The different people we meet throughout our lives each paint a portion of our story. When we look back on our beautiful portrait, we see the work of hundreds – maybe thousands – of people. Some only brush a single stroke and others fill in the smallest details of our canvas. My late mentor, Miss Betty, added many colors and designs to my life and I credit her, in large part, with my love of marriage and relationships. From the time I was seven and moved in across the street, to months before my 34th birthday when we lost her, she displayed to me what it meant to be a Proverbs 31 and Titus 2 woman.
In her honor, I will share seven lessons she taught me about marriage, so her legacy can live on through my life – even if in the smallest way. She is surely one to be celebrated. She helped me simplify the chaos of married life and showed me how to find beauty in even the most difficult seasons.
- Laugh with Your Spouse. If Miss Betty was known for anything, it was her laughter and her prayers. When visiting her, you could count on her giggling at your stories; and, if you had a need, she would stop what she was doing and pray – no matter how minor. Some of my fondest memories of Miss Betty are when her husband, Mr. Dave (the neighborhood comedian) told stories (perhaps fudging the details… a smidge) and Miss Betty would laugh and emphatically exclaim, “Bun!” (they called each other Bun [short for ‘honey bun’] and it was the cutest nickname ever). Then, they would go back and forth – him jokingly declaring his recollections to be accurate and her shaking her head no and laughing. From childhood until my thirties, their playful banter kept me thoroughly entertained. Miss Betty’s laugh will always be one of my favorite sounds in the world, but it was always sweetest when she shared it with her Bun.
- Embrace Your Role. Miss Betty was an extremely intelligent woman who did not find her role as a wife burdening or degrading. She taught school for a while and when she retired, she taught and attended many Bible studies while playing a vital role in the lives of her grandsons. She was talented enough to pursue several careers and would have thrived in all of them. She never saw her status as keeper of the home to be negative. She loved the man God gave her to love and the home He gave her to fill – and fill she did. She filled it with love, delicious foods, beautiful artwork, deep conversation, and prayer. When doubt creeps in and voices in my mind say, “You could do so much more than staying home and working with your husband,” I remember Miss Betty and those like her who completely rocked their role as wife. She embraced the tasks God gave her, taught younger women to love their husbands and influenced me to be educated and domesticated. ~smile~
- Keep an Open Hand and Heart. Throughout their last decade together, Mr. Dave suffered multiple health problems and endured many hospital stays. And, though I am sure she cried many tears in secret, she remained steadfastly optimistic no matter the diagnosis. She kept the faith, never doubted God could heal, and did not use their circumstances as an excuse to complain or do less for others. During those rough patches, we would not have blamed her at all for turning us away at the door. Not today. I am just too overwhelmed and tired. Somehow, by God’s grace, she was able to keep giving. I think her ability to keep going was due, in part, to her starting each day with the Lord and due to her attitude about God – He gives and He takes away (cf. Job 1:21). She praised Him either way. She loved Mr. Dave but did not hold him as a god in her life. She prayed fervently for his healing, but ultimately trusted in God and His goodness.
- Do Not Settle for Good Enough. She made a statement to me when I was about ten-years-old I have never forgotten. She said, “I decided I was not going to have any more bad days.” Her declaration rocked my world. Can you decide not to have a bad day? Wow. She came to a point in her life where she decided to cling to the verse, “This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” (Psalm 118:24, ESV) Every day is God’s gift, so she quit calling even her most trying days bad. She also refused to accept bad reports. More times than I can count, I sat in her living room and told her stories about the people in my life – their health problems, failing relationships, and fears. As she listened, her face would become serious. Then, she would shake her head and say, “Oh, no. We are not going to have this.” At that point, she would scribble a reminder to pray on the nearest notepad she could find. In some cases, she stopped what she was doing and prayed immediately. In the last several years of Mr. Dave’s life, she sat through many unnerving doctor consults and watched him suffer from various afflictions, but she did not say, “Well, I guess this is as good as he is going to feel.” Instead, she kept praying and believing health and wellness were coming. Her faith helped her attitude and her attitude helped her husband. He did not need a fretting wife in his time of need. He needed a spirit-filled wife who daily lived out her faith.
- Prioritize Your Husband First While Still Ministering to Others. Miss Betty was a bride of fifteen years by the time I was born, and a bride of twenty-three years by the time I moved in across the street from her in 1990. So, I cannot speak for the first several years of her marriage; however, in the last twenty-five years of her marriage, I can emphatically say she was a master at putting Mr. Dave first (after God, of course) and still aptly ministering to others. (And she would surely disagree with me out of humility if she were here. ~smile~ “Heather, you are giving me too much credit!”) She backed away from accolades which is something else I admired about her. But, I am only sharing what I witnessed. She had a way of making her visitors feel appreciated, heard, and accepted while still checking in with Mr. Dave and making sure he was well-fed and comfortable. The way she looked after his needs made being a wife seem like a pleasurable labor of love and one which did not have to define every waking second of life. She was an excellent wife and an excellent friend.
- Be Lovingly and Respectfully Honest. “Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but deceitful are the kisses of an enemy.” (Proverbs 27:6, ESV) Miss Betty was extremely kind and empathetic, but if you were being stupid, she let you know it. She was not one to say, “Look, you are acting like an idiot,” but she would speak up if she felt someone in her life was taking the wrong path. Her love for her husband inspired her not to ignore his shortcomings or encourage his poor habits, but to tell him the truth respectfully. Often Christian wives feel they must keep their men happy at all times, tell them what they want to hear, and say, “Yes, dear” to everything to be considered godly and submissive. Miss Betty blew that theory out of the water. She showed unwavering respect but also refused to hold back necessary information. God has given wives an important role in the lives of our husbands. We are not working at our full potential when we withhold our support, wisdom, and counsel. “She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.” (Proverbs 31:26, ESV)
- Be His Friend. Above all, Miss Betty and Mr. Dave were pals. Some couples reach a point in their marriage where they are a well-oiled machine, but little else. Years after her daughters were grown and gone, she still squealed with delight when Mr. Dave’s van pulled into the driveway from work. She enjoyed his company. She loved on him. She preferred him being in the house to him being out of the house (many women of retirement age cannot say that). They did not need to be together every second of the day as they were both independent, but they enjoyed their time together and were the closest and dearest of friends. Marriage looked good on them.
The day before she passed from this life into eternity, I was blessed with the opportunity to say goodbye to her at her daughter’s home. It broke my heart to look her in the eyes and realize she did not recognize me anymore. She was fading. But, later that day I uttered the word husband to someone in conversation and Miss Betty’s eyes flashed as if she recognized that word and remembered the man she associated with it. It was a final reminder to me of how much she loved her Mr. Dave and how much of her life she devoted to him. It is almost impossible for me to imagine a Miss Betty without a Mr. Dave.
Many people stumble into marriage without much understanding of how relationships work or how to treat their spouse. It is easy to judge young (or not so young) couples who constantly fight, struggle with commitment, and make classic relationship blunders; but, it is only by the grace of God we are not all in that boat. If there is someone who taught you how to be a good husband or wife and modeled a Christ-like marriage, thank God and thank that person if you still can.
We miss her as much today as the day we lost her, but Miss Betty’s legacy lives on through many lives. She painted a significant section of my portrait, and I thank her for modeling what it means to be a godly wife. There is no telling how many potholes Eric and I avoided because of her influence.
Thank you, Miss Betty, for encouraging me to love God and my husband even years before I met him. May you rest peacefully in our Savior’s arms. We miss you. We love you. We will see you again.
Who influenced your beliefs about love and marriage?