A Hero in Her Fifties

From the LYWB Team: We need each other, girls! Titus 2:3–5 shows us the value in listening to the wisdom of the generation of women ahead of us and carrying the banner of truth for the generation behind us. Because we want you to be inspired by the testimonies of women in every stage of life, we’ve interviewed a few of our favorites for a new series we’re calling “Walk with the Wise.” In today’s post, Samantha interviews Brenda, a fully devoted follower of Christ in her fifties.

I was in my hometown in Indiana running an errand. As I walked back to my car in the parking lot, a smiling, enthusiastic woman made her way toward me.

“You probably don’t know me,” she said. “But I just couldn’t pass up the opportunity to introduce myself! You’re Samantha, right?”

That’s how I met Brenda. Our families had known each other for years—her dad was once the pastor of our tight-knit, small town church, and she was close in age to my dad. Her family moved on to another ministry before I came onto the scene, but her parents ultimately settled down in our town when they retired.

Brenda was visiting her parents that day we met in the parking lot. And the next thing I knew, she had invited me on a coffee date. It turned into one of the most encouraging coffee dates ever! Her interest in my life, paired with her godly advice and wisdom, left me with a taste of Jesus.

She had jumped at the opportunity to invest in a younger woman’s life, and she hasn’t stopped investing in me since. I couldn’t be more grateful.

As God would have it, Brenda moved to our town to assist her precious mom as she cared for her father who was battling Parkinson’s disease.

I’ve witnessed up close Brenda’s genuine joy and gratitude as she’s embraced the challenges of caring for a sick parent. I’ve seen her steadfast trust in our sovereign God when He called her dad home. I’ve admired her sweet and patient countenance as she cherishes her mom, who has entered a different stage of life as a widow.

She is faithful in prayer.
She’s deliberate in her walk with God.
She’s confident in the goodness of our Savior.

She shared in the joy of my wedding day as my wedding coordinator.

And speaking of weddings, Brenda has a love story of her own to share. (Excuse me while I jump for joy!)

I love this dear friend, and I’m honored to share her with you. She’s filled to the brim with godly wisdom. Lean in close, girls.

What are you passionate about? How would you describe God’s mission for your life?

The older I get, the less passionate I am about things, hobbies, endeavors, goals, or even relationships. That sounds like I’m lazy or some kind of hermit, doesn’t it? Don’t get me wrong—each of those is important within the proper perspective of my life as a whole. But I think that what I’m finding myself most passionate about is this moment. This amazing moment that God has gifted to me. This incredible moment that won’t come again. This incomparable moment that God has been molding me for through all of the past moments that He has led me through. I want this moment to matter, which means it deserves my all. It drives me, propels me, excites me, and stirs a passion within me to make a difference for having been entrusted by God with this moment!

What role have godly older women played in your life?

When I think of my mentors, I immediately think of God’s grace, because the women who have impacted me the most have been recipients and givers of grace. They have taught me by example, even when they didn’t know I was watching. They have taught me by their spoken words and via their written words. They have cared, and they have listened. They have hugged me and admonished me. And in doing so, they have made a difference in my life.

I used to think that only older women could mentor me or that I had to be old before mentoring others. But when I was writing a Bible study based on the mentoring passage in Titus 2, I was struck by two important truths:

  1. Eventually, we will each be one of the “older” women, so we might as well get it right as soon as possible.
  2. To use an expression my mother often shared with me: “Each of us is older than someone!”

There will always be opportunities for you to mentor other women, regardless of your age—or theirs! I think the most powerful mentors in my life realized that their opinions didn’t matter. What mattered, and what they therefore sought to teach me, was that I needed to look to God’s Word for my answers, because that’s where I would find unchanging truth and that’s where I would find grace.

In your fifties, God wrote a love story into your life. Can you share that story?

Whenever I tell the love story God wrote for me (and for my husband, Joe), I have to start with Psalm 118:23: “This is the LORD’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes.”

After fifty-five years as a single, never-been-married woman, I was married on September 3, 2016!

The details are too numerous to share in one blog post, and they probably matter more to me than to you, so I’ll try to give you the Wikipedia version.

In 2015, my mentor-friend of nearly forty-five years, Betty Henderson, passed away. She has no more pain, no more sickness, and no more tears. And for that, I am thankful. But I miss her. Her wisdom, laughter, and friendship remain in my heart as some of my greatest treasures.

Interestingly, God was doing an incredible work in my heart during the last half of 2015 and into 2016, pruning away the fruitless branches of selfish desires and demands and replacing them with a contentment in Him alone—a true, genuine, God-is-more-than-enough contentment. Little did I know that He was clearing away the withered petals of sin from my heart so that He could fill it with a bouquet of marvelous surprises.

In the cold winter months of early 2016, Captain Joe Henderson (my dear Betty’s widower, a retired airline pilot) asked my mother and me if he could take us to lunch, along with his pastor and pastor’s wife, also dear and mutual friends of ours. I had written a tribute that had been used at Betty’s funeral, and it was sort of Joe’s way of thanking Mom and me for our family’s friendship through the years. We had a delightful time, and the blessings of true friendship were clearly enjoyed by all.

Not long after this group lunch, Joe began to communicate about other possible trips to Northern Indiana, and he also began to communicate via handwritten letters to my mom and me. Before long, I was receiving handwritten letters addressed just to me, and I was receiving them more and more frequently. In fact, I began to wonder if these were “let’s be more than friends” attempts and started praying about what I would do if Joe were pursuing me. I spoke of it only to the Lord and asked Him to make it very clear to me, because I needed Him to lead through Joe.

As the letters in the mailbox increased and the time between receiving them decreased, my mom looked at me one day as I came in from the mailbox, letter in hand, and she said, “Well this is getting interesting!”

“I know, right? I’m not exactly sure what his intentions are at this point, but I know that he is a godly man of character and that I enjoy communicating with him very much, so I’m willing to stick around and find out!” Then I headed to my room to read my letter and ask God to guide my thoughts, hopes, and expectations.

Because Joe and I were both well into our adult years, it was soon apparent that this new turn on an old friendship was pointing to a conclusion that neither of us had expected or had even thought of. It was no longer a matter of “if” but a matter of “when.” Unlike many couples who have just started dating, we had known each other for forty-five years. We already knew each other’s love for God, each other’s character qualities, each other’s highs and lows, and each other’s personalities. Now we just viewed them from a different perspective!

After we spoke to one another of the love God had placed in our hearts for each other and Joe had verbalized his long-term intentions, he gave me a wondrously beautiful pendant—at a red-covered bridge—as a symbol of that love.

We could not help but claim Psalm 118:23 as “our verse.” Our relationship—something God brought about in His time and in this season of our lives—truly “is the LORD’s doing.” Therefore, “it is marvelous in our eyes.”

Joe’s unshakable love for his late wife—my dear friend Betty—let me see that this was a man who loved so dearly that he was ready to love again. In God’s infinite wisdom and mercy, He chose the recipient of that love to be me. I am honored, grateful, and yes, thrilled beyond words!

Though our relationship has been “unconventional,” we’ve laughed, cried, talked, and embraced the silence—and we’ve enjoyed doing those things together.

On June 17, 2016, the day that my third book of blog posts launched, Joe and I once again went to the red-covered bridge, and we officially became engaged. Because the date and location for our engagement were not a surprise to me, I decided to surprise Joe by the way I answered his proposal.

On the dedication page of the book that was launched that morning, I imprinted the answer I planned to give in response to the question he had carefully planned to ask. When he completed his simple but heartfelt proposal, I handed him the first copy of the book and replied that his answer could be found on the dedication page. There I had simply written: “To Joe. Yes. A thousand times yes.”

In keeping with our unconventional relationship, we had a unique, fun, simple wedding on September 3, 2016. At the end of the day we both said, “That was fun . . . and God was glorified.” And we’ve felt that way about each day since then! If God has marriage for you, there is only one way to receive it and then rejoice in it: God’s person. God’s time. God’s way.

What has God taught you during your first few months as a new wife?

On my wedding day, as my husband and I were walking through a friends-and-family-lined sidewalk to head to our “getaway” car, I stopped and handed my five-year-old great-niece, sweet Makayla, my beautiful bouquet of eighteen yellow roses that were accessorized by little clusters of baby’s breath. As I bent down so that we could have eye-to-eye contact, I shared with her what God has been reminding me of since that day: “Makayla, I want you to have these flowers and always remember this moment. I want them to remind you to love Jesus first—always. I don’t know if God has marriage in His plans for you someday. If not, you must still love Jesus most of all. If He does, you must love your husband with all of your heart—just like I love Joe—but even then, you must still love Jesus most of all. His love is the best love that there is!”

It’s easy as a new bride to make Joe my entire world, but he can’t be. He knows that he takes second place, and I’m thrilled to know that I’m not first place in his life either! My husband (I still smile just typing that word!) and I read God’s Word together, but it’s still my personal time with God—when I learn more about Him and learn to love Him more—that I treasure the most!

How would you encourage the girl who struggles with spending time in God’s Word?

A few years ago I literally had to give myself a “talkin’ to” about this very thing! I’m a perfectionist, and if I didn’t have the perfect pen to make the perfect notes in my perfect journal while sitting in the perfect setting, I would put off reading the Scriptures until the perfect time! This, of course, meant God was patiently waiting for my arrival at His throne, and I was off enjoying other less-perfect activities and time-consuming distractions. The end of the day would arrive, and I would look at the Psalm I wanted to read, see that it was almost two columns long in my Bible, and declare that I just didn’t have enough time.

God, in His amazing grace, began to prod my heart, and I came across Bible Gateway while preparing a Bible study lesson on Titus 2 (yes, I was teaching from God’s Word without studying it, let alone hungering for it). As I used the audio feature to listen to Titus 2, I was quite honestly shocked at the fact that the chapter took one minute and fifty-three seconds to listen to. Seriously—1:53! In that very moment I dropped into the nearest chair, put my head in my hands, and wept. It suddenly hit me that the God of all the universe loved me enough to send to earth His only Son, who, with His very lifeblood, paid the price required for my sins, and yet I thought I didn’t have one minute and fifty-three seconds to spend alone with Him that day. It changed everything for me.

So to answer your question, the most loving advice I can give is to simply do it. Read His Word. Communicate with the Savior. Ask Him to talk to you through His Word. Tell Him your heart’s needs, its desires, its concerns. He cares. He’s there. So just do it!

It’s Your Turn

I’m so glad Brenda snagged me in that parking lot that day. I’ve learned so much from hearing about her passion for God and His Word.

  • If you could grab a coffee shop date with Brenda, what questions would you ask?
  • Put yourself in Makayla’s shoes on the receiving end of that yellow bouquet of roses. How would you respond to the advice to love Jesus first?
  • As you wait for God’s plans for your love life to unfold, how does this story encourage you?

Leave a comment with your answers below, and don’t miss our final post in this “Walk with the Wise” series tomorrow!

About Author

Samantha Nieves

Samantha loves lazy lake days, strong coffee, and writing about the ways Jesus transforms our everyday messes into beautiful stories. She digs the four seasons in northern Indiana, is probably wearing a Notre Dame crew neck, and serves as the social media manager on the Revive Our Hearts staff.

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