Seeing God with the windows down and Mariah Carey on the car radio

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I’ll tell you my story about the time I saw God. But first, let me tell you about Women’s Night.

I have an extraordinary aunt, Tilde, my father’s sister. She and her great friend Dawn, who is as much a part of our family as any blood relative, used to host a dinner for the women of the family at Christmas every year.

Ours is a big family. There are easily more than 20 women just in the same town. They called the dinner Women’s Night.

Women’s Night was designed as a break from the frenzy of the holidays, without husbands or fathers or sons. The only purpose was to bond with one another and have fun, like a sleepover without the pillow fights or the sleeping and with way better food.

It was part therapy session and part holiday celebration. After dinner we would sit around a circle and they would invite us to share something about our lives and ourselves.

Usually we were given an assignment in advance. Each year the challenge was different. “Tell us about your happiest memory from childhood.” “What’s the bravest thing you ever did?” “What new thing did you learn about yourself this year?”

The walls we all build around ourselves and the secrets we keep, even from those closest to us, would dissolve on this one night each year. It was scary and hard. It was often hilarious. I don’t think I ever left a Women’s Night without having cried…a lot…and laughed even more. We connected in a way that is rare and beautiful, even magical.

It was their gift to us.

So back to that time I saw God. One year, at Women’s Night we were asked to recount a moment from any time in our lives when we felt the presence of God. (You know, nothing too heavy.)

For me, choosing the moment was easy. I remembered it because as it was happening, I actually thought, “God is here right now. He wants to play and laugh and make his presence known. And so he is.”

Here’s the story I recounted.

I had just picked up my twins from their last day of preschool before Christmas break. They were still high from the holiday party, the gift exchange and all the sweets when Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas” came on the car radio.

“Turn it up mommy!” Hannah squealed. “Put the windows down mommy!” We had a habit of rolling down the windows and turning up the radio when a great song came on. It was our little bit of wildness.

Their school was located in the heart of our idyllic little downtown in Winter Park, Florida, a place so perfect it looks like it was conjured up from a dream.

With Mariah blaring and while stopped at a traffic light, Hannah yelled “Merry Christmas!” to a construction worker. He turned, smiled at her and shouted it back. And then another guy working alongside him did the same.

Squealing with delight, she shouted “Merry Christmas!” to an older lady walking her dog who looked up, waved and shouted back “Merry Christmas!” Peels of laughter rang out from the back seat.

“Hello there!” she yelled and waved to anyone within earshot. “Hello!” they responded, returning her bright smile.

I just want you for my own. More than you could ever know. Make my dreams come true…all I want for Christmas…

“Merry Christmas!” she shouted to a jogger and then to a guy riding a bike. Then to a group of men. Each one caught by surprise, turned to us, smiled and shouted back “Merry Christmas!”

“Merry Christmas Mr. Postman!” she yelled as we turned into our neighborhood. Jake just giggled and whooped, delighting in his sister’s uninhibited joy. There we were, our own Christmas carol, dashing through streets laughing all the way. It was magical. Spontaneous. Real. Wondrous.

Baby all I want for Christmas is you…

By the time we pulled onto our street, I had tears in my eyes.

I looked in the review mirror at the face of pure joy…my wonderful girl, who in that moment felt nothing but unabashed love for everything and everyone…with the wind blowing her hair…the music filling the car…connecting with complete strangers in sheer happiness for a single perfect moment and then another and another.

I remember thinking that God simply decided to dissolve the walls and the secrets…and fully show his face on that beautiful day through that beautiful girl.

Merry Christmas.

December 24, 2016