This is so fun! I’ve decided from time to time to feature new friends that I meet. I’ve been intentionally making new friends each week and asking them deeper questions than I normally would. I love it! Once when a group of friends were talking about traveling and wanting to see all the places in the world, I sat quietly for a minute thinking “I just want to meet all the people.” I get to meet them and get to know them so deeply in my counseling office, but to get to know people from all over the world–the way I know my clients–that would be my dream. So I’ve set out to really get to know the beautiful people God has made. All so different, all so unique, all so wonderful!
So for my first featured new friend, let’s call her “Ms. Janie.” I want to protect her identity for now because she was so vulnerable with me and frankly, I am in the business of secret-keeping. So, even though she gave me permission to write about her on my blog, I’d like to give her a different name. Just in case in reading, her words feel too exposing.
I’d just finished up running my mile around the track at the Y when I noticed Ms. Janie walking her laps. I kept feeling pulled to talk to her, but I made a loop or two first. Finally, I walked up beside her, found her pace and said outright,
“I bet I could learn some things from you.”
She grinned the prettiest grin. “Yes, child, I bet you could.” And I began to ask, without even getting her name,
What is the best decision you’ve ever made?
She had no hesitation about that one. She was excited to tell me
Oh following the Lord, Jesus. I don’t know how anybody can make it without Him!
I agreed and we talked about the Lord and her love for Him and my dependence on Him. Then I asked about another decision she made that maybe changed her path and she was thankful she chose it. She told me that marrying the man she married over 40 years ago was the second best decision she’d ever made. “Me too!” I said. I had just recently answered the same question for Kelli Bethea, our dear friend and babysitter who has inspired me in asking deeper questions and truly learning from the people around us. Kelli had made me really think back on my life’s decisions, and there is no doubt that marrying Kaleb Deese is the second best one I’ve made next to accepting Christ.
Ms. Janie went on to tell me her struggles with infertility, uterine cancer, and having no children of her own. But she helped to raise her husband’s six children and loved them like her own. They have been good to her, and oh how she loves them. She lost her husband within the past few years, and her affection for him and their family was evident in her warmth as she spoke of them. She mentioned that sometimes things aren’t what they seem at first. Imagine signing up for raising six children when you marry your husband! And now they have been the greatest blessing to her.
What would you say is your biggest regret? Something you would go back and change if you could?
She thought for a bit, and she replied that she regrets ever focusing on material things or financial gain. Working overtime just to make a little more money–it’s not worth it, she said. She wishes she had spent more time investing in relationships and people, spending time with them instead of striving for material things.
No matter how much you get. You’re always going to want more. You get one thing, you want another.
She said those hours that she worked extra, she wishes she had spent with her loved ones.
Ms. Janie loved her family well. She learned, through that love, acceptance of her circumstances, contentment and joy in her role as a wife and mother, and the value of investing in people. She was such a delight to meet, and I have frequently thought of her advice.
I wish I could tell it to all the young people. They all could benefit from what I have learned.
Time with people has much richer returns than working for more material gain. It reminded me that this life and all this “stuff” is so fleeting. I’ve tried to tune in and be present even more. Kiss more cheeks, scratch more backs. And I’ve found myself thinking less about getting a bigger house or adding on to this one and thinking more about what I want to teach these children.
It also made me think of a book I had been reading with our neighborhood book club–another place I’ve gone deeper with new friends recently. I’m so thankful for my neighbors Jess and Ashley who started it. So let me pause to say,
If you have neighbors and want to get to know them, start a book club. Serve some biscuits or ice cream sandwiches, and they will come!
All that to say, we had been reading Hannah Coulter by Wendell Berry, a book I’d read before and that I had recommended (see my book review below if you’re interested). We had just finished it when I met Ms. Janie, and after talking with her, I just knew she’d love it. It’s a story of a woman who grows from a girl and into a wise old lady throughout her journey through death and loss, redemption, and the blessings of people, community, and a sense of belonging. Ms. Janie reminds me of Hannah– how she loved, how she lost, how she kept on loving, and how she learned the value of investing in the people closest to her.
So the next morning, I left my copy of Hannah Coulter, dog-eared and underlined and all, at the front desk of the Y for Ms. Janie to pick up and read. Later in the week, I got a call from her that she’d gotten it and had started it. How I hope it encourages her as much as it has me–and as much as SHE has encouraged me. What a delight to meet my new friend. What an inspiration she was! And might I also encourage you to find someone this week and go a little deeper. It seems my first words to her were indeed true. “I bet I could learn some things from you.”
My Personal Review of Hannah Coulter the Book
Hannah Coulter is a beautiful first-person telling of the life of a woman who grew to love the people and place of Port William- a farming community that radiated beauty and love, fellowship and “membership”. Wendell Berry has a voice in writing that is almost poetic, and every page contains wisdom and inspiration about such deep things as how to live through loss and death and how to move forward and fully live and love again. The images are serene and clear, the message is deep and enduring, and the story is settling even when Hannah experiences the trials of her life. It’s the kind of feeling you get after reading the Psalms of David. If you let it, it can strengthen your resolve, make you love your husband and children more, be intentional to work hard, make memories and cultivate love with those close by and the place you’re planted.
I am growing as I read. Learning. Being changed and encouraged. I am loving it. I hope you do too!