The Friend Alongside Me...
Judy Covington first came alongside me as I began to serve on the church staff where she was working in the weekday education day care. She was the assistant director and also a member of the church. I met her on Sunday morning and she endeared herself to me with one request, "Beth, introduce me to your boys." That statement became the entry point for our friendship. As any new church staff member will tell you, starting a ministry position at any staff has a learning curve-the culture, the people, the history. Judy came alongside me and began to mentor me. Her timely advice and words of wisdom provided the backdrop for me to build my ministry.
Because we shared space, there was a time (actually several times) when our Sunday School ministry had not taken care of all that we should on Sunday and Monday morning arrived to find rooms "less than ready" for the important ministry of weekday education. Judy would call me in her office, "Beth" she would begin and then go on to tell me what she had observed. She would remind me of expectations for shared space and then, she ended with some of the best advice I have ever received from a mentor, "Now that we have cleared this up, let's not speak on it again." And she wouldn't. She taught me the critical skill of confrontation in love and relationship. And the all important "not speaking of it again."
I began to seek wisdom also from Judy as a wife and Mom. Because she had some years of wisdom raising three awesome kids, she had the birds eye view to speak into my life in ways that blessed me as a mom. I could always count on her to provide the truth. Judy was known for guiding parents toward great decisions by helping them see the big picture. One piece of advice she gave me before I married Mark, "Now Beth, just keep in mind that as you marry Mark and together, you raise your four kids, there will be bumps in the road. But don't blame every bump on being a 'step family'. Sometimes raising kids, there are just bumps in the road." Wow! That advice has not only helped me sleep some nights but I have passed it on to countless step-families as they navigate their story.
In April, Judy and I took a trip with some other friends to Birmingham to hear a comedian and a podcaster that we liked. It was an multi-generational trip. We had a friend in their 30's, almost 40's, 50's (me), 60's and 70's. Judy provided the homemade snacks for the road, a whole lot of the laughter, and needed wisdom and advice. She didn't know at that point that this would be her last April, or her last big road trip with girlfriends but she said something the next morning that resonated with all of us. As we were leaving our hotel, Judy said, "I couldn't sleep last night thinking about all of the fun I had." In a world where speed and business are the hallmarks of success, she came alongside to show me how to treasure this day, this moment, this joy.
Last month I received a phone call from her daughter, Kim. Judy had been sick for several months and when they discovered that it was cancer, it was pretty far along. I went to the hospital and asked for a few minutes alone with her, which her sister and daughter were so gracious to give me. DANG! Judy! This is NOT what we planned. "No, it's not" she replied. We emotionally "kicked some tires" and maybe even thought some bad words (at least I did). And then...
Judy came alongside and mentored me once more. In those precious, few, tiny little weeks we had left with her, she showed me once more her heart for Jesus and her love for people. She intentionally spent her last days praising the One who gave her life, bragging on her family and pouring every ounce of energy into her grandkids. I visited her one day and accidentally sat on her Sunday School quarterly. Who still reads their Sunday School lesson while facing a death sentence with cancer? Who still takes time to praise Jesus and sing with the hospice chaplain? Who, still in her very last days still was teaching me the Joy and Strength of the Lord is all we will ever need? Judy Covington, sweet friend, I will honor your life and investment by coming alongside someone else and pouring into their lives maybe a portion of all of the wisdom you have given me. Maybe tonight I will stay up and think about the fun I had today-and wake up with a smile of gratitude for all God has given. Especially sweet friends like you.