Not playing it safe

by Kristin on October 11, 2012

in Belief, doubt & hope

Photo by CoreForce

Sometimes life is like stepping out of the house in bold-colored tights: When you were in the safety of the moment—in your bedroom, where the light was sort of dim—they seemed like a good idea. They seemed somehow right, in a scary but exciting way, so you went with them. But the minute you step out into the bright light of day—where there are people who might look at you and question your judgment!—you feel a stab of regret that you followed that impulse. You can scold yourself for not playing it safe, but at this point there’s no turning back. All you can do is move forward boldly, with those tights, into the world.

Sometimes the risks we take are SO much bigger than a questionable fashion move. They’re the kind of risks that are outrageous and scary, in life-changing ways that impact multiple people. As I laughed this morning at my silly tights metaphor, I was also thinking about a much bigger story I want to tell—one that started with a small impulse.

It was a Sunday morning after church, about two years ago, and a couple who was temporarily fostering a six-month-old baby girl told me they needed to find a more permanent foster home for her. I was holding the baby at the time, talking all sweet to her, but no, the nudge I got wasn’t “you should foster this child.” An image of another couple at the church popped into my mind, and I turned, as if  being manuevered by some remote control device, and walked that baby right over to my friend. “I just felt like I needed to tell you that this baby needs a home,” I said, looking apologetically into her deer-in-the-headlights face.

The whole incident—from the nudging to the return of the baby to her caregivers—lasted only about five minutes, but I can promise you that I’ve spent hours thinking and fretting about it in the two years since. What was I thinking?!?

Because these friends did end up fostering the baby, even though they had not previously discussed being foster parents (and had only just started talking about how, in a couple of years, they might start trying to get pregnant). They went through foster parent classes and legalities. They welcomed this baby into their home and loved her as their own, even though they knew she could one day be returned to her birth mom. Then, around the baby’s first birthday, they agreed to take in a newborn from the same birth mom, so the two girls could be together.

I heeded a small nudge, and these friends of mine went from having no children to caring for two, in less than a year! And it was terrifying. It was beautiful, too, seeing them happy and bonding and being a family, but the exhaustion of parenting young children and the extra stresses they faced during court hearings and interactions with the girls’ birth mom—not to mention the thought that this happy home might not be the girls’ forever home—weighed on me heavily.

Earlier this year, the court terminated the birth mother’s parental rights, and last Friday, our friends legally adopted the girls. A lot of celebrating happened over the weekend, and a pure joy continues to rise up in me. And then there’s relief, too. I can finally feel good about the risk I took, two long years ago.

Of course it’s so much easier when things “turn out” to embrace scary steps we’ve taken. It’s easier, in retrospect, to claim that following those inner nudgings of the spirit was the right thing to do. What I want to be able to say now is that going out on limbs is ultimately safer than it seems—that fruit is always out there, waiting to be claimed by those who have faith and courage. But is that always true? And does today’s hindsight really help us tomorrow, when we’re in some new version of that first moment again—when we’re sensing a nudge that feels reckless and scary and like a terrible mistake?

No, it can’t be the promise of branches that will hold or fruit that is ripe and sweet that motivates us to take risks. It can only be the promise of adventure—of some motion that wakes your life up and takes it from where it has been slumbering to some new place. And all the while, there are the promises of a loving God who is eager to journey on these adventures alongside us. That’s what I kept forgetting over the course of these past two years, and that’s what I’m determined to remember next time I decide to not play it safe.

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  • Meagan Francis

    Oh, I love this story. What a wonderful outcome.

    And as I am in the beginning stages of planning a big, scary not-safe life change myself (an extended time spent abroad with our family), I LOVED this line: “No, it can’t be the promise of branches that will hold or fruit that is ripe and sweet that motivates us to take risks. It can only be the promise of adventure—of some motion that wakes your life up and takes it from where it has been slumbering to some new place.”

    Wow, you nailed it. Recently I was thinking of it this way: it’s not that I’m unhappy with my life. I LOVE my life. It’s just that it’s gotten so comfortable, so familiar, so easy, it sometimes feels like I’m sleepwalking through it.

    • http://jenniferluitwieler.com/ Jennifer Luitwieler

      I heard from an old friend today who said he was really happy. I wondered how I would answer if he asked if I was. I think the same thing: wake up! Pay attention! Jump off the ledge!

    • http://twitter.com/kt_writes Kristin T.

      It is wonderful to be able to celebrate a beautiful outcome, isn’t it? And it’s also wonderful to be on the brink of a new adventure, like you are. You will certainly wake up, no matter where the adventure takes you! I’m looking forward to hearing all about it.

    • http://twitter.com/kt_writes Kristin T.

      It is wonderful to be able to celebrate a beautiful outcome, isn’t it? And it’s also wonderful to be on the brink of a new adventure, like you are. You will certainly wake up, no matter where the adventure takes you! I’m looking forward to hearing all about it.

  • http://twitter.com/kt_writes Kristin T.

    P.S. I’m writing all about how risky that experience felt for me, because that’s the story that’s mine to tell, but I need to also acknowledge what an INCREDIBLE risk my friends took, and what incredible faith they had along the way. Can you even imagine?

  • http://jenniferluitwieler.com/ Jennifer Luitwieler

    This is a good question: the promise of high hanging fruit is not usually enough to make me wear my loud tights. It is the sheer audacity of the unknown that compels me. That whole lurching in the stomach thing that happens when we jump for the limb.

    Also, when our Abby was little, she and I wore matching striped tights to church all the time. Not that risky but still.

    • http://twitter.com/kt_writes Kristin T.

      YES. This: “It is the sheer audacity of the unknown that compels me. That whole
      lurching in the stomach thing that happens when we jump for the limb.”

  • http://www.leighkramer.com/ HopefulLeigh

    I remember you told me that story! I’m so glad it worked out for them. Those strange spirit-led impulses can lead us in strange- yes, adventurous- directions but I’ve never regretted following through. Though, I must admit. I can’t recall any stories quite on the same level as what you’ve shared here!

  • http://annieathome.com Annie | annieathome.com

    I’m sure it was not fun, but it gives me a lot of comfort to know that you sat with the weight of that choice these last two years. I think I often feel like that weight, whether it’s a small act of bravery or a big one.

    • http://twitter.com/kt_writes Kristin T.

      The weight is important, isn’t it? Our culture today seems somewhat immune to the weighty, heaviness of big things.

      • http://annieathome.com Annie | annieathome.com

        I agree, I think it is important. Although when I wrote the comment (and apparently hit “post” without finishing…) the idea that the weight was important was revelatory. I think what I apparently did not finish saying was that I often think the weight is some sort of sign – a lack of peace that indicates a poor decision. It gave me so much comfort to hear that you wrestled with the weight because it was risky, not because it was a right or wrong move. This post was so helpful to me. Sorry my initial comment there was a bit half-baked!

  • http://www.gabbingwithgrace.com/ Grace at {Gabbing with Grace}

    This is sort of exactly what I hope to happen to my hubby & I! Someone to walk up –with a nudge from the Holy Spirit — and to say “hey, why not take this baby?” =) As someone who really wants to adopt a baby girl with a hubby that is 1,000 times less excited about it then I am, I find that whole exchange an exhilerating prospect. Perhaps that’s what will push him over the edge? Ahhhh, a girl can dream. In any case, I love what you did and it’s so amazing to hear how it turned out and how God used you to provide a loving home for 2 orphans…i mean, Hello?? how cool is that?

    • http://twitter.com/kt_writes Kristin T.

      Ha! That’s so great. I wish I could help you out with this! But obviously the Holy Spirit is the only one you’d want to trust. :)

  • http://twitter.com/erinblueburke Erin Burke

    I love this story. The Holy Spirit in my life recently has been people coming up to me and asking me if I would like to do something. And so often recently, it has been the answer to prayers.

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