Amy Gilbert: My friend Amy! We have a story of our friendship all of it’s own. Good times, bad times, emotional times, sweet times and supportive times. But they were all lead by our God and He is the master of relationships. I’ve been blessed to have her in my life. I’ve seen her when she felt “on top of the world” and I’ve seen here when she felt like “she was run over by a truck”, very different emotions but she always trusted in the Lord. She may not have always been able to see clearly his picture for her life but she trusted.
I was born in Jackson, Tennessee in March of 1963 to Harold and Jeaneen Lile. My mom and dad both graduated from the University of Tennessee Martin. My mom was the first four year cheerleader and my dad was the first four year football player. They were the “Barn Warming” King and Queen. I have one sister and two brothers. We moved from Tennessee to Raleigh, North Carolina in 1971 when I was in 2nd grade. I remember it being a little hard getting used to a new place and new friends. We were excited to be a part of our new church in Raleigh. I loved to sing, had wonderful Sunday school teachers, and had examples of people who loved God. My dad was one of the song leaders. I still love to hear him sing. (He’s 83 and doing well). We had a very active campus ministry at North Carolina State University and my mom made many meals for the college students. We usually were feeding several every Sunday after church.
At a pretty young age, I faced several deaths in my life. My grandfather died when I was five. Shortly after we moved to North Carolina, my Uncle, who was only 8 years older than me, committed suicide. My parents were open with us about it, for which I am thankful. In second grade, my best friend from church died after being hit by a car. I know that experiencing these losses at such a young age led me to be closer to God. At the age of 11, I became a Christian. I loved God and loved His word. I understood simply His love for me, my need for Him.
We had a close youth group at church. We had Bible studies that we invited friends to. My junior year, a friend named Tracy came with me. We studied the Bible together and she became a Christian. At that time in North Carolina, 16 year olds could drive school busses. Two weeks after she had become a Christian, she was in an accident with a school bus that ran a red light and died. At that time I had written my prayers. I had prayed over and over that she would be urgent. I see the Holy Spirit’s leading in our prayers. She was seventeen years old. Why would I pray for urgency? It was a reflective and amazing time for me in my relationship with God.
My senior year of High School I was able to be in a program where I went to High School in the morning and went to NCSU in the afternoon. I was ready to be done with High School and been accepted at UNC-G. That year I met a new friend, Virginia. She was from Tennessee and her older sister was going to college in Raleigh. She was a year ahead of me in school. Her senior year in High School she had been diagnosed with lymphoma. She was having treatments at NIH in Bethesda Maryland, but living in Raleigh between treatments. I met her and her family at church. We became very close. Her parents would fly me to Maryland to be with her during her treatments. I would stay in the hospital room with her. We’d stay up late, watch movies, eat “fun” snacks….trying to forget we were in the hospital. She loved God and relied on Him. What an amazing time, witnessing someone depending on God through something so difficult. Virginia was in and out of treatment for about 8 years. Virginia and her mom shared Jesus with the nurses and the doctors. Several became Christians.
I went away to college in the fall of 1981 to Greensboro. I was a clothing and textiles major in the home economics department. We had a close college group from church. We had Friday night devotionals that were so meaningful. We had a “fellowship hall” that was so wonderful to sing in. I met my now ex-husband in the college group at church. He joined the Navy in the spring of 1983 and we were married in December 0f 1983. We lived in Florida, New York and South Carolina. In each place, there was a body of believers that were my family. In Florida we lived in an apartment across the street from the church. The church secretary, Imogene, took us in. When we moved to New York, I remember some people telling me (a southerner) that I might not survive the winter. Clyde and Lois from church told me I’d be fine. They took us in and had us over often. She taught me how to bake bread and always had time to talk.
In December of 1986, I was a “very pregnant” matron of honor in my friend, Virginia’s wedding. She had met Dan, they had dated, and gotten engaged. She then relapsed with her cancer. They decided to go ahead and have the wedding before she started chemo. She was a beautiful bride, wearing her mother’s gown. After her wedding, I went into preterm labor and was on bedrest until my first son, Ernie, was born in January of 1987. He’s 30 now.
Virginia had a bone marrow transplant in the fall of 1987. She died in January of 1988. Her funeral and the celebration of her life is something I will always remember!!
I had my second son, Nick, in October of 1988 after several month of bedrest and medication due to preterm labor. He was six weeks early and in the neonatal intensive care at the Medical University of SC. It was such a hard time. So many questions. There was a lot of fear. There were many prayers. The church there was so supportive. Another navy wife from church took care of Ernie everyday while we were at the hospital. Nick is 28 now, strong and healthy. We got out of the Navy in 1989 and moved back to New York. I had my third son, Luke, in March of 1990 after three months of bedrest due to preterm labor. Again, without the church, we could not have made it. Everyday someone from church would come and take care of Ernie and Nick, so I could rest. The church where we attended were such an example of loving and caring for everyone. They loved God and in that love served others.
We moved back to North Carolina in 1997 to be near family. It was great to be with old friends and meet new ones. I met Rhonda and her family in a small family group at church. Our boys met then and are still friends. I can’t believe I have been back in Greensboro for twenty years! In those years, I have grown deeper and deeper in my love and need for God. Through divorce, the death of my mom and many others struggles, I have seen God’s guidance and provision in so many ways. He has provided such healing in my life. Through difficulties, He has taught me that He is my stronghold. He has also encouraged me with this verse: “He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.” 2 Corinthians 1:4. I have been able work with a support group for women during the past 9 years and have seen God’s healing and His amazing comfort. He has brought many people into my life that have encouraged me and challenged me in my walk as a follower of Christ.
This has been a challenge to write. I feel like I have meandered through my story. It is hard to reflect and look back, but as I do, I am so thankful for this journey I have had with Him. One more thought…
Over the past few years, I started hiking. One of my favorite places to hike is Hanging Rock in Danbury, NC. It’s not too long of hike, about 2.6 miles to the top and back. It gets pretty steep at the end. I had hiked it several time during the spring and summer. It is worth the climb to get to the great view at the top. One year I hiked it in November. It seemed so different. I could not figure out why. I could see the top; it seemed so far and so high. I knew I had done it before many times, but it seemed out of reach. I finally figured it out. There were no leaves on the trees. I could see just how far I had to go and it seemed too far. I’ve learned that God leaves the leaves on. In my life, if I could have looked ahead, and seen all that was ahead, it would have been too far, too hard. I am thankful He leaves the leaves on. Today, I walk with Him. He is faithful. He is the same, always there. He goes before me, He goes behind.
Lord, thank you for putting her in my life. It’s not always been easy but you knew what you were doing. Please wrap your loving arms tightly around her and keep her strong. Amen.