52: Heaven Sent Friend

52: Heaven Sent Friend

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Just Us Girls

Heaven Sent Friend

A faithful friend is a strong defense; And he that hath found him hath found a treasure.

~Louisa May Alcott

“Laurie, I need a volunteer,” my pastor husband Dale sheepishly said. As a pastor’s wife in a small New England church, being asked by my husband to volunteer for something was not a new experience. Nursery — I’d done that. Sunday School teacher — why not? Baked goods for the annual Christmas bazaar, casseroles for pot-lucks — I could usually come up with something. I’d even reached out of my comfort zone to be a junior high youth leader. But something in his approach this time set off my warning sensors. My gut told me I wasn’t going to like this.

“A volunteer to do what?” I suspiciously asked.

“Well, you know that new Prayer Partner program starting at the church?” I knew about it — I had quite intentionally not signed up for it. I was an introvert — not always the best trait in a pastor’s wife, I’ll admit. But an introvert I was, with a capital “I” — and a very shy introvert at that. I was a private person. And for me, Prayer was Private. Prayer was Personal. Prayer was something for which I most definitely did not want a Partner.

“What about it?” I asked.

“I have an odd number of people signed up. I need one more volunteer.”

“How about you, Dale? Maybe you could use a prayer partner?”

“I’ve already committed to one. Besides, the extra person is a woman — you know the plan is to pair up men with men and women with women; it’s just less complicated that way,” he went on to explain. And then, as if he were reading my mind he added, “She’s brand new to the church, I’d hate to make her feel unwelcome by saying we’ve run out of prayer partners.”

So, he was not only asking me to take on a Prayer Partner, he was asking me to take on a total stranger as a Prayer Partner. After twenty years of marriage what part of the word introvert did he still not understand?

“Do you think you could please give it a try?” he begged.

I thought of flippantly answering that I would pray about it, but I wouldn’t have meant it — and I knew there wasn’t time. The program was set to begin, and all his other “go to” women in the church were already signed up. Totally against my better judgment I reluctantly agreed. He’d better appreciate this!

Phone numbers were exchanged, and of course with me being the pastor’s wife and she being the newbie, I quickly realized it was my job to make the first call. I hesitantly dialed the number I’d been given — maybe she wouldn’t be available when I was; that would solve everything. “Hello, Kate? This is Laurie Edwards. I’m signed up to be your prayer partner?” Not only was she available, she was as thrilled as could be. And she couldn’t believe her luck — she’d actually gotten the pastor’s wife as her partner! Wasn’t this going to be wonderful? She had no idea.…

Kate showed up at my doorstep on the agreed upon day and time, just bursting with enthusiasm. “Oh no,” I thought. “She’s the energetic, bubbly type. This is definitely not going to work.” I invited her to sit down, offered her a cup of tea, and she reached into her canvas bag and pulled out two matching prayer journals — one with my name on it and one with her name on it. “I’m really in for it now,” I thought.

We started to share with each other about our lives — we couldn’t have been more different. Kate was a nurse from the West Coast. I was a pastor’s wife from New England. Kate and her family were athletic and always on the go, while the Edwards preferred hanging out at home in our free time. Kate was always eager to try out something new and different. I knew what I liked and tended to stick with it. Kate was an extrovert; I wasn’t. But week after week, we would meet, talk about our concerns, and pray for our families and for each other. At first it was about surface stuff — stuff you felt you could safely share with a stranger. But little by little our conversations became more personal and we found ourselves praying for real heart issues. And those little green journals started to fill up.

Sometimes Kate would show up with baked goods. Sometimes she would suggest we go out for a walk together. It was her idea to meet for prayer at a local café I’d never tried. She’d regale me with tales of her family’s latest weekend plans — the new RV they were eager to try out. When my daughter started having chronic migraines, it was my friend Kate the nurse who finally convinced me to get her to a headache specialist. When I was struggling with worries about an overworked husband and my own premenopausal symptoms, Kate was ready with an encouraging word and prayer. When the youth group needed someone to provide snacks, Kate came to the rescue and got other parents to sign up as well. We’d pray together about our kids, our husbands, our inner and outer struggles. When Kate’s husband’s job just wasn’t working out, we began to pray that he would find a new one.

Those weekly meetings, which I’d begun with so much hesitation, quickly became one of my lifelines. I was in for it, all right. In for a new and wonderful friendship. I didn’t realize how lonely and isolated I had become. Then at coffee hour after church one Sunday morning, Kate leaned out of the kitchen serving window and announced that her husband had found a new job — another answer to prayer! Except the job was back on the West Coast. They would be leaving in a matter of days. My heart sank and the tears started to come. God couldn’t have given me this wonderful new friend just to take her away!

Well, He did and He didn’t. Before she left, Kate gave me a beautiful Willow Tree Angel of Prayer ornament that always brings her to mind when I take out our Christmas decorations. The year I got a Christmas card from the “Surf Clan” I knew just who it was from — her family had started an exciting new sport! And Kate gave me a plaque that sits on my wall and reminds me that “A Friend Is God’s Way of Coming Alongside.” I couldn’t have put it better!

The next time the call came out for a Prayer Partner I didn’t hesitate — someday I’ll have to tell you about my new friend Jeanne!

~Laurie Carnright Edwards

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