Thursday, August 10, 2017

I Didn't Actually Lose Myself



I've been thinking for some time about what I would share in honor of National Foster Care Month. But, well, that was back in May when I started writing this post.

Foster Care Month or not, the words I share here are still true.

When we believed God was calling us to adopt in 2009 after the last of our first four kids were born, we did not believe God was asking us to foster adopt.

We prayed about it for nearly a year, asking Him to show us the path we should take. As we did so, we couldn't get past the sense that our child would come through a private adoption. Several months later, our first adoption came about by word-of-mouth, resulting in nine week-old Gabrielle joining our family.

At that point, we believed we were done having and receiving children. Five kids was a lot and we were swamped.

The end. This is us moving on with our lives, walking the road before us as a family of seven. God's number and all. The number of completion.

Two months after welcoming little tiny Gabi into our home, God impressed on my heart we had another child waiting in foster care. This baffled us. We weren't licensed to foster and we'd just brought a baby home. Plus, foster care was something we believed wasn't for us.

We had reason after reason why not. Most of which anyone would have agreed with.

Foster adoption felt too risky. Too dangerous. Too sad. Too everything.

Even though we were terrified, we stepped forward believing God instead of our fears. Fast forward ten more months and much more to the story, we welcomed nine month-old Levi. We were now foster parents and Levi was legally free to be adopted.

Okay, make that six kids. The end. Moving on now.

Now this little man, who turns seven next month, insists on kissing my cheek as he jumps out of the van for school or walks into Sunday school. He tells me how nice I look in a bathing suit too. Seriously. Every time. We could have missed that. We could have missed him. 

I won't tell the whole story here, but if you speed ahead a few years and add baby Emmalie who came to us the old-fashioned way, we'd say FOR SURE now that we'd never adopt again or give birth to another child. Being parents to seven kids was now over-the-top a lot. We were for SURE done.

Or so we thought.

But a phone call from a social worker in the village Levi was born in changed all that. She asked if we would consider Levi's big brother he'd never met. We were shaken to the core. Should we? Could we? Can we?

Serioiusly, God?

I was in such a hard place already with three in diapers. I was drowning in the middle of a difficult mothering season. Even so, God confirmed we should bring a sad, scared, and scarred six-year-old into our family. Jackson has been home now for three years.

Even though the risk factor had jumped up several notches, we decided it was more important to bring comfort to a child in need than coddle our own perceived need for comfort.

It is by far the hardest thing we've ever done. But it doesn't mean it wasn't for us. These children were for us.

Many times over the years I've lamented that I've lost myself. I've felt buried in kids, special needs, cooking, driving, correcting, showing love when exhausted, ministry, teaching, discipling, and lack of time to just be me.

Then it hit me.

Maybe it's not that I lost myself, maybe it's that I found myself by beginning to strip away the selfishness that had been built up by years of general ease.

Jesus said we would find ourselves by losing ourselves. I know what He meant now.

It says in Matthew 10, He gathered the Twelve to Himself to give them instructions before sending them out with the authority to drive out impure spirits and heal the sick. Near the end of His words to them, in Matthew 10:39 He said,

"Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it."

The picture up at the top of the post is a picture of me losing myself. Not just my mind (oh, you know it's true), but my very self. These four kids are a representation of when my plans for my life became unimportant as I picked up God's plan for both their lives and mine, and that of the rest of our family.

I've been told more than once I'm a glutton for punishment for having eight children and for adopting. How kind, right? 

This reminds me of Rachel Lynde's warnings to Marilla about taking in an orphan in Anne of Green Gables. In that story, we all know Rachel is crazy, and that Anne is the best thing that could ever have happened to Green Gables and Avonlea at large. But that's what happens when people don't understand. They speak from their own fears instead of what's really best in the long run.

We can't use fear as the fuel in any of our decisions.
We can't internalize the fears someone else expresses either.

We are the only ones responsible for listening to and obeying God for our own lives.

As my friend Emily says in her book A Million Little Ways,

"Though fear is present, the spirit of fear does not live within you. The Spirit of God does."

The Spirit of God does.  

As much as I've fought fear and what felt like the losing of myself all these years, I've found another version of me in the process I wouldn't want to live without.

I like her. She's gritty, determined, and generally fearless. Let's not talk about the snakes I'm terrified of here in North Carolina. We just won't. 

Right before Jesus tells the disciples the part about losing their life for His sake, he says these words in Matthew 10:38,

"And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me." 

Jesus is asking us to die to our self-will, embrace God's will no matter what, and follow Him.

Losing ourselves in the process might be the very thing we need to truly know, depend on, and love God and others.

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