[From Julie] A while back Noel and I were able to attend a retirement party for Steve and Phyllis May. Steve, as I’ve mentioned before , married Noel and I. Both he and Phyllis were and continue to be mentors to us. At this retirement party Steve and Phyllis’s children honoured their parents (and teased them too). They asked a few close friends to speak about Steve and Phyllis and the impact they had on the church community and camps they served. One of the women that spoke was Phyllis Stanley who is a close friend of Phyllis May (as well as a contributor to this blog). She (Phyllis Stanley – this could get confusing) talked about their friendship and the support that Phyllis (May) provided for her at a difficult time in her married life. She called it a conversation that changed her marriage. That got me thinking that there are probably others who have had a conversation as significant as that. I know I have and I wrote about it here. Incidentally it was a conversation with Steve. Do you get the impression that the Mays are filled with wisdom? They indeed are and they are generous with it if you have listening ears.
We asked Phyllis Stanley if she would write about that conversation to share with you on the blog and she graciously agreed. So we bring back Phyllis as a guest writer. I love these guest posts. Stay tuned for others this week as well. I’m pretty excited about who we’ve got lined up for ya. You’ll see why as the week goes on. Can’t wait to share with you. For now, we are starting with a bang. Take it away Phyllis.
John and I celebrated our 41st anniversary last December, and we feel so blessed that God has given us these years together. We have grown in so many ways, both as a couple and as individuals. There have been moments along the way when I (and John as well, I am certain!) have wondered if our marriage would survive, but thank God, these have been short-lived and much outweighed by all the times of feeling blessed by our choice of a lifelong partner.One difficult time in particular stands out for me, when the wise and loving words of a cherished friend helped me to see beyond the moment of heartache, stress, and even anger.
In the early ’80s, John injured his back at work and was out of commission for many weeks. The first few were spent in the hospital and then many more at home, flat on his back and then slowly being able to move around with time and rest. Now, John has been athletic all of his life, so this was particularly hard for someone like him who is accustomed to being active and able and then to be literally knocked flat on his back and unable to do anything. When I think of this from my perspective at this point in time, I know that I didn’t and probably couldn’t appreciate what he was going through. The physical pain was hard enough, but the mental and emotional pain must have been tremendous. John has always taken very seriously his role as the head and the primary support of our family, and all of a sudden he was the one being cared for and dependent on his wife and his girls.
Add to this the fact that John is a real boy’s boy, having grown up in a family of six boys and two girls, and so he is typically male (at least from our generation). He wasn’t one to talk at length about “his feelings” or even to allow himself to let those softer, more emotional moments show (I am very happy to say that age and wisdom change this!). Hence, I guess it was nearly impossible to know just how hard this experience was for him, and in retrospect, I wish I had been more understanding.
Our church family and friends were incredibly supportive and did many things to make this time more bearable, including the men coming over en masse one Saturday and getting all the wood ready for the coming winter and the women putting together “John’s Sunshine Pillowcase” filled with gifts to open each day. We were showered with God’s love from all sides, and yet there was one person he used in particular to bless me in my personal struggles during this–my friend Phyllis May.
Almost as soon as she and Steve came to work with us at Tintern, Phyll and I became friends, and that friendship has deepened over the years. She has always been a source of wisdom, knowledge and encouragement to me in a multitude of ways, but at this time especially, she helped me to look beyond the struggle. I remember talking with her about my feelings of exasperation and frustration, and a sense that “I’m just not going to make it.” On top of having the brunt of responsibilities of work, the home, and our children, I felt that I was dealing with a husband whom I hardly knew, who seemed to be full of anger and resentment and just not much love. She let me rant and cry and get it all out, without judging me or placating me, and then she said something that I will never forget: “Remember what drew you to John in the beginning. He is still there.” Wow. What a wake-up call. She was absolutely right. John was still the man I fell in love with and wanted to spend the rest of my life with. He was just trying to maneuver through unknown painful, limiting territory, and it was really, really hard. I think that Satan was using those circumstances to get to both of us, and Phyll’s words (no doubt in my mind, put there by the Spirit) were just what was needed to turn things around.
Now, I expect that it was still a while before we truly came out of that bleak period, and my memory of that period of time is murky as far as many of the details are concerned. I am so very grateful to God for bringing healing to John and for bringing us through it all, intact and very much in love as a couple and as a family. I am especially grateful that he gave me the friendship of a wonderful friend who was guided by his Spirit to say the words my heart and soul needed to hear. I pray that every person will be blessed by such a friend.