My girl and I, we're supposed to be enjoying our time together. But we're not. She's disgruntled that she didn't get her order exactly as she had proposed. And me... I'm sitting here biting my tongue, not wanting to exacerbate the mood. A seed of bitterness, like delicious bait, tempts me to reach out and take it, to plant it in heart-soil. Clenching my teeth, I avoid eye contact with my daughter who does the same. We're both glaring. And I hate that. But we're both battling pride and so instead, I occupy my gaze by watching the woman sitting in the booth in front of us, stories etched deep into the lines of her face and I am intrigued. "Excuse me, mam." She looks up from her sandwich. "I noticed you're alone."
She smiles slightly, "Oh, yes... I'm a widow." Israel turns to look at the woman, expressing a soft murmur of sympathy. The woman continues, "Well, you see, I contacted my granddaughter because it's her birthday and we made a lunch date. So she was supposed to be here with me today," she pauses, glancing out the window as if expecting to see someone she's waiting for, "but her mother wrote me a message on Facebook and told me that my granddaughter invited a friend to spend the weekend with her instead. I cried when I read the message." Israel and I, we're watching her intently now, waiting for her to continue. "Well then I called my daughter and told her that I was happy to take my granddaughter and any friends she wanted to invite to come to lunch with me, but she said no."
Israel leans over the back of the booth, "Do you have other grandchildren?" Barb smiles, pauses again, before listing off names and ages, her expression animated as she counts them on her fingers, each name spoken tenderly, lovingly. "Where do they live?" And again, Barb divulges which of her nine grandchildren belong to which of her children and where they all live. She finishes with the last of the names, "...and he's four years old next week."
Israel holds Barbs eyes, "So you have four children," she clarifies. Barb nods. "How did your husband die?" My breath catches momentarily, but then Barb, she begins to tell a beautiful love story. A story of first love and war and moving to another country -- Baumholder in Germany! -- and how they were married when she was only seventeen but that their love was true and strong.
"But we were only married three years before he was killed in an accident." She points at Israel, "Now listen carefully," she says. "When someone you love is taken, you find you have strength that you didn't know you had before. But my strength was from God. I got through that time -- with a toddler and I was four months pregnant with my second boy -- because God was with me every second. He never left me."
"We need to enjoy people while we have them," Israel says, her voice pensive.
For the next hour, this precious woman dialogues with us -- well, mostly Israel, because she asks most of the questions. Barb tells us about her grief from losing her first husband, about remarrying and her other children. She confides in us about strained relationships with daughter-in-laws. Israel and I move to her table so that we can sit directly in front of her, engage a little better. She shares with us about the divorce from her second husband and how God carried her through that time, too. Barb explains, "See, the civilian world, they see me as a divorcee. But
the military sees me as a widow. So I go by how the military sees it."
Barb shares her testimony and about her love for Jesus and for people. She tells us funny, quirky things about herself and her life, once stopping mid-sentence to ask, "Why am I sharing all this with you?!" continuing on when I say, "Because we're interested!"
As we get ready to leave, Israel gives her a hug, her arms still around her neck as she tells Barb she's glad to have met her, thanks her for sharing her story with us. I thank her too, for ministering to our hearts.
My girl and I, we walk out hand in hand. The only seeds buried deep in heart-soil are those of love and redemption, forgiveness and grace. "Mom?" Israel says softly, "Thank you for lunch and for the ice cream. I'm sorry for my attitude and for not being grateful. I had so much fun with you... and Barb."
"Me, too. And I forgive you." I stop at the light, look over at this girl-becoming-woman, this girl who loves people fiercely. The way our eyes meet... smiling long, it's all good.