Cover Feature

Uncommon Love

Who would want to deal with a depressed teenager?

Uncommon sacrifice and self-denial are the best description of Isabelle’s Christlike character. She came into my life and left permanent grooves of love on my heart.

My mom had recently died, and I was just 16 and all alone in the world. County social workers wanted to place me in foster care, but I would have rather died first. What I needed was someone who really cared about me at this trying time.

"Isabelle must have sensed my pain"

Praying out loud to God on my hands and knees, I pleaded my case before Him: “God, You are all love and I know that You love me. Thank You for bringing someone special into my life right now.”

In order to stay in the tiny apartment that mom and I had shared, I needed a job. But who will hire a depressed teenager? I thought. Looking through mom’s papers, I saw a brochure from The Salvation Army. It said they would help those in need with a clothing voucher. I called the number provided, and a sweet woman answered the phone.

“This is Isabelle, how can I bless you today?”

“Hi, this is Ruth and I am in need of clothes in order to find a job and go to work.”

Isabelle must have sensed my pain, as she scheduled me for the same day so we could talk.    

Walking into the building, I found cookies outside of Isabelle’s office. The lady at the front desk said she made them every night before she worked her shift.

“Come on in Ruth, I am ready to meet with you. So you need some clothes for a job?” She asked smiling. I started to cry and told her all about my situation. “You must be really scared right now,” she said, coming over to hug me.

“They said if I got a job and proved that I could support myself, they wouldn’t put me in foster care,” I blurted.

Isabelle gave me a clothing voucher and then asked me to join her for dinner. “Do you go to church Ruth?” She asked.

“Well, mom and I used to go before she got sick,” I replied. “But I do believe in God and pray to Him often.”

“How about joining me for church on Sunday, and then we can talk afterward about finding you a job?” Isabelle offered.

“That sounds great!” I said through my tears.

It was so good to be around other believers and sing and praise God in the congregation. Isabelle introduced me to many of her long-time friends at the church. Mr. Daniels, an older gentleman, told me he owned a small business and needed someone to answer phones and do filing and run errands, among other things. Isabelle met with the county and filed papers to be my legal guardian. She asked me to move in with her and said that I could have the entire finished basement as my own apartment. Charging me only $20 per week for food, she told me to open a bank account and save as much money as I possibly could.

Continuing in high school for half of each day, I worked the other half for Mr. Daniels. Over the next two years, I completed my diploma. Isabelle’s love and encouragement helped me blossom into a lovely and responsible young woman. I volunteered at the church, working with the kids’ during Sunday school.

She gave up so much of her time and herself to take care of me. Her tenderness and belief in me, even when I did not deserve it, helped me to become a productive human being.

Eventually, I was given my own classroom. Mr. Daniels offered me a job as his full-time secretary during the day, and I attended classes at the local college to become a paralegal. I bought a beautiful red Toyota Corolla with the money I saved. During the holidays, Isabelle and I volunteered as bell ringers at the Army kettle. 

Eventually, I met Thomas at the church and he asked me to functions and picnics. Then one day, out of the blue, he proposed. I told him that he needed to ask Isabelle for my hand. I invited him one night for dinner and afterward, he spoke with her for a long time on the deck.

“Hey guys, what is taking so long?” I finally asked, peeking my head out the sliding glass door.

“You can join us now Ruth,” said Thomas. motioning to me with his hand. “Isabelle said that we could buy this house from her for half of what it is worth.”

“Yes,” Isabelle chimed in. “I am moving in with my sister in Florida. She has not been well, and I have wanted to get out of this bad climate for a long time. You kids deserve a break in life, and I do think of you as my own daughter, Ruth.”

Running over to Isabelle, I wrapped my arms around her neck and gave her a big kiss on the cheek.

“And I think of you as the most special person in the world,” I told her. “No one can take my mother’s place, but you have shown me more love and kindness than anyone else ever has. You have truly saved my life in more ways than you know. I would not have met Thomas if it were not for you.” Thomas joined us in a community hug and kiss.

Over the next several years, Isabelle visited us during the summers. I could see she was getting older and eventually would no longer be able to make the trip, but I think of her daily and reminisce about the special times we shared. She gave up so much of her time and herself to take care of me. Her tenderness and belief in me, even when I did not deserve it, helped me to become a productive human being.

God has shown me great love and faithfulness by giving me Isabelle. It is a gift that I shall always cherish! 

Rhonda Howard lives in Clarksville, TN.

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