Sometimes when I sit down to write, all I know to do is pray. So I leave my blank screen and head for journals filled with desperate pleas among testimonies and praise.
I need to get the yuck out and the words which stick on my insides. In the confines of private pages I write incessantly with rambling thoughts and repetitive cries. The most prominent words which don my pages these days are, “Lord, I need you.”
I write it big, I write it small and I write it often because change envelopes me with deeper awareness, ever since we picked up our family and moved to what seemed like foreign land. In many ways, it might as well have been another country. So much of how we lived and got through each day became completely unlike anything I knew before.
Foreign as we moved from suburbia to the country. Foreign for the way in which we suddenly went from a family of six to rotations of eight, eleven and even up to sixteen. Foreign by way of parenting, managing, living, thriving, and caring. Foreign for the burden to provide, care, nurture and intervene. Foreign especially for how every day left me challenged to find again the meaning of whole.
Foreign for the love which bubbled to the surface and compassion which expanded so that I felt I would burst.
What’s a mom to do when she never thought she’d raise kids but suddenly finds herself raising not just one (& then alone), or even two, but over the years three then five, then six and even more?
What about when her sensitive female heart is prone to find some way in which she is never doing enough and always wanting to measure up, because surely God wants more from her. Today, tomorrow, and every day after that.
I know what this mom did. She picked up her already changing family mix and tread into wild, new lands.
Just after years of serving on multiple fronts then settling into ease, she went to serve in ways altogether new, unfamiliar & juxtaposed to the underlying tension of never doing enough and always doing too much.
She dreamed, she saw, she heard, she responded, she moved, she served, she loved, she gave, she lost, she grew, she faltered, she changed, she returned.
She wondered if she would ever go again.
That’s what this mom did. And afterwards I shook to the core of my being from exhaustion in more ways than I ever dreamed possible.
After living on a ranch and taking in thirteen foster children in a span of fourteen months, then moving home again and having to say good-bye to every one, every child and what seemed like every dream, I felt the hand of unceasing need move away from my presence. My body, heart & mind sagged in the end.
Sleep was dear but came in waves. Energy seemed nonexistent. Life passed minute by minute as I stared aimlessly at nothing in particular. Mind-numbing TV shows afforded hours on end of not caring, not dreaming, not even wondering what tomorrow may bring.
I needed rest unlike ever before, not even in those sleepless nights when babies cry and mom’s the only one there.
What happened then was needed, but life demands it be temporary. Would it have been to such an extreme if I’d allowed greater self-care in the days before?
Ever so slowly my eyelids opened to books of pleasure and books of hope. I tried desperately to give words my attention and then went to type out a few of my own. A little here and there. Survival.
Pushing my thoughts from my brain to a page stimulate growth and health in ways I cannot even explain.
I hesitate to write much about our time at the ranch or the impact it had on me because it still haunts me in many ways. I just want to tell you how great fostering is, and how I believe more of us need to step up and fill in the gap, because I truly believe it to be true.
The reality is it’s hard too. Self-care is a necessity treated as a luxury which could be different if more arms were linked together in answering the call.
I want to encourage the church to rise up and take care of the wounded in our midst because I believe it’s not only necessary, kind and good but biblically essential. And the hard truth is, my experience may at first seem like all the justifications for anyone to not partake in such a challenge. But it shouldn’t be that way.
The thing is, it’s not just what we did or even the world we lived in and the unbelievable and rather unusual circumstances & trials which occurred on a consistent basis, it’s so much more.
It’s the way our masked selves came face to face with our inabilities, desperate needs & longings. It’s how pride comes rising to the surface because no amount of serving can ever purge it from you.
It’s how God uses circumstances beyond what we can fathom to accomplish the most wild and wonderfully glorious finding of Him.
Without struggling how would we know compassion and care?
Without finding our need, how would we know that this God whom we seek is really there?
This week on Grace Table I shared about something we all need to be mindful of and something which I’ve become passionate about over the last few years.
I’d love to see you at the table.
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Beautiful story, Friend!
I think God is trying to tell me something. Yours is not the first I’ve read about self-care today. It’s so important, because we can’t care well for others if we haven’t taken care of ourselves. And that is not selfish, it’s actually doing something that will benefit others in the long run. “Would it have been to such an extreme if I’d allowed greater self-care in the days before?” I guess we don’t really know the answer to that, because even with self-care, things can be really hard and exhausting for us. Thank you for sharing your story. Your love and compassion really shows through your words. Blessings to you, Jolene!