We had just moved into our home after living in an apartment for over a year, when the doorbell rang and there, on my doorstep, was a beautiful lady with a loaf of banana bread in her hands. As she handed me the bread, she introduced herself in her sweet-sounding southern accent and said, “Hi, I’m Linda. Welcome to the neighborhood, y’all.” It was music to my ears and I sensed an immediate bonding in my heart. I had prayed God would connect me to the neighbors we would have in this new neighborhood, and it was happening already. I was delighted to have encountered Linda!
Our paths continued to cross as our children met and began to play together daily. She extended her beautiful southern hospitality to us and we sat at her dining room table just a few weeks after meeting her and her husband, John. It was a festive evening and we went away full — in our tummies and in our hearts. Once again, I sensed something of a “kindred spirit” with her.
As time passed I invited her to the bible study I was leading for women in our church and she came with an open heart. It just happened that we were traveling to a women’s retreat in the very near future, so I called her and asked her to come along. She said yes! Little did either of us realize how dramatically her life would change that weekend as she responded to Jesus and asked Him to enter her heart and life.
After that weekend, our lives were entwined even more deeply as we spent many hours together. We would meet over cups of tea, or salad lunches and talk non-stop about the Bible and it’s truths. Her desire to know God and His ways was simply unquenchable. We would pray for her husband and children to give their lives to God. . . . and before much time had passed her husband did give his heart to Jesus. Her children followed too. Those were rich days filled with God’s love and accompanied with loads of laughter!
Linda had an uncanny way of knowing when I needed a friend. There were many occasions, when she had no idea I was in the midst of a struggle — my phone would ring and she would ask my husband and I to dinner. Her ability to “nurture” people through her gift of hospitality made sitting at Linda’s table akin to being given a huge loving embrace! There was always amazing food, rich fellowship, much laughter and a deep awareness of “care” being given to us. The love she and John showered on us would fill us to overflowing and we would leave their home comforted! On more than one occasion, Linda’s hospitality touched deep places in my heart and healed me.
Today is Linda’s birthday and I want to dedicate this blog post to her because she has been such a faithful and loving friend to me. She no longer lives just two doors away from me, but instead lives in another state. However, distance can not separate the love and honor I hold in my heart for her. We still share the same love for God, for family and for our local churches that we shared so long ago. Her faith is an inspiration to me and I am grateful to God for giving her that southern hospitality which caused her to bake a loaf of banana bread, knock on my door and welcome me into the neighborhood. She may have thought she was welcoming me into the neighborhood, but in reality, she was welcoming me into her heart and life!
Thanks Linda — I will be forever grateful for YOU! Happy Birthday!