Who knew that being clumsy could lead to something beautiful?
Stephanie breathed in the cold morning air and the freshness of the day filled her with anticipation. I can hardly believe this day has finally come. Smiling she looked around at the bright sky of a new day filled with possibilities. After years of working and struggling, Stephanie had finally finished her degree and was starting out on her new life. That new life began today with the first day at her new job. She had worried and prayed and worried and prayed as the day approached for it seemed as if there was no job for her.
How silly of me not to trust the Lord. I know He has plans for me and will take care of me. I have no father or husband but He has promised to be those things.
Stephanie chastised herself and said a quick prayer of thanks to God for loving her, taking care of her and for being patient with her as she struggled with her human frailties in believing wholeheartedly that things would work out as they should, for her best.
Walking briskly towards her new job at the University's Medical School campus, she enjoyed the feel of her muscles moving and watching her breath exhale in the brisk air. As she walked, she thought about her new job and her desire to do well.
I think I'll start my first day of my new phase of life with a nice coffee at the coffee shop on campus.
It would be good to relax a bit in preparation for the day. Her excitement level was quite high. She wasn't really nervous just a little revved up, like a racehorse at the starting gate.
Stephanie entered the warm coffee shop kiosk in the basement of the new conference center and walked towards the counter thinking of what she would like to drink.
Hmmm, straight coffee or should I get a nice mocha cappuchino?
She looked up as the line to order coffee moved and she noticed a man smiling at her. She smiled back but wondered, Do I know him? He does look a little familiar.
This frustrated Stephanie a bit because she usually could place a face with a name. Stephanie always wondered why people stared and smiled at her so often. It used to make her uncomfortable but she eventually reasoned that it was probably because she smiled so much. People like a happy person.
Presently, it was her turn to order and all thoughts of the man left her mind as she stepped up, decided against the extra calories of a mocha and said, "I'll have a large coffee and one of those delicious looking blueberry scones please."
After getting her coffee and scone, Stephanie sat at one of the tables in the coffee shop and took a deep breath.
Okay, time to get myself together here. A little nice hot coffee, some breakfast and I'll be ready for my first day on the job. Just thinking that always made her smile.
My job! Finally, I am a grownup and ready for the next phase of my life.
It positively gave her shivers when she thought about the things that God would do in her life next. Her life had been such an adventure since coming to know the Lord, giving her life to him. Her life was a beautiful series of valleys and mountaintops yet through it all, God had been with her, holding her close in the palm of His hand. It had been quite a journey to this point and she knew how God liked to surprise her. Stephanie had that familiar feeling of anticipation that there were more surprises to come and soon. As she thought of this, she reached for her cup of coffee and somehow accidentally knocked the cup over, spilling the contents over the top of the table and down onto the floor.
"Oh, fiddlesticks!" she exclaimed as she snatched the half empty cup up in a desperate attempt to avoid further mess.
"Here, let me help."
Stephanie was startled by the voice of a man who seemed to appear out of nowhere with a handful of napkins. Before she could answer, he had knelt down and started mopping up the mess.
Oh, how embarrassing, thought Stephanie as she watched this complete stranger cleaning up her mess. She felt so helpless at this point, staring down at his sandy-colored hair as he cleaned up the coffee with his capable hands.
He has such nice hands, large, strong looking, slender fingers, no wedding ring.... Ooops! Stephanie stopped her musing on her rescuer's hands. She couldn't help it, she always noticed a man's hands. Lucky for her, she stopped thinking of his great hands just as he looked up and smiled at her. His bright blue eyes seemed to smile at her as he said,
"I could see that accident coming so I grabbed some napkins just in case. It happens to the best of us. "
He stood to his full height, over 6 feet, and Stephanie was speechless as he reached out his hand and said, "I'm Adam Heller. I work as a kind of administrator type here as well as doing some part-time work helping out the occasional lovely lady with coffee disasters. You are new here aren't you?"
Stephanie tried to suppress a giggle as she reached out her hand and shook it.
"Well, thank you for your help. I have no excuse for making such a mess except that today is my first day at work here and I guess I am a little excited about it. It's great to meet you Adam. My name is Stephanie Walker."
"Glad to meet you Stephanie." Adam's phone rang and he made a slight grimace as he looked at the phone and said, "Excuse me a sec, I have to take this."
A few moments later, he apologized , "I'm sorry, I'm late for a meeting. It was good to meet you. I'm sure I'll see you around. Bye now." He smiled and turned to walk away.
Stephanie was left kind of stunned as she watched him leave. Wow! That was something. What a way to start my first day of work. Oh no! Stephanie looked at her watch and realized she had only a few minutes before she would be considered late on her first day. She snatched up her purse and laptop bag and rushed out of the coffee shop and to her office.
That evening, she returned home, kicked off her shoes and flopped down on the sofa. What a day, what a great day! Thank you Lord for this great job and everything you have given me, she prayed. As she thought back over the day, she enjoyed remembering meeting her co-workers and getting set up in her office. Several meetings with her boss and others had given her a huge list of tasks that she was able to get started on right away, planning events and corresponding with departments in the medical school.
It's hard to believe the day went so great considering how it started. The thought of the events in the coffee shop embarrassed her even now, hours later. She had been embarrassed that she spilled the coffee and more embarrassed that such an attractive man had come to her rescue but at the same time, she remembered feeling a little jolt when he looked up at her with his smiling blue eyes and how his hand felt when he shook her hand and introduced himself. Something in the back of her mind was nagging at her.
He was the man who smiled at me when I first entered the coffee shop. He seemed a little familiar to me then. Where have I seen him before? Have I seen him before? I am sure I would have remembered meeting Mr. Adam Heller.
Weeks went by and Stephanie was so very happy with her job. Everyone at her church was so excited for her and every Sunday her friends would ask her, "So, what exciting things does God have you doing this week Stephanie?" This always made her smile because she loved that her church was so caring and she also loved to share what God was doing in her life, He was always so very busy showing His love for her.
She would always say, "Oooh, let me tell you what God did!" and her stories always made her friends laugh. These chances to talk about how God was blessing her were so good for Stephanie because whenever she was tempted to think about what she was missing in her life, like a husband to love her, she was able to remember just how truly blessed she was.
One Sunday, not long after Stephanie started the job, her friend Candyce asked her what was new and she shared,
"I just love my job. I get to help people and learn and grow as a person. This week my boss asked me to give a speech. I am so terrified but I am going to do it. I think God wants me to do it, so please pray for me."
Candyce hugged her and said, "Steph, I think you will do just great. You don't realize it but you are very approachable and kind, people want to hear what you have to say. God is stretching you to use your gifts. I will pray for you though because I know you are kind of shy."
Stephanie was embarrassed but grateful for Candyce's kind words. "Thank you Candyce. I hope you are right. I figure, what's the worst that could happen? I'll just make a fool of myself but then it will be over and I will have done what God wanted." She smiled a lopsided smile in an effort to try to convince herself.
In preparation for giving her speech, Stephanie took several opportunities to observe people speaking and perhaps learn how to go about it since she had never done it before. She attended Grand Rounds at the Medical School. She went to seminars on all kinds of topics. One day, there was a talk that she was very interested in and she got there early to get a good seat.
Getting her notepad and pencil out, she started to take some notes as the speaker started in. After about 5 minutes, her mind started to wander, Ugggh, this guy is awfully boring. Note to self, do not be boring in your talk Steph, show some emotion, smile, tap dance, something. It seems as if his research killed him and he is just going through the motions, like a zombie. So sad.
Stephanie looked around the auditorium and noted that several students seemed to feel the same way. They had their laptops out and were chatting, playing Scrabble and one was even gambling online. Stephanie laughed to herself, I think I will mention that in my speech, just to deter any of that while I am talking. Darn Wi-Fi anyway!
She was doodling away on her pad, having given up on learning anything from the speaker, when she heard the huge double doors to the auditorium whoosh closed. A few seconds later, someone sat down next to her. She snuck a sideways glance to see who her seat companion was and felt an immediate jolt of electricity when she saw that it was Adam Heller. Quickly averting her eyes, she looked straight ahead at the speaker who was now jabbering on about his accomplishments, who he knew and why that made him important.
Adam settled into the seat and touched her arm on the armrest lightly. Stephanie resisted the urge to jump and looked over at him. He smiled and mouthed "Hi".
Without thinking, she blurted out "Hi" and several heads in the audience turned towards them. She blushed and could feel the heat rushing up through her head to her scalp.
Oh Lord! I am such an idiot. Why do I feel like such a teenage schoolgirl? He probably thinks I am so silly.
But, she noticed that Adam simply smiled more broadly at her and then shocked her again by winking at her.
She immediately smiled back, noticing he had those wonderful wrinkles around his eyes that always melted her, Oh, he doesn't think I am silly. That is so nice of him to try to make me feel comfortable after my outburst. That is the sign of a kind man.
With that, she settled down and continued to pretend she was paying attention to the speaker, all the while being very aware of the man sitting next to her and the feelings that his presence was bringing up inside her.
After the speaker concluded and the obligatory but lukewarm applause, everyone in the audience started getting up to leave and chatting with their friends. Adam turned to her and said, "Hello again Stephanie!" She was gratified that he remembered her name. Again, a sign that he was not only kind but thoughtful.
"How are you liking your new job here? I hope everyone is treating you well. You look well"
Again, Stephanie felt the urge to blush coming on at the compliment and she smiled, couldn't help herself. "I am well, Adam. Thank you for remembering me. I love my job and the people are so supportive and kind. I am very happy here. You can call me Steph though, that is what all of my friends call me."
Smiling and flashing those bright blue eyes at her, he chuckled, "Okay, then Steph it is. I'd like to be considered your friend. So, how did you like the speaker? Did you learn anything?"
Immediately Steph panicked for her thoughts about the speaker were less than complimentary but she decided to be honest and forged ahead.
"Honestly, I thought he was extremely boring and I zoned out after the first few minutes. I came here to try to learn some skills and techniques for speaking but he was definitely in the category of "what not to do." She smiled an apologetic smile.
Just then, a few students walked up to their seats. "Dr. Heller, we didn't know you came to these talks. It's nice to know someone like you is interested in these topics also. We have to come for our coursework but you came just for fun? Is this what you call fun?" exclaimed a pretty young woman who was obviously flirting with him.
Oh boy, who in the world is Adam. He's a doctor! And what must I look like?
Stephanie reached up to try to discretely tame her somewhat wild and unruly, long, dark hair. Immediate concerns about her appearance in the presence of such a fresh, young girl gave her sharp feelings of insecurity. That, along with her comments about the speaker, made her feel like she might have just made a huge mistake with Adam.
Oh well, nothing I can do about any of that now. I am me, can't hide that and don't really want to. If I made a bad impression, I guess he isn't the one for me -- Hold on Steph, what are you thinking?
At that moment she realized that she really did want Dr. Adam Heller to think well of her, like her, not just as a person but as a woman, and that surprised her. She hadn't felt that way about a man for years.
"Well, I like to check in on the speakers and see how well attended the talks are. It is my responsibility, and yes, I do get to learn some great stuff but I don't get a grade for it. Keep doing what you are doing, it will be worth it. Now, if you will excuse me, I have a meeting and I know you don't want to be late for your next class, right?"
The student seemed a bit disappointed but her friends said, "Yeah, c'mon, let's see if we can get a coffee before that next lecture, you know how that one can be with the lights off and those endless Powerpoint slides."
They all turned to go away and Adam turned to Steph saying, "So, do you have plans for lunch? If not we can go to the cafand grab a bite."
"But don't you have a meeting now?" Steph wondered.
"Yes, I do, but I was hoping that meeting was with you for lunch."
Steph smiled broadly and was about to say yes when she remembered she had a meeting she could not miss. "I'm so sorry Adam but I just remembered I have a meeting soon. I would have loved to go to lunch though."
Adam frowned and thought for a moment, "Well, then, why don't we do lunch this weekend? How about Saturday? Are you free? Or Sunday maybe?"
Steph was shocked. A lunch date at work was a bit ambiguous but a weekend lunch date was definitely a real date in her mind. But, wait, she couldn't do it on Saturday, she had other plans with friends and Sunday she was at church. This just seems impossible, she thought. She was so frustrated because she really did want to spend some more time with Adam, she felt drawn to him and wanted to learn more about him. That she was attracted was a fact but if he was not a Christian, that would be a big problem, actually it wouldn't even be possible for her to date him.
Unfortunately, it just wasn't a good idea to blurt out the question when she met someone she found interesting, Hey, do you know Jesus? Do you love him? Are you saved?, that just didn't work out too well.
"Well, Adam, Saturday is jammed up for me and Sunday I am at church until noon. Maybe we could meet somewhere for a later lunch?" She was dearly hoping he wouldn't be put off by her unavailability or her commitment to church but, again, she knew from the last time she had fallen for someone, if God wasn't in it from the "get go", it wasn't going to work. She braced herself for the "some other time" statement but was very pleasantly surprised.
"Church? I have been looking for a church. What church do you attend? Would you mind if I came by and visited this Sunday? We could go to lunch afterwards and get to know each other a bit then." was Adam's reply.
Steph thought she would just die on the spot, she was so surprised and happy.
Oh, thank you Lord, he is a Christian. I can't believe it.
"Absolutely Adam. I would love for you to come visit. My church is so welcoming, I think you will like it. I sing in the choir so when you come just find a seat and when I am finished, I will come and find you." Steph gave him the name of the church and the service time and address.
Adam put the information in his cell phone and asked for her number, just in case something came up.
Steph and Adam were so involved with their conversation they did not realize they were the only people left in the auditorium. Standing there, comfortable, grinning at each other like two children who just found the most exciting thing possible until Steph realized,
"Oh no, I'm sorry Adam I have to get to my meeting. I'll see you on Sunday, maybe?." Steph grabbed her things and took off like a shot.
"I'm looking forward to it Steph," Adam said to her retreating back. She turned and waved and hustled herself to her meeting.
Steph could think of nothing else for the rest of the week. She allowed herself to dream a bit. She had been alone for such a long time and the thought that maybe Adam could be "the one" could do nothing else but make her dream. She prayed about it also, quite a bit, actually. After the last time, she did not want to go into that pit where she had ended up, confused, hurt and wondering just where she had gone wrong. In hindsight, she knew that her love was not wrong but that she had not consulted with the Lord enough to see what His desire was for her and she would always wonder if maybe, it had been right but she had just not been listening to Him as she should have been. She would not make that mistake this time.
Sunday came and she was quite caught up in the anticipation. She hoped Adam would like the church. She hoped he would like her. She knew next to nothing about him except that he had a position of authority at work and he was friendly, kind and, it seemed impossible to think, he was interested in her. She started to think about dressing specially for him, just in case he did show up but she thought again.
No, I have to be just me. Plain old Steph. He has to see me as I am, in my natural, normal way, in my kind of habitat. That made her laugh as she dressed, thinking of Adam as a wildlife photographer sneaking up on the unsuspecting creature to get a real, lifelike photograph.
Well, he will certainly get that. Nothing says more about me, who I am, then seeing me when I am singing to the Lord and around my church family. Steph remembered some of the comments her church family had made to her after she was finished worshiping with the choir. Most of them embarrassed her but the one she really loved was when her church family told her how much they could see her love for the Lord as she sang. That is why she did it, served in the choir; to serve Him and her church.
Steph got to church, practiced with the choir, went to Sunday School and just before church started, she ascended the front of the church to sit with the choir. Her friends were all there and they were chatting as they usually did while the members of the church streamed in to find their seats, laughing and talking as they always did Steph loved being in the choir. The perspective, what she got to see about her church family, was beautiful and always blessed her. She saw them all talking, sharing and loving each other. It blessed her.
"Guess what Candyce?" Steph whispered as she nudged her friend.
"What?" Candyce giggled.
"I met a guy and he is coming to church today. I hope he is coming anyway. He said he would. Oh Candyce, he is so nice and ...."
"Would he be tall and handsome with sandy colored hair? Because if so, he is here, right over there.!" whispered Sharon, Steph's friend who sat behind her in the alto section, as she pointed to the right side of the pulpit,
"What?" said Steph, as she pushed Sharon's finger down. "Shhhh, don't say anything. Oh my goodness, how embarrassing!" Steph was afraid to look but she pretended to casually scan the congregation and saw him. She couldn't help but smile and Adam smiled back, nodding his head at her.
"Steph! You didn't tell me that you were going to start dating. Boy, if this is what you start with, I say you stop now and call it good. What a looker?" Candyce teased.
"Shhh Candyce." Steph was mortified, feeling sure that anyone watching the front of the church would see what looked like a bunch of cackling hens who had just been eyed by a big, brawny rooster.
Just then, Steph was rescued as the Pastor ascended to the pulpit to start the service. It was time to worship. Steph tried to push all thoughts of Adam out of her mind as she worshiped the Lord with her friends. As usual, tears came to her eyes at some of the lyrics but she refused to make eye contact with Adam more than a few times. She did not want to ignore him but she did not want to be distracted either.
When the worship time was over, Steph walked back along the side of the church and slid into the seat next to Adam. As the Pastor preached, Steph thought, So this is how it feels. To sit in church next to a man who was there with her was a new experience for her and it felt so right. As the pastor directed the congregation to passages of scripture, Adam turned to the pages of his bible and held it towards Steph so that she could read along with him. He leaned closer to make that easier and Steph couldn't help but look up into his face and smile, mouthing "Thank you." It was the best feeling to be thought of and cared for in such a small way. But, it is the small things that really count.
At the end of the service, there was an invitation and Steph noticed that Adam bowed his head to pray for those who might be led to come to Jesus or share their much-needed prayer requests. As they sang the closing hymn, Adam held the hymnal for her and he sang with a beautiful tenor voice.
Calm down girl. Trust the Lord and relax., she cautioned herself. Don't let your emotions carry you away. You've gotten into trouble that way before, remember... ouch! Yes, Steph did remember and never wanted to go that place again. So, she prayed and determined to thank the Lord for whatever He would do. Her job was just to be open, herself and let God do the rest.
After the service, she and Adam looked at each other, "So, lunch?" Adam asked.
"Yes, that sounds great. Did you enjoy the service Adam?"
Adam smiled, "I loved it. You were right, this church is very welcoming and I liked the pastor a lot. His teaching was great and I really liked the worship music. It was a nice combination of contemporary and gospel hymns."
Steph was gratified and she told him so. "Shall we go? You can drive and then drop me back at the church to pick up my car later, okay?"
As they were leaving, the pastor chatted with Adam for a bit while Steph waited by his side. The pastor turned to him and said, "So, you met our Steph did you? She is a real blessing to this church but you have to watch out for her, she'll make you laugh more than anyone I know."
Adam laughed and said, "Well, I love laughing so it sounds like I met the right person for the job, now didn't I Pastor?" The Pastor widened his eyes and looked at Steph and then winked. "Y'all have a nice lunch now and I hope to see you back next Sunday Adam"
"You bet Pastor. I'll be here."
As they were leaving, Steph saw someone waving out of the corner of her eye and as she turned she saw Candyce wink at her and give her the thumbs up sign. Oh Lord, my friends are crazy but I love 'em.
Adam did everything right. He opened the car door for her. When they arrived at the restaurant, he hopped out quickly and opened it again. He opened the restaurant door and walking to their table he stepped aside to let Steph walk in front and he pulled her chair out for her. He did all of this so naturally, Steph was really impressed. It sure seemed like this kind of treatment didn't exist anymore in the world today but Steph was very happy to see it and be the recipient of it. She liked what some called the "old-fashioned" ways. Instead of making her feel like a second-class citizen as the radical feminists would have called it, she felt cared for and protected.
The waitress brought their menus and they chatted a bit as they chose their meals. Adam asked her what she wanted and he ordered for her. Cha ching! More points for Adam, she thought. Once he had ordered, the talk got more personal.
"Adam, I am so glad you liked my church. I felt at home there from the first time I visited. How is it that you are looking for a church?"
Adam looked down at the table and then out the window to the beautiful mountains in the East as if to gather some strength and Steph knew she had asked what seemed like a simple question but was actually a hard one.
"Steph, I have been a Christian for most of my adult life. I was married and then my wife wanted a divorce. She had met someone new. I was devastated and I am ashamed to say that I just didn't feel like going to church. I guess I was a bit angry with God but it has been a few years now and I have felt Him drawing me back. I feel like it was a sign when I met you and you said you went to church. I am glad I met you and I do like your church. I felt at home there too."
Adam said all this while looking mostly out of the window and Steph could tell that he was not that comfortable talking about it but she was glad that he felt free to tell her.
"Adam, I am so sorry about your divorce. I can't imagine how hard that must have been for you. I have never been married but I can understand that was a great loss. But I am thankful that you are feeling hopeful and back to church. God knows how hard our lives can be and we really don't know why these things happen to us often, but I am thankful you shared that with me." Steph smiled at him and he reached out his hand to lightly touch hers.
"Thank you Steph. You know that day I met you, I liked your smile and you were so cute sitting there, obviously so excited about something. I just had to smile right back at you. I am glad I did." Steph smiled but said nothing. Her thoughts were running through her mind like a whirlwind and she didn't know what to say.
The waitress interrupted that moment when she brought their food and Adam asked, "Do you mind if we hold hands while we pray?" Steph reached out and placed her small hand into those hands she had admired months ago and it felt so right. After they had prayed and thanked God for His blessings, Steph left her hand in his for a moment, looked deeply into his bluer than blue eyes, and said,
"You know Adam, I was thinking, if I had only known that being clumsy and spilling a cup of coffee would bring you rushing to my side, I would have spilled a cup of coffee a lot sooner." Her chocolate brown eyes were moist as she said this and a comfortable silence enveloped them for a moment, and then they laughed. And, as God would have it, they laughed together for the rest of their lives.