God is doing some big things in my life.  And I’m thankful.

Lately, I feel like He has been really impressing upon my heart the importance of talking with, listening to, and appreciating the soul and presence of others, even other people that I don’t know—the bagger at the grocery store, our mail man, the cashier at a store, the customers behind me in line.  I’m being challenged to take that next step of slowing down and engaging with someone else’s heart.

It’s amazing.  And humbling.

I always thought I was a fairly compassionate person who would make time for others, but the reality is that now I’m being asked to engage in ways I haven’t before…which means I had room to grow.

What made me think I was too busy, too important to do this before?

Just 5 minutes ago I had a conversation with my mail man about his mom’s dementia.  He has been delivering my mail (and giving treats to my dog!) for years and yet I never really thought about his life outside of his job.  Why? I now have perspective about some of the things he might be dealing with behind the smile and “have a great day!” I now know how to pray for him.

I had the most encouraging conversation with our bagger at Publix yesterday.  He was in his mid-30s, had some special needs and was bagging groceries like it was the most exciting activity in the world.  As he joyfully packed up my formula and spinach and walked us to our car, he had the sweetest conversation with Zoe, found out all about our family and our dog (“every little girl needs a dog!” he said,) and told me excitedly, “I love making friends! Not everyone wants to talk to me, but I want to be their friend anyway!”

I’m thankful for my new friend.  I’m glad I didn’t miss him.

This isn’t the first time in my life that I’ve awakened to the sacredness of the people around me.

When I worked at a coffee shop during one college summer, I used to open the shop alone every morning.  I’d listen to praise music and pray while I made coffee and watched the sun rise. It was a tiny coffee shop, so I engaged with customers one at a time as they drove through.  I made their drinks efficiently, but I was never in a hurry to get them to leave.  I would talk with them and try to find out what was going on in their lives, and then I’d pray for each customer as they left—whether it was simply “help them to have a good day, Lord” or something more specific based on our conversation. It was one of the best summers of my life because I felt like I really saw people.  I felt like my work mattered, even though it was “just” making coffee, because I was seeing people through His eyes and offering them His smiles—and I hoped, His hope.

Then I started to do work that actually seemed to matter more in our society, and somehow, I bought into the busyness, the stress, the illusion of importance that we like to assign our calendars and to-do-lists.  I still engaged with others as part of my job, and I tried to engage out of work, but I was tired and had a million things to do and gradually, my perspective got duller and blurrier.  I began to see things through my perspective, my judgments, my priorities again.

I’m loving this slower pace, this awakening, this perspective that God is giving me in this new chapter of life.  I want to cling to it.  I want to live in it.  And so I pray for guidance, for wisdom—to make decisions that allow me to stay this connected to God and this disconnected from our societal ideals of “progress,” “what’s meaningful” and “what’s important.”

And I give thanks for His grace in awakening me, once again, to the beauty around me—to what’s really important and meaningful.

“I do not want merely to possess faith; I want a faith that possesses me.”  –Charles Kingsley

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