For over twenty years, she has loved me well.
When I was a college student in Searcy, Arkansas, I met a woman who would capture what it means when one Christian sister covenants to love another and keeps that commitment of love for over twenty-five years. While doctrine and teaching profoundly affect our faith, I find it’s often the people who embody those teachings that shape us the most. Perhaps love molds our faith more powerfully than any other force; at least it’s true in my experience.
When John and I, along with eight friends, made the decision to move to Uganda as missionaries, it was this woman who gave generously to make it happen. Money. Velveeta cheese. The latest movie out on VHS. Brownie Mixes . . .. When we wanted something, she made it happen. She and her husband once disassembled A LAWN MOWER and brought it to Uganda in checked baggage. If I was embarrassed to ask someone else for something I wanted, like a copy of People magazine, I knew I could ask her and she wouldn’t judge me.
She taught me how to cook from scratch when I naively thought its definition included cream soups and packaged mixes. She gave me a copy of More With Less Cookbook, and from it, I gained my first spiritual discipline, cooking whole foods with consciousness of a hungry world with limited resources.
When we needed her, she came. All the way to Uganda. She came during culture shock and reassured me that I could do it. I could be a missionary. From her, I learned never to limit my definition of hospitality. In the New Testament, Jesus embodied a reverse hospitality, profoundly teaching people about hospitality in their own homes, and that’s what this hospitable woman taught me. Whether in her home or in mine, she embodies seemingly limitless hospitality.
As a young mother, when I wondered how to parent my children, I looked to her as my guide. Her relationship with her children was one I admired and hoped for in my own family. She has a son and a daughter, and eventually, that’s what God gave me too. And in raising them, I often thought of her example, hoping my children and I would have the healthy measure of friendship and respect I saw in their relationships.
Later, after my missionary days, when I began ministry stateside and faced inherent challenges, it was this sister who was the first to encourage me. From her home in Searcy, Arkansas, she encouraged me the first time I preached. When I wrote my book, she read the manuscript and gave wise advice. She bought copies for her friends. She even loved the bad parts. When I taught at the Pepperdine Lectures, she was in the audience, with tears in her eyes, proud of me when I needed someone to be proud.
If I’m looking for a good book, I ask her because she is a connoisseur of books.
If I want a fun evening, I can count on her because she knows how to commune around a table.
If I am insecure, she teaches me about confidence.
If I need marriage advice, I trust her.
Margaret Formby Blue.
Worthy of respect. Temperate. Trustworthy in everything.
My faith has been profoundly shaped by her faithful love and service.