Last Sunday I had an opportunity to share from the pulpit how I got to be “where I am today” — well, they asked me to speak about the non-profit I worked alongside others to open….and I took the opportunity to regal them with “my life’s journey.” Here’s the 5 minutes in a just slightly edited version — names changed….and this one will flow more smoothly than my stressed-stuttering 🙂
Today I traded my mom three very wild and active boys….for one quiet man. She has my kids at home….and my dad is here with me. It’s made a huge difference in my stress level!
Today, I am going to tell you a story of seeing God’s handiwork in one’s life…even if it takes 40 years! Yes, forty years.
God put a million, million doors in the world
For His love to walk through
One of those doors is you
I said, God put a million, million doors in the world
For His love to walk through
One of those doors is you (Jason Gray)
When I was four, my parents moved our family to Thailand. This was in the early 70s. It took weeks for a letter to get there, months for a package. There was no internet. There was only one TV channel which had a Buddhist monk speaking 24/7. There was where I grew up – attended Thai school and boarding school. Played with Thai and Hilltribe kids. Raised my pet pig (Wilbur, of course) and pet monkey (Agun). There I fell off a water buffalo. There I was baptized, there I was a kid….oblivious to the fact that my parents were sharing the love of Christ day in and day out.
We returned to the US and I entered high school….then college….graduate school….and mid-way through med school – my sister and I returned to visit northern Thailand. It had been twenty years and our former village was now a suburb of Chiang Rai. We walked up to the gate of our former house, knocked and said “Hi, our Dad built this.”
It didn’t take long for word to spread that the “Williams girls” were back. People came forth to share story after story of how our parents had touched their lives and made them whole. You see ….my parents were doors….of God’s love to walk through.
Naturally, I retained a bit of that missionary spirit and did short-term mission trips to Haiti and Guatemala. In medical school, I knew I wanted to be a pediatrician because I loved kids. I also knew I wanted to learn about adult medicine as well because I just “knew” I would be in a third-world country and would need it. And yet….I never felt the “call” to be overseas.
I struggled to figure out what I was to do in life. I got a degree in elementary education, and yet, I wasn’t called into teaching. I completed a PhD in developmental psychology, yet I wasn’t called to do research. I handled the mocking of “are you a forever student?” with grace.
After a particularly challenging month of residency at a missionary hospital in Kenya, I returned to Pittsburgh. My sister greeted me off the plane and said, “So….while you were away, I was contemplating the Biblical principle of caring for widows and young children and since we don’t care about old ladies….I signed up for foster parenting classes.” Six months later, a little toddler came into our lives. He stayed with us off and on for three years at which point, Super Tall Guy had joined us as well as my sister’s son The Flipper.
Soon there was Mr. Ornery and then my sister accepted her son Trouble (Capital T). Ten months later another phone call asked if I “wanted to adopt a third?” I had 15 minutes…. The Little Guy arrived. Our house was full of boys. And my life was full from practicing medicine and working another part-time job. And yet….I still was seeking.
Four years ago last month while attending a pediatric function, a colleague said to me – “Lynne, you should talk with this new resident who did a study on a crisis nursery.” A what? “A 24/7 safe place for kids under the age of 6 when their families are in crisis.”
At that moment – I knew my “calling.” At that very moment, I knew that this, this was what God had prepared me to do. He had brought me to a place where I was equipped and connected enough to help a team create the first crisis nursery in Pittsburgh – Jeremiah’s Place.
A place for families to leave their children in a medical emergency, or if the parent needed to get to a job interview, or if the parent was just too stressed to parent well and had no other support. A place to keep kids safe in a moment of potential harm and a place to love on and help the families move forward.
Why was I a missionary kid? – to instill in me a heart for those in need
Why did I get an elementary education, early childhood education undergraduate degree all the while knowing I didn’t want to teach? – because I needed to know how to teach children and parents
Why did I spend 7 years in graduate school studying developmental psychology? – because I needed to understand the very young child and the forces that affect their lives
Why did I go to medical school and become a pediatrician? – because I needed to know about the health of children
Why do adult medicine? – because….oh – I’m still asking God that question.
Why adopt three boys from foster care? — because I needed to understand the stress of parenting and because they needed me….and I needed them.
Four years….countless hours at the computer, hundreds of meetings, talking to people, reading, visiting crisis nurseries – sacrificing sleep, sacrificing time for work, sacrificing time with my own children….
Through it all, I realized that the Lord called me to bring Hope to the mission field here in Pittsburgh. I didn’t need to be in a third-world country. I needed to be here — right here in Pittsburgh.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
This is the mission of Jeremiah’s Place – to bring Hope and a Future to children and families.
This is my door —- What is yours?