I walked up to the café counter at the newly renovated Lifeway store in Brentwood, TN and ordered a pumpkin-flavored latte. It was nearing the end of October and I had yet to drink anything with pumpkin in it. (Gasp, I know!)
Brielle was with me while her siblings were at Bible Quizzing at our church. I had been dying to pick up a copy of Annie F. Downs’ new book Remember God.
With my new book in hand, I placed my coffee order and Brielle began to count the tile on the wall in the café area. She kept exclaiming, “Mommy, look!” as she would count.
A man beside us said, “She called you mommy. That’s good.”
My first thought was, “Of course she called me mommy, strange man. Why wouldn’t she?” It's easy for me to forget that others see that we don't look alike. My second thought was much less dramatic, “This man must know about adoption.”
We proceeded to chat about adoption while his wife quickly became acquainted with Brielle. I shared our adoption story and they shared theirs. During our chat, I noticed he was holding a book about orphan care.
After five minutes or so with our new friends, my coffee order was up. I thanked them for their kindness and asked him again what his name was as I shook his hand because names are hard and I didn’t remember it the first time.
He said, “My name is JT Olson.”
Suddenly, I realized the book he was holding had his name on it. The book was titled The Orphan, the Widow & Me. It’s a book about JT’s own adoption experience and his journey to starting the non-profit organization Both Hands.
Both Hands exists to assist families in the adoption process with a fundraiser that organizes a service project for a widow. It’s living out James 1:27. It’s biblical and brilliant!
Before I left the store that evening, JT told me he wanted to give me the copy of his book that he had been holding. At first, I insisted on buying it because I know how tough it can be to sell a book. I eventually gave in after he agreed to autograph it for me.
Here’s what he wrote.
Thanks for living a life of impact.
I make a lot of friends when I’m out and about with Brielle. I don’t naturally love attention. I’d prefer to run in and out of stores as quickly as possible. Brielle is different though. She’s taught me to slow down and enjoy everything and everyone around me.
I was in the midst of a hard week when Brielle and I met the Olson’s that night. Brielle was switching mid-year to a brand new preschool and I was feeling overwhelmed with the direction God seemed to be taking our family.
Last December, I declared that in 2018 I was going to live expectantly. When life got hard, which it always does, I wanted to expect his hope, joy, and peace. I’ve tried so hard to live expectantly this year and sometimes I’ve had to fight for it.
The days leading up to meeting my new friends in Lifeway were filled with me asking (begging may be a better word) God to fill me with his peace because I was feeling anything but peaceful. I was allowing fear and doubt to creep in. I was allowing myself to go numb—if you don’t think, you can’t feel.
I went into Lifeway that night for one book. I left with two books and a sweet reminder that my life meant something. I was living a life of impact.
I cried as I drove back to my house later that night. I knew God had given me a gift that night to bring me out of my fear, doubt, and numbness through the kind actions of complete strangers.
I can make a very long list of all the people that have impacted my life. That’s what I love so much about God too. God uses every one of us in our corners of the world and in our places to show His love.
Maybe you are dealing with fear, doubt, or numbness too. Life can be hard. I get it.
Look for Him.
‘That is why I wait expectantly, trusting God to help, for he has promised." Psalm 130:5 (TLB)
If you are seeking Him, you are living a life of impact.
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