When we returned from “the ranch”, my world changed overnight.
It flipped upside down when we moved there in a whirlwind to stand in the front lines of foster care; it flipped another way when we came home feeling beat beyond belief. Fostering, giving, serving, loving, learning, growing, and fighting take a lot out of you.
And the fighting. Oh, the fighting. It was surreal. Physical, spiritual, relational, and emotional in every sense. Hyper-vigilance the norm. Thankfully, nurturing rest came in nuggets through the love of others, like our church, neighboring churches, and people just generally and actually acting like the church of Christ.
After fourteen months, we returned home on the last day of school in May of 2013. One child left that afternoon. One that evening. Another the next morning. Our sibling set of five transitioned into another home on July 5th, just a few weeks later.
The day after our annual 4th of July party.
As crazy as it was to plan an event like this after just having returned home, and after trying to unpack eleven people into a third of the space we’d become used to living in, and preparing to transition our five into to a new place, we did it.
Right or wrong, we went ahead with our plans to host another party in our home. Like we used to do.
One of our foster sons shares a birthday with America. We joked about all the fireworks being for him and he was pretty sure they were. Over the fifteen months they lived with us, we talked about celebrations in our home. About decorations and crowds who showed up year after year.
It was hard enough to say goodbye to precious hearts, but to let them go around this boy’s birthday and around the 4th without having our party…I just couldn’t do it.
As soon as our friends heard we were moving back home, we were asked, “Are you having your 4th of July party?”
I couldn’t turn it down. Not the gathering of friends, neighbors, and church family. Not the birthday celebration unlike any other. Not the opportunity to serve one more time before I collapsed. Even if it meant letting somewhere around a hundred people through our home again.
Tension escalated that day. Maybe I should have said no. But others offered to help and thank the Lord they did. We made it through somehow. Despite the added stress, the prevailing memory is one of joy.
Then the next day came and these five kids were gone.
What had become our new norm of housing up to fifteen people dwindled down to eleven, then six, then five, then four. Instead of running on fumes and conversing with any number of people who walked in and out of our home like they did at the ranch, I laid in bed. Alone. Sometimes I made it to the living room. Occasionally I found enough energy to unpack more, declutter profusely, and make something to eat in the kitchen.
Most of all, I limited time with anyone outside the nearest circle of friends possible. “Spent” is too light a word but I have no other way to describe the result of this season.
Desire to love on others hadn’t gone away, but my ability to do so came to a halt. Self-care become necessary and restorative. Over time, my new found love of quiet wrestled with a dormant passion to love others well.
Would I get stuck in self-soothing or would I find a way out and get back to what I knew?
Before the foster ranch there were the days of Bible studies, men’s gatherings, teen nights, a nonprofit library, community groups, and more. A new season now both thrilled and beckoned caution.
Don’t overdo it.
Learn to say no.
Step into writing again.
God persisted in messages of learning to enjoy, not just do. Finally, it sunk in, this realization that faithfulness is enough.
But being faithful in this new season looked a whole lot different than being faithful in the seasons past. Many of the things I believe God led me to do for years were things he was now telling me to let go of. Even more, I sensed the call to a completely different path. One I wanted to take but felt too selfish stepping into.
When my friend Kristin Schell began collecting stories for The Turquoise Table book and community, my heart sank a little. I wanted so much to have a great story to share but the truth was my table sits in the back yard with peeling paint. Though I wanted to sit out front and invite neighbors to sit with me, I wasn’t ready.
How could I fulfill the call to love one another if I couldn’t even sit with one person at a table in my own yard?
But, y’all. It’s so good. God allowed a time of cocooning so transformation and healing could take place.
Step by step through incremental healing and learning to enjoy life again, God revealed the beauty of loving others where we are, both physically and emotionally.
Receiving His love more fully became the life blood of learning to give love more beautifully. I needed healing and I needed to remember it’s OK. It’s ok to be the one who needs loved on too.
Different seasons bring different opportunities.
For years we loved one way, then we moved and loved in other ways. When I struggled to get out of bed, I loved still but in a far different way.
Sometimes we see the call to love others and we get scared because it feels too big, too ominous, and it might require too much. The truth is, it might. But more often than not we have the ability to give and receive love with those who are closest to us, in the places where God has already planted us.
In order to love where you are, all you have to do is look. What you’re looking for might be closer than you think.
Pick up a phone. Call someone and let them know you’re thinking about them. Look into the eyes of the person passing by on the street or the person stocking shelves or the cashier checking you out during your next round of errands.
Everywhere around us people need truth, love, mercy, grace, connection, and comfort. At the grocery store, in the house or apartment next door, even the one honking their horn and making unsafe lane changes in front of you.
They’re the ones hurting from abuse never spoken of. They’re the ones feeling isolated and alone even though they have friends and family, or not. They’re the ones struggling in marriage, or parenting, illnesses, or secret sins they aren’t ready to talk about.
They are me and you.
If you want to go and serve crazy and wild like we did, because God is calling and it means being faithful, go where God calls you to go. As far as it may be.
But if you want to love others in whatever form God calls you to, look up and step out. As near as it may be.
Whatever you’re going through, and where ever you are, love where you are, both physically and emotionally. Let God give you what you need.