Our Story: Ms. Jo and Me
Our Story of one girl who had the courage to ask and one wonderful Lady who had the courage to say YES!
Mentoring….something that has peaked my interest for a long time. I never knew where to begin, so I just pushed that thought on the back burner. I am too busy, I have too many kids, life gets in the way, I’m too screwed up, no one will understand me, and I’m closed off emotionally. All these thoughts filtered through my mind.
When my family and I decided to start looking for a new church, I went into it looking to fly under the radar. I’m loud. I’m outspoken. I can be misunderstood easily and I certainly didn’t get along well with pastors. We found a church and one of the very first people I saw, sitting in the pew, was a TALL, white haired woman who looked to be in her 70s. Her presence was commanding. She was faithful to attend morning, evening and Wednesday night services. I could hear her sing above anyone. One could almost read her story in her wrinkles. I was captivated. I watched her for about 2 years. I never spoke to her. I would hear people say “someday, you need to ask Ms. Jo about her love story.” From that moment, I was determined to ask her…but fear of rejection would pound in my head and I would not ever ask.
One year, we were doing a type of “trunk or treat” for Halloween. The ladies of the church transformed our fellowship hall and our downstairs children area in a giant Candyland game. I went to help out and to bring my children. As we walked downstairs, I saw this tall precious woman sitting in a rocking chair and the children would come and sit out her feet and listen to her tell the story of how much Jesus loves them. I went in, without my children (they were in another area) and I sat at her feet and I was captivated by her ability to quietly and strongly tell this story. There was not one child who didn’t have their eyes on her. I sat, right by her, entranced by this woman. When the children left, I asked her if someday, she would share her love story with me. This smile that could light a thousand Christmas trees flashed across her face. She simply replied with “my Jerome.” You could feel that love that she had for him. She told me that she would be glad to tell me, sometime.
Another year or so went by and I got up the courage to always hug her neck when I saw her. Her smile is so inviting and welcoming. I knew, though she didn’t know me and my scars, that she loved me. She loved me completely and unconditionally. She was my peace. She started correcting my words towards my children if she felt I was out of line. She would talk to me about how I spoke to my husband, at times. She is bold but never condemning. There was a particular moment that I had been in the pit of depression for over a month. I mustered up enough courage to go to Wednesday night ministry and I saw her come through the door. I walked up to her and hugged her. She asked me how I had been and I just looked at her, fighting back the tears, and said “I haven’t been well. I’m struggling with depression and I can’t seem to shake it.” She stood as straight as I had ever seen her and she said “well get over it. You are loved by our Jesus, your family, and me.” Her boldness took me back and I thought…well, she is right. I am loved. God is bigger than this depression.
That moment, I knew what I had been praying for so long, my prayers had been answered. That next Sunday, I went to get my hug and I sat by her. Her sweet aged hands, with that one crooked index finger (I seriously love that crooked finger) held my hand and I put my head on her shoulder. At that moment, there was no one else in the sanctuary. It was like the Lord had blacked out all the chaos around me and allowed me to focus on her and me, at that particular time. I leaned into her and I said “Ms. Jo, I have a question. Would you consider being my mentor?” She looked puzzled and she said “well, I don’t know what I have to offer you, but whatever I have, you can have.” My thoughts started whirling and I know I looked like I could catch a thousand flies with my open mouth. I just looked at her and said “seriously, have you met yourself? How you love your Jerome, how you love your boys, your grandchildren, how you love the Lord…..I want that and I want you to teach me that.” We agreed to set a date for that Thursday. I was thrilled.
I showed up that first Thursday and we sat on her back porch. I sat in the swing and she sat in her chair. When I say she knew NOTHING about me, other than my name and my family’s name, I mean that. The Lord drew our souls together. She looked at me and said “how can I help you?” In that moment, time stopped again. In an uncontrollable moment, I started weeping. I could not stop. I rarely cry…I fight it, I suck it up. I couldn’t even get a word out. Then I heard her sweet voice say “well, for goodness sakes, let’s go in the house and work through this.” She tells me, a lot, that I am “almost there but not quite yet.” I wholeheartedly agree! I am teachable and I am learning.
There was a day, recently, that my heart….was shattered. Normally, I would fall into a depression and not get out of bed. This time, my first thought was to get to my person! I vaguely remember driving to her house and I knocked on the door. She opened it and said “hey girl, how are you?” I fell into her arms. She wrapped her arms around me, not asking me any questions and she hugged me so tight that I not only felt her love, I felt Jesus’ love through her. We made it to her table and I muttered out, through tears, what had happened. I laid my head in her beautiful hands and she caught every single tear. She made a phone call and after that, she put her sweet hand on my head and prayed for me and for my family. She carried me through such a tough tough time. She never judged, condemned, fussed out, bad mouthed anyone. She loved. She prayed. She encouraged. There are not many people who would do that.
The love, the encouragement, the lessons, the simple joy of being in her presence, and her love story with “her Jerome” has been a staple in my life. There isn’t many days that I don’t either speak with her or see her. I run errands for her, we go to lunch, I take her suppers, she holds my hand, and she has the best ice cubes on the planet. We run around town, we talk, we pray, she encourages, I have heard a thousand stories and I love each and every one of them. I have learned how to love my husband, my husband LOVES her too!!! My kids WILLINGLY do yardwork because in moments where we are resting, we all sit on the back porch and we just listen to her wisdom. She exudes the Proverbs 31 woman and now she is the living example of the Titus 2 command.
The Lord knew I needed her and she needed me. I’m blessed to help her in any way possible because I can never repay her for her love and graciousness she has shown me, my husband, and my children. She will forever be a part of my heart and my family. Oh, how I love that woman. Oh, I am thankful that the Lord granted me the desires of my heart and brought forth the most precious mentor and friend a girl could ever have. She’s my Lady. She’s my person.
I encourage those who are curious about being a mentor or is in need of a mentor to pray for the Lord to meet those needs and to raise up those who can mentor. You don’t have to be 80 to be a mentor. You just need to have a willing spirit to vest in the lives of others.
I had a sweet sweet friend ask me to mentor her. My first thought was “I have nothing to teach you.” Sound familiar? I went and spoke to my Lady…..she said that I am perfectly equipped to mentor this sweet friend. What I have learned through the trials of my life, what I’m learning through my Lady, I have passed onto this sweet friend. She still has a long way to go, but she is getting there! What I learn from my Lady, I pass onto my friend. My Lady prays for this friend, which is what it is all about. Again, I am blessed.