Feeling Safe: Self Relience vs Trusting God with Terri Thompson
Laura: Hi Terri, and welcome to unsung stories. Thank you so much for joining us today.
Terri: Thank you, Laura. It's good to be here
Laura: Just so that our listeners can get to know you a little bit more.
Could you tell us a bit about you and your family life and just what everyday life looks
Terri: like for. Sure. So I'm married to Phil and we've been married for 14 years in November. And we've got three biological children. So our eldest is Evie and she's 11. Nora is just actually turned 10 and Jude is six.
And in the last two years, we moved from Canberra where we had lived for 11 years back to port Macquarie, which is on the new south Wales, mid north. And Phil works remotely still for a government organization back in Canberra. And my day to day is taken up with , overseeing the three kids, overseeing a faith community that we've started here in port Macquarie linked to the church that we were part of in Canberra.
And we also build relationships within the foster care space and outreach to our local university. We've just welcomed two little foster kids into our home recently as well. So that keeps me on my toes. ,
Laura: that sounds very busy.
Terri: , More than 20 years ago, I. To trust Jesus with my eternal security and for the rest of my Christian walk. I've been learning to trust him with everything else. from the outset. I wanna say that my husband does tell me I talk a big game. So as I share my story, I don't want .
Your listeners and you to think that I don't struggle, I'm wrestling with the same sin and the same flesh in my fight to trust Jesus with everything. But I know that he wants me to live outside of what is comfortable and convenient. And so I have to. Continuously go back to learning how to trust him and relying on him and not doing things my own way.
And I have found , in my journey that trusting Jesus sometimes seems like the riskiest thing I can do. I don't know why. and It is the long term safe option. But in this life it's risky. , to lose my life for his sake. Like talks about a Matthew 16, 24, but it's exactly how the Bible tells us we'll find our lives, which is just so countercultural.
My story is definitely one of willing surrender at times, but also white knuckled surrender at other times where I'm just thinking, how is this gonna work out God? There's been lots of times that I've wrestled with what I believe God's asking me to do. and every time I've surrendered and said to him, okay, your way, not mine.
I have found him to be so faithful, not always with the outcomes that I would choose, but definitely with outcomes that are for my good, just like Romans 8, 28 promises us
Laura: oh, that's really helpful. I like your how you put it. The we're both willing, but we're also white knuckle with surrender. I feel like that sums up the Christian life pretty well.
Can definitely see myself being like that. I'm wondering what the last few years of motherhood has looked like for you and just what's been going on for your family. So how did you get to the point of. . Foster care.
Terri: Yep. So like all stories there's long and short version. So I'll, go for the medium version.
Great. Love medium here. let's try that. Casting back a while. Okay. So I'm almost 42, but my 30th birthday, I had my first child and I just remember thinking, oh my goodness, what have I got myself into? Like, why didn't anybody tell me this would suck so much. like sleep deprivation. I had a third degree tear a newborn with a 20 minute sleep cycle.
Oh no. But as I've, grown as a mother, like I've seen how all of this has been like the death of me in the very best ways, because I've actually learned the joy of really putting somebody who I love first, putting someone else needs above my own. And. , so that definitely, I think motherhood has helped me understand the gospel in new ways.
And then I think now when I look at, I have an 11 year old, as I was saying before, I am definitely like a calmer and more patient mother than I was when I started. So when I look back of my, and I'm only, not that far in, I can see where God has grown me. And , we fostered a brother and sister who came to us at two and eight months for 16 months before they were restored back to their parents.
We've just recently welcomed another sibling set who were two and three. And it has been a funny thing to leave behind nappies and bibs and bottles only to keep on coming back to them. And I'm just like, oh, wow. Why am I choosing to go back here into . Being on the floor, changing stinky bottoms.
And I guess I think about what that is doing for my face muscle, what that's doing for the children who need somewhere safe for the moment. And , because we foster, we've tried to keep, schedules pretty minimum we've, tried to make time for the park and playing in the dirt and the backyard.
And so we've been really intentional as we've stepped into foster care about, . Being a family on mission and making space in our life, not to squeeze God and discipleship and mission onto the edges and the spare minutes, but actually just to allow that to drive our life. , that's really great.
In 2017, Phil and I, along with some of our church friends in Canberra, we went over to India. We had through lots of different kind of God moments discovered a organization that was working with orphan and vulnerable children.
And we wanted to go over and have a look for ourselves, what that looked like on the ground. The trip I think, was really the catalyst for becoming foster carers. Because when we came back, I just was like, okay, God, do you just want us to move to India and work around it?
Or how are you gonna unfold this story? And we started, , just in prayer and looking around going actually, there's a lot that we can do here that we can put our hand to here, as well as keeping India as this kind of relationship that we're continuing to grow. And even going to India was a journey of surrender.
I remember being at. Just finishing university. I was traveling with a friend through Europe and we were in Portugal and just some of those, it wasn't crazy poverty, but there was just, there was some homeless people and there was this one man on the street who had this really big growth on his face.
And we were two young girls out at night and I felt really vulnerable. And in that moment I had this really strange thought and it was. Man. I never wanna go to India. Like I just think India would be this like a million times personified. And it was a really weird thing to think. But then when Phil came and started talking to me about going to India and feeling like the Lord was talking to him, I had this flashback to that moment.
And I was like, God, I said, not India, but it was a moment again of going, if this is your will I will go. If you've got something for me in the story, show me, speak to me, put it on my heart. And God was faithful in that he did, he started to show us that India . Was a place that he was calling us to, and that didn't look like moving to India, but then that led into the fostering journey, which I absolutely know that God wanted us on.
Laura: So tell me about that. .
Terri: So in 2020 we became approved foster carers. And like I was saying it was only three weeks later that we were asked to take this first sibling set. And Phil was actually in Canberra at the time for work. And so it was just me and our three kids at home. And that first night that these two little strangers came in, I just remember thinking, oh my goodness, I am not gonna sleep at all tonight.
They were probably more settled than I was considering what was going on for them. I just had this real sense of before they walked through that front door, we were standing on the edge of an adventure that God had was calling us into. When they arrived, I'm like, okay, here we go. We are starting off on this unknown, crazy adventure and.
That's exactly what it was. I think our heart, as much as possible on this adventure has been to foster a family. So yes, we have contact and influence over the little people in our home, but we are intentional about building relationships into their family and wanting to use that, to share God's love and who he is and the gospel where we can.
That first experience for us, those 16 months, the family were amazingly open to building a relationship with us. We've been able to continue walking with them. We've been, able to give them a Bible and talk about Jesus and. Go to birthday parties and they've come to our kids' birthdays.
I was actually chatting to the mom, not that long ago at the park. And I just said, foster care is a really weird way to make friends, but I said, it also means you come away with a relationship that's more than a friend. And she's , it's like family. And I'm just like, wow, God, that's you like, that's not something that we can do in our own strength because that's just, to me, that's big.
, so that's really beautiful. Each story is different and each family that comes into your life is different. But I have seen that when you go in with the intention of every person in the story matters, every person counts that there are just things that you look at differently and do differently.
, that's really great. What's been the biggest take home for you in all of these experiences?
I think the things that I've learned is that it is a stretch to keep on stepping into the unknown and the challenging places of life as humans, we like comfort and predictability and control. And when we follow Jesus, he turns that upside down, he tells us that's not the way he's gonna grow us.
So I do see my faith grow and mature when I keep on coming back to God with my doubts and frustrations and allow his word to be my guide. I actually get to conform to his will not the other way around. He's not a genie that I just am like, oh, can you do this? Can you do that? There is that, this kind of theme of surrender.
And I think godliness with contentment, like Paul says it is great gain and I've come to understand a bit, I've got a long way to go but a bit of what he means, because when I trust God with whatever is flowing from him to me, then I can handle and be thankful and content in the circumstances, all of them and seasons of life.
And that is great gain. It's easy to feel like God is on your side and things are good when it's good, but we know like it's the challenges that really prove what's in our heart. And there is this, idea of God testing us not so that he can see what's in our hearts cuz he knows, but it actually is for us to see what's in our hearts.
Are we gonna do it our own way when the challenge comes or are we gonna keep on relying on him and trusting him? Because the reality is . When my circumstances start looking like looming waves, I can default so easily to distraction and complaining or probably my worst weakness, self pity.
, I've just gotta keep my eyes and my perspective eternal in those moments, because that is what gives me the courage to keep moving, knowing that it's not all about here. This is actually gaining something for me. And that perspective shifts helps me see the way the world, the way that he does.
It's fleeting and it's not the place where I store up my treasure and possessions, but rather the place to do his will and live my life in a way that makes those who don't know, God ask questions. Why do you do it that way? Seems crazy.
Laura: And to trust him in it I think it's, I keep coming back to your white knuckled analogy, but to trust him in our suffering that we don't know And we trust.
Terri: And the trust looks like a roller coaster ride. . Some days my trust looks like, oh Jesus, you've just, you've got this. And I know, and I'm got worship on and I'm, I don't know. I just feel positive about what the challenges are.
And then there's other moments where I'm like, this feels so dark. Daunting. And I can't do this anymore and I wanna give up and I wanna quit. And I'm often reassured by the Psalms I'm like that I think is what the journey of trust sounds like. . There's moments of praise and joy, and then there's moments of downcast soul come on.
And I just love that God lets us go through that whole journey. We don't have to . Only be on the always positive kind of
Laura: side. Yes. And I I think a key thing that you're saying is feel some days I feel this some days I feel that, but aren't, we glad we're not in a religion based off what we feel we're based off.
What did Jesus do on the cross? I am trusting in that. Whether I feel like it or not. Praise God for the days where it feels good, cuz it feels really good, doesn't it? But on those days where we are down, what beautiful hope we do have that it's not based off. Our feelings Whether I feel I've not done enough, or I have done enough.
It's not, it's none of that though. What is also good? Like you said, is the Psalms that cuz I then go into this why am I so controlled by my feelings? Because we are human and even David felt like that too. I can feel like that as well.
Terri: Yes it's and bringing all of those feelings to God. Yes. Not trying to push them down or then feeling guilty about the feelings, but actually going God, like even here I can surrender these feelings.
I can come back to your word and let them cast light on the
Laura: feelings. Yes. And he's big enough to handle our feelings. We don't have to like the good and the bad. We don't have to hide it from him. . Yep. He's got this in all of that, it does make me think of one Corinthians 13.
When we talk about what is love and to think that God is all of those things with us in our, not so good feelings as well, but he's patient and love is kind, it's not envy. Doesn't boast. He's not proud. He's not dishonoring us. He's not self seeking. He's not easily angered. He's not keeping a record of our wrongs.
, he doesn't delight an evil rejoices in the truth. Always protects, always trust, always hopes. Always perseveres. Love never fails. That's the God that we are coming to. He's not angry at us for not being perfect. He's not recording all these times where we're not feeling right.
Terri: His love. Absolutely. And I think the greater, our revelation of that love for us, the greater, our ability to be that representative to the people around us, when I get more clearly what he has done for me and how he loves me, the things he's forgiven me of , it gives me more patience more kindness to other people. Cause I think, gosh, I have needed so much kindness. I have needed so much patience in my journey.
Laura: And empathy as well. Yes. When others are going through it to go, I I know how you feel.
This is what God does. Yep. . That's great. So how has trusting God played out for you in each season that you've just gone through.
Terri: , I think one of the things that I've had to keep on coming back to as I've wrestled and as I've had to trust God, there are different things that help me get through whatever that challenge is.
And so obviously reading the word, reminding myself the truth, I'm not the first person to go through what I'm going through. And then community is another amazing way. I think that has helped me. . Trust God, seeing people on their journeys and when they vulnerably share about how they've had to trust God and what they have done, definitely encourages my journey.
I think most days it's easy to just, . Get distracted by only looking at the world. It's so tempting cuz it's physical and it's all around us. We see these lives happening. But if I don't stop and think about eternity and what God says is important, then I can doubt the choices and the challenges that they bring.
Reading and reflecting on his word is where I reset over and over why I do the things that I do. Reading his word is the greatest reminder to trust him and to see what a life that is set on. Jesus looks like, I think of, Asiah 58 and the sermon on the mound, Jesus kingdom is this upside down kingdom.
It is a countercultural kingdom. I think too, meditating on who Jesus is, the person of Jesus, his stories, what I saw in the life, through the word, his life. That all helps me trust. When I'm focused on my own righteousness and what I do right or wrong, I have much less grace for others, but when I focus on Jesus, and all that he's done for me and forgiven me for, and had patience with me in then that actually helps me to share that with others.
Laura: . That's really great. Do you have any practical tips in that though? So they're all. Yes. Overarching principles, but trusting God in the day to practicalness. In the day to day, do you have any a practical tip? How do we trust God in this moment?
Terri: Yep. So for me, I think it was trusting him.
It's trusting him in the small things so that I can trust him when the big things come. sometimes I think we think that our lives are set on courses through these big one-off choices
but actually our lives are made up of hundreds of little choices that we make every day. The choices about what we think, what we do. And don't say the choices about reading the Bible I have found that . Practicing, trusting him in those small things, sets me up for success when there is the big challenge where I'm thinking, gosh, do I really wanna go God's way in this?
, I was talking to my sister-in-law recently and we were just, I was sharing about some people that we knew overseas that were serving God in different countries in the middle east and hard places. And she was oh, how do you even know those people? Or how did you get connected to those people?
And I was thinking it's all these little choices that we've made as a family to be a family on mission, to be really plugged into our local church and to be serving like those relationships have come out of that. We've ended up walking alongside of people who have the same priorities. And , just, it really does strike me that it's the little choices.
I think, seven years ago, Phil and I made the choice that I wouldn't go back to work the place that I was working, their company split and my kind of 11 and a half hours became redundant. And we were looking at the finances and going, oh, this is gonna be tight. Can we do it? But in that moment, I prioritized, .
Staying at home with my children and wanting to be around to even at the financial cost. And it's amazing how it just, that choice has set me on this whole trajectory of my life. In how I prioritize my time and how we navigate finances. And so I've seen that my faith muscle of trust in God and his provision has been strengthened in that kind of decision making.
So . We, I think our family, we talk a lot about provision, a lot about God's provision. Cause I don't think that you can go, you can't trust him if you can't trust his provision really it's . He asks us to go into places that we wouldn't normally choose ourselves. And when we do, we know that we can't rely on our own resources for those places.
We've gotta come back to his provision of strength and patience and kindness and even practical provision of finance and shelter. And I
Laura: think a lot of that comes down to expectations too, that yes. We want God to provide everything we want. Not everything we need.
. I remember listening to something on, I think it was Elizabeth Elliot who spoke on it. And she was like, God will give you everything you need. Even if you've got four kids parked out in a basement for months, the day he finds your rental is the day he fulfilled that need, you did not need it until that day.
I was like, whereas I go, someone is parked out in a basement with four kids for a few months. You needed it a few months ago, but obviously God knew that they didn't.
Terri: Yep. And we have just been on that exact journey, Laura, like we moved out of a rental property on the 11th of December and we didn't move into our next rental property until I think it was the 13th of May.
Ah, no. So we just had our three bio kids with us for that space. It was an amazing journey because God gave us these little assignments that he asked us to do in the, in between. So we moved in with a friend who had recently lost her husband and she needed some extra company in her home as she adjusted.
And then we moved out with some friends who were, who like starting a neighboring kind of community and a part of our church community. And we wanted to see what they were doing and support what they were doing. So being in their home was amazing to be part of what they did. But , in my mind, God, would've moved us from one rental to the next like that would've looked like his provision, but actually he made all these little details, like the perfect timing until they gave us the house.
Not that I thought was the perfect house, but definitely the house that we needed for the next assignment that he had for us. Isn't that amazing. It is. So he's good. He's so faithful.
Laura: What kind of take home or encouragement would you offer to the listeners?
Terri: I think a fulfilling life happens when you know what you are made to do, and then you get to do it.
A lot of people are looking for purpose in their lives, but it's, it feels like a tricky box, sometimes to unlock. And we don't wanna life with, or, we do want a life with no stress and challenge, but that's not the satisfying life. God does give us gifts that enable us to do good works that he's prepared beforehand for us to do in partnership with others.
after a few years, as a Christian and attending and running Bible studies, just even serving on Sunday morning rosters, I felt so frustrated and that there was this sense of there's gotta be something more than this. it wasn't until I started stepping out and up in taking responsibility for and serving others.
But I actually started to understand what I love doing. So I love nurturing and helping others grow in their faith. And I have seen that I do have the heart of a shepherd or a pastor. I love to guide God's people and encourage them to be bolder in their faith. And the more I've found myself in positions to use those gifts, the more I've the more satisfied I think I've been in life.
And really foster care taps into that. Like looking after vulnerable children and nurturing people within God's body are good fits for my gifts. And that's not to say that I, I don't share the gospel with unbelievers or that I don't give people words of encouragement, but those things don't come as easily.
And as naturally for me, so my encouragement is that . Get to know, your place and the body and not like that. It's a boxing in place, but what. What, when you feel like God is working through you what is it that you're doing in those moments? And so when you know what part you were meant to play and then do what you can to play that part. Don't sit on the sidelines and look at problems and go, oh gee, someone should do something about that. Oh, we really need this. Actually often you notice those things because that's something that God wants you to step into.
So everything else I think fits in around that, that sense of the good works that God has called us to do in life and the joy it is of discovering what those are and then doing them.
Laura: What I think was helpful in what you said that though, it wasn't until you started stepping out and up and then taking responsibility for serving others.
And so you did have to take this step into the unknown before you found what you loved. And I think when we're in churches, we can easily go, wow, no, my gifts are X, Y, and Z. So you won't go and serve on kids' ministry because you don't think you're suited to that. Or because you've got kids and you're tired or you don't step into serving in a way that's needed.
That's just not my gift. But I think what I liked about what you said is that you stepped out and then you learnt you loved it. And you can step out and then go, no, I am really not good at this. I'm not going to be helpful in this space, but I think there is something about looking around at the needs that are around you and filling them because we are a body.
So if there is a need, we wanna be supporting that body as a.
Terri: Definitely. And I do think as well like you say it, you don't have to be gifted to go and clean the toilet. But that there's that service, those unseen places where you just know God's the only one who's gonna see this sacrifice.
He's the only one that's gonna know what I'm doing as we are faithful. Those were what I was talking about before the small seemingly unseen choices. God is faithful to . As we are faithful in that he is faithful to us to move us, I think, into what he has gifted us to do. So absolutely where you see the need is a great place to start and you will learn in discomfort.
What it is that actually . Sets you on fire, I think.
Laura: And this world you won't get value from it here. As cleaning the toilet it's. That it's not the job that we wanna do. But it does mean something to God. I think that where our heart attitude does mean something to God as well.
And so to trust him with that though, you might not be getting the I want people to see me as this or this might not look like the successful ministry that I wanna be part of. God does see you serving him.
Terri: Absolutely. And I do think success is in the obedience itself. . Not in the outcome.
So we all want the successful story. The, I don't know, amazing mission trip or the salvation or the kids that were restored, but actually the success happened when you said yes to this way. Not your own. Yes.
Laura: . That's great. And so as you reflect on your story so far, what do you hope others can take away from it?
Terri: that others hear that you can risk more than you think you can step out into challenging places, way more than you think you can, because you can trust God more than you think you can. When we said yes to taking two little children into our family, just after moving into our house, we still had boxes to unpack.
It was four months earlier than we were imagining stepping back into foster care. It just felt so risky. I felt like it was gonna be overwhelming. I didn't know what the children were gonna be. I didn't know what kind of contact driving we would have to do, but we just said yes. And we thought, God trust you for all of the details.
And he has been so merciful, like things have, he has just orchestrated things so incredibly , just amazing. There have been lots of obstacles for us to overcome. We had a two week holiday plan that we need to restructure and we had to get approval for, but even with disrupted . Patterns and plans, we have seen God come through, God says be light in dark places and he says, spend yourself on behalf of others.
And he says, welcome the widow and the orphan and the foreigner, and then watch what he does through you and watch what stories he writes. That's, . What I have seen him do over and over, and it's only built my faith.
Laura: . That's really great. I'm Terry, thank you so much for coming on and sharing your story with us today.
I found it really helpful to consider really how self-reliant we are more often than not. But the challenge, we have to choose our own way or to choose God's way. I've really appreciated the reminder to keep our perspective eternal that it's not all about here. We have eternity to come and that we can risk more than we think we can.
And more than everything that we need to be trusting God and his promises at every point along the way. So thank you. You've given me much to think about, and I'm sure you've encouraged others as they consider how they can be doing that perspective shift on where can I trust God in these small unseen ordinary moments of life as well.
I'm wondering, would you mind wrapping up today's show by praying for the women who are listening praying that they'll be encouraged to, to see God faithfully in these small things as well. For
Terri: sure. . Father, we just thank you for your bride, for your body, that we don't do this without you first and foremost, but we don't do this life without others.
We have this incredible . Family of brothers and sisters in faith who encourage us and pray and support us and that we can encourage and pray for and support. And so we thank you for that community first and foremost, God, we just pray that , as we continue to go through life that we keep on coming back to our faith in you, that we let that drive all the small decisions and all the big decisions that when we are faced with choices of whether or not we will trust you or whether or not we'll rely on ourselves, that we have positioned ourself in company and around your word and impress that we lean your way.
God, that we continue to choose you, that we continue to trust you. We just thank you for your faithfulness to us. Lord. We love you, but it's only because you first loved us in Jesus name. Amen. I'm