Where do friendships begin? They are a gift of Grace, that is certain, but what is the spark that grows into the warm flame with its lasting glow?
Lasting - that is a key word. Lasting come from being treasured and kept.
Sometimes this requires effort on the part of one or the other.
Sometimes it is something sought after.
Sometimes it just creeps along side you and takes your hand from that day on.
But just now that phone call came. Franie, a dear friend of many years has Arrived at her pilgrim's destination. No one more deserved a peaceful passage from her nighttime bed to 'the next room'. In that I rejoice.
When first we met, I was teaching a ladies Bible study at the church where we had just begun ministry. Franie was all 'prickles and stings', an outspoken independent woman, it seemed. She told me from the first that while she liked my teaching, she sure didn't much like my husband's preaching! He was too radical, too dogmatic, too male! Among other things. Not the most auspicious beginning for a friendship.
Over time, I learned about the Real Franie. Here was a woman who spent her life for others. Here also was a woman who took life square on and when you asked 'how are you today?', she was always too blessed to complain. Complain, she could have offered.
When quite young, she was left with two young children to raise on her own. The husband/dad just left. Yet Franie managed to honor him before her children. And by pluck and hard work, she raised her children to productive adulthood.
When her daughter was finishing high school, Fran did the same, graduating togheter! The she went on to University earning a degree in English Literature. She celebrated by taking herself on a trip to England. Dreams come true. Goals achieved.
Then her father became ill. She cared for him until his death. Then her invalid mother also. After that it was her dad's best friend. All these she lovingly tended in their last years. But that wasn't all she did.
She was involved in her community in many ways, Senior Center, Library, and always at the church.
Fran saw neighborhood children roaming in aimless mischief-making on Sundays. She invited them one by one in to have Sunday Dinner followed by an afternoon of crafts and needle arts. (Franie was the original crafty lady.) But there was a catch: these street urchins were required to attend Sunday School and Church with her. (Nothing kept Franie from church. Ever.)
There she would sit, Sunday after Sunday with an assortment of young ones by her side. And Sunday after Sunday she would love, feed, teach.
Along with that, these kids learned that Frannie's house was a safe house, a refuge where the cookie jar had no bottom. They could count on sandwiches for school lunch too, if they stopped by in the mornings.
The most remarkable aspect of all that Frannie did, of all the care given and kindness rendered, you didn't learn about them from her in a trumpet blowing way. They were observed and sometimes coming up in the course of conversation.
For my part, even in years after our first church connection there were cards and letters, thoughtful gifts. Much of our correspondence was sharing things spiritual and talk of books and authors we both enjoyed. It was all iron sharpening iron. It was all good.
What a joy it was after many years to return to the same church where Franie and I met. Our last ministry, her last days. It was sweet to renew our friendship face-to-face in these most recent years. This time too, she loved my husband, she loved his preaching and told him so repeatedly!
There is so much more that could be told. Enough for now to know that today Franie is at peace and much deserved rest in the presence of her Savior.
Her reward will be great, I have no doubt.
Well done, good and faithful servant.