Prior to 2010 I didn’t know the true meaning of “community.” That is, the idea of a servant-minded group of authentic people who truly care about me and sacrifice for me. Since my own family doesn’t operate this way I had no idea that complete strangers would actually do this! People I barely knew taking the time to bring clothes, toys, food, and books for the boys when they arrived. People I just met coming to organize my pantry and fridge. People I know loosely via social media sending Costco shipments to my door. And countless people from word of mouth sending boxes of diapers and fulfilling Amazon wish lists. BLOWN AWAY was I. I would’ve cried from being so touched but my emotions were shutdown as I was in full operational mode trying to figure out life with a 6-month-old and a 2.5-year-old thrust into my care.
Foster care, no foster care, single, or married COMMUNITY is essential to walking out life with Christ well. We can’t do it alone. We can’t do it only with a spouse. Iron sharpens iron after all. We need people different than us. People that look different, talk different, vote different, and believe different. We need it all. We need it to fully understand the hardships others face. We need it to have compassion for others. We need it to reduce fears, clear anxiety, and bring peace and unity to this world. We need it so we don’t remain ignorant and unaware of our biases.
How did I grow my community? Well, it’s changed a lot over the last decade. My first real community as a single person I found coming out of DivorceCare and my time at Gateway Church. Over time this small group mixed with a second layer of community found through the Christian singles country-dancing scene. Yes that does exist here in Austin! 😀 Eventually my core community fell apart and that’s when I was determined to find a church home. Here comes Mosaic Church Austin. I was excited to find a church with such diversity, authenticity, and a singles community. I immediately dove in by joining a community group and serving in Children’s ministry and the Singles ministry. I attended anything and everything I could introducing myself to everyone I could. I was always reaching, always striving, always trying to make connections and get to know people. It was hard work, but so worth it.
Additionally I hosted a second exchange student during this time and was honored to be able to influence another young life and leave my imprint on her heart. International exchange students are a fantastic way to open your eyes to a new culture and the coolest way to grow your community overseas. I highly recommend it! It also gives you the opportunity to influence their perspective on Americans. They think we are all overweight, junk-food-eating, gun-loving people ya know? 😉
Eventually I became a foster parent and the turnout of people who came to my aid was unbelievable! I also kept people updated on the licensing process through social media. So when J and X arrived with only the clothes on their backs, the out-pouring of help was the most amazing thing I’d ever witnessed! I would walk to the park with the boys and return to find my sidewalk so filled with stuff for the boys we couldn’t reach the front door! Multiple times! I had so many boxes of diapers arrive I didn’t buy a diaper for 3 months! I had people come to hold Baby X while carrying things upstairs to try and organize my small townhouse. I had someone cook weeks worth of meals and put them in my freezer. I had someone bring shelf organizers for my pantry. I had another person assemble chairs, move bookshelves, and install baby proofing hardware. When I needed a regular-sized crib, a friend from high school donated her old one and two other acquaintances picked it up from her, brought it to my house and assembled it. The list goes on and on….
Of course, there were times where my community felt desolate. After time moved on and the boys stayed (no one knows where these foster care cases will go and how long the boys would stay) the people and help faded pretty rapidly (people assumed I had it figured out – wrong!!). At the 6-month mark I was desperate for more help so I reached out again. As someone who is very independent and can handle most things alone, always asking for help was a BIG shift. But I quickly realized it would be the only way for me to survive and for me to remain mentally healthy. Thus, I asked my community who would be willing to come help with the boys on a routine basis (so I wouldn’t have to ask each time!). Sure enough, I had routine helpers and weekend helpers signing right up.
Three years and an adoption later, I still fight hard for community. For me personally, I realized it’s essential for my survival. I don’t have parents or siblings in which I do life with or confide in. That kind of emotional relationship just doesn’t exist for us. My singles community has become pretty desolate. However, my community of married couples with kids has grown. That’s the tricky thing about single-mom-life….where do I fit in? Sadly, I don’t really have a home that fits well. Thankfully I have a couple, great single mom friends to do life with as well. And so I have to keep reminding my married community that I need help. I need someone to take my kids away for a little while. I need someone to help me make tough decisions. I need emotional support. And my boys need male role models.
Community can blow your mind when they show up but community can also crush you when they don’t. I’ve most definitely been on both sides. As a single person I crave for someone to call, text, or ask how I’m doing. I desire people to see me, care about me, and listen to me. But I’ve learned two key things:
- You have to BE the friend that you desire. You can’t expect someone to just listen to all of your problems and you not ask about theirs. You can’t expect someone to put in all of the effort and you just sit back and receive. You must give too. Give A LOT if you want true friendship to grow and last. Keep reaching out, keep asking, keep pressing in, keep sacrificing. It’s going to suck sometimes. You may feel like you’re always reaching and no one is reaching back. But this is only a season my friend. And yes, it may feel like a never-ending one.
- And then there is Jesus. He is your best friend. He is your peace and comforter. He sees me all the time. I know, I know, this answer can get old quickly. I know, people praying only but doing nothing for you gets old too. But I choose whether or not I sit in my own bitterness or to sit with Jesus. I choose Jesus because ONE DAY there will be no more tears. ONE DAY Jesus will redeem all of my hurts and bring me to a place where my only thought is to worship Him. And I can’t wait.
#community #singlelife #jesusforthewin #mamalisafosters