As I think back to other women who've influenced me, particularly because of their there are two others who come to mind from way back when, during those formative growing up years, there is one gal in particular who modeled gentleness while walking an impossibly difficult road.
She is one of the loveliest women I've ever known, and I loved every opportunity I had to simply be around her. She laughed readily and easily, accepted people "warts and all" as they say, and knew how to have a lot of fun. At the same time, she didn't put up with intentional meanness or deliberate stupidity. She was also one of the first people I remember knowing who had a good grasp of where her talents and abilities lay and seemed content excelling in those domains instead of wishing she could do something else. From the time I first met her, I envied how she effortlessly handled herself in a myriad of situations with an unassuming confidence, grace and ease. I watched her live circumstances more painful than I can imagine - I would have felt totally strangled by cords of betrayal, enormous loss and abandonment, even humiliation - had God asked me to walk even a few feet of her road.
I most often saw her on or around a pool deck; once I had the opportunity to travel with her a bit and see that she was the same person, even in some very different circumstances. Those days together reinforced what I'd already seen in her life. Two specific encounters particularly stand out in my memory. My family was moving far away and I had waited for an opportunity to say goodbye... and to ask her how I could pray for her during the upcoming months, as I knew she'd just walked through an incredibly difficult year. With tears in her eyes, she thanked me for asking and then shared just how hard it had been to daily walk among the whispers, knowing looks, concerned glances, and embarrassed shakes of the head... yet everyone resolutely refused to really talk to her because no one knew what to say. We talked for nearly two hours that afternoon. As we hugged and parted ways, I felt as though I'd been given a precious gift.
Many years later, after I had become a wife and mother of several, our paths crossed again, briefly, for a few hours at a restaurant. Married to a great guy, she shared how life had been good to her and that she was thankful. She revealed how she appreciated that that hard and painful season for she had grown and changed for the better. Ultimately, she valued those the lessons she'd learned, even though they'd been excruciating, and was glad of the woman who had emerged once all was said and done. I've never heard her, even with all the really hard and seeming bad, blame God or accuse Him of ruining her life. And I still envy how she effortlessly handles herself with winning, unassuming confidence, grace and ease.
I don't know if she knows the Lord as her Savior - I still pray regularly for Him to draw her ever closer to His heart. Regardless, God has definitely blessed me with her example of gently accepting His choices for her life without fighting or pitching an adult "temper tantrum." She showed me in real life and practice what I've only managed to sort of master in mind and in theory...