Uniquely Equipped

{This is the third of twelve in a guest blog series I am hosting through mid March. The series will zero in on a variety of themes from my book, Here Goes Nothing: An Introvert's Reckless Attempt to Love Her Neighbor. The writers of these posts are people I deeply admire for their wisdom and their constant seeking of Christ’s Kingdom on behalf of their neighbors both near and far. This particular post was written by Rachel Carlberg, a new friend I am so happy to have met since moving to Milwaukee last summer. In the short time that I have known Rachel, I have been touched by her journey to becoming a foster mom, as you will read about in her article today. No matter who you are or how God is leading you to love others, Rachel says it so perfectly: "We are uniquely equipped to love bigger than we think we can."}

{This is the third of twelve in a guest blog series I am hosting through mid March. The series will zero in on a variety of themes from my book, Here Goes Nothing: An Introvert's Reckless Attempt to Love Her Neighbor. The writers of these posts are people I deeply admire for their wisdom and their constant seeking of Christ’s Kingdom on behalf of their neighbors both near and far.

This particular post was written by Rachel Carlberg, a new friend I am so happy to have met since moving to Milwaukee last summer. In the short time that I have known Rachel, I have been touched by her journey to becoming a foster mom, as you will read about in her article today. No matter who you are or how God is leading you to love others, Rachel says it so perfectly: "We are uniquely equipped to love bigger than we think we can."}

I'll never forget his serious, brown eyes looking up at me.

Not a word of protest when I, a complete stranger, pulled him out of his carseat and into my arms. He sat in my arms most of that first night, just silently looking around. I remember thinking how serious he seemed for a ten-month-old.

The crying, absent the night of his arrival, blew in with full force the next morning - for both of us. He was terrified of being out of my sight much less my arms. He screamed if I moved out of his line of vision, anxiety crescendoing into hysterics. Every person who entered our home was a perceived threat, and he refused to be touched by anyone that wasn't me or my husband.

My two-year-old son became angry. Who was this intruder? Why was he constantly demanding the attention of his mama? My tears, unable to be held in check, poured from my eyes for those first seventy-two hours. The questions poured out along with my them - what had we done? Had we ruined our son? Could I ever be enough for this terrified baby? What were we thinking? 

I was twenty-two when the Lord began nudging my heart in the direction of foster care.

I had graduated with my degree in social work and accepted a position as a case manager for foster children in central Indiana. Throughout my time there I grew close to the foster families I supported and found myself surprised by the lack of an evangelical faith within many of these families. I had expected to find mostly Jesus followers seeking this opportunity to care for the orphans as Scripture often prompts. Instead I found wonderful, kind, warm and generous folks who just wanted to "help out."

I began to wonder, "Where is the church?" This seemed the perfect place to be the hands and feet, a way Christians could be seen for what they do instead of what they won’t do. A place we could show we were more than protests and boycotts. This seemed to me, in all my naïveté, to be a simple way to point others to Jesus.

I had grown up in the church and believed strongly in the sanctity of life and the pro-life movement.

I walked in the fundraising walks, I volunteered at the crisis pregnancy center, I marched in D.C. in the March for Life. I am strongly pro-life. Through my interactions with these children and their parents I began to ask new questions, things I had never truly considered. What does being pro-life really mean? What if being pro-life was a greater sacrifice and commitment than we thought?

The Lord began morphing my questions into answers, showing me that being pro-life was more, bigger than just being anti-abortion. Being pro-life was caring about the complete circle, from mama to fetus to baby to mama. If we were going to fight for these babies before they were born, we must be willing to stand in the gap after. And so my husband Nathan and I resolved to stand in the way we felt called and began the journey of fostering.

Eighteen months later, I often ask myself the same questions as those first days, but now the Lord impresses new questions on my heart.

What if families were intended for more? What if our families were meant to be a subset of the church, with open doors meant to serve and care for those in need? To be honest, I'm not entirely comfortable with these questions, these thoughts. I am definitely an introvert; my home and family are my safe places.

But then I look into those giggling brown eyes, and I see the answers. I see that the Lord intended big, restorative things for family. Families are meant to bring healing and redemption. Family exists, just like the rest of creation, to point others to El Roi, the God who sees, to echo the redemption and restoration of the cross.

I see this every time that beautiful, now two-year-old boy smiles easily into the face of someone he doesn't know or confidently waves goodbye to us knowing we'll be back. I see that by offering nothing more than our family, and Christ within us, this boy was given a chance, a new beginning.

And we lost that boy.

He left ten months after joining our family, and there were so many new questions. And the ache, such an ache. I am so grateful for a God who is near to the brokenhearted.

But we believed. We believed that God intended family as a gift, as safety, as healing. We believed that family isn't the thing we get to claim for ourselves. It, like our money or time, must be something we hold loosely, allowing the Lord to use it as He wills.

We had no guarantee that we'd ever see him again {we did!} or that his new home would offer the same stability, but we believed that God is greater than those things, greater than his environment {Mark 4:27}. that we might be the thing that pointed him toward the path to the cross.

During a recent conversation, Kendra asked me if I had a word of the year.

When I told her my word was "commit,” she expressed her surprise. She figured that as a foster parent, commitment wasn’t an area I was likely to need growth. I thought on that and realized that in some ways fostering intersects well with my introverted nature. It's so challenging for me to "chat it up" with our neighbors or strike up a conversation on an airplane, but fostering allows me to love in a way that fits me. Not everyone is meant to be a foster parent - though I challenge you not to make any assumptions about that - just like not everyone is suited to airplane evangelism.

Regardless - show love. Speak love. Be love.

Because I look at you organizing block parties and bringing welcome baskets, and I wonder about you what you might wonder about me: how do you do that? But we know that answer. 

We love because He first loved us. {1 John 4:19} 

And we are, therefore, uniquely equipped to love bigger than we think we can.


Grace and Peace,
Rachel

P.S.

For a personal account of being a foster parent, warts and all, check out: http://www.scarymommy.com/foster-care-break-your-heart/?utm_source=FB

And if you want to get involved but don't think fostering is for you, read this:
http://jasonjohnsonblog.com/blog/wrapping-around-foster-and-adoptive-families

Rachel Carlberg finds herself a mama to three boys ages 3, 2, and 6 months. {Seriously, though, how did this happen?} Like many busy mamas, there are essentially no photos of Rachel, so this selfie used to bribe her oldest into sitting on the toilet will have to work. Rachel, her husband and their boys live in Milwaukee, Wisconsin where they work in urban education. They are happy to be in the Midwest after stints in Baltimore and San Jose. You can find Rachel on Facebook or email her at rachel.carlberg@gmail.com. She loves to talk about Jesus, all the joys and hardships of urban living, foster care, terrible television {The Bachelor, anyone?} and books - but mostly she's just always up for a good conversation.

Rachel Carlberg finds herself a mama to three boys ages 3, 2, and 6 months. {Seriously, though, how did this happen?} Like many busy mamas, there are essentially no photos of Rachel, so this selfie used to bribe her oldest into sitting on the toilet will have to work. Rachel, her husband and their boys live in Milwaukee, Wisconsin where they work in urban education. They are happy to be in the Midwest after stints in Baltimore and San Jose. You can find Rachel on Facebook or email her at rachel.carlberg@gmail.com. She loves to talk about Jesus, all the joys and hardships of urban living, foster care, terrible television {The Bachelor, anyone?} and books - but mostly she's just always up for a good conversation.