On this International Women’s Day, I believe it is very important to thank God for those who have poured into us spiritually and helped us on our journey to grow closer to our Heavenly Father. Today, and every day, let us honor the women in our lives who walk with the Lord faithfully, through hardship, pain and adversity, while modeling endurance and strength of character.
I have an amazing friend, a seasoned saint, whom I consider to be my spiritual mother. She has modeled what “walking by faith and not by sight” truly means. We can quote scripture and it is wonderful to know the word and have it in our hearts. However, applying it and living it out on a daily basis is a remarkable gift to share with others. MaryJo has been through a lot in her 84 years of life, yet she uses all of these trials to testify to the goodness and faithfulness of God. She may be enduring tremendous physical pain or grieving the loss of a loved one, yet she still manages to attend church with a smile and a word of encouragement for others.
MaryJo has endured great loss through miscarrying pregnancies and delivering three stillborn babies. She overcame stage 4 ovarian cancer, underwent major heart surgery, has persevered through many other health issues and the loss of a few close family members in recent years. She loves the Lord and continues to praise Him through all of the storms of life, through all of the battles, all of the illnesses and all of the pain. She is a mighty warrior for Christ, in her very gentle and humble way. She lives a life of true and proper worship unto the Lord.
A few years ago, MaryJo was hospitalized for an issue she was having with her heart. One of the days she was there, I drove to the hospital after work to visit her. She was her normal beautiful, cheerful self. She was practically glowing. It was amazing to witness her calm and pleasant demeanor. However, it was not her appearance, nor her cheerful countenance that left the most lasting impression on me. It was what she said during that short visit. MaryJo said in a very gentle, yet matter of fact manner, “Jesus just gets sweeter and sweeter every day.” I will never forget that statement. She could have felt sorry for herself. She could have said, “Lord, why do I keep having to endure all of these trials?” She could have been angry or upset. Instead, MaryJo said that our Savior gets sweeter and sweeter every day! These are not just words that she stated. These are words demonstrated by how she lives. Oh, that we would all live knowing, believing and walking in the sweetness of Jesus, our Lord and Savior! His sweetness is everlasting!
In 2020, for our church’s women’s conference, I asked MaryJo to choose a scripture to read based on our theme, “Embrace.” The theme was chosen to help us learn to embrace our identity in Christ, as daughters of the King of Kings. I chose my life verses, Psalm 40:1-5 for one of our teenage young ladies to read. This choice was based on what God had done for me, thereby allowing me to see His goodness and mercy towards me, as His daughter. However, MaryJo chose Luke 7:36-50, which displays Mary’s (described in this passage as a woman in that town who lived a sinful life) true adoration and worship of our Savior. The focus is not on what Jesus can do, will do or has done for us but on worshiping Him, praising Him, and adoring Him! MaryJo helped me to change my perspective. She helped me to focus more on worshiping our Savior, the Giver of gifts, not on the gifts He gives us.
Although MaryJo no longer serves in the prison ministry, where she faithfully served for many years, she serves the Lord in any way that she is able. Most recently she served as one of our breakout speakers for our women’s conference. She shared some of her amazing testimonies and the Godly wisdom she has gleaned over the years, which was absolutely priceless!
MaryJo models for the rest of us that yes, as Jesus has very clearly told us in John 16:33, in this world we will have trouble. But take heart! He has overcome the world. He told us this so we would have peace in the midst of troubling times. MaryJo has peace, the peace of knowing and clinging to the sweetness of Jesus.
Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18
Heavenly Father, thank You loving us so much that You give us others to pour into us with the love and encouragement they receive from sitting at Your feet. Thank You for the remarkable women in our lives who have endured so much, yet continue to seek You, to worship and praise You. Thank You for not leaving us to do this life alone. You put just the right people in our lives to spur us on to do the good works you planned for us long ago. Thank You for the body of believers who keep our feet from slipping and hold us accountable. Help us to be those encouragers, supporters and accountability partners for others. Help us to walk by faith and model that for those coming alongside us. Help us to honor each other above ourselves, to love and comfort one another. Lord, please help us to serve and lead with integrity, fortitude, with grace and truth. We love you and we give You all the honor, the praise and the Glory! In Jesus’ Mighty, Matchless Name, Amen!
By Lanette Black, IWM writer and Intercessor!
Beautiful, faithful woman of God. Thank you Lord, for testimonies of those like Mary Jo. Make us faithful like her and so many who LIVE for YOU!
I can remember one of my first encounters with Mary Jo, it was at Wednesday night Bible study, and we were talking about the light of Christ and how it should shine through us and attract people to us. And this guy, Chris, got up and was telling us how he was drawn to Mary Jo because of that light that she projected into the world. Chris ultimately ended up being my mentor as I had recently got saved. But as the years went by I came to love Mary Jo because of her love she pours out on me, her wonderful words of encouragement, and even the words of correction. She has this way she can speak the truth to my spirit, with this nervous laugh and then these strong direct words that only come from the Holy Spirit. I thank God for every day, for her example of courage and faith through all her trials, to see her worship with terrible arthritis, and for her example of how to walk with God. I love you Mary Jo