Monday, June 01, 2015

Love Like Layers on a Canvas

When I started putting the room together our foster children would inhabit, the word refuge settled firmly into my heart. As I stared at the blank ivory walls I couldn't imagine what would effectively fill them.

I wanted it to look nice regardless of gender, to be calming and to match the drapes and rug already there. So I set out to Michael's to buy a large canvas and paint. The trouble is I am NOT artistic AT ALL. Pinterest has never been a trap for me because craftiness is just not my thing.

I really wanted soft blue, grey and tan comfort on those walls, so I tried. My desire and determination far outweighed my abilities. After two hours and multiple layers and blends of paint, the result was flat and plain, but it would do.

I mentioned to my artist friend that painting was much more difficult than it appeared...that I had a new appreciation for the seemingly simple contemporary art. I sent her a pic...talked to her about what I had hoped to accomplish and she asked if I'd like her help. She came by and picked up my canvas and returned a week later with this.
These photos don't begin to convey the beauty of the texture and layers.

On back she had written the verse I had claimed for this space.

He will cover you with his feathers and under his wings you will find refuge.
Psalm 91:4 

It was breathtakingly perfect. I could hardly believe it was even the same canvas.

And it spoke volumes to me...about the selflessness and talent of my friend, of course. But also about what can happen when we let go of prideful control and let other people add to the canvas of our lives.

Years ago a counselor I was seeing taught me a powerful lesson. "You seem to think there are only two extremes in relationship," he observed. "You think people are either independent or codependent and in doing so you have left out this whole wide area of the spectrum in between called interdependence, which is in fact where we were designed to live."

That man had my is my tendency. I celebrate independence and fear codependence--and if I am not careful I miss the glorious beauty of community.

This journey of fostering is tearing down those old walls in the most freeing way! These are not "my" children or "my" responsibility...they belong to our community. This acknowledgement has led to blessing upon blessing to these girls' lives and to the hands, feet and hearts who have embraced them during this placement.

Six weeks ago as we were waiting on our final approval, a teacher from our school stood on my doorstep in tears with a jumbo sized box of frozen Eggo waffles and a lasagna for my freezer.
"I was at Sam's Club anyway. Thought it wouldn't hurt to go ahead and stock your freezer."

We both cried over the little people we hadn't even met who would one day have their bellies filled by this offering.

It was just the beginning.

She volunteered to be certified and approved as a babysitter.

She sends encouraging notes.

When she gave birthday gifts for my children, she included a little something for our two new girls as well.

She stopped by with a bike her daughters had outgrown.

She bought tutus.

She brought hair products.

She rounded up toys.

She stopped by around 6pm that first night, Ryland was working late and I was getting a handle on the new routine of dinner for 5 children. She helped me wrangle everyone through the process of washing hands, getting drinks, finding their seats and getting the food on the table.

She periodically emails me Bible verses about faith and trust.

She showed up with two shopping bags of clothes my girls' size.

She invited my new little ones to her daughter's birthday party.

She checks in on my heart and asks how she can specifically pray.

She offered her daughter as a mother's helper.

She gives my bio kids an extra long hug and prays specifically for them in this process.

She brought me a scrapbook so we can always remember the time we've had with these girls.

SHE is not a super woman.  No one woman has done all of this, but instead "she" represents a dozen different women have loved on us and in doing so, joined the cause of supporting families in crisis and needy children one seemingly small act at a time.

SHE is my community. These various women have been the feathers God has used to cover all seven of the souls in my home through their loving acts and words.

These first three weeks of fostering have been defined in many ways by knowing we are not in this alone. It is a collaborative effort for the blessing and benefit of a family in crisis.  As each of these "Shes" has loved on us, God has used them to teach me one of the most valuable lessons of this process. WE must serve together--out of our own unique gifts.

If it is providing a home for a child...get those beds ready!
But if it is not, there are still countless ways to serve.
If it is encouragement...encourage!
If it is cooking...cook!
If it is showing up!
If it is babysitting so parents can have a date night...get approved!
Pray! Text! Bring tutus.

Don't make the mistake of believing love is always a big, huge, those moments are rare. Love is usually the small decisions to take one step out of your comfort and routine and do what you can, with what you have, right where you are to meet needs in front of you. The fields are ripe for CAN make a difference.

I could have hung that plain canvas up with only my strokes...but the masterpiece came from the contribution of another. I had to let go and allow other people to give.

TOGETHER we can provide layers and layers of love and community that means far more in the long term than just one tired family ever could. And instead of feeling almost forgotten, our foster daughters have felt celebrated and cared for by many.

This is not just a lesson about foster care. It holds true for any community need/ministry. It is true of the development of my bio kids' hearts too. God did not intend for us to parent in a vacuum. Human hearts are meant for texture and layers. We are wired for relationship. God compares community to parts of a body--tied to and made better by the contributions of others whose strengths are different from ours.

So give love and allow others to do the same for you...and in the process of all those layers a unique masterpiece will undoubtedly emerge.


Denise Ross said...

This is a heart reaching fabulous post. I too, struggle with doing it all, all on my own. I love helping others but am having to learn to open myself to allowing others to help me too. I read an article on this not so long ago about the blessing we receive when we give and how we all need to allow others this blessing by letting them help us, by being real and not having it all together, being open to sharing our struggles so God can be really seen amidst our struggles and take the idea of our perfection out of the picture and allow others in. The saying 'it takes a village to raise a child' is so true. I'm sure I wouldn't feel so overwhelmed so much if I allowed others in and in turn they not only bless me but also my family too. I learn from every post you write. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. Blessings to you and your family.

JenB said...

This is one of the most precious things you've ever written. Or I could be overly emotional. ha! But seriously, how cool that your community of friends is pitching in and loving on your family this way. You may never know this side of heaven the impact you're having on these little girls. What a blessing!