When strangers become your people

 

 

We all have our people, the tribe of folks providing a safety net of security so that we can take courageous leaps that would otherwise paralyze us in fear. These are the same faces that breathe encouragement into us when we are broken and joyously celebrate with us in our highs.

We can live life more fully because of the support of our people.

This weekend I had the opportunity of attending the Allume writer’s conference in South Carolina. On my way home, I stopped through Atlanta for a night with my sister’s family.I love (cried through) this story about complete strangers who come together to become this 78 year old woman's people. | the House of Hendrix

As I waited at the Marta station this morning to take a train to the airport, I noticed an elderly woman standing uncomfortably, hunched over, clutching her bag as if somebody were going to grab it and run. Her acute self-awareness clearly communicated this was her first and last Marta trip to the airport.Story of people coming together on the Marta

In an effort to put her at ease, I engaged in small talk about my three children. Her flight was not for another 6 hours, but she worried about this trip to the airport, a ride her children had assured her was a simple process.

The direct train to the airport never arrived. I explained that we needed to hop on a different line and switch trains, but not to worry because we were going to do this together. This overwhelmed her. She did not yet trust me, but realized what we both knew…I was her best option. She had no people.

We rolled our bags onto the train to get situated. As the train jerked into gear, the next few minutes felt like slow motion. My new friend had such a death grip on her bags, she had forgotten to hold on. Her 78-year-old self went flying through the cabin. Several of us attempted to break her fall but failed. She went down…hard. She yelled in panic. Bags scattered. We all jumped to her aid.

A homeless, toothless man locked eyes with me before speaking,

“Ma’am, I may be dirty, but I’m honest. I’ll get your bags, and you help her. She don’t want me touching her.”

I saw straight into his kind heart wishing for a different conversation I knew we had no time to have.

A teenage punk previously entranced by the music on his headphones turned out to be a medic-in-training and assessed her for injuries before two construction workers lifted her to a seat.

As the homeless man gathered our bags and purses, he guarded them with great pride. A sweaty runner who had just finished a 5k offered up her water as I rubbed our shaken friend’s back.

Hips were thankfully not broken, but her spirit was. Embarrassment now trumped her trepidation over this adventure. We surrounded her with reassurance and comfort, little of which was received. The construction workers made some cute jokes to ease her tension before everybody went back to their seats.

I sat in the next row offering her enough space to recover alone, but close enough to jump to any need.

As her head leaned onto the train window, her eyes shut. I quietly prayed. When her eyes opened, tears poured down from underneath her wire-rimmed glasses falling onto the gray shawl draped across her shoulders. Her pale skin was still void of any color. Her hands shook. I understood the recovery was temporary. I asked,

“Is there anybody I can call for you?”

She responded in a whisper.

“They said this would be easy. But it’s not. Unexpected things happen that change everything. This is too hard for me.”

In that moment, my eyes filled with tears. I understood exactly how she felt. She’s right. It’s hard. All of it. So many times when it’s supposed to be easy…it isn’t.

Just before exiting the train, a businessman sensitive to her embarrassment gave her a wink.

I didn’t see a thing, Beautiful.”

A little color reappeared in her cheeks. Each person in our group spoke to her before exiting, and with each comment her breathing deepened and confidence reestablished. But it was the homeless man at the second to last stop that got me. He looked at her and simply said, “Ma’am” and then gave her a nod.

With tremendous grace and gentleness she uttered,

Thank you Sir for helping me with my bags today.”

And she offered him her hand. He looked at me as if for permission to accept, and I smiled. He shook her hand, a physical touch meaning more to him than she understood. As he turned to leave, he stood taller…exiting the train with a greater sense of dignity than when he arrived.

Seven people entered a train this morning from very different walks of life and in a matter of moments became a team with one purpose, to support a 78-year-old woman we had never met. We became her people, even if just for a train ride.

Sometimes our people look different than we imagine.

Sometimes they are only in our life for a train ride.

But we need them to get us through the unexpected.

Today I am grateful for my people, both the ones that support me in my daily walk and the ones God provides simply for those unexpected moments when it’s just too difficult to stand on my own.

Allison

This article has been featured on The Bert Show, a syndicated radio morning show,  which you can listen to the emotional segment here, as well as on Ann Voscamp’s blog in her multivitamins for the soul feature.

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19 Ways to Protect your Marriage

19 Ways to Protect your Marriage

In the busyness of raising children, we often forget that we need to actively and intentionally protect our marriages. Here are 19 Ways we can do that. |the House of HendrixBefore I tell you about my encounter with the 6 foot French goddess, you need some back story.

We had a 3 1/2 year old, a 12 month old, and I was pregnant again. My husband decided to get his MBA through a Business School program designed for those already in the workplace; therefore classes met nights and weekends.

A week into the program, the college held a cocktail party to welcome the spouses, thanking them in advance for the sacrifices this program required upon their family time. It was a nice touch.

The dean of the program gave an inspiring speech about the life-long relationships the students were going to form and suggested we get to know the 6 individuals assigned to our spouse’s “Study Group” because this is who they’d be spending much of their time with over the next 2 years.

I was ready. I was excited. I was supportive.

I met 4 middle-aged married men and a very lovely, engaging single woman. We chatted about their careers and families.

Then the sixth member of the group walked up, or should I say slinked. We all stood silently, mouths hanging open. She possessed the French Goddessthat type of beauty that wasn’t subjective. She was unaware of her exotic, stunning presence, but at 25 years old and 6 feet tall commanded the room.

In the strongest of French accents, she said “Hallo” and for a moment I thought she was seducing me.  The next thing I heard her say was,  “Maybe some of you men could help me move into my apartment on Saturday? Yes?”

As we wiped our drool, I quickly saw other wives speak for their husbands regarding prior commitments to soccer games and birthday parties. My husband locked eyes with me, and with the biggest grin whispered, “Honey, I can hear you. Do you realize you are laughing out loud?”

I covered my mouth attempting to suppress the increasing humor I found in this situation. I just couldn’t contain my pregnant myself. This French goddess is going to be my husband’s late-night-and-weekend study buddy for the next 2 years? It felt like an episode of Punked. Can somebody wave a Red Flag please?

I have never been a jealous wife. I trust my husband completely but I am not naïve.

When we got into the car after the party, we shared more than a laugh. I asked why he hadn’t mentioned there was a French goddess in his study group. He explained he wasn’t sure how a pregnant wife with a baby and toddler at home would receive such information. He reassured me of his love and devotion which was unnecessary but always good to hear.

Then my tone turned serious as I asked him to be discerning of the situations he put himself in knowing we were both entering a period of sleep deprivation and exhaustion.

The next morning I called my sister with residual laughter about my husband’s new study buddy. After a few witty jokes, we committed to praying for protection over his heart, his study group, and the coming two years. Prayer was our strongest line of defense.

A week later my husband called me from work saying the French goddess had to switch to a different MBA program due to scheduling conflicts.Prayer Works

Yes my friends, it works. Sometimes it’s not answered quite so obviously or exactly how we imagined, but it has the power to transform situations and relationships.

Although I have much to learn about marriage, I have been surrounded by quite a bit of divorce. What I do know is that we have to intentionally protect our marriages and that starts by protecting our own hearts.Great and funny story! In the busyness of life, we often forget that we need to actively and intentionally protect our marriages. Here are 19 Ways we can do that. | the House of Hendrix

  1. No marriage is immune from conflict or temptation. Not one.
  2. Pay attention to red flags. At the beach, a red flag cautions us of potential danger, often an undertow which can’t be seen. Sometimes we don’t see the hidden danger behind a choice. Listen to your discerning friends and family. Read scripture. Pay attention. Notice the signs so that you can head the other direction.
  3. Understand each others love language – I highly recommend The 5  Love Languages by Gary Chapman. You can read my post on it here. It suggests we each have a predominate way we show and receive love. Understanding yours and your spouses can strengthen your ability to effectively communicate love more meaningfully in your marriage.20 Ways to Protect your Marriage
  4. Forgive easily and often – Don’t wait for apologies. An angry heart can lead us to regrettable choices.Forgive easily and often. Great ways to protect your marraige. |the House of Hendrix
  5. Be careful with relationships of the opposite sex. – There are only a few men that I will text or e-mail. They usually involve my children but I make sure my husband is aware. Similarly, my husband does not even drive female babysitters home.  Our choices have nothing to do with an insecurity in our relationship. We want to protect both our hearts and those of the opposite sex with whom we come into contact.
  6. Keep short accounts – I once gave my husband the cold shoulder for several days regarding a dirty pan. Frustration can turn a heart bitter so we try and talk it through before it escalates. I love the verse “Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry” although sometimes a good night sleep provides a much needed break from conflict with a renewed perspective in the morning.I'd chose you every time
  7. Don’t compare spouses – Resist the urge to point out how Super Dad down-the-block takes the kids all afternoon so his wife can go to the spa. None of us want to be judged or compared to another. Our families are not supposed to look alike. Embrace the one you got.Protecting your relationship
  8. Pursue your spouse – Men want to feel desired. Leave a note in an unexpected place, send an amorous text. We would be naive to think nobody is flirting with our spouse. Last week I watched a saleswoman giggle a little too loud, flip her hair, and touch my husband’s arm while she checked him out. So I of course sent the kids over to hang on him.  But when somebody flirts with my man,  I hope it’s simply a compliment to his ego, and his innate need to feel desired is being filled by me.20 Ways to protect your marriage |the House of Hendrixvia

  9. Stop using the words “always” and “never”. You always leave your towel on the floor. You never help with the kids. Such exaggerations are unnecessary and divisive. My husband reminds me of this often.
  10. Password privacy – Don’t keep passwords for phones and computers from your spouse. If you don’t want your spouse reading a text, ask yourself if you should even be sending it.
  11. Date Night and Little Moments – As parents we often pour into the needs of our children but overlook our marriages. In the busyness of the life, we forget to really see each other and simply co-exist in our daily routine. Last year it had been too long since my husband and I had gone on a date alone, so we took advantage of having a babysitter for a funeral and actually went out afterwards.  It was a little creepy awkward at first but, it is necessary to steal little moments of time for each other where ever you can get them.
  12. When he is discouraged – you have a choice. You can beat him down further with your own frustration, or use it as an opportunity to breathe life into him. The latter is going to strengthen our marriages a heck of a lot more than the first.We are in this togethervia
  13. Marriage is not a scoreboard – Do you keep track of who’s doing household chores or putting kids to bed? Sometimes we forget marriage is a relationship not a game with a winner and loser. Marriage is not a scoreboard. the House of Hendrix
  14. Finances – Debt or financial pressure can destroy a marriage. I used to closet-shop and leave the shopping bag hidden in the trunk or closet until my husband wasn’t around. If you have to hide it, you shouldn’t be doing it. Get on the same page with your budget. Being financially united is the unglamorous work that adds tremendous depth and trust to your relationship.Are you a closet shopper? Do you hide purchases from your spouse?
  15. The Internet – The temptations are obvious and often hazardous to marriages. This goes beyond simply looking at inappropriate images and coveting homes on Trulia that you can’t afford. Over the weekend, my husband and I sat in bed for several hours each on our own Ipad…not speaking. Simply the presence of the internet took away from an opportunity to connect. How does the internet affect your marriage?via
  16. Respect around the clock – We know not to belittle our spouse at a cocktail party, but are we showing that same respect in the home? Do we unwittingly show disrespect with our off-the-cuff comments?  Disrespect is not strengthening our marriages.
  17. Accountability – Find trusted people in your life you can confide in about your marriage and personal struggles and be there for them as well. My husband has a men’s accountability group where they share temptations and ask each other hard questions. I don’t know what is said, but I am grateful beyond measure.Marriage
  18. a Heart of Gratitude – What about your spouse are you thankful for today? Tell him. Who and what in your life are breathing refreshment into your soul? Being thankful is the quickest way to bring joy to our hearts, and that joy produces a renewed ability to love our spouses and families well.
  19. Don’t give up. – Fight for your marriage even when you can’t stand one another. Pray for God to intervene and replace anger with love, and pain with forgiveness. I have seen Him reconcile the messiest of relationships, mend the broken-hearted, and restore peace to the most fractured of homes. It can happen. But if your marriage has failed, know that God still adores you. His grace overflows upon you. Trust in the lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways, acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths. – Proverbs 3: 3

May your home be filled with peace, your hearts with thanksgiving, and know how deeply you are loved. May we remember to protect our marriages even when we’d rather not, and let us rest knowing that His power is made perfect in our weakness.

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* If you are in an abusive relationship, please get help. You can call 1-800-799-3224 or visit the National Domestic Violence Hotline. In Florida, you can call Safe House at 855-655-safe.

My Quest for Gentleness

How often do we skip gentleness in our routines as we rush through our lives?

A friend asked me today, “How are you?” I paused for a moment before answering,

“Raw.”

Have you ever felt that way? Like you are walking around emotionally vulnerable, free of any pretense that could suggest to someone otherwise. A simple hug or compliment just might bring you to tears?

I’m experiencing something in my life right now that I can’t fix. All of the love in my heart can’t make it better. And it leaves me…raw.

Even though I feel like a fresh wound walking around without a Band-Aid, this place of unsought vulnerability is reshaping me…for the better.

For starters, my heart is acutely sensitive to the Lord. I’m shooting up prayers left and right like He’s my best friend. That’s a good place for me to be: for anyone to be.

Secondly, I’m learning there are times I wish I could wear a “Fragile” sign around my neck because the unnecessary comments, the subtle jabs, and the harsh tones sting. But then I come across a person who breathes a soft word of encouragement into my soul, and I find an inexplicable refreshment.

So here’s the beauty about being stripped down. We can quickly see where we need to change. I want an increased sensitivity to the tired and tender.  I want to be that breath of gentleness to the raw people in my life. I want my words, actions, and judgements so saturated with gentleness that it can’t help but encourage. I want my gentleness to be evident to all…and it’s often not.

It’s so simple yet in the rush of our lives, we often skip it in our interactions with people.

My prayer is that I remain in this raw state until my desire to be more gentle becomes an extension of who I am. We are used in each others lives with great purpose, and today I am incredibly thankful for the gentle ways people have touched my heart and ministered to my spirit.

May our raw days reshape us to better love one other.

♥ Allison

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