Monday, November 9, 2015

Every Day Heroes

Across the hustle of the busy restaurant, I noticed a petite woman sitting alone at a table for two. Her face was set straight ahead, lips pressed, while she cupped her water glass with both hands. Dark hair brushed the top of a white pin tucked blouse. It had been a half century since I last saw her. I remembered her soft her voice and how light streamed through floor length lace curtains in her Sunday school room. My favorite story was about the boy David and how he had faith to pick up a stone to take down the giant. The first tremors in my heart being awakened to Jesus happened in her class. When I glanced back her way, the place where she had been sitting, was empty. It made me wonder if she knew. Did she even have an idea that she made a difference? From looking at her, she didn't appear to feel like her life mattered.

Hebrews 11 has a long list of people who didn't see the fruit of their lives while they walked this earth. And those heroes of faith still haven't fully realized their impact, because it continues to unfold in history. Sometimes it helps to capture just a glimpse of the bigger picture, but I missed the opportunity to encourage her. It has made me think of others who've been like arrows in my life. Just living their lives, doing big and small things. There are of course countless women and men who have had an impact. But here are a few women that showed up on the scene at just the right time and kept me from thinking life was hopeless.

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I was completely uncomfortable coming into her home to sit with the group of women gathered there, but the atmosphere soon melted away most of my fears. Their common bond was obvious, but not exclusive. Their laughs were deep and frequent. In the center of the table was an extravagant cake. I can’t remember what kind, I just know I’d never tasted one like it before or since. The woman who made the dessert had a great name like, “Corky,” and she was a writer.  I wanted to be her friend, even though I didn't write. Everyone talked about Jesus as if He were more than a story in the Bible. As if He were right there pulled up to the table with us. It wasn't long after that my life was turned upside down, but that day, I got a glimpse of women who loved Jesus, with elbows on the table, licking frosting off the edge of the platter. Thank you, Cherlyn Wahlgren. Thank you for being an awesome neighbor and for making a place at your table. Thank you for praying for me and for telling me how my life reminded you of Job. I had to read the chapter to find out who he was. It's still not my favorite chapter. Yours was my first women's Bible Study experience. It was a bit like the cake that was served. Savory and sweet and welcoming and tangible and memorable. Your hospitality may have been an everyday small thing to you, but it mattered in a very big way. 

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She always sat quietly in the back row at church. I can’t explain it, but I invited myself to her house. She fussed over our lunch while I walked around her home looking at the things hung on her walls. Some were pictures of her family and some were canvases she had painted. Her husband had lost his short battle with cancer. Together they had served for decades on the mission field. Her modest home held reminders of their tender and beautiful story. We decided to study the book of John together. I talked her into reading to me in Spanish. She was reluctant, but agreed and it was beautiful. We took long walks and she opened my eyes to the detail and beauty all around us. Thank you for being open to sharing your life with me, Pauline Tallman. When you told me you were moving, I sobbed the ugly cry, my entire way home. For selfish reasons. It is a reminder to completely embrace the seasons we have with people. Our time together was a mix of mentor, friend and you gave me the nudge to start writing. You, the woman who was in the middle of writing a trilogy. Who can even say that? Your faith proven by fire encourages me still. {{Te Quiero.}} Forever.

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When I met Janet, I was completely over what I knew of church and religion. (And all of heaven was applauding.) In fact, if it had been up to me I would not have walked into the building where she was the Pastors wife. That first Sunday, our family filed into the service fashionably late, with all our defenses drawn. But Janet Walker is the kind of woman who naturally disarms all pretense. She's like the super-hero of mercy.  She has eyes to see those others might pass by. She moves toward the broken and the shattered.  One day, she asked me to lead a Bible Study for women. I remember the script that ran through my head. The words were so clear that I may have actually said them out loud.  “If you knew how messed up I am, you would not be asking me to lead women in a study." Most likely she did know how messed up I was and she still asked. Bless her. She provided a sacred place to grow and learn and step my foot on the path to so many things. She saw in me what I could not see or believe in myself. Before knowing her, I didn't know that grace could reach that far. Thank you for your tender, beautiful life. Every little thing you do matters.

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The woman who has consistently challenged me by the way she lives her one lovely life is my cherished friend Cherri Putz. We met because of food. Weird I know. Specifically bread. That could be a story by itself. Two decades later, I am profoundly in love with Jesus and she has helped me on that journey. She has a beautiful freedom about her that has a contagious effect on a soul.  That is what I needed to see lived. Not to hear about, but to see and experience the power of a changed life, impacting others to live out the reality of Jesus in this life. We have also shared adventures and the deepest secrets of blueberry shakes and tips for homemade bread. She has been a mentor, a friend, a confidant, and encourager. And when she prays it's like the sky spills over and rains grace.

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You may not find their names in the top 100 of whos-who. But right where they were, amid the daily stuff, these women opened their doors, pulled another chair up to the table, threw arms around my neck and looked past what they could see on the outside, to invest in something eternal. It sounds daunting. But as I scraped macaroni and cheese off the last small plate, two of my granddaughters came into the kitchen, discussing how they wanted to play dress-up. One wanted to be a Princess and the other said she wanted to be a Hero-girl.

"But I don't know what a hero-girl does," said the Princess.

"They do small things to help people," answered the Hero-girl. 

My granddaughters already understand a truth that people have been teaching me for years.

"Do small things with great love."

Can you name some of the people that have impacted your life?

Have you let them know?


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© Rhonda Quaney