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My friend, Lillian White

“Mom, no one is that sweet.”

I smiled and assured my daughter. “Yes, Rebecca, she is sincerely that sweet.”

The subject of that long-ago discussion was my friend, Lillian White. Rebecca was a teenager, and although I had known Lil since before Rebecca’s birth, it was my serving on a ladies board under her direction that had put me in close and frequent contact with her, affording Rebecca the opportunity to regularly observe and develop her own friendship with this unique, godly lady.

I’m not sure how much later it was after our first conversation, that Rebecca said to me, “You know, Mom. She really is as sweet as she first appears.”

It is true. Lillian White is extraordinarily pleasant, agreeable, courteous and charming. She is a Christian.

It was in 1957 when Jerry and I first came to California that we met Lil and her husband, Sam; people who would develop into lifelong friends. Pastor for more than thirty years of a thriving church in Bellflower, he and Jerry served on ministerial boards together, and we have sat in countless camps, conferences and other special meetings.

We’ve wept over our families, laughed almost uncontrollably, admired each others new babies and grandbabies and great-grandbabies. We’ve shopped at thrift stores and at Nordstroms and at Macys. We have attended weddings and funerals and anniversary services; we’ve given and received gifts. We’ve visited each other in hospitals, and when Jerry was lingering near death after his horrendous accident, Lil held my hand in the waiting room, and told me God would take me through.

We’ve complained about things and told jokes around camp fires. We’ve shared chicken and dumplings and chocolate cake and once we traveled all the way to Maine so that Sam could eat Maine lobster.

We’ve camped side by side and have taken more than one extensive motor home trip together. Once five of us ministerial friends–all in motor homes–traveled from one coast to the other. In New York City–think of it now–as five long motor homes in New York City were trying to stay together, and as Berl Stevenson was leading that day, he came suddenly to a multi-level bridge, New York City traffic snarling famously.

“Everyone’s on their own,” he squawked into the CB. “I’m going this way.”

Jerry and I found ourselves separated from the pack, but quickly found our way and met up with the others at our destination RV park, but alas, there were no Sam and Lil. We waited, worried, and about five hours later, here they came…fresh from wandering the streets of New York City in a 34 feet Country Coach motor home. Lil had been in tears.

Through all these years, midst turmoil, trying situations and tense moments, never has one cross word been exchanged between the Buxtons and the Whites. It’s precisely true. We are friends.

Now, Sam and Lil, both in their 80s, are retired and living in northern Arizona, but we met up at our camp meeting in Santa Maria. The phone had rung before we left. “Shirley, this is Lil. I’m sorry we couldn’t make it to your birthday party, but I want to take you out for dinner when we get to Santa Maria.”

And so, on the Sunday before camp began, here came Sam and Lil who took us to the village of Guadalupe where we ate what may be the best steak dinner I have ever experienced. I helped Lil from the car and led her in to the dining room. In recent years she has developed Macular degeneration and can see very little. She can’t read at all, and Sam won’t let her try to cook. It breaks my heart.

But she is as beautiful as ever, as thoughtful, as sweet, as kind…as Christian.

She had bought a card to celebrate my birthday. “I had to get someone to take me to pick it out, and I told them it might take me a while,” she explained when she handed the beautiful card to me. As I read it, she finished. “This was the first one we found, and although we looked at others, I knew this was the one I wanted to give to you.” She beamed.

“Pretty, isn’t it?” Sam put in.

“Happy Birthday, My Friend

We’ve been friends for a long time now. And we’ve seen a lot of changes through the years.

but our friendship has never changed except to grow stronger.

Our busy lives have sometimes kept us apart, but even then, I’ve always felt close to you.

and then when we’ve gotten togther again, I’ve always felt we could take up right where we left off.

I’ve been lucky to meet new friends along the way,

but none can compare to a true and trusted friend like you.

So on your birthday, I want to tell you how very special you are to me. We share a wealth of memories and such warmth and closeness that only real friends can have.

And that means the world to me. (D. Walley Hallmark Cards)

I love Lil White and count myself blessed that she calls me friend…and yes, Sam is sweet too. I love him as a brother.

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My devotional blog is here.

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The Times of Your Life–Part 3

Lil White and Time, originally uploaded by Shirley Buxton.

For more than 30 years, I believe, my dear friend Lillian White was the ladies ministries president of the Western District, and it was under her leadership that our ladies conferences were begun. In the beginning we referred to them as ladies retreats, as they were held in rustic retreat settings.

During the 25th anniversary conference in Visalia she was honored in many ways. One involved calling her to the front and presenting her with an elegant single crimson rose. She is a beautiful and very dear woman of God. I have seen Lillian faced with extreme challenges, and while I have seen her hurt–and expressing such hurt–I cannot recall ever seeing her angry with anyone. Truly, I cannot…and I have known her intimately for more than 50 years.

In this column, I want to add this personal tribute to Lillian White. The richness of my life has been enhanced by knowing her, and any skills I may possess in a similar area are to a great extent a result of sitting at counsel with her, of talking in private with her, of praying and crying and rejoicing together…over a very long period.

She is deserving of any honor and praise extended to her.

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My devotional blog is here.