Thursday, May 13, 2010

So Close To Home

In my early twenties I was dreaming of going into another country as a missionary. I thought it would be so wonderful to share about Christ and bring ministry to other people. I told the Lord that was what I wanted to do with my life. As I prayed about this it didn’t take long for the Lord to bring to my attention the fact that I already had a mission field of my own. Where was this place I could minister? It was within my own family.

Many times we can have grand and glorious visions of doing great works for God.We want to go somewhere, someplace, but do a work for God at home? I can share the testimony of my life and what God has done to teach me of the path he had for me.

God had a calling on my life for a number of years to be a blessing to my own family. My Mom was diagnosed with Epilepsy after I was born. It was determined to be the result of a head injury when she was in junior high. When my younger brother and sister were born and Mom began home schooling all three of us she had her hands full. If she took enough medication to totally control her seizures she was so drowsy there was no way she could teach us or drive a car for that matter. At a young age I learned how to take care of her when she was having a seizure.

When I was 16 our family had taken on a vacation in Florida to visit my grandparents. Mom and Dad had been hoping to be blessed with another child and when Mom started feeling pretty sick on the way home from Florida she was excited thinking she might be pregnant. We all had a difficult time of it when she found out she was not pregnant. Further test revealed the reason she was feeling so awful. She had Lupus. After that diagnosis my Mom became sicker and sicker.

She spent the next year bed fast many days. I remember a time she got pneumonia and was so weak we had to feed her ourselves. She had no strength to lift a spoon. My brother Jason was 13 and my sister Caroline was 10. At that time I had to be responsible for running the household. Despite her health Mom was determined to keep home schooling. She taught us from bed. That was the one thing she decided to use any energy on. I helped Jason and Caroline with their schoolwork too. I kept the three of us on the cleaning schedule Mom had assigned to us long ago. I was in charge of meals, laundry, grocery shopping, and so on. This was the beginning of learning that I needed to be a blessing to my own family. I was very worried about my Mom but I don’t remember being totally overwhelmed with keeping up on the house. Mom had taught me how to run a home and I was ready for the task ahead. Dad kept up with all the outdoor work on our property.

At the age of 18 I had some dreams for my life. I was often questioned even at age16 about where I would go to college. I was asked what career I wanted to pursue. The first job I wanted wasn’t one I could “pursue”. I wanted to get married, have a family, and home school my own children. I realized that was in God’s hands. I was interested in writing and considered going to college to be a journalist. Through high school I had thought about becoming a vet or a constitutional lawyer.

As I prayed about it I realized what it would mean to my family if I left home. My Mom depended enough on my help homeschooling my brother and sister that they would probably have to go to private school or public school. I realized God was giving me a direction and purpose at that time in my life. I needed to bring ministry and help to my own family. People didn’t understand when I told them I wasn’t going to college. I had decided to study the subjects that interested me from home. In the end it didn’t matter to me what other people thought. I knew what God was asking me to do and that was enough for me.

When I was 21 my family moved to be near my great-grandparents because of their failing health. My Great-Grandma had Alzheimer’s. My Mom was very close to her Grandma. She had been more like a mother to her than a grandmother. My Great-Grandpa was overwhelmed with caring for Grandma and their very cluttered home. Jason, Caroline, and I started going over every 2 weeks to spend the day cleaning their house and doing laundry. This act of love impacted my Great-Grandpa so much that we saw a thawing of his heart towards us and God. He was becoming a new man.

In time my Great-Grandpa was diagnosed with bone cancer. Grandpa was feeling ill and a decision had to be made. It was decided Grandpa would come live with us and Grandma would go to a nursing home 1 block from our house. My parents didn’t think we could handle as a family my Mom’s illness plus both my great-grandparents living with us. After we took Grandpa to his daily cancer treatments we would go by and visit our great-grandma at the nursing home. Sunday afternoons we would take a little electric keyboard and sing hymns to all the patients on the Alzheimer ward. On a January 15th my Great-Grandpa died in our home due to his cancer.

After Grandpa died there were many things to tend to in legal and financial matters, and Grandma was still in the nursing home. One of my aunt’s and I had been power of attorney for my great-grandparents. Because Grandpa had not prepared at all for the time of his death it took months to tend to all the legal matters, clean out and sell their house and so forth.

A year later our family and one of my aunts gathered to my Grandma’s bedside as she died. Another chapter in God’s calling in my life had closed. I continued to devote time to our home and my brother and sister’s schooling. I worked part-time and prayed often for God’s guidance in my life.

If we fast forward a few years we come to the day my sister Caroline graduated from high school. Several months later she married her one and only sweetheart, Sean. I was so very grateful God had blessed her with the love of this godly young man! At this point I had been working as a dental laboratory technician and then moved into dental assisting. We got a call one day from my grandparents in Florida. My Grandpa’s cancer had returned after a surgery the previous year and the prognosis this time was not good. I made a decision to quit my job and move to Florida to help my grandparents during this time. Really I was the only one in the family (being single at the time) in a position to do that. I treasure the time I spent with Grandpa and Grandma. Grandpa died January 15, 2001. That May I flew down to Florida to help my Grandma move to Missouri. I spent a month cleaning out her house, having a garage sale, and packing everything. Once she moved to Missouri I spent a lot of time helping her unpack and tending to business.

I look back through these years and feel blessed that I chose a path in life that allowed me to care for the needs of my family. I would encourage you to ask God to show you how to be a blessing to your family. If you look at your family in the light of “what can I give” instead of “what can I get” you will find some awesome opportunities to grow in charity and faith. Talk to your brothers and sisters, to your parents, to your extended family. What can you do to bless their lives and give testimony of Jesus Christ? The answer for each of us will be very different, yet we are all needed in some way. Oh what God can do with a willing heart and loving spirit!

By Jennifer Allen



At May 13, 2010 at 2:29 PM , Blogger Sarah said...

what a beautiful testimony of God's love working through you, Jennifer! thank you so much for sharing. My brother has epilepsy AND autism. It was quite a challenge growing up for us all. I totally hear you when you talk of taking care of the household and homeschool etc... it's a lot of work, but it was where we were placed. for a reason.
God bless!


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