This is for B


Teri Zintgraff Youhanaie, my best friend from law school, has been reading my writing for decades. Before I send my work anywhere, Teri gives me her thoughts, which are invaluable to me.

“This is for B,” I remind her every Monday.

I then rush my weekly column across the digital world to where she lives in California.

Every one of my newspapers has a different deadline. Tuesday afternoon is the one I watch closely. So does Teri. That’s B’s deadline.

Who is B? Why is this person so important?

B is Brenda Shoffner, Features Editor for the NWF Daily News, the Florida panhandle newspaper.

Countless columns cross Brenda’s desk each week. I suspect most are from writers. Becoming a columnist is a dream come true for most of us.

Brenda holds the key to that door.

The Faith page draws even more emails from pastors who simply want to be published.

From all of these selections, B chose me. For years, readers along the Florida Panhandle have read my faith column three times a month, every month, solely because B likes what I do. And I like B—we click.

Teri knows all this, knows how important Mondays are. So as every week begins, we put our heads together.

Once I get Teri’s thoughts, off the column goes to B.

Brenda then polishes it to perfection—and I mean perfection.

Many weeks, something still isn’t working. Most editors will bulldoze a path through a writer’s words to suit themselves, making the awfulest mess.

But when Brenda sees a problem, she communicates with me. Sometimes that turns into a tug-of-war that can last for days.

For instance, the proper newspaper rule is to refer to God as “him” not “Him.”


I’ve left more than one editor in a fight over this issue. It’s disrespectful. It’s my line, and I draw it.

Brenda knows me well enough to understand. As I said, we click.

On the other hand, I hate semicolons. What’s wrong with a good old-fashioned grammatically-evil comma splice? No. Not on B’s watch.

“This is for B.” I say it every Monday; nothing less than my best goes to Brenda.

And when B reads a column and emails me an “Excellent”—that’s as good as it gets in my world. Truly. Like an elementary school child with a gold star, I send it to Teri. “Look, look, look!”

You think I’m kidding. I’m not.

Over the years, B and I have come to know one another’s struggles. I pray for her each week and I know she prays for me—we’ve become dear friends.

On Friday night, a week ago, I opened an email from B while working late, waiting to see a client. I’d just sent her an article about layoffs in her company, which had recently merged with another. I wondered if she’d seen it.

“No,” she wrote. “I was too busy experiencing it. I’ve been laid off. My position has been eliminated.”

As you can imagine, sorrow swept over me.

Teri gave me a plaque years ago after I was turned down for a Christian media job I really wanted. I’ve moved many, many times since then, but that worn little plaque goes with me, prominently displayed everywhere I live.

It reads “When God shuts a door, He opens a window.”

I’m now excited for B. I know God has a plan.

Scripture is filled with stories of those who walk into the unknown. Think of Abraham—God sends him to live in a faraway land he’s never seen. Remember Ruth, who leaves her homeland and sets off for a new country with her mother-in-law. 

The journey can be terrifying, as it was for God’s people as they faced the Red Sea with the enemy in hot pursuit. 

I wrote about one such fearful Bible journey last winter at a time when I was afraid. I was being forced to make drastic changes in my life. You can read that column here under “Editor’s picks.”

When you face loss, whether it’s a job, a relationship, a death, or some other crisis, go to the Rock. If you belong to God, give it to Him. The Lord knows our every need. He will guide you as surely as He’s led His people for 4,000 years.

“The Lord Himself goes before you,” a dying Moses told Joshua as the Israelites faced the fight of a lifetime, conquering the Promised Land. “He will never leave you nor forsake you,” Moses said. “Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” Deuteronomy 31:8

This is for B.

Copyright © 2020 R.A. Mathews. All rights reserved. 

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