John 9:11 “He replied, “The man they call Jesus made some mud and put it on my eyes. He told me to go to Siloam and wash. So I went and washed, and then I could see.”
I promised to tell the story of how my new journey and angels came to be. And this is how it began:
5 years ago Taylor was in college and working, Archie worked and traveled often and I worked at Dutch Maid Bakery as lead baker and in the office every other Saturday. I LOVED my job but came to realize life was changing. Without Taylor or foster kids at home, Archie working and traveling, and me not having a second job, I had free time I had not expected. I hated being home in an empty house so after work I would go to a thrift store run by the Mennonite Central Commitee that Taylor had introduced me to, The Depot. They had Christian music playing, a book area with chairs, and some of the kindest volunteers you would ever meet.
After about two weeks of “taking up space” in their store, Heavenly Dad gave me an “Ah-Ha” moment: Why the heck was I sitting on my cushy spot when this place was run on volunteers? I stood up with a jolt and briskly walked to the check out. I asked if they needed volunteers, they called Manager Doug, I filled out an application and the following week I was an official Depot Volunteer. Two days per week after work and on Saturdays I would sort, steam, and/or price donated clothing. I loved the story behind the store and how the money generated helped those all over the world. I love that the clothes that couldn’t be sold, though still in good shape, were sent to the extreme poor in other countries. I loved making my time count for a greater cause than my own.
One Saturday I was steaming away, Taylor popped in to see me.
She had something rare: a smidge bit of spare time between college work and employment work and she wanted to hang out with me. Buuuut I was volunteering…”Would you like to help?” I guess you could say the rest is history! She not only helped that day, then became a regular volunteer, but also became one of their managers after she graduated from college! She LOVES The Depot but after the third time they were robbed, she was stressed to her limits and reluctantly gave notice. She continues to support them by shopping there and occasionally jumps in to run a register if the lines are long. As for me, after Arch went home I have not had time to make it back to this wonderful shop to volunteer but do occasionally shop. Soon, I pray, but that would be an extension of the journey I am currently on.
The story of The Cat House:
I love the house that I currently live in but it is big, too big, for one person. It has 3-4 bedrooms, two bathrooms, and a yard that is supposedly over half an acre (it feels like it when I mow). This house was perfect for a family of three plus foster kids and the yard was well used for high school band parties, volleyball games, and tee ball with the little ones. Take away all of the people and you have LOTS of grass to mow and that’s about it.
There is also the heating and cooling of this bigger-than-one-person house, the maintenance, taxes, and so on, now all on me. The good thing is I can get so caught up with all of the “have to’s” to support this house that I don’t have time to think about the memories that were made here. The difficult part is winter when the bills are higher, the maintenance at a minimum, but for the driveway, and memories crawl out of every nook and cranny. They can be shared with no one because they were conversations about Taylor, our future dreams, hopes and so on that took place between Archie and me. They no longer apply to any part of my life, now half of the tandem.
Taylor now works at HP Home Rescue. They purposefully look for homes that are going into foreclosure and try to stop the process so the individuals involved do not have the blot on their record. They buy the properties, often in disrepair, and resell them for the house to have a fresh start on fulfilling someone’s dream. Why did I tell you this? It is a vital piece of the “Cat House” puzzle.
Our church was hosting “Feed My Starving Children,” creating food packets for the extreme poor. This year, though I have never done so previously, I felt a drive to volunteer. I was traveling quite a bit and only ONE night would fit into my schedule so I asked Taylor if she would like to join me. Nope, that night was full, but she loved the idea and signed up for a night that worked for her. My volunteer night ended and I was on the road again the next day. Her night ended but after leaving she passed a sad, empty little house, with cats on the shutters, one with a broken tail. She jotted down the address and drove home to Warsaw. The next day she did research and found the owners and passed the information onto her bosses. They scheduled an appointment and she called me, on the road.
“Mom, do you remember that house in Nappanee that looks like it’s been empty for a long time next to the car repair shop?”
“It’s white and has cats on the gray shutters.”
“OH! The Cat House! Yes, what about it?”
“The guys are going to go look at it. I was just thinking that if they weren’t interested…maybe you would be???”
And that’s the way the Cat House journey began. The house had been empty for over 13+ years and had been in the previous family since she was 6 and she is now in her 70’s. They had been renovating the entire time but it was FAR from completion . That was before cancer decided to invade their lives.
Though they could have gotten higher offers than mine, and I told them that, they decided that they wanted me to have this house and my journey began: a broken woman with a broken house.
Before I agreed and made an offer, I sought wise counsel. For 2 hours I was told I was too old, a woman, worked too much and if I went against their counsel I deserved no help from anyone. Then they asked what my expectations were for the house, budget for what I had planned to fix right away and if I was willing to cut my losses and agree to sell if I got in over my head. My answer was yes. I was then told to call that night, offer full price, waive inspections, BUT only if I could get insurance.
I closed on the Cat House 5 weeks later, a broken house for a broken woman. Honestly, Heavenly Dad had orchestrated all of this, so though terrified of what I had just done, there was a peace that THIS was HIS plan, not mine, so don’t stand is His way. During those five weeks some crazy parts of the house started falling into place: the front window to replace the rotted one for $17.50, the kitchen sink with faucet at the Depot for $26, and on and on, pieces of the Cat House Heavenly Dad was pulling together, but I was scared. Though I knew-that I knew-that I knew that this was the journey He wanted for me, I felt very alone, except for my cheering squad of one: Taylor,”It’s all going to work out, Mom.”
So I did the unthinkable: I prayed for angels to walk beside me.
The story of the angels:
Taylor was out one day running errands. She said she thought about stopping at the Depot but didn’t think she had time. She went anyway. While shopping, one of the ladies who worked with Taylor asked how I was doing. She casually mentioned this house. The lady, Grace, asked her to talk more about it. Grace mentioned her Sunday School Class was looking for a project and she thought maybe they would be interested. Could Taylor have me write something, one or two paragraphs, of what the project was so she could take it to her class?
Taylor asked me. “But Taylor, why would they want to help me? They don’t even know me?”
“I don’t know, Mom, but Grace asked.”
“This is going to sound crazy, Taylor, because I didn’t tell you before: I prayed for angels to walk beside me through this. You don’t suppose…” We were sitting in the parking lot of that very special basketball game Taylor had invited/paid for me to go to. I remember it like yesterday.
The SS class then asked me if they could take it before their church. This is a not so big Siloam Mennonite Church. That started everything.
The first time I met these wingless beings was at the Cat House for an overall assessment. I honestly expected them to convey the view previously voiced, preparing to be reminded of my age, gender and schedule. Instead, they arrived with pencil and paper in hand and immediately began asking me questions. Not once did they reference the limitations that could not be changed. At the end of the visit they concluded that this would be a nice little house for me and they would like to help me get into it.
”Why do you want to help me? You don’t even know me.” They smiled the reflection of mercy,”The Bible says to take care of widows.”
For the next couple of weeks they came during the week and weekends trying to figure out what had been done in the past and how to move forward, even calling in the previous owner for clarification . It WAS NOT easy. I was working on cutting out pipes for new plumbing, ripping out carpet, pulling staples(and more staples and more staples), pulling nails, and removing trim (Grace and Taylor helping).
Rod, the pepper to Grace’s salt, one day had an odd twinkle in his eye. He was grinning and shared that’s he had this idea/dream of getting a bunch of guys together for one giant work day and knocking a majority of the projects out in a morning, maybe early afternoon. Smiling, he said it was probably just a dream.
Here’s a picture of Rod’s dream:
The completely amazing/miraculous part (one of many) is that there were so many that wanted to help, Rod told the them he would call if he needed them! When they did come, everyone (about 40 including the youth group gals that provided lunch), was smiling, laughing , joking with each other and having a good time. One gentleman even brought a group of Amish guys from work, just because they wanted to help. No one had to be there. There was no guilt or pressure, they just showed up “to help.” WHO does that?!?!
Heavenly Dad. These selfless people were Heavenly Dad with skin on…or would that be angels? I’ve heard that both ways😉.
Is the house done? No, but in four hours they tore the chimney down to below the roof line and tore off and re-shingled half of the highest portion of my roof, insulated my house/attic, dry-walled the breezeway/laundry, upstairs hallway, bath room, replaced two doors, and then in the afternoon they finished up the sub-floor for the entire downstairs!!!! ALL but 4 gentleman were gone by 2:30-3 in the afternoon. Did I mention they started at 8:00 am IN THE SNOW?!?
God’s heart with skin on.
When we went through the line for food I saw the name of their church on the side of the roaster.
”Grace, what does the word Siloam mean?”
“It has to do with the Pool of Siloam in the Bible that people would go into to be healed.”
Wow…that really hit me. I felt like I had not just waded in gingerly but had been thoroughly dunked and my eyes opened, like the blind man in the Bible, to see God’s love and provision is a completely new way.
What did I learn? Too many lessons for one post for unconditional love, not being judgmental, meeting people where they are in life, being obedient to Heavenly Dad’s instruction, character, kindness, sincerity, gratitude, humbleness, joy and on and on and on.
The pool of Siloam…all wrapped up in a church within walls, filled with love and laughter in the city of Goshen.
Until next time: Blessings!