There is nothing like a friend to help you get through the toughest times of your life and to be what I call "Jesus with skin on" when you need Him the most.
Over my lifetime there have been friends who have come and gone but each in their own way has made a significant impact on my life. Each has contributed something to my life at just the time I needed it most.
One of the earliest friends from my childhood, was a girl by the name of Karen Baty. I met Karen when we were in third grade and we lived in the same neighborhood. We rode bikes together. She had 2 sisters and I had no siblings at home. I was jealous of her having sisters and she was jealous of me for because she thought I got everything I wanted and didn't have to do household chores. We were later separated because she was moved in the Honors class, but I still consider her my friend because we shared so much during those early years in school. Although we rarely communicate today, Karen still includes a picture of her family in her Christmas card to me every year.
Later I met another school friend in Lynda Webster. Lynda and I worked together during high school at a local neighborhood Pizzeria. Lynda and I became almost inseparable during high school until I moved in November of our Senior year. We were in each others weddings and we married about a week apart. Lynda still lives in the same house and works at the same job she has had for 30 yrs. I think that's really an amazing accomplishment.
After Jack and I married, we moved to Houston and there was a lady that God sent into my life by the name of Gay Mize. Gay played the piano and sang at our church. She also taught a Bible study for women and I learned so much from her. She was there for me when I had my first child and she taught me so much about parenting. I also contributed to Gay's life when she had some problems in her marriage. I was there to listen and support her in her decisions. Gay later died from breast cancer. At the time I thought Gay was too young to die, but I know that God had a reason and a purpose in her life. Her life had a positive influence on so many women just like me.
Another person I like to think of as a friend is really more of a mentor to me and that is Kay Arthur. I have read so many of Kay's books and led so many of her Bible studies that I feel like I know her. She calls her readers "beloved" and that has a way of endearing her to your heart. Kay is getting up there in age and when I recently saw her at the Deeper Still Conference I thought I will be so sad when she goes to heaven, but I will rejoice in the impact that she has made on my life and so many others.
Now, there have been a few times recently that various people have made a significant impact on my life. Once I was going to work at the house after Hurricane Ike had brought 5 feet of water and flooded it. I looked up and coming out the front door was Pastor Ed Rawls. He was helping with the clean-up. The sight of his face immediately brought tears to my eyes and I was overwhelmed with emotion and gratitude.
Another time I recall was standing in my front yard about a year ago, looking at what was left of our house that burned the night before. There was a dear couple from Bridge City who are leaders in our community who came and stood and had prayer with Jack and I. Their names are Kirk and Brenda Ellender. I still think about that day and how much it meant for them to stand with us in prayer in our front yard.
I have found that when you go through a life changing event, you find the strength to get through it at the time, but later on it begins to take a toll on you. It's like you are running on adrenaline in the beginning. But then, something happens and you are caught off guard and you feel like you are falling apart. You see yourself melting into a huge puddle of emotion and don't know which way is up. It was during such a time that I heard the gentle words of a friend calmly saying "No worries, I am here". Those words brought strength and reassurance to me at a time when I needed it the most.
My friends' words reminded me of what I consider to be the most comforting words in the Bible. They are the words of Moses to the Israelites when he was reassuring them of God's continued guidance and protection. He said "So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic ... For the Lord your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you.” They are quoted again by Paul in the book of Hebrews when he says " For God has said 'I will never fail you. I will never abandon you.' So we can say with confidence, 'The Lord is my helper, so I will have no fear.' "
How comforting are these words to the troubled heart of a friend!