She wears pink sweaters in the winter and her blue eyes follow her lips into a mischievous smile. Too many wrinkles etch across her face, but her blond hair betrays youth. Her name was Elaina. I always thought she was beautiful. I only hoped that one day I would ask her how she was and she would say, “I am strong.” Instead, it was the endless saga of illness—body and mind. Sometimes I didn’t even want to ask, because I didn’t want to get her started. She had a dictionary’s worth of medical terms to explain exactly what was racking her thin body. Perhaps what she didn’t know was how illness can creep into one’s mind, saturating it with fear. Mystery intruders poisoning her food. Neighborhood boys stalking her property. Doctors refusing to treat her. I struggled to sort reality from illusion, listening from agreeing. On my good days, I sat on the couch with Elaina. And when my heart was distant, I walked past her. Elaina went through a really troubling time when fear consumed her and she was unable to sleep at night. She lives alone in a rural area. Her paranoia drove her to sit up and watch her home for hours on end.
Despite the worry and exhaustion under her eyes, she still came in to volunteer every Thursday. She started as a volunteer in the Transformation Station to “barter her time” for a stove and later a car. After arriving, she would join me in the kitchen and make hot cocoa for herself. She didn’t like how I made it. Then, sitting as close as possible to the wood stove, she stuffed envelopes slowly because she kept her gloves on. I remember one afternoon clearly. Elaina had finished her volunteer tasks and was lying with her head resting on the arm of our well-used couch. Her bright eyes were closed. She was sleeping! Resting. At peace. I felt a strange and wondrous sense of fulfillment in seeing her in such childlike abandon. I knew that she felt safe here, at home. She could close her eyes and stop looking over her shoulder, because she trusted us. I desire for our community to experience this deep resting and abiding in Jesus’ love that overflows, freeing us and others from fear. May we, and Elaina, find a home.
– Dawn Tobin