Before having kids, Cortney and I “shopped” for a church home. Most places we went treated us kindly enough–people shook our hands and said, “welcome”, but that was about it. Even our current church was kind, but not overly so. It had been a long time since we had gone regularly and in those days before kids, we were greeted as if we were new.  This sort of bugged Cortney since he had been a member of our church since childhood.

We found a church we thought could be our church home, but by then I was largely pregnant with Eddie, it was winter, and sleeping in on Sunday rather than driving to a church where we didn’t know anyone seemed exhausting.

We had Eddie and Charlie baptized in our current church, and when Charlie was about 18 months old, we started going back regularly.

This time was different than the first time though. This time we were friends with more people and they welcomed us with open arms.

I figured we would just start going to Sunday services and send Eddie to Sunday School. You know, sort of ease in.

Nope. This was not what God planned for us, apparently. He was maybe sick of us “easing in” for the past eight years, so we were thrown right in.

My friend, The Preacher’s Wife, approached me about “helping” with our Sunday School program: Children in Worship. I figured I would be a helper in one of the rooms occasionally, but I found myself teaching right away.

And that is how I met Mary.


Mary has been involved with the Children in Worship program for as long as it’s been a part of our church. She knows all the stories, knows what story objects go with every story box, what reflection activities each grade did with most of the stories, and she remembers all the children and loves them all individually. She remembers Cortney being in Children in Worship when he was a wee lad.

She was not just kind and welcoming, she was the epitome of love when she heard I would be joining the team. She held my hand and told me she was so glad. She already loved Eddie from his few times, and looked forward to Charlie joining in as well.

When I told her I was pregnant last summer, her eyes filled with tears and her hands went to her face in excited joy. Then she hugged me.

Before Alice was born, she loved her.

When Alice was set to be baptized, The Preacher’s Wife gave her a vintage baptismal gown, but Mary found the idea of making a hankie into a bonnet with this small poem:

I’m just a dainty hanky,
As square as square can be.
With stitches hands have fashioned
A bonnet out of me.

She’ll wear me home, a newborn,
Or for a special day.
Then I’ll be washed and pressed and
so neatly tucked away.

When Her Wedding Day arrives,
She’ll search about I’m told,
To find an item quite small
Of long ago and old.

And when she spots baby’s cap
No better will she see.
Snip out my stitches, and a
Wedding hanky I’ll be.

by Howard Ray White

She came to visit Alice and me in the hospital and gave me a tiny knit hat meant for a great granddaughter she would never have (she has all great grandsons).

She delivered our family a meal when Alice and I were released from the hospital.

She pats the boys on the heads and always asks them how they are. The boys love “Grandma Mary”. She is one of many “Church Grandmas” my children are blessed to have, but she will always be the very first.

Mary is always there with encouragement and unconditional love. She never expects anything in return, but hold my hand each Sunday and asks how I am–and really wants to know. Love and grace ooze out of her very being.

Without Mary’s genuine love and welcoming for my whole family, we may not have stayed regular church-goers and I know I would not be as involved as I am with our church family.

Mary has been described by many as a saint, but I am sure she would brush that off because all she does is love. But that is so much. In fact, it’s the greatest command, Jesus says.

And Mary does it as best as any human can.

At the end of last week, I received some devastating news about our beloved Mary. Once again I would have to sit my boys down and tell them someone we love is going to make a trip to Heaven soon.

Our hearts are hurting for our Mary. For her family. For our own hearts.

It’s hard to see why God would allow something to happen to the best of the best. We don’t understand. We feel that familiar feeling of being lost in a sea of sorrow and questions.

The image of Jesus as the Good Shepherd has always been a favorite of Mary’s. I can see that she takes it to heart–loving those around her and guiding them to safe places. She certainly guided my heart and family to the safe place that is now our church family.

We hope Mary feels God’s love. We hope Mary feels all of our love and our prayers.

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord

Psalm 23


Syndicated on

My longest friendships are women I have known since childhood…and who currently do not live anywhere near me.

I find it difficult to maintain friendships as an adult. I have no problem making friends, but keeping them or having them develop into something meaningful, that is difficult for me.

I have never had a problem plopping down next to someone in class or in a meeting or wherever and making small talk. As a student, turning to work with whoever was next to me was not an issue. Getting put into groups with people I didn’t know made no difference to me. In fact, in middle and high school my teachers often told my parents that it just didn’t matter where they moved my seat, I would talk to whoever was there.

But maintaining friendships is hard for me.

My best friends–who live far away–are relatively low-maintenance. We rarely talk, sometimes text, and see each other only a handful of times a year. We pick up where we left off when we see each other, but other than texts and cards, we don’t really talk otherwise.  But I know that when I need them, they are there.  And I know they know that about me too.

But the friends I have here…close to me…I am not a good friend to them.

Because I don’t know how.

I am uncomfortable a lot. I get nervous that I will do or say something that will instantly make me not “hangout-able”.

Being friendly with people is easy; being real friends is difficult.

When someone says, “Hey, we should see that movie sometime,” I know know if they are just being nice or they would really like to hang out. So I say, “yeah! I would love that!” and then I wait for them to set it up because I am afraid if I try to set it up, I will look like I am pressuring them to do something they maybe didn’t want to REALLY do in the first place. Maybe they were just being nice.

So I wait for someone to make the first move, and when someone does go through with setting up legit plans with me, I get so anxious that half the time I end up cancelling because I am so paranoid and overwhelmed that I will be a complete letdown.

It’s also hard for me to set aside time to actually have a friend. I have local friends, don’t get me wrong. The problem is, they all live a minimum of a thirty-minute drive away from my house, so it’s not like we can every just randomly drop in.

I do  have a couple friends that actually lives in my neighborhood (::waves at Kelsey and Sarah::), but I feel like my life is so different from theirs. I am running around like a woman possessed during the school year, and only really get to spend time with them in the summer when we can have play dates.

I feel like I know what it is to be a good friend, but I feel a little unfriendable.

I want my friends to know I think about them often, but I don’t find the time to tell them.

I see them update their social media about fun things they are doing and I get sad and jealous, even though it’s my own fault for never inviting people over or asking them out to coffee or a movie. It’s my fault for canceling or being unavailable so often that I just don’t get an invite anymore.

The truth is I feel inadequate. I feel that I am not good enough, smart enough, pretty enough, funny enough to hang out with the people I call friends.

The way my life is right now, my family and my job are my priorities. This leaves little time for hanging with friends.

I look at my planner and I realize that I have made myself unfriendable.

Maybe subconsciously I do this on purpose. I avoid rejection by filling my life with things (my jobs) and people (my family) who won’t reject me. Ever.

I throw myself into my work–both teaching and blogging/writing–to the point where any extra time I have, I give to my family. I don’t even know how to start with having a “regular friend”.

And now that I have written  all of this, I am afraid that any friends who attempt to spend time with me, are doing it out of pity and the experience of hanging out with me will be truly underwhelming and I will never hear from them again.

I am making this all much harder than it should be, I am sure.