I looked down at my sun-kissed legs. It had been a minute since I thought they were attractive. The Nevada sun had covered them in color. I was happy. Happy with my color, happy with the trip, happy to see my husband, happy to see my children.
While boarding I decided I would sit in the happiness on the way home and feel every single ounce of it. 26C. Back of the plane. Perfect place to simmer in happiness.
She greeted me with a polite smile. I kept my sunglasses on. Don’t make eye contact. Sit still. Hold on to these final moments of peace and quiet.
Seat belts fastened, she bowed her head, reminding me that maybe prayer was a good thing during take-off. I thank Jesus for my happiness.
I glance over and guess she may be in her mid-60’s. I am not sure. I am horrible at guessing age.
The pilot welcomed the passengers, informing us of the length of the flight and estimated time of arrival. “The times keep changing” she says. I smile and say “yeah.”
As soon as we are airborne she asks the question I knew was coming. “What brings you to Iowa?”
“A boy” I answer. I tell her a revised version of our nine years together, and mention our moving across the country, our three little boys and his job as a pastor. I explain I am flying home from a much needed girls weekend.
She listened intently. “I am also the mother of three boys and was once a pastor’s wife as well.” A pause. “That is, until he cheated on me with the choir director.” She laughs.
I remove my sunglasses.
Casually she tells me her story, as if we are old friends, as if she could trust me with the details. She recalled her life story effortlessly; the story of a young mother at home with her three boys from sun up to sun down, of a young pastor’s wife who loved her husband and his family fiercely and obediently. She tells me of his love for life, of his late night meetings, of how he started to change and fall away from her. She tells me how she learned of the affair.
“The Choir Director was a good friend” she explained.
I think they always are.
She tells me much about her sons.
I listen intently. Parts of her story I can feel deeply and others register foreign.
There is a break in the conversation. I am processing while she sips her drink.
“Do you have a skill-set you can fall back on when your children are older?” she asks.
“Yes mam’, I am looking forward to working again.”
“That’s wonderful. I had nothing. No skills. No job. No money. That was the hardest part of the divorce. Starting over.”
I think about that reality. “How did you get through it?” I ask.
“There was a woman who had recently gone through a similar situation ending in divorce in our congregation that helped me through it. I honestly don’t know how I would have made it through that time without her. I would call her crying and she would listen and encourage me to keep going. I couldn’t have done it without her. She understood exactly what I was going through.”
I smile. I nod.
Right. People. We need people. We need someone on the other end of the phone to listen, listen, listen. The listening is what pulls us through a valley. The other person hearing and taking on our story. Our pain. That is where God is. On the other side of the phone.
I learn that she and her friend kept in contact over the years. That she fell in love again and had recently lost her second husband. I learn she is currently living in CA but was flying “home” to celebrate her mother’s 93rd birthday.
“My mom and her friend Betty are picking me up. I think Betty is driving. I have no idea how old Betty is. Lord help me.”
She is funny. We laugh throughout the conversation.
As we are landing I ask her “If you could do it all over again, re-live your life, would you change anything; or what if the affair had never happened?” As soon as the question is asked I realize it seems insensitive.
“No” she answered. “I wouldn’t change a thing. What I went through made me who I am today; a woman who travels the country and has need for nothing. It made me stronger. It made me trust and believe in myself. And when I reflect back on all of it I can see where God was taking care of me, holding my hand, seeing me through.”
Amen I think to myself.
“I’m Courtney, by the way. It was really nice to meet you.”
She gives me her name in response. We trade emails.
As we are walking to baggage claim she sees her mom, and Betty. They hug and I wander over to get my bags.
As I am leaving I decide to walk over and give her a hug. “Thanks” I say.
Driving home I still felt happy, but I also felt energized by our conversation.
I knew I was driving home to my mess, to the little ones that provoke my valley. I also knew I was driving home to my people and to people that will be on the other side of the phone. I knew I was driving home to something hard but considered that the hard was sculpting something beautiful and strong out of and in me. I can feel the hard sculpting.
I thanked God for showing up in the lady in 26B. For showing up through my new friend.
He told me we are all the lady in 26B.
Yeah. Yeah, we are.
If given a chance to make a new friend this week, lean in and listen. It may just be the very thing you need.
Keep loving your people.
And…while on the road, watch out for Betty.
I decided not to disclose my sweet new friend’s name due to the information shared on this post. It is the internet after all, so I want to respect her and her family.
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Linking up this week with #TellHisStory and Jennifer Dukes Lee!
Here is the scoop friends. The blog was birthed out of a love of worship music and I want to honor the purpose of the blog. I have decided instead of making a song fit to a post, I will feature a song once a month (hopefully) and pull apart the beauty in its lyrics, passing on encouragement. Thank you for hanging with me as the blog evolves and I continue to ask Jesus what I am supposed to be writing about!
I just love you all. For real.