In last week’s post I shared how a woman named Julie was there for me when I needed someone for support. In this post I want to share the rest of that story…
And one standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer; three is even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken. ~ Ecclesiastes 4:12
Sometimes the most unexpected people come into your life and make an eternal difference. That happened to me over 20 years ago when an old acquaintance from our youth group made her way to the front pew of the church where I was sitting, alone. She understood I needed to know someone cared, so she courageously stepped out of her pew to be Jesus for me that day.
Julie Bagwell is two years younger than me, so when we were in the youth group together we never hung out. She was the outgoing, social type while I was introverted and quiet. I’d seen her a couple of times since I graduated high school—but we never really connected—until that day.
After she’d left me with the preacher, I didn’t see her again until she contacted me a few days later. She invited me to her home and asked if I’d be willing to give some input on renovations she wanted to make to her house. I gladly accepted, especially since I wanted to thank her for being a friend when I desperately needed one.
While we discussed some of the changes she wanted to make to her house, she asked if I’d be interested in going with her to meet a friend, Frieda Younts, after we finished. I didn’t even know Frieda, except for having seen her at church.
“So are y’all getting together for lunch?” I asked.
“No. I’m going to her house so we can meet for prayer.”
My heart dropped.
“Oh. I’ve never prayed in a group before.”
“You don’t have to pray,” Julie said. “Just join us as we pray.”
I was terrified. Why would anyone want to do that instead of going out to lunch? But I decided since the Holy Spirit had been working extra hard on me lately, it was probably more of an invitation from Him than Julie.
Frieda was kind and welcoming, putting me at ease immediately. I honestly can’t remember if I prayed or not, but I do remember how they prayed. It was just like they were talking to a friend; like Jesus was sitting right there with us. I’d never heard anyone pray that way before, and it was freeing.
That began our beautiful friendship, still going strong after over 20 years. These precious ladies taught me more about Jesus through their example and love than anyone I’d ever known. They were Jesus with skin on.
Not long after my recommitment, our pastor approached me with a question. He wanted to know if I’d be interested in assistant teaching a new ladies class with Julie. I didn’t even have to think about it. I accepted the position.
God grew me in multi-faceted ways through that class. Not only did I learn to teach His Word, I also learned to love. Teaching isn’t just about sharing knowledge; it’s about loving the listener. My whole world began to open up.
Even though I loved teaching, I still hesitated to venture any further than inside the church doors. But Frieda and Julie faithfully dragged (Julie wouldn’t take no for an answer) me out of my comfort zone. The first conference we attended together, Renewing the Heart by Focus on the Family, was in Nashville, Tennessee. I’d never seen people expressing their love for Jesus in such an outward way. The music led me straight to the throne while the speaking lit a fire in my soul. It was exhilarating.
From there I attended an Ann Graham Lotz conference at The Cove with Frieda. God spoke to me in such a personal
way there that I’ve never been the same.
I could go on and on, listing the conferences and seminars we’ve attended together. Each one drew us closer, causing us to become more than just friends. We are now spiritual sisters in Christ. But the key has been our faithfulness in coming together often and sharing what God’s been revealing to us personally. We’ve leaned on each other, loved on each others’ kids and families and even lovingly rebuked one another when it was called for. We were such spiritual babies when we started this journey, and God has been faithful to instruct us in His ways.
Ten years ago we decided to put on a conference together at The Cove Camp in Asheville, N.C. We wanted an inexpensive retreat for women who were worn out with life. I remember Julie and I talked on the phone for hours trying to come up with just the right name. We finally settled on Operation Resuscitation. When we began running radio ads for the event, I had women tell me
they ran to the phone when they heard the name. So many ladies were depleted from life and needed their faith to be revived. I’ve always felt this was a gift God allowed us to be a part of, seeing Him work in the lives of those sweet ladies who attended.
Even though it was exhausting, the Operation Resuscitation event ignited a passion in my soul for women’s ministry. After God called me away from teaching, I began to develop and coordinate women’s ministry events. I’d found my sweet spot. Frieda and Julie were always there, ready and willing to help and support as needed.
None of us attend the same church anymore. God trained us together and then called us away one by one, me being the last to leave. It’s been hard adjusting to not having them in my life as frequently, but we’re still teaching each other how to do this Christian life. God blessed me with two fantastic friends all those years ago. I’m so glad Julie took that first step—dragging me the much of the way. I love you, Julie and Frieda. Y’all are the bestest friends a girl could have.
If you feel God calling you to venture out of your comfort zone, listen and be obedient. You’ll never know what crazy awesome blessings God has in store until you do.
Do you have friends like these in your life? Please share your spiritual sister story!