Posted by: Rex Boyles | November 4, 2007

“the best woman I have ever known …”

On November 5, 1925, Lena Jo was born to James and Alice McNabb in Temple, Oklahoma. She was the 7th of 8 children – 4 brothers and 3 sisters. She was bright – inquisitive. She learned to read long before she began school. She loved reading; but she also loved working on the farm with her father, cooking in the kitchen with her mother, and playing anywhere with her brothers and sisters. With her dad on the farm she learned to work – to work hard, hoeing or picking cotton. With her mother in the kitchen she learned to cook – to cook from “scratch”, frying chicken and baking cakes. With her brothers and sisters she learned to play to win – to play fair, being a good sport when you win or lose.

She loved school – learning new things. The teachers loved her. (More than once she was the teacher’s pet, at least according to one of the boys in the class that she thought was the meanest boy in school.) She learned things that you can’t find in school books. When she was in the second grade – her teacher, Mrs. Slaughter, whispered in her ear that Jesus was her friend. From that day (to this day) she has believed it – lived it – passed it on to a second and third generation … as soon as she can get any time with her newest great-grandbabies, she will be sharing it with them. 

In high school she was an honor roll student and a starting guard on the basketball team. She was pretty, popular, everyone’s favorite – especially one particular dark-eyed boy, who she thought was the meanest boy in the school. They were dating … sweet on each other … serious about each other … when he was drafted into the US Navy.

While he shipped out – she graduated. While he fought – she worked. While he longed to come home – she prayed for him to come home. While God kept him alive – He gave her a new life. 

She was raised to know right and wrong – and do what is right. But she wasn’t raised “going to church”. While she waited and prayed for that boy to come home, an ex-teacher of hers, Ila Lewis, took her to visit churches – encouraging her to seek God’s will and to find God’s people. Shortly after her 19th birthday, she confessed her faith in Jesus and was buried with Him in baptism – raised to walk in a new life.

Just after her 20th birthday she married that dark-eyed boy, Bill, and their love sparked into life 4 boys. (I am the third.)

She worked with her husband, our dad, on the farm. She helped with planting, hoeing, and harvesting. She worked with him to build a house and to make a home. She cooked breakfast, dinner, and supper. We always had plenty. It was always good (except when she made us eat liver and spinach). We always had dessert – homemade, fresh-baked pies, cakes, cookies, and candy. (And that doesn’t count all of the pies, cakes, cookies and candy that she carried to neighbors and friends.)

She taught us boys to hoe – “cut the root under the dirt and don’t cut down the cotton” … to cook – “cook pork until it is completely done and if you are making gravy, keep stirring” … to clean – “move the furniture when you vacuum and the knickknacks when you dust” … to read – “read your Bible every day, and Rex, have you read this book yet?”

She taught these things and so much more – not just by what she said but what she did … how she lived. She taught us how to pray … how to believe … how to learn … how to forgive … how to serve … how to obey … how to worship … how to perservere … how to give … how to teach … how to love mates … how to raise kids … how to follow Jesus … how to live life to the fullest.

She has been married to the love of her life for almost 62 years. She has been a lover of Jesus longer. When I try to describe her, I am forced by the character and charisma of her life to compare her to noble women of Scripture. 

She, like Eve, is the delight and desire of her husband.

She, like Miriam, watches over her brothers and sisters.

She, like Deborah, inspires men to fight the good fight.

She, like Ruth, served her mother-in-law (and mother) in their last years.

She, like Hannah, prayed for and gave her sons to the Lord.

She, like Esther, was brought into the kingdom “for such a time as this”.

She, like Mary – His mother, ponders things in her heart but praises God, when His will is done in her life.

She, like Mary – His friend, sits mesmerized at the feet of the lover of her soul.

She, like the widow, would give her last pennies to help others.

She, like Lydia, opened her heart to the Lord and makes God’s servants accept her hospitality. 

She, like Priscilla, welcomes the church into her home.

She, like Lois and Eunice, taught (teaches) her sons and grandchildren the faith that lives in her.

She, like the worthy woman in Proverbs 31, is just that – “worthy” – a woman of noble character. Her husband praises her and her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren rise up and call her “blessed” and “Granny Jo Jo”.

Would you please – with me – share a blessing with my mother – as I seek to honor her in these words and in my life?

p.s. She, like the Samaritan, with my father – saw me left for dead (by my own sin) beside the road – bound up my wounds – brought me to a safe place (home). I have always owed them my life – and now I do so again. (Thank you, mother and dad.)


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