I want to tell you about my friend Roberta. I got to know her in about 1971. I was working at the Wycliffe headquarters then at Santa Ana, and she moved into the area. I have a blank mind about why we met, but I remember standing with her outside her apartment (I wanted to say flat, but remembered this was in my USA days) I had just returned from a trip to Bolivia to visit my own parents and she was there when I came back. I so admired her. She was beautiful, smart, slender and blond. Well, truth to be told I was a tiny bit (okay, quite a bit) jealous of her and figured I would never be one of the people she would want to hang out with. But, God had a beautiful plan and she became a friend, and she introduced me to another lovely friend of hers whom I learned to love deeply, Cynthia (now Payton).
In time we shared an apartment together. We had some extreme ups and terrible downs but amazingly, Roberta and I survived it all. She forgave me several times for unkindness, thoughtlessness and meanness, warmly embracing the 'who I am' even when I was less than lovely.
Then major changes lead me to Bolivia and on the South Africa where I met and married a wonderful South African man. After marriage he became a pastor in Zimbabwe and we had 3 wonderful children. In 1996 we moved to the states, to live in Oregon. Roberta and I didn't write a lot through the years, but enough to keep in touch. Also, I saw her several times through the years, when I visited my parents, then living in Huntington Beach, CA.
Now, all this to show how she has woven in and out of my life. She blessed me again and again in big ways (a never to be forgotten trip to England) and smaller ways, several times a year care packages of books and other lovely goodies appear in my mail box. Then one great week I even went to visit her and we sang in a choral production together at her church. It was fabulous.
Well, several years ago, about 10 I think, she had the very difficult experience of contracting breast cancer. After chemotherapy, she pronounced clear of cancer. It was only after the fact I got to know this. Then last year, she found, after many years free of all cancer, it had returned. It has been very difficult as she has also lost her mom in this time. There is a lot I don't know but what I have found is that her spirit has exploded upward and outward to all who touch her. I have been amazed and blessed by her faith and life.
Often, as a person who has loved the Lord Jesus Christ for many years, I've taken for granted, my health, and in a major way, a life that's been blessed and fun. As Roberta has shared a bit with me about the reality of facing cancer yet again, this time with removal of the infected flesh, and all that means to a woman, I have been deeply touched by her steadfast belief that the Lord is with her. Her assurance that has rested on the truth, that even in this hard time the Lord has not abandoned her. I am sure that faith didn't come overnight, but it has grown up in her as she has steadfastly faced forward and learned to lean on the strength God has given her. Roberta, you are my encouragement and I rejoice in you.
I just got another 'gift box' from Roberta with some wonderful books but more, 3 memorable poems. I'd like to share two here.
This first one is by an unknown author:
A HEAVENLY MESSAGE
An angel came to me to say, "Hear my words with care today:
Fear is not fully knowing the Love of Christ who sees you from above.
Please don't be swamped by doubt and fright, for you are special in His sight."
"You have heard He guards the sparrow; do you think his view so narrow
as to let you walk alone?
He, who made this world from stone created you - you are a gem
for you reflect the face of Him!"
You walk within His light of love, protected by the hosts above.
When you feel dazed by doubt and fright, step back inside this love and light.
And when you feel the fear begin, remember that He dwells within.
He'll help you banish this fear-ridden pain as you look to Him again.
And as the angel turned to go, he put his hand upon my brow.
I felt the Light within me spread, releasing the drag of fear and dread.
And as I raised my head to nod, I knew this message was from God.
by Roberta L. Olbrantz
(written Nov. '09, after Roberta's mom had passed into the presence of the Lord and her father came to stay for a month)
We are awash in antiquity in our house..
All showing evidence of their years,
And to us, all indescribably dear!
(I don't know how to make this page do what I want in appearance, which frustrates me no end, but imagine it set out in a defining style. ARG!!!!! )