It was fall of 2013 and had only been a few months of me living in Atlanta and working at my first big girl job. I was stressed from the new work and feeling lonely from being in a new place with new people who didn’t know me yet. My local support system was still pretty limited and this one particular Wednesday night, my emotions exploded from the heartache of it. I went home to the couple that was graciously letting me stay with them until I got on my feet with my new job. They had a dinner party planned that night and I didn’t want to disturb them so I left to get some dinner of my own. I was craving sushi and went on my quest for a good Philly roll. While I was driving around to all the places that Google maps had directed me to, I realized the restaurants were either closed, no longer existed, or God just decided to hide them all.
After searching for around an hour with no luck, I decided I should go ahead and get Chik-fil-a. But I didn’t want Chik-fil-a! I wanted sushi. So I pulled into Chik-fil-a and did a circle around the parking lot only to leave and try to find sushi again with no success. I came back to Chik-fil-a probably 20 minutes later and at this point, I was hungry and tired with a headache and I REALLY didn’t want Chik-fil-a. Then it just kind of hit me... I really missed my mom. Although the scenario was pretty silly, that was a moment that I would’ve loved to just call and cry to her and hear her voice. It had been a while since I had missed her like that. Life was feeling weird and hard in that moment. So there I was, in the Chik-fil-a parking lot, just crying. I decided to drive two more times around the parking lot trying to pull myself together so I could order a dinner I didn’t even want. I tried to call a friend/mentor and she didn’t answer. I called a few others that also didn’t answer either. So I started driving home, weeping like a little baby with my unwanted bag of Chik-fil-a. Then at the climax of my tears, the first friend called me back, heard me boohooing and told me to come stay with her that night. We talked and she gave me comfort and encouraged me and everything felt much better. Thank God that dreadful, sushi-less Wednesday was done.
The next day I had decided to attend a high school play after work. I knew a few of the kids in the play and was excited to watch them perform. When I was leaving the play, I happened to look across the street and see a sushi place that I hadn’t noticed before. After all that crying the day before, the Lord was finally giving me some sushi! So I walked in and there was only one couple besides the sushi man and myself in this little restaurant. Kind of weird but whatever. He gave me a lot of free food, which sort of made me nervous, but the sushi man was very kind and the food was tasty. The couple was sitting at the sushi bar and the woman was complimenting the sushi maker on his craft and telling him how much she loved the meal he prepared for her. She began to talk of her mother and how she cooked the most delicious meals. How her mother was her best friend and was so loving and kind. Then she said in this broken voice, “Yeah… but she’s really sick now. She has stage-four cancer.” And this sweet Asian man with his broken English tells her how sorry he was. Then the couple paid their bill and left the restaurant.
At this moment, I started thinking how interesting it was that I was the only other customer in this restaurant and I happened to have a similar story to this woman who was so transparent with that sushi man stranger a few moments before. Then I paid my bill and started to walk out of the restaurant. When I opened the door to leave, I saw the woman and her husband leaning against the back of their car as she smoked a cigarette. I thought to myself, “She’s stressed and thinking about everything she shared in there.” I hopped in my car and asked the Lord to be with her. As I started to drive away, I heard the Lord say to me, “Go to her.” In which I responded with my hand up to my window in the woman’s direction and again praying, “Be with her, Lord. Be with her.” And God kept repeating, “Go to her. Go to her.” So naturally, I drove away.
I fought him for the next minute of my drive. I felt I had nothing that I could offer that woman. I still had the headache from the day before and I was tired and over it. We kept fighting in the car and he said, “You know you’re going to regret not going to her. You’re going to be so mad at yourself.” Dang it, God. He’s always freaking right! Why does he have to always be right?! I get to a stoplight and out loud I said, “Okay! I’ll go back. If she’s not there, at least I was obedient in going back and if she is still there then maybe I can just pray for her.” I didn’t know what else I could do for her other than that. I, myself, was feeling empty and down in spirit. How would I be able to encourage hers?
I made a U-turn at the light and went back to the little sushi restaurant. I pulled in just in time to catch her and her husband before they left. Their car was running and they were just about to shut their doors. I jumped out of my car and walked in front of hers with my hands waving so she didn’t leave. They both stared at me through the windshield with their eyes wide. I walked over to the driver’s side where she was and kneeled down beside her opened car door.
I said, “I was in the restaurant while you and your husband were in there eating and I overheard the things you said about your mom.” She responded in a sad tone, “Oh… yeah...” Then I asked, “I was wondering if maybe it’d be okay if I prayed for you?” and she immediately grabbed both of my hands and said, “Yes! I would love that!” I said, “Okay! But before I do that, I want to tell you a little about myself. Ten years ago, I lost my mom to cancer. And it was really hard. She was my best friend and after she was gone I felt so alone. But through all of that, God was near. He came to me and protected me. I don’t know if he will heal your mom but I know that it’s all going to be okay if you trust him.” Then we prayed. I don’t remember very much that came from my mouth but by the end, we were both crying. She asked me my name and I said it was Chloe. I asked her name and she said, “It’s Sally.” Sally then hugged me, kissed my cheek and said, “I love you, Chloe! I love you.” And I said, “I love you too, Sally!” We talked a little while longer about her mom and her life. Then, we hugged once more and parted ways from that little parking lot.
When I first saw Sally in the restaurant, I thought nothing of her appearance. She didn't strike me as someone different from others. She looked like any normal woman would look. But when I went to her, there was this beauty in her heart that I can’t describe. She had this glow of love and vulnerability that I didn’t see often in people. She was so willing to be open and share her heart with me, a mere stranger. Getting to hold her hands and pray with her was such an unexpected gift to me.
There was a reason I couldn’t find a sushi restaurant the day before when I wanted it. There was a reason I started missing my mom more than usual around that time as well. Sally needed love and encouragement and the Lord wasn’t going to let her leave that sushi parking lot without her knowing that he heard her.
I love this story because it’s so obvious that God orchestrated it all. I didn’t want to listen but praise the Lord; he knows how to push my buttons the right way even when I’m being stubborn towards him. He could’ve reached out to Sally a million different ways, but he decided to use me as a way to show her his love. And I almost missed that chance because of my own selfishness. I left that parking lot thinking I may have been blessed more than Sally after that encounter! God is so incredible the way he works things together for his good purpose. When we put our trust in him, we won’t be put to shame. Hallelujah.