—Synonyms 1. retreat, asylum, sanctuary, shield, haven, harbor, to guard, safeguard, shield, defend.
Sunday at church, we sang the song "Jesus is a Rock". The chorus goes like this:
Jesus is a rock in a weary land
A weary land, A weary land
Jesus is a rock in a weary land
A shelter in the time of storm.
As songs sometimes do, this one has been going around in my head ever since, and I've been pondering on the word "shelter." I think the reason is mostly because of the events of my life since this summer. My family has been through some major upheavals, and I've come to appreciate "shelters".
I love my house. I mean, I really love it. My children do not understand why. It's certainly not a great house. In fact, the floors have a way of caving in if they get wet because they were built on particle board. Several times, my hubby Bill has had to rip the floors up to put something more substantial underneath.
And we only have one bathroom in this house which at this count shelters eight people - nine if you count son Gage who is visiting for Christmas break.
The yard is ALWAYS messy...
Three good natured Great Pyrenees dogs will scratch up your car greeting you when you pull up into our driveway.
You have to get past an attack goose to make it to the front door.
And there is a BIG purple castle in my front yard that Gage says looks like Bowsers castle in the old Mario games:
But I've been known to call goodbye to my house as I pull out of the driveway, to the groans of my kiddos, who are usually glad to escape for a while.
I guess it's not necessarily the house itself, but rather the people who live in it, that makes me love it so much.
Anyway, to explain where all this is going...
At the first of the summer, as our home school year ended and I was thinking ahead, I told my newly turned teenager daughter, Mary Susannah, that for school the coming year, I wanted to concentrate on her homemaking and child care skills. In my mind, I was seeing us break out the "keepers at home" curriculum I bought for her many years ago and doing the chapters together. Instead, she got a crash course on these subjects when my father got sick.
When Dad first began to decline, I would try to take the kids along when I went to see him. We would visit the hospital or even better, when he came home, we would visit at my parents house. The kids would swim, and sometimes Dad could even sit outside with us.
But very quickly, Dad got worse and worse. He was more fragile and spent more time in the hospital, and it was harder to take them with me. I would take one or two at a time for a while, leaving the others with one of my teenagers. More and more, I was home less and less, especially since visiting him at all would mean two hours of driving time, plus however long I stayed at the hospital or their house. Mary Susannah and Beau had to take over the home front. Beau was the older presence there, and Mary Susannah cooked and cleaned. She learned to be very good at it, which made it easier on me, since it freed me from having to keep up with the housework when I wanted to be with my father.
On October 28, 2010, my three sisters, mother and I huddled in blankets around Dad's bed in a freezing cold hospice room, patting him and comforting him as he took his final breaths. Afterwards, we all went back to my parents house, which quickly filled with people. We comforted each other then, making soup with crunchy bread to try and warm up our aching hearts, talking, making plans we wished we didn't have to make. And throughout the evening, I kept thinking how much I wanted to go home and read bedtime stories. Bedtime stories have been a ritual I have loved for many years, and I guess that's what I needed on that terrible day: a comforting ritual. It was hard to leave my mother, but my daughter and one sister were going to spend the night with her, so I called Beau and Mary Susannah and told them to keep the little kids up until I got home.
And I went home - to my shelter - and read bedtime stories through my tears, and it brought me the comfort I needed that night.
With Dad gone, I soon took up my normal routine, but Mary Susannah had changed. She had grown to like the role of homemaker, and she naturally began to help me with the housework without being asked. She's good at the extra touches that I get too busy to remember: the table is often set nicely, and in fact, she cooks the whole meal as much or even more than I do now. She remembered how I said I wanted her to learn homemaking and child care skills. Well, she had had a crash course in homemaking...
...and now, she wanted to care for a baby. She began to beg me to get another foster baby. I explained to her again, Tommy's adoption maxed out our home on the number of children the state would allow us to foster. They had closed our home, we were no longer licensed. Wasn't there some other way, she wanted to know?
Well, I had fostered privately before, taking care of two babies whose mothers were in jail. I didn't know if it would be possible for us to do that again, but maybe. Also, I knew a lady who does cradle care for adoption agencies. I didn't know if it was the same type of license we had before, but I could look into it. Now? she begged. After Christmas, I assured her. That was too long, she thought. She talked to some friends at church, and decided she was going to pray and ask God to give us a baby to care for. I told her that was a good idea, and I would too. And I did - sometimes. I told God, we were open, if he had a little one who needed a home. But sometimes my faith is lacking, because although I prayed, I didn't 'really' expect it...
But one day earlier this month, I was on a ladder, painting a door in the guesthouse, getting ready for my oldest son, Gage, to come home for his Christmas visit. I had my cell phone in my pocket, and it rang. I shifted my paint brush to my other hand and answered the phone. It was a good friend of mine. A few weeks ago, CPS had removed her grandson from her son who is struggling. "Remember you said we could call you if we needed you?" she asked.
And a week later, exactly one week before Christmas, six month old Antoine moved in with us.
So now we are blessed to be a 'shelter' again, something I thought we would not get to do for a long while, if ever. In fact, I gave away my baby bed last month. Figures, huh? But a friend sold me a much nicer one than I had. And CPS has a new program in place that allows us to take care of Antoine without being a licensed home. God has a way of making shelters work.
So...What does a shelter look like? Well, it can look like this, as I sat on the couch one day a while back and explained a thunder storm to three scared little children:
Or, it can look like this, when son Gage tries to work quietly on his computer, and accidently hits photobooth, and the kids sitting beside him suddenly see themselves on the screen:
It can look like this, as a young teen aged girl gets her prayer answered:
Or, it can look like this, when the same young teen aged girl's older brother gets his hands on the same baby:
Plans are that Antoine will only stay a few months while his parents get things in order for him to go back home. In the meantime, we get to play with him, love him, and teach Mary Susannah baby care. She's loving it. And so is Antoine, whose eyes light up when she walks in the room.
And my home is a shelter, and I love that. There's no place else I would rather be. I'm grateful for my family, my home, my health, and that the Lord has given me children to care for who comfort me in turn when I need it.
Mostly, I'm thankful for Jesus, who is my rock!
He will cover you with his feathers. He will shelter you with his wings. His faithful promises are your armor and protection.