My flight was short.
I stepped through the jetway. I was in search of that familiar face. It had been at least three or more years since we had embraced each other.
Time. Friendship. How it endures.
I heard Grace call my name, looking trim and ready.
We hugged. It was good to see her.
This trip was more than just a getaway for both of us; it was a mission filled with love and kindness. Grace is my friend who looks for God’s divine appointments, “encounters,” she calls them.
We tried to catch up on surface talk as we walked through the airport to retrieve the rental car. I felt trusted that she asked me to join her on this trip.
The warm air felt familiar. The midwest feels like country, yet city at the same time, humid and fresh, if any of that makes sense.
I felt my body adjust and get comfortable. I took a deep breath and let go of everything that lay on my shoulders from the previous days.
I was here and wanted to embrace everything with no plan of my own.
The forty-five-minute drive was good. My eyes gazed at the beautiful scenery as we talked. “God is so good,” I mentioned.
Like a fun friend, she quickly stopped for a snack: fries and a soda.
There was joy in our conversations. We laughed quite a bit. One last stop to the grocery store for breakfast things, snacks, and chocolate, before heading to our Airbnb.
We settled in quickly to our temporary stay as Grace fixed both cups of decaf coffee. We cozied up on the couch, and our conversation deepened.
We were catching up on the lives of our kids and husbands and where we are with God.
While Grace gathered her thoughts, I realized we had never spent more than a few hours together over Lunch or coffee.
It was almost midnight. We both laughed at how late it had gotten—feeling like teenagers at a sleepover. Rest was needed.
The following morning I could hear Grace stirring in the kitchen, listening to worship music, and quietly getting ready for the day. I raised my voice to greet her with a “Good morning.”
Today we were going to visit Linda, Grace’s friend of many years. It had been a long time since they had seen one another, almost twenty years. Unfortunately, Linda had a few brain injuries and had been in a nursing home for the past three years. The heart of a true friendship has no end.
We headed out to visit Linda. We entered the faded pink building, signed in at the front desk, and headed to room 301.
Grace entered first. The room was dark. The light from the hallway cast a glow on the woman sound asleep in the bed.
Grace stood with her gaze on Linda. All of my emotions surfaced quickly. I captured the details, a love story, if you will, about true friendship.
Grace stepped closer to the bed, clutching the freshly bought flowers in her hand.
Grace leaned in and softly touched Linda’s hand as she whispered her name. Linda stirred as she tried to open her eyes. Her brow tightened, struggling to force one eye open. She blinked several times until both eyes steadied themselves on the figure standing before her.
I could see in her eyes that she knew the woman standing before her, but she could not quite remember her name. Then it happened. Linda’s face softened, and it came to her. “I know you,” she whispered. “Grace, is that you? I never thought I’d see you again.”
I was standing in a tiny dim room, witnessing the love and joy of true friendship.
I saw the faces of two angels, one giving, the other receiving. I was in tears and could barely contain myself.
Their embrace was priceless. The look in Linda’s eyes told a story of the God who sees.
For three long years, there were no friends to visit and no one to sit by her bed and listen to her woes.
Lost and forgotten is what I would have felt, but not Linda.
Grace turned on the room light. I could see clearly how beautiful this woman was. She struggled to sit up, adjusted herself, and inquired softly, “And who is this?”
“This is Jamie, Jake’s mom,” Grace informed her.
“Jake’s mom!” She gasped with excitement. “I know Jake, and I’ve heard about you.” She smiled perfectly.
Grace and Linda talked, and I observed.
Linda stated that after three years, she finally surrendered her struggling thoughts of why God had her in this place. “This is where He will use me.” she simply stated.
There was something about Linda’s face; she glowed. Her eyes were filled with love. But how? I wondered.
She’s in a nursing home! No visitors and no family. No real freedom.
It smelled old and in need of some deep cleaning. Yet this old gal was glowing.
Linda knew many things, and sometimes she would forget the answer to a question she had previously asked. But she didn’t belong there, I insisted in my heart. But somehow, she was confident that this was the place God would have her minister until He was done.
We spent a few days with Linda. Grace provided a shopping spree for all her needs and wants.
This sweet Linda would lace her arm through mine and walk cautiously as she asked me questions about myself.
Grace and I selected a wardrobe, and Linda allowed us to help her choose.
Linda would stand in front of the mirror and struggle to find herself, asking if the color suited her. She would whisper, “I barely recognize myself.”
And my tears would find their way to my cheek.
My heart ached.
It was time for Lunch. The Red Door restaurant was our vote, and Linda wore earplugs to soften the loud noise of the indoor eatery.
Linda gazed over the menu and inquired about the names of these dishes. I would break it down in hopes of helping her choose. She was used to eating the same thing for three years, and the menu was overwhelming. Her choice was a simple but delightful grilled sandwich.
I had a hard time imagining being in her place. My heart was sorrowful.
“Jamie,” she spoke, snapping me out of my feelings.
“Tell me about yourself. Where are you from?
What do you do?”
I sheepishly told her that I write and love telling stories. Surprised, she said, “I was a publisher.” I told her about living in Colorado; she had a speaking engagement there years ago.
Isn’t that something? You never know who you’re gonna meet in this life.
I was still preoccupied that this lovely Linda shouldn’t be in a nursing home. As though she could read my mind, she interrupted and began telling us again about her struggle with being in the nursing home. But found peace and finally surrendered to God, knowing this is where God will use her.
Supernatural is what it is. Only God can transcend a heart to serve Him no matter the condition or the circumstances.
“God change me,” I asked. “Make me selfless no matter what you bring my way.”
Linda is what I call “Jesus in skin.”
Linda touched my life.
Grace poured out generosity and kindness to both of us, holding nothing back.
I was the recipient of God’s love, grace, and mercy. I felt like I was surrounded by angels and the heart of God.
We had a full day. However, before going to bed, I looked up the meaning of Linda’s name. Dictionary.com said it’s a female given name; from a Spanish word that means “Pretty.” The English translation means “Beautiful.” There was also a religious definition that meant “Tender woman.”
There it was. Linda means beautiful and tender, which she displayed.
The day that followed was exciting. Grace was taking Linda for a much-needed haircut. Upon arrival at the Salon and Spa De Crist, the words on their site read, “You belong here.” So inviting. Beautiful and cozy. Shabby and chic.
We entered the cottage-like building, and Linda was ready. Shannon escorted Linda to the back of the salon, sat her in the chair, and began to inquire about this new look she was interested in. Linda laughed. Tattooed on Shannon’s arm was a bible verse. I asked her what it said. With a huge grin, she quoted Romans 18:1 “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” I couldn’t believe that out of all the girls working in the salon, Linda was given Shannon, the girl who believed in the same God that would someday deliver us all from our sufferings.
Grace and I walked back to the waiting area and boasted of the goodness of the Lord.
When Linda’s haircut was finished, Shannon walked her into where Grace and I were sitting as though she was presenting a royal. Nothing could stop the brilliant smile beaming off of Linda’s face. My heart filled up.
Do you still believe God is in control when life throws you a curve ball? Is he still sovereign when your circumstances are less than ideal or downright unfair or wrong?
Those few days with Grace and Linda deeply impacted my life. I searched hard and long for answers that kept me awake at times long after our trip was over.
God is faithful. That is what His word says.
Hebrews 10:23 (ESV) tells us, “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promises is faithful.”
2 Timothy 2:13 (ESV) If we are faithless, He remains faithful- for He cannot deny Himself.
Life as a believer in Jesus Christ is not about a safe and perfect existence or experience. God is not a Genie in a bottle. All your wishes, He commands. Nor is being a follower of the living God a get-rich scheme: you give your tenth so you can get a hundredfold in return.
A life of faith is about leaning on and trusting in a God who knows everything. It’s a soul willing to surrender to the unknown, believing in what we cannot see but hoping in what will be because God’s word said it.
I look at life and many times question.
Why are children taken without cause? Abused? Why do humans hurt others at times to the point of death? Why would God allow a lovely woman like Linda to spend life in a place she doesn’t seem to belong in?
I’m not interested in quoting scripture and using it as a one-liner to make myself feel better. However, the Bible says, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God and are called according to his purpose.”
Let’s take this verse slowly. It doesn’t say some things or a few things, but all things work together for good.
Doesn’t that sound wonderful and absolutely amazing? It continues… to those who love God. That’s a question for each individual to answer.
Do you love God? I’m sure I can hear your answer. Yes! Of course, I love God. The verse continues… to those who are called according to His purpose. The sovereign God has great plans for His children even though we live in a crazy world. His desire is to work things out for your good. Sometimes the good in working out His plan is the part we don’t understand or like.
In your struggles, do you rest in Him?
When life has left you fractured, you live to tell the story, sometimes repeating it. Do you question God? Devastating flood waters, earthquakes, betrayal, what about wayward children who have broken your heart? Does it feel like your prayers go unanswered?
What do you do? Where do you hide your heart?
Well, here is what I know.
The Bible is full of true stories of real people just like you and me who have been called for God’s purpose. This life of following Jesus is about submitting to His plan and purpose for our life.
It’s about fully submitting to a call more significant than our wants.
For some people, that’s a hard pill to swallow.
Let me encourage you to read God’s word.
The parting of the Red Sea. (Exodus 14)
The promise to Abraham and Sarah. (Genesis 18)
The battle of Jericho. (Joshua 1-6)
The story of Joseph. (Genesis 37-50)
And, of course, the story of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. (Luke 22:39-46)
God’s good plans are displayed for us to see. So that we would be encouraged that our God is faithful no matter what.
You may not be able to see the results of God working things out for your good right now. Pause, and thank Him anyway.
I’d love to hear how I can pray for you.
Waiting for His return,