Some people have a gift of reaching out and touching the lives of others with warmth and with love. They know the kind words and loving acts that brighten not-so-happy days. They are there when you need someone to talk with, to laugh with, to cry with. That someone in my life was Jeanette Brenner. She really knew how to be a friend. She died at age 83 a year ago, on February 17, 2004. Though I rejoice in her tremendous heavenly reward, I am saddened not to have her with me all my life. We shared our lives more than any other of our best friends. She was older than I by three months. Her three daughters, Billie Jean, Sharon and Carol, and three sons, Bob, Steve and Willy (Jr.), gave her 16 grandchildren and lots of great-grandchildren! 16? She had two great-great-grandchildren. I confess I was envious, and wished I also had six children. There was always a lot going on in her wonderful family; and tons of fun. Jesus Christ was truly the center of their lives. Jeanette was a Baptist Sunday School teacher and her husband, Willy was a deacon. Together, they were the best soul-winning couple I ever knew.
Jeanette told me she wanted Galatians 2:20 engraved on her tombstone: "I AM CRUCIFIED WITH CHRIST: NEVERTHELESS I LIVE; YET NOT I, BUT CHRIST LIVETH IN ME; AND THE LIFE WHICH I NOW LIVE IN THE FLESH I LIVE BY THE FAITH OF THE SON OF GOD WHO LOVED ME, AND GAVE HIMSELF FOR ME." This Scripture was like a "goal" to me when I became a Christian; a challenge when I first began teaching a class of ten-year-old girls at age 17. In the brochure at Jeanette's funeral were her words: "LORD, LAY SOME SOUL UPON MY HEART, LOVE THAT SOUL THROUGH ME. MAY I BRAVELY DO MY PART TO WIN THAT SOUL FOR THEE."
Jeanette taught my Sunday School class at Garden Oaks Baptist Church for six years, beginning in 1987. She was a jewel -- an excellent Bible teacher. Without a doubt, God sent her to our group of women. Jeanette and Willy came to our church when theirs disbanded. At the same time our teacher's husband John retired, and he and Julia moved to Louisiana to live near their daughter and granddaughters. It's wonderful to experience the jigsaw puzzle of our lives falling apart, and then see God put the pieces back together again.
Willy died from a heart attack on Sunday, February 5, 1989 at age 76. They had been married 51 years.
It was on a Sunday after church that Jeanette and I were together in her home. We were discussing something in the Bible, and I said, "I left my Bible in my car. If I had it, I could find that Scripture." "Here is mine," she said. "Look it up!" When I opened her Bible, I said, "Gee! You are the only person I know who has as many writings in the margins as I do. These are good. Can I take your Bible home with me? I'll bring it back tomorrow." That night, I copied all of her notes from her Bible into mine.
On December 14, 1990, my husband was in the Texas Heart Institute where Dr. Denton Cooley's team were administering to his heart attack. I had been with him all night (since 4:15 the day before!). At 8:00 a.m. Dr. Satori said the surgery would be at 11:00. He said, "I wish I could give you some encouragement, but he has only one chance in l00 of surviving." I telephoned Jeanette. She said, "I'll be right there." I said, "You don't have to come. Jack will be in surgery about six hours. I have my children here. I just want you to pray." She replied, "You won't even know I'm there. I'll just sit in a corner and pray." And she did…all day. She had re-married the year before, and her husband E.A. was with her. Nurse Barbara took my family into a small private room. At 5:00, she gave us the wonderful news: the operation was over and Jack was doing o.k. Jeanette (my faithful friend) and E.A. joined us for supper in the cafeteria.
Five years later, Jack was dying in Memorial Southwest Hospital. Four days I had subsisted on candy bars and Coca Colas. Jeanette came to the hospital bringing a pint jar of pinto beans with ground beef, a generous slice of cornbread, and a piece of Lemon Pie! That was the best meal I ate in my life! Jack died February 16, 1996; same month that Willy died.
Jeanette bought me a faux pearl necklace and earrings, forgetting I did not have pierced ears. I never told her. I had clip-ons to match. She'd call me and say, "Come on over. We'll have lunch and cut up magazines!" I paste pictures on envelopes of all greeting cards I mail out.
She was a great encourager for my writings of Happenings Along the Way to Heaven. Often she would send notes so sweet my eyes would swim in tears of humbleness. Excerpts from three: "I cannot tell you how much joy you have brought to my life over the years. Your letters are so uplifting even with the sadness, there's a ray of sunshine." "You are a great blessing to so many people. I pray continually that the Lord will reward you a million times over for the good work that you do." Many times she would enclose postage stamps. She wrote, "I want to help you in mailing your wonderful cards and messages that we love so much. May the Lord bless you at morning, noon, and night." Every Christmas, she would enclose a check, in the amount of 100 stamps, with her Christmas card. Also at Christmas, I know she would send a check for $50. to her pastor with a note for him to take his wife out to dinner.
She was good at playing "cupid." She was a real estate saleswoman. She introduced a widow from our Class to her boss, and they married. She invited Hazel Slaydon (from our Sunday School Class) and George Lessinger (a lonely friend) to have dinner with her and E.A. They became good companions for the rest of their lives. There were others!
When our pastor left, E.A. did not care for his replacement. He began attending a neigh- boring church. Jeanette was uncomfortable with this. Families should worship together. She resigned as our teacher on Feb. 7, 1993 to attend church with E.A. So strong was her urge to teach, she told the pastor, "Just give me a closet. I'll make it into a classroom and find someone to teach." I was plenty upset to lose sharing my church life with Jeanette. Some Sundays, I'd get together with them and we'd go to my brother's church. E.A. died from a series of strokes on June 4, 2000 at age 85. My brother (Jerry) and two other pastors officiated his funeral service.
Jeanette had a very difficult time after E.A.'s death. Their home went to his heirs. She purchased a small house. Then the storm Allison in June, 2001 flooded it with four feet of water throughout. She was in tears when she called me, saying, "All your stories were in the bottom dresser drawer and they got wet. So did all my magazines in the garage." She sat in the middle of the living room floor and cried out to God from her plight. Almost immediately, her doorbell rang. There stood a group of teenagers from First Baptist Church, asking, "Can we help you? We'll pull out your carpet and water-damaged goods." Isn't God good? If He brings you to it, He will get you through it!
I kept a notebook in which I wrote stories Jeanette told me about her soul winning, her witnessing for the Lord. I will share some of them with you, beginning with a miracle.
Jeanette was very ill after Sharon was born. Her blood count was low. She was nauseous and cramping. Willy was at work. She told her three-year-old daughter Billie to go next door and tell Mrs. Owens she needed her. Billie said, "Mama needs some sugar!" When Jeanette sent Billie back with the cup of sugar, Mrs. Owens came over and took Jeanette to the hospital emergency room for medication. Jeanette said, "I couldn't get well. My insides were rotten! My tummy was swollen. Someone told me about a healing meeting going on inside a big tent at the Pentecostal church. I begged Willy to take me. He said I could be healed at our church. I told him the Lord was telling me to go to this healing meeting. He wouldn't go with me. I carried Sharon, led Billie by holding her hand as we walked to the Revival. A storm came up and we crawled under the tent because it was completely enclosed. I couldn't find a door! Bro. Oral Roberts talked to me after the service. He said, 'I am not the healer. Nothing in me can heal. Turn your faith loose and believe.' He put his hand on my head. The whole room felt so warm. I put the kids down. I was wearing a silk dress. My green belt dropped to the ground. My swollen tummy was gone! I had 'touched the hem of Jesus' garment' (Matthew 9:20+). My doctor said it was a miracle that I was healed."
The term "to be saved" means to become a believer in God, a follower of Jesus Christ; to believe Jesus was the Son of God and died on the cross to take away our sins , thereby granting us everlasting life in Heaven after death. Otherwise we are doomed to spend eternity in Hell, according to Biblical teachings. In John 11:25-26, Jesus says: "I AM THE RESURRECTION, AND THE LIFE: HE THAT BELIEVETH IN ME, THOUGH HE WERE DEAD, YET SHALL HE LIVE: AND WHOSOEVER LIVETH AND BELIEVETH IN ME SHALL NEVER DIE."
When Jeanette became saved, she thought everyone wanted to hear about it. She went to ALL her neighbors. No one cared! Dolly Owens became offended at Jeanette's trying to "save" her! Jeanette decided she'd never talk to her again until she heard the word "church." One Mon- day morning, she stripped the beds of covers to be washed . She opened the bedroom windows to air out the mattresses. She overheard Dolly and a neighbor talking out in the yard about a chicken. However, Jeanette thought they said "church" instead of "chicken." She prayed, asking the Lord if this was the time to talk to Dolly about being saved. It WAS! Dolly became a believer and said, "I wish Bruce (husband) would be saved too. You know he is an alcoholic. Could Willy talk to him?" Willy and the preacher came over that night. Bruce yelled, "Hit the road!" ordering them out of the house! Dolly cried. Jeanette said, "We'll keep praying." Dolly's son said, "I wish Daddy came home at the same time every day like Mr. Brenner does."
One night, Dolly talked Bruce into attending a revival meeting with her. Bruce was gloriously saved! He really tried to quit drinking. He'd rake leaves all day. The temptation would be too much. He'd slip away and return home, drunk. One day a disgruntled motorist followed him home and split his head with a hatchet. Bruce recovered, and NEVER drank alcohol again. He died of cancer several years later.
Margaret Caton was a Methodist, a high society type woman. Her husband Rex was a backslidden Baptist. Margaret became very ill. Jeanette cleaned her house, washed clothes and cooked for the family. She talked to Margaret about God. Margaret thought she was saved, but realized she had never really turned her life over to the Lord. Later, she and Rex rededicated their lives. Margaret then witnessed to her sister, Mary. The next Sunday, Mary went with them to church. In the middle of the pastor's sermon, Mary hurried down the aisle, crying, and said, "Pastor, I want to be saved NOW. I can't wait until the end of your sermon!" Everyone that Jesus saved, announced the fact publicly. Therefore, we go to a church, vowing to serve Jesus the rest of our life. Baptism follows as a symbol of washing away our old life to begin anew.
Vina Gillespie was a small, brazen red-headed woman who worked with Jeanette at Lerner's. Her husband was a lounge operator. She didn't like Jeanette because she was always talking about the Lord. She said she and her husband were saved overseas when he was in the service. She was difficult to work with; mean to everyone. One day, Jeanette saw her crying while sitting in the office. Jeanette asked, "Can I do something for you?" She said, "No. I just don't have a friend in all the world." Jeanette replied, "I'll be your friend." Vina became very ill. Jeanette visited her in the hospital; prayed at her bedside; invited her to come to church when she was well again. The next Sunday, Willy and Jeanette arrived at church at the same time as the Gillespies. They walked over to greet them. Vina was dressed in a flowered robe and night gown. Her husband said she wouldn't get dressed! Willy and Jeanette sat on the back row with Vina during the preaching service.
Vina came back another time and sat by Jeanette. She said, "I want to be saved, but I can't walk that far up to the front." Jeanette said, "You take the first step, and I'll help you walk the rest of the way." Vina got on her knees in front of the preacher; said the sinner's prayer, asking God to save her. Later she became critically ill, and again Jeanette visited her in the hospital. That night, Jeanette was awaken by a dream that she was talking to Vina, telling her she wished she could do more for her. She went back to sleep. The next morning, Jeanette was told Vina died at 5:00 a.m. -- the exact time of Jeanette's dream. Jeanette said, "Didn't the Lord let her come by and tell me goodbye? Yes, I believe He did. My dream was like she was there in my room." Three months later, her husband was killed in a car wreck.
E.A. was a building contactor. He had $6,000. in 100-dollar bills which he placed in a small Tupperware container and hid upstairs. The next day it was gone. That night, they heard a noise in the attic. Rats? Did they get the money? Jeanette said, "Rats can't chew plastic! The Lord knows where the money is. We must keep praying." On Sunday, she taught a lesson about God controlling animals (Psalm 32:9). She prayed, "Lord, we need the money. Make the rat bring it back!" They were sitting in the living room, when they heard a thump on the stairs. The Tupperware box fell over the banister, lid came open and the money fanned out like a deck of cards! The box was chewed all over -- yes, by a rat! God controls animals! Proof again:
It was during the tornado of 1983. Willy and Jeanette had a pet Chihuahua. Willy backed over the dog in the driveway and crushed her back. The Veterinarian said she would need microscoptic surgery which would cost $2,000. Jeanette said, "I'll just have to pray." The Vet said, "Let me know how she comes out." The dog recovered. "A miracle," said the Vet.
Jeanette had so many wonderful adventures with the Lord. I wish I could tell you all of them! The purpose of recording them was to fill them in with some of my "Happenings"; but I never did. One of my favorites is about her neighbor, Clayton Lenny, who was a backyard auto mechanic. He worked on cars seven days a week. She often chided him about going to church on Sundays. So it was on this particular Sunday morning as Willy and Jeanette paused on their way to church. The neighbor was hoisting a motor up on a tree limb. Jeanette said, "Come, go to church, Clayton. You can fix that later." He replied, "If I don't finish this work, my family don't eat." The pastor was in the middle of his sermon when the door opened and a man in greasy work clothes ran down the aisle. It was Clayton! He said, "I heard a voice in the tree. God's voice. It said 'go to church and be saved.'" He was!
Only the Lord could find a crown big enough to hold all of Jeanette's stars.
On Willy's tombstone are the words from II Corinthians 5:17: "THEREFORE IF ANY MAN BE IN CHRIST, HE IS A NEW CREATURE; OLD THINGS ARE PASSED AWAY; BEHOLD, ALL THINGS ARE BECOME NEW."
I have another notebook in which I recorded notes from her lessons and Bible verse explanations. She loved her Bible, and knew it so very well. Some of her comments follow:
Isaiah 1:18, "COME NOW, AND LET US REASON TOGETHER, SAITH THE LORD: THOUGH YOUR SINS BE AS SCARLET, THEY SHALL BE AS WHITE AS SNOW; THOUGH THEY BE RED LIKE CRIMSON, THEY SHALL BE AS WOOL." Jeanette said if You put a red rose in a red glass and set it in the sun, the red rose will turn white.
II Peter 1:4, "WHEREBY ARE GIVEN UNTO US EXCEEDING GREAT AND PRECIOUS PROMISES." The greatest promise is eternal life. They shall never perish. I will never leave thee nor forsake thee. He hears our faintest cry. All things are possible if you'll only believe. Call unto Me and I will answer thee. Promise of peace in time of trouble. God has a pavilion we can come under while the storms pass. You get "profit sharing" with God.
Her last lesson taught to our class was on "The Lord's Calling", witnessing, on February 7, 1993. Highlights I wrote: There is an urgency of witnessing to the lost. The devil says we have plenty of time. But we know tomorrow may never come…we have only today. "NEGLECT NOT THE GIFT THAT IS IN THEE' (I Timothy 4:14; II Timothy 1:5-8). Jesus said, "I AM THE WAY, THE TRUTH, AND THE LIFE; NO MAN COMETH UNTO THE FATHER BUT BY ME" (John 14:6; John 11:25-26). We have only one life which will soon be past. Only what we did for Jesus will last. "WE ARE AMBASSADORS (representatives) FOR CHRIST" (II Corinthians 5:20). She told the story of a soldier noticing a small boy looking at doughnuts in the bakery window. He bought a dozen and gave them to the little boy. As he walked away, the boy ran after him and asked, "Mister, are you God?" We are the only Bible many people will read.
Death is certain to everyone. Our days are like a shadow. They flee away. Life is like a breath; like a vapor. Our inheritance is in Heaven, kept by the power of God, ready to be revealed in the last days. "Have a happy forever, Jeanette. I'll see you in the sweet bye and bye."
> Jeanette Brenner