Speak Eagle

What I Learned in Evansville

For the life of me, I can’t remember my friend’s birthdays.  Last Friday morning, just before I left to teach at a women’s retreat, I texted a dear friend in town to say, “I want to bring you one of my LOVED shirts so you can wear it and feel loved all day long on your birthday!”  To which she texted back, “Thanks!  But my birthday is next Friday.”

And so I left for Evansville, Indiana to be the keynote speaker for a retreat at Forest Hills Wesleyan with the theme, “Friendship Warms the Heart.”  Sigh.

In the opening to my first talk, I explained that we all have EGR friends- “Extra Grace Required” friends.  You know, those friends who need a little extra grace from us.

I thought I was teaching them deep truths…but as I got to know these women and how they are communicating God’s love to the people in their corner of the world, they taught me.

Cheryl Cheryl

They told me how, 3 years ago, their church building was destroyed in a fire that began on New Year’s morning. But the people gathered in another building across the street, locked arms, dug deep, trusted God and worked hard, and eventually built a new church building on the site.

I met beautiful Cheryl, who works a full-time job and volunteers to lead the women’s ministry. I watched her listen to women with excellent eye contact and thoughtful questions, caring about each one no matter her walk of life.

And then there’s Carolyn, who visits her elderly neighbor each day to give her medication and cook her meals and do her laundry.  Carolyn and her older sister Patty decorated the tables for the women’s retreat.  Carolyn was the strategist; Patty was the implementer.  Patty said, “I just do what my little sister tells me.”  Being a little sister myself, I like the sound of that.

Sue Sue

I was blown away by Sue, a bold woman who approached me at lunch, Bible in hand, and prayed over me with great intensity.

I met Samantha and DeeDee and Kelli, women who serve and serve and serve, helping others with humility, not expecting recognition for all they give.

Marcene and Judy Marcene and Judy

Judy and Marcene made me smile. They reminisced how one of their first memories as friends was when Judy called Marcene in a panic because company was coming over and her house wasn’t clean. Marcene ran over and they scrubbed the bathroom together. That was the beginning of what is now a 42-year friendship.

Laura Me and Laura

And I met Miss Laura. Eighty-six years young, Laura told me how she visits people in nursing homes and how it brings her so much joy when one dear man sees her coming, lifts up his arms and says, “Laura! You came to see me!” Laura prayed a prayer of blessing over me, and then leaned in closely to my face. Almost giddy, she said, “I’m going to get to meet the Lord before you!”

Through befriending and serving, listening and encouraging, these women are communicating the love of God to the people in their corner of the world- and to outsiders, like me.

But they aren’t the love generators. God is the love-generator. “ God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us” (Rom. 5:5).

And as I return to my little corner of the world today, I now get to pay it forward and show God’s love to the people around me.

So I called a friend this morning to show her some love and wish her a happy birthday (especially since I forgot last year, even though she was at my house for Easter dinner- EPIC FAIL).  I thought about singing- maybe that would even show her more love.  But I just said in a very satisfied voice because I was so proud of myself that I actually remembered her special day, “Haaaappy Birthdaaay!!!”

To which she replied, “I know you’re trying really hard.  But next Monday is my birthday.”  Sigh.  I am clearly the EGR friend in my friend’s lives.

So today I will be thankful for grace, and thankful to the women of Forest Hills Wesleyan Church for a beautiful weekend. I will never forget you.

4 thoughts on “What I Learned in Evansville”

  1. Heidi I can honestly say that I enjoyed this years retreat more than any in a long time. It seemed that the Holy Spirit was so close and that women were sharing their feelings so freely. I have been a member at Forest Hills Wesleyan for 42 years and have found it to be the friendliest church I have ever attended. Thank you for being so transparent with us.

    1. Rachel- Thank you! It was such a joy to be with you all. What a wonderful group of women. You have been truly blessed to have been a member of Forest Hills for 42 years!

  2. Sooooooo enjoyed hearing you at our retreat! Thanx for your insights into friendship and for keeping it entertaining, may God bless you as you continue serving him!

    1. Thank you for your sweet encouragement, Cheryl! I thoroughly enjoyed the weekend and will treasure my time with you at Forest Hills. Many blessings to you!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.