Five minutes ago, I was on the phone, reporting to a friend of mine following a book research trip. Jackie had prayed me there and back, as she always has.
Our first encounter was the day my husband, our three-year-old daughter, and I moved into the house where we’ve now lived for forty years. At the time, I was wearing a grass-green fleece, hooded, zip-up, floor length robe, which accentuated the presence of our soon-to-be-born son. I must have looked like a miniature version of the Jolly Green Giant with a bloating problem.
At the door stood a couple in their mid-forties with grins on their faces and a pan of brownies. “Welcome to the neighborhood!” Jackie and Tom didn’t mention the shape I was in or the state of the box-strewn peach kitchen with orange countertops behind me. Their intention was to bless. I would soon discover it was their life’s goal.
Four words, “Welcome to the neighborhood,” began the friendship for which I’d prayed. The answer to my prayer didn’t come packaged as I’d imagined.
She wasn’t my age. She was old enough to be my mother, or rather, I was young enough to be her daughter. I had one, going on two, toddlers. Her children were getting ready to graduate from high school and college. I was a stay-at-home mom. She worked nights as a nurse and slept during the day. We didn’t go to the same church. At first, we didn’t even talk about matters of faith.
But one day when I stepped into her farmhouse a cornfield away from mine, literally to borrow a cup of sugar, I noticed a book of praise choruses on her piano.
“You play piano, Jackie?”
“A little. Mostly for my personal worship times.”
The moment ignited a far deeper level of friendship that continued to grow over four decades. What we shared between us was Jesus.
Jackie was, and still is, the spiritual mentor I’d craved — a caring and compassionate fellow traveler on the journey, a trustworthy confidante, a nudger when that’s what I needed, a faithful prayer partner. Within a handful of years, she had become my radio partner and a second on-air voice for The Heartbeat of the Home, a ministry neither of us saw coming. A ministry that retired after thirty-three years on the air.
We’ve talked each other down off many a ledge. Health issues. Family concerns. Her children’s choices. My children’s choices. Decision conundrums.
At times, I’ve wondered how other women survive without a “Jackie” in their life. Before every speaking engagement and at every junction in my writing career, she seeks God’s heart for me and the audience or readers. Her health keeps her homebound now. But we have a set time to talk by phone when she shares what God has laid on her heart and prays for me. Her prayers launch me on every ministry adventure.
In the early days of our friendship, we met for a couple of hours every Friday afternoon while my toddlers napped, or pretended to nap. We sat with our Bibles open in front of us, praying around the world and back again, focusing many of our prayers on our family members and their needs, often with tears falling onto the pages.
One day, I caught my four-year-old daughter kneeling on a dining room chair, turning the pages of the Bible that lay where I’d left it after Jackie had gone home. “What are you doing, Amy?”
“I’m looking for the tears.”
And a godly friendship set the table for another generation.