August 20, 2000, began as an ordinary Sunday. I went to church with my husband, Dave, and three young sons. We spent the afternoon riding bikes in Gettysburg, my two oldest proud that, at eight and six, they could keep up with Mom and Dad, my four-year-old enjoying the ride from his perch on the back of Dave’s bike. After stopping for pizza we headed home for the bath-story-bed routine. When my six-year-old ran downstairs to say goodnight to his dad, he immediately came running back up, calling, “Mommy, Mommy! Daddy fell out of his chair.”
Puzzled, I hurried down the stairs and out the front door. My husband lay collapsed on the porch, his glasses askew and his nose bloody. He was not breathing. I called 911 and began CPR. Later that evening, a doctor walked into the private waiting area of the ER and confirmed my worst fear. With no prior history, Dave had suffered a fatal heart attack. At 38, I was a widow and single mother.
In the morning, I hugged my sons close and told them Daddy was with Jesus. One of them innocently asked me, “Can we get a new daddy?” I explained, “It’s not like going to Walmart. But God promises to be a father to the fatherless, and He will take care of us.”
I wish I could say I believed my own words. In my head, I did. But in my heart, it was an altogether different story. I had never needed to trust God for anything beyond my salvation, and doubts flooded my mind. I wanted to trust Him, but I wasn’t sure He was trustworthy. After all, He’d let my husband die. What was He thinking? Single parenting was not part of my plan. How could I, a homemaker without solid work connections, get my sons launched in the business world? How could I, a wife and mother, teach them to be Christian husbands and fathers? How could I, as one of three sisters, raise boys?
The truth is, on my own, I couldn’t do any of those things, so I learned to trust God day-by-day. And God was faithful. He provided mentors unique to each son as he entered the working world. He provided the fathers who included my sons on their family camping trips, where time was spent learning not only about the great outdoors, but also about godly manhood. He provided me with wisdom and a sense of humor I never knew I had to deal with their questions, their mistakes, and their testing of the limits.
When my youngest entered college in the fall of 2014, I was ready to relax a little. But last June, a doctor walked into the exam room where I waited and confirmed my second worst fear. That lump I’d found … was malignant.
“Not again, Lord. This, too?” My mind raced to the worst case scenario: My children would be orphans in their twenties. Even the best case would still involve surgery and chemo. I’d be sick, and bald, and disfigured.
But 15 years of depending on God in my parenting had opened my eyes to see His hand in the ordinary, making it easier to trust Him, once my initial wave of emotion passed.
There are numerous instances I could cite of God’s care for me over the past year. But it’s a text I received the night prior to surgery that has spoken to me most vividly. I was drifting off to sleep, when I heard the cell phone “ding.” I was too curious to ignore it. The message was simple. “Just a reminder that I and many others will be praying for you tomorrow.” The sender was someone whom I never expected to text me, much less remember the date of the surgery. As I looked at the name in surprise, I could almost hear God whispering, “If this person is thinking of you, how much more am I, your heavenly Father, thinking of you? I will never leave you or forsake you.”
Surgery went well, and two weeks later, I sang in an NCC concert. Four weeks later, I was running again – my favorite form of exercise, and six weeks after surgery, I began chemotherapy. There were tough moments – I cried when my hair fell out – but, by God’s grace, the side effects were otherwise light.
My story, my song, is not one of miraculous healing or the provision of a “new daddy.” God did not deliver me from my circumstances, but rather has sustained me through them. And this is why I praise Him. When I think of all the times I questioned my situation, doubted His goodness, worried and fretted instead of trusting, I realize that His faithfulness is totally independent of my actions. It’s who He is. He never fails, and He is faithful, even when I’m not.
Praising my Savior,
Administrative Assistant/Soprano 1