I have been thinking a lot the past few weeks about people, specifically women, who have influenced my life. Let me preface this by saying that the women who have had the greatest impact on my life are my mother, sisters and daughers. So, I am excluding them from this post altogether. It is just understood by all who know me that those women top my list.
Where do we go from there? Simple. I know exactly who to list as one of the first women, outside my family, who made a difference in my life. I met her in junior high in Fresno, CA. Her name is Judy.
I had attended church all of my life. I was a Christian. I knew what being a Christian was all about. Or, so I thought. Judy opened my eyes to what living as a Christian really meant. She was passionate about God and about learning about Him. She wanted to know His word. She wanted to show Him to other people. Being a Christian wasn't just something she did because she went to church and was raised by Christian parents. It was the way she lived her life. I was mesmerized by how simple it was for her to talk about God. I wanted that. We shared so many things, especially a love for writing. We encouraged one another, listened to one another and, most importantly, believed in one another. What a sweet, sweet friend. We have reconnected through Facebook and just looking at her smile warms my soul.
I married young-17 years old. I didn't have a clue what being a young married woman, a wife was all about. The Lord knew that I would need friends who could support me in this new role. One of those He blessed me with was Melba.
Her husband and her served in a ministry position in the church we attended. How wonderful it was to have a young couple who we could spend time with, talk to and laugh with. Melba has been that friend who kept me honest with myself. She never let me pretend. She had a way, and still does, of getting me to be real. We have laughed many times over our naive air of superiority regarding parenting, BEFORE we had children! We shared a love for music and singing and yes, church work.
I ventured into the realm of women's ministry and God knew I needed a compadre, a buddy. He sent Sheryl to me.
With Sheryl and I, it has always been easy. If one started the thought, the other one finished it. If one had the idea, the other one knew how to bring it to life. If one needed a kick in the seat, the other one was right there, foot lifted. We collaborated on more themes than a Walt Disney park designer, worked against more deadlines than a newspaper editor and stayed up late into the night working on more projects than Martha Stewarts' minions. If you needed a retreat, we were the pair to call.
Interestingly, the next person had a lot to do with the passion that Sheryl and I shared for all things organized, coordinated and themed. That would be June-
We have just recently said good bye to June. What a powerhouse of a woman! She had a gift for bringing out the very best in you. She saw what you couldn't see yourself. She nurtured whatever strength you had and helped it to blossom into full bloom. She taught. She modeled. She led. She loved. She protected. She was a spiritual mother to me. I loved her dearly. I rejoice that she is visiting with my mother in heaven.
There is another woman who has made an eternal, everlasting impression on me. The most significant impact she has made on my life is your intense and loyal friendship. Meet Terry-
She is quite possibly the most Godly, righteous, loving, kind person I know. Ask most any young girl in our church who they want to be like and they will say, "Terry Black". She has left an indelible imprint on so many young people, Heaven will be full of people she has taught and prayed for and nurtured and loved and encouraged and so generously helped along the way. She befriended me one summer as we sat on rickety bleachers watching our two beautifully unique sons play baseball. We had a kinship that is only shared by mothers of boys who see the world just a little differently than everyone else. She has held me up when I could not hold up my head. She has loved my children with a measure that amazes me. She has loved me and my family with an absolutely God-infused love. I feel blessed beyond measure to call her my friend.
There are so many others who have touched my life along the way. Women like Ma Richter, Cora Bruce, Grandma and Opal Wilson, Irene Carpenter, Altha Keifer, Mae Wood, Marguerite Kern, Terri Kern....and the list just goes on.
And, a whole new generation of young women is influencing my life and making me want to be a better person...Lindsay, Loretta, Diana, Monica, Whitney, Becky, Emily, Cari, Sara, Amber and many more.
Who has God placed in your life, past or present, that has influenced you. Who is He placing in front of YOU to influence. Leave a mark.