When I was a young child and enduring life storms, Judy's home was my safe haven. I felt I belonged there. I was an only child of divorced parents, and Judy's middle daughter was (and still is) my friend. I went to Judy's house to play but also to find shelter from my storms. One of my most vivid memories is of walking into her kitchen and peering up onto the counters to see brown bread cooling on wooden racks. I peered up onto the counters. I was young enough to peer up. I eventually caught on that Judy didn't have legs, but I never caught on to what a storm that must have been to raise three girls, without legs to carry you. I didn't catch on until I was much older. I played on her wheelchair and watched her climb stairs by the strength of her arms, and of course I was amazed. It was amazing. But I never wondered how she managed to bathe her babies and catch runaway toddlers and grocery shop.
I just knew her home was my safe place, and her cinnamon bread was the best in the world.
The funny thing is that even though I didn't really catch on to Judy's struggles, I clearly remember her as the one who taught me to see people not as their brokenness defined them but as Jesus did: full of perfect gifts the world desperately needs.
She often took us to Green Pastures, a loving home for children with disabilities, where we befriended children just like us. At least that's what we learned from our visits--that no matter how severe their disabilities, there were always ways we could connect. We never thought of our visits as charity, because we we knew they were more like gift exchanges! We shared our gifts, and they shared theirs: gifts of hugs, stories, laughter... .
Being in Judy's home was no gift exchange, though. She gave, and I received. She gave me bread and Jesus and a place to dance as my storms raged on.
A few weeks ago I once again entered Judy's home. It's not the same home, but it's still her home. It's still a safe haven and bread heaven. And I photographed Judy and her grandchildren (my friend's children). I watched her love and give from that same place in her heart that changed my life almost 30 years ago.
And at the end of our photo session, she sent me home with a loaf of homemade bread.
And now I imagine you want to know more about Judy, because...well...she's amazing. Her website is a great place to start: judysquier.com. There you can find her books and her blog.
If you do listen, I'd love to hear what you think!