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Stars are impossible to see without a little darkness

A sunset for some, is a sunrise for others—depending on where you’re standing.

Four middle-aged women are standing in a crowded restaurant on a dirt road— watching the early summer sun fall. It’s a quaint place. Tucked between mountains and next to a lake. The Kyle’s house is on the right. Blue Canoe, on the left. Just down a cove from Heaven.

Mosquitos are biting. Gnats are buzzing. Fireflies are blinking. This place is electric with chatting crowds of lake folks and locals.

The four women finally get a table in the back corner niche. Their server is spent. She’s overworked and they’re understaffed. Her smile is the size of Yonah Mountain. Beads of sweat rest on her brow and upper lip. Her feet hurt from racing back and forth in those worn-out shoes.

She’s running on adrenaline and demand. I’m assuming it’s her norm, based on the way she masters the stress of multitasking while never breaking stride. She’s boisterous, but nice. Raw, but real. Dog-tired, but excellent at serving others—a trait more innate than learned--no matter your personality or profession. Everything about this woman is aglow, and not just because of the bright fluorescent lights and blanket of humidity in the deep south.

The waitress and women are making conversation at the end of the meal, while she refills water and brings the check. She is working the night shift. Moved her three little girls from the city to the country--escaping crime and pollution. She settled for crickets and pine trees instead--and says our rural surroundings offer her girls a safer, better life.

It’s plain to see--she mothers from a place of sacrifice. And works from a place of necessity. She is struggling to make ends meet. They can tell just by the way she talks—she’s a real good mama. A real good person. And, truth be told, this girl probably has a real hard story.

The waitress is walking away as those women put their heads close together. Surely there’s a way to bridge the gap. Lessen her load. They pause for just a minute and try to imagine what it feels like to walk in those worn-out shoes of hers. If age and experience has taught them anything, it’s to never underestimate the person God puts right in front of them. At any given time, they are likely to reach inside their purses and pull out a casserole for the grieving, flowers for the widow, a note to a stranger, or a pack of cigarettes for the streetwalker. They use subtle force to shake the whole, wide world.

So they make a plan to follow a soul nudge. To give what they have not budgeted. To offer a little hope in the thin places where worry and hardship lay too thick. And they scribble out kind words and scripture under the dotted line for tip. They pray that kindness, not just cash, will be the sum total of exactly what she needs.

The women leave, with full bellies and even fuller hearts. They walk through open doors and onto the wooden porch. The night sky is a canopy for the choir of cicada. There’s a hint of lingering heaviness as they walk, because the simple twist of human fate can just be too hard to untangle.

But then. One of the women grabs the other’s arms and points inside the window at the waitress. She can’t see them, but they see her. She is clutching the receipts next to her heart and jumping in place. Those shoes, threatening to bust. Her face is red and wet. Her knuckles are clenched and white. She is bent over, doubled at the waist. Pointing at paper in disbelief. When suddenly she stops. Looks at the floor. And then up towards the ceiling. They don’t know if she is looking for Jesus, but they know for a fact that Jesus is looking for her.

A faint star twinkles in distant sky. A final glance back to the waitress is a reminder: the brightest stars are impossible to see without a little darkness. The women stand there for a moment—just to watch her shine.

And though the sun has set long ago by now, it is rising for another. They can see it from where they are standing.

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