Some words just freeze in you. They stick in your heart and soul and you will forever remember where you were when they were uttered. All too often they are words of anger or fear.
But sometimes...sometimes...they are words that express joy in the midst of sorrow; convict us of something; show us there is still sorrow even as we are experiencing joy. And they change us.
Last May was "National Foster Care Month" to show the reality of the children in our foster care system. To highlight the need for more foster parents. We just had Orphan Sunday recently to bring awareness to the 132 million orphans around the world. Hoping to open hearts to loving a child not of their body. Saturday November 17th was National Adoption Day.
All these National Something Days. They make me wonder what it is I should do. What is God's plan for my family? For your family? To become a foster parent? To adopt from Ethioptia, Haiti, Guatemala? To love on the foster family or the widow down the street? Sponsor a child in a 3rd world country?
God commands us over and over to take care of the widows (I believe this includes the single mom's in our communities) and orphans, over and over again. But what should I do right now?
As I wonder, I sit in my comfy home watching leaves float around on the fall wind. The sounds of the dryer and of my children playing out side and the smell of fresh baking bread are in my house. It is comfortable. It is warm. There is food. There is at least 1 discontented child upset at being sent to their room. :) But over all, there is contentment.
Last Saturday, National Adoption Day, we sat in a class for families wanting to adopt a child in foster care. Some were adopting a family member. Others were like us; they felt God leading them and they were following. We were there to tell them our story and to answer questions as those who'd walked that path a little ahead of them. We don't have all the answers, just some experience.
Lydia was snuggled up in the lap of a friend who was leading the class when the question was asked, "What do you like about being adopted?" She considered it a second and said, "I have a mommy and a daddy now."
The words hung there in the air and Will nodded along with her. Next to Lydia sat a beautiful woman whose heart was wounded as a child. She is the other trainer for the class. When they taught our class, I remember her telling a bit about her life. Around age 13 she and her siblings were put into foster care. I do not know her whole story but I can imagine the courage it takes to even utter the sentences. She was adopted by someone who sounds like she has the patience of a saint and a heart full of love for hurting children.
As my eyes caught hers, I saw simultaneously there, old pain and new joy. The tears brimmed as she tried to smile. She is still so wounded that sorrow came to her; But I could tell she also found joy that her work had helped a child be able to say they were an orphan no longer. Joy and pain in such a short sentence.
Those words, frozen in time, hanging in my heart, "I have a mommy and a daddy now."
My first thought was joyful for my children but sadness that they could even remember a time when they wondered who would be their parents. Felt unwanted by parents who didn't fight for them. Felt unwanted by a foster family who after almost 2 years didn't plan to adopt them. How do you explain to a child that you care for them but that your home is not meant to be their forever home? As adults we get that, but a wounded child?
As those words kept surfacing, I began to feel sorrow. For any who have ever felt that pain and not been able to heal from it. For any who as an adult never had that forever family adopt them.
Then the sorrow began to stir a discontent in me. I feel a sorrow so heavy I cannot cast it off. It is for the children who do not have a parent now, whether due to death, or neglect, or drugs and alcohol that have stolen that person from them.
The orphans of Uganda and the rest of Africa who have not been placed in a loving foster home or an orphanage where they will get fed but instead wander streets looking for a way to eat.
Orphans in some countries near Russia who are tied in their cribs until age 5 when they are placed in mental institutions and made to forage for food on the floor. Most die withing months of arriving there.
The orphans of Haiti and South America, living in dumps, being looked at as no better than the trash that belongs there.
The orphans of America who see their parents once a week or less, who are continually told "you're coming home soon!" only to find out after a year that they cannot go home because their parents are still on Meth. Or who are promised a "forever family" for years until at age 18 their disillusionment is larger than their hope for life.
The ones who mark themselves with tattoos, piercings, and cuttings to make their outside match the pain within.
"I have a mommy and a daddy now."
A physical, living, breathing parent is not the same as a mommy and a daddy. Existing on earth doesn't count as loving and being a family. And that is what we all crave. Family. A mommy and a daddy who love us no matter what.
It struck me last night how many stories and movies were about finding a family. Sometimes they are disguised as a love story but that's not what they are about at their core. They are about having a place where you belong. You are known. You are accepted. You are loved.
The Blind Side, Oliver Twist, While You Were Sleeping, The Proposal, Annie, Good Will Hunting,...
How many children are living stories, wishing they could utter that phrase, "I have a mommy and a daddy now?" It sort of sticks in my throat. The thought, 'what is God calling us to do about it?'
Not as a society. Not as the church. We know the answer to that one. The bible is quite clear on that point, "Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world." James 1:27.
No, as an individual. As a family. What is he calling me to specifically? What about you?
At times I have patted myself on the back that, because of us, there are 4 fewer orphans in the world. But just when the sweet music starts to play in my head and the warm fuzzies get all warmed up, the hard part of parenting wounded children kicks in. Before I can get too full of myself, I find myself on my knees begging God for help. So can't I just rest on my laurels and be done? I mean, haven't I done my part?
That's how we think. I take a meal every Wednesday to so and so. I made a blanket for that one family. I served at Thanksgiving at the soup kitchen. I direct traffic in the church parking lot. I went on a mission trip a few years back. Dust off my hands, I'm done.
But what if God's not done with us. I'm not saying there are things wrong with all those ways of serving. And I'm not saying we have to singly attempt to take every orphan in the world into our homes. It just seems that we can get comfortable in our serving. And I don't think God really likes comfort. I haven't found a bible verse yet that says, "Enjoy all your comforts oh ye ones and rest in your comfort zone."
God seems to like to call us to hard things. Growth and change are uncomfortable, yet it's what God seems to desire to see in us. And boy does He change us when He calls us to something new. Something scary. Sometimes I wonder if He doesn't call us to hard serving, not for those we serve as much as for our own hearts. My own selfish sins have certainly been revealed to me more and more as we've journey through the past several years since our adoption.
Some of you are going to say, "I'm already maxed out and never able to say no as it is." That's our challenge as women, jumping in to every request to make everyone happy. But that's the thing. Is that serving? Is that the serving that God is calling you to? Because God's serving isn't always fun. It isn't always easy. It brings us a holy discontent but it also gives us a deep inner joy we can't find anywhere else.
While you may have the gift of hospitality, having your friends over for dinner parties and hosting baby showers, while nice and all, probably wasn't God's idea of how to use that gift. Ever thought about using that gift in a ministry capacity? Throw a dinner party for women at a half-way house? Hmmm, that doesn't sound so easy now does it.
Some of us have the gift of prophesy but telling everyone what is wrong with their life, judging quickly, and then telling them how to live their life isn't exactly a servant's heart is it? But what about mentoring a friend who is having a tough time? What about leading a discipleship group of teens? What about mentoring or adopting a foster child? That isn't so easy.
For many years Tony and I have felt that at some point God is going to call us to be foster parents. To teens. I have been relieved each time we talk about it, that He hasn't called us there yet. Because that's hard serving. And it's WAY outside my comfort zone. I'm not excited about it. But at the same time, I am. Scared, terrified, and excited all at once. Because shouldn't a 16 year old have the right to say, "Because I have a mom and a dad now."? Don't they deserve that just as much as my cute young children?
I desire to live out God's heart for His children but wounded and hurt teenagers are just so...messy. They are angry. They are immature beyond belief. They are sometimes uncontrollable. Sometimes unreachable. Sometimes they are kind. Sometimes they are determined. Always they are God's children. And He sees what we cannot, past the scars and behavior, to the child within. The scared, but lovely creation He planned for.
I read Katie Davis book she wrote about her community that she's immersed herself in, in Uganda. I read her blog as she writes about being a foster mother in her mid-twenties to 13 young girls. She expresses their pain and sorrow over being deserted or having parents die. It's hard serving. Living amidst pain and sorrow.
Is God calling you to something scary? Something that seems out of your control? Something...messy? Yeah, I know that fear. I pray that God gives all of us the faith to follow Him down those messy paths. I know He will supply the path if we will take the steps. I know He will hold us up when things get hard.
And I know that we will hear those words. Words that freeze in the air and bring tears to our eyes. I pray many moments like that for you. Because they change us.