They walked into Starbucks and quickly spotted me at the table where I was settling my kids so that I could interview them for our community blog. Not surprisingly, Sue Martin and Judy Campbell are in high demand— up-and-comers (myself included) wish to lean in and glean all we can from these eminently experienced and wonderfully wise women of God. And bonus, they are laughing-never-hurt-so-good FUNNY!
Coffees in hand we sat down to chat. Sue eyed me skeptically as I explained what I hoped to discuss. When I finished reiterating that I wanted to hear their seasoned perspective of “Renewal” Sue relaxed and Judy wore an I-told-you-so look.
Judy put her hand out and smiled at Sue. “I win the bet.” Apparently these two are big gamblers and Sue is out a fat, five cents for thinking I had ulterior motives for our meet-up. I’m certain not even Vegas could handle these two high rollers.
I want to apologize in advance if I phrase a question in a way that is offensive because I don’t want to make you two feel old.
Sue: I AM old.
Judy: (laughing) You can’t make us feel older than we know we are.
Okay! I’m off the hook and free to ask away then. So, at this point, do you think that renewal is something you are still pursuing and experiencing, or are you mostly coasting through this season of your life?
J: I don’t think God allows coasting. If you are paying attention, if you are listening, He introduces things into your life that require growth and attention. It doesn’t matter how old you are. If we are being prepared to be the bride, then I’m not perfect yet. There’s still work to do.
S: I find that God challenges me all the time. Whatever [God and I] are studying that day, He embeds a thought…something He wants for me and tells me to go out and do it. He’s always renewing us. For example, He reiterated this morning (looking heavenward with a little Sue Martin sass) that He has given me a message and He wants me to write it out in the form of a book.
Okay, then! No coasting allowed. Then regarding your health, have you changed or lowered your expectations for renewal?
J: (nodding her head) I have come to that place. There are enough small issues that are affecting my energy, my balance – I mean there are things you just can’t help. It’s what your body is doing. So I’ve learned to let the Lord tell me what to do, what not to do. Where to go, where not to go.
How to set limits?
S: Exactly. That’s right. After my seizure last February I came out of that with a new understanding of my limits. I understood that I only have so much time to do what I need to be doing. God brought that home very clearly. My mom died when she was around 83. My dad didn’t die until last year when he was 102. But somewhere in between is when I am going to be going. (Sue and Judy giggling)
J: Not if [your husband] Ken has anything to say about it.
S: This is true. He’ll keep me alive no matter what. But I am more apt to concentrate on making sure my kids know what I want and how I want it done. And I’m a planner.
J: (conspiratorially) She has an EXIT FILE. (more giggling)
The marriage conference is coming up at church and both of you have had marriages that have endured. What were things that you did in your marriage to refresh and repair amongst changing circumstances?
J: Don and I were both believers when we married so we went in with the understanding that it was not just us—that there was God, too. That’s had a lot of impact. We came to one place that was really rough and we wouldn’t have made it through if there hadn’t been the desire there to please the Lord and be obedient to what we knew He would want.
S: I have unique story. (Sue and Ken were one of the first interracial marriages in their state) I think talking a lot about what to expect in a mixed marriage helped us. My husband was raised in a town like Mayberry; it was a little town in eastern Washington. He didn’t have any idea of discrimination. So we talked a lot and I gave Ken scenarios about what could happen. And I asked him how he would respond to that so that I could prepare him for this life into which he was entering. And when it did happen, it wasn’t a shock for him.
I was thinking about the word renew earlier today. In our culture that word and the like are used so often when it comes to beauty. Renew, replenish, revitalize your skin, your hair, your body. There’s such an emphasis on staying young today. So how did you come to terms with aging and beauty?
J: (pointing to Sue and laughing) Well look at her. Her skin is so smooth. You may want to talk to just me about that.
S: Well, that’s only because of being African-American. That has a lot to do with it.
J: I think my mother modeled aging well. I grew up in the country and mother was very simple. For my mom it was a lot of moisturizing and a little blush once in a while. I think it taught me this is what life is and if I’m not willing to go through the aging process, then I don’t get to go to heaven. I don’t want to stay somewhere back there if it means I don’t get to keep walking my walk.
So you were taught to embrace it?
J: Yep. We had a prayer time last night and one of the men prayed for young women to look in the mirror and see themselves as God sees them; beyond what the mirror says. You know, there are days I look in the mirror and think, “Whoa. Yuck.” But most of the time I try to do what I can with what I’ve got and let it keep happening.
S: (looking at Judy and smiling) She’s an amazing woman.
J: (looking at Sue and smiling) She loves me.
S: She’s my sister.
It’s obvious that you two have a special friendship. How does that play a role in keeping you renewed and refreshed?
S: Judy is my mentor. She’s been a Christian longer than I have. She was raised up in the church. I always ask her questions because she goes so far back and she has so much knowledge and it’s wonderful listening to her.
J: Aren’t you cute. (giggles) For me it’s the balance. I’ve got a lot of relationships. You have some where you are the giver, and some where you are the taker. But in Sue, I’ve found a friend where it goes both ways, where you take turns giving and taking. And we talk about the serious things in our life. But we also laugh.
J: She thinks I’m funny. And I don’t think anybody else does.
WE INTERRUPT THIS IRREGULARLY SCHEDULED INTERVIEW TO REPORT THAT AT THIS POINT IN THE CONVERSATION WE RECALLED A HILARIOUS AND WHOLLY INAPPROPRIATE STORY SHARED BY JUDY CAMPBELL. SHE’S FUNNY, YA’LL.
J: It’s been 35 years. I figured that out. We’ve been friends for 35 years in October.
S: Has it? We met at Lake Baptist. We used to fold church bulletins together. There was a group of five of us.
J: It was not long after that I got my diagnosis about my eyes. (Judy has a degenerative eye condition) Those ladies who I folded bulletins with became my support group. They would take me to appointments.
When did you stop driving?
J: It’s been a good 25 years. And Sue has been my primary chauffeur. Driving Miss Daisy. But I don’t sit in the back seat. That would be inappropriate. (laughing)
Times change. Sometimes it’s worth it to change along with the next generation and sometimes we make a conscious effort to remain as is. Where have you found yourself at a crossroads—having to decide whether to adapt with the new or to remain fixed?
J: I think accepting the music at church. It’s a huge change from when I was growing up. It was all about organs and choirs. And I loved the words. But, again, my parents led the way for me. They didn’t like the trend towards repeating the same words eleven times and adding drums and the guitars. But they kept going to church while their friends left church and tried to find something else. So that was my example. It may not be my first choice, but the generations change in the world and in the church. And I want to be a part of God’s body. And if it means not loving the music quite as much, that’s my choice.
S: And I grew up in a church where they played records. And you sang along with the records.
J: Which in itself would be a sign of the times. There were records!
S: Music was all we had as a black family back then. There were a lot of restrictions on us. We couldn’t do “that” and we couldn’t go “there”. So music and having black artists perform made us think, “Oh, we can do something.” So it became very important to us back then.
What about technology? Do you stay up-to-date with that?
S: Well, our sons are both techies so Ken and I…we do that. Ken and I have phones. Ken has 9,000 apps it seems on his phone.
J: And he always thinks he’s quite techy. Of course when he sent me a text, first my phone rang! And then the text came. So I don’t know what he’s doing.
S: That’s what I told him. “You know you just called Judy. And now you are texting her.” Thinking he’s so cool. (Everyone laughing…thanks, Ken!)
So closing up, how would you encourage someone who is looking to position herself to be renewed in her mindset or spirit? What habits would you recommend?
J: She needs to be in the Word every day. You can’t fall in love with someone you don’t know. So you’ve got to get to know Him. And prayer. Sue and I both have a kind of constant prayer thing going with God. Also, it’s important to be in the body.
S: And I like to help women to broaden their understanding of a relationship with the Lord. Also, I encourage them to draw closer to Him, so that they can hear Him when He speaks. He speaks all the time. He’s very active if we pay attention. And sometimes He’s extremely active. (Looking heavenward again with a little more Sue Martin sass)
Sue Martin has been a part of the Grace Chapel community since its first year. Married for 45 years to Ken with two grown sons and five grandchildren, Sue carries a presence with her wherever she goes—drawing others to sit up straight (she has AMAZING posture) and pay attention. She desires her life to be remembered as a story of God’s faithfulness.
Judy Campbell has been involved at Grace from the beginning. She shares two daughters and 8 grandchildren with Don, her husband of 52 years. A faithful woman of God, Judy joyfully and generously gives of herself to those in her sphere of influence. When speaking with others her filter has large holes of the BEST kind, generating peals of laughter. She hopes to be remembered as a woman who has loved the Lord.
Married for 16 years with 2 children, Sarah Carter has been attending Grace Chapel for almost 4 years. Though surprisingly unmentioned in Gary Chapman’s book, her love language is quality information—hearing the testimonies of others and what they have learned along their journey. She is currently working on her fake ID so she can hang with Sue, Judy and the rest of the Honored Ladies ALL THE TIME!