Ear piercing screams tore through the grocery store and people looked to see which child was being naughty or told, “No, you can’t have that today.” When I rounded the corner I saw Gary with two heavy bottles of juice in his arms, pushing a very unhappy little boy in the cart. It was Austin; brown haired curly topped, Austin, screaming at the top of his lungs. When I realized who was piercing the air, my heart turned from, “what IS that child’s problem,” to “Praise God for this healthy little boy.”

I first met Austin over a year ago at the pharmacy while in the midst of a whirlwind day. As I sat waiting for my prescription, a man approached the pharmacy counter. He was tall, dark, broad, with his shaved head covered in a blue bandana….toting a baby carrier. After handing the prescription over he sat down next to me and put the baby seat between his feet. The baby let out a squeak, letting me know it was a tiny newborn.

Austin was just 8 weeks old and had just gotten a preliminary diagnosis of Cystic Fibrosis. His dad, Gary, talked candidly about the shock of the news and how scared he was. His love for his son was evident as he described him as “awesome”.

‘Awesome Austin’ struggled for breath as I gazed into his big brown eyes. I asked Gary how his wife was handling the news. He told me Austin’s mom walked out on them right after the baby was born. My heart ached as I felt Gary’s pain of losing his wife, caring for Austin alone and now facing the devastating news of CF. I shared God’s love and care with Gary and told him I would pray for little Austin. I also told him I was going to put him on our prayer chain. Gary said he wasn’t the “going to church” type but I invited him anyway and told him there were people there to love and care for them.

Months later I saw Gary again. I hurried up to him. “Gary, how’s Austin?”

“You remember me?” he replied, clearly surprised.

“Of course I remember you.”

“He’s great. Thank God. He doesn’t have Cystic Fibrosis. Formula was leaking into his lungs because of something that didn’t close up right away after he was born. He’s eight months old and he weighs 24 pounds.”

“Oh Gary, I am so glad. We have been praying.”

“Thank you.” He said softly.

As our paths cross I see them as God’s divine appointments. Each encounter has been orchestrated by our heavenly Father. Delays and changes in my schedule have brought me face to face with Gary as he tries to be both mom and dad to this little miracle baby.

As people in the grocery store give glares and stares at this out of control little boy, I pulled my cart alongside and began to speak in hushed tones. “It’s okay, Austin.” I said, as I gently stroked his warm sweaty back. At the sound of my voice and gentle touch, the screams stopped. I longed to pick him up and snuggle him to me, but I caressed his back and placed my hand on his head along with a kiss instead. “I haven’t seen you since you were a baby,” I continued.

I looked up at Gary, still wearing his bandana. “He’s beautiful.”  Though I couldn’t see much of Austin with his head down resting on his arms, his life and health were evident as I saw a normal little boy upset about whatever he was upset about.

“He won’t let me put anything in the cart.” Gary relayed, clearly stymied.

“You are doing a great job, Gary.”

“I’m trying.”

I pulled away and continued my shopping. Austin’s cries began again but without their intensity. A few minutes later, I saw Gary at the checkout counter unloading his groceries with one hand and nestling Austin to his shoulder with the other. My heart soared with hope for this little boy who lives life without any hint of the lung problems they once suspected and a dad who loves him more than life itself. Gary and Austin remind me of God’s love and faithfulness. I know He isn’t finished with Gary yet and as I continue to meet and encourage him as he tries to raise his son alone, I pray that Gary will find the Father who loves him with an everlasting love.

February 25, 2011

Jeanne Doyon is a writer, speaker, and Bible teacher, who enjoys encouraging people to love God's Word. Her articles have appeared in Evangel, Live, Proverbs 31 Magazine, and her story, Late Bloomer, is included in Kisses of Sunshine for Women by Thelma Wells and Carol Kent. Jeanne loves to read, sip English tea, and take advantage of lovely days in her backyard. She lives in Connecticut with her husband, John, and they have three grown children. She shares her insights at www.streams-edge.blogspot.com/ .