Answers to a Single Moma’s Prayers

Care giving – we all do this, children, mothering, families, aging relatives, on the job, friendships, body of Christ community.  He has built this into me.

I used to take care of the grandmothers of my family (my own and my ex’s), including my ex’s own mother during her surgeries and illnesses, while  homeschooling my children – around his military career.  A talent God doesn’t want hidden I guess.  People say it takes a “special” person to “do elder care”, or to “home school.”  I think I just love home, family and the life-giving heart of home, the center of our lives is Christ, but this is where hearts and lives are built, prepared, launched, comforted.  (So “they” think I’m “special?” Really Lord? I’m not so sure about that).  It’s a choice, I think, to have the patience and love, so necessary in taking care of people – every day people, special needs, sick, whole, or not ~ elders, youth, or children, mine or others.  I think of my own grandmother, and mother-in-law – I used to be their “care-giver”.  Help of the heart and hands, something I offered out of love.  I find myself still reeling at times after the rejection the divorce has caused, the breach in a relationship that was nearly 30 years long and now not communicating at all, to respect “boundaries”.  This “talent” if you will, this gift of “care-giving” has become a (strange to me) way to begin again – to have value, perhaps even to earn a living, perhaps to get “continued training” in “elder care” – a field desperately in need of Godly, loving care givers.  Which is really ~ so strange to my heart ~ after such an unwanted and painful divorce.  Unusual really how the painful past caused the current “position” to be so very bittersweet.  Is this “beauty from ashes”?

After all, as a single mom with single mom Christian women-in-ministry friends urging me on, to grow, take care of “me”, get stable – there I was, back in corporate America (longing for home and wondering when I would EVER get back to whatever “normal” is, should be, or was), missing my flexible schedule, serving in my church and in our community, and substitute teaching in our local school’s classes (I love the teens, I can relate best with them).   Yet I know I’m “called” to NATIONS, to youth… so “corporate America?” again.  **Sigh**  Thankful though, for the fancy new job, WITH benefits that I desperately needed, in an elegant, recently remodeled new office, wonderful boss, great interviews (plural) who encouraged me and built up my confidence so much.  So much hope for new beginnings, a more liberal budget, a new place to live, and new adventure in training for a wonderful new opportunity to be an office manager, a company I could grow with and a boy moving forward in high school.  Can I juggle all of this (more blogging that caused!) I charged in with a can-do (former military spouse) attitude, that actually really seemed to overwhelm the manager I was to assist, bless her heart! (life lessons learned, more on that one later).

Fast forward two months (was it only that) and “Dream Job” gone – very sick asthmatic son not getting better, but rather worse ~ needing a full-time Moma.  Choices, choices – his best friend’s Mom offering to step in and do “the Mom part” or do I go back to “hands on parenting” myself?  Then letting go of the “new house” we had planned on taking, and “stuck” (really Lord?) in a lower-income apartment, trying to budget better and care for a very sick teen son ~ whose absences have also caused failing grades.  Where in the world do we go from here? and how to hold on to hope and a positive, victorious attitude in the midst of so much resistance to the “rebuilding process” of our lives.  What kind of “position” can I have now, Lord, that is close to home and will allow me to care for this special kid, to get him better and still pay at least the basic bills?

The answer involved hearing “Wait.”  Okay Lord, I’m waiting… and you see these bills piling up, right?  The bank has been very patient, but that “red” hole in my bank account is growing alarmingly deeper.  WAIT.  And “trust Me.”  Ouch.  What other choice do I have?  I remember what happened to cause me to lose my trust, in men, in people, in the Body of Christ, and sorry Lord ~ but even in You.  I too remember the promises You gave about restoring my ability to “trust” and to TRUST YOU.  I realize, I can wait in panic, or peace.  I choose peace, and rest – and work on my own apartment, trying to restore order after several months of running in and out.

After all of that waiting, an unexpected “offer” came through a friend of a friend, a dear friend that knew our need and knew of another of her friends’ in need – and put us together, in a way that is only God, and an amazingly specific answer to those heart-felt cries.

Weirdly enough, I’m enjoying being a homemaker again; however, doing “home” for someone else’s family, outside of my own family has seemed VERY odd, very strange indeed… and yes, painful and peaceful at the same time.  This must have been what you meant when you spoke, Lord, about the widow’s “oil” and use what you have in your hands (not my typing skills?). :-)

As I tend to “my lady’s” housekeeping, be her companion, keep her company, read out loud to one another and pray together, as we cook together, as I learn what she likes and doesn’t like for her meals (I remember the YUK of my kids, somehow this time it’s a LOT more humbling, at my age, to hear from an elder who didn’t like how or what I prepared for THAT particular dish or meal, picking at her food, and shoving it off to the side of the plate, to give to her little (very overweight) dog after the dishes are cleared).  So I got out the cookbooks, recipes and magazines  – and after a few more weeks of meal prep, after a few weeks of reading and letting her choose, I have a measure of success.  {Was I prideful about cooking or being a homemaker Lord, and You thought I needed a new lesson in humility?  Ouch!}

Learning about “my lady”, her life, who she has been and who she is now, as she struggles with memory loss that at times greatly impairs daily life, discovering her eating habits, seeking understanding about her medical and lung care, in cooperation with the PTs, visiting nurses, and her family physician (who also happens to be ours), so I can know how to best care for this precious woman of God.   (How protective I’ve gotten over her, with my Lion Hearted self, in seeking what works best for her skin care needs, as elder skin tears so easily).

God is so good to me ~ I DO get time to rest (okay, most days!) When I’m done with household duties and taking care of “my lady”.  When she’s napping, I too can rest, pray, or be creative on a favorite dessert of hers and my son’s, bake again, contemplate learning to quilt (one of her best past-times, as I see piles and piles of exquisite fabric art called quilts she has created for her family, in her past quilting) and so we talk.  You Lord have provided perspective that I desperately needed, in one of THE most stress-filled periods of my own life.  In meeting someone else’s overwhelming needs, it’s brought ours into balance…and you’ve given me the gift of having more time to pray (that was not happening in corporate America)… AND amazingly enough I can even take my youngest son, a teen that doesn’t need to be staying home alone in small town America during the summer, WITH me.  Oh yes, AND our pup too.  Where else could one have an offer like that?  I think I would volunteer for this, even on my back-aching, super tired days.

“My lady’s” home is on 160 acres…her dear family lives on property near-by, this is their inheritance, a family business and all this land, with exceptional views of the sunrise, sunset, clouds, horizon, pastures and highways, rolling hills full of trees, and criss-crossed fencing.  We live in an area that is farm land, people raise beef cattle here, lots of dirt roads & wide open country.   Delicious rolling, multi-green hills, red barns, cows mooing, donkeys guarding their “herds” – oh the donkeys are SO funny.

And the laughs over that one lone(ly?) donkey that has gotten loose from its owner, walks up and down the gravel road longing to get in the nearby pastures with the rest of the donkey families around, and has decided the bird bath in “my lady’s” yard is its own personal water trough.  I think the birds are a bit frustrated when he drinks it all up, so we keep it filled when it’s not been raining enough.

My bosses, her sons, and their families are and have been extremely gracious to me and my son, offering not only pay, but community, fellowship, laughter and help, in ways that I had forgotten I needed, vehicle repairs, financial counsel & wisdom, groceries as I cook “family style” and we share meals, and so on – in “trade” for my help, our help.   An enveloping almost, of us, into them.  There is no way to describe my grateful heart at their kindess; and yet it brings with it such a strange sense of panic, a de ja vue even ~ tentatively joining in with their gregarious, joyful large family – after losing one of my own, my ex’s I should say.  Divorce causes such strange, deep emotions and wounds, at so many levels.  This is like peeling that onion, one layer of pain coming off at a time.  And so I partcipate, then pull back and watch, and get overwhelmed often.  I will need my “Jesus alone with Father” time quite often, still, I think to process all these new and wonderful people, blessings, changes.  We are healing, and it seems to be a long process.

Their youngest son, is a youth sponsor to my (youngest) son… how good is God, how detailed He is over our lives.  So during “boring” times, my son can go work with his youth sponsor at the family shop, play video games at “his and his wife’s” home…the goodness of God is indescribable and Cordell has  another male friend to bond with and laugh with, to connect with around Christ.  God given, continued building in relationship with a precious young Christian man, newly building his own home and family, who has a heart for teens, for youth.  Kids like mine.  Tender mercies indeed.

Forgive me – but “rabbit trail” ~ Funny story about that stray male donkey, the one that got loose.  Our pup Tia chased him (poor thing) and tried to herd him (donkeys are for protecting the herd against coyotes and wolves, so she doesn’t yet understand how he sees her as a threat) – she’s part Australian Shepherd, only eight months old and we currently live in an apartment, so her herding instincts, which we haven’t seen until now, are coming out full force.)  She is THE fastest running dog I’ve seen, outside the sheepdog trials I watched as a kid, at the county fairs my grandpa took me too.  I AM impressed at how she LOVES speed, LOVES to run, ears flying, feathered tail like a flag waving in straight wind.  Tia trying to herd the donkey ~ now THAT was a LAUGH OUT LOUD moment, Tia chasing the donkey back down the driveway, off the property – it was running, kicking and braying the whole way – until they reached a stand-off at the end of the road…and he REFUSED to allow her to run him any further.  Odd, joy filled moments!  Strange, indeed.

Reminds me of summers visiting my grandparent’s dairy farm in Northern Missouri… strange, all the memories that have come floating back these past weeks of this new “position.”  Visiting my maternal grandparents during summers was a priviledge I begged for – I loved their farming life and they let me “help”.  Help with the milking at 5am and 5pm (well mostly the gathering the cows in for the milking and feeding calves), haying, summer time local fairs, blue ribbons, the ferris wheel, being a long, blond haired, painfully shy teen, loving the local ice cream place and “Aunt” Edna’s freezes – YUM.  Horse back rides – hanging on for dear life, my long hair flying, going with Grandpa as he took cattle to auction and saying goodbye to my favorite baby calves :-( and helping my grandmother in her garden:  harvesting and canning and putting up “gel” as my grandma called it.  Fresh-from-the-cow milk in the mornings and cream too (wondered why I came home every summer nearly 10 lbs heavier, oh my goodness), long walks as a teen in rolling green pastures, by the ponds, watching my uncles frog hunt (gross), wondering about God and life and my future…peaceful times, healing times, seeking / questioning times.

Back to life today:  I’m not sure about what to call this “elder care” position.  Seems to be more of a “calling”, a ministry, of hands and heart, serving His body – like Mary pouring out her “wages”, her alabaster oil, on the actual Body of Christ.  What a privilege it is to take care of HIS dear ones.  Peter’s call was to “take care of My sheep, feed My sheep, tend My lambs.”  Yes, Lord.  I know folks don’t understand why I’m not out seeking a career and security in corporate America (I don’t think it’s really there, to be honest), and I heard Holy Spirit say, “DON’T focus on your career right now, focus on raising this last one home, pouring into HIM.”  My pastor confirmed that in a special way, without us having to have talked it out… ~ and, since I did pray before accepting this new “assignment” from the Lord, and “offer” from the family, I have an assurance He is in this.  ~ Understanding the committment I was making to this “new to me”, precious family to assist in caring for THEIR very much loved, widowed Mom at such a vulnerable time of her life caused me to nearly waver.  I walk in wonder daily at what He is doing in each of us involved.  What a level of trust ~ taking care of somebody else’s beloved mother.  Help Lord! Help me do this with my whole heart, Lord or better yet – Your heart, and gentle, loving kindnesses.

Their family history is incredible; as she shares, I feel a bit of an interloper.  When she opens all of her painstakingly put together memory albums ~ sharing newspaper clippings, photos, articles, hand written stories, hand-made quilts, family photos, I realize what a Godly heritage they’ve had, for nearly four generations (perhaps longer).  What unexpected pain it has brought to my own heart, in reminding me of what I do not have, and cannot change or give my children.  Is this You really Lord, this bit of “caregiving for them” that seems to be bringing up such torturous grief?  Wow.  I’m not really sure I understand Your ways, after all.  I sense mercy in the midst of the mess, though.  She is such a thankful woman; they’ve certainly had their share of suffering, tragic loss, and unexpected deaths.  I make a conscious choice to not live in regret, nothing I can change about the past; but learn to “start from here” and be thankful for forward, for my role in developing Godly heritage for my own children and grandchildren, as I pray over them all daily.

Her grateful heart is mending mine.  I love to hear her prayers, prayers built on nearly 80 years of being a Christian.  She will be 91 later this year.  “My lady” is an amazing, pure hearted, blessed, grateful woman that never complains, witty, sharp-minded, and full of ornery humor.  And she NEVER tires of sharing how good God has been to her.  That may be THE reason for this placement, huh, Lord?  To learn to be THAT thankful, to find my laugh again ~ in spite of tragedy, of mind-numbing loss.

Oh and the new pup Tia, well, SHE loves to run on the farm, chasing the donkeys – especially the stray one that comes in the yard.  She daily tries to figure out how to get under the fence, and IN the pasture with the cattle, her longing is to be “herding” and “shepherd.”  I think I can relate.  She is black and white, part Australian Shepherd and part King Charles Spaniel – such a pretty girl.  Another restoration moment.   I “lost” our pup, my son’s dog that his sister gave him when he was six (“a boy needs a dog, and you live in the country” – he named her himself, as he did this one).  When the divorce first happened, I couldn’t find a place that I could afford – and that would allow us to have her, so his Dad took her and this little boy’s dog suddenly lived across state lines.  That same girl dog is getting old now, but she seemed to still remember me during a summer-time visit / switch.  I loved her, and missed her so much then, the same dog that used to sit at my feet daily, and wait for her “masters” to get home.

God restores in such unusual ways – this girl pup came through a local friend, that knew of a family that needed a home for their last puppy from an unexpected “free puppy litter”.  I had been praying for this, for another dog, but just the right size as a present for my youngest still-at-home son.  She was born right before Christmas, we got her at about 5-6 weeks old.  The family delivered her to us, SURPRISE ~ and she was so tiny.  Tia is loyal, protective, and growing into the most beautiful, intelligent, hilarious, energetic companion.  What a gift she’s been, and she loves me too – she sits at my feet, wherever I’m at…she wants to be there.  I didn’t realize how much I missed a canine companion.  And on the property, the pup doesn’t chase the birds because there are bigger things to discover!

The birds are beautiful, causing “my lady” to sing hymns she remembers from her past church attendance, as she is an avid bird watcher.  “His Eye Is On The Sparrow” is one of her favorites…”and I know He watches me…” she sings and smiles.  She has bird baths that we keep filled, seed feeders, hummingbird feeders, several trees and flower beds which are perfect for nesting.  What a beautiful setting.  Such a wonderful surprise at this time in our lives, in my life, after so much heart-break, weariness, and current Mom stress over a son with such serious needs – physically, emotionally, medically, academically; such tender care of God over us all.

In fact, we’ve had wonderful impromptu times for spending the night (after getting to know the family and “my lady” better), when the next day isn’t as demanding – enjoying her company, slowing things down to her speed, watching TV together, enjoying a late night snack or eating dessert first before the meal (shhh – don’t tell).  Waking up in time for coffee on the porch, watching the hummingbirds feed, and watching the sunrise, the fog lifting over the rolling green hills, hearing the soft lowing of the local cattle.

I – think – I – can – breathe – again.

I forgot how much I missed this kind of life, so far away from city noises, traffic, rush hour, high stress / high finance / perfect business dress kinds of jobs, the competitiveness in and around corporate positions (although I’ve had some wonderful bosses)… thank you Jesus.  Is this just temporary?  Can I have this again?  Okay, don’t let me “go there.”  Help me to just be thankful, day by day.

This family, this current calling, is also a God-provided answer to this single Moma’s heart cry/prayer ~ a way for me to do SOMETHING locally, try to finish getting out of debt a little tiny piece at a time, tend to my son’s medical and physical needs, (he still needs our prayers.)  And evidently we were an answer to theirs.  Father is good like that, isn’t He?

As for this youngest son, the CT scan of his sinus’ revealed some blockage on both the right & left sides, but the right side is much more significant.  After this second round of antibiotics, his doctor will do another CT scan.  If the “blockage” isn’t gone (because perhaps the signficantly large BUMP that showed up could be more swelling from infection, or mucus collected from so many ongoing infections), then she’ll recommend us to an ENT  (Ear, Nose, Throat Specialist)… for opinion.  Worse case scenario, would be surgery to remove a cyst or polyp (sp?) (or two) – in one or both passages.  Of course, praying and of course, we’d like anything that needs to be healed, to be healed – and not have to go into nasal surgery…  :-)  Of course, my boy would say – “no surgeries on my face, okay Mom?…if we don’t have too, okay?”  Okay dearest.  I get that.  Everything else but.  Will do.  You heard that right Jesus?  So we ask the Saints at church for continued prayers, for continued healing (of all kinds, not just sinus).  Do I have a teen in a bit of denial?  He’s had to lay down to much of his own dreams to begin to heal (basketball for one)…  Redirect him Lord, direct him, into Your plans for his future.  Give him healing AND hope.

Amazing His touch.  His Mending. I just get the sense from Father this is a time of re-establishing walls of protection around us… a time of mending broken things, broken hearts, broken down boundaries, broken places of protection…. Rebuilding… US, while we’re caring for another of His own. His heart for widows and orphans seems so evident in this current “assignment.” ~ for her, for us. Thank you Lord, SO much.

When this stage of life is done, whenever that will be – for me as a single mother, for the widow I care for – as I watch her prepare for her homegoing, and we pray for her sons, who have relied on her and will miss her terribly… as I see her get lost in past memories, but struggle with remembering a present moment ~ I realize the gift of our lives, still. Again.

Life won’t always be this hard, challenging, painful, will it, Lord?  Or maybe so – on THIS earth – after all, it’s not really our home.  I think there will be a THEN moment, a “then” we can now move forward, singing with HIS victory, amazed really At HIS  Grace”…even here and now.

(Have you seen the movie Amazing Grace about William Wilberforce?… we re-watched it recently…)   This movie is one of my all time favorites.  It really speaks to my heart, the victory at the end, and the struggle he went through to really stand for his beliefs, his convictions that came from God.  It wasn’t easy, it took his life at the end, and his whole life in the process.  And changed lives.

A strong reminder to me of doing what is in my heart, of taking time for the important, keeping my priorities straight, and standing firm – even in the face of well meaning friends that didn’t hear what Father told me.  Making sure I’m true to what Father has placed in MY heart, for HIS purposes and plans, for my lady, her family, for my own family who is all spread out now – the older ones that I miss, that live out of state, grandkids I see once a year, and can’t get to because of high gas prices and a single Mom’s budget – so I pray, write, send packages, and cry…and this last one home to help fly.  HIS priorities.

I know this season is a reminder, too, of being Loved, and loving with HIS heart, again.