Counting Our Blessings to Cover Our Fears

By Rhett Lively

In caring for twenty-one children, we’ve noticed several common themes in their hearts and minds as they’ve come into our home: Fear, worry, doubt, and a lack of the ability to hope.

Early on, one of our kiddos, who was six at the time, happened to mention she was sad because nothing seemed to be working out. She’d anticipated visits that didn’t happen, been lied to by her parents, had caseworkers forget promises they made due to their case overload, and even experienced a few missteps by us when something we promised fell through at the last minute.

At six she was hurting, sad, and felt alone.

I took time to ponder her statement overnight. I did what I do when I’m at a loss — I put on my headphones, turned on some music, and let myself get lost in the melodies.

And then this song came on:

It wasn’t my first time hearing it. If you have been to church…EVER, you’ve probably heard it before yourself. But that night it woke me up to something our kids haven’t been taught — the simple act of looking at where God is working, counting our blessings, and focusing on the positives in our lives even when we are surrounded by chaos, failures, and hurt.

November’s Tradition

counting our blessings

That experience spawned what is now a tradition in our home. Each November first we start a Blessings Tree. Some years I’ll cut out leaves and actually make it look like at tree. Other years I might do something slightly different. Nonetheless, I have something that grows as we go through the month as we add a new item we are grateful for each day.

How To

Last year, our 10-year-old had an especially hard time with this in the beginning. She had never taken the time to look into herself and come up with things she was truly grateful for. Over the month though her answers to that question went from silly and cute to more serious items. As they did, you could see a change in her and how happy she was. She even commented once, as we approached Thanksgiving, that she never knew there were that many good things in life.

So, putting it into practice is easy. I drew and cut out the branches of the tree you see above last year. This year I wanted to do something different. I have traced each of the kids’ hands and made them into the base for the tree. I will be hanging it on one of the walls at eye level to all our kids.

For the next step, it’s helpful to know that in our home we have a color-coded system in place. Each child has a specific color cup, toothbrush, hairbrush, etc, etc. This stops moments of, “She’s got my brush!”, “He drank out of my cup!” and helps me keep up with who is drinking enough, keep germs from spreading if one is sick, etc.

counting our blessings

Using that system, I had leaves in “their” color last year as well as some for Bailey and I to use that were our own colors. This year, I have pens in “their” color to simply write the words on the paper. The words will become the leaves in the form of word cloud.

This year though, I’m adding one thing to the project. During the week of Halloween, we wrote their fears in white. Our current crew has all noted fears as we’ve approached Halloween. We’ve seen more night-mares and had more moments of terror in their faces/eyes than ever before. So I want to use this as an opportunity to show how God can use our blessings to overcome our fears.

As we start to “count their blessings,” the colorful myriad of words will cover-up their fears listed in white. The fears will still be there. But much like a tattoo which has been covered, those words will be used to make something else, something greater.

It is a visual I hope will help them understand how God changes us and makes us new as well. Many times, the hurt, the pain, the struggles are still there but, when we let Him, He takes those things and uses them to build us into what He needs us to be. He redraws the lines to make something beautiful that we are proud to show the world!

Rhett Lively is a foster dad whose primary job is to care for the foster children in his home, along with his wife, Bailey. The things he has learned along the way are shared on his blog, www.lighthouseforwanderingsouls.com – to encourage those who are considering opening up their homes to children in need and ministering to families in crisis. He hopes his stories inspire people who’ve never considered the journey. Foster care is a journey – one that has taken him to places he never imagined spiritually, physically, and emotionally over the last four years. Join him. Come walk the path he is still exploring. It will change you forever.