I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.

How I wish I could honestly say that. Those words of Paul’s have come to my mind so many times over the last two years. And I have to say that I have not learned to be content whatever the circumstances yet. Each time we sink deeper into the sludge that is social services, I think of these verses and wonder how Paul did it.

I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength. Philippians 4: 11-13

Now is the time to learn…really learn this.  The social worker called yesterday to tell me that her attorney says he’s in the middle of a trial right now and the likelihood of Midge’s trial happening on Monday is very low. Nice. Thanks for the update and for ruining my weekend. Thanks for pushing the trial back yet again, coincidentally boosting the chances of Midge’s dad finally finishing his classes after 21 months. I have not learned to be content when an innocent child is being subjected to emotional torture at the hands of the state who took her away from it to supposedly protect her. I haven’t learned to be content when I hand her over to her father for her unmonitored visits, and she’s crying because she’s so sad to go. I haven’t learned to be content when the social worker who is supposed to care about her disregards Midge’s response to recent changes.

I have no idea how to learn this. But it is time to really try, because when the fighting seems to do no good and when the road seems to lead only downhill, what do we have left to do but try? There’s nothing to lose. Could there be something to gain? I don’t know. But there must be a way through the valley that doesn’t result in our ruin. I know God didn’t lead us into fostering to ruin us, our faith, or our family.

I’m re-reading Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts. She reminds me of this very thing. “His secret purpose framed from the very beginning is to bring us to our full glory,” says 1 Corinthians 2:7. He has a plan to prosper us and not to harm us. How do we find that place in the darkness? The whole book seems to answer the questions posed in the first chapters: “How do I give up resentment for gratitude, gnawing anger for spilling joy? Self-focus for God-communion.” This sounds so similar to the quest I’ve been working on in my project 180. Turn from worry to trust, self-pity to gratitude, distraction to focus.

I keep reading, highlighting the good parts to Greg, as we rest on the couch on the Saturday afternoon. We are at the bottom. We may as well try this, we think. Can we teach our family the language of thankfulness? Voskamp advocates keeping a list…a list of things you love, of things you’re thankful for. Work on it until it reaches 1,000 and beyond. LEARN how to be thankful. It will take practice. “Could the list teach me even that hard language? Over time? Gratitude in the midst of death and divorce and debt – that’s the language I’ve got to learn to speak – because that’s the kind of life I’m living, the kind I have to solve.” (p. 47) I get it. That’s the kind of life I have to solve, too. The kind where a baby is hurt by people who are supposed to protect her, and where we are asked to participate in that hurt. Even God has asked us to participate in this story of our girl’s life. We need a new perspective if we are able to live through this kind of life. I get what the author, who has survived too much hardship, is saying.

But she’s looking for things she loves. Things she’s thankful for. Jam piled high on toast. Mail in the mailbox. Still warm cookies.

It’s a new language she’s living.

We want to learn it, too. I have started a list but haven’t been committed to it. I haven’t PRACTICED it so how can I expect to have LEARNED it, this gratitude to replace the resentment? I need to practice.

The first time I started the list it was sporadic, and I was looking for things I was grateful for. But I forgot that the challenge was to write 1,000 things that she LOVES. That’s a bit easier for my mind. We’re going to do it as a family. As we navigate these coming weeks, we are going to make a list together. Greg, Linn, Jake and Tyler…I’ll put the initial of the contributor next to each gift listed.

LORD, may we together learn the language of thankfulness in the midst of trial. We need You.

1. L: Joyful screaming from the wrestling room.

2. G: Tyler’s laugh.

3. J: Playing on the computer.

4. T: Soccer games.

5. J: Eating chocolates.

6. L: Fresh starts on hard days.

7. L: Reading inspiring books.

8. J: Stopping and playing the piano when I walk by.

9. L: The rediscovered joy of an underwater camera.


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