"Refined" is Lovingly Dedicated to These Two Extraordinary Women

Cady Lewis, Carol McLeod, Debby Edwards

Cady Lewis, Carol McLeod, Debby Edwards

Two women.

Two women who have spent hellatious time in the fires of life.

Two women who came out of those searing fires as pure gold.

Two refined, extraordinarily beautiful women.

Two women who reflect the face of Jesus. 

Two women who don’t even smell like smoke.

These are the two women to whom “Refined” is being dedicated.

Debby Matthews Edwards and Cady Morgan Kendall Lewis.

 May I tell you their stories?

(I will tell you the rich story of Debby Matthews Edwards this week and then next week I will remind you of the story of my sweet young friend, Cady Morgan Kendall Lewis.)

Debby Matthews Edwards was my college roommate.  She was from Smackover, Arkansas … and I had been born and raised in Buffalo, NY.

Debby had short, curly black hair … while my blonde, straight hair extended long beyond my waist.

Debby was the life of every party … and I didn’t even know that there was a party!

I kept her out of trouble … and she kept me from being boring.

And yet Debby and I were a match made in roommate heaven!

Debby’s story of being refined while in the fires of life began long before she and I were roommates in the early 1970’s at Oral Roberts University.

You see, Debby was only 12 years old when her beautiful and energetic mother died of ovarian cancer.  During the painful and lonely years that followed, Debby developed a deep and consuming love for the Word of God. Debby made it a daily habit to wake up early in the morning in order to be comforted by the glory of the Bible.

When we were college roommates, Debby woke up every morning at 5:30 a.m., put her “coke-bottle” glasses on her nearly blind eyes, and then she went out into the hallway to read her Bible for 30 minutes lest she would awaken me. 

I slept while Debby was strengthened.

I snored while Debby was changed.

I drooled while Debby was delighted with Jesus.

When Debby and I graduated from ORU, we both married pastors and stayed in touch as much as possible as the years flew by.  We often called one another on our birthdays, on our anniversaries, at Christmastime or just for much-needed encouragement from a kindred sister of the heart.

I always closed those sweet long-distance conversations with the exact same words, “Debby, did you read your Bible today?”

She would always respond, “I sure did!”  And then she would tell me what she had read and what the precious Holy Spirit, Who is the best Teacher of all time, had taught her during that morning’s Bible reading.

If there was one thing that I could count on from this woman who was stronger than steel and funnier than Lucille Ball, was that she placed inestimable value on time spent in the Word of God.

And then came the fire …

Debby’s pastor husband, Steve, was tragically and instantly killed on April 30, 2005.  He had been on a men’s retreat at their riverfront property and had decided to clear some of the overgrown trees while he had a gang of men available to help him.  A tree came crashing down on Steve’s neck and he was instantly in the presence of Jesus.

No warning … no sickness … no treatment options.

One second Steve was smiling and driving a tractor … the next second he was worshipping his Savior.

Debby and I talked on the phone the next afternoon.  After crying, laughing and sharing for the nearly 30 minutes, I tried to gently close the conversation by saying, “Well … Debby … did you read your Bible today?”

Debby shared with me that her scheduled Bible reading was in I Chronicles Chapters 1-8 on that sad, sad May morning.  When Debby opened to I Chronicles I, she realized that for the next eight chapters all that was written was name after name.

Name after unpronounceable name.

Ridiculous names.

Who had ever heard of these ancient people, anyway?!

“Now the sons of Hezron, who were born to him were Jerahmeel, Ram and Chelubai …”

Meshobab and Jamlech and Joshah the son of Amaziah, and Joel and Jehu the son of Joshibiah, the son of Seraiah, the son of Asiel …

These are the sons of Aaron, Eleazar his son, Phinehas his son, Abishua his son, Bukki his son, Uzzi his son, Zerahiah his son …”

Debby recounted how when she looked at the verses that were in her daily Bible reading that morning that she was just incredulous!  Debby said that actually, she became quite angry with the Holy Spirit.

These were the words of the grieving and emotional Debby to the Holy Spirit …

“Really?!  Really, Holy Spirit?!  That’s the best that You can do today?!  You knew that Steve was going to go to heaven yesterday and yet this is where I am reading today?!

Name after name after name …

Boring name after name after name …

None of these people did anything significant for You or for Your kingdom!

Why is THIS where I am reading in my Bible this morning?”

And the Holy Spirit, who is known for infinite gentleness and for eternal comfort, quietly responded to my dear friend, Debby,

“Yes, Debby.  I did know that you would be dealing with Steve’s death and I did specifically choose these verses for you to read today on May 1, 2005.  I wanted to remind you that people are important to God … and that Steve was important to God.

Steve is not forgotten … his life is a treasure in the history book of heaven.”

And the comfort came flooding in!  Debby was able to move forward with great joy and peace as she processed the pain of losing her beloved husband.  Debby has been able to minister to other widows and to teach them to laugh again.

Debby has continued to love the Body of Christ, to teach Bible Studies, to serve others and to be a generous giver.  Debby has determined to be a joyful Christian in spite of emotional pain and deep grief. 

Pure Gold.


Breathtakingly beautiful!

Debby is at my home this week, taking care of me while I recover from a second mastectomy in less than 7 months.  We are laughing … praying … singing … reading the Word together … watching old movies … and enjoying the depth and richness that 40 years of friendship brings.

And you know what?!  She doesn’t even smell like smoke!

But more importantly than that is that when I look at Debby … she is hard to find because all I really see is Jesus.

Join me next week for the story of Cady Morgan Kendall Lewis.  It is an honor to have this extraordinary young woman in my life and to own the delight of dedicating my new book, “Refined … Finding Joy In the Fires of Life” to both Cady and Debby.

Pre-order your copy of "Refined" today.  {Your book will be shipped by a major retailer like Amazon.com on September 15th}