In the hard moments of loneliness, the soft landings of community broke through. Here and there, they were still there.
Our season of serving was not only intense, it often felt very lonely. Being a foster mama means living a different kind of life. Fostering many, adds additional layers. Fostering many in the country seemed akin to moving overseas.
There were times when I longed for the prayers of a friend, for encouragement, for a sweet token of love to show that I was cared for and to just hear from others who were thinking of me. There were times that those things did occur, however, it is easy to get trapped in the lonely thoughts of all the times they didn’t. If I’m not careful my message will neglect the way God used this time to show himself more amazing to me.
God used the loneliness to speak to my heart about how great my need was for Him, in all things.
He used the times when no one was there to remind me, even to ingrain it deep inside of me, that He always is there and that that really is enough.
He also graciously showered me with moments of reprieve, new friendships & blessings in community interaction. Though much of the time it was too hard to connect & spend time with others, there were several bright shining moments that occurred, because of how He works through community, in real life.
How our Spanish-speaking church community showed up
When we received our first sibling group of five children there were many challenges. One of them being that they mostly, or only, spoke Spanish. None of us spoke but a couple of words. At this time, we were also pretty alone in trying to find ways to communicate while dealing with fears, behavioral issues, great anger & sadness, lice and so on. These issues were also foreign to us.
When this need was recognized, and when the lice got under control, the pastor of our church’s Spanish speaking community visited us with family and church members. They came from over an hour away to connect with the children & speak to them in their language. I saw these precious, emotionally charged children glimmer smiles. What a blessing to see the love of Christ in something familiar to them.
Our Home Church & Youth Group Showed Up
While we lived over an hour away, we kept our membership with our home church and attended, with 8-12 children on any given weekend, a couple of times a month. This same church came to help out at the ranch we lived on in a couple of service oriented ways.
What a blessing to see familiar faces in this place. What a blessing to watch many people go to work to help clean things up, paint cabinets & put the cabinet doors on, to build shelves where there were none & to help sort through clothing donations. What a blessing to watch the youth come and work hard to clean out weeds in the play areas and work on the new pathways.
Friends Showed Up
Some dear friends also came to visit on their own and helped us tend to the children allowing my husband occasional date night opportunities. Anyone who is willing to watch this many children, and willing to go through the background checks & steps necessary to do so, is just amazing. THANK YOU!
For my daughter’s birthday several of her friends drove to the ranch to surprise her & spend the day with her. Other friends showed up occasionally to spend time with us & enjoy the beautiful country.
We hosted Thanksgiving with many friends driving the distance to be there. Another couple drove almost all the way down to help encourage my husband and I when our marriage needed strengthening.
Though it was hard for regular fellowship, I’m thankful for all of the visits we did have as I know it was challenging for them to take the time & to be immersed in the issues we dealt with on a daily basis.
Local Church Communities Showed Up
My first week at the ranch I made a trip to the HEB in the small town fifteen minutes from us. I had my then 9 & 10 year old children with me. A woman asked me if I homeschooled and I wondered, “What? Why? Am I wearing a sign?” I was too tired to realize that it was a week day and my school aged children were with me. She was the pastor’s wife of a sweet church in town who also home schooled & we began a connection there. We never got a chance to know each other very well, but her extension of kindness continued through her husband and the church in many ways and I am thankful for that sweetness.
A few months later I heard that another pastor’s wife, of another church, had adopted and wanted to sort of “adopt” the place we lived, and our family. When I heard the news I almost fell over from sheer gratitude that someone in town would extend help to us. It was like a dream come true!
This church community would become a safe haven for me and for our family. They reached out in many ways to assist us as well as the whole of the ranch property (which we only lived on). Our children became involved in AWANA’s regularly on Wednesday evenings and we all stayed for dinner, that I didn’t have to cook. These nights became something I truly treasured and looked forward to every week.
In addition, through the help of our nanny & my husband, I was able to stay after wards for a few weeks to attend a Kelly Minter Bible Study. Here I made new friends. From our Wednesday night outings, I connected with several very sweet ladies whom I am still glad to consider friends and would still love to visit any time I get the chance.
Volunteers Showed Up
Foster parent trainings happened in our home two Saturdays in a row, appx every 4-6 weeks. On one of these Saturdays, there would be volunteers to help watch the children while the parents trained. Our children were watched by these volunteers several times & it gave me a chance to catch up on paperwork.
In the last few months, a very sweet woman from nearby started coming out on a weekly basis to do crafts with the kids. I loved her heart to serve & to fellowship with us. She was a blessing in many ways to our family & our children.
Nannies Showed Up
We were blessed to have a missionary nanny over the summer. Hopefully she isn’t too traumatized to stop helping children. 🙂 Then there was a sweet, sweet lady who stayed for several months. It was challenging for me to share the home with another female adult, but what a blessing to have had her. That is, until she met our youth pastor and got married. Oh yes, that is so…God. Then, our oldest son became our nanny. Thankful for the extra help from all of them.
All of these bright moments were treasured & I am so thankful for everyone who reached out to show the love of community – in real life.
Sometimes we find ourselves in new territories, either due to our season of life or physically by our location. Getting connected in a real life community takes time, effort and courage. It can also take forgiveness and repentance in our own hearts if we’ve been hurt by community & the church in the past. While some of these sweet women reached out to me, I had to take steps to keep connected in whatever way I could.
I had to cling to the strength God gave me to reach out when loneliness, busyness and tiredness wanted to trap me away.
When we feel lonely because community just doesn’t show up, we must turn our eyes upward. As much as the Lord uses community to speak to us, to tend to our hearts & to help us, we are all imperfectly walking challenging lives of our own. We are all in need of the perfect love & nurturing of our Father, our Creator and our mighty, mighty Redeemer.
Dear friend, may you be encouraged at the importance of showing love to those who are hurting around you. May you be the community others need, even when you long for something else yourself.
May you be challenged to not rely on others for your source of strength. May you be comforted and encouraged in community but not expectant of it in ways that supersede the work that God alone can do in your heart.
Most importantly, if and when community fails you, may you receive the Words and the love of Him moment by moment.
If you can make the time, I encourage you to listen to Pastor Morgan Stephens sermon from yesterday (04/27/2014). I love it when God uses the words of others to speak to the very thing we are encountering.
As we reflect on community and possible hurts from others within the church, this message discusses the book of Ephesians and the pillars of what it means to be a Transparent Church: Permanently “Dis-illusioned”, Unashamedly Hopeful, Passionately Sacrificial.
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#Tell His Story by Jennifer Dukes Lee.