Proverbs 16: 9--A man plans his ways, but the Lord directs his steps. Or, to put it another way: Life (God’s life, the life of faith, the life that we live and give to God) is what happens after we make our plans.
This morning I looked at the conference schedule and realized that there were no meetings that I had to attend, so I decided that I would go for Divine Liturgy at 9:00 am and just hang out talking to people and maybe trying to think up something inspiring to put on my blog while I sat in the lobby until vespers at 5:00 pm. Sounded like a good plan....
Just after I got off the freeway on my way to the conference hotel, my cell phone rang. It was my foster sister calling to tell me that my foster mother in Goleta had been sick in bed for three days and refused to go to a doctor. She had tried to call me several times, but had the wrong number. My sister was able to track down my cell number and call me to get me to call my mother (I’ll just drop the “foster” at this point). Instead of turning left into the hotel conference center, I made a U-turn and headed back to the freeway. I asked my sister to call and tell my mother I would be there in person in four or five hours—and off I went to Goleta (just north of Santa Barbara).
The rest of the family heard I was coming and came from Ventura (one hour drive) and Palmdale (two hour drive) to say hi. Mom was looking pretty good (for 70ish) and couldn’t sit still but had to make something. She did not want to talk about herself. She wanted to hear about Bonnie and the girls and the grandchildren. Then as each family member showed up, they wanted to hear everything again. One of Mom’s granddaughters-in-law (AKK, I can’t remember her name!), whom I had never met and who lives in the same house came home toward the end of the few hours I was able to spend there. Mom and I and her three daughters and miscellaneous grand and great grand children were sitting around the patio table having sandwiches when she came home. Mom introduced me merely as Uncle Scott—the name almost everyone in the family calls me. When she asked me to explain my relationship to the family I said, “They took me in when I was fifteen and saved my life.”
The granddaughter-in-law said jokingly to Mom, “You whipped him into shape did you?” No one giggled. They just looked at me, and then I said to my “niece,” “No, they loved me into shape.” Then my sister (the one who called me and who herself has had at least twenty foster children) said, “just love, only love.”
Love is a dangerous thing. Healthy children (or any human being for that matter) cannot exist if we do not love. But if we love, we open ourselves to immense pain. Of the several foster children Mom had, I am the only one who is not dead or in prison (that I know of). Of the twenty or so that Nancy (my sister) has taken in, only a very few now have what most of would call healthy lives and relationships. Without love, the ones who made it wouldn’t have; but love comes at a cost.
When I said to Mom after this little exchange that it must have been pretty tough having me in the family, especially the first couple of years, she only said “We loved and we prayed, and we prayed.” I’ll take a Baptist who loves and prays over an Orthodox Christian who doesn’t any day.
Someday I may tell my story in one running monologue, but I still feel like I should not do that yet. In the mean time, I share snippets as it seems useful. May God help us all to love and pray, even when the Lord directs our steps in a way different from what we had planned.