Each spring, Megan and I have the same conversation. It goes something like this:
“Megan, I need you to to start thinking about what you want to submit to the Writes of Spring writing contest at the library.”
“I don’t want to enter this year.”
“I didn’t ask you if you wanted to enter. It’s just a part of our homeschool and your education. All of my students enter.”
Megan pokes out her bottom lip and whines, “Can’t I skip this year? I don’t know what to write about and I hate trying to come up with a topic. Besides, I won first place last year. That means I should get a year off.”
“You tried all those excuses last year. They didn’t work then and they won’t work now.”
“Whhhhhyyyyyyy! It’s like torture. I hate it.”
“Why do you hate it so much, Megan? You’ve won first place three years running. You are a great writer.”
“I hate it because I have to come up with a topic that fits the categories and then I have to keep it to just 750 words. And once I”m done, then you and dad edit it and find all my mistakes. Once the mistakes are fixed, then I have to turn it in … and that is just the beginning of that long wait to find out if the judges liked it. GiGi! I can’t do it again! It’s too hard! Besides, I don’t want to be a writer. Please don’t make me!”
“Sorry, Megan. Even if you don’t like it, even if its hard, and even if you don’t want to be a writer, you still have to do it. It won’t kill you to enter again this year. No one ever died trying to write a 750-word essay or story. Besides, I’ll help you find a great topic. I’ll bet together we can come up with a fabulous idea.”
Megan is a good writer. She has won first place in the parish writing contest for the last four years and twice placed third in her age group at the state level. But she doesn’t want to write.
Well, she said has plenty of reasons. But mostly, it’s just not her idea. I’m forcing her to participate in an activity for school that she doesn’t want to be a part of. And if that isn’t reason enough, what I’m asking her to do isn’t an easy task. It’s hard and requires lots of work. Work she would rather not do.
Lately, I’ve been thinking about myself and how I am often the same way.
For a couple of years, Jon and I prayed diligently about a family ministry we could do together. I was thinking along the lines of serving in the kitchen of our local homeless diner once a month, or maybe taking a family”vacation” to do some sort of ministry. We tried several avenues in our town. To my surprise, they all failed terribly.
“What is wrong?” I pondered. “Doesn’t God want us to serve Him?”
Then I thought maybe God might allow us to adopt. Orphan care has interested me since my college days. Several adoptive families are among my close friends and relatives. So, Jon and I embarked on gathering information for what I just knew was our big ministry … but can you believe that door slammed shut as well?
“Fine,” I thought. “We’ll just wait and let God show us what He wants us to do.”
Interestingly enough, this was God started whispering and working in odd ways. Before I had time to blink, the craziest thing in the world was happening to my family. Something so illogical and spectacular that it could only be God at work. He called us into fostering.
Can I just pause right here and tell you that fostering was not anywhere close to my idea of a great family ministry? Not at all. This was not anywhere on my version of Paige’s Life Plan.
In fact, when we first started talking about it, I was so scared I could hardly believe I was even allowing myself to consider the idea. Who wants to take in foster children? You work hard to love children who come with tons of baggage. And then just when you start to make headway, the kids go back. You don’t have anything to show for it in the end. No thank you, Fostering is not exactly how I envisioned making a difference for God.
But God has a way of convincing you to do even those things you don’t want to do. Remember Jonah?
So Jon and I got all signed up. Before long, we were ready for our first placement. Barely two days passed by and we had a phone call, asking us to take in two foster toddlers. A boy and a girl. We took a deep breath and said yes, unsure of what to expect.
At first, getting two foster babies was exciting. It took about 3 hours for the excitement to wear off, and reality to set in. Fostering babies, as it turned out, was exactly what I was initially expecting … work.
Our foster babies came to us as neglected children with all sorts of emotional problems and delays. Screaming matches, hitting and pulling hair, biting, defiance of every sort. Day in and day out we deal with their negative behaviors, trying to teach them more about how to be loved and accept love from others and experience some of God’s love. Some days are better than others.
This morning started off as one of those other sort of days. I no more than put the two of them into the booster seats to eat their breakfast when they commenced to a screaming and screeching match against each other. Soon, their antics included throwing food.
As I walked into the dining room to deal with the chaos, I sighed and thought, “And this is how you want me to serve you, Lord?”
“Yes. Only I want you to do it with a glad and grateful heart.”
OUCH! Not only did that small reprimand sting me, but it surprised me. You see, I’d rather have a big writing ministry. Unlike my stepdaughter, I wish I had writing success … books to publish, a website/blog that drew thousands of readers each week, speaking opportunities, conferences to attend, etc. Seems to me that a writing ministry would be an amazing way to serve God.
Or why can’t I serve God by going on a short-term overseas mission trip? What about working with some larger ministry like a pro-life group or volunteering to feed the homeless? I have a lot of great ideas about how I think I could best serve God.
Instead, God has called me and my family to love two bad babies who desperately need to be loved unconditionally.
It’s a process, but I am learning to be grateful for my callings in this life … all of them. Wife, mother, a homeschool teacher, writer (because I know God did call me to faithfully write for Him). Even foster mom.
Oddly enough, most of what God has asked me to do for Him won’t bring me personal fame or glory or recognition. It’s just hard work.
Even then, God wants me to do all those things with gladness. It’s not easy or fun all the time, but when I persevere and push through with a heart thankful for the chance to do anything for God, then I allow Him to get the glory and He blesses me with more opportunities to do His great works.
What has God asked you to do that you wish He hadn’t?
How have you learned to be grateful for even the hardest of God-given callings?
2 thoughts on “With Gladness”
Such a great reminder. Thank you!
Definitely one of those reminders that was meant for me more than anyone else. Thanks for reading and commenting, Jennifer!