Mentor: a wise and trusted counselor or teacher.
Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God. Titus2:3-5
I am the older woman in that verse now; but when I was young I needed that “older woman” in my life. The one whose task it was to be the older woman in my life just could not be that for me. But God provided.
I would like to relate the very great privilege I had at a very crucial time in my life to know a beautiful soul. A lady God placed in my life. A Godly woman if ever there was one. Not perfect. But then, none of us is.
She and her husband spent their lives as missionaries to the areas of our country where there were no churches, no pastors, only small communities that needed to hear the Word. Through the course of their lives they parented 7 children. The youngest two were my age and a year younger than me. Their life together lasted 70 years until her death. I met her when they had retired for the first time. She was about the age I am now. He became a Bible teacher at our local college.
Our community of churches had placed a small but very functional student building across from the campus parking lot. It was a place to hang out between classes, talk with friends, play games, sing, fellowship and eat lunch once a week when the churches took turns providing food for us students. The Bible classes for credit were taught in this building (separation of church and state) in the classroom designed for this very purpose. I took both the Old and New Testament courses as electives.
The starving know where to go to be fed.
This sweet woman was the secretary for the building. She answered the phone that hardly ever rang, managed the building calendar and worked along side her husband. Sometimes she was the only person in the building most of the day. It was a safe place for me to be and I went there often. We struck up a friendship across her desk. I watched her create notecards and other little craft pieces that she made and sold as a hobby. I watched her create quilt pictures of her life. Later these would be sold for hundreds, sometime thousands of dollars and shown in art museums. As she made the pictures she would tell me the stories that inspired the pictures. Her childhood on the farm, she and her sisters all sleeping in one bed, the Fourth of July day the watermelons were ripe, the night her baby brother was born, making feather beds and pillows, tending the garden, hanging out the wash, going to church when the circuit preacher was in town, her mama canning for the winter, hayrides and her cowboy daddy.
It was a rich and welcome diversion; this friendship that developed over scraps and thread. We talked about everything and anything. We even had a lively discussion one day on whether there were people on other worlds- she thought so, because how could we be so bold as to think so small of our God. He is God after all and can do anything.
We talked about love, life, living and dying and how God is there in the dark moments of life as well as the moments of rejoicing in new love. We talked about obedience and sadness of not understanding why things were the way they were at home. We talked about families, and children, the distant possibility of one day… and how they make and break your heart. We talked about remaining faithful to our church family –when it seemed dull and boring, lackluster food at that table- she urged us to stick with it- that God would bless and He did.
We talked about wildflowers and petrified wood. She was mad crazy about them. I sometimes helped her pick the flowers, press them in phone books, wait for them to dry and then I’d watch as she would place them just so on a background of velvet- a dried flower bouquet – framed then, to hang on a wall or set out on the table. The bits of petrified wood were gathered, washed, and made into beautiful little ornamentals with dried flowers, pecan shells, clay animals and quotes. Oh my, just thinking about that now. How I wish she were still here to help me along.
She told story after story about life growing up in Central Texas, teaching school, falling in love with a fellow teacher, getting married, moving about as a missionary’s wife, raising her children and their accomplishments, her pride in being Cherokee Indian on her mother’s side; a fact that she attributed to her beautiful hair. Her hair was black as a crow’s feather even then. Her secret: wash her hair and rinse in vinegar water to get the shampoo completely out, rinse with clear water and then rinse again with a tea concoction she made to keep it dark and shiny.
I remember when she got her final place setting of sterling flatware. Finally, after all these years of living in rented homes and parsonages they owned their own home for the first time. She asked me to come over for tea and cake and to see her sterling- Francis I was the pattern and she was as pleased as if she’d had another baby over completing that set of eating utensils.
She knew how to get me to talk when I was troubled. She kept my confidence and gave me advice in a round about way that I could accept. True food for thought. We discussed scripture and the patriarchs and prophets, the lessons to be learned from their mistakes and deliberate disobedience to God. When Christmas time was near we would talk about ornaments and decorations and traditions and carols and the deep, deep meaning of God come to man. When my daughter got married, she wrote her a letter about love, life, God and His answers to life, the universe and everything.
She became the mother I would never have and she took me in under her wing and gave me the security I didn’t have anywhere else. She and her husband supported us when we married. They gave advice when asked and gave their friendship to both of us unbidden. Her friendship was the water of life to me and still upholds me to this day. She had vision where I had none. Far-sighted. Far-seeing and deep-knowing of me and who I was and was to become.
To put it simply: she had faith in me.
God strategically placed her in my life at exactly the right moment to give me the words He wanted me to hear and hide in my heart. She was His willing servant and diligently took on her role as friend and counselor to me when He asked her.
Her name was Ruby and she was indeed a jewel.
And now I come to an ending of sorts to ask you:
Is there someone God has brought into your life to mentor?
Give freely and don’t be afraid to recall those times when you were young- she wants to hear it. She wants to know that she’s not the only one with those thoughts and feelings. She needs the wisdom of your experience and your digging in the word for understanding. She needs to know that others make mistakes, blunder, stumble and fall and get back up as wives, mothers, sisters, friends and daughters.
Or Has God brought that “older woman” into your life to mentor you?
Take notes-lots of notes. Speak freely and listen to what she’s learned along the way. Your path may be the easier for it. And you may just be invited to cake and tea on her best china with her sterling she’s bought piece by piece over the years.