Saturday, March 28, 2015

My Giant

was headed to a new school in August. A school in which the majority of my freshman class had grown up together since they were knee high to a grasshopper. I, on the other hand, was new. I had made the volleyball team, thankfully. In the summer practices that preceded the beginning of the school year, I kept hearing about this one teacher... Her name was spoken with a mixture of fear, respect, dread, and even a touch of terror. 

Them: "Who do you have for English?"

Me: "Brenda Davis..."

Them: "Yikes! You'll want to be careful in her class. She does NOT play around. Just do your work and stay under the radar, you'll be fine."

So the first day of school arrives and I almost pass out with the dread of going to English class. (Or it could have been the 105 degree heat that day... I grew up in Mobile.) I walk into her room and take a seat, get out my notebook, and sit quietly, waiting for the dreaded teacher from the black lagoon. An immediate, thick silence enveloped the room as she walked in. 

Mrs. Davis, except for her blond hair, was clad from head to foot in black. Black shirt, black skirt, black shoes, and even black fingernail polish... It was like looking at Viola Swamp. My insides quaked as she let the door slam behind her and she started talking. It was obvious she didn't play around. I knew from that first moment that this would be one class that I would absolutely NOT be able to play around in. She demanded respect, that was for sure. And I was bound, bit, and determined to not become a casualty of her (in)famous wrath.

Fast forward a few months, when Mrs. Davis had finally started wearing some colors other than just solid black... 

High school wasn't exactly the best time of my life. I mean, come on... I was the chubby new girl with acne in a school full of skinny, flawless skinned girls. I found myself, already prone to depression, slipping further into a world of loneliness. Cut off from the world around me by my steadily dropping self-esteem, not to mention my inability to express my deepening sense of depression to any living soul. I was smiling on the outside (after all, that's what everyone expected from me), but my insides definitely didn't match the outside image that I portrayed. 

One particularly rough day, Mrs. Davis noticed that something wasn't quite right. I don't remember what the issue was, or the timing of our conversation, but I do remember breaking down and crying to a woman that I was terrified of. She brought me into her room, closed her door, enveloped me in a hug, and held me while I cried my eyeballs out. All of this would have been enough, but when I finally pulled it together and she let go... she was crying, too. This inexplicable act of compassion, of love, sealed the deal... I had just connected with one of the most influential people in my life. Ever. 

Through all four years of high school, I relied on Mrs. Davis for support. She understood me on a level that most people didn't. She was my teacher for three out of my four years there, but our relationship went much deeper than that. She was a friend, a listener, a shoulder to cry on, an encourager, a speaker of life... She was one of my giants of the faith. Her appeal wasn't simply that she was nice to me or that she showed compassion to me in my most vulnerable times... But she exuded the love of Christ. 

She was Jesus with skin on.

{This was a phrase she used frequently while I was in high school. She still uses it today. And I repeat it... Quite a bit, actually.}

I don't get to see Brenda as often as I'd like anymore. I only go to Mobile a few times a year, and even then, our schedules don't always line up. But more often than not, I end up over at her house. Sitting on her kitchen counter while she cooks, or snuggled up in the front bedroom where you can literally feel the presence of God washing over you. She's met almost all of my kiddos and I know that she prays for me regularly. 

She's still my giant. She's still my Jesus with skin on. 

I treasure every hug, every word of encouragement, every prayer. I have tucked away just about every word she's ever said to me, and I try to live by them. I never both open and close a thank you note by saying, "Thank you," and I think of her every time I use "a lot" to describe a quantity of something. (Don't really live by that one, per se, but I do always chuckle to myself when I use it.) My love for this woman is deep. I miss her so much sometimes that it hurts. I miss her bone crushing hugs and sitting in her lap. I miss her laugh. I miss how easily her eyes fill with tears. I miss her words. 

Every girl deserves to have a Brenda in their life. I don't know who I would be without mine...

BD ~ I love you. You mean more to me than you could ever possibly know. I appreciate you. And I thank you. For every word of life you have spoken over me, for every prayer you have uttered on my behalf, for every hug you have given, and for every moment that you have put your own life aside so that you could be my Jesus with skin on. I. Love. You. 

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