Being in your late twenties is a funny thing. For me it’s been a time to reevaluate life with the benefit of a few years of experience as a guide. I’ve asked so many questions about things I would have just accepted as fact before. The combination of becoming a mom, walking through such a scary situation with Mike’s health, and just growing a bit wiser have changed me so much.
This time last year I read two books that would prove to change the path of our little family’s life. I squirmed as I turned the pages and realized that even though I thought I knew what it meant to be a good person and to be a Christian, I was guilty of watering down Christ’s message and somehow I had melded it into living the “American Dream.” These words jumped off the page for me:
“The careful study of the Word has a goal, which is not the careful study of the Word. The objective is to discover Jesus and allow Him to change our trajectory. Meaning, a genuine study of the Word results in believers who feed poor people and open up their guest rooms; they’re adopting and sharing, mentoring and intervening. Show me a Bible teacher off mission, and I’ll show you someone with no concept of the gospel he is studying.” (Jen Hatmaker from the book “7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess.”)
I didn’t see that active lifestyle of service in myself. I saw someone who went to church and gave money to good causes, but I didn’t see myself making real sacrifices for people around me. I realized that as I was growing older, I really truly wanted my life to mean something. Excessive stuff and wealth started to gross me out instead of entice me. As much as I had thought I was different, there I was creating an average, middle-class American life for myself. And it pretty much made me feel sick. So I kept asking questions and wondering how I could possibly shift my life to be less about me and more about others. Of course I had my excuses. I’m so busy. I’m a mom. I have a business to run. Maybe when Lincoln is older I can do something. But then these words cut through my list of justifications:
“Saying ‘I meant well’ is not going to cut it. Not with God screaming, begging, pleading, urging us to love mercy and justice, to feed the poor and the orphaned, to care for the last and the least in nearly every book of the Bible. It will not be enough one day to stand before Jesus and say, ‘Oh? Were you serious about all that?'” (Jen Hatmaker from the book “Interrupted”)
The thought of living that typical American life where we seek material things, pleasure & just looking out for ourselves kept nagging at me. It wasn’t for me. I wanted to be different. So we prayed. And we prayed some more for nearly a year. At some point I realized it was time to stop talking about being different and actually do something to get me towards the life I was after. I saw this quote online. “We do not think ourselves into new ways of living, we live ourselves into new ways of thinking.” I knew it was time to take the first steps, although I’m pretty sure Mike thought I had lost my mind. He’s an inside-the-box thinker who appreciates simplicity and order, while I’m more outside-the-box who appreciates a healthy dose of adventure. We went to an orientation and we listened to the stories of the kids and the foster families. I sat there with tears streaming down my face knowing that this was the hard work God was asking us to do. Amazingly, Mike agreed. We came to realize that people who accomplish great things don’t choose the easy road. They don’t have neat, orderly lives. They take risks and they let their lives be messy. As much as there is a part of me that longs for the easy way out, I know that’s no way for me to live, and it’s certainly no way to have an impact on people around me or to answer God’s call to care for the least of these. And really, that’s what I want to be about. Not about just being happy or just seeking a life of wealth, ease or pleasure like society tells us to do. I want to live an adventure. Not the kind of adventure that only serves my own desires. I’m not talking about jumping out of airplanes or just adventure for the sake of adventure. I’m talking about letting my life get a bit less orderly and a bit more complicated and making myself step outside of my comfort zone for the sake of people.
So we made the commitment. Not just a commitment to become foster parents, but to make people and relationships the focus of our lives. To make sacrifices and to not choose the path of least resistance. Mike & Lincoln take precedence, but after their needs are met, I’ve started saying yes to people. Yes to making dinner when a friend needs a hand even though I’m busy. Yes to babysitting when someone’s in a bind even though I have my own child (and now 3 children) to care for. Yes to chatting with a neighbor who has had a bad day even though my to-do list is waiting. I say no to busyness for busyness’s sake, but yes to people and to loving the ones that cross my path and yes to building real relationships, because that’s really the only thing that matters when it’s all said and done. The past year has been one of the greatest, most liberating, most joyful ones of my life, and I know it’s due in part to our decision to look at life a little differently than we did before.
We said yes again in the middle of the night when the call came that two kids needed a temporary home. It’s been beautiful and heartbreaking and terrifying and it’s taken me so far from my comfort zone I can’t even see that thing anymore. I am downright exhausted, but I look at those little faces and I know that it’s worth it. My being inconvenienced seems so inconsequential in light of what the kids who come to foster care have experienced in their short lives.
For now, this is our path. This is the way we are choosing to use our lives to serve. I don’t know if we’ll do it for a year or for twenty years, but for the time, this is our calling. It’s certainly not an easy path, and it’s not for everyone, but I have asked God to help me be willing to do the hard things. So here we are. Taking big risks and praying for big rewards. Hoping that the simplicity of changing diapers, rocking babies, mitigating fights over toys, and giving dozens of hugs translates into something beautiful and something meaningful.