‘Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’ — Isaiah 41:10
My friend Jane took me to get a pedicure at a beauty school in St. Paul. They bill it as a “spa salon feel” school, but I had doubts as we walked up to the building.
It was in an old, mostly empty strip mall in a sketchy part of town, with an Islamic Center to the south and near an alley behind a liquor store. It shared an entry door with a nameless thrift store.
Inside wasn’t much better, A little wedge of less-than-prime real estate, the walls were scuffed, chairs were dingy, the flooring worn. No curtains hung in the window and no fresh flowers or complementary coffee awaited us. The air was close and still.
This is a spa salon? I would have left if I had not been there with Jane. A curious sign behind the check-in desk said: “Ask if you need prayer.”
Mimi did Shaina’s nails while another student (a woman not much younger than me) held her hand, rubbing her fingers and telling her how very beautiful and special she was, and soothing her when she fussed about getting her nails trimmed.
We exchanged pleasantries for a great long while about the weather and the endless assortment of polish selections and then she began to dig deep below my skin.
She asked about Shaina’s heart surgery scar, how difficult it was to take care of her, and how I got rest and rejuvenation. She asked if Shaina had ever wandered away and I told her the miracle of the most terrifying and obviously God-directed afternoon of my life in all its pain and triumph.
She noted my surgical scars, and began to ask about cancer and whether I was fearful. I answered her with scripture (Isaiah 41:10) and she told me how amazing our story was. And she prayed for us.
After awhile, I steered the conversation back to pleasantries, too emotionally drawn to allow another layer of my deepest feelings to be pulled off, and was almost relieved when I was called back for my pedicure.
Haley did my pedicure. She was very willing to share some of her story with little prompting. Three years ago, she left behind broken family relationships and the craziness of Chicago and moved to Winnipeg, coming to St. Paul just recently. “I needed a change and I love the gentleness of this city,” she said. “I wanted a fresh start and this school will bring me good things.”
Haley became lost in her own thoughts as she rubbed a soothing, fragrant oil onto my feet, quietly humming with the radio. “I sing for joy at the work of Your hands… Nothing compares to the promise I have in you.”
It was only as I stopped to leave tips for Haley and Mimi that I noticed the very small sign on the entry counter. “God is at work here.”
This was, most definitely, Holy Ground.