Later that afternoon, as they joined one another for a welcome cold drink or tea, Mary could not swallow the small biscuit she had put in her mouth. Why had she ever agreed to come on this weekend? She should have known it would be difficult. No, not difficult, impossible. But she was here and now it was her turn to speak. She ambled to the French doors which led onto the patio, hoping she was being inconspicuous. She needed some air and a moment alone.
“Lord, I don’t know why I’m here. But you have never let me down. If ever I needed you, it’s now, Lord. Where are you? Let me feel your presence here, and I’ll be able to face the assignment which lies before me. I believe you’ve called me here for some reason. Help me, Lord.”
She gazed out at the lake, shimmering in the sunshine. How she wished she could be on one of those little boats, skimming across the water. She laughed at herself. She was the world’s most hopeless sailor, and even on a calm afternoon like this, she knew she would be wishing herself to be anywhere but on the water.
“Share the joke?” Her friend, Sandra, came to stand beside her. “Oh, it’s such a lovely day. Wasn’t that walk wonderful this afternoon? I’d love to go in the other direction tomorrow if the weather holds. You never know what it’s going to do in the Lake District, but it would be great to explore more of the lakeshore.”
Mary smiled up at her friend. Sandra always knew when she needed encouragement and support.
“Yes, it was fun, wasn’t it? And it would be lovely to find the waterfall which Mike and Rob found. I was laughing at myself, wishing I could be on one of those boats, when I know I’m such a hopeless sailor.”
She forced a laugh. Sandra turned to face her and put her arms around her.
“Mary, it’ll be fine. You know that. You know you can rely on God to see you through this.”
“Yes, but I’ll be sharing stuff not many of you know. Stuff I am not proud of. I have to, to make sense of my story.”
“Let God lead you. If you find yourself doubtful about saying certain words, don’t say them. Let’s go to that bench and pray together. We have time and it will help to steady your nerves.”
Mary nodded and the two women walked across the manicured lawn to a wooden bench set in the curve of an enormous rhododendron. Sandra took Mary’s hand as they sat down together.
“Lord,” she prayed, “you know what is concerning Mary. I pray you will give her the courage to say what she has to say, what you want her to say, and the wisdom to know what to leave out. Lord, bless her as she shares her story. Let your light shine through her and let her story touch whoever needs to hear it. Thank you, Lord.”
The two women said “Amen” together.
“There’s Mike in the doorway. He’s looking for us. Come on, you’re going to be fine.”
Sandra gave Mary another quick hug and, grasping her hand, began to hurry to the open doors.
“Sorry, Mike. We just needed a moment.”
He looked down at Mary, the concern evident in his eyes.
“Mary you’re next to tell your story. Are you okay?”
“I’m nervous, Mike, but I know I can do this with your support and God’s help.”
Mike was the only other one in the group besides Sandra who knew Mary’s full story. He put his arm around her shoulders.
“You’ll be fine. And people will understand.”
“I hope so.” Mary was grateful for her friends’ encouragement. “Thanks, guys. Let’s do this.”
She led the way back to the lounge, stopping at the urn to pour herself a glass of water. Mike and Sandra marvelled at the change in her. From the nervous woman she had been when they were with her in the garden and the dining room, she seemed to grow in stature and confidence as she walked through the door. They were delighted to see her shining eyes when she reached her seat and turned to face the group. Sandra whispered to Mike, it was as if the shrinking violet had turned into a sunflower.
“Well, it’s my turn now. I know most of you don’t know my story. Today is the day for me to bring it out into the open. So here goes.”