Late one evening last August, Bill Gaut called to check on his 98 year old mother. When she didn’t answer, he did what any good son would do. Fearing what he might find, he struck out to her house to check on her. As he neared the home, he saw lights in the windows, but he also noticed another light just to the right of the house. As he pulled in the driveway, the source of the light came into focus–he had found his mother! There she was with a headlamp strapped to her head with the light pointed straight down to the ground where she was pulling a hoe back and forth to cover flowers she had planted earlier. Where else would 98 years (and 7 months, as Margaret reminded me) old Margaret Gaut be?!? Actually, that should read: Where else would 98 years (and 7 months) young Margaret Gaut be?!?
While most people can’t even imagine being alive at 98 (and 7 months), Margaret is too busy living to think anything about it. Still vital and inquisitive, the muscles in her calves speak volumes about her daily life and her ability to almost skip up a flight of stairs, and her varied interests keep her mind alert and always working. Her hands, far from the delicate hands of an elderly lady, are strong and worn from years of nurturing just about anything with roots. An amazing woman by any measure, Margaret shares virtually nothing with anyone anywhere close her age.
I visited with Margaret this past week, and she had more to tell me than I could possibly write. In fact, we filled a full 4 ½ hours with conversation. In all that conversation, we covered everything from ballroom dancing to growing orchids, but one thing became more and more obvious. Margaret has never believed her life and path have belonged to anyone other than God. When I sat down to write about Margaret, the only way I could really tell you about her was through the inspired Word of God, so that is what I’ve done. I hope I have done her justice…
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future…” Jeremiah 29:11
Margaret’s faith in God and Jesus Christ has been the foundation on which she built her life. She has confronted every major event in her life with unwavering faith, a faith that has seen her through both the good and the bad. She will tell you that God led her to this or that, or that some event was part of God’s plan, or that God saw her through it all, or that God opened a window every time a door closed. She will tell you that nothing in her life happened by chance because she knows that God had and still has plans for her to prosper and have hope in the future.
…Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:9
At the age of six, Margaret started school in Tusculum, about two miles from the farm where she lived with her mother and father. Roads were almost non-existent then, and only the main roads were graveled. The road that Margaret had to travel to get to school was really more like a trail. It had no gravel at all and had deteriorated to the point that it was mostly ruts and mudholes the entire two miles. For a six year old, the road was more of a challenge than little legs could manage for the two mile walk twice a day.
One day, Margaret’s father came home with news that would solve this problem, news that would also shake a six year old’s world. He had made arrangements for Margaret to board in a home near the school from Monday through Friday each week. She would be home only on weekends. Just as any six year old would naturally feel, Margaret did not want to go. But even at the age of six, Margaret was strong and courageous, and she knew God would go with her and take care of her.
And God did just that. Margaret got through that year, and grew up a lot. By the next year, her father had bought a home in Tusculum where he moved two aunts who had fallen into his care. He also moved Margaret’s grandmother there, and from then on, Margaret stayed with them so she could go to school. She wasn’t at home, but she was with family she loved. God had delivered her!
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus… Ephesians 3:20-21
As Margaret grew, she continually went above and beyond what her parents and teachers asked. She developed high expectations for herself, and that led to high expectations of others. I have experienced a certain way Margaret lets others know that their work or thinking could be a little better. As always on Sundays, she would ask me all sorts of questions about what I was doing and what my family was doing. Sometimes something would strike her, and she would dig a little deeper. Sometimes, her reaction to my explanation was ,”Wonderful!” in that bright, cheery voice she has. But sometimes, she would cock her head to the side just a bit, look up at me, and just say, “Ohhhhh?” with the end of the word trailing off into into something of a question. She never said anything else, but I knew what that “Ohhhhh?” meant. I had not quite lived up to her standards.
These high expectations show in her work for the Heritage Committee at Greenevlle Cumberland Presbyterian Church. She is currently tracing the histories of every minister who has filled the pulpit there. She has pictures of them all, but her search for a frame to display the pictures kept leading to dead ends. She had in mind exactly what she wanted, so she had the frame made to her expectations.
In his heart, a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.
Time and time again, Margaret made plans and even acted on them, only to discover God ordained her steps to go in another direction. As one dedicated to the philosophy that God knows what is best for us, Margaret followed God’s plan even if that meant following a much more difficult path.
Margaret didn’t marry until she was 28, an age somewhat older than most young women of the time. The young man who had Margaret’s heart was half a world away serving our country in World War II. She waited faithfully for him for four years, but still he remained overseas. She continued to wait, but God had another plan in mind. A young man named King Gaut had arrived home just out of the service. From the moment he saw Margaret Simpson, King knew she was the one. Three months later, they were engaged. Three months after that, they were married.
Margaret sighed and said in the softest of voices, “That was probably a hasty decision. It was probably too soon.” I had known King, too, and I couldn’t imagine she was questioning whether she should have married him. I asked her, “But things turned out just fine, didn’t they?” She smiled a far away smile, came back to the present, and burst out, “Well, we were married for 62 years. God meant for us to be together.”
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. Psalm 23:4
Over the years, Margaret adjusted her plans many more times to comply with God’s will in her life, but when King died suddenly after 62 years of marriage, I fully expected her to give in to the feelings of grief that had to be ravaging her emotionally. But Margaret would have none of that. I know she grieved, but she would not let it control her or take over the life she still had to live. The next Sunday, the first one after King’s death, I walked into church, and there stood Margaret, undaunted, greeting each one who came through the door and handing each of them a bulletin. She was standing in the same place and doing exactly what King had done just the Sunday before. “Of course, I did it…that was always King’s job,” she whispered. “Who but I should have done it?”
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and your mind in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7
If there were just one verse that describes how Margaret Gaut works, this one might just be it. I could tell you so many more things about my friend Margaret, but they would all lead to the same conclusion. Margaret believes in God’s divine hand in all she does. She is thankful for her past to the point that she cannot identify any one thing that made for her happiest moment. All she could tell me was, “ I guess I’ve enjoyed it all.” Still, she doesn’t dwell on or live in the past. She live for the future. She doesn’t worry about what has been or what will be. Instead, she exemplifies the peace of God which transcends all understanding. It guards both her heart and her mind. She lives in thanksgiving for God, who has directed her steps for 98 years and 7 months now.