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8046 is the number of children placed into foster care in Oklahoma as of January 2, 2011. It is a number near to my heart. It is a number that represents some of why I do what I do.
The conference was faith-based. An example of what can happen when churches work with state agencies. Insight into the need the state of Oklahoma faces on a daily basis. A few speakers discussed their experiences in foster care while others talked about the need for foster parents and advocates for children. Every message hit me. God whispered (and also yelled) to me that I am where He wants me. He reminded me that this is what I am here for.
It started in child welfare. And then I ran. Burnt out and beat up and with no strength left, I escaped the messiness of social work and entered the position I have now. To say I don't miss the messiness and the stress would be a lie. Because I do. I miss it daily. I long to repair families and search for permanent homes for children.
I've thought about going back. Today made me think of it even more. Because I want to have the direct impact. I want to see my work result in something beautiful and wonderful.
But. There is always a but. It's not where I am being called at this moment.
Right now, I plant the seed. I discuss foster care and adoption with willing listeners. I answer questions and follow others through the process. I desire to stick my hands in the dirt and open my house to displaced children.
Caring for the children who feel unwanted haunts me. It fills up my senses and at times brings me close to tears (and sometimes to tears) as it did today. Anger also fills up my senses and impatience. Because I think I am ready now to take that next step.
God says wait. And while it is a struggle, I wait. I'm not always as patient as I should be. And sometimes I look into starting this path on my own time. I wonder what I can do right now to catapult me into this new adventure. God allows these thoughts, but He also puts a stop to them when He sees fit. He knows what is best. He knows where I am needed now, and He also knows what I need now. He ensures those things are done. The rest will come in time.
We are being led in a very specific direction. I know this to be true. And so does my husband. While we want to run around or search for a shortcut, we do not. We do our best to continue on the path He has laid out.
During the conference, the impact one person can have on a child was discussed. It was also discussed that sometimes we will not see the impact. I know this. I tell others this, but for my own life, I want to see the impact. He reminded me today that this is something I need to release.
One speaker discussed that sometimes we are meant to plant the seed and then even sometimes a tree. But it does not always mean we are meant to sit under the tree or water the seed.
Right now, it seems I am meant to plant seeds and possibly a few trees. These are to be utilized by others, and while I might see it all from a distance, I will not be the one personally tending to them. As hard as it is. And I want to be okay with it.
God has made promises. To me and to others. And He will honor those promises. I simply have to trust.
A second speaker talked about her experience working with abused and neglected children as a pediatrician. Her words spoke truth to me and to the other participants. She reminded me of why I started the journey through child welfare.
But the thing that sticks out to me most? It was her telling of the story of Elijah. Specifically of one verse. In this story, God stops the rain for three years. He promises Elijah that the rain will come, and He cares for Elijah until it does. Elijah prays for rain and for God's promises. Then, one day, God speaks to Elijah.
"During the third year without rain, the Lord spoke his word to Elijah: "Go and meet King Ahab, and I will soon send rain." 1 King 18:1
And that was when Elijah stopped looking for the rain cloud. He knew God could send it, and he trusted in it. The speaker equated this to her looking for families and individuals to rise up and end child abuse and neglect. She said she knew God had prepared individuals and that she would stop looking for the rain cloud.
God has made me promises. First in August and then in March. And I have spent countless hours searching for and praying for those promises to come true. It is time for me to stop searching and to trust in Him that He will provide for me, just as He did Elijah.
(title from "five candles (you were there)" by jars of clay)