As I write this, our feverish 2 year old is taking a nap, and our 4 year old is getting ready to shovel 10+ inches of snow with dad. Also, there is a little 18 month old buddy resisting sleep (I just came back from finding him in the crib sitting on a large framed map he’d gotten off the wall) and another 2.5 year old exploring in our family reading room downstairs.
A fly-by of these past few months in the Chang home would include finding out we were pregnant, almost pursuing an adoption, grieving through a miscarriage, Jeff’s ordination and transition to full-time work at GCCSI, and welcoming two new foster brothers into our fold. And with these two precious ones, we have entered into the life of four littles under 5, the foster care system, and the journey of caring for special needs. Yes, we are officially in over our heads.
There’s so much I’d like to share about the riches of God’s grace in the last few months. Things like his miraculous provision of a family for a baby girl we’d committed to loving as long as she was orphaned. How through the loss of our little one in pregnancy, I have tested our faith and Christ has not failed us by any measure. Our journey into the NYC foster care system, and the desires and dreams and conversations that gave us the peace to say “yes” to the unknowns of two boys needing a place to stay right away.
So much good has been brought into our lives with the boys. Their presence and unique joys they bring as God’s image bearers. A missions-trip-like daily dependence on God and daily answered prayers. The much needed opportunity to reevaluate what we want most for our girls in life: comfort and safety? or discipleship, generosity, mercy, and justice? The chance to see our daughters grow and blossom into their roles as big sisters. The hospitality of our loved ones and church members who are loving on these boys. God has been weaving together so many threads and each fiber is made of grace upon grace.
These things are easier to think about now that 3 of 4 children are sleeping and wow, this feels manageable. But I mostly wanted to have on record that I have quit multiple times already. I’ve already said to God that I can’t handle it. That unless things change soon, I’m backing out. I have lost it, and yelled in frustration and needed to repent before God and apologize to a toddler. There have been sleepless nights, not because of crying kiddies, but because of an anxious mom, wondering if we’re doing the right thing. I’d love to say we are walking on in confidence and strength, but mostly it’s a been a lot of questioning and weakness. I’d love to say that my own affections are overflowing into joyful service, but I’ve quickly come to the limit of my own love. The uncertainty of foster care exposes the self-seeking in my parenting. The red tape with foster care and trying to press for much-needed services tests my patience and I have failed. And it has barely been two weeks.
I was encouraged yesterday though reading a reflection on Gideon and why God gives us more than we can handle. God pit 300 men versus and army of 100,000 expressly so that no one would say “my own hand has saved me” (Judges 7). And he does it today in my life so that his name receives glory and honor that is due to him alone. I think about George Mueller whose lifework with orphans was centered on living in such a way that his life and ministry would display to others that God is faithful and that God answers prayers. (If you know about his ministry, you know that the things that happened at the orphanage can be explained no other way!) And I believe this is the road that we are walking now.
A few people have said, “I give you a lot of credit.” And I know it’s a way of saying, what you’re trying and hoping to do is hard. But my gut reply is, Please don’t. Though I usually think I mean it when I say things like that, I have never meant it so much. We are making it because we have help. Help from on high. Help from God through others. In our lack and insufficiency, we are experiencing God give richly through the body of Christ. And we are moving on only because we have the sure promise of God’s supply. So we press on holding onto the fact that God gives us more than what we can humanly handle so that we rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead (2 Cor. 1:9).
I laughed and cried yesterday while I put down the boys to sleep and two silly girls were singing a song about changing diapers and all four precious ones jumped (or kicked) and laughed together. My heart has through these months been brought deeper into the paradox of the Christian life and the richness of experiences it allows and Scripture describes. Sorrowful yet rejoicing, not just despite of but through the very things that make us sad. Death at work it us, and life at work in us and others. Pouring ourselves out because he promises that when we empty ourselves for others we will be strengthened, satisfied, like a spring of water whose waters never fail (Isaiah 58). Weak yet strengthened with great power. Living in humble dependence, and stepping into things that are too big for us. All so that God alone receives the glory.