“Extravagant love, the offering of everything, the emptying of the pockets of our life, is the essence of true Christianity.” ~ Eric Ludy
A beautiful step stool.
But so much more than that.
A symbol of hope.
A reminder of God’s goodness and the love of His people.
A week or so ago, Scott and I, along with our kids, were discussing this life we chose to accept years ago when God offered us the opportunity to dive in and drink deeply. He has revealed so much of Himself, and so much about our own brokenness, in the years since that decision was made.
And so much about the love and goodness in the hearts of others.
I so clearly remember how more and more children came home, and our 2000 sq. ft. house became as crowded as our calendar full of appointments for these new children with so many special needs. Our entire life changed drastically, although somewhat gradually.
Eventually, Scott walked away from his engineering career and salary to come home and serve as full-time director of The Shepherd’s Crook Orphan Ministry. And we learned to get by with less and to trust God more, although we definitely didn’t do this perfectly.
Time continued to pass until the day came when we were no longer always able to provide Christmas or shoes or new clothes each season for our increasingly larger brood; our furniture began to wear out; walls became desperate for paint; cars got old and broke down; our home improvement projects went undone because of so little money and so little time.
There were specific times during those sometimes-very-hard-years when I was faced with new levels of surrender as I occasionally felt tempted to succumb to feelings of self pity concerning the gradual decline of our beautiful house and our inability to give the children all we longed to give them. I knew that God would provide for us, and although it was tough at times, we embraced broken furniture, worn-out carpet, and beaten-up walls as part of God’s plan for our lives. We trusted Him to decide for us what our real needs were, and what things were only “wants.” He filled us and our home with joy, and pointed out to me areas where I was still clinging to my old human desires for our lives.
And He blessed us so much — sometimes with additional painful opportunities to trust Him better, but often with exactly those things we thought we would never have.
He sent people to help with projects. Friends and strangers came to our home on so many occasions to paint, plant flowers, clean or even replace carpet, do home repairs, etc.
Every year He has provided through others whatever was needed for clothing our children or making Christmas magical for them; gifts that made it possible for us to take them to movies or concerts or other enriching family outings; and He even gave us an occasional family vacation. We have never asked for these things or publicly made our wants or needs for them known. But He always provides.
He is gradually providing us with more space in which to raise all of these children with their special equipment and adaptive devices. This is being done through the love and sacrifice of others — brothers and sisters from our church congregation, neighbors, strangers, friends (some local and some from far away), businesses, organizations like Make-a-Wish . . .
We have most recently been blessed with a huge, beautiful kitchen to replace my old, very small one; family room furniture that is brand new and beautiful (I never imagined such a thing!), money to purchase picture frames and photo ledges in order to make our family room a place where our once-orphaned children can daily look at our walls and see proof that they are finally home and part of a family; a swimming pool to help with all of their physical therapy needs; a deck around that pool to allow for those who struggle with CP or lower limb paralysis to wheel to the edge and independently lower themselves into this pool; a play room with enough space for all of them to play; and toys and equipment in this play room to spark imagination and strengthen weakened or paralyzed muscles.
The giving just goes on and on. And we are humbled — awed by the incomprehensible goodness of our God. We know that we can trust Him in the bad times — the times when we don’t know how we will provide for upcoming needs; the times when we watch our children try to cope with almost unimaginable pain or emotional brokenness beyond the comprehension of most; the times when Scott and I come face to face with the reality of our own weakness and immortality (as when Scott was recently diagnosed with cancer) — and we can trust Him in the good times when He showers us with so many gifts that we find ourselves feeling awkward and uncomfortable in the certain knowledge that we do not deserve such unexpected blessings. (That could be a whole blog post all by itself. Maybe someday.)
And continually we are left with a complete inability to express to a such multitude of people the depth of our gratitude for this giving that stretches through a couple of decades.
Several years ago, the Rosenow Home Project Team was formed by people who love us dearly and longed to find a way to provide more living space for us. After years of raising funds and praying with us for this need, they finally had enough money to break ground on the home addition that would double the size of our existing home.
Sitting right in the middle of what would become our new family room was this tree.
It had been planted almost twenty years earlier in memory of Scott’s dad, who had passed away just before we moved into this house. We always called it our Grandpa Tree. It broke our hearts that this tree would have to be cut down in order to make way for the space needed to carry on the work God had called us to.
Just before the scheduled ground-breaking, we devoted a day to loving on this tree, reflecting on the memories we had of Grandpa and this tree’s growth in our yard, and giving the kids a full day to climb in its branches and make some new memories. This was an especially poignant day for our blind son Colin who had wanted to climb a tree, but had never done so.
Then the construction equipment rolled into our backyard, and we all stood inside the house, watching through the windows as our Grandpa Tree was ripped violently from the ground and broken into pieces. There were tears as we felt many different “feels” — sadness over the passing of a season in our lives, excitement about the new season to come, such thankfulness for the massive answers to hundreds of prayers about more space for our growing family.
That was three and a half years ago. Since that time, our home addition has been being slowly, gradually, beautifully completed as these loving friends and strangers continue raising funds and pouring themselves into finding ways to come alongside us to care for orphans.
And then a couple of weeks ago, one of the main players in this decade-and-a-half-long drama, showed up at our house with this step stool.
He had, with his own hands and in his own precious spare time, lovingly crafted this amazing gift from the wood of our Grandpa Tree. He had been secretly working on it in the years since the tree had been taken from its place in our backyard, and he delivered it to us along with a copy of the book, The Giving Tree.
If you aren’t familiar with this book, it’s a children’s story about giving and giving until we have nothing left to give; about the joy that comes from this kind of selfless sacrifice; and about unconditional love — all things that should be part of Believers’ lives during our pilgrimage in this world.
And both the gift and the book are extremely symbolic of our family’s life. The giving of others that is such an integral part of our journey.
We wish there were some way for all of those who have given and given and given, to understand what an example they have been to our children of how to live as servants of the King; lights in the world.
Over and over again, you have all given us hope when the Enemy who hates the work we do tries to trick us into feeling that a given situation is hopeless. You have put strength into our hearts when we felt we were gasping our last. You have encouraged us beyond description when seemingly unanswered prayers and events in our lives have beaten us down to dark places of discouragement. You have served as shining lights of remembrance when we have lost our way and forgotten God’s promises to care of His children in such perfect ways.
To all of you who have “emptied the pockets of your lives” in service for our family and in the furthering of God’s work and kingdom, we thank you with all our hearts.
And, Mark, we will forever cherish this step stool sitting in our new kitchen, reminding us of God’s goodness and constant presence in our lives, as our “Grandpa Tree” continues serving our family.