susanshouse

Every memory I have of her house is nearly the same—the morning’s bacon fat is hardening in the iron skillet, her handwritten list is on a spiral  steno pad topped with her reading glasses, the breakfast dishes are littering the sink and the smell of supper is already floating from the oven, her Bible is splayed out on the dining room table, its margins full of her heart’s murmuring.  I tear up every time I think of her and as much as I’ve always loved decor, I can’t recall any details from her kitchen save those.

What I remember is how I’ve never felt more cared for in anybody’s home.

I was working 70 hours a week as a resident and she often picked my kids up from school until I could pick them up.  I would drag in, exhausted and often tearful, wishing that I had dinner waiting for my family on the stove and sad that life was so busy and overwhelming. She didn’t make me feel less than.  She reassured me that my kids knew how much they were loved and she’d read a little scripture to me and then send me home with enough food to feed my family and make me feel like life wouldn’t always be this way. That was nearly 18 years ago and it’s as clear to me as if it were yesterday.

I’ve spent the last 18 years trying to be Susan to the people in my life.

She changed everything about everything for me.  She inspired me without condemning me.  She loved me with food and words and childcare and with an indescribable hope that this way of life—this way of love—was possible for me too.

So, if you’re in a season where nothing looks like what you planned, hold on to grace.  Hold on to hope.  Thank God for your Susan, who has been Christ’s hands and feet to you and then get ready, because your day is coming—your day to make a place where people feel cared for.

And just a little warning, Susan’s life is harder than you think because loving people always is.  Making a safe place for another human heart will require that you bear burdens that no one else sees.

I’m so thankful for her love to me, for making a place where I knew I was loved. I will never be able to repay her.

This is the Jesus way of hospitality.  What a blessing to have been the recipient of so sacred a gift.

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Tell me the story of your Susan.  We all have one!

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34 comments on “The Place Where You Are Cared For”

  1. Her name is Edie. I’ve known her for 4 1/2 years now, and she has opened her heart and home to me through the internet. She has helped me to find my way out of the wilderness, and to find myself. We share similar childhood traumas, and have seen God restore the years the locust have eaten. Seen Him turn places, that seemed devastated, and even acceptable, into Beauty! Full restoration! She has introduced me to books that I never would have taken the time to read before. She is brave, and honest, and tender and vulnerable. She is a true friend to so many, not just me. In my dark hour she responded to my emails. She gave when no one was looking, but I was, and God was. She encourages and loves at all times. A true gift. I am deeply grateful!!!

  2. Funny you should ask because I started praying for my own Susan this morning. In the midst of a mental pity party about having no maternal figures to encourage, empathize or guide me without shame or comparison I felt so compelled to pray that I’m able to see those people who have been put in my life that can & will and for the strength to turn away from those that can’t or won’t.

    I agree wholeheartedly that you are Susan to many of us – minus the childcare & take away food. 😉 Thank you for all your encouraging words and works, Edie.

  3. oh I totally agree with June’s post. Thank you, Edie!
    One of the Susan’s I was blessed to have in my life was my maternal grandmother. Her kitchen was always filled with delicious food–fresh vegetables cooking on the stove, fried chicken (the best you’ve ever eaten) sizzling, a homemade pound cake always waiting under a cake cover (that she often had taken out of the oven at midnight…or 6 am….depending on the day). She never knew how many people she’d be feeding on a given day…relatives, friends, friends of friends—always welcome anytime of day or night. As wonderful as it was, it wasn’t the delicious food that I remember best…it was the way she made me feel. Like I was the MOST important and the MOST loved child on earth….a feeling I didn’t receive anywhere else. Her life was hard….very hard….but her LOVE was big…very big.
    Thanks for making me stop and relive those memories this afternoon, Edie. I needed that.

  4. My Susan is my mother-in-law, Linda. It is so much easier at 40 to see the blessing she has been in my life than it was at 20. She loves unconditionally – truly – and is an inspiration for mothering and grandmother-ing that anyone should strive to emulate. I have been fortunate to have many Susans in my life – my Aunt Ruby, my MawMaw & my Mammy – all of who made me believe I was most special, important & loved.

    So thankful for these women, and Susans everywhere. xo

  5. I am Susan to my daughter, a teacher. She turned 40 this year. Diabetes since age 13. It is starting to take its toll on her. My life’s mission right now is to care for her kids and her laundry and cleaning the toilets because she is not able to do that for her family, as much as she wants to. This gives me a peek into what it means for her to come home to an orderly home. I am speechless.

  6. I had a Susan in my life when I was a young, single mother. She would watch my children for me and never expect anything in return. When I tried to find a way to repay her she would say, “Someday you will be in a position to do for somebody else. Pay it forward.” I will always remember that and hope that I am able now to make somebody else’s life more manageable.

  7. I wish I could tell my Susan what she meant to me. I was a young mother, juggling an elementary school-daughter (homework, Girl Scouts, dance, play dates) and a wild 3 year old son (destroy, climb, run, messy, angelic smile and the best hugs). She was the mother of a middle school boy. Both of our husbands busy. She would watch my wild one while I took my daughter to after school events that wild men were not welcomed to 🙂 She was a great listener, no judging, loved everything you ever did. Every one of her friends counted her as their best friend. She fought ovarian cancer for 4 hard years, and then God rescued her. I miss her still, 7 years later. She inspires me to be a Susan for someone else.

  8. Her name was Ollie Beasley. Known to most as Ollie B 🙂 She came to work for our family in the 50’s- I do not have the entire story- most of the key characters have long since passed away- I have her picture on my desk, the one of her in the kitchen, with her head cocked sideways and her funny camera smile 🙂 I was JUST talking to her. Whispering to her, missing her fiercely. Recalling Thanksgivings past. And I came in here to read your post, and look what you’ve written- She always took time for me. She taught me when my own mother was unable to move or speak. (illness) I watched her kneel & pray, every single day. She taught me to be brave and move ahead. That there is a Father that watches my every step and clears the path for me. That love conquers all.
    Her turkey hash on toast was the best thing on earth. And pound cake from scratch with her boiled custard? I’ve yet to taste anything else that good. I have always said that my ability to care for others was given to me from her. It was a different era- a different time- I am grateful she was there. I lost her 6 years ago- She was 94 years old- and Edie, I never, ever, ever, not one time, heard her complain- about anything- She & my Mom were something else-
    And Edie, know what else? I do believe that June speaks for most of us here as well-
    Thank you for all you give and all that you do. God gave me you in my hour of need- I am so grateful- Big Love & Hugs-

  9. And these are my favorite lines…”And just a little warning, Susan’s life is harder than you think because loving people always is. Making a safe place for another human heart will require that you bear burdens that no one else sees.” As I am learning to be the Susan for others that others were to me…I am finding the cost of bearing burdens that no one else sees difficult. I had no idea. But I am so thankful for the many Susan’s in my life. One that comes to mind is the neighbor across the street when I was growing up and how it was easier to tell her my struggles at school than my own family. Thank you for the reminder that bearing the burdens is worth it because it is so worth it to be the one who loved another well and really that is what we remember. Not their kitchen decor. But their heart. May God continue to increase all of ours.

  10. My Susan’s name was Kathryn and she was my Grandma. She was loving, kind, fun, wore fur coats and jewels, could cook anyone under the table! Loved her vitality for life, her love of others, her wanting to always learn new things, but most of all her instinct to show love to each person individually. I try so hard to emulate the feelings she gave me into my two new grand girls. Hope they will think of me the way I think of my Grandma, with a warm heart and feeling the love.
    Edie, you emulate her in so many ways, which is why I am drawn to you and your blog. Keep up the fantastic work of showing all of us your heart. Hugs for this!!!

  11. I lost my Susan, my permanent address and welcoming home, when I lost my grandmother. She was a wonderful mix of Anglican and Pentecostal, English and Canadian, sweet and spicy. I would escape from my busy world, travel long distances by plane just to sit in her kitchen. The simplicity of her everyday life was such a balm to my weary over-committed self. I never wanted to lose her…she has been gone too many years now and I still miss her dreadfully! I must confess, that there is something about you, Edie, your honesty and faith which draws me in. Thank you for sharing yourself. I am so glad I found your blog…just wish I lived close enough to sit in your kitchen from time to time! Blessings to you & your family.

  12. My mother-in-law has been this precious gift to me. One who culture tells me should be a meddling annoyance is God’s most gracious provision in a season of raising two precious and challenging children. I would not be able to lift my own feeble arms but for her being my Aaron! sending this along to her and telling hr just that (again!) today. Love everything you write. I’ll be a spokesperson for the book if you need one in Mississippi 🙂

  13. My Susan’s name is Amy and she is very much a part of my life right now. She makes me so happy. I always know that God loves me when she talks to me because it shines right through her face. Whenever I need to talk to her, no matter where we are, she focuses on me completely and makes me believe that I am the most important person to her at that moment. She loves me even though I don’t deserve it. She has been so instrumental in my faith in the Catholic church, that it just amazes me.
    I am so thankful for having Amy in my life. I love her so much!

  14. My Grandma, who took a little girl in after a nasty alcoholic divorce. She showed me what home was, and every day of my life I aspire to be what she was for me. Warmth, love, safety…home.

    Thank you for reminding us.

  15. I lost my Susan this year, June 29. She was my mom Mary, and she was 88.
    She was the place I walked into several times a week and found a bowl of homemade soup waiting for me. She could look at my face and read it like book. What I needed she managed to give. Confidence, cheer, love, hugs, our favorite meals and sometimes advice I didn’t want to hear sometimes but needed…she had the ability to give and give and then give some more. A gift.
    Her life was incredibly challenging. She was a widow with six children. Lost her husband in a plane crash when she was 7 months pregnant with me. She never remarried. Had a grade 8 education and raised six kids to be company owners, tradespeople, stay at home moms, all with a great work ethic.
    Her last year was filled with horrible pain and many hospital visits. I sat crying silently behind her one night just rubbing her arm. She couldn’t see me. She still knew. She asked why are you crying….I told her the truth. I don’t want you to go I said. She said I know, but I’m ready honey.
    She died several months later, she stayed as long as she could. We had three days in June to say goodbye. I never left her side. I wanted to be the one who cared for her. I held her all night that last night, in her own bed. She was ready and I, well as ready as I’d ever be. Then she gently left my side to be with her Father. She went filled with peace and grace.
    I hope I’m somebody’s Susan as I’ve had a shining example.

  16. My Susan is named Debbie. When I was going through a heartbreaking divorce that I didn’t see coming, Debbie left her own home and MOVED IN WITH ME AND MY BABIES. I don’t know if I would have survived without her. She moved across the country years ago–but every single time I speak to her or even just see her name flash past my Facebook feed, every time I make my kid’s Debbie’s Favorite Dinner, I remember how safe and loved she made me feel when I needed it most.

  17. She is my mother. I often times wonder how she did it all. I still don’t know except for her relationship with God. She still to this day shows love in so many ways. I treasure her and hope that others see her in me.

  18. I’m so thankful to have had several “Susans” in my life…my mother, my pastor’s wife, Jeannie, both deceased, and Aunts Lydia, Essie, and Connie, and dear friends too. The qualities that they all share is that God’s love radiated through them. Like Maya Angelou said, (paraphrased) “I may not remember all that they said or did, I do remember how they made me feel”…loved, accepted, cherished, and valued. I hope I can be and am that “Susan” for others in my life.

  19. This is just one more reminder that saints are the small anonymous people we see every day and often don’t recognize as such. They are awesome. They are who we should all aspire to be.

  20. My Susan is a Zambian grandmother named Angela. I met her almost a decade ago during a university co-op year spent volunteering in Lusaka. At that time, Angela had recently started a preschool day centre for 90 orphaned children – purchasing an old bar in one of the city’s slums and turning it into a happy, safe, welcoming spot for little souls between 3 and 7. She fed them breakfast and lunch, hired teachers to teach them to read and write, and brought music into their lives. And, so no one would get the wrong idea, she did all the work as a full time volunteer. (Her income came from renting out her home and moving into the tiny cottage on her property). Her bottomless-pit of ambition, love, and energy drew me in and has inspired me again and again and again.
    Since 2005, Angela has continued the work of Kondwa, in addition to building a home for 10 orphaned girls, and opening an elementary school so that the Kondwa preschool graduates can continue in her care and with free schooling beyond age seven. The school’s farm produce feeds the children and brings in money from sales at the market, and a new chicken rearing initiative has proven to be a great income generating project for the school as well. Edie, this is a woman after your heart!
    In her free time, Angela raises two of her grandchildren, volunteers to do home based care for people dying of AIDS, and runs workshops for the Kondwa children’s guardians as well as community members. She is the keeper of so many stories of abuse and neglect and trauma – and where others would be overwhelmed – she is motivated by love to do more. This selfless woman is love in action. She is my Susan and I’m sure a Susan to hundreds upon hundreds of Zambian children.

  21. I couldn’t have used better or more heartfelt words than June! You’ve saved my sanity, filled my heart and picked me up so many times, Edie (or I guess I should say “Susan”.) God bless you girlfriend!!!! <3

  22. What a beautiful post and wonderful testimonies. These are inspiring me to be a Susan in someone’s life!! It’s so important to look outside of ourselves, our homes, and use the hands and feet that Jesus has given us in His name. Thank you for being ever-inspiring to me and countless others!!!

  23. My Susan’s name was Reona Gretchen. My Mamaw. Oh how she loved me. She was always so proud of me. Mamaw was a woman before her time. She wasn’t a grandmother who cooked three meals a day. She was a business woman in the early sixties who was a buyer for Sears and later a traveling district manager for many retail stores. Mamaw taught me the finer things in life and let me travel to her stores with her in the summers when I was out of school. Later in my life she adored my children and affirmed my child rearing with how very proud she was of me. Mamaw died ten years ago at the age of 90. I named my daughter, Gretchen, after Mamaw. Lots of times affirming words are all a young girl and mom needs. Thank you Mamaw for being my Susan b

  24. My Susan’s name was Suzan. She and her husband are our oldest daughter’s godparents. As new parents, when our parents were both divorced and no longer practicing their faith, Suzan and Dan were a godsend. Their own children lived out of state. They adopted us and we adopted them. With my husband and I working stressful jobs making little money, Dan and Suzan loved on us with their time, talent and treasure, true stewards and examples of loving others. They watched our kids, gave us financial advice and support, counseled us in rocky times in our marriage, and lived their faith as the example we needed. When we lost her to brain cancer two years ago, it was like we had lost one of our parents. The hole she left was so big, and can’t be filled. To this day, I struggle to know what to do without her.

  25. Oh what a role model!!! One of my life goals is to inspire without condemning and offer genuine encouragement to everyone around me! Thank you for these words.

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