A thing of beauty

My tired body leaned against the kitchen counter while my sister, Laura, dried the last of the dishes. Across town, my husband, Jason, lay in a hospital room recovering from brain surgery. Wrapped in the night’s stillness, I thought about what was to come and murmured, “I guess we’re about to see the answer to our prayers. One way or another, it will all be over soon.”

Laura’s face fell. “I don’t think it will be over, Susan. It might lead to a new beginning for you.”

Two weeks later, my husband went to heaven, and my world turned upside down. I’d spent 10 years blending my life with my husband’s; suddenly I was forced into single parenthood. All of it was up to me – oil changes, rats in the laundry room, dinners and baths.

At first I thought that if I closed my eyes long enough, the days would pass quickly and another Prince Charming would arrive. A new mate would help everything fall back into place. But year two turned to year three, then year six and year nine.

I can’t boast of home-cooked meals or Hallmark-card holidays, but we have survived as a family. In fact, we’ve done more than survive – we’ve overcome. With hope, humour and trust in God, my toddlers have grown into teens, and we became a whole and happy family. The lessons came slowly, but I’ve learned to embrace our new life.

A family of hope

Three years after my husband’s death,I was reading my Bible and thirsting for words of life. My eyes fell on a passage in Zechariah, “Return to your fortress, O prisoners of hope; even now I announce that I will restore twice as much to you” (9:12). I wasn’t sure of the meaning in its Old Testament context, but still I felt the Lord saying something to me.

I read the words again. Was it that simple? Was I to remain a prisoner of hope regardless of the present disappointment? My hand scribbled the words into my journal as the proclamation I had read renewed my soul: “Return to your fortress, ye single parent, Susan. Remain a prisoner of hope. For even now, God declares, ‘I will restore twice as much to you.’ ”

I clung to that hope and began to see that the wholeness of my family depended on the presence of our heavenly Father – not the provision of an earthly husband and a father for my children.

A family of fun

As time passed, I found ways to make life a little sweeter. The month of May was always stressful with end-of-school activities. One year on the last day of school, I snuck up behind my oldest son, Nathan, and did the old “crack an egg on the head” trick. He didn’t buy it, so I reached into the refrigerator, pulled out a real egg and tapped it lightly on his head. The egg broke in my hand.

Tension mounted. My children prepared to retaliate. But I surprised them both by smacking the slimy thing onto my own head. Egg slid down my face and onto my shoes; I erupted into a fit of laughter.

My stunned children stared for a moment, then Nathan ran to find a camera while Sammy asked repeatedly, “Why’d you do that, Mommy?”

Call it cheap therapy or momentary insanity, but it worked. The stress melted away, and a few moments of fun became a yearly ritual. Nathan and I still celebrate the craziness of our lives by slamming an egg onto each other’s head after the last day of school. From living room wrestling matches to late-night summer swims, the three of us have learned to relish life.

A family of faith

One sunny day, as we sang and walked, I realized the boys’ response to our difficult situation mirrored my own. If I stressed, they stressed. But if I trusted God, they trusted in turn. So I focused on how God took care of us as a family. When friends made repairs on our home or offered financial assistance, the boys and I discussed God’s faithfulness. When we cried, we listened to praise music. When we relaxed at the beach, we memorized passages of Scripture (which still serve as nighttime prayers).

As challenges continually came my way, I grew weary and battled to maintain perspective. Frustrated with my discontent, I signed us all up for a missions trip to Guatemala. While there, we walked through a city dump and saw desperate prostitutes and drug addicts with little hope; their images still haunt me. But when I look at what God has provided for my family, I am reminded of His goodness. My children may not have an earthly father, but they have a home, good food and hot water – which is more than many people have.

I’d like to say I came home forever changed from the trip. The truth is, I still feel heartache and joy, cheated and blessed, forgotten and special. But with God’s grace and our good humour, my boys and I keep growing. God breaks through our weaknesses and crafts our brokenness into a thing of beauty – a family of hope, fun and faith.

Susan Schreer Davis recently remarried and lives in Marietta, Georgia.

© 2007 Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. International copyright secured. Used by permission.

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