I’d like to pretend I’ve put a great deal of time into planning for 2016. Although I do have a few goals for 2016, the truth is that I am in a season of adjustment and some days I feel like I am barely keeping my head above water. It’s not because I am running myself ragged or that I am just so incredibly busy that I can’t keep up. It’s more like I’m in a season that I didn’t expect.
Many of you know that I’m caring for a toddler boy right now. We are absolutely in love with him, but, as with all foster care, there are so many unknowns that it can be exhausting and overwhelming. I’ve told my closest friends this, and I guess it’s common in fostering, but I worry more about this little guy than I ever did with my own children. Everything’s fluid, nothing set in stone.
There’s a great deal of unsettle-ness that comes with the fostering territory and I don’t even know if I could explain it if I try. You try to make things “feel” permanent when you know they aren’t. You make every effort to assimilate them into your family and make them feel attached, when you know that it could all change at any moment. Sometimes it feels fraudulent and like a big social experiment. You worry that it will end in hurt for this little guy and it breaks your heart.
On a day-to-day basis, I’ve come to the conclusion that all I can do is love this little one the best I can. God ordained for Him to be here and what God ordains is always good. I can’t worry about tomorrow even though I find myself daily fighting with the “what ifs” that pop into my mind. We’re all better off for having had this little boy in our life, if only for a season.
I’ve learned several lessons in the last 8 months, all totally unexpected ones.
- Acceptance. Most of them include the concept of accepting God’s will when it feels awkward or unstable. Submitting to God’s plan when I wonder if it will ultimately end up hurting my children’s hearts.
- Surrender. I think we confuse commitment to God with surrender and they are two totally different animals. I can commit to what I want: the ministries, the priorities, the activities. Commitment puts me in the driver’s seat. Surrender is completely letting go of my own ideals and plans and accepting the path God has laid out for me. It puts God in the driver’s seat.
- Time. You never know how God will rearrange your life, so spending time in God’s Word in BULK when you can is an imperative. For the last 8 or so years, I’ve had the luxury of lots of time in the Word. I could sit at my leisure and study because my kids were older and more self-governed. During these years, I went through 2 Journaling Bibles, studied numerous books of the Bible in-depth, took detailed notes that I can return to during this season. I can see now that God was “growing me” and driving down “roots” for the stability I’d need for this season.
- Love and do good–no strings attached. It’s easy to love those who love us back, and harder to love those who are unkind or rude, yet God’s love benefits the just and the unjust. Fostering has taught me an aspect of God’s love that I needed to learn again: selfless love. Love that gives time and sacrifices energy for the benefit of another who might never remember you at all. Love that desperately wants to keep the child but prays earnestly for the recovery of the child’s bio-mom at the same time.
- Serving. I’ve said this before but serving God doesn’t always look the way you think it will and that’s what’s so exciting about the Christian life. Hospitality and “kitchen table counseling” continue to be the ministries God ordains for me mostly. For those of you who are serving God by caring for toddlers or the elderly and wonder if your service is small compared to what others are doing, ask yourself this question: “If Jesus walked into my home today, would I:
- offer him a drink?
- cook a meal for Him?
- serve Him a snack?
- care for Him if He were sick?
- comfort Him if He were discouraged?
- wash His laundry and press His shirts?
“Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.” Matthew 25:40
Any service, however menial or insignificant, done with a mind toward’s God is like doing it for Him. This mindset changes you!
Next month on the blog I’ll be referencing a book that will help you study the Bible for yourself: How to Study Your Bible: Discover the Life-Changing Approach to God’s Word by Kay Arthur. It’s so important that you learn to study God’s word on your own. I know that sounds cliché, but from what I see, most people rely on second-hand knowledge to learn. They read a passage and then “study” the Bible by pouring over the ideas of Matthew Henry or John MacArthur or John Piper. This is not the same as studying the Bible. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good commentary and appreciate all of the wonderful study aids we have at our disposal, but not if they become a crutch so that you don’t have to do the slow, hard, work of studying the Bible for yourself. Anyway, we’ll talk about that more next month.
For now, what are some of the lessons you’ve learned this year? How has God changed you? Share in the comments.