Caregving

God Provides for Me as I Provide Care for My Family – by Bonita Bell

While working a full-time job that I loved at the Franklin Institute, my life was interrupted in 2001 as I unexpectedly became a mom.  After my son Walker’s biological mother, who was my cousin, passed away, his aunt started caring for him. After she also passed away, Walker came to live with me at age nine.

Walker was a chronic asthmatic and required repeated ER trips. After praying and believing, and miraculously about 5 years, God healed him, and he has not had an asthma attack since. Praise God!

I bought my home in 2002, living with my son and dad. A few years later, my sister returned to the United States after living overseas. Dad had health issues here and there, but for the most part, life was good. As the years went by, I lived my life and eventually started preparing for retirement.

I was lying in bed one night and talking with God wondering about what I would do with myself once I retired. I was reading a book, What’s Really Holding You Back by Valorie Burton, and asked God to help me get past my fear. I pondered about what I really wanted to do and knew I wanted to work with teens and youth. I believed God was leading me towards more involvement in my local church youth department.

I decided to go back to school and attended Eastern University for Urban Studies with a concentration in youth development. Going back was tough after thirty years and so many technological advances, but the instructors were amazing. I made many new friends and joined study groups and it became a beautiful experience.

During my 3rd year of school, the COVID-19 pandemic hit. The Franklin Museum closed and I began working remotely. In May 2020, my sister was admitted to the hospital for an illness, caught COVID from her hospital roommate, but never tested and came home, transmitting it to me and my father.

So many things happened during this time. The Franklin Institute shut down and my entire department was laid off. So while being concerned for the help and well-being of my father and sister, I now had the dilemma of how to support our family financially. I had no choice but to trust God for all of my worries and cares.

To God be the Glory – the Franklin Institute gave me an amazing severance package after 26 years of employment! They also waived the requirement for me to have to pay back the tuition assistance since I would no longer be with the company. Every time I thought things couldn’t possibly work out, God showed me how they can and how they will.

COVID-19 hit my father and sister really hard, and both required hospital stays. After returning home, they both experienced lingering health issues and are considered COVID-19 long-haulers, which means they have persistent health symptoms.

I realized that God does all things well because at the time I left the Franklin Institute, I was needed as a full-time caregiver. As a stay-at-home full-time caregiver from June 2020 through November 2021, God supplied all my needs and more during that time. I truly learned how to trust Him no matter what things looked like.

I remember one particular time I was worried about increasing medical costs after losing my job. As I prayed about it, God told me to be still, and let me know “I’ve got you”. It reminded me of the old song that says, “don’t wait til the battle is over, shout now.” After looking into Veterans Affairs for coverage, both I and my dad were covered! This strengthen my faith that I could trust in God even when I didn’t have all the answers.

I learned to praise God for the unanswered prayers and unfinished things because I knew He would eventually finish them in His own timing. I grew exhausted trying to fight naturally, even as God was telling me the fight is too big for me – to let it go and let Him do it!

While caring for my dad and sister, my aunt, who was my mom’s last living sibling, began having age-related issues. After my uncle/her brother passed away, I learned in 2019 that she named me as her Power of Attorney, so that I could take care of all of her financial and final arrangements. After the pandemic hit, I also discovered she was not keeping up with doctor appointments through senior services.

Then another devastating setback – she had a mammogram finding that was never followed up. By the time treatment was sought, she had late-stage breast cancer. I sprang into action to help with her treatment plan and through this process, I began to see memory issues emerging and she was eventually diagnosed with dementia.

My Aunt was determined that she could live alone, but we knew otherwise. She was constantly admitted to nursing facilities and eventually my cousin and I closed up her apartment and arranged for her to move into a skilled-care facility. My Aunt passed away in August 2022 after complications with metastatic lung cancer and other age-related illnesses.

I am still unable to work full time, due to all the care that my father and sister require. Dad has to use a walker and requires support daily. Home health aides come during the week, but I’m on duty evenings and the weekends. I help with their physical care, cooking, staying on top of medication, doctor visits, and whatever other care is needed. Our home is full of special devices to help accommodate Dad’s special medical needs.

Not working full-time was a true shock to my system. The good was being able to see God come through for me and my family repeatedly. I was confident in the life I had, but God wanted to show me a new confidence in Him; one that came from a much higher place. At every turn God made up the difference, I truly did not go lacking and I am eternally grateful to God for this.

As I was praying for God to provide after being laid off, I received a call from the HR department, letting me know I was eligible to receive my retirement. Finding out there was a separate retirement account that had been accruing interest the entire time I was out of work showed me that God had everything covered even in ways I was never aware.

While I was trying to figure out how to pay for all these needs for my family and working through my aunt’s final expenses, I was in a car accident. I realized I needed God to come through again. I was determined not going to continue in my own strength but as God provided, I was going to embrace His provisions. I realized even now that I need Him more and I will be officially retiring at the end of this year. I look forward to resting in Him and the calling He has placed on my life.

Still juggling multiple medical appointments for my family, I felt it best to start working part-time. I was blessed with my current Job at Urban Promise Ministries in 2021 and have been learning how to balance my job and my responsibility at home. I work as the Wellness Program Coordinator and have the privilege to interact with youth in the community who are impacted by various issues such as poverty and other disparities. My job is so gracious to my family’s needs and worked with me to structure my hours as needed for my loved ones.

I have had my own health scares, and in those moments, I worried about who could care for my family if I wasn’t at my best. God showed me the importance of caring for myself so that I could care for them. He showed me through my health and my reactions if I was putting too much on my plate. He showed me how to slow down and even though it is still a progressive lesson, I am working at it every day.

I am grateful for the medical support that comes to the house to assist with my father and sister throughout the week. I do not think I could have gotten this far in their care without them. They have given me the space to work outside of my home for as long as I have and now that I am transitioning into retirement, they are a help as I start this new journey as well.

There are some who do not have direct contact with my sister and father but have still been such a great help as well. God has continued to give me favor with my job, church, and other commitments so that I can tailor my schedule to fit the needs of my family. It is a blessing to have understanding people who just have grace with you. People do not see and cannot imagine my day-to-day but it is encouraging how much they just “understand”. How far it would go if we all just “understood” one another.

As life goes on, I’ve learned to pick my battles. A successful day doesn’t always mean everything was handled exactly how I would have handled it, but a successful day is when everyone is happy, and experiencing a good portion of health and peace.

I really want to honor God and honor my father as I’m not sure how many days he has left. I want his last days to be joyful and I want to be present most of all. As I see him aging, I realize that caring for him is not the only adjustment I need to learn. One day he will not be here and then I will have to learn how to do life without him. So, until that time comes, I want to be there enjoying the time he has left by his side. Our family still has memories that can be made, and I do not want to miss any of them. I also want to be mentally present. I don’t want to just be the caregiver but a part of our family. I don’t want to see them as my patients but as my father and my sister.

Through my unexpected journey of caregiving, I have learned a new way to lean on God. I always prayed and depended on the Lord, but this experience has shown me God can and will fight for me when I’m advocating for my family.

He showed me how I could rest in Him, trusting Him to take care of everything that needed to be accomplished and take life one day at a time. I looked at the big picture and sometimes God would tell me to just focus on what He is doing in this chapter when I wanted to be assured of how the book would end. God showed me what it really meant when He said He would fight for me.

Prayer for Moms:

Dear Lord, I thank you for being our God and our Abba Father.  You are so loving, so kind and so patient with us as you are with those in need of care. Lord, you have called us to serve our loved ones. In our spirit, we say here I am lord answering the call, without knowing all that it will entail.

I pray Lord that as we are caring for our loved ones, help us to serve them with a spirit of kindness and compassion. Help us not to be so impatient when things don’t always go the way we think.

Lord, we thank you because you are always with us even as we navigate the different systems to get the services, care, and resources for our loved ones.  Lord, I pray that as we trust you and acknowledge you, you would direct our paths in who to talk to and where to go to get the resources needed for our loved ones.

God, I thank you for every trial, every circumstance, and every test that causes us to come to you.  Lord, you are greater than anything we could possibly go through.

When we are feeling anxious, help us to remember to seek you first, to trust in you, and not lean to our own understanding, so you can direct our path.

Thank you Father for being the answer to every prayer and teaching us how to trust in you. My soul sings “Jesus, Jesus, how I trust you, how I prove you over and over, Jesus, Jesus. Precious Jesus Oh for grace to trust you more.”

In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen

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Want to hear more of Bonita’s story? Watch her Moms Night In Conversation on YouTube.

Or watch it on Facebook here.

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