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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Smell (the sense of smell) (07/29/10)

TITLE: From Life to Life
By Brenda Shipman


From Life to Life

He looked a lot like my son, sitting there on the bench by the park – mid-twenties, handsome, thin, dirty, backpack by his side. And when he spoke, ducking his head in either shyness or nervousness, my heart was pierced with the similarities.

“Do you have some change so I could get something to eat?” he asked.

Shaken, I mumbled something ridiculous like, “No, thank you”, and walked on with my husband.

We were from out-of-town; my husband was attending a continuing education course, while I stayed at the hotel and quilted. The evening had promised to be fun - swimming in the hotel pool, maybe watching a movie. But the encounter with this young man hung like a dark cloud of grief around my spirit, and I found myself dwelling on the four years of pain and anguish we’d experienced with our prodigal son, who had himself chosen to live homeless at one point in his journey into the “distant land”.

Back at our hotel, I stopped to use the hotel’s guest computer to check our e-mail. My husband went on to our room and I settled into the chair in front of one of the computers. An older woman, probably in her seventies, sat at the other computer. She looked over at me and smiled. We struck up a conversation about our trips, our hometowns, etc. She had just gotten back from a trip with her daughter to the Grand Canyon, and said she could not wait to go back and white water raft down the Colorado. Said she’d already rafted a level two trip, and was anxious to try level three! She’d wanted to try skydiving this year, but due to knee replacement surgery, thought she should wait awhile! I began to feel like a slug, a very tired old slug.

She told me about losing her husband the past year, and when I expressed how sorry I was, she said, “Oh honey, it was a wonderful home-going for him!” She told me about her ministry with the youth group at her church in Texas, her one daughter who was bipolar, and two sons – one a West Point graduate, the other a soldier serving in Afghanistan. The second son had been shot, came back to the states for rehab and the doctors said it was unlikely he’d ever walk normally again. The mother said, with a twinkle in her eye, “But God worked a miracle. He recovered, learned to walk, and went back to serve overseas again with his buddies.”

Feeling a connection with this woman, I asked, “So you’re a Christian?”

“Oh yes!” she said, with a Texas drawl that reminded me so much of my mom. “Do you have any children?”

“Yes, we have a twenty-three year old daughter; she’s a ray of sunshine. We also have a son who’s twenty-five.”

At the mention of my son, my eyes filled with tears and I blurted out, “He’s very lost right now. In fact, just this evening I saw a homeless kid at the park who reminded me a lot of him.” A fresh wave of grief hit me and I started to cry, looking into the compassionate tear-filled eyes of this stranger. She got up out of her seat, walked over, and put her arms around me.

“My name is Janice Kay, honey,” she said. “If you need to talk any time tonight, I am in room 234, okay? And I want you to know there will be a church in Wichita Falls, Texas, that will be praying for your son.”

I hugged her even closer, and in that brief moment, I thought I smelled the most beautiful aroma – the scent of my Savior, swirling around my grieving heart - healing, comforting, upholding.

“I think God knew I needed a mom tonight, Janice,” I said. “Thank you so much.”

My tears of pain transformed into tears of gratefulness for a God who is faithful to “show up” in our toughest moments, when we just need a hug … or a mom. I think of 2 Corinthians 2:15, 16 when I recall this precious woman, “For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved…a fragrance from life to life.”

Janice Kay was the aroma of Christ to me that night – a sweet, comforting, beautiful fragrance, which imparted life to my soul. I will never forget it.

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Member Comments
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Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 08/05/10
This is a touching but sad story. It did show why it's so important to reach out to that stranger next to you when you feel God tugging at your heart. We never know what a difference we might make in someone's life.
Caitlyn Meissner08/06/10
Great story! Janice reminded me a little of my grandmother, always loving and active. Good job!
Lollie Hofer08/06/10
Enjoyed reading your story and how two strangers' hearts were able to connect. And for the hope offered by the end of your story.
Sherrie Coronas08/08/10
I loved everything about your story. Your writing is great and the story really touched me in many ways. God Bess!
Kate Oliver Webb 08/10/10
Love your story. It's beautifully written and touched my heart. God is so gracious, and always right on time. Thanks for sharing this.
Amy Michelle Wiley 08/10/10
Touching story. May we always treat the boy on the street with the respect we would give our own family, and be willing to reach out to strangers at the computer next to us.
Verna Cole Mitchell 08/11/10
Your story presents beautifully the aroma of Christ to others. I loved it. That is what I desire to be.
Ruth Brown08/11/10
This was a wonderful piece, very meaningful. God Bless you, Ruth