By Karen Schelhaas
I like big events, I really do. Locking arms with thousands of people and singing “Hallelujah” in one voice stirs my spirit and usually produces tears. I love concerts and events and mass-scale productions for a variety of reasons. But to be honest, they don’t change my life.
What I’ve found is that change comes in small packages usually delivered by a single person. I’ve been thinking a lot about one-on-one encounters as I navigate my way through this incredibly rich yet busy season of my life with five school-aged children. It’s the just-me-and-you moments that have been the most impactful, the ones that make me turn left instead of right, the encounters that shift my perspective and encourage me to keep sailing ahead instead of bailing out.
That’s not to say that a great message whispered to us by God shouldn’t be shouted or penned to the masses. We all glean life-changing, powerful truths from church, seminars, concerts and books. Jesus did spend time teaching the crowd. But the real refining fire Jesus puts in my life is stoked by single interactions with women who are willing to find a sliver of time to talk and pray about the real stuff of life, refusing to let me get complacent. And in this strange day of “e-whatever,” face time is distinctly lacking, yet ever necessary, as messages of change and hope and truth are often punctuated best with a hug or a tear or a playful nudge.
This is shaping how I spend my days while the kids are at school, and it’s been deeply satisfying in a myriad of ways, surprisingly so. It isn’t glamorous, on any level. In fact, most hang-outs happen after I’ve thrown on my yoga pants, a little mascara and some bronzy lip gloss (because who really wants to meet with a Glamour Girl when you’re hurting or frustrated?). We plop down next to my sink of dirty dishes, or in the midst of laundry piles on a friend’s floor, or hiking out on these beautiful Colorado trails, or meandering on a late night walk with our dogs. These are often the scenes in which seismic shifts occur in my life.
Engaging in the minutia matters, and we’re all uniquely qualified. I don’t really need somebody to cast a great vision over my life – I need to be pointed to God in the details of my daily living. The waters of vulnerability are most likely to churn in the quiet exchange between two people on an ordinary day – often yielding extraordinary results.
My mom always told me, “The gift of your presence is the best gift you can give.” Oh, how I savor the various lives where I have been able to be present. Many of my weekly interactions are about a single topic, like the death of a full-term baby. It’s the familiar road that I’ve also walked, followed by the subsequent circuitous route to building my family. One gal told me, “You know, all I needed the week after my baby died was for you to walk through the door of Starbucks. To see that you were still living and breathing and even thriving was all I needed that day.”
The gift of one-on-one presence is often silent be-ing, the difference between hope and despair for some. And it matters, perhaps more than anything else. You can’t be salt and light for people if you don’t take the time to know who needs seasoning and where the darkness exists.
Karen Booker Schelhaas lives in Highlands Ranch, CO with her husband and five children ranging from ages 7 to 15. When she's not cooking, jogging, cleaning, gardening, entertaining, chauffeuring, volunteering or counseling, she can be found at her kitchen table with coffee in her veins, slowly putting her stories into words.