Listen to What They Aren’t Saying

by | May 20, 2013 | Uncategorized


“How are you,” I ask.  She looks up from wiping the sink, into the mirror to get a look at me. Then she leans her whole body sideways, finishes swiping the white enamel canoe shaped sink until the bowl is spotless.  She smiles and says she is fine. I linger because I sense something more.

Her round cheeks permanently flush, like someone wiped their finger stained with lipstick across them. Her skin is so pale it nearly matches the color of the thin white blouse she wears, making her blue eyes noticeable.

“It’s almost time to go home,” she says.

I turn around with dripping hands looking for the towels and empathize, “You must be counting the minutes then.”

She pulls herself up, moves over to the next sink in the trio and tells me she will be going to the hospital to visit her granddaughter when she gets off.

I hesitate, look in the mirror on the opposite wall and realize we’re the only ones in the bathroom at the Delta Club now. Just outside the door the room is full of travelers speaking different languages. Sitting with their luggage at white plastic tables, eating plates of carrots and salmon sandwiches shaped like rectangles. Somehow, it feels like I’ve entered a sacred portal.

I ask Jesus what He has in mind for these moments that I’m alone in the restroom with an airport employee.

“Oh, she must be quite sick,” I respond.

In less than a minute, I learn that her granddaughter is sixteen, her name is Courtney, and the doctors think she suffers from appendicitis. Except that there are signs of internal bleeding too. She can’t even hold water down.

I tell her I have a seventeen year old daughter and can imagine she must be worried sick. “That sounds serious,” I say.

She makes eye contact with me.

“I’ll pray for your Courtney,” I tell her. She looks down, fiddles with the wet paper towel she is using to clean and mumbles something quietly, then starts wiping the third sink, the one I just used.

“Thank you for praying,” she says sheepishly.

It only takes a minute to be vulnerable and lead someone to the presence of God.  I think about how many times I’ve asked someone that question, “How are you?”, and didn’t wait long enough to hear the answer. Or God speaking.

We’re all longing for someone to listen. Because very few of us are just fine.

So, how are you?


Linking with Michelle, Laura, Jen and Heather.


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  1. Kelly Greer

    Hi Shelly – You are right. If we just listen! Everyone has a story. God has been pressing on my heart to listen more and more….even to be silent, which is so difficult for me as I am a talker. But, we hear so much in the silence that needs to heard.

    • Lynn Morrissey

      Kelly, having just traveled with you to Jumping Tandem retreat and being your roommate, I want to affirm publicly that you are one of the most attentive listeners I have ever met! Of course you talk and laugh and are totally fun and sometimes silly :-), and I love this exuberant playfulness about your personality. But you so often listen, giving full attention and empathy to the one sharing or baring her heart. I think, too, that all you have endured has made you a more kind and empathetic listener. You are one very special lady and lover of Jesus!
      I love you,

    • Shelly Miller

      It’s a tight rope of balance between listening and speaking isn’t it? My family reminds me often that I don’t listen well. So my bathroom experience may be an anomaly for me!

  2. DeanneMoore

    Her name is Kash and I met her at Cabela’s on Saturday. I probably won’t see her again since the store is hours away and I was just there with the doc. She asked me if she could help me. We ended up helping each other a little further down the road. Maybe God will give me words to tell the story some day soon? I thank God for sacred portals and the quickening to linger– and for you my friend. (How am I? I am saved and being saved, healed and being healed, graced and giving grace. Thanks for asking.)

    • Shelly Miller

      Of course you have a story Dea, because you are living this and that’s just one of the things I love about you. I think we have some catching up to do, don’t we? Phone call soon? Loved seeing you on Jennifer’s side bar as the featured post last week.

  3. Mary Bonner

    Shelly, this is something I needed to be reminded of…thank you. I am still reflecting on the thoughts you shared at Jumping Tandem the Retreat. Thank you for those too!

    • Shelly Miller

      Oh, your comment blesses me Mary, thank you.

  4. Lynn Morrissey

    This was a holy moment, and you had a heart to realize it and a heart to listen. I wish I knew more people like you, Shelly. Many not only don’t listen, but they feel they must fill space with words–their words about their own troubles, not listen to yours (happened to me most memorably on the day I buried my father. My friend didn’t want to listen to my loss, my love for him, but talk about herself). The woman at the airport needed you, and she needed mostly your loving empathy and your prayers. You were there for her. I think God blesses that. I know He blessed her through you.

    • Shelly Miller

      Don’t give me too much credit Lynn. I’ve missed loads of opportunities by being completely self-absorbed. Trust me.

  5. Nancy Sturm

    It’s amazing how a few kind words and an uttered prayer can affect a person. Thanks for that reminder to be still, listen, and respond. I am wonderful today–how are you?

    • Shelly Miller

      Nancy, wonderful is such a heart warming response. I’m pretty wonderful too. Aslan is on the move and I’m happy about that.

  6. Jody Collins

    “Very few of us are ‘just fine.'” You nailed it on the head, Shelly. Jesus, give us ears to look and listen and pray, as you did, “Father, what are you up to here?”
    Good reminder.

    • Shelly Miller

      You know, I’m amazed at how many people I interacted with were more than willing to talk if I gave them my attention. I think listening is a lost art. At least that is what I’m seeing.

  7. Lyli Dunbar

    I had lunch with a friend a while back, and when the waitress brought out our meal, she thanked her, told her we were about to pray, and asked her if there was anything we could pray about for her. — She did it so naturally, and the waitress asked her to pray for her daughter who was in school. We did.

    I was amazed at her boldness, her ease, her heart for others. Not sure I could do the same, but I think about that moment a lot….

    • Shelly Miller

      I think we have to be led by the Holy Spirit in order for the exchange to be life giving don’t we? It can be life sucking just as quickly if done at the wrong time, in the wrong spirit.

  8. Nancy Franson

    This is such a gift, these small moments when we have opportunity to offer prayer for someone we may never see again. I don’t always recognize them, but am grateful when the Spirit whispers–no, shouts into my ear, “Stop. Ask if you can pray right now. I wonder, when we get to heaven, what will be revealed because of those brief, prayerful encounters.

    • Shelly Miller

      I wanted to write this one down so I wouldn’t forget Nancy. Because these moments aren’t ordinary, but they can easily be forgotten in the midst of the busyness of life. Thanks for being here.

  9. Linds

    What a wonderful moment for you. And it takes courage, but is oh, so worth it, to really listen, hear and then say you will pray. A real blessing passed on.
    On another note, I live north of London, not far from Oxford – you were close by! I know this part of the country really well, and it is so beautiful. Especially when the rain stops!

    • Shelly Miller

      It’s so nice to meet you Linds. We traveled through the Cotswolds and Oxford while in England too, and it was sunny that day. 😉 Beautiful country. I took lots of photos.

  10. Michelle DeRusha

    Bless you, Shelly, for taking the time to ask, really ask, how are you? And for taking the time to listen, really listen, for the answer.

    • Shelly Miller

      Thank you Michelle, I’m grateful I happened to be in a place in my life to pay attention that day. I usually walk away and don’t notice.

  11. Kris Camealy

    Oh Shelly. This is so beautiful. Thank you for living out your faith, for showing glimpses of Jesus to strangers along the way. You inspire me!! Beautiful story, and such a good reminder.

    • Shelly Miller

      I think you do that well too Kris. You inspire me with the way you live your life too. Right back atcha friend.

  12. Megan Willome

    How am I? Uh, you know where to find the answer to that question.

    • Shelly Miller

      Yep. Thankful for that community.

  13. Mia

    Dear Shelly
    I have been pondering this a lot these last few weeks; the fact we we seldom slow down enough to truly look another in the eye when we speak to them or listen intently to what they are sharing with us! Oh Lord, have mercy on us and enable us with your grace to truly consider another’s need just as important, if not more, than ours!

    • Shelly Miller

      I don’t like it when people do it to me Mia. Ask and don’t mean it. I’m not one for small talk. So I don’t want to to that to someone else.

  14. Jennifer 'Miner' Ferguson

    When Beth Moore came to Austin, she said “okay” meant “only kidding.” There are not many of us that are okay — we all have something going on inside, even when we might not be fully cognizant of it. Just today I said, “I’m good!” and five hours later, I would have given a different response.

    • Shelly Miller

      I like that one from Beth Moore, she is a wise woman. We’re never really just good are we?

  15. Alicia Bruxvoort

    Oh, I’m in tears after this- why is an encounter like yours so unusual— seems nobody really takes time to listen to the heart behind the words anymore. THANK YOU for pausing in that bathroom. And for reminding me to do the same next time I ask someone how they are.

    • Shelly Miller

      I think we are all hearing the sacred echo of getting back to what matters, the simple pleasures of life. Like lingering a bit in the bathroom instead of scurrying off to the next thing. Glad you are here Alicia, love your heart for people.

  16. Raising Humans

    I love stories like these. I never do that but with each story I read, I come closer to being more in the moment and more in a place to make a difference for others. Thank you for sharing.

    • Shelly Miller

      We need each other don’t we? To inspire and encourage each other to be more brave and honest. Because we only have this one life for this one season in time and He is calling us to make a difference right where we are. So glad you stopped by.

  17. Shelly Wildman

    Hi Shelly! I’m coming over from the Simple Stories FB page and am so glad I did! I love this story AND I love London! Great reminder to keep our eyes open all the time.

    • Shelly Miller

      Shelly, so glad to meet you. And I won’t forget your name. 😉 Glad to know we are kindred in regard to our love of London. We’ve traveled all over the country and I never get tired of it. So much beauty on such a small piece of land. Grateful God continues to take us there from time to time. Look forward to visiting you later.

  18. Jillie

    Loved this, Shelly. A total reminder for me right when I need it–to stay in the moment and really be attentive to what others are “not saying”. Everyone indeed has a story worth listening to.
    How am I? Very well, thank you. But carrying hopes and dreams for my son and daughter-in-law in their adoption process. They’re hitting ‘snags’. And for my daughter, who I believe is in financial difficulties, even though she’s not letting on.
    Have loved reading your posts from England AND seeing all the glorious photos.

    • Shelly Miller

      Jillie, thanks for the update on your kids and the adoption. I’ll continue to pray for them and for you as you watch it unfold . . or not. They are lucky to have you you know?

  19. Adrienne Scanlon

    This is never truer than with our own – our kids/spouses…those that surround us in the ordinary business. This is so touching – gentle and tenderly shared. I’m so grateful for the reminder to listen. To others. To my heart. To the spirit – give it all time, and just listen. Thanks!

    • Shelly Miller

      You are so right Adrienne. Sometimes I miss the most opportunities with those who I do life with side-by-side every day. I’m trying to be more attentive to his voice and prompting. I don’t always here over my own self talk, but when I do I’m thankful.

  20. Laura Boggess

    Oh, dear. I asked this question just today and held my breath as I waited for the answer. As I suspected, there was much drama. And as a mental health professional, sometimes I struggle against enabling the perpetuation of bad choices and grace. Shouldn’t I always choose grace? Sometimes, this looks different than I think it should–like telling the truth in love. And that. is really. Hard. As you say, Shelly, it does take time. And I never regret those moments when I take it. Thanks for reminding me of that, my friend. Slowing down to listen today…

    • Shelly Miller

      You’ve brought up such a good point Laura, the balance of knowing when to ask and when not to, when it comes to emotional health. I get this. Been there many times when it wasn’t in the best interest of either of us to ask the question. Thankful for the Holy Spirit who leads us, otherwise I would be in a crumpled up mess on most days!

  21. Positively Alene

    So inspiring girl! Love the braveness. Love the moment. Love the story.

    • Shelly Miller

      Thanks Alene, appreciate you being here.

  22. Starla K Smith

    I love this…. I’m FINE is a wreck yard of words that hold the vulnerability at bay.

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