A couple of weeks ago, on the 12th of October, it was the 100th birthday of dear Mrs. Brooks, the neighbor and lifelong family friend who shared Jesus with me when I was a little girl.
Mrs. B, as I grew up thinking of her, is a precious saint. She was not only instrumental in leading me to faith, but in influencing and loving most of my family in Jesus' direction. When my mother, spiritually hungry and looking for help in understanding God, went to her door years ago to find out about the Bible clubs Mrs. B had for neighborhood kids, Mrs. B invited her to come see for herself what it was all about. That invitation, and her gentle teaching and loving presence, made all the difference in the life of our family. I will be forever grateful that she was the one who scattered gospel seeds and helped to water them for so many years.
I have no idea how many other lives and families Mrs. B touched over the years, but I would guess it is beyond counting. She taught Bible clubs for decades. She and her kind husband, Clifton (who always reminded me a gentler real-life version of Fred Flintstone) were known for their loving and generous friendship to many. Just as one example, when I was a pre-schooler, they once took care of me for a whole week during the day-time when my mother was in the hospital and then recovering from surgery. For a child who had not grown up located near grandparents, this was heady stuff. I still remember Mrs B scrambling eggs for my breakfast and adding bacon bits to them, Mr B pushing me in the cart at the grocery store, and Mrs. B laughing as she made me peanut butter sandwiches (hers were the best, I apparently proclaimed, because she spread the peanut butter right to the edges).
Both of my sisters eventually taught during the summers with CEF, the organization Mrs B was a part of. Although I never did their summer program, I did end up working with Mrs B in a Bible club when I was a teenager. She had decided to teach some refugee children from Cambodia who had moved into the neighborhood and she asked me to help. We couldn't speak their language and they could speak only a little of ours, but she loved on those kids with Jesus love and I followed along in her wake, happy to watch and learn.
Loving others in her gentle way has always been what Mrs B does best, and it's why her quiet voice, speaking the truth of the gospel, has always carried such weight. During my first couple of college vacations, I went with my mom and Mrs B to a program that Mrs. B regularly taught in. It was a detention center for juvenile girls who had gotten in trouble with the law, and Mrs B thought it would be good if someone closer to the girls' age could share a testimony with them. Introvert that I am (never a public speaker), I went because she asked, and I did my best to share as honestly and lovingly as she had shared with me. And I watched as those teen girls, hip and cool and insecure and in pain, swarmed around her after the Bible lesson she taught, just wanting to be with her. Some of them called her Grandma.
Mrs. B has outlived her dear Clifton (though he lived to be near 90, I think) and has even outlived one of her children, her pastor son who sadly died unexpectedly of a heart attack several years ago. She now lives in a nursing home where she can get the daily care she needs. It's not hard for me to imagine her bathing everyone there in the same gentle love she's always shone on everyone she's come into contact with.
I didn't know what image to put on the card I made for her birthday. I finally chose this:
I had seen this painting no long ago on the "I Require Art" blog. It's a painting called "Yellow Sycamore in Autumn," painted by Edgar Payne. I thought the wonderful spreading shelter of the tree, and its bright color and stage of life, seemed to capture so much of what I felt when I thought of Mrs B and all the beauty she's shared in her hundred years. Right down to that blue patch of sky...like a window where you can glimpse heaven.
When I went to write down the specifics of the painting so I could put them on the back of the card (something I always try to do when using an artistic image) I almost laughed aloud. Payne painted this in 1916. It's 99 years old...painted when Mrs B was just a tiny girl of 1.