Tonight, I am sitting at home after a whirlwind trip to Indianapolis. I was invited to speak at a M.O.P.S. (Mothers of Preschoolers) group this morning and had such fun encouraging such beautiful mothers. Yesterday, on my trip down to Indy with my son, speeding past me were signs along the road that read- “Rest Stop”. My memory was jogged in an instant. Pressing on my mind for weeks now, is a memory that I’d like to share with you…
Almost one month ago, my family and I drove down the expressway, pulling behind us a camper loaded with bikes. Our fifteen passenger van was loaded full of little people that needed to use the potty–fast. My husband was gracious and pulled into a rest stop complete with the golden arches and our favorite ice cream chain. Looking like a row of ducklings, we trudged into the building by way of a dark parking lot. In the lamplight we appeared wrinkled from head to toe, but it didn’t matter, we felt so comfortable and relaxed in our favorite camping clothes.
On our way out of the building, everyone took notice of a woman bellowing and sobbing on a bench near our van. Her small tank top clung to her, revealing more than any of us needed to see, and her arms were bare, swinging around in distress. The jeans clung to her forty year old body and her bare feet, kept her from moving beyond the sidewalk. The kids gaped at her while we hurried them back up into the van and we told them to lock the doors.
I sighed in a prayer and exhaled without words before turning toward the crying woman. My husband and I took a step of faith and walked towards her with cautious steps. Our eyes summed up the situation and our surroundings.
Her name was Lowey. She told me her name between a combination of angry outbursts, guttural cries, all while tears spilled down her face. Lowey was beyond panic, her anger flared up, and obscenities spewed from her lips. This woman was left abandoned at an Indiana rest stop by a truck driver–the boyfriend she traveled with. Their online connection took them from strangers to travel companions in a short amount of time. She didn’t know his full name. She didn’t know his phone number. Lowey moved from California and into this man’s home in Wisconsin. He took her on the road with him, came to the rest stop, gave her ten bucks, and sent her in to buy alcohol. Being Sunday, they wouldn’t sell it, and she returned after buying food instead. In the blackness of the evening, Lowey went up to each truck rig searching for her boyfriend. She knocked upon doors in a fervent search for a red cab and white trailer. She was disoriented and didn’t know where her man was. His truck disappeared. He took her coat, her purse, her shoes, and her cell phone. All of her belongings were long gone–everything except for the shrunk clothes worn upon her chilled and trembling body.
While my husband went for help, I sat with this woman and calmed her with my hand upon her back, all while listening to her story. In their curiosity, our children pressed their faces against the van window. Between her loud curses, she began to realize how lost she truly was. The realization startled her. It was at that moment her eyes turned toward the six lane highway. Lowey announced, “I am done.” Suicidal options creeped into her mind while watching those car lights whizzing behind us. At that moment, words escaped from my lips.
“I believe that God sent us at just the right moment to find you; He always knows exactly where you are..”
That truth seeped into her mind and silenced her. Then she stood abruptly, flailed her arms, and at the top of her lungs could be heard cursing God and blaming Him for her situation. Bold and firm thoughts filled my head and I couldn’t hold back the words from bursting out of my mouth.
“You trusted the wrong person.” I said.
After speaking, I pondered the irony. This woman seemed to live her life as if in rebellion toward God and then, turns around and blames Him for her current circumstances–interesting.
After the state police and a fast food restaurant manager stood with us for awhile that night–we agreed it was time to say our good-bye’s. With a hug, I looked deep into her dark eyes, and spoke one last thing to her in my most motherly tone.
“Be careful who you trust, be wise–I will be praying for you…”
We left her that night, each of us changed in some way. Our children had a long list of questions for us about what they witnessed, and why my shoes were gone. It was then that I realized something. By choosing to love and share with this stranger–our kids learned a lesson that we could have never taught them in a classroom. They needed to see what loving your neighbor as yourself looks like–even in unexpected situations. They needed to see us living out what we believe Jesus would have done. They needed to see love conquer fear and apprehension. They needed to see that God does not abandon people but loves them deeply. It is a lesson on love that none of us will ever forget.
” We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters. If someone has enough money to live well and sees a brother or sister in need but shows no compassion—how can God’s love be in that person? Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions.”1 John 3:16-18 (NLT)