When my mama was a teenager, she and her sister went to an old brownstone Methodist church in downtown Los Angeles—by themselves. Their parents would drop them at the door each week, and for the rest of the morning, they were on their own. After Mom had been there for a while, enjoying the youth group, attending community “sings,” and participating in winter and summer camps, two of the older women pulled her aside one morning.
“Ruthie,” they said to her, “we see real leadership potential in you and we’d like to do what we can to encourage your gifts. So we’ve put together a little fund and we want to send you to a conference at Hollywood Presbyterian Church that Henrietta Mears is organizing. Would you like to go?”
Would she? My mom was thrilled; she went and enjoyed every minute.And she never forgot the generosity and thoughtfulness of those women who looked at her and saw something special, who made it possible for her to step into her gifts and to blossom.
After she married my dad and had us three kids, she turned right around and began teaching Sunday school in the high-school department, working with young women in the eleventh grade. I still remember watching her faithfully prepare rich and meaty lessons every week. She met with each student personally each semester, taking them out for breakfast, encouraging them to let their own gifts grow and multiply.
Decades later, when I was a young mom attending a church that was new to us, an older woman pulled me aside and said, “Diana, I see gifts in you. Leadership, teaching, and hospitality gifts. Would you consider joining me on the leadership team of our women’s group?”
Would I? I was thrilled. I joined that dear friend, and learned from her for more than twenty years. Her name was Lucille Peterson, later Lucille Peterson Johnston, and she became another mom to me, teaching, encouraging, and cheering me on.
My mother-in-law, Kathryn, rounded out my trio of mentors, after my mom and before I met Lucille. She was quiet, reserved, conservative, and deeply spiritual. Yet she welcomed me—loud, extroverted, middle-of-the-road, and still in need of so much depth! Her steadiness, good humor, wisdom, and infectious laughter taught me much about how to be a gracious and giving person.
Each of those women is a gift of God in my life. In May 2014, my mother-in-law went home to Jesus at the age of ninety-eight, Lucille is nearing 100 now and enjoying life in assisted living, and my dear mother suffers from dementia and will be ninety-five this summer. I carry them with me every single day. Their investment in me was profound—life-giving, life-changing, and irreplaceable. I truly do not know who I would be today without their imprint on who I am.
Each of those women is a gift of God in my life. I truly do not know who I would be today without their imprint on who I am.
They were on the lookout for me, you see. And they were natural encouragers and terrific role models. They took the teaching of Scripture seriously, that little piece in Colossians 1: “To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. It is he whom we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone in all wisdom, so that we may present everyone mature in Christ” (vv. 27-28).
Ruth, Kathryn, Lucille. They were and are my teachers, eager to see me “mature in Christ,” and willing to offer their own gifts, their precious time, and their years of accumulated wisdom to help me get there. I will be grateful to them and for them as long as I breathe.
So I’m wondering: Who has helped you along the way? Who has been on the lookout in your life?