God's Brave Women - Meredith's Story
I was pretty comfortable growing up. I had wonderful parents, two sisters, and plenty of friends. There wasn’t much about my life that was all that hard, so bravery wasn’t something I thought much about. Looking back, I think my concept of what it meant to be brave was largely shaped by books and movies rather than God’s Word.
You know the familiar story. There’s a young girl, most often a princess, faced with some difficult decision or task. She has a trusty sidekick or a wise old lady cheering her on every step of the way, encouraging her to keep going. Her “trial” only lasts about a day, or at most the length of a three-minute song. And once she is victorious (meaning she finds the prince or wins the battle), there is a huge celebration followed by a group song.
Well I’m sorry to tell you, but it turns out that’s not real life.
God gave me an opportunity to be brave about five years ago. My husband and I had one little ten-month-old baby who was the center of our world. I was working full time for the Department of Children and Family Services, and on a random Thursday afternoon, God introduced me to another baby girl that changed everything. In a moment, I knew this baby was meant for our family, and God gave me the chance to be brave. I could say yes to this baby, or I could try to ignore what I knew He was calling me toward.
"In a moment, I knew this baby was meant for our family, and God gave me the chance to be brave. I could say yes to this baby, or I could try to ignore what I knew He was calling me toward."
So, we started the mountain of paperwork it took to become Foster Parents. We did not realize how brave we would have to be, or for how long our bravery would need to last. I think God was incredibly smart not to show us the full picture in those early days, or we surely would have run away.
Fast forward about three years, and our family of three had grown to a family of seven with five children under four. Our life was constant chaos. Our oldest had her whole world turned upside down when we welcomed her siblings, and three of our children were dealing with the effects of the trauma they had experienced. There were so many days when everything felt unbearably hard. Nothing was ever clean, laundry was never done, and my already lacking personal hygiene was out the window.
Here’s the thing- I didn’t realize that there is a cost to bravery. I foolishly thought that by saying yes and taking brave steps of obedience, things wouldn’t be that hard. God had clearly called us to Foster Care, so I thought everything would be just fine. I don’t know why I was so surprised that it got really hard really fast, as it’s right there in the Bible. Matthew 16: 24-25 says, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.’” For someone who was raised in the church, I still can’t believe how shocking this truth was to me. Jesus literally tells us that we will lose our life to follow Him. There is a cost to being brave. But the fact that it was difficult didn’t mean we were lacking faith.
When bravery is required, sometimes you have a village of people cheering you on just like in the movies, but sometimes the brave road is lonely and it’s just you and God. You can be brave in lots of little ways throughout your day, but sometimes bravery is required of you for months and years at a time before you see a result. Sometimes there is one big win from walking your brave road, but other times it’s lots of little victories of bravery over time. But just because it’s hard to be brave, doesn’t mean you’re doing it wrong.
"But just because it’s hard to be brave, doesn’t mean you’re doing it wrong."
For me, my bravery has cost me a few friendships. Our family size exploded over night, and everything was loud and chaotic and messy. Our family became too much for some people, and some of those relationships faded away. But God also brought some incredible new friendships into my life. He gave us like minded friends that normalized our mayhem. I have experienced a profound sense of belonging in many relationships where the “big family mentality” is commonplace.
Being brave has at times cost me my perceived identity. The last six years as a Mama have been so concentrated with little people. Throw in the Foster Care system, and it’s been a steady stream of caseworker visits, doctors appointments, court dates, laundry and grocery shopping. Even when I get the chance to have some time away, I’m at a loss for what to do. That might sound ridiculous, and trust me, it feels that way. I’ve become almost paralyzed at times, unable to connect to who I used to be before I became a Mama. But God has been so gracious and has grown in me the truth of who He says I am. My true identity has less to do with my job title or marital status, and more of who God has called me to be.
I’m so thankful that God gives me little reminders that He sees me, especially in this season of motherhood that can often leave me feeling so invisible. When I agreed to be part of this writing collaborative last Fall, I was assigned a random Wednesday for my writing to be shared. And just because God is so gracious and good, wouldn’t you know- after 5 years of waiting, we finalized the adoption of our three middle children just last week.
I want others to know that just because it has been hard does not mean I’ve been doing it wrong all these years. There has been a cost to my bravery, my decision to say yes to what God has asked of me. It has not been easy, and there have been some very dark and lonely days. But I can assure you, God will meet you on your brave road when you say yes to Him. He will equip you on the hard days, and He will give you the good days in abundance that makes bravery so worth it.
"But I can assure you, God will meet you on your brave road when you say yes to Him. He will equip you on the hard days, and He will give you the good days in abundance that makes bravery so worth it."
Meredith lives in Crystal Lake, Illinois with her husband of 9 years and their 5 young children. She is a former social worker and current stay at home Mama, but would one day love to be a full time writer. She has a passion for adoption and could talk about her beautiful babies all day long. Meredith is a true Enneagram 4, and places high value on vulnerability and connection with others. When she’s not drowning in laundry, you can typically find Meredith reheating cold coffee and managing the chaos of her big family. Connect with her on Facebook @meredith.stiles14.
And if any Chicagoland ladies would like to attend the IF: Gathering at Willow Creek Church in Crystal Lake on February 8th/ 9th, she is heading it up and would love to see you. Register here if you are interested!
Make sure to check back next week as another courageous Sister shares her story!
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