Can I tell you a story?
Will you bear with me as I fumble with the words, struggle to share what needs to be told, not just this story but the story of so many others, so many others in many different situations who may be waiting for you. Maybe waiting to become part of your story.
Some time over a year ago my heart began aching for the orphans of the world, for children lost or abandoned, children in need of loving arms and a safe place to stay. I prayed. I blogged. I did my best to find what role God intended for our family to play in the ocean of need that exists in this broken world. He answered in unexpected ways, bringing an infant and a toddler into our lives as caregivers while their mother puts the pieces of her life together after losing her husband. We are blessed to be a part of their story and to know all three of these precious souls.
This story is still being written, it is unique and unusual and yet it is, in essence, the same story shared by many others. We are in a unique situation but perhaps something about our journey will speak to you, will move you, will give you pause to consider what God might be calling you to do. I tell it for that reason only. There are details I will change and parts I must leave out but I will strive to keep true to what is. Please, don’t make our little piece of the greater picture into more than it is. It is simply putting into action what God calls us to do, and nothing more. We are hard-headed and often hard-hearted and God, knowing this, placed His will directly in our path in a way we could not deny. If I have learned one thing from this experience it is this: When you give love, you gain as much as you give.
The Thanksgiving feast is almost over, traces of wine in crystal glasses line the counter by the sink, dishes stacked high that I vow not to think about until morning teeter precariously and roasting pans are soaking and the turkey is safe in the fridge. We are sitting together amid crumbs of pie crust, wilting whipped cream, chairs pushed back from the table. We are in that place where we continue to sip lukewarm coffee because we are enjoying the conversation and it might end if the cups are collected and the crumbs swept away.
That’s when she brings up the situation. Hubby’s sweet aunt has befriended a woman ten years younger than I, a sweet lady who I last saw four months ago with her then nine month old son, a strong soul whose second son swelled six months along as we sat and talked that summer afternoon. I’d met J perhaps twice before, at Hubby’s aunt’s house, and marveled at the strength of her soul. Her husband was sick, fighting for his life. Cancer is an evil thing, an unfair adversary for a couple so young to be facing. In all honesty I could not imagine what she was going through…did not want to imagine it. I offered whatever help I could give, but did not hear from her. I was, after all, little more than a stranger.
Hubby’s aunt now tells me she has heard that J’s husband is in the hospital, and it does not look promising. That their new baby is suffering colic and reflux, has been in the hospital and is now in crisis care, his mother so burdened by caring for her husband and Baby’s thirteen month old brother that she can’t care for him. Hubby and I look over the table at each other and know: this is something we know how to do. Eldest’s infant-days were plagued by these two woes and we have done this, we can use what we learned from those days for good and God always gives us that opportunity. He works all things for good for those who love Him, who are called to serve His purpose.
We offer help, finally connect. Yes, she says when we speak on the phone. There are hospital noises in the background and I hear the strain of too many late nights, too many moments of hope crashing to the floor with each new problem arising, each step forward brings two sliding back. My voice breaks and I speak softly and wonder what on earth I can offer that will help, short of love and prayers. It is and it isn’t enough.
After hanging up the phone I walk down to our basement, looking for boxes of baby items I remember storing. How quickly eight years have passed! Youngest was an infant just yesterday. Youngest’s infancy was a hundred years ago. The boxes are mostly gone, passed down to others with new babies who have grown and are now in grade school. Have I really gotten so far removed from babyhood? I loved every moment of it and carry it with me, in my heart it all happened just a few short months ago. In my basement, it happened long enough ago that I find I have very little left to offer.
I make phone calls. The first of the many blessings of having a beautiful church family happens, and in a matter of days I have more than enough baby items sitting in my living room. A sweet sister in Christ brings over a tub of clothes, blankets, baby wipes. A bassinet. Another friend brings a swing, toys for the Toddler. Hubby’s aunt brings baby gates. I look around and feel blessed, loved. I realize that we don’t have as much space here as I thought we did. Things are arranged and re-arranged and we walk nervously around and pace a bit and we realize how long, how really long it has been since we cared for an infant. We are nervous and we are excited and we feel the grip of the unknown, that we are embarking on a journey that only God knows the end of and we realize that yes, that is how it’s going to work and yes, that is where we need to be, what we need to embrace.
The phone call comes at eight o’clock on a Saturday morning. I dress quickly, kiss Hubby, pray with him. The morning is gray and cold, there are points of white snow drifting lazily down in a not very serious way. It is a silly, average, regular morning. It doesn’t seem like someone’s husband could be fighting for his life, that a young woman could be fighting on her own for balance, for hope, for respite from the terrible burden of caring for everyone in her life and needing so desperately to be cared for herself. It doesn’t seem real that I am picking up an infant to care for, that she is trusting me to take this precious burden, this beautiful child, to care for him while she cannot. I should be bringing her a baby gift, dinner in Tupperware containers to be eaten late at night with her husband, when both babies are finally asleep and they have a moment together. The feeling of un-realness somehow makes everything sharper, makes me see things in greater detail.
I find her apartment, hold her a moment, tears falling. Baby is in his car seat, ready. He is tiny…so impossibly small. I have forgotten how small four weeks is, I am floored by how much I have forgotten. I have a bag full of diapers, medication. I have insurance cards and a medical release and bottles and formula. We strap the car seat in the car and I cannot imagine how she is able to say goodbye, except that goodbye must mean something very different to her just now.
I start the car, drive down the hill. The sky keeps falling in tiny white flakes.
I cry all the way home.
This story is only one, about one way we can care for children and families in need. Over at The High Calling, there is a series unfolding on the plight of orphans and children in crisis, and the ways that we can follow God’s command to care for them. Please go there and read more about this, and if you have a story to share link up there!