“There is nothing that comes to pass but God has His purpose in it. Though the world seems to run at random in blind confusion and rude disorder, yet God governs it to make perfect harmony out of all the seeming discords.” ~ Ezekiel Hopkins (1633-1690)
Even after I woke up this morning I kept feeling sick to my stomach when I thought, “What might’ve happened to her if we hadn’t been there?”
Sometimes God shows us why he totally derails our plans. Often not, but sometimes.
I need to update our family blog. But no time just now. These last few months have been brutal. This month has been especially so. My September calendar currently has seventy-three appointments on it! As of tonight, we’ve completed thirty-four of those, but still have thirty-nine more to go. I’m exhausted and functioning in a mental fog pretty much every minute of every day.
But a couple of weeks ago, Scott and I put a special event on yesterday’s date — the annual birthday outing for our granddaughters’ August birthdays. For our birthday gifts to our grandchildren, we traditionally give a special outing with the two of us. This insures that we have at least one day a year in which we can be just grandparents to each of our ten in-town grandchildren. We gifted these two with certificates for a date with us at a local indoor, glow-in-the-dark mini-golf place.
Because of our overloaded schedule this month, this outing had to be squeezed in around other appointments yesterday. In spite of this, Scott and I were determined to shut out the world for just those few hours we had with our sweet grands and laugh, talk, and focus only on them. But this proved to be an uphill battle from the moment we walked out of our door yesterday morning.
I had the day very carefully planned, and it was absolutely critical that every piece go exactly according to that plan. Timing was delicately orchestrated, and at one point I said aloud that the day (my life at the moment, actually) was just like a card house. It was essential that no one bump any one card, or the whole day would collapse in on itself.
The first card got bumped at the very beginning of the day, and this started a panicked arm-flailing, hyperventilating, frantic effort on my part to catch all of the falling cards and hold them in place. It was futile. I couldn’t do it. Those falling cards changed the entire course of our day — the timing of every single moment.
My biggest concern was that my happy granddaughters not see my panic or my ridiculous efforts to grab all those cards. I didn’t want anything to spoil this special day for them. Finally, with my level-headed husband’s help, I accepted the inevitable and decided that no matter where the day went from that point, I was just going to drink in this time with the girls.
This string of drastic plan changes eventually led us, at the end of our tiring (but fun) day, to a place we never even intended to go, and at a time of day when we had already planned to be back home.
And at this place, God so very graciously showed us why He had so lovingly and tenderly knocked down my carefully constructed house of cards and put together a different one designed and held perfectly in place by His hands.
One of his special and very precious children needed help, and His plan was to use us!
As we were all leaving this place we had never planned to be, we decided to make potty runs before starting the long drive back home.
As Scott went to open the men’s bathroom door, he noticed that a young lady was there, just inside the door. He closed the door quickly, but not before hearing her try to say something to him that made it clear she wasn’t really “okay” developmentally. We know what developmental disability looks like and can spot this at a glimpse with pretty much dead-on accuracy.
The girls had already charged into the women’s bathroom, so I had to get to them. Scott, afraid of scaring this poor girl, posted himself outside the men’s room as her protector, listening for any sounds, praying that no one else was in there with her, worrying about her safety, and waiting for me to come out with the girls.
One of the granddaughters with us yesterday has Down syndrome, and there was a little drama in the ladies’ room that made things take longer than expected. Once I got them both taken care of, we all three went back to Scott. I honestly expected him to tell me that, by that time, someone had exited the men’s room with a perfectly reasonable explanation and that all was well.
This was not the case.
We decided I needed to enter the men’s room and see what was going on while Scott waited right outside in case I needed him. So I stuck my head in the door and called, “Is everything okay in here?”
I called again and walked all the way through the door. I saw a pair of feet inside a stall, but still no reply.
Then I heard someone fumbling with the stall door as if they were trying to get it opened, so I called again, “Do you need some help? Are you okay, sweetie?”
A sweet, very confused-looking, older teen/young adult girl walked out of the stall. She had stripped off all of her clothes except for a pair of black tennis shoes and a thin, cropped t-shirt. She was trying to tell me something, but I couldn’t understand her. I was so very upset at her predicament and her alone-ness in the men’s bathroom. Protective mama-mode set in instantly, and with a fierceness I usually only feel toward my own children or grandchildren.
I went to her and tried to calm her down. Once she was calmer, she explained that she had not been able to get to a bathroom in time and had ruined her clothes. I had no idea why she was alone, why she was in the men’s room, or what in the world to do, but I knew I wasn’t about to leave her there.
She was finally able to tell me that her mother had gone to buy her some more clothes, but hadn’t come back. I wondered if it might be possible that she had been abandoned here, but why in the men’s room!?!??
I spent some time talking to her as my mind was racing for some way to get her out of the men’s room and at least over to the ladies’ room. I assured her that she was safe, that I was going to get her some help, and that I wasn’t going to leave her. After awhile, I went to the door to talk with Scott about how to find someone connected with security to come and help us. While we were talking, a woman walked up, looking somewhat frazzled and carrying a bag from one of the stores and started to head into the women’s bathroom. I knew this had to be her. She paused — I assume the sight of me, hanging my head out of the men’s room stopped her. I asked if she was possibly looking for her daughter, and she answered yes, with some panic and confusion in her face.
I told her that she was here, in the men’s room with me. She gasped and dashed past me to get to her daughter and I followed her back in.
She was so embarrassed and looked absolutely exhausted. She kept apologizing to me.
When I told her to please not worry about me, and shared with her that I also have children with special needs, her eyes filled with tears, her face showed hints of relief, and she reached to hug me, thanking me over and over and over again for staying with her daughter. She exclaimed, “God bless you! God bless us both! This is such a hard life!”
She explained that when her daughter had had this accident, she had been forced to leave her in the ladies’ room, telling her baby to wait there while she went to buy her some clothes and bring them back. She had no idea why her daughter had wandered out of the ladies’ room and into the men’s, and she was so visibly shaken by what could’ve happened to her child. The whole very sad situation, and this mother’s panic and pain, just broke my heart. She seemed to be very alone and at the end of her rope.
Scott and I stayed with our granddaughters and continued to guard the men’s room so this mom could have a little privacy to take care of her daughter. They left the men’s room a few minutes later and headed home.
It actually wasn’t until we had gotten to our van and were driving home that I fully realized just how God’s intricate and providential workings had perfectly rewritten our day to make sure we would be at that very spot, at that very moment, where we were able to make sure this precious girl stayed safe and offer some tiny measure of comfort and encouragement to a mama who was in great need of those things.
Feel free to comment on this post, but if anyone says anything judgemental or critical about this mom, I will delete your comment. You don’t know her story, or her situation, or her daughter’s needs or abilities. God allowed us a tiny snapshot of someone else’s very tough life, but there are a lot of holes and missing pieces in this story. Please do not try to fill in those missing pieces with your imagination. Please just thank God that this child was safe, and pray for this mom as she tries to care for her daughter.
I’ll end with a few photos of our fun day with our granddaughters. I had to reschedule one appointment and totally cancel another, but God made sure the things He felt were important happened yesterday.
We can trust Him.
I will try to remember this the next time my carefully choreographed day falls apart. Only He can see the whole picture, and He always knows what He’s doing.