Even before she left this world to be with Jesus, I was planning to write about my beloved Miss Betty today; but, knowing I will never experience her amazing hospitality again this side of Heaven makes this post even more special to me. Likely, I will weep my way through it and maybe laugh a bit along the way.
A year ago, I had no idea my days with her were drawing to a close. Had I known, I would have made more of them. Miss Betty is (and always will be) who I think of when I hear the word, ‘hospitality.’ She opened her home to me hundreds of times; and, in doing so, she not only influenced me, but helped me solidify my life’s direction. I honor her as one of the special people who helped raise me – and that would not be so if she had closed her curtains and locked her doors. She welcomed me and, in that act, she changed me.
A Couch and a Blanket
The first time Miss Betty opened her home to me, I was four-years-old. She and my mom worked together as first-grade teachers. One evening, Mom, Dad, and I went to a steakhouse with her and her husband. Just as we were about to leave, she asked me if I wanted to come over to her house and spend the night. “Since you already have your doll with you, would you like to stay at our house tonight?” Maybe she was trying to give my parents a night to themselves. Maybe she missed having little girls around the house. Whatever the reason, she took me in and made up a bed for me on the couch. She even calmed my fears about not having a toothbrush. “I think it is okay to skip brushing your teeth for just one night.” The only two moments I remember from that evening were her inviting me to stay and her tucking me into bed. Being the somewhat hesitant and cautious child I was, I would not have spent the night with just anyone – and my mom did not let me spend the night with just anyone. Miss Betty was a gem and we all knew it. ~smile~
Miss Betty, We Are Neighbors! You May Never Sleep Again!
A few years passed and my parents were in the market for a new house. Sadly, the neighborhood we were in at the time housed several bully types and I spent much of my early childhood dealing with them. The bully factor, along with a few other issues, led my parents to begin the hunt for a happier living experience. Originally, we were going to build a house in Miss Betty’s neighborhood! I was elated!!! And my elation grew a few months later when Mom said, “Heather, we are going to look at another house today, and it is across the street from Miss Betty!”
Thankfully, we loved the house and they bought it. This was such good news for me, but for Miss Betty, it meant a frequent house guest. ~smile~ My friends and I would sit on her porch swing and belt out praise and worship songs. Sometimes, she would come outside and join us. I recall her teaching us to bake – and her correcting me when I got a bit testy with one of my friends. She even bestowed on me the honor of feeding their cat when they were out of town. Before I was old enough to understand the virtues of calling first, I popped over to Miss Betty’s frequently and she never seemed annoyed or frustrated. She greeted little ol’ me with her trademark Miss Betty smile, and (unless she was getting ready to leave) she let me right on in the door.
The weeks turned into months and the months turned to years. Suddenly, I was a teenager – teenager (code for a dramatic girl with frequent boyfriend problems). Though I was not wild or a flight risk, I did have one heartbreak after another and Miss Betty got to be front and center for them all. After just raising two daughters to adulthood, she got to enjoy more girl issues. And do you know what Miss Betty did?
She gave hard-to-accept, but tremendously necessary advice. I recall her once pleading with me in an exasperated voice, “Heather! Guard your heart!”
She never made me feel silly or insignificant.
She was able to communicate with me successfully because of all the hours she spent with me, the hundreds of treats she shared, and the many occasions she opened her home to me when I know she would have preferred to rest. She was able to reach me because of her hospitality.
I Never Outgrew My Need for Miss Betty
Time marched on and I left for college. Even though she and I did not talk as often, she was always with me – her warmth and the lessons she had taught me. She was a pillar in my life. Whenever I came home, I would pop over to see her (calling first, this time ~smile~) and we would have long and happy chats.
The week Eric proposed in 2004, she opened her home so Eric and his Dad would have a place to stay. A few months later when we married, She and Mr. Dave sat up front with my family because they were simply too special to be mere guests. Before we left on our honeymoon, we stopped by their house to say hello. She was honored that we would stop in to see her on such a special occasion. Even as a grown, newly-married woman, I still needed my Miss Betty.
Though I lived in another state, she was still there for me. Whenever I called with a prayer request, she would run to her nearest notepad and jot it down. No matter how large or insignificant the prayer need was, she treated it as though it was a request from the President.
When Ramsey was a puppy, she had a few tummy issues. After trying to get the situation under control, I called Miss Betty to pray. She told me she would, but before we hung up I started to cry and asked if she would pray right then. Maybe she felt sorry for me, or maybe she was trying to stifle laughter at this pitiful scene; but, all I remember is that she stopped what she was doing and went before our Heavenly Father on behalf of my little furball.
I Still Cannot Believe You Are Gone, Miss Betty
There are some people you never expect to lose. Even though death is a theological and scientific certainty, we think of people like Miss Betty to be immortal (and I’m sure she would scold me if she heard me say that! ~smile~) When Mr. Dave’s health started failing a few years ago, I simply did not expect him to die. In my mind, there was no world without a Mr. Dave in it. When we did bid him farewell, I thought Miss Betty would grieve and then the Lord would give her a renewed purpose. She was going to be a prayer warrior well into her nineties!
After a few months passed, I went over to her home for one of our special visits. We talked, we reminisced some, and when I tried to leave she said, “No, please stay a while longer.” To my knowledge, this was the first time she seemed desperate to have me stay. Were our roles changing? Something about the experience left me feeling unsettled. This was Miss Betty – strong, courageous, prayer warrior Miss Betty. What was causing this change?
A few months later, we knew. It was cancer. My world shook. How could this be? She ate healthy foods. She exercised regularly. She was wise in her lifestyle and got plenty of sleep. It was not fair! This prognosis did not fit into my paradigm or plan at all. She was supposed to live into her nineties. She was supposed to always be there. What was God doing?!?
Before I could make sense of it all, she passed from this life to her eternal home. The entire scene was surreal and I kept expecting to wake up from this nightmare. As I walked through the memories, I thought of all the ways Miss Betty impacted my life. Each way she blessed me was rooted in her hospitality.
She was a good listener – hospitality.
She opened her home to me, occasionally even letting me sleep there – hospitality.
She gave of her energy and prayed when she was weary – hospitality.
She had an overall welcoming body language – hospitality.
She created an atmosphere of peace and prayed God would minister rest to those who came into her home – hospitality.
There are a number of ladies I could honor today. I have been blessed with a wonderful godmother who invested in me. My grandmother was a precious pearl and there will never be anyone else like her in the world. My mother has sacrificed and loved me through some of my most unlovable moments. Each of these ladies and several others deserve to be praised (and they will be ~smile~).
For today, however, I wish to highlight my Miss Betty. To thank her for all she did for me, to ask God for the strength to be even a fraction as hospitable as she was, and to thank God for the honor of knowing her. And, to give her credit for what I do each day – helping couples prepare for marriage. Because of her hospitality, I was able to witness one of the sweetest marriages of all time. I knew I wanted to have a marriage like Miss Betty and Mr. Dave’s someday and to help other couples have blessed marriages too.
You are irreplaceable, my Miss Betty. I love you. I am forever your student. And, I cannot wait to have one of our special chats when I see you in Glory.
“Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all” (Proverbs 31:29, ESV).
Whose hospitality has changed your life? Is your hospitality changing lives?