I want to tell the story of my friend Mary Lou and how God has weaved her story together with Anne’s…in the most beautiful way.
To introduce you to her, I have to go back almost 9 years – to when Anne was an infant. Mary Lou was in charge of our church’s women’s retreat, and somehow I ended up helping her with many of the last-minute details. Because I was helping her, we rode down to the retreat site together, with Anne strapped in an infant car seat in the back of Mary Lou’s car.
Mary Lou was broken.
One year prior, she had almost died from E Coli poisoning. While she was in the hospital, she learned that her father had died. And just two months prior to the women’s retreat, her mother had died. I remember feeling helpless to comfort her as she wrestled with being in charge of such a large event in the wake of such a difficult year.
I listened as she talked of how much she missed her “mama” and wondered at this older, single woman’s heart. She knew how to love and serve in such a mysteriously wonderful way. For years, she had served as a two-year old Sunday school teacher. At the time, my oldest son was in her class. She loved those two-year-olds in a way that made you think that God had created her just for that purpose – to love those rowdy, snotty nosed kids. She amazed me with her willingness to serve.
That evening, after everyone had arrived and all the details had fallen into place, I went back to the cabin I was sharing with Mary Lou and other older women in our church. I still wonder how I got placed in that cabin. I was so out-of-place – a mom with a nursing infant among grandmothers. But I cherished it.
We sat in the comfort of a shared living area and started talking as women do. I was nursing Anne and I observed in wonder as these beautiful older women began praying for Mary Lou. And Mary Lou wept. It was like the year had caught up with her, and all the pain and stress of illness, death and responsibility just poured out of her in sobs.
The women were unphased by her pain – but kept praying for her… calmly, confidently, compassionately. And then a verse of Scripture came to my mind, and I don’t know how, but I knew it was from God.
The Lord your God is in your midst,
a mighty one who will save;
he will rejoice over you with gladness;
he will quiet you by his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing (Zephaniah 3:17).
It was as if I could see Jesus, himself, rejoicing over Mary Lou. He was singing. He was pleased with her brokenness. At that moment, with Anne cradled in my arms. I understood how much Jesus loved Mary Lou. Words are inadequate. It was a defining moment in my life.
Fast forward a few years…and Anne was a painfully shy two-year-old in Mary Lou’s Sunday school class. Mary Lou loved Anne. (Mary Lou was born to love two-year-olds!) She let Anne sit in her lap during the bible lesson. Anne would suck her two fingers and snuggle into Mary Lou’s chest. Anne never talked. That’s just who Anne was back then.
Fast-forward another few years…and Mary Lou had to stop teaching Sunday school because she was experiencing extreme back pain. Her back was so painful that she had to have horribly invasive surgery in the early spring of 2010. When Mary Lou found out about our accident on April 13, 2010, she was lying flat on her back, dependent on friends from church to care for her as she recovered.
Once again, Mary Lou was broken. And it pained her that she wasn’t able to serve our family in the wake of Anne’s accident. Mary Lou has told me that she would lie on her back and pray and weep for our family.
It took Mary Lou a while to recover from her back surgery and she was unable to teach her two-year-old Sunday school class. But this year, three years after Anne’s accident, she thought she might re-enter the ministry. She was told that the two-year old class was covered, but there was a need for someone to be Anne’s Sunday school “helper.”
It had been over three years, but God gave Mary Lou her chance to help, and she took it.
Anne gets to sit in her lap again – just as she did as a two-year-old…but she’s not quiet! Anne talks and talks to Mary Lou. Anne loves Mary Lou, and Mary Lou loves Anne.
Mary Lou is a treasured child of the King. She recently told me she is blessed to be Anne’s helper. She said it is God’s calling for her right now!!
It’s been 9 years since I sat nursing Anne and watched as women prayed over a broken and weeping Mary Lou. God showed me in that holy moment the glory of his love for her!! So I’m guessing if God has called Mary Lou to help Anne, then Jesus must love Anne a lot, too.
This is a story of God’s grace and care. When I grow up, I want to be like Mary Lou!