This year’s Summer Sampler is about “Women Who Have Changed Our Lives,” the women who have inspired or encouraged us in our spiritual walk. These are the unsung heroes of the faith, the Sunday School teachers and neighbors and friends who were instrumental in our spiritual growth. No matter who we are or where we come from, God can use us to make a difference for eternity. And he calls all of us! We’re hoping that these stories will inspire and encourage you that you, too, can make a difference in the spiritual life of another woman.
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Barbara Arbo: The Woman of the Word (and Lots of Patience)
By Robin Farnsworth
I did not know about dresses. Come to think of it, I’m not sure I wore a bra. And my memories of basic hygiene are vague. There stood before me a tall blond woman, her blue eyes lit with a joy I was still unfamiliar with. She was stunning! Her dress matched her earrings, both swirling in rich turquoise and fuchsia. And she wore lipstick. I wore an old T-shirt that smelled like yesterday’s ashtray. Pastor’s wife and protégé. That was 34 years ago.
Although she is just six years older than me, Barbara will always be my “spiritual mother.” As I took my first uncertain baby steps in Christ, she was there to nurture, guide, and encourage as I stumbled along. There was nothing easy about the frowning young woman who wore a huge chip on her shoulder under the dirty T-shirt. I was skeptical, cynical, and unbridled in tongue and temper. Barbara would just smile and lead me to God’s Word. Oh, the Word! Could she see my eyes roll? They were relentless with the Word! Suspicious yet intrigued, I followed at a distance. But her smile and enthusiasm eventually won me over. And it still does.
Many years later, when I was crushed with grief after the death of my son, when the pain was too great to hear or see God and all things familiar were swept away, God’s Word remained. I KNEW who He was. I had an anchor, strong and secure, holding me. And I thought of Barb.
That little storefront church closed up after five years, and Steve and Barb were called onward, ministering in Texas for several years and then thankfully called back to New England to serve. But life held us together, through joy and sorrow. And then I stepped into a pastor’s wife’s shoes for six years and my appreciation grew to a new depth. Things look different from the other side of the pulpit. The attacks of the enemy come with a new fury, from every corner. Again, I thought of the smile, and the Bible verses that were a spring of life pouring out from her heart. I got it. It’s not just God’s Word – it is Him, the Holy Spirit, beckoning us inward, deeper, to the secret place. There I found my refuge, my strength, and strong tower.
“For we know that when this earthly tent we live in is taken down (that is, when we die and leave this earthly body), we will have a house in heaven, an eternal body made for us by God himself and not by human hands. We grow weary in our present bodies, and we long to put on our heavenly bodies like-new clothing.” 2 Corinthians 5:1-3
We are older now, humbled by the aches and afflictions that come from walking the earth for many years. But there is a richness, a precious and deep delight in our friendship, and an unlovable, broken girl who knew nothing of real love but was able to see it demonstrated in the beautiful lady who spoke truth and hope into my doubt and distrust, whose husband called me “Blessing.”
Under a recent post on social media that highlighted a speaking event of mine, I saw her comment: “I am so proud of you!” That still makes me flush like a kid in a school play, hearing her mom cheering louder than everyone else. And sometimes, when I am encouraging a reluctant new follower of Jesus, or speaking to a roomful of worn and wary inmates at the county jail, I can sense Barbara’s spiritual DNA flowing through me – the smile, the joy in knowing God’s love never fails, His Word endures today and forever, and the “truth that sets you free.” Oh, and the grace! A never-stopping, ever-flowing fountain of grace! Thank you, Barb, for showing me how to walk, then run, and one day finish well.
Robin Farnsworth is an award-winning author and speaker. She and her husband Calvin live on Cape Cod, where they run Higher Ground Outreach, a Christian nonprofit for incarcerated men and women. On duty as an ER nurse in 2002, Farnsworth identified her son, Spencer, minutes after he was pronounced dead. He was the unintended target of a murder. So begins her memoir, The Greater Weight of Glory, an extraordinary journey that explores the power of faith and forgiveness with rare candor and courage. In 2016, WCVBTV Boston’s Chronicle interviewed Robin and one of the men in prison for her son’s murder, highlighting their “unlikely friendship.”
Robin is one of the speakers in our by design Speakers Directory. Robin brings a profound message of hope and healing, centered on Jesus Christ and His transforming power, in a practical and often humorous way that anyone can relate to. It is a message you won’t forget.
Visit spencersmom.com to learn more and connect with Robin.