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It’s funny how ordinary your life can feel even as it’s changing forever.

It was a Saturday in winter, and we were downstairs by the crackle of a fire. We were sitting on the rug around a baby jumper; in it sat our youngest son, six months old, fat and happy. He leapt with his baby legs and drooling grin, our oldest stacking Duplo towers beside him. Outside, the Canadian snow fell slowly.

And that’s when our life changed—forever—with one phone call.

I Can’t Do It Anymore 

The voice on the phone was plaintive and warbled, like the sound of someone underwater. “I can’t do it anymore,” she gasped. “I can’t be a mother anymore.” I knew this voice because it sounded a lot like me on desperate days. I tried to calm my friend with empathy. “I know, I’ve been there—it will pass, you can do it.” No, she said, this was different, and she was scared.

My friend was young and single, just exiting an abusive relationship and fending for two small boys with no home and no job. I’d met her through Young Life 10 years prior, as a volunteer leader walking the halls of the local school. I glanced at her, this 12-year-old blonde with thick makeup, and she blurted out, “Do you want to go for coffee with me?” And we’d been going for coffee ever since.

She’d always needed a mother, and now she was one, two times over.

And even as I tried to convince this drowning girl to swim, I knew God was asking me to drive to her. He was inviting me to bring those boys home. 

Kite in the Wrong Sky

It was a choice. I could choose to ignore it. Life would go on, and it might even appear to go on quite well. Life with its woodstove and its jumping babies and its cozy parameters. And God would find someone else willing to say “Yes,” someone else willing to help my friend.

I never wanted to be a mother, growing up. Being a mom meant spending yourself, always, on behalf of someone else. It meant sacrificing your body, and giving up your time to wipe noses and place Scooby-Doo band-aids on knees.

And now I was going to be a mom to four boys under the age of four.

But perhaps, like George Costanza of Seinfeld, the key to becoming the better version of oneself is doing the opposite of what one would normally do. I had been so focused on trying to feel loved that I’d forgotten to love. I thought the world owed me something. I was a good little girl who’d paid her dues and said her pleases and thank yous and had been baptized at eight; where was the reward? Where was the feel-good life The Prayer of Jabez promised?

I’d spent my whole life flying my kite in the wrong skies. I was looking up when I should have been bowing down. I was striving to get instead of receive; to gain instead of give. I was seeking prosperity when I should have been relying on provision.

Looking Beyond Ourselves

Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done. I’d prayed it many times, and his will did come. Not through any kind of feel-goodness, but through two little boys who needed a home for the next 10 months. I bought fuzzy blankets, and we made room for two more beds, and we talked with our 18-month-old and six-month-old and tried to explain our family was going to double overnight, and we cried a lot.

We’d done foster training, but had gotten pregnant with our first child before we’d fostered anyone. And now God had grown our hearts and given us a $600 Dodge Caravan just in time to upset our simple, very wonderful life.

I didn’t have time to figure out the answers. People told us we were crazy. They said we weren’t being good parents, that we were putting our kids at risk, and that made me weep. And then God reminded me of the shepherd who left 99 sheep to look for one. He reminded me of the woman who spent all day hunting for one lost coin. I can just hear her neighbors saying “time is money.” But the shepherd cared enough. The woman did too.

Above all, God reminded me that he gave his one and only Son for a creation that didn’t recognize him, that he’d sacrificed everything for people who couldn’t even stay awake while he prayed, who denied him three times, who bartered for his clothes and made a mockery of his temple. In other words, for people like me. And instead of calling down angel armies and executing justice, he just hung there and died. From a purely human standpoint, it didn’t make sense.

And this didn’t either. I began to understand, in a small yet fresh way, the beauty of the gospel. I began to feel joy—my kite soaring high in the skies of love.