on what it takes to change a life

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

This is Wendy.

She doesn't know it, but Wendy changed my life.

Picture me four years ago - nursing an infant, chasing two preschool-aged boys, and spending my days, along with my husband, deciding where to move. We knew our time in the Deep South was coming to a close. We both sensed a new adventure was on the horizon. That spring and summer all we were constantly researching areas, prepping the house for the market, and processing the reality that we were about to leave all of our extended family.

Picture me - tired, overwhelmed, and living under serious pressure.

Because while we were preparing for the next adventure, I still had to chase two preschool-aged boys and nurse a baby. That year I felt pretty sure I was failing at motherhood. My boys didn't sit still when I asked them to. They didn't walk quietly behind me in the store, they didn't wait patiently in line at the bank. In our world back then, children were expected to be calm and obedient. Mine were wild. My boys ran ahead of me in parking lots, hid from me in the store, wrestled in line, and dangled from the guard rails at the bank while I said, over and again, to please get down.

I took every bit of it personally. I felt as though everyone around me was watching my kids run wild and holding it against me too. And my baby ... well, God knew I was in over my head, and my third baby was the calmest, most easy going of any of my kids. As long as she was nursing. All. Day. Long.

Eventually Denver became a possibility, and my best friend, husband, baby, and I flew out for a long weekend. That weekend we spent time with folks from a church in the area - including dinner on Saturday evening at Wendy's house. The dinner went the way they all do - clumps of people in the kitchen and yard, children running between them. And me, nursing a baby.

Then one of the kids ran up to Wendy. "The baby has the markers! She colored on the wall." A sheepish toddler followed, covered in purple and green. Wendy looked down at the girl. "Hi friend!," she said cheerfully. "I meant to move the art supplies. But you had fun with them, didn't you?" The girl grinned. Her mother stood up from the table and surveyed her messy child. "Oh well. It's bath night anyway." She gently took the marker from her daughter's hand, and both women returned to what they were doing.

I was astounded.

Nobody ran downstairs to assess the damage. The mother did not seem to be embarrassed by her child's behavior. She didn't really seem to care at all. There was no hurried scrubbing, no fretting. Everyone in the room knew that toddlers, given the opportunity, will always color on walls. And nobody was especially bothered by it.

I breathed deep a sigh of relief. In that moment, I knew Denver was my home.

Wendy's interaction with her friends that night planted a seed for a different kind of relationship with my kids. My children's shenanigans were no longer a reflection of who I was, because it was no longer my job to predict and control their behavior. They were loud and rambunctious, and trying to herd them from A to B was like trying to get cats to walk in a line, because that's what children do.

What I saw in Wendy's house that night was a group of people who liked their kids. They had fun with them - genuinely wanted them around. The kids were alright, even when they found the Sharpies.

For years, I thought of how Wendy opened the door to a new way of parenting for me, and how that moment changed my life. Now, I think of something else, too.

Wendy didn't set out to change my life that day.

She wasn't hoping to impart her wisdom, change my parenting style, or win me over. She didn't know me well enough to know how overwhelmed I was, and my wild little boys were back in the Deep South that weekend, climbing their grandparents' walls for a few days. She was simply living her life, and I happened to absorb a moment of it - a moment that breathed new life into me.

I wonder, could faith work the same way?

Could it be enough to live out our convictions? Could it be all of the programming and work around evangelism isn't nearly as important as us simply putting one hopeful foot in front of the other?

Four years ago Wendy changed my life, and she never even knew it. Thanks be to God.


  1. This is just too good, Stephanie. Too good.

  2. Love this - grace upon grace upon grace.



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