My little girl turns 18 months old today. It wasn't until this week that she actually began to truly walk. She was a late bloomer in that regard. The timeline for crawling and walking unfolded painfully slow in the Laslo household. I remember dropping her off in nursery when she was a year old and the workers asking if she was walking yet. "No," I would say sheepishly. "She doesn't even crawl." She would sit happily playing in one spot on the floor while younger children toddled in circles around her.
Vivian was nearly 13 months old when she first decided to start crawling. Now at 18 months she is just beginning to get confident on her feet. As her mother, I knew there was nothing truly wrong with her, but it did become increasingly embarrassing to lug around a 30 lb. non walking toddler.
Thankfully I believe in a God of details. Although I might have preferred to have my child walking at fourteen months, God, who is Lord of all circumstances, knew I needed something quite different.
Since I first turned to follow Christ eight years ago, the Lord has been frequently saddling me with circumstances requiring patience. If I didn't know better, I would say He is trying to teach me something.
I married a man who is extremely thorough and meticulous. He does things at his own pace, which to me often feels exceptionally slow. Our daughter apparently takes after him, showing no immediate interest in doing the things her anxious mother had planned for her.
My internal exhaustion and frustration with Vivian's speed (or lack thereof) in learning to walk greatly parallels what I often feel in doing this ministry.
It has been five years since I first started serving Ranch on Jesus Orphanage Ministries. After many seasons of long hours and diligent labor, we still find ourselves at the beginning of each month wondering if we'll be able to meet every expense. Donations never seem to arrive with the speed or ease we would prefer. Income is slow...painfully slow. Developing a ministry with integrity, it seems, is a grueling and steady process.
Like Vivian learning to walk, progress isn't always easily seen. Muscles are strengthening...coordination improving...until one day you see the first step.
Sometimes the end doesn't mean anything without the means to it. I am sure all parents are excited when their baby begins to walk, but I doubt very few feel it quite as deeply as I have with Vivian. There were days when I felt like she was never going to walk. That I would still be lugging her around through elementary school.
All that longing and anxiety was joyfully relieved on the day she took those first hesitant steps. My mind was blown. It was shocking. I almost couldn't believe it. After months of trying to coach her unsuccessfully, she finally tried. It took her several more weeks to gain the strength and confidence to cross a room on foot. Each step still makes me ecstatic. Progress! I am full of pride and extreme gratitude. I appreciate my child's ability to walk in a powerful way, a way I doubt I ever would have felt had she gotten there via an easier route.
There are days when I feel like this ministry is never going to get off the ground. Sometimes progress feels invisible. But just as Vivian's muscles and confidence were quietly building, I know that even though I cannot always see growth, it is there.
All it takes is a quick look at the numbers to see that with each year we're giving more and more to Ranch. It doesn't feel this way as the needs continue to grow, but it is still true. We're growing in size. We have new and more developed programs. Employees. Church support. And a growing pool of precious individuals who give. Development feels painfully slow and sometimes impossible, but He is mercifully leading us along in His time...not ours.
In the end, I feel almost grateful for the slow progress. Every development is an exciting step along the journey. I appreciate every donation, even if it is only five dollars. I see the impact it has. I get excited with every email expressing interest in Ranch, a new child sponsor, or a monthly pledge. Nothing is meaningless. It is all appreciated. I feel a child like gratitude to God.
One day I know I will watch Vivian run through a sprinkler in the backyard. It will probably be hard to imagine that she was ever immobile at all. But I hope that even years from now I will never take those baby steps for granted. It was a long and special journey.
So it is with Ranch. I do not know to what end God is leading us, but we are growing and moving and giving everything He allows. Maybe one day I'll look back on these precarious days as a shadowy memory. Maybe in a few years a five dollar donation won't be as exciting. But even if it isn't, I hope God lets me hold onto the spirit of appreciation, remembering those initial baby steps and realizing each one of them was taken by His grace.