Fifteen Minutes with a Stranger

Have you ever benefitted from a seemingly negative circumstance?

I have.  Profoundly.

As we’ve searched for a second vehicle over the past several weeks, the kids and I have relied on Uber to get us where we need to go when Christian is at work, and one afternoon when both of our cars weren’t available, I found myself in the unique position of catching a ride to an appointment alone.

The Uber pulled up, and I hopped into the front seat.  The driver’s mouth fell open.  It was only then that I realized what I’d done.  Typically, my children pile in the backseat while I ride with the driver, but today, I had no reason to pop up front.

Whoopsie.

“I’m so sorry!” I flew out of that car as if I were a chicken heading for the chopping block and hurled myself into the backseat.

The driver laughed and laughed, assuring me it would’ve been fine to ride up front.

“I so surprised,” he’d said.  “No person ride up here with me.  Nobody ever.”

I giggled.  Leave it to me.

I then found myself pondering what a unique opportunity these Uber rides created, a window in which we could engage in the past-time of socialization, all within a small, confined space and approximately 15-minute timeframe.

I realize everyone is different.  Some people may not enjoy striking up conversations with total strangers and cannot begin to wrap their minds around chatty Cathies like me who can talk to the wall.

But most seem to like it when I seek them out.

My thrifty side detests the expense, but I find myself looking forward to the next time I get into a car with a total stranger.

But why?

I love people.  My sanguine side genuinely can’t get enough.  I feed off listening to and learning from people from all walks of life.  Christian, my husband, can tell when I need a fix.

“You need to get out, don’t you, Sweetheart?”

Just yesterday, I realized how much I enjoy popping into Ubers and chatting with the drivers.  Most of them want to talk, but once in a while, they stay on their headsets and immerse themselves in their private calls, which is fine.

I’m not about to force it.

My kids know how I am.  They used to roll their eyes and mumble, “Here she goes,” when I would open my mouth during the silence following our settling in for the ride.  But now, after we get in, one of them tends to pipe up and ask, “So, do you like driving for Uber?”  And, after a polite response, the next question follows. “Where are you from, originally?”

Because we live ten minutes from Manhattan, our drivers often originate from different countries, so we’ve gotten varied responses to that question, one that not only opens conversational doors – it opens hearts.  Typically nothing illuminates the drivers’ faces more than sharing thoughts of their homeland and their families.  Even the most stoic, crusty soul will offer detail after detail about something that they love.

We’ve learned about Egyptian history and topography, the challenges of the people of Venezuela, and life in Peru, Colombia, Chile, and more.  My children sit mesmerized as they hear the plights of immigrants, the stories of different countries and cultures, and the lessons learned through managing an independent business in a foreign land.

Talk about an education!  I must remember to put a world map in my purse.

But it’s not just about information – it’s about this person that God, whatever His reason, has allowed to cross our path that day.  I want my kids to grow up knowing this and caring about everyone they encounter, valuing them and appreciating the opportunity before them.

All people crave to be known and to matter.

When was the last time someone asked you to tell your story?  Not just the basic “Where are you from?” and “What do you do?” but instead gave full attention to who you are and how you came to be where you’re at in life?

Every person is important.  And every person has a story worth listening to.  In our technological era, such engagement can sadly prove a rarity.  Parents spend more time texting at playgrounds than they do watching Sally Sue go down the slide much less saying hello to other parents across the wood chips.

I want to spend my life listening and learning, lingering and lauding, laughing with and loving on people who may not have anyone in their circle interested enough to ask and appreciate them for the person that they are.

Ah, the pleasure of people!  Pure and profound, may it last ’til my grave, for I believe that relationships and the pursuit of them is what the best of this life is all about.  May I spend every day pouring into the hearts and minds of those around me, infusing love and encouragement – even through little things.

One driver and I had a great conversation about how he loved to go through the Dunkin’ Donuts drive-thru and pay for the car behind him.

“It’s my way to show kindness.”

I whipped around to the backseat.  “Did you hear that, kids, how this gentleman showed kindness in the drive-thru?”  They talked excitedly amongst themselves.

“That’s so great!  Say, Mom, let’s do that next time we go through the drive-thru.”

The driver winks at me, and I thank him for teaching my children about kindness.

All because we had to take an Uber.

Thank You, God, that our car is in the shop.  Thank You for the opportunity to meet people we otherwise would never have met.  Thank You for the lessons learned and the time well spent.  

Fifteen minutes with a stranger.

 

Almost There

Never in a million years did I think I would make a music video.

Thanks to Bob Lockwood of Full Armour Studios and Indie Studio Space, the filming stands complete.  My wonderful husband, Christian T. Morgan, is in the midst of the editing process, putting it all together in order to produce the best snapshot into the story behind the song.

Our story.

I finished the book manuscript at the end of August 2017, but something surprising happened a few days earlier.  One night while attempting to capture a particularly difficult scene, I found – to my horror – that I couldn’t write.

Searing emotion poured out, disconnecting thoughts from pen, wreaking havoc on pretty paragraphs and pages.  All I could do was bullet my fragments of thought, lashing them onto my rumpled legal pad, its yellow pages bearing black streaks and slashes.  I tried to force myself into some kind of solid format, something usable with which I could finally complete the work.  I was so close!  I’d put off writing this scene long enough, and I knew I had to face it.

The hour had come, and here I was.  Struggling.

After wrestling for thirty minutes, I tossed everything proper and poised aside, threw my inner thoroughbred the reigns and let it run wild and free, rushing across the page, leaping high and falling low, rolling and trotting, gaiting then halting.  Panting.

Weeping.

The paper I then held in my hands no longer resembled a book chapter, structured and formed.  It was a stand-alone piece, a tale of a perilous journey though unchartered waters, breathtaking yet ominous, heart-wrenching but beautiful.

It was a song.

I’d written only one other for my husband’s 30th birthday, and the process had proven quite different.  God had been writing this new song on my heart for years, but I’d had no idea it was in there.

After the words were down on paper, I took them over to my keyboard and started messing around.  Christian passed through the room and stared at me.

“What are you doing?”

“I don’t know,” I said.  “I think I’m writing a song!”

His mouth fell open.  “You are?”

“I think so,” I said, nodding, eyes wide.  We stared at each other and then at the keyboard and then back to each other.

He smiled and said, “Keep going,” as he walked out of the room.

Within three days, it was finished.  My first stab at songwriting also birthed an idea for a video portrayal of what some of the days were like for us over the past several years.  Our hope and prayer is that families everywhere would be encouraged, helped, and drawn close to Him through our family’s story.

Please pray with me during these final days of revision that God would bless and protect our efforts to communicate with the world how well He has Carried & Kept us through our darkest times.

I cannot wait to share it with you!

 

Looking at Me

My husband recently returned from a much-needed getaway to California with some friends, and while he was away, my little Abby Mae fantasized continually about his return.  She drew an adorable picture of the two of them.

“We’re looking at each other,” she said with a faraway look in her eye, head tilted slightly to one side.  She taped the picture to the front door and chatted endlessly about his return.  This went on for the entire four days.

“I can’t wait for him to sit next to me at supper!”

“Do you think he is thinking about me?”

“I just want to kiss him right now!”

Upon his return, Christian found his ardent admirer asleep in bed with visions of Daddy dancing through her head.  A smile graced her lips, and she wore the pajamas she thought he would most like.  He kissed her brow and set a souvenir t-shirt bedside the lavender butterfly lamp, taking a minute to watch her sleep, gurgling and snoring softly, unable to be roused.

When she woke in the morning, she wept when she realized he’d gone again until she saw the shirt.  This consoled her a bit, to know he’d been near, and in a few long hours, she would once again bask in his presence.  She donned the shirt with happy giggles and spun around all pink and pretty.

“I want him to see me in my new shirt that he picked out just for me when he gets home tonight.”  Her little brow furrowed.  “Mommy, what was Daddy wearing when he came home?”

Then at long last, the moment arrived.  She squealed and ran to his open arms, vying for her spot among the others, savoring every second of Daddy’s homecoming.  He took a moment to properly greet everyone, and then he swooped Abby into his arms again.  She stared at him, breathless, cupping his scratchy chin in her hand, smiling all the while.

“Oh, I missed you, Daddy!  You were gone forever!”  She rubbed her palm over his black wool coat, savoring the scratchy cool feeling under her skin.  He held her close, beaming as he spoke gently to her.  Her eyes shone as she quietly nodded and offered brief responses peppered with giggles.

The older two lumbered into the kitchen, heading straight for him, so he carefully set her down with a parting smile.  Knowing they needed him, she gladly stepped aside and could contain her joy no longer.

“Daddy’s home!  Daddy’s home!”  She twirled around the kitchen, arms outstretched, shrieking with delight, singing and soaring all at once.  He glanced over and smiled at her.  “My daddy’s home, and he’s looking at me!”

All was now right with the world.  Daddy was home.

I’m grateful that my husband has taken care to cultivate a loving, attentive relationship with her.  In the midst of all his pursuits and opportunities, he has made family a priority, and we are grateful.  He daily strives to show us the love of Christ in the way he leads our home, moment by moment, step by step.

The name Abigail means, “My Father is joy,” referring specifically to God.  I think the reciprocal way she and Christian adore each other is a beautiful picture of our relationship with God.  He delights in us because he sees us through the blood of Jesus, and in turn, we can freely let ourselves love Him with everything that we are.

Abby does.  She sings to Him all the time:

“God makes the trees so tall

He grows the grass so high

He makes the flowers grow

And puts the clouds in the sky.”

She thinks He’s GREAT and compares everything to Him.  “Is our house bigger than God?” “Was Samson stronger than God?”  “Is a tornado more powerful than God?”

In the same way she adores her daddy, Abby loves a God she has never seen but knows is real.  He made her and died for her and saved her . . . He’s her Superhero “forever and ever!”  She even made a special drawing (above) of she and God, saying, “we are looking at each other with love.”

Even though she’s only four, it’s evident to all who know her that little Abby feels deeply loved and forever cherished by her Heavenly Father.  May we all experience the same, knowing He delights in us, thrilling in His presence,  our hearts exclaiming, “He’s looking at me!”