shout-out

What do you get when you cross a charismatic Christian, an earthy hippie and a conservative homemaker who loves a good adventure?

The answer comes in the form of a woman standing barely 5’2, dressed in a conservative dress and sneakers, with her olive-complexioned face browned by the sun and her eyes sparkling with joy and warmth. This woman effortlessly steps over unspoken stereotypes and mixes denominational and cultural differences with an ease and warmth.

She is friends with dozens of Christians from different backgrounds and beliefs, but manages to unite them with their one purpose of glorifying Jesus. Her own beliefs about Christianity reflect the stories in the book of Acts. Her faith is simple and substantial—rooted in a Love that captured her heart and healed her deepest wounds. God is her friend and she carries that responsibility with a joyful solemnity. Where He leads her, she will follow, treating it as an exciting adventure in which her role is to speak and do what He is speaking and doing. Her adventures with Him have taken her to England, Alaska and North Dakota—but also to the next-door neighbor and the local Wal-Mart.

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“Praying is coming into agreement with God,” she says, “And He can’t steer a parked car.”

Her car is not parked. She is constantly discovering new and fresh delights on her treasure hunt with the Lord. It is the glory of the Lord to conceal a matter and it is the glory of this woman to seek it out. Her shelves are covered with tactical rocks, keys, and scraps of paper—simple treasures that represent the more important ones that He has burned into her heart.

Her life has not been easy or full of delight. It has been years of walking and stumbling through a wilderness. I walked with her and sometimes God seemed more of a Mystery than a Might, more of a Hider than a Revealer. But like in the story of Much-Afraid, the Shepherd was always closer than we imagined. Sometimes He came in the hardest times and told us stories about Himself and about how He was healing her. I didn’t learn about the Ways the Lord Works after He had worked and the healing was complete. The learning came with the process—slow and painful and steady. She told us things that He spoke to her only hours after He had spoken and before we saw the fruition.   Sometimes when she talks about those wilderness years, now in this oasis time, I hear regret and sorrow in her voice. She told me that she was sorry, once, that I was there for some of the years that the locusts wasted. But I learned to follow Jesus in the wilderness by following my mom. I learned that He laughs, that He has inside jokes with us, and that He speaks hard truth that burns our ears and incinerates the barriers around our hearts.

She is not perfect. At times in my teenage years, I expected perfection and resented her humanity. But I am grateful for the imperfection because it allowed me to see, and to still see, a beautiful and messy Redemption. I don’t know a Middle-Class American God because I grew up with a God that sat in our mobile home and told us stories about Himself. I don’t know a comfortable Jesus because I grew up with a Jesus that walked through the discomfort. I don’t know a passive Holy Spirit because I grew up with a Holy Spirit that was constantly moving and active.

Jesus is her Friend and now He is my Friend. Following Him means embracing friendship with the Holy One. I learned how to follow Jesus because my mom followed Jesus.

And I am really grateful.

i wanted to remember her

Write a story about the older lady in the airport.

I recorded a memo on my phone because I wanted to remember to write about her.

I wanted to record her memory because she looked fascinating, she looked wise, but mostly, because she just looked old and faded—like something I would find in my great-grandma’s attic. Everything about her was faded; from her yellowed blouse and dusty pink skirt to her carefully applied, but probably ancient, lipstick. Her shoes looked like they belonged in the forties decade—and probably had.  Remember Julie Andrew’s suitcase in the Sound of Music? Remember the bag that Anne of Green Gables said held all her earthly possessions? This lady had that suitcase. The kind that needed a key to open.

Her eyes were what drew me to her. There was wisdom in those faded blue eyes. I watched her as she studied the people rushing by—the father with the crying baby, the college kid on her phone, the tired security guard—she watched them rush by and I wondered what she was thinking. What does 2011 look like to 1956?

The plane was delayed. People complained. The baby cried. The college kid texted everyone in her contact list. Everyone was lost in their own worlds, all competing for first place in the race of their personal schedules. And I sat on the floor beside the electrical outlet with my charging phone and half-eaten pretzel and watched her sit and wait. That’s all she did. While the world rushed on a self-appointed hectic pace around her, she sat with her hands folded and her ugly brown suitcase neatly sitting beside her dusty shoes. She looked content. She looked patient. She looked like she knew more about the world than any one of the 21st century Americans around her.

I suppose for someone that had probably lived through a world war, through Pearl Harbor, through a president’s assassination, and through a country that had changed dramatically in the course of her life, there was no reason she should not, on the tenth anniversary of 9/11, sit in a crowded airport in Philadelphia and wait for a plane.

I wish I had been brave enough to talk to her. I wish I had offered to take her for overpriced airport food while we waited for our plane. I wish I had asked her where she was going and why she was flying on 9/11, but I didn’t. I just sat and watched her as she silently analyzed everyone in a crowded gate in Terminal B.  I knew I wouldn’t be able to do her character justice in a hastily written note for Facebook, but I wrote myself a phone reminder anyways.

Dear old lady in the airport, I wish I had said hello.