I’m continuing to look back where I’ve been in this part 2 of 4 – 40 years of discipleship.

Discipleship is quite a mouthful. Depending on who you talk to, it can mean a formal relationship where one person (typically younger) learns from an older person. But it can also mean simply living by example.

Here’s a rather lengthy view into that 40 year history as God brought women into my life right when I needed them – whether I knew it or not.

I remember her turning on the radio as I ate her homemade granola. Bob Murfin’s voice flooded our kitchen as WMBI announced their call letters. I asked her why she needed to listen to that crazy morning show and she said it helped her start the day thinking about the right stuff.

Her small brown leather Bible and her favorite pens were never far from her desk, and I knew it was her time with God that got her through the hard stuff in life.

She would sit with me on the couch and read John White’s The Tower of Geburah aloud. The afternoon sun would always make her tongue go just a bit slower until, like a wind-up toy, she stopped. I poked her a bit and she came back to life to read a bit more.

I watched her struggle over what to do about having a baby, being a new pastor’s wife and still teaching us at home. Her decision to send us off to school was difficult but I am thankful for it.

I remember sitting in her 4th grade classroom as she handed out English worksheets. We all sat at our desks quietly, for once, and got right to work. For about 15 minutes, silence reigned until she threw snack-sized Snickers bars at us for being so good.

Many years later, I wrote to her and told her how I was studying to be a teacher, thanks to that moment with the Snickers bars. She didn’t miss my wedding shower, ceremony or baby shower.

I remember those first years of marriage thinking what in the world did I get myself into?! But I remember the gift of the older ladies at Bible study: the way they spoke of their husbands kindly yet still with humor, the way they prayed for the new couples and their marriages, and added a bit of perspective as they could see the stuff that really mattered

I remember one of them – a feisty, spunky lady! When I helped to lead the Children’s Ministry, she planted herself by the boys bathroom to make sure their hands were cleaned and they knew they were loved. As she helped me, she would tell me her story and how God used her brokenness for good. Today, she sees her Savior with her own eyes and I miss her.

I remember meeting the woman with whom I share a name. She looked at me and at her son and knew. With a twinkle in her blue eyes, she made sure certain apple dishes went home with me – for our house one day. This woman didn’t know me but had prayed for me. Over the last 15 years, she has since taught me many things not the least of which – how to make an excellent pie crust.

I remember meeting a quiet thoughtful dark-haired woman. She had her first baby and I had my last with weeks of each other. I had no idea she’d been watching my journey of motherhood until she asked a few questions one day. Her spiritual depth and decisions to do the hard things encourage and challenge me – and humble me as she asks how I handled situations with my children. I love our conversations because I rarely feel as though I’m passing along great and glorious revelations but bits and pieces from a broken journey.

I remember meeting her a few Sundays into our new church. Her perfect hair, 3-inch heels and effervescent energy had me concluding her life was – well, perfect – including her family.  But it very much wasn’t. One day she unmasked and I came to understand that greener grass is sometimes spray-painted. She let me walk with her through her darkest moments and I learned to how to fight for a marriage.

It wasn’t long ago that I met her. She was a new face sitting around a table with other people who called themselves writers. I was drawn to her quiet thoughts. She was trying a new idea and writing a novel while I was just trying to figure out how to be a writer. Something about learning new things brings people together and levels the playing field.

I remember her smile, deep voice and pure white hair. In BSF, she shared her struggle with breast cancer, walking the road of an Alzheimer’s widow, and learning what it means to follow Christ in every season. She was there the day I suddenly found out I needed a follow-up mammogram, and she was there the day I needed a biopsy. Others watching her give me hugs asked if she was my grandma. I laughed and said I wish. She said she’s always open for another granddaughter and calls me Ruthie.

These women all have stories and names and are so precious to me, but the one thing they all have in common is that God has used them to shape me. If you asked them about discipling me, they probably would deny it, but the fact remains – I’m different because of what God has done through them.

Discipleship isn’t always a stiff formal idea. Most often, it is simply life on life. Watching others on the journey ahead of you live and love God. Those are the ones you keep your eyes on and ask questions as you live and love God with them.

Remember those who modeled for you.

Think about who is looking at yours – it’s most often, not who you think.