How are you doing this?
Innocent question and I quickly laughed it off and made a funny comment about loads of caffeine and sleep deprivation. But later I thought about the question and I had nothing….good God, I didn’t know how we were doing this.
Honestly, it kind of stopped me in my tracks, because 7 kids, full time job, special needs, medical issues, bills to be paid, emotional needs to be met, running a non-profit, orthodontia, IEPs, school projects, therapies and just typing this makes me feel kind of squirmy and uncomfortable. I don’t think that my life or my family, makes sense on an intellectual level.
I never was the maternal type. So I find it kind of humorous that I am a mother to 7. I mean I can’t sew, I can’t cook, and if it can’t be fixed with a hot glue gun or double stick tape, then I’m at a loss. And you know when they talk about meal planning and zone cleaning, I pretty much lose my mind. I can’t imagine claiming that I actually ‘planned’ the meals I cook. That would mean it was on purpose with effort, and it’s easier to fail with cooking when it’s slap dash and unplanned. I have like four meals that I can do well. And my cleaning looks ADHD. I will start cleaning in the kitchen and then find myself holding a soapy pan in the laundry room while loading the drier. I am the Dr Who of household cleaning who stumbled on a distortion in the space-time continuum, finds time is not constant and my home is filled with trans-dimensional tunnels (these are things one learns when raising a teen who is a Time Lord devotee).
I look around and I think my life probably looks hard and maybe uncomfortable. This would not be an accurate depiction; I don’t think my life is hard. I have seen much harder and my goal is finding joy in the trash heap. Huh? Joy in a trash heap? Let me explain.
I can actually remember the moment that I knew I wanted this, maybe not in the “I-want-7-kids” way, but in the “I-am-not-joining-this-world” way. It happened on a trip to the Philippines during my Junior year of college.
I was privileged to join fellow athletes in a one month trip to Manila to provide basketball camps and Jesus to the Filipinos. One day, we had arrived at a small village that was perched atop this large hill. It was hot and humid and the smells rolling off this 5 story mountain, made my eyes water. And as we walked closer, my eyes adjusted to what had created this large hill in the middle of flat landscape. The village had been built upon a trash heap, and my first world brain could not wrap my head around it. I watched small, brown children clambering among the trash in their bare feet scavenging for something to sell, or something to eat. I spent the day playing with these children who were filled with joy and happiness, and I couldn’t understand it. How could they be happy in their circumstances? They lived in cardboard box homes and their belongings were items found within other people’s refuse. And my mind began spinning and figuring out how we could help make their lives better. The least we could do, was provide tetanus shots and better shoes. Maybe we could even move the village to a better location.
That evening we went to church. During the service, they brought forth a ministry team that was being sent out to minister and help others. In my mind, the perfect place for them to go, was the trash heap village.
“Go to the Trash Heap Village”, my mind cried.
The pastor continued talking about how this group was being sent to a place that was far from God. A place that was living in darkness and needed a savior. And I thought, “Yes, I visited this place today”.
“The trash heap, go to the trash heap village, you could help families with living conditions, food, and medical care.” my heart cried. Surely this is where this group was planning to go.
“We are going to America, there is no place that is further from God” they announced and I sat dumbfounded.
I later asked the pastor, “Why not the village? In America we have everything we need.“
“In America you have everything you need, so you do not need God”. he simply stated.
I sat there and I realized that I had come to a crossroad in my life. This trip that I was on, was more for me it seemed, than the kids sifting through that trash. I learned that following Christ when you have the opportunity for everything you could ever want, will be difficult. For a 21 year-old, small town girl, this was a pretty heady lesson and it is not something that I have learned easily. I still struggle every day weighing and measuring my life within worldly standards and finding it lacking and illogically balanced.
The more I grow and learn, the more I realize that following God does not likely mean comfort or success in this world. It means that things are broken, and people are hurting, and healing may not come this side of heaven. I love a quote credited to Mother Teresa— “God does not call you to be successful; he calls you to be faithful.”
That day sitting in the church, I came to a very unsettling understanding; God does not save us from pain and heartache. He does not keep little children from sifting through trash for a meal, protect tiny bare feet from tetanus, and does not save Christians from struggle and hardships. I realized that I had a choice in this life and I’ll be honest, there are many days that I want to go back in time and erase the trash heap village. Days I want to choose a different path, because damn this rocky road hurts my feet and sometimes I’m really tired.
I admit that seeing and touching the broken has almost broke me, and there have been moments that dropped me to my knees. I am not a strong or gifted person, I have found that I’m just simply willing. God has called all of us to something, and maybe you feel that you have failed. But I ask you to not measure your success with a worldly scorecard, because God is looking for faithful. And I want to say this to you,
I see you mama, you jumped off the cliff of international adoption and believed that God would provide the money. Now you are looking at an adoption bill you cannot pay and fundraisers that have failed. Everyone promised that God would provide, and now you feel like a failure because you are broke and lost and God has not stepped in to pay the bill. You are scared and the credit card bills are mounting. I see you mama and you’ve been called to be willing.
I see you mama, sitting in the wreckage of adoption. You brought home the child and the days are long and the nights are sleepless. The boy is locked in the trauma and it’s spilling out into every part of your home. You are drowning in behaviors that you can’t talk about to other parents, because their looks of pity and horror would destroy the little bit of sanity you are hanging onto. What once felt happy and peaceful, has become a home of strife, destruction and tears. And it has been years and there is no healing on the horizon. It feels so hopeless and there is no success in this adoption story. I see you mama and you’ve been called to be obedient.
I see you mama, pouring into the foster child. You are so excited by the leaps and gains she has made emotionally. She no longer trembles at your touch and she is thriving at school and home. And yet, she is returning to the same story that placed her in your home in the first place. You know how this story is going to end, and yet you still wake up and love and encourage. You pack the bags for her to return home and you hold your tears in check, as you smile a loving and encouraging smile as the case worker loads her into the back of the car. Your smile wobbles to tears as her fingers press against the back windshield and the car disappears from sight. I say to you mama, you’ve been called to be constant.
I see you sitting on the ledge, mama. You’ve thought about adoption but you’ve heard the horror stories and deep down you are afraid of how this will affect your children, your finances, and your home. . You are getting mixed messages from friends and family, worried about how doing this could lead to you getting hurt. And how will this affect your biological children? What if the child you bring home is more than you can manage. Things feel pretty comfortable right now and perhaps you can serve in other ways. I see you mama, committed to adoption is scary.
I am that mama, who pulled every resource I could find to bring her medical care. I spent hours talking to doctors, pouring over medical information, and collecting the needed supplies. I called in every favor I had to secure a physician in the states that would take on her medical care from afar. I packed thousands of dollars in equipment and supplies to keep her alive, and she died the day before I walked into her orphanage (you can read about her here). And the supplies, the hours of time, the energy spent to save this orphan, lay crumbled at my feet. And the next day, I walked the steps of her orphanage to work with other children; there was no victory or success in those steps. And I cried out to God in anger and exhaustion, and he whispered “faithful” in my ears.
We are called to be willing, obedient, faithful, constant, and committed to the cause of Christ. We live in a country that works hard to avoid pain and discomfort. Success is often defined as ease and lack of suffering. Perhaps we are looking in the wrong places for happiness and success. I know that I found true happiness and purpose in a little trash heap village in Manila and an orphanage in Bulgaria. Maybe we all need to measure our success by faithfulness, rather than the standards the world has given.
For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ.