Well, you're there, aren't you, sweetie? I love you VERY much.
I walked into the doors of a community group we attended... trembling, shy, and ready to be anywhere else but where I was. This lady named Martha that I met, though, she seemed pretty happy. From that point on, I hung on her every word. I desperately wanted what she had.
Martha taught me pretty early on that I needed to start reaching out to people in our group. She taught me this four letter word that I had never used before. H. E. L. P.
Such a small word, but such a large task for the introverted 25 year old I had become. She suggested that I pick up a phone and call people. She told me it would weigh 500 pounds, but I should practice picking it up, anyway.
Now my world was 10 shades of crazy on a good day, and I really could not figure out for the life of me who in their right mind who willingly answer the phone when I called to talk about the fun my family was putting in dysfunction.
Oh, ye of little faith...
Whenever I called Martha, she answered. Every. Single. Time.
She answered, and she heard me. She never belittled me. She never said, "I don't have time for this." She even went as far as to THANK ME for calling and trusting her with the specs of my world. Friends, she taught me to trust.
Over the years, our communication left the crisis mode and turned into just two friends keeping up with one another.
42 years between us, and this woman became my best friend and a spiritual Mama to me. The most unlikely of pairs who met in a place of pain, God took the ouch and turned it into beauty like only He can. I'm still amazed that God allowed me to have Martha Smith speak into my life and love on my family over the last 16 years.
And friends, I have to tell you, I almost missed this. I almost missed this friendship and her wisdom. Martha used to refer to this as our breakup. She would say, "Remember that time you broke up with me, Christie Aitken?" :)
See, fear was screaming in my ear predicting a day like the one we're in right now. It would say, "She won't always be here. She's 42 years older than you. What are you going to do when she's gone? You are too dependent on this friendship. You need to create some space."
Soooooo... in my 30 year old brilliance, I told her that I was going to try to just call her once a week instead of every day. I knew I needed to grow up, and I was pretty sure this was the next right thing to do.
And in perfect Martha Smith fashion, she just said, "Well, honey, you might be right." :)
It took about a week before I realized that I was not dependent on Martha Smith, I was completely blessed by the reality of a friendship with her. I didn't need space to protect my heart later on. I needed to value the time God was giving me with this woman and glean all that I could from how she lived and loved.
See, even in this clumsy season I was in, Martha taught me the beauty of honoring the space and decisions of another. I think we can all vouch for the fact that Martha didn't even have to try to teach us lessons for living. She was a living, breathing legacy of love just by being herself and practicing a program of recovery that gave honor to the God she loved.
Martha and I talked every morning during my drive to work, rarely missing a day. We talked of her daily newspaper readings. We'd stand on our mutual soapboxes until we slipped off of them, recognizing our powerlessness. We cried. We prayed. We praised. We laughed. We had a big time, y'all.
She always started our calls by checking on my heart. "So, what's going on in your world?" Everyone who ever knew Martha knew that she took an intentional interest in those around her. She wasn't one for surface niceties. She was interested in YOU. When you left a conversation with Martha, you always knew that you mattered to her.
She taught me the difference between being aggressive and being assertive, and was my biggest cheerleader when the lesson finally stuck. "Christie Aitken, I believe YOU are being assertive my dear."
She taught me lessons of trust and boundaries through rocks and diamonds. "Show them your rocks, baby, and if they take care of them, THEN you can show them your diamonds."
Martha taught me to end my relationship with the words "Should" and "Never." She would tell me, "Never say never" and "Don't should all over yourself, baby." She taught me to live in the right now, and that the Lord's Prayer suggested daily bread for a reason. We were supposed to live in THIS day. Not yesterday. Not tomorrow. We are called to live one day at a time.
She taught me about "acting as if" and being able to say "I don't know."
She consistently reminded me not to quit 5 minutes before my miracle.
And in my 30's when I met a minister who taught me the beauty of God's grace, I immediately thought of Martha saying, "But for the grace of God go I." My program and my faith journey finally connected, and she was a key piece of that puzzle for me.
She taught me how to choose to have people in my life because I loved them, whether I loved the season they were in or not. She taught me how to set boundaries around the same. Her question to me was always, "What can you lay your head down with tonight, Christie?"
Martha reminded me on repeat that it really does help to say things out loud to get them out of my head and heart. She reminded me to keep my circle close, and that everything wasn't for everybody, but that God would lead me toward what to share and when.
She reminded me that replaying old tapes in my head did nothing to spur me toward being the woman God called me to be. She reminded me that He makes all things new when I let Him.
Martha's views on condemnation prior to investigation opened up my entire world. I had no idea I had spent a lifetime judging circumstances without fully hearing the opportunities that God might have for me.
I watched Martha love "little Joe" with a fierceness, and lead by example that you really can be best friends with your kids. I watched her miss her own baby girl so much, and step in to beautifully love her Kristen. Martha taught me that love was endless and there was plenty to share.
Martha taught me to have my oil, belts, and all of the other things checked regularly on my car. And that time that I had not done that? I called her in a puddle with a broken down car, and she just said, "Baby, call Joe. He'll tell you what to do." Martha Smith gave me a big brother in Joe Smith, and for that, I'm forever grateful.
On the car note, she taught me that there no excuse for driving with less than 1/2 a tank of gas, and I'm pretty sure she would have kicked my butt this morning if she saw me gliding into the gas station on fumes. I heard ya, girl. I heard ya. I filled up and am back in the game. :)
Martha taught me to take what I liked and to leave the rest, but ALWAYS have ears to hear people out, first. She taught me to pause when I felt like interrupting. She taught me to embrace silence as a conduit for growth.
Martha taught me that sometimes the next right thing was simply to do a load of laundry or go take a walk, while other times it might be getting in the car to attend a meeting that I was pretty sure I didn't need that day. She also taught me that THAT meeting was exactly the one I needed the most. :)
During a season where I could not make our "family group" meetings due to my first ministry of single parenting and special needs parenting, Martha brought the meeting to me. Every single day. Martha Smith showed up in more ways that I could ever count. She taught me to be intentional and see which hearts God called me to love on.
Martha taught me about "milque toast" and about keeping my power.
She taught me that it was perfectly okay to say, "I think I'll pray about that", and that not too many people would argue against it.
She taught me that NO was a perfectly complete sentence, needing no further explanation unless I just wanted to give it.
And God Bless America, y'all, Martha Smith taught us all about fashion. I know exactly zero people who could get hand me downs from a best friend that was 42 years their senior. I'm just sayin', y'all. The woman had style for days.
Martha taught me that it was okay to be human and make mistakes. Among my favorites of her one liners is, "Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time." She was one of a kind, friends.
I'll wrap with this. Every day when it was time for our call to end for the morning, Martha could hear me getting on the first of two elevators at my office. She would always say, "Well, you're there, aren't ya, baby?" to which I'd answer, "Yes, ma'am". She would end our call by saying, "Okay. I love you very much."
Friday when I left the hospital, I thought about that. For as fast as I raced from my office to get to her, I got there about 5 minutes after she made her heavenly debut.
My mind said, "You should be devastated. You didn't get to say goodbye."
And then the Martha Smith in my heart said, "Oh, honey, don't should all over yourself." <3 My friends, I'd trade that time with her ten times over for her to get to experience the hope of heaven 5 minutes sooner.
See, we said our goodbyes every single day... and we knew they were just momentary. They were really "talk to you laters." Friday was no different, and today isn't, either. We don't grieve like those who have no hope, friends. We've had a big time down here, but this isn't all there is.
If Martha could teach us anything today, I'm 99.9% sure she would say, "Whatever you do, don't miss this meeting in the sky, y'all. You just think you've seen serenity. You ain't seen nothin', yet."
So, I'll say this. If you don't have a Higher Power, I'll let you borrow mine. I'd love nothing better than to share my Jesus with you, even if it's just a test drive to see what you think.
And as for you, Ms. Martha....
I think this works just the way we've always ended our conversations.
"Well, you're there. Aren't ya, Ms. Martha?"
"Yes, Christie, I am."
"Okay. I love you very much."
Until our next reunion, sweet girl... I love you dearly. Thank you for loving me and my boys like you have. Thank you for loving us all. We all forever changed.