Friday, November 21, 2014


True Beauty

Hannah: grace; favor (Hebrew).

The first time I met her, I was running late to meet with my friends.  As a single, working mama in college, I felt like I was always running late, and thus a burden to those kept waiting.  This night was all of that frenzy and worry, and then some.
I had been given an address by my good friend Nathan - Hannah's address.  I hadn't yet met this new lady in my friend's life, but I had heard enough to believe that she is perhaps heaven incarnate.  I nervously parked by this huge house (Hannah had an apartment within), and walked as briskly as possible toward my friends who were meeting me out front.
Always frantic, I was running toward them at this point, and a pin flew off my purse.  My cheeks burned with embarrassment - oh great, Cherie, you're such a mess.
"Wait!  This could be important, a first impression!" Hannah said with a smile, and she picked up my pin, a feminist pin that had an old-fashioned lady on the front and read Don't assume I cook!

"Oh, I like you already!" and she hugged me.

Hannah has love that unfolds itself from the bends of her arms.  When she embraces you, it feels like you're the only person she will ever hug.  And you wouldn't mind if that were true because when you're wrapped in that love, heaven kisses earth all around you.

Hannah is one reason I know that Jesus is real.

I have struggled with self-loathing, self-doubt, and performance-based acceptance my entire life.  During my college years, I rode many tidal waves, teetering too close to the edge most of the time.  I always cried out to my heavenly Father for some reprieve, some help, some way to believe in His grace.  It was a concept I knew in my head, but often could not accept in my soul.  I knew He forgave me and I knew He called me beautiful, but head knowledge does little for someone who relies so much on her fragile, heavy-beating heart.

So He sent Hannah.

Hannah's long, dark curls, cute dimples, laughing eyes, perfect and strong body, and natural ease of life would usually bring me to a place of envy.  But she invites you in.  She takes your hand and leads you in her dance of life, and all you know is that everything is more vibrant when Hannah is in your world.  That's why everyone loves Hannah: there is not even a trace of conceit, just an invitation to dance with her.  And what I've needed for most of most of my years is to realize that life is a dance, and not a competition.

On summer days, Hannah would invite us to swim with her.  She loves my son Julien like she loves everyone else - with every piece of her.  So she always made sure he would have all he needed when we visited.  Because of this, I could relax, too.  A rare occasion tucked in the middle of many busy days.
Many times, just sitting beside the water with Julien splashing in the background, we would talk about the secret things of life.  We would walk a few steps to the herb garden, and squeeze leaves of lemon basil between our fingers, wondering aloud of there is any better scent in the world than this!  And she would look at me and say something that bent the bars of my prison.
"Look at you!  You're so beautiful."
Could she be talking to me???  What does this perfect friend see in the mess of who I am?
I knew she wasn't just talking about physical beauty - neither of us is that vain or shallow.  She was talking about the beauty within me.  I couldn't even believe in that, but she did.  And when Hannah believes, you want to believe, too.  Don't miss out on her dance.

One winter, Julien and I spent a few nights at Hannah's.  I would read and savor the little sticky notes she posted everywhere, to know the names of objects in her ancestors' Ojibwe language. Around every corner of her apartment, one could find a reason to smile.
Sitting at her small kitchen table, we sipped coffee and I looked at her with awe because her spirit shined so brightly.  And she would say something about how I had such a good heart, or that I was such a hard worker, that she was so impressed with my life.  I would blush and look away and utter some sort of denial.  But I believed she meant it, and I would learn that God saw me this way, too - a treasure, not trash.
One day, she turned on the fireplace, made drinks and snacks for the three of us, and we cuddled up and watched old musicals.  The cold wind and snow outside had no bearing on us, for the life within that day warmed the whole town and painted it all the colors of summer.

Hannah and Nathan were always gracious about keeping their lonely friend from being lonely.  On weekends that Julien was with his dad, they would leave me a message about their plans to see if I would like to join them.  What great love!
On a winter hike one day, we approached a large, flat hilltop that was covered in snow, with red and white birches as a border.  The sun was shining just perfectly, sprinkling glitter across the entire surface of the field.  Unable to contain ourselves, we hopped and ran through the dazzling snow.  20 degrees was perfect, absolutely perfect.

Running in the snowy field

A song in my head: "I'll follow you 'round this playground, and burn your troubles in the sun..."  Hannah and Nathan's adoration for one another is something of magic, undoubtedly heaven-sent.  As they carefully and methodically plodded footprints in the snow, I watched them build a life together before my eyes.  Though the snow-traced floor plans for their house was merely play, I knew their forever plan would include each other, no matter where it was.  With my life full of uncertainty, this certainty filled my heart with a warm joy.  I smiled for them that whole day.  Because love rejoices.

"I would like a kitchen with a window over the sink that faces that way, so I can always have sunlight coming in," Hannah pointed and smiled.  I saw Nathan smile back, and I knew he would give her anything.  Because. Love. Rejoices.

Hannah's name means "grace" and "favor."  Her mama and daddy gave her a very prophetic name because that is exactly who Hannah is.  She gives grace and favor to others, and others see how she is favored and full of grace.  She is a vessel that carries the Spirit, spilling over onto thirsty people.

It's easy to feel like a friendship with Hannah is all the benefit to you, and nothing for her.  Not because she says so, but because you receive so much from being near her, and you wonder what she could possibly receive from you.  I feel so helpless about this that all I can do is pray.  I pray for her, her sweet family, Nathan...I pray that God would rain blessings on her and give her the fullness of His love, and that her joy would be never-ending.  A girl like her deserves everything because joy multiplies when she is near, because she lives life in full gusto and gives love from the abundant and eternal sources of God.

No matter the days between my now-infrequent visits with Hannah, I feel her heartbeat in synch with mine.  She taught me life when I had given up on it.  She is God's messenger.  She is my sister.  She is my forever friend.

I love you, Hannah Rose Bigjohn.  :)

How many ways can you love a person? Infinitely.

This is the short version.  When I write a book, you all will really get to know Hannah.  <3  You will notice that many times I use the words "heart" and "love" and "joy."  I was going to go back and edit, to vary my word choice.  However, these things are the theme of my friendship with Hannah.  And I wouldn't change a thing about that.