This is how it happened

Can I tell you a story? 

Will you bear with me as I fumble with the words, struggle to share what needs to be told, not just this story but the story of so many others, so many others in many different situations who may be waiting for you.  Maybe waiting to become part of your story.

Some time over a year ago my heart began aching for the orphans of the world, for children lost or abandoned, children in need of loving arms and a safe place to stay.  I prayed.  I blogged.  I did my best to find what role God intended for our family to play in the ocean of need that exists in this broken world.  He answered in unexpected ways, bringing an infant and a toddler into our lives as caregivers while their mother puts the pieces of her life together after losing her husband.  We are blessed to be a part of their story and to know all three of these precious souls.

This story is still being written, it is unique and unusual and yet it is, in essence, the same story shared by many others.  We are in a unique situation but perhaps something about our journey will speak to you, will move you, will give you pause to consider what God might be calling you to do.  I tell it for that reason only.  There are details I will change and parts I must leave out but I will strive to keep true to what is. Please, don’t make our little piece of the greater picture into more than it is.  It is simply putting into action what God calls us to do, and nothing more.  We are hard-headed and often hard-hearted and God, knowing this, placed His will directly in our path in a way we could not deny. If I have learned one thing from this experience it is this:  When you give love, you gain as much as you give.  


Part One

The Thanksgiving feast is almost over, traces of wine in crystal glasses line the counter by the sink, dishes stacked high that I vow not to think about until morning teeter precariously and roasting pans are soaking and the turkey is safe in the fridge.  We are sitting together amid crumbs of pie crust, wilting whipped cream, chairs pushed back from the table.  We are in that place where we continue to sip lukewarm coffee because we are enjoying the conversation and it might end if the cups are collected and the crumbs swept away.

That’s when she brings up the situation.  Hubby’s sweet aunt has befriended a woman ten years younger than I, a sweet lady who I last saw four months ago with her then nine month old son, a strong soul whose second son swelled six months along as we sat and talked that summer afternoon.  I’d met J perhaps twice before, at Hubby’s aunt’s house, and marveled at the strength of her soul.  Her husband was sick, fighting for his life.  Cancer is an evil thing, an unfair adversary for a couple so young to be facing.  In all honesty I could not imagine what she was going through…did not want to imagine it.  I offered whatever help I could give, but did not hear from her.  I was, after all, little more than a stranger.

Hubby’s aunt now tells me she has heard that J’s husband is in the hospital, and it does not look promising.  That their new baby is suffering colic and reflux, has been in the hospital and is now in crisis care, his mother so burdened by caring for her husband and Baby’s thirteen month old brother that she can’t care for him.  Hubby and I look over the table at each other and know:  this is something we know how to do.  Eldest’s infant-days were plagued by these two woes and we have done this, we can use what we learned from those days for good and God always gives us that opportunity.  He works all things for good for those who love Him, who are called to serve His purpose.

We offer help, finally connect.  Yes, she says when we speak on the phone. There are hospital noises in the background and I hear the strain of too many late nights, too many moments of hope crashing to the floor with each new problem arising, each step forward brings two sliding back.  My voice breaks and I speak softly and wonder what on earth I can offer that will help, short of love and prayers. It is and it isn’t enough.

After hanging up the phone I walk down to our basement, looking for boxes of baby items I remember storing.  How quickly eight years have passed!  Youngest was an infant just yesterday.  Youngest’s infancy was a hundred years ago.  The boxes are mostly gone, passed down to others with new babies who have grown and are now in grade school.  Have I really gotten so far removed from babyhood?  I loved every moment of it and carry it with me, in my heart it all happened just a few short months ago.  In my basement, it happened long enough ago that I find I have very little left to offer.

I make phone calls.  The first of the many blessings of having a beautiful church family happens, and in a matter of days I have more than enough baby items sitting in my living room.  A sweet sister in Christ brings over a tub of clothes, blankets, baby wipes.  A bassinet.  Another friend brings a swing, toys for the Toddler. Hubby’s aunt brings baby gates.  I look around and feel blessed, loved.  I realize that we don’t have as much space here as I thought we did.  Things are arranged and re-arranged and we walk nervously around and pace a bit and we realize how long, how really long it has been since we cared for an infant.  We are nervous and we are excited and we feel the grip of the unknown, that we are embarking on a journey that only God knows the end of and we realize that yes, that is how it’s going to work and yes, that is where we need to be, what we need to embrace.

The phone call comes at eight o’clock on a Saturday morning.  I dress quickly, kiss Hubby, pray with him.  The morning is gray and cold, there are points of white snow drifting lazily down in a not very serious way.  It is a silly, average, regular morning. It doesn’t seem like someone’s husband could be fighting for his life, that a young woman could be fighting on her own for balance, for hope, for respite from the terrible burden of caring for everyone in her life and needing so desperately to be cared for herself.  It doesn’t seem real that I am picking up an infant to care for, that she is trusting me to take this precious burden, this beautiful child, to care for him while she cannot.  I should be bringing her a baby gift, dinner in Tupperware containers to be eaten late at night with her husband, when both babies are finally asleep and they have a moment together.  The feeling of un-realness somehow makes everything sharper, makes me see things in greater detail.

I find her apartment, hold her a moment, tears falling.  Baby is in his car seat, ready.  He is tiny…so impossibly small.  I have forgotten how small four weeks is, I am floored by how much I have forgotten.  I have a bag full of diapers, medication.  I have insurance cards and a medical release and bottles and formula.  We strap the car seat in the car and I cannot imagine how she is able to say goodbye, except that goodbye must mean something very different to her just now.

I start the car, drive down the hill.  The sky keeps falling in tiny white flakes.

I cry all the way home.

Read part 2 here…

This story is only one, about one way we can care for children and families in need.  Over at The High Calling, there is a series unfolding on the plight of orphans and children in crisis, and the ways that we can follow God’s command to care for them.  Please go there and read more about this, and if  you have a story to share link up there! 


Gratitude Journal…How Gratitude Transforms

Here it is another Monday, another beginning and here I am again, fingers moving over the worn keys punching words into empty space, calling into shape the thoughts that slide over one another and some days laugh at the idea of being captured, tamed, written into being.

There is something beautiful happening over here, at Ann’s quiet corner. Ann’s offering of 1000 gifts, the counting of blessings, the Gratitude Community has shaped itself into a book, all this beauty and all suffering, the breathtaking and the ugly, the sweet and bitter and the wholeness of it all that together form an overwhelming offering to really Live, to appreciate each moment as the gift it is, to unwrap it with eager anticipation, with the understanding that this gift is given by the One who knows us best, who loves us most.

I can’t wait to read it.  Ann’s words are poetry whispered breathlessly into your ear, and I cannot think of anyone whose words I’d rather hold in my hand, unfold with the turning of each page.

And the Gifts?  I have been changed by the counting.  I’ve seen my days slow and the hours count, I’ve felt my vision sharpen, I’ve learned how to pull myself up when the daily overwhelms,  I’ve learned to appreciate the fact that what seems like the mundane routine of daily parenting is actually water that feeds the blossoming future, I’ve found that I’m thankful for some things I didn’t think I ever would be, I’ve found the beauty in the broken and I’ve learned to appreciate and live in the exquisite, the piercingly-beautiful moment of the everyday now.

I am just slightly over halfway finished counting and recording 1000 gifts here.  In my heart, countless more have been unwrapped, appreciated, written on my heart.  Have you started counting?  Have you let gratitude change you?

Thank you, Ann, for sharing your gifts and inspiring so many to count theirs!

A recap of Gratitude posts that share how counting these gifts has changed my heart….

516:  The City…How looking at life through grateful eyes helps you appreciate things you never thought you would

519:  For Ann Voskamp and her heart
520: For this book….the anticipation of a blessing to read and share
A video about Ann’s new book….

Gratitude Journal…Days of soft light and gentle sounds

The days are short, night wrapping round to darken morning and dampen the hours of sunlight on snow.  We are overloaded, full to bursting, struggling to find balance and order but it is an overload of love, and therefore a burden easier to carry.  It seems to be a season of soft light, a season of gentle sounds as we tend to Baby and try to remember how we did it in the old days, those days of diapers and feeding schedules and late nights (or is it early mornings?) sitting in the half-light, feeding and rocking and soothing softly.  School has started and I have no idea how to accomplish everything that needs to be done while caring for a newborn babe, and we are going to have to learn this on the fly and the beauty of it is that we are learning to give each other grace despite many fumbling and bumbling and grace-less moments.  I don’t know where this is going and how it will all turn out or how long we will be in this place, and I am learning how to be OK with that, to take it a day and a week and a step at a time. I am grateful beyond words at my children’s willingness to love, to share, to help, to give selflessly.  I am overwhelmed by my church family’s love, support and offers of assistance.  I will write about it soon, sort it out with words.  For now, I take the moments when I can do nothing but feed and rock and choose to see them as a gift, an invitation to live in the moment and quietly be in the soft light of now.

511. For everything foster care has taught me
512. For the golden glow of Christmas lights
513. For the strength to go the next step
514. For organizational aids
515. For quiet moments amid the storm
516. For church family, helping hands and loving hearts
517. For a husband after God’s own heart
518. For vacuuming the last of the pine needles off the carpet
519. For nap time
520. For grace under pressure