostracize you for not conforming to their image, but could turn the whole town against you.

By the time our Lydia was born, the older pastor had moved on and had left the members no other choice but to elect my husband as their new pastor. Being the "new pastor's wife" really upped the ante with the local vultures concerning my standing in the community. I think it may have had something to do with us resisting their pushes and shoves in how business would be conducted in the church. Mind you, this was a town run by women -- wicked, conniving, ruthless, cruel, mean, feminist, old women. Becoming the pastor's wife automatically made me a rival for "position." I never saw it that way and refused to be anything but myself. Still, one old witch let me know right away, "Oh, no. You live outside of town. You'll never be accepted here."

Well, when Miss Bonnie, the new Nazarene pastor's wife, moved to town, the first thing she did was hang a bright, cheery floral wreath on the front door of the parsonage.

"Oh, no," she was told. "You'll never be accepted here if you have a wreath hanging on your door."

I
am
not
making
this
up.

The wreath stayed, and the battle lines were drawn.

However, "he that is higher than the highest regardeth; and there be higher than they." (Ecclesiastes 5:8) The Lord in His mercy and blessed sovereignty brought she and I together to love and encourage one another, not only for that difficult season of our lives, but for all those which would follow from then even until now.

She and her husband were transferred before we were able to make our escape. I remember crying like a baby as I unloaded the 20-some boxes of canning jars she left for me. I think I still have some of those.

She came back a few times to visit the area, and we enjoyed our sparse times together. She even had the opportunity to very discreetly let me know on one occasion that my parenting was lagging. (See my post "Where Have All the 'Aged' Women Gone" for more details.) I am convinced that our right-hand-man, Andrew, is the great help he is to Lydia and I today because of Miss Bonnie's loving rebuke.

Miss Bonnie and the children preparing a surprise dinner for me while I was out running errands.
However, the main way we have kept in touch is by telephone. I don't always have time to sit and talk for 2-3 hours at a shot, so I can't afford to answer her calls every time. Yet, just a short message on the answering machine can be all it takes to keep me going when it seems no one cares. She always reminds me that our family is in her prayers, and that means all the world to me.

I answered her call this week, though, and was rewarded with one of the funniest political commentaries I've ever heard in my life.

Regarding Mr. Obama she said, "I think it is deplorable that Barak Obama is using his wife's charm and beauty to promote his presidency! All she needs to be doing is staying home cleaning his wring-around-the-collar and the skids in his shorts."

Oh, my. I nearly fell out of the chair laughing.

As you can see, we talk about everything under the sun and many things beyond it, both in Heaven and on Earth. She tells me what she's learning from the television preachers and teachers on the Christian station, and I politely challenge what they are teaching her. She will ask me doctrinal questions, and I always lead her to Scripture. I ask her about homemaking, child rearing, and her opinion about social and church issues.

This woman actually majored in high school home economics -- even took two years of it in middle school and went on to take it in college as well. She knows everything there is to know about decorating, cooking, cleaning, and crafts. She even has a Cricut and sends me hand-made greeting cards to encourage me. They are always blank inside with a loose, handwritten note so I can pass them on to someone else and won't have to buy a card. ;)

I don't know how many more years I have with my precious "older woman" friend, but I am thankful to God for bringing us together when He did and for keeping us together through thick and thin.

I wish every young wife and mother had a friend like my Miss Bonnie. If you do, why don't you write about her on a blog post and link it in my comment section. I'd love to hear your stories, and it may encourage someone else to either be an "older woman" friend or to prayerfully seek one out.

Our own little surprise for
Miss Bonnie on a later
visit for her birthday.
Notice the confetti.:)