I recently attended a retreat for the organization, Family Talk, with James Dobson. I made many new friends. I met Rebecca Hagelin, a writer for the Washington Times and one of the most down to earth women I’ve encountered, Congressman Bob McEwen from Ohio, Pastor Greg Laurie who spoke about the heartbreak of losing his son several years ago in a car accident, and a lovely lady named Judy.
Her face stands out the most to me. Judy is sixty-something, has shoulder length silver hair and wore funky-chunky necklaces each morning. She has perfect skin, a warm smile and every morning I greeted her, she reached out for a hug. I complied each time, of course, because she was one of those folks who is fun to hug because she really wants one.
Judy Squier wrote a book called His Majesty in Brokenness(judysquier.com) recently, and I gobbled the book up on the plane ride home. I can’t remember the last time I was so eager to read one as I was when Judy gave me hers. After spending a weekend with this lovely woman I was dying to know what really made her tick. She knew something that I wanted to know; mainly—how she could be so happy.
Now I meet nice, kind folks and sweet women frequently, but there was a chilling honesty to Judy that captivated me. Somehow I could tell that what made her so genuine was a tough life. Judy was born without legs. No thighs or lower legs, just two stumps at the end of her torso with one small foot attached.
The first morning of the retreat, I was wolfing down a buffet breakfast and sharing a quiet moment with my husband when up whizzed Judy in her wheelchair. She plunked her plate right next to mine and chirped, “Good Morning! I’m Judy.” The chatter didn’t center on her. It centered around my husband and me, oddly enough. That’s because each time I asked Judy a question, she somehow answered in a way that brought the conversation back to us. I’ve learned that this is a knack that many humble people possess. They would rather find out about you than talk about themselves.
After a day or so, I got Judy to talk to me about her life. I won’t spoil her story with details; I would simply point you to her autobiography cited above. She was born to a pastor and his wife and she had an older, beautiful sister growing up. Her father was her best fan and each morning before he left for work, he suited her up in her prosthetic legs and feet for the day. She lived a lonely life vicariously through the adventures of her older sister. Peculiarly, I never sensed from her book or our conversation that she felt sorry for herself.
She grew up to marry a childhood friend, and I watched this same man hold her hand like a high school sweetheart throughout the conference weekend. She bore three daughters and her book shows a photo of her falling down and her girls hoisting her back onto her “feet.” Later in life, Judy took a group of fellow physically impaired folks on a tour of Asia with her quadriplegic friend Joni Eareckson Tada. I don’t know about you, but I’m not nice enough to do something like that.
Before the weekend was over I asked for her secret. “So how do you do it?” I shyly queried. “I mean, you seem so happy.”
“That’s easy,” she said. “Jesus. God is so good to me, so how can I not be happy?”
She looked at me as though she was puzzled by my question. She didn’t elaborate or preach anything else. She said those two things. “Jesus, “ and “God is so good to me,” in a manner that meant I was to figure out the rest.
That was the beauty of meeting Judy. Her faith wasn’t something that she felt, preached, boasted about, or said simply to make me think differently about her. It defined her. She and Jesus were part of each other. She was neither embarrassed nor obnoxious and simply stated that her joy came because the God of the universe looks down each day and loves her, like she’s the only woman on planet earth.
I don’t know about you, but that seems to be a pretty great way to live. If it works for Judy, it will work for the rest of us.