Looking Back and Pressing On
Paul says in Philippians we are supposed to forget what lies behind us and press on towards the goal ahead of us. However, I think writing a Christmas letter allows for an exception. Looking back through the year’s memories actually provides you with the opportunity to remember all that God has done, how He has faithfully provided for you, protected you, and guided you every step of the way. Knowing God was so faithful and good this past year is certainly necessary as I look ahead at the year to come. I will certainly need those memories to keep me going as I press on and continue to run with endurance the race that God is setting before us in 2012.
This past year has seemed like the roller coaster ride of a lifetime. We have experienced emotional highs and lows we never imagined possible. We have zigged and zagged and zoomed our way through sharp turns, steep drops, and dark tunnels. We have twisted and turned, and even looped completely upside down several times, but somehow we have managed to always end right side up and stay on track. God certainly knows how to make following Him an adventure!
Last December we were devastated when we miscarried right before Christmas. Our loss was great and our pain was deep. Yet, we found comfort in the support of our family and friends. Through our tears, we were able to see that many other people are hurting all around us. We decided to do our best to share the strength and peace and hope we found in Jesus with these individuals, as God brought them to our attention.
In January, I ran my first 10K, the Groundhog Run which supports the Therapeutic Learning Center for Children here in Kansas City. The race was completely underground so I wasn’t bothered by the freezing temperatures outside and was actually able to enjoy myself. I even finished with what I thought was a good time (about 54 minutes).
Soon after that, we signed up to become licensed foster parents and started taking classes in February. We had been thinking about this since our trip to Haiti in March 2009, and finally felt God’s nudge to go ahead with the idea. The classes were eye-opening as we realized we wouldn’t only be loving on the kids placed in our home, but also working with their parents. This was an extremely difficult concept for me, as I went in thinking these parents had lost their right to be mom and dad to these precious kiddos. I didn’t really want anything to do with the parents who had neglected, abused, abandoned, or somehow else put their innocent children at risk. I just wanted to love the kids, showing them they are special and that our home would be a safe place for them to grow and reach their full potential. God was working on my heart, reminding me how undeserving I am of His love and helping me see that I needed to show these parents the same grace He has repeatedly shown me. We finished classes in April and were licensed by the end of May.
Speaking of May…on May 12, I donated two 18-inch ponytails to Locks of Love and had my head completely shaved to support the American Cancer Society’s Shave to Save event that raises money for the Hope Lodge, a place where cancer patients and their families can stay for free while receiving treatment in Kansas City. Originally, I signed up as a shavee in response to our miscarriage. God had shown me that I needed to be willing to make a sacrifice in order to help people see the radical love of Jesus. When we lost our baby I questioned if God really knew what it felt like to lose a child. Yes, of course, He gave up His one and only Son, having Him die on a cross to pay the penalty for my sin! And so I was willing to give up what was precious to me – my hair – if it meant I would have the opportunity to tell others about God’s deep, deep love for them. Little did I know that I would also have the chance to share how God turns mourning into dancing and changes tears to laughter. Just a few weeks before the big event, we found out we were pregnant again! Not only that, but we were due almost to the exact day of when we had miscarried! Only God can do something like that! So, as I went out on stage to explain why I was participating in Shave to Save, I was able to tell hundreds of people our story. I think for our families the news of another grandbaby helped lessen the blow of me going bald, but I also hope that the strangers in the audience saw firsthand how God can take pain and grief and use them for His good, a bigger plan that is far better than we would ever have begun to imagine ourselves. I pray they saw Jesus in action and wanted to know more about Him, how they too could experience the joy and peace I had in my heart despite the difficult times we had endured.
In the summer, as usual, we made the trek to Ponca Bible Camp, but this year we changed things up a bit and went down in June for high school week! Last year I had seen a need for “older” counselors during the high school week, so God tapped my shoulder and let me know I was going to fill that need. I was terrified, however, as high-schoolers intimidate me like crazy. God wouldn’t let me off the hook though, so I signed up to counsel. I had an amazing cabin of girls and realized teenagers aren’t all that bad after all! J At the end of July, we went back to Ponca (we just can’t stay away) for the last two weeks of camp. Working with the 4th through 6th graders is always a blast. Lawrence directed both weeks that we were there, which was the first time he hadn’t counseled in a long while. As always, God blew us away with the work He was doing in the lives of both the campers and counselors. We were humbled to realize that God doesn’t need us to do this work, but are so thankful He continues to give us the opportunity to be involved in the amazing things He is doing at Ponca, one of our favorite places on earth!
Right when we got back from camp, we had our first foster care placement. “Shadow,” came to live with us, and things went great for about two weeks. Lawrence and Shadow went to the gym almost every morning to swim, we registered him for middle school, and even celebrated his 12th birthday! However, things went terribly wrong when our lives were actually threatened, and we had to ask Shadow to leave immediately. Our hearts were broken as we had poured so much into this boy’s life, even in the short time he was with us. We saw firsthand how Satan is working to ruin and destroy lives. We could smell the evil and felt the darkness pressing in on this boy. Even though Shadow isn’t with us anymore, we still pray for him and hope he will make choices that take him on a different path than the one he has known his whole life.
A month later (September), we were still healing from our experience with Shadow, but said “yes” to another foster placement. This time, we took in two young boys: “T-Rex” who was 3 and his brother “X-Man” who had just turned 1. These boys were so cute with curly blonde hair and bright blue eyes that melted your heart. While they were with us, we got to take them to the Liberty Fall Festival parade and enjoyed watching their excitement over all the floats and of course candy J We only had T-Rex and X-Man for a week, as they were able to return to their mom (a happy story!), but they brought us such joy in that short time!
The past few months have been somewhat quieter and more “normal” as Lawrence is in his 6th year of teaching 3rd grade and I am at home with Coralyn for the 3rd school year now (I am still a teacher at heart and look at time according to a school calendar). While Lawrence has quite the class this year and has been overwhelmed at times trying to meet all the individual needs of his students, I have had a much more relaxing semester in that I only had 1 full-time daycare kiddo (Carson) and 1 other little boy who I watched whenever his mom was able to substitute teach (about 1-2 days a week). While I was thankful for less stress and more time to breathe, fewer daycare kiddos also meant less money in the bank. The strain on our wallet caused me to worry and fear as I wondered how in the world we were going to pay our bills. God was so, so, so good though. We never went without, although we did do some major cutting back. I was amazed at the various ways God came through for us, meeting our every need, often going above and beyond in blessing us. As we look ahead to the new year, we are still completely dependent on God to provide for us, month by month, day by day (especially since I am not watching any daycare kiddos now). We know that He will, but we still aren’t clear as to how. I am patiently waiting (or trying my best to do so) for God to show me how I am going to work from home. I would love to have more daycare kiddos, especially those of preschool age, come February. I also pray God continues to grow my business of teaching childbirth classes and serving as a doula (assistant for the couple during labor). And I still have the dream of writing a book (or getting the two I have already written published and on the shelves). For now, all I can do is watch and wait for God to reveal His perfect plans to me.
As I watch and wait, I definitely won’t be twiddling my thumbs. Any day now, our little baby will be born, and I will have my hands full as a mom of two! While we never would have planned to have a baby in December, we couldn’t be more thrilled to welcome this precious child to our family at this time! Our little girl is the best Christmas present we could ever ask for! Once again, God has blessed us beyond measure and lavished His grace upon us. We are blown away at His goodness and so thankful for His constant presence in our lives. While we still face many unknowns at the beginning of this new year, we are certain of this: God is not only with us, but He has gone before us to prepare the way. He will keep on leading us, every step of the way, bringing us closer and closer to Him until the great day of Christ’s return. So, as we look back on this past year, we are reminded of God’s faithfulness and can confidently press on to whatever lies ahead, fixing our eyes on Jesus and straining to receive the prize God has waiting for us.
Wishing you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year,
May you too enjoy the celebration of Christ’s birth and look forward with anticipation to all that God has planned for you in 2012,
Lawrence, Sarah, Coralyn, and Kellah Young