Filling in the Gaps with Grace
By LeAnn Rice

The first time I checked “widow” as my marital status on a form, I burst into tears. This just can’t be my life. It’s not supposed to be this way. But with my husband’s final breath, I went from being a happily-married mom to a widowed-single parent.

Before cancer entered our lives, Ron and I planned to have two or three more children. We dreamed of the days he would coach Little League and soccer, and we would spend weekends hiking along the trails of the beautiful Pacific Northwest as a family. When Ron died, so did our dreams for the future we envisioned together. I couldn’t imagine how I would care for the house and raise a child all on my own. Eleven years later, I am still trying to figure it out.

No matter what your circumstances, raising happy, healthy, godly children is challenging. As a single mom, it has been hard for me to find ways to spend quality time with my son while balancing the day-to-day responsibilities of home and work. Nick will always be my priority. While I would love to spend all our time together having fun, the reality is bills need to be paid, and the house will smell if dishes pile up in the sink. I know this from experience!

How do I get it all done? Well … I don’t. I simply do the best I can each and every day and trust God to fill in the gaps.

I didn’t learn this lesson overnight. The year after Ron died, I tried to be Super Mom, but failed miserably. Looking back, I have often wondered if God thwarted some of my efforts so I would learn to depend more upon Him. Nick never needed Super Mom. He needed me - a mom who tries hard, loves him unconditionally and knows she can do nothing without Jesus. When I let go of the things I couldn’t reasonably accomplish, God provided for us in ways I never could have imagined.

As for smelly dishes … I’ve learned to be creative when it comes to getting the necessary things done, as well as extra “tasks” that arise. Recently, when we needed to assemble furniture before out-of-town guests arrived, Nick and I tackled the project as a mother-son bonding experience. We ribbed each other over the silly differences between men and women. He had his way (the throw-away-directions manly way) and I had mine (the follow-directions-to-the-letter girly way). Switching roles more than once, his idea, we laughed so hard tears ran down our faces. We had so much fun it didn’t seem like work at all. Now I look at every task as an opportunity to connect with Nick.

Perhaps you are looking for ways to bond with your children while keeping up with everyday life. Here are a few practical ideas that have turned normal “tasks” into wonderful mother-son bonding experiences for Nick and me:

  • When considering areas to serve in the community, I choose opportunities based on where Nick and I can serve together. In a world where the media encourages self-serving attitudes, Nick is developing a heart for serving others and learning that some people have needs greater than ours.
  • Mundane tasks such as running errands are rarely fun. However, they provide great opportunities to catch up and connect. Some of our best talks happen spontaneously while driving from one stop to the next.
  • Preparing meals together is a wonderful bonding experience, as well as a smooth transition to conversation. Unfortunately, Nick doesn’t share my passion for cooking. So, instead of bonding over preparations, we transform meal time into memory-making time. Sometimes we eat our meal backwards (dessert first), have a theme dinner (picnic food, ethnic food, etc) or we eat everything with our hands (no matter what is on our plate).

Being a parent is probably the hardest job in the world, and I’ve made my share of mistakes. I consider myself successful though, as long as Nick knows he is loved unconditionally, and never feels second to my other responsibilities. As he grows, I don’t want him to look back and remember his mom was too busy to spend time with him. I want him to look back at his childhood, and remember the silly as well as significant stuff. I pray he also has learned how to find balance as a husband and father himself.

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