|Olivia and MAC on the day we left|
The neat part about staying there was that you got your own room set up like a hotel room with two beds (in case you had family come in as well), your own bathroom, and MEALS! Yes! They served breakfast, lunch 3 or 4 times a week, and dinner every night. Not only this, but you received 24 hour access to the GIANT AND BEAUTIFUL kitchen that was out of a kitchen magazine NO KIDDING (with two kitchens in it) and had your own basket available in the refrigerator for you personal food items. You were allowed to get cereal, snacks or anything in the HUGE pantry that you desired to cook your own meals with as often delays and timing of being able to eat is determined upon what was happening with your child. But the sweetest meals were when people donated their time, love and provisions to cook for everyone so that it was ready to go so you could eat and then go straight back to your child's side. Who wants to worry about meals when your child is sick, struggling or may not even make it throughout the week? We had many hotels, car rental places, and businesses that would sign up to bless us as a group. The joy on some of their faces still remain with me to this day. They wanted to be there pouring their hearts into our empty and worried hearts. Beyond this, several groups and establishments would make stuff for anyone to have and place it on a table...items like goodie bags, quilts, beanie babies for your child, and notes of encouragement. There was a beautiful secured access playground for any siblings who may be there as well. Living rooms were available with big screen TV's and comfy couches to rest, play a video game or watch a movie. A play room existed with tons of toys and things any child would enjoy regularly (or even more so) at home. They also had wonderful special events there, like Christmas in July and Coleson's FROG (check out their site if you have a chance, you will be blessed, they are a REAL ministry and take their service to heart) who put on a dinner where there were waitresses and waiters who would take your order and serve you. They decorated the entire dining room all pretty. It felt like a little slice of normalcy for Bryan and I that night. I walked away practically crying. They recruited therapy dogs one night, and even a hair dresser came to bless us with her talent and love. This place exists with a REAL and TRUE purpose and if you are looking for a way to give back, consider donating any resources, income or time to these homes and refuges for families. The reality you will feel as you love on people suffering and living daily in Faith will change your life forever. Living in the NICU and or hospital i
s such a different flow and life style change. The people there made their hearts vulnerable to feel our pain even though they were not directly experiencing it. I don't know how many times we were loved on, prayed for and rejoiced over as Ahava journeyed to wellness.
There is no doubt that McDonald's (and I am saying even the fast food establishment) does make an incredible impact on the needy and hurting families. Unless you live through it, you may never quite understand the love and deep beauty these places offer. It is an oasis and safe place to suffer, rejoice and conquer the unknown.
So, that's what brings me to today, caused happy tears, and swelled my heart to a point that I feared it may burst. It was my T-shirt that caught someones eye here. One I cannot wear lightly without knowing not only the story it shows of our journey, but the words, hopes, pain and joy of thousands and thousands of others. I was asked if we stayed at one of them and I told her we did and why. She revealed to me that she also knew of the houses because of her grandson. Ahava was with me and we happened to be in her store. I don't know if she was the owner or not. It was a second hand children's store that could make any Mom and child drool alike, with clothes, toys, any and all the children's needs before your eyes from beds, potty seats, strollers, clothes, toys and books. The sweet woman began crying as if she were feeling something huge and she asked me what I was going to get. She must have seen that I ended up putting several items I thought I might purchase back. Then she told me to get them! I smiled with question...and she repeated..."get them and get anything you need for her." She then showed me his name. 5 letters of her precious grandson who she said "didn't make it." She explained through tears they had 24 days with him and that she wanted to do something for him through blessing Ahava. I didn't know how to reply. It was one of those moments where I wish there was a video camera on the wall, because I can't quite explain the emotions swimming through my heart. Again she said it and that she was going to "take care of it". She looked around and offered her heart to me "Anything you need for her, you get. It doesn't matter how expensive." I could not even believe my ears. I was honestly so shocked. And even at this moment I wish I could relive it because the sense of Love I felt was so sincere and deeply touching. I went and grabbed the clothes items I had in my hands a moment ago. I got two pairs of shoes. I know now there are SO many things I could have gotten on top of that! WHOA! But the gift she had already given me filled me up so much already that in my mind I could not even process what I would need. I just wanted to hug her and I did.
I will remember Rider today and his sweet grandmother. I will remember that we are so blessed and that God has a purpose for every life no matter how long or short that may be. We must not forget that we do have the power to Love and bless others deeply. We just have to stop and allow our lives to be used even if it is through a painful time in our lives. That is how we allow God to use the bad for good, we squeeze it out into the palm of a tiny little hand who doesn't even fathom how much God Loves and Provides for her.
And to Susan, thank you for your kindness and love. Thank you for being open to letting your heart love even when it forces you to remember that Rider is not here. You have truly blessed me today and reminded me that God sees our every need and that goes beyond even the physical things in the world, but works its way into the act of giving and receiving the gifts of a good and loving Father. I am truly blessed.