Beth Guckenberger is the mother of a bunch of biological, a bunch of adopted and a slew of foster children. She and her husband direct Back2Back Ministries from their home in Mexico. Beth is the author of several books on the journey of their life abroad, including her latest Tales of the Not Forgotten.
I have adopted and biological children I have been parenting for a decade and a half. It’s never easy, but I know what to expect. I know among other things, their nutrition, their education, their spiritual influence is my priority and my responsibility. I am certain I have the right and the platform to speak into their lives. That’s indisputable.
But, what I have been wondering about lately, is how to be that “better mom” to the parentless children in my life? The friends of our children who we know more about than we should? The neighbor child without attentive parents? The kid from the Sunday school class we teach? The children from the ministry we volunteer for? We can get so busy spinning our own little plates that we miss the mothering opportunities that aren’t under our roof. I have long thought of my marriage as the tree from Psalm 1. And I find myself wondering, who else can I invite to find shade under it?
Psalms 68:6 says, “God places the lonely in families.” I think it’s a great verse for us adoptive moms, but what if he places the lonely in our families for a weekend? An evening? A season? Sometimes when I bring up this discussion with other moms, they talk about being stretched already as it is with their own children. Does God really expect them to give even more? And I get that fear. I just want to bear testimony to something I am learning. That’s that the more I reach out to other parentless children in my life, and invite my children to join me and do the same, the more I see in all of us the qualities I am so longing for us all to develop.
Empathy, generosity, joy.
It’s about being a bridge, reaching out to connect the child you want to touch to the God you believe can make a difference in their life. Sometimes we build those bridges over chocolate chip cookies, or a well-timed Facebook messages or help with homework, or a ride home.
Recently on a trip to Haiti, I wanted to bridge build with two girls who don’t speak my language. I wanted to invite them under my mom tree, if only for the afternoon. I thought to myself, hmmm…no homework help, no chocolate chip cookie, no ride, what do I have to offer here?
Myself. At the end of the day, as moms to our own children, or someone else’s, we have ourselves. I (painfully) let them cornrow my hair. Four Advil and two hours later, we connected. They experienced some healthy affection, they got to have their efforts applauded and in the end, we exchanged something. Isn’t that what we moms want? The exchange? Not the one-way street of communication, but the exchange of feelings, thoughts, conversation, laughter.
I don’t know in the grand scheme of things what my afternoon with Haitian girls will mean to them, but that’s not my job. I am responsible to use my gifts, especially my mom gifts to a world in need of a bridge.