As I sit here in my office-memory room, I recall scenes from the past: a flower bed of roses made from Play-doe, a Mother’s Day gift from my older son, now 25; a poem written by my other son when he was 7 that won a contest in the newspaper 10 years ago. I’m truly a proud mom and incredibly grateful to be here, for my early years were filled with so many dysfunctional situations and obstacles I never thought I’d be able to climb out of the swamp I was in.
It’s easy to agree that one of the most challenging jobs on this planet is to be a parent. One job far tougher is to be a single parent without any spousal support. Up until one year ago, I raised my sons alone. Although my ex-husband could never find time to visit my children, he always found time for harassing me. I never thought I’d get through those years alive. I was alone, very little family, fewer friends, yet felt comforted with a blind faith that things would always work out. Funny thing, eventually they did.
Some challenges as a single parent: Salvation Army Christmases, stealing food so my kids could eat, sometimes working three jobs at a time to pay bills, and still finding myself short. Worst of all, in those difficult times I rarely got to see my children. What kind of a price was this to pay for a devoted mother who loved her children? I often wondered why God put me in such a situation.
My ideas about that have changed over the years and I can tell you one reason why: I believe God always takes care of his children and I am one of them. Have you ever heard the saying, “be careful how you treat people because you might just be entertaining angels?”
I recall one grim day many years ago. My oldest and only son at that time was 6. I had lost my job, the utilities were turned off, and was in the process of being evicted from my apartment. I’d called my brother, who lived about 2 hours away, to ask him if he would please take my son until I could get “back on my feet.” Although he was struggling with his own family, he said yes.
In other, similar times, I’d just get up, brush off, and get on with my life. I was tough. I was an island. I didn’t need or want anyone’s help. I could do it alone. Silly me! Foolish pride found me alone and hungry too often.
I vividly remember that lonely day, sitting in my kitchen by candle light, no light, food, or phone, about to be evicted, no friends and no child. The latter hurt the most, and I completely broke down. I never cried, but cried then, and cried hard–sobbing loudly, begging, “Dear God, please help me get through this trial! Please help!”
I held a newspaper opened to the classifieds, while I cried harder and harder, then stopped suddenly, as though I’d released the sadness and fear. Done! I was guided to look down. I was looking for a job, but it seemed more, as if God himself was telling me to look. I saw an ad for a cocktail waitress. I had cocktailed before in my life since my divorce and truly didn’t want to get back into that type of work, but something kept telling me to call the number.
To my surprise, the owner asked if I could come in right away for an interview. “Yes! I’ll be right there.” I got in my old beat-up Volkswagen (at least I had a car, although it didn’t have reverse, and had to be kick started with the clutch . . . but I had a car.)
At the bar, certainly not the classiest of places, I filled out the application. The manager didn’t look at my “credentials;” I really didn’t have any. I’d gotten married at 16 and had no education to speak of, but had “good looks.” I guess that was enough qualification for this job, was hired on the spot and asked to start immediately. Elated that I’d eat after my shift, knowing I’d make tips, and tips could buy some food, I put on a uniform and took over my section. The night was long and wild, definitely not my kind of place . . . a lot of drunks, and girls treated disrespectfully. Not me. The men left me alone, and I believe my light, from the legions of angels that surrounded me, was too bright for them to even attempt anything.
Nearing the end of the night a man in his early 40’s sat in my section who seemed drunk, and my first thought was to refuse to serve him, but that might end up in some type of confrontation. I just wanted to go home with the money I’d made. However, after getting a closer look, I could tell he was distraught, not drunk. He said he wanted to start a tab. I served him a drink minutes later and began to walk away.
Something made me turn around to discover tears in his eyes. I asked, “Can I help you in any way?” And he began to tell his story.
He’d come here for his son’s funeral from another state. He had been an absent father and this was the first time he had seen his son in years. I felt a deep compassion for him, although I didn’t respect the separation from his son. I knew all too well how absence from children affects their well-being and sense of self. I listened as he said, “I feel so much guilt and sorrow for making such a big mistake, I only wanted to tell him how much I loved him but it was too late.”
I tried to comfort him, and sat with this man who was divinely guided to me on my very first night of work to talk to anyone who would listen. The night was late and he only had two drinks while we sat and talked. I spoke of my trials: “I know how it feels to have parental guilt, knowing I’ve let my children down, although I don’t know what it feels like to be in your shoes. I’m deeply sorry for your situation. I can only offer comfort and support.”
I assured him that resurrection always followed crucifixion. It was God’s promise. Where did I get THAT information? I told him Day would follow Night and he would have a second chance somewhere down the line. I told him his son knew how much he had loved him and he could tell him now if he wanted to. He did. It was as if we prayed together that night without really praying. God’s presence was so tremendously felt in that little bar between us. Finally, in the end, both of us with tears in our eyes hugged each other good-bye and he left.
The bar was closing and I was cashing out my tickets for the night. I came upon his credit card charge and almost fell to the floor when I read what he’d written in the “tip” space: $350.00, which brought his bill to $359.00 total! I could pay my phone bill, rent, get the lights turned back on, and best of all get my son back, who at this moment I was missing more than ever.
I never went back to that bar again. I found a day job shortly afterward and things were looking up again. I’ve found life is filled with ups and downs but Day DOES always follow Night. A new day will always bring new opportunities and God will always find you. No matter where you are, you can’t hide. You see, he has earthly angels all over the place. They help him find the lost and brokenhearted.
That night, I was sent an earthly angel. I entertained an angel and he entertained me, because giving IS receiving. I gave to him exactly what he needed–listening with my heart open, and he gave to me exactly what I needed. God works in funny ways. Never think you are alone, no matter the situation.
So here I sit in my computer-memory room, in my nice home with a wonderful new husband and three new stepchildren. I lead a happy joyous life and so do my own children. My oldest just gave me my first grandchild. Life is good and so is God. I remember the tests in my life that brought me to this space and time, thankful for each because without any tests, we have no testimony. Find the gifts in your life! You’ll find some piece of God that may have gone unnoticed and, I’m certain, a couple dozen angels or so.