For years I held an idea about what my family would look like. I remember being a teenager and sitting in the high school gym bleachers and saying out loud for the first time I wanted to adopt some day.
I remember sleeping over with some girl friends in college when one of them described how she hoped to one day have a house full of multi-racial children. "Me too!" I agreed.
I remember the relief when my husband told me on his own he had been researching adoption agencies and I knew I wasn't alone in my desire.
And of course, I remember the deep breath I inhaled when, just a few months ago, a baby we were close to suddenly needed a home. "Of course we'll do it," we agreed without much prayer or thought. "This is what we've waited for."
Currently, we are no longer caring for this baby full-time. But the last few months have taught me so many valuable lessons, which I would like to share with you.
1. God's ways are weird and crazy. At least to our human brains. And we know this already in a cliché "God's ways are not our ways" kind of way. But we never really get it until he throws a genuine curve ball to OUR life plans. Then it sinks in. His ways aren't predictable. They're not what we would have chosen. They're hard. But in the long run, we can see how they fit into a bigger picture that turns out oh so beautifully.
2. Foster families need our support. They don't just need our smiles at church and our casual "How are things?" They need our prayers. They need our money. They need our home-cooked meals. They need our listening ears and our genuine compassion.
3. We must focus on the family God's given us. Sometimes as Christians we can get so caught up in service and good works, we sacrifice our own children or our marriages on the altar of ministry. This is not ok. How can we be of service to those in need if our own families are bruised and battered? Of course I know many worry too much about their family's safety and prosperity so they never take risks for the Kingdom. This is not God-honoring either. But somewhere in the middle there is a healthy balance. We must seek to find it.
4. God's timing feels wrong. But it's not.
(See - #1) (See also - "I'm pregnant now?!")
5. Your dream may have to die. This is probably the hardest one to type. I was a big time dream weaver and banner flyer when it came to how I wanted to build a family. But I finally had to ask myself if *my* dream was actually God's calling for my family... or if it was me wanting to build a shrine for myself.
6. Or maybe your dream was misinterpreted. Maybe the desire or passion God placed inside of you was meant for something other than what you thought. Maybe there's a different way to live out your "dream" that's unconventional but just as effective for the Kingdom... Maybe.
7. There is no model of a "perfect Christian family." You are no more or less Godly if you have one child, 10 children, biological children, adopted children, multiracial children, homeschooled children or children who love Taylor Swift. God calls each of us to different things. What is sin is when we choose our family's paths based on self-seeking desires. But when we follow His lead and His voice, He will call us each out on our own.
8. We should consider before we judge. It's so easy to judge our Christian brothers and sisters based on what we think they should be doing. I'm guilty of this too. But we never know what's going on behind closed doors. What we think is best might be very wrong for their family. Let's give each other the benefit of the doubt and know that if our sisters and brothers are seeking the Lord, He is leading them the way He wants them to go.
The bottom line is that God is going to weave our stories so that we lean on Him, have varied experiences, and become the wisest servants we can. Our stories will all look different. But we must be in tune with Him and obedient when He says to act, pull back, or be patient. Only then will we leave the imprint on the world He intends.