an unexpected ampersand

I never thought Judi would be an ampersand.

A storyteller? Yes. An entertainer? Most definitely. An anecdote worth re-telling? Certainly.

But an ampersand? No. I thought she would just be a lady that led me into giggles in our prayer class on Tuesday nights. I thought she would just be the woman who sat by Barbara and said “what the hell” when she was telling the story about her class reunion. I thought she would be someone who sat across the circle and always raised her hand to add a comment about the topic or lean in with an “Mmmhmm” more frequently than the rest of us.

I have an affection towards ampersands (that little piece of font beauty that looks like & means “and“). They illustrate all the additions that are woven through the 28-year-old story of my life. I’ve collected quite a pile of ampersands and sometimes I try to just pick one up and marvel at the way I never expected to hold it.

I never thought Judi would be an ampersand.

But, then she took my hand and asked me to sit down next to her when prayer class had ended. She told me about the replacement windows she bought and the contractor she paid and the voicemails she left and the time she went to his house and “yoo-hoooed” inside his front door because a year later the windows still sat in her garage. She told me about his questionable health and stories and that a neighbor saw his truck at Lowe’s. She told me about calls to the lumberyard and the manufacturer and that the replacement windows still sat in her garage with winter approaching. She told me about the lawyer’s advice, the neighbors’ advice, and the carpenters’ advice. She told me all this without breathing much, but often asking, “What should I do?”

I fumbled and mumbled and blank-stared because I had no idea. I had absolutely no idea what to say or how to advise this sweet old woman about her windows. I found myself post-prayer class on a Tuesday night literally feeling like the only good piece of advice I could give this woman was to pray.

So, we did. We prayed last Tuesday that this man would return her call. We prayed that her windows would get installed. We prayed with the desperation of helplessness and then we kept praying.

This week, Judi came in with celebratory animal crackers to pass around, proclaiming, “Praise God, it works!” She walked up to me and said, “He returned my call! That’s our prayer answered!”

It took me a second, but when it sunk in I jumped up and squealed. Literally, I squealed.

The Lord answered our prayers for Judi’s windows and printed a bold, beautiful ampersand on my heart with her story.

I think I’ll need that giant carrying case – these ampersands are getting out of control.

let LOVE fly like cRaZy


“… & now I live in Ames, Iowa.”

Tonight it struck me, facing a beautiful piece of stained glass in the cozy, stone room that tucked itself in as an afterthought of the grand cathedral. I sat in the corner and scanned the room, drank in the faces, and then closed my eyes to let the lilting music of rolled r’s and long o’s seep behind my watery eyes.

Tonight I found myself (at 5:15 pm and on time to the 5 pm service) at the Spanish Mass and I started to feel the weight of my most recent ampersand.

“… & now I live in Ames, Iowa.”

The weight is not wrong, only sometimes I forget what I joyfully carry around – three years of my life lived with kingdom eyes to hold the gaze of beauty in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. With every ampersand added to my life, I found the blessing of my daily rhythm beholding the beauty of God.

I sang & jumped & talked
& listened & wrote
& learned & prayed
& crafted & played
& taught & watched
& loved…

because God showed me boundless grace & mercy.

God commissions me, with His blessing, to be a blessing… to stuff my life full of ampersands that PROCLAIM His glory.

Some ampersands are harder than others to etch into my life sentences. Some ampersands are carved painfully because I’d really rather not add anything else.

But, no matter how they find their way into my story, I love ’em… because what else can we do with the life God gives us? Every ampersand is a blessing, every day and each moment – an ampersand stamped on our existence this side of heaven.

I’m looking at my long list of ampersands tonight and counting my many blessings… counting them like currency that should be spent lavishly on gifts.

“… & now I live in Ames, Iowa.”

Thank you, Lord, for stamping this ampersand on my 27-year-old life. Thank you for bringing me here and adding dump trucks of blessings on my already overflowing soul. Thank you for the hard days and the brilliant days and the days I wish I were somewhere other than here.

I pray I make every ampersand (every blessing added to my days, every moment) available to others in a way that brings them face to face with the Giver – no matter where my ampersands land me.