P.S. Can I get a hug, too?

The P.S. series includes behind-the-scenes insights and closing thoughts on each feature piece — the good stuff that didn’t quite fit into the final story. Click here to read “The Hug Doctor.”

There’s something pretty special about firsts. Which is probably why I almost broke down crying when I finally finished writing Rachel Sawyerr’s story, “The Hug Doctor,” my very first piece for Project Surplus. Emotion feels totally appropriate for a ‘first' that was two years in the making.

When Project Surplus was just an idea, I prayed that the Lord would bring me the people to write about. I remember my days as a news reporter, trying to track down stories and convince/cajole/plead with people to talk to me. Not everyone wants to talk to reporters, so persuasion was a big part of my job. I strongly disliked it, and I didn’t want to do that with this project. Soon after that prayer, my husband came home from an event and told me he’d sat next to a woman from church named Rachel, and that I needed to hear her story. My interest was piqued and I contacted Rachel to explain my idea. At this point, I knew very little about her other than that she was an usher and choir member at church and seemed to really like to hug people. She was fully on-board, and agreed to be my first story.

Rachel and I met up and spent half a day together on a Tuesday in April, driving around the north side of Chicago as I accompanied her on one of her ministry visits. We were so busy talking, we even got lost once or twice. I was blown away by her openness in sharing her story, so long as God could get the glory. She exudes the warmth and wisdom of your favorite grandmother, with a tough-as-nails fearlessness that will make you wonder if you’re the one playing it too safe. She is one of the most loving, kingdom-minded people I’ve ever met.

I came home so overjoyed to write her story, I couldn’t get to the computer fast enough. Then, life got a little busier. Weeks turned into months. I started this crazy radio job, and just like that, a year and a half passed. Though Rachel’s story was still fresh in my heart, it was only half-written in a word doc. I was stuck and became plagued with the self-imposed guilt you feel when you haven’t been as on-the-ball as you should have been. I started to wonder if I’d ever finish writing Rachel’s story and get Project Surplus off the ground.

After a followup interview with Rachel, many hours writing and re-writing the final piece, and a quick photo shoot with the super-talented Anthony Frank Peter, it was done. Project Surplus was finally on its way to completion. It was a milestone moment and I am thrilled to introduce you to Rachel.

Not long after, I was at church on a Sunday and my eyes locked on Rachel during worship as she stood in the front row of the choir. The band was playing an upbeat song and you could see the joy in her face, as she swayed, worshiped, and danced to the music. I couldn’t help but to smile. When you know someone’s story, how they’ve been delivered and set free, it changes you. It expands what you believe about God and what’s possible through His power.

Thanks, Rachel. I couldn’t have asked for a better first.